Market Trends

6 Microlearning Fundamentals


Microlearning is an approach to training that delivers content in short, focused bites. To be effective, microlearning must fit naturally into the daily workflow, engage employees in voluntary participation, be based in brain science (how people actually learn), adapt continually to ingrain the knowledge employees need to be successful, and ultimately drive behaviors that impact specific business results.

Emerging Market

1. Clearly defined business goal

For microlearning to work, the first thing you need to do is identify a specific, clear, measurable business result that you want to achieve. Microlearning must focus on solving that single problem, not an unmanageable pile of interconnected issues. The impact will then be validated by your organization’s ability to reach these results. (Keep this critical step in mind later when we discuss the framework for developing effective microlearning content).

2. Desired employee behavior

Once you have identified your business goal, you must clarify the actions employees will be expected to take in order to achieve it. This starts with understanding the behaviors your employees must demonstrate. Once the ideal behaviors are identified, then you can outline the knowledge employees need to execute those behaviors. This will help you separate need-to-know information from nice-to-know information and allow you to focus your training efforts properly.

3. Proven learning science principles

Learning is science. While we don’t understand everything about how the brain works, we do possess a set of evidence-based principles that can help employees retain knowledge for the long-term:

Spaced repetition: practicing a new topic repeatedly over increased periods of time to deepen memory

Retrieval practice: using questions to strengthen memory by forcing the brain to recall information

Confidence-based assessment: measuring an employee’s expressed confidence in a topic to improve memory and self awareness

By combining microlearning with proven learning science techniques, this will not only maximize your investment of time and effort in employee training but ensure employees have the confidence needed to make the right decisions at work—in the moment of truth.

4. Anywhere, anytime access

Most employees are overburdened and under-supported. They don’t have time to stop working for hours, let alone spend days or weeks completing additional training. Microlearning fits learning opportunities into the workflow, using the time employees do have available during their regular shift. It also takes advantage of familiar technology used at work, such as mobile and point of sale devices, to ensure employees don’t have to leave their workspace to learn. This simplifies the training experience for employees, reduces complexity for managers and provides valuable development in just minutes per day.

5. Right-fit content formats

Microlearning is focused on the moment of need, helping employees target the most critical information needed to do their jobs. This is how people learn and solve problems in everyday life, which means the microlearning experience is more familiar and comfortable for employees. That’s why it is critical that microlearning incorporates the right content format for the message. For example, a short video is likely better for demonstrating how to climb a ladder as compared to a text-only job aid. And why design an entire elearning module when a checklist is all employees need in the moment?

6. Meaningful training and performance data

The right-fit nature of microlearning increases the number of touchpoints your employees have with learning resources. Therefore, you can collect a significantly greater amount of data about your employees’ performance, including the types of content they consume, the information they know and don’t know, and if they are able to apply that knowledge correctly on the job. You can then use this data to determine how your training efforts are impacting your business and make proactive adjustments accordingly.