A training strategy should onboard new employees and turn them into highly skilled staff as quickly and affordably as possible. This is particularly important in the COVID-19 pandemic era, where labor shortages present front-line businesses and hiring managers with significant challenges. These days, it is already difficult enough finding workers, let alone training and retaining them. A learning and development (L&D) strategy that maximizes efficiency without compromising on quality comes down to one thing: microlearning. This term may sound familiar, but there’s no better time than now to take a deeper dive into what microlearning is, why it’s an essential addition to a training approach and how to implement it in a business.

What Is Microlearning?

Microlearning is an approach that involves delivering content in short, bite-sized chunks that are often two to five minutes long. Doing so breaks down materials into digestible chunks that each tackle one or two learning objectives. For example, when onboarding new employees, a microlearning unit could focus on food hygiene courses. The videos within each food hygiene unit teach one skill at a time as stand-alone content that employees can continue to review and access over time.

As an employee training approach, microlearning is extremely effective because it’s a form of active learning. Active learning is roughly twice as effective as passive or traditional teaching methods (e.g., sitting in a lecture) for gaining an understanding of a subject matter. So, when used in addition to an existing learning management system (LMS), a microlearning platform lets employees apply what they learned in an interactive way that encourages greater retention, quality, and engagement.

3 Benefits of Microlearning for Front-line Training

The reason why microlearning works is based on the Cognitive Load Theory, which breaks down memory into three categories: sensory memory, transient memory and long-term memory. When information gets presented to a learner, it’s stored as sensory memory. To go from sensory memory to long-term (which is the goal for retaining content), the information needs to be presented in the right way. This means reducing extraneous information and using materials that consider the learner’s intrinsic cognitive load. Content that falls under this classification has many connections to real life and the learner connects with the information more easily and quickly. Microlearning often checks these boxes, offering learners only the most essential information in a relatable way that encourages the transition from sensory to long-term memory.

It’s been proven in action, too. A trial conducted with over 1,000 participants from four U.S. medical schools showed that microlearning improved their retention of medical knowledge by 170%. Think of how this could apply to a frontline business — a microlearning platform could help staff boost their knowledge of topics ranging from customer service to operational practices to soft skills. Let’s explore three benefits of microlearning more closely.

1. Engage staff more effectively and affordably.

The labor shortage has another consequence: high turnover rates. As a result, businesses need to keep repeating new employee onboarding, which increases costs. This isn’t a cheap cycle: Employee turnover costs businesses ample time, money and energy as they search to find new talent to fill empty roles. It’s also often a lengthy training process, which presents another challenge since the need for skilled staff is so high. Front-line employers need a solution to train staff effectively without breaking the bank.

Microlearning increases the efficiency of training, which means saving valuable money and time — it’s also a way to improve engagement. That’s because chunking units into shorter pieces of content can improve focus and memory retention. Short videos of six minutes or less have been shown to increase engagement with learning materials.

2. Resonate with the modern workforce.

Gen Z and millennials are already a large part of the front-line workforce — so an L&D strategy needs to update with the times to relate to this younger, tech-savvy audience. Microlearning platforms provide training courses to a modern workforce the way they’re used to communicating and sharing. It’s a digital-first, bite-sized and multimedia-centered approach, and it can even be shareable. Since millennials prefer a collaborative work culture, giving them the option to share their training progress and engage with content gives them a greater sense of satisfaction and achievement. Using a microlearning platform offers employees the ability to do just that — allowing them to share their progress in a way that resembles sharing on social media.

3. Expand the capabilities of an existing LMS.

Microlearning platforms are even more useful when built upon an LMS, offering stand-alone sessions that can allow employees to dig deeper into a standard training unit. The flexibility of this approach is a huge advantage. A traditional LMS has employees work through units in a sequential order, requiring them to finish each unit before moving on to the next. Microlearning can enhance each of these units and allow staff to jump into the topics as they wish. Thus, an L&D strategy that incorporates microlearning can scale more easily with a business by providing specific, on-the-job training and updates in an agile and dynamic way for ongoing use.

Incorporating a Microlearning Platform in Your Business

The benefits of microlearning are now clear, so how can you start integrating it into your training? Start by examining your existing L&D strategy and its units. From there, chunk the units and determine the learning objective for each smaller unit — these will be the topics for your microlearning content. For example, if you run a food service business and a unit in your training program includes beverage knowledge, you can break this down into microlearning videos covering:

  • Serving hot beverages.
  • Picking up and serving beverages.
  • Carrying a tray and presenting a beverage menu.

Once you’ve decided on the topics, it’s time to design content that’s interactive and engaging. Microlearning templates are useful for creating high-quality content without the costs of outsourcing to a production agency.

After designing microlearning content, organize it so staff can access the information easily. It’s not in any sequential order, so making the content easy to locate by tagging and labeling it is important for consistency and accessibility.

Take advantage of the benefits of microlearning for improving your training, engaging staff, and retaining them for longer with high-quality digital content.