The field of human resources is changing. In our HR Redefined series, we give innovators a medium to share personal reflections, professional advice, and best practice guidance.
The following has been adapted from a presentation given at HR Redefined 2018 by Summer Salomonsen, Chief Learning Officer at Grovo.
Whether you like it or not, our workplaces are shifting. Depending on your size and industry, you’ll see this play out in a variety of different ways. Traditional siloed and hierarchical structures are being replaced with more team-centric collaboration, less formal titles, and more influence without authority.
So how do we manage this as HR? While the HR function has become increasingly strategic, we have to rise up to the challenge. Before digging into microlearning, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.
Setting the Stage
Jobs are more fluid than ever. Millennials are a major driving force in the workplace, and by 2025 they’re projected to represent about 75 percent of the workforce. What’s more, data trends show that the modern workers are more likely to job hop than in the past. In fact, only 22 percent of millennials make it to the five year mark at a single company. As a business leader, all of this means that you need to understand what drives this growing workforce.
We’re all competing for employees’ time. A recent Bersin study says that the modern worker only has one percent of the workweek to devote to training. That amounts to roughly 24 minutes per week for learning. That’s scary. We are always competing for our employees time, and thoughtful microlearning can help you maximize your impact.
So let’s get to the million dollar question. Your employees expect learning opportunities, so how do you do it as a one-person team? I love to think of microlearning as a strategy. Learning and development should be considered a core component of your overarching strategy, not a constant knee-jerk reaction to a problem. Below I’ll share the critical components of a successful microlearning strategy and how to ensure its success.
Critical Components of Microlearning Strategy
Make learning relevant. Real learning takes place in context. When an employee has the opportunity to engage with meaningful content that directly relates to their work, there is a greater likelihood that the new information will stick with them. Why? Because as an employee, you have an immediate chance to apply what you learn. This transfer of information into action is the gold standard in learning.
Understand multi-modal delivery. In the modern landscape of mixed media, you’re dealing with sophisticated consumers of learning. Technology brought about the ease of accessibility of information. In your strategy, don’t leave learning up to a random Google search. This is where we co-opt it back. We need to be ruthlessly relevant when it comes to learning opportunities, engaging our employees from the moment they tune in. Don’t conflate engagement with entertainment, we know what’s relevant to employees.
Follow the single concept approach. We’ve deceived ourselves into thinking that if we put someone in a room long enough and just talk at them, they’re somehow going to learn everything we need them to know. In my role at a healthcare company, we’d bring people in for onboarding each week. It became apparent that I was just talking at these people. Did they really understand the complexities of our HIPAA requirements because I put a piece of paper in front of them and asked them to sign? Identify that one skill you need your people to do and stay focused on that.
3 Steps to a Successful Microlearning Strategy
1. Start Small
What is the critical pain point that is driving your learning initiative? Management training in response to managers leaving the company is a knee-jerk reaction, not microlearning. You have to ask more questions: will training stop them from leaving? What else is happening? Maybe we’re promoting the wrong people? Take time to pause and identify the root cause of a critical pain point before solution jumping.
Any type of microlearning strategy has to focus on an overarching business objective. If it doesn’t, you’re not going to be able to carry it through to the end. You have to have enough self awareness to make sure you’re not jumping to solutions before identifying the real problem. Force yourself to pause and answer questions about the root cause before reacting.
2. Stay Focused
We always had the pomp and excitement around the launch of a new program, but about three months in the executive team would already be asking what’s next—thinking that the problem was “solved” with the program. This is a call to action as practitioners. It’s our opportunity to speak up and say, “has the program stayed true to the initial root cause?” By the time we launch a program, people have piled on their own expectations and suddenly there are all these other things that it’s supposed to accomplish.
Don’t get sucked in. In order to identify and manage competing priorities we have to get really good at elbowing and making strategic decisions. Be prepared to explain your process in these terms: we identified this issue, we know it’s an issue because of these things, and if we fix this it’s going to help us accomplish this objective, and be more successful. A microlearning strategy is only powerful when we stick to what we identified as the root problem. If we give our employees multiple things in one instance to learn, they’re not going to be able to transfer it.
3. Make it Stick
This is where you both see change happen based on what you did, and also start to change your culture. One of the things we’ve been most successful at doing at Grovo is building microlearning that changes mindsets. When you have an opportunity to experience something profoundly in an immersive state, you have to challenge yourself. When you’re led with an insight, brought into a lesson, confronted with a competing point of view, you’re presented with an opportunity to change, and we’ve found that many of our customers use us for diversity and inclusion.
A successful microlearning strategy should help you build a learning culture within your organization. When we think about our employees as sophisticated learners, we should think about how they engage with learning. We have seven seconds to present ruthless relevance to the world’s high-scanners who will happily spend more time trying to find it elsewhere if you can’t grab them.
A microlearning strategy should be inextricably intertwined with a core business initiative. That way, you’ll be able to lay out value for leadership and create something that’s meaningful for employees. That might seem like a tall order, but investing in a proactive strategy has the power to keep you ahead of the ever-changing workforce.