Businesses today spend more on employee training than ever before, but the results have failed to keep pace with spending. Every worker can recount being sent to some seminar or classroom and listening to some hotshot drone about some topic, only to forget what was being said 30 minutes later.
Google is looking at this and taking a different approach, as one of the largest corporations in the world is now thinking small. In a blog post last month, Google discussed a concept called microlearning and used to send what they described as “whisper emails,” a series of small emails sent regularly with a suggestion or two. Over time, these emails helped participants give better, positive feedback to their team members, creating a better work environment.
By thinking small, Google has developed an approach which small businesses can easily copy and is more effective than traditional training methods. Microlearning, or the idea of giving workers regular, bite-sized chunks of information, is a more effective training approach which businesses should incorporate.
The Importance of Microlearning
Google and other trainers may call this idea microlearning, but we all have encountered this concept in our lives already. When we learn anything, whether it is business skills, a foreign language, or playing an instrument, we are told that consistent instruction is the most important thing to improve any skill. It is far better to practice French for one hour a day than to practice French for seven hours on Saturday and ignore it the rest of the week. Unfortunately, businesses forget this obvious fact when they set up training seminars which happen twice a year if that.
Microlearning takes this concept of learning regularly a step further by offering workers multiple 3 to 5 minute lessons. Some examples as noted by eFront Learning include watching small instructional videos on YouTube, flashcards, or receiving email blurbs like Google’s whisper emails.
To some degree, microlearning is an adaptation to how people today have shorter attention spans and lose focus if they sit in a training class for multiple hours. This does make it a highly useful tool for training millennials. But most of us do learn best when we study in short, focused bursts. And by promoting daily training, businesses can encourage workers to regularly think about what they were learning.
And for small businesses, microlearning is a cost-effective approach. Any business can construct emails like Google’s whisper emails, or make a short Internet video. Mashable and other websites have plenty of guides on how small businesses can use videos to appeal to customers, and many of these tips also apply towards making a training video. Video can impart information faster than text or pictures, and so embracing microlearning means embracing videos as soon as possible.
Know When to Use It
Microlearning has many uses, but small businesses do need to understand when it is best used. You will not learn French by studying it just once a week, but you also will not learn French by only watching a five minute video every day either. Microlearning works best in two scenarios.
The first scenario is training workers in soft skills or behavioral change that you would see while playing Asian casino games. If we go back to what Google did, Google used their whisper emails to remind managers “of the importance of regularly showing genuine and explicit appreciation for their team members.” These skills are crucial to ensuring a productive workplace, but most workers already have some grounding on how they are supposed to behave in a workplace setting. Microlearning thus serves a nudge to encourage the right form of behaviors.
The second scenario is using microlearning as a supplement to longer, more traditional training classes. Training classes do succeed in teaching workers how to learn a complicated concept. Where they fail is that workers do not know how to actually apply said concept in the workplace, and thus over time forget what they learned.
Businesses should already know that asking for employee feedback after a training session is critical. But feedback is a two-way street. When a business skills training program is completed, send a series of emails describing specific, commonplace situations where workers can apply those skills.
Microlearning cannot teach workers complicated skills. But it can be used to prod workers into remembering what they learn from bigger training courses and learning smaller, yet still crucial skills.
The important thing which Google’s whisper emails show is that training is not something which we do once or twice a year. It is a process of constant improvement, and small business should use microlearning to help workers learn and remember small, important tidbits over time.
Because microlearning is cost effective, businesses can try all sorts of different microlearning approaches before finding the one which works the best. There is no reason not to experiment as soon as possible.
A social media marketing executive and entrepreneur, Alex has led the marketing divisions of some of the UK's leading advertising and PR firms. He specializes in usng the power of big data and business analysis to deliver actionable metrics.
As manager of a large team of digital marketers, Alex is responsible for delivering the training and development of his entire department. He emphasises standardizing procedures and creating an immersive on-boarding process as key to bringing new members to your team.
Outside business, Alex is a keen videographer and music producer, living and working in Brighton, UK.