Dan Whelan explores workplace development programmes and advises that personalisation and microlearning is crucial for success
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, nearly 4.3 million people quit their jobs in January 2022, which marked a slight monthly decline but is still near the record level set in November when 4.5 million people quit. It’s a hard reality for business leaders that employees are leaving for new jobs at a rapid rate. But, if companies focus on the right things, they can work to retain more of their workforce.
Smart companies need to take a careful look at their L&D programmes to be sure that they’re meeting the goals they promise to meet; increasing employees’ knowledge to stay competitive in an ever-changing business landscape and doing so in such a way they feel supported and comfortable enough to stay with their employer longer.
Learning as strategy and business imperative
L&D programmes need to adapt to meet the changing demands of a changing workforce. The Great Reshuffle has signalled widespread changes to the way people think about their work, careers, and employment situation.
Workers are no longer content to perform the same tasks every day, punch a clock, and go home. At the same time, because of technology, the way employees must do things changes constantly, and there’s intense pressure on companies and individual employees to keep pace. The best way to keep workers engaged while also enabling them to be successful is by providing opportunities to learn and advance. In fact, according to a Glint Data report, the top factor that people look for in a positive work environment is opportunities to learn and grow. Notably, just a few years ago, that factor barely cracked the top ten on the list.
Microlearning relies on two scientific principles rooted in an understanding of how the human brain learns and retains information: the spacing effect and the testing effect
An investment in effectively educating an organisation’s workforce is an investment in the company’s success. According to a LinkedIn report, employees are ten times more likely to seek a different job if they feel their skills aren’t being put to good use. More than half of L&D professionals surveyed said that internal mobility is a higher priority in their organisations now than before the pandemic. And 79% of them acknowledge that it’s simply less expensive to reskill a current employee than to find a new one.
Leaders should think of employee learning as a strategic imperative for their organisation. Helping employees get better at what they do, or helping them acquire entirely new skills, has a net positive effect on organisations. Employee retention rates will improve, and those workers who stick around will be better able and willing to bring their best ideas and creativity to bear on the company’s core goals.
What’s working and not working for workers
Learning opportunities are important, but they have to be effective – meaning, employees must be able to retain the information and improve their job performance as a result. Unfortunately, a critical look at many companies’ L&D programmes show they historically have not worked especially well – just take the mass exodus of employees as a key signal. In an era of rapid digital transformation and a jumpy generation of workers, the old ways aren’t meeting needs. Virtual or in-person instructor-led training, eLearning, long SCORM courses, etc., that cover a multitude of details that only partially apply to each person in the course aren’t cutting it.
Workers need L&D programmes that are more convenient, personalised, and accessible to everyone. That may look different from person to person and profession to profession.
Microlearning is an approach to learning that’s becoming more prevalent and has proven to be effective in meeting this need. It’s based on the idea of giving learners smaller but more salient chunks of information that are augmented by real-world scenarios and then repeatedly spaced over time to support significantly better knowledge retention.
True microlearning relies on two scientific principles rooted in an understanding of how the human brain learns and retains information: the spacing effect and the testing effect. Spaced repetition presents information repeatedly over a longer period of time; the testing effect provides learners with scenario-based questions. Spaced repetition and the testing effect have been rigorously tested by science and years of practical application to provide markedly superior results compared to traditional learning methodologies.
Making learning personalised
Generally, the way microlearning provides targeted, personalised learning programmes is a template for how to provide ongoing education for any workforce. More specifically, leaders should look at the trends regarding what areas need the most help and the various ways learning will take shape – from there, they can use a modern microlearning platform to ensure employees are receiving the right training at the right time.
For example, a medical association that helps clinicians optimise the day-to-day practice of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine through education, communication and research found that because of the medical field’s ever-changing nature, routine educational classes and seminars can only take learners so far. Knowing the high stakes of medical practice in a compliance-driven environment, the medical association began using microlearning to round out their curriculum and provide personalised learning experiences with new and critical information. For example, during the pandemic, they used microlearning to keep clinicians well-informed on the latest COVID-19 best practices for treating patients, such as making decisions on when to ventilate patients, what drugs to prescribe and when to prescribe them. Employees were able to receive the right, personalised training, communicated in real time through microlearning, rather than being forced to sit through long training programmes that don’t apply to them.
All of this requires a renewed focus on cross functionality. L&D is not just an HR responsibility; it’s HR, lines of business, and leadership at the highest levels of an organisation coming together to align learning and skills development with core company objectives.
Dan Whelan is CEO of Qstream