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Four Critical Questions to Ask When Crafting Your Microlearning Strategy

Written by Paul Rosevear

Microlearning isn’t so much of a novelty anymore. Case in point, a few weeks ago a friend of a friend of mine interviewed for a top L&D position at a large global social media company (yes, that large global social media company). During the interview, the hiring manager asked him a telling question: “What’s your microlearning strategy?” 

How will you use microlearning? Sooner or later, your company will want to know.

This struck me as a sign of the times. For the modern learning organization, it’s no longer a question of whether or not to use microlearning—it’s how. The Association for Talent Development recently reported that 92 percent of organizations using microlearning plan to do more of it in 2017, and more than 67 percent of organizations that don’t yet use it plan to start. The numbers don’t lie—microlearning is an idea whose time has come.

For the modern learning organization, it’s no longer a question of whether or not to use microlearning—it’s how.Click To Tweet

So, how would you respond if someone asked you the same question? Would you know what to say or even where to start? Well, sometimes to find the right answer you need to ask more questions. Here are four to get you started.

1. What problem(s) are you solving?

Take it from Albert: “If I had only one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem, and only five minutes finding the solution.”

Let’s begin with how not to use microlearning. You don’t want to use microlearning as a nebulous resource that sits there, unconnected to any specific business objective beyond “let’s do that microlearning thing.” Microlearning is best used for solving tangible problems—problems that maybe haven’t even been uncovered yet.

Work with stakeholders to identify and prioritize those problems. Do you need to strengthen first-time managers? Accelerate onboarding? Address low engagement or high turnover? Ultimately, you want to be seen as a consultant that’s central to the business—not somebody who sits outside of it. Clarifying the problems microlearning needs to solve puts you there.

2. Where will you reach people?

A key part of what makes microlearning work is that it enables you to push out short, actionable learning to employees closest to their point of need. One way to do that—and make sure they engage with it—is to meet them where they’re doing the most work.

So find out: Where do people spend most of their time communicating? Or working with teams? Is it email? Instant messenger? Salesforce? Slack? Do an inventory of places where you can reach people and use it to inform your distribution approach. This way, when you want to put microlearning in the hands of your people, you know where to find them.

Where are they working now? Weave microlearning into the tools your people use every day.

3. When can you take a blended approach?

Think about a book club. It’s a unique learning opportunity. The lively discussion, exchange of ideas, and insights that surface can only happen when you get bodies (and minds!) in a room together. But what happens if you haven’t done the reading? You feel left out. You can’t participate. And you don’t get nearly as much out of the session.

Similarly, microlearning can be used to fuel similar in-person learning sessions or discussions. Use it to pepper your people with some basic or foundational concepts leading up to an in-person session. Then follow up with some practice exercises or further learning afterwards to reinforce the material covered. There are endless ways to enhance in-person learning activities with microlearning—without demanding much time or effort from your learners.  

4. How can you align microlearning with key points of need?

People tend to take action when there’s a pressing need—and procrastinate when there isn’t one. Stop by your local mall this December 24th to see what I’m talking about. But we can leverage this tendency to our advantage by aligning microlearning with key points of need—moments in the company calendar or in an employee’s personal career progression when they’ll be extra motivated to engage with learning.

Consider performance reviews. They typically exist in a bubble, with no additional training or support. What if you sent out a few microlearning modules the week beforehand educating people on how to make the most of them? Or what about new managers—87% of middle managers say they don’t get enough training when they’re first promoted. What if you delivered a two-week daily microlearning campaign to new managers from the day they were promoted? Surrounding these moments of need with short bursts of learning is one of the more powerful applications of microlearning—and it will better equip your people to perform at their best when it matters most.

That feeling when you get the support you need, right when you need it.

The microlearning movement is upon us

It seems like only yesterday microlearning was a newfangled buzzword met with skeptical glances and raised eyebrows. Now it’s demanding its own strategy at companies that are shaping the very world we live in.

If you find yourself sitting on a job interview for a L&D role and you get asked about microlearning strategy, hopefully these questions will give you a jumping off point for how to answer. And if you’ve already got the job, now you’ll be in an even better position bring an engaging microlearning strategy to your learners.