Microlearning to accelerate Productivity and Improve Performance


At work you are in the middle of a big project. Maybe the project of your life. Something you absolutely have to finish by the end of today, but…Oh, no! You’re really hungry as hell right now. You just can’t work like this, can you? You need to eat. So what do you do: do you opt for a snack, or do you go out for a long lunch break among colleagues? Of course you opt for the snack. If you go out taking more time, in fact, you risk not completing your project on time. Moreover, a long break could adversely affect the continuity of the activity you were doing. Recovering your clarity and proper concentration upon your return from lunch could take time. Time that, at this particular juncture, you do not have at all.

Yep. There are times in your work life when you are infinitely more productive by being able to fulfill a specific need at the exact moment it arises. Do you agree with that?

What is true for food is equally true for learning.

That is why Microlearning – short pills of information, easy to follow, understand and internalize – plays a central role in Corporate Training today.

Micro-learning allows you to offer your employees training in “small portions”-on specific topics-always available and accessible. A nice breakthrough for the learner in “need.” Right?

If done well, it can without a doubt be the most effective learning mode for increasing students’ memorization and notional assimilation, as well as for having “new knowledge” available to them on an almost immediate basis. Exactly like a providential snack, Microlearning can concretely fill specific gaps, providing us with that valuable continuity that would otherwise be impossible.

Microlearning and productivity: Training hic et nunc! Enable your employees to learn in the flow of work

If Microlearning and so-called “just-in-time” learning are not always assimilable to the same concept, what must be underscored without less about Microlearning is that it can concretely supply – on an immediate basis – an objective work need of the moment. The learner-worker will be able to solve his problem simply by enjoying a Video, a short Module, a Podcast – directly from the corporate LMS – at the exact moment when that specific content takes on an objective character of necessity. It is at this moment that the effectiveness of Microlearning touches its apex and that that information can concretely convert into “objective knowledge.” The Learner has made that notion his own because he has had a specific need, but more importantly he has been able to see his knowledge applied on an immediate basis. Kind of what used to happen with the old employee manuals…

It’s precisely when the content of a given Module/Video is enjoyed – and contextually applied on a regular basis – that Microlearning becomes a very valuable support for hands-on learning. Employees, in a Microlearning-based training process, access the lesson when they need it, use the information to better perform their task, and perhaps consult the training pill in the process of completing that specific work task. By returning for a given number of times to this “microlearning module,” the result will be – for the learner – excellent assimilation of knowledge and deep memorization (retention), which will in turn result in equally excellent practical performance. Not bad, right?

Pills that help memory: short portions of information are easier to remember

Research (including in e-learning and digital learning) is very clear in stating that Humans learn best when they approach short but relevant lessons. Think about the last long meeting you attended. How much information do you remember? The fact that you do not remember much does not mean that there was no important information to remember. It just means that your brain was too overloaded to retain “the pieces” that were most important. The assumption is not new, and it is well known. An oft-quoted 2002 BBC report clearly noted how shorter, more relevant training can in some cases take on characters of effectiveness superior to a full day of (equally “focused”) training.

“Long e-learning course” doesn’t always mean “better e-learning course”

As already analyzed, there is nothing wrong with delivering a lengthy online training course. Rather, let us say that it is a matter of context. Only in a course of a certain length can one assume to achieve a high and highly comprehensive degree of content depth. With Microlearning, this degree of depth would in no way be attainable. Microlearning comes into vital play precisely when one does not have the time to go as in-depth as one should, but instead needs to fill a given gap. Now.

Then there is the Time factor to analyze. It can be highly discouraging for an employee to have to attend a lengthy training course in – perhaps already very little – free time. Conversely, attending the same course during working hours could, in some cases, negatively impact productivity. For these reasons, if this training were to take place almost spontaneously – precisely because it helps the employee in his or her time of need – the Time problem would effortlessly become a distant memory. “No time consuming” training!

Microlearning and productivity: ML helps employees stay on track

As mentioned, blocking off a given work task to find among a thousand pieces of content that specific piece of information needed to be able to continue, or getting lost in an endless search for the same in the maze of the Net, has another, huge disadvantage: it interrupts the flow of work, greatly reducing productivity. Gloria Mark, a Researcher engaged in the field of “flow interruption,” estimates that it generally takes the average worker 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back up to speed after a flow interruption. In contrast, the so-called “related” interruption, that is, one that is strictly directed to the activity itself (aka: Related Microlearning), is highly effective precisely in terms of increasing productivity. The worker, at this stage, does not interrupt the flow; he simply observes the issue from a different perspective.

Microlearning: easy & fast training

Putting together a well-done training course takes time, planning, dedication. What happens when there is one new skill, one new piece of information for which you find yourself in need of training your employees on an immediate basis? What happens when, for example, an internal policy changes abruptly and your employees do not objectively have the time margin to spend on training related to it?

It is totally unnecessary to start a process of developing a new course, as well as drafting a centuries-old email subject to the risk of getting lost in the inbox, perhaps lying there forever. Instead, create a specific Video or Module, and immediately upload it to your e-learning platform to deliver to your employees . This will enable you to check-always and from any device-who completed it and when, and your employees to be able to have that content available at the exact time they need it most. Unprecedent.

Your employees love Microlearning…

You may not know it, but your employees, albeit unknowingly, already use Microlearning. They already employ it in their daily lives, just as you and the rest of us do. When we don’t know how to do something, or find ourselves in need of knowing an assumed fact in a relatively small amount of time, there is nothing more automatic than making a query on Google, or finding a short pill in Videos on YouTube. Correct?

From this perspective, Microlearning is already highly readable in the eyes of your employees. We might venture to say that they expect the same mode of delivery from you, to train themselves… Not betraying these expectations is exactly what can translate into objective results today, as well as increased business profits.

Countless are the success stories of international companies, particularly belonging to the Retail Market, in which Microlearning – combined with Gamification – has concretely raised both the skill level in individual Stores and corporate profits.

Here, an excellent Case Study on how the brand “At home” accelerated store staff training through micro-learning and gamification.

Microlearning and productivity: Some metrics…

According to the statistics, the average employee’s knowledge on those previously critical topics-such as Security-increased by 14%, while onboarding time came close to a 90% reduction. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Again: a recent Software Advice survey showed a 58% increase in corporate LMS use, thanks precisely to Microlearning. This is undoubtedly the most significant Microlearning-related data: spontaneous Learner participation. Today we all live – some more, some less – in corporate cultures that are penalizing for our focus, for various reasons. Therefore, focusing on something (on a screen…) for a few minutes can concretely represent – however brief – an opportunity for growth, learning, knowledge. In the midst of this multi-screen, multi-tasking culture, the L&D professional is concretely called to new and exciting challenges, such as delivering training and knowledge in…small containers. ☺


In a world that has completely subverted the parameters and cornerstones of the workplace concept, the ultimate goal of L&D is still the same: we want learners to learn. We just need to do it through new means that can properly beat the ever-noble path to Knowledge. ☺

Thank you, A.J. O’Connell!

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