The role of Microlearning in the hybrid age  

Guest post by Sarah Marshall

The highs and lows of employee training have been well documented across organisations during the pandemic. And ‘The Great Resignation’ has also added cause for concerns. 

The increasing list of job vacancies compounded with a growing digital skills gap has unsurprisingly renewed businesses interest in reshaping Learning & Development to help them attract and retain needed talent. In fact, recent research from Deloitte estimates that the L&D industry is now worth over £98bn alone. 

The skills gap begins to explain why employers are keen to rethink how to deliver employee training best whilst being sensitive to the added pandemic-related work pressures. Amid this uncertainty, one thing remains clear, ‘microlearning’ has emerged as a learning model that should be at the core of L&D strategies as it is the most suitable for our hybrid age. 

Learning and Development for a new age

Historically, employers leaned heavily on what we call a ‘push’ model of workplace training, whereby employees listened to lectures in a boardroom or classroom, then returned to work.

The “success” of this teaching method was determined by attendance confirmation. However, it became notorious for its low levels of retention among employees. 

It is easier to deliver in a hybrid or virtual working environment, making it perfect for the new age of business

Even before the pandemic, therefore, it was becoming clear that this lecture-style teaching was not fit for purpose for the emerging and digitally native workforce. But the years of digital transformation that we saw squeezed into a few short months during the global health crisis and resultant remote working environment have forced staff to adapt to new digital and virtual ways of learning.  

One such approach is the ‘pull’ model, which views learning as continuous, ongoing, and, more importantly, flexible. With this model, training is embedded into employees’ roles and champions small, frequent learning interventions – or microlearning – delivered in digestible pieces. Not only can this bite-sized information be processed quickly, but it boosts retention rates above 90%.  

This method promotes wellbeing and diversity within organisations as it is more inclusive for neurodiverse employees, those on part-time or flexible working contracts.

It also removes some of the added pressures that come with learning in a classroom-style environment and is more interactive in approach. It is easier to deliver in a hybrid or virtual working environment, making it perfect for the new age of business. 

Understanding the new generation of workers

The latest generation entering the workforce has different working preferences to their older colleagues and is more open to career side steps or portfolio careers. They are used to scrolling through reams of information very quickly; they also typically have shorter attention spans and struggle to focus on tasks for long periods. 

In fact, recent research reports that Gen Z typically has an attention span of just 8 seconds, a few seconds shorter than millennials at 12 seconds. 

This means more effort is required to keep this group energised and engaged in their work, as failure to do so could result in them becoming quickly demotivated and looking for new roles. In fact, research shows inadequate L&D opportunities from employers could prompt more than two-thirds of workers to quit their current jobs. 

Investing in employee training reminiscent of Victorian-styled teaching is failing to engage today’s workforce

This is where microlearning becomes an incredibly useful tool in appealing to these workers by delivering small frequent learning units with just the right amount of information to pique their interests. Organisations should be actively capitalising on the emerging workforce’s digital empowerment and entrepreneurial spirit by providing access to platforms that allow for continuous learning to cultivate the next generation of leaders. 

Investing in inclusive training

Employers who are serious about innovating their L&D programmes should consider adopting a holistic approach to training, one that prioritises collaborative learning via digital channels, such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom.  

The ’70:20:10 learning model’ is one way to get this right. This mode of learning purports that 70% of learning is experiential and comes through shadowing project placements and assignments, 20% comes from social interaction, and 10% is more formal, structured learning—these interdependent areas of learning feed into one another to boost its overall impact. Experiential and social learning are fundamental training components to complement the more formal training. They enable individuals to develop their skillsets further as they soak up knowledge from their colleagues, and receive regular coaching, mentoring and feedback.  

The nature of the’ 70:20:10 model’ supports independent learning instead of a one-size-fits-all approach designed without individuals in mind. This model is easy to adapt to a hybrid age through a combination of different learning environments, offering a bespoke experience for employees. 

Enabling flexibility to take hold

Investing in employee training reminiscent of Victorian-styled teaching is failing to engage today’s workforce as it involves minimal interaction between the employees and the educator. To overcome this, business leaders must look to instating modern modes of learning if they are to hone the talent they have.  

Many young employees have already taken the first leap of faith, with research from Deloitte estimating that over 24 million young people have used digital learning before.  

In order to keep up with this new generation of workers, employers should strongly consider adopting microlearning as a mode of employee training in order to support the long-term Learning & Development needs of their employees for the future. 

Sarah Marshall is Learning & Development Programme Manager at Grayce