How microlearning can improve workforce development

By Gale Mote / Guest Column

Workforce development is instrumental to or­ganizational success in so many ways. Talent acquisition and retention is directly correlated with how employees experience a path for per­sonal and professional development.

If you want to find the best talent, engage them and keep them, growing the hearts, minds and skillsets of your employees needs to be a priority and a frequent conversation among se­nior leadership.

The familiar 70:20:10 learning model tells us that learners obtain 70 percent of their knowl­edge from job-related experiences, 20 percent from interactions with others and 10 percent from formal educational events such as seminars and classroom training. And yet, that’s not how many organizations are structuring their training.

For example, a research study conducted by Multi-Health Systems on the effectiveness of leadership development programs found that most organizations used workshops (80 per­cent) and classroom training (73 percent) to facilitate leadership development. When asked which methods were deemed most effective, managers cited emotional intelligence assess­ments (60 percent), coaching (60 percent) and mentoring/job rotations (58 percent).

It is interesting to note that in 2013, only 37 percent of organizations used mentoring and job rotations, 37 percent used emotional intelligence assessments and 61 percent used coaching. In essence, what works is not the modus operandi when it comes to leadership development.

According to research by Deloitte, today’s employees are overwhelmed, distracted and im­patient. In fact, according to the Association for Talent Development, modern learners only have 1 percent of the work week to devote to training.

It’s because of this that a new approach to workforce development, called microlearning, is gaining ground across the globe. It involves offer­ing learners focused, practical information to help them achieve a specific and actionable objective.

Microlearning offers bite-sized information that is easily digestible and retainable. It is tar­geted training that uses real-world scenarios. Employees can find the exact topics they need to address relevant business challenges when they need it. It’s always available and can be found within minutes through a search for a topic on a smartphone or computer.

Microlibraries are a solution that accommo­dates the modern learner. For example, imagine a new manager about to facilitate her first one-on-one meeting with a direct report. She could go to her computer and download a coaching template that outlines critical steps to make the conversation a success.

It is important for microlibraries to be ac­cessible from a variety of devices and to allow learners to drill down on content specific to their needs. And keep them simple — a You­Tube clip can be way more powerful than an elaborate e-learning course. Relevant and cur­rent is critical.

The great thing about microlibraries is that you can eliminate them quickly and replace them with something more up-to-date, because they are so short and focused. Considering the rate of change in organizations today, this is a no-brainer.

Some of the more popular learning mo­dalities in the world of microlearning are podcasts, mini-lectures, online chats and dis­cussion groups, online games, instructor-led training, personal project work, real-world as­signments and personal project presentations. Each of these address the objectives of most learning environments.

It is important to remember that microlearn­ing is not the total solution. Sometimes the chal­lenges organizations are facing are not training issues. When performance is the issue, training may or may not be the solution. Also, for com­plex skills, different approaches are required. I don’t want to be on an airplane with a pilot who just watched a three-minute YouTube video on an important safety process, for example.

As organizations develop and change, it is important for workforce development to lead the way for more effective learning solutions. Microlearning is one way to create a win-win outcome for employees and organizations.

Gale Mote is a trainer, organizational development catalyst and coach in Cedar Rapids. Contact her at