In the dynamic landscape of HR, adapting to the evolving needs of the workforce is crucial for success. The HR team’s responsibilities include a never-ending cycle of ensuring that adequate capabilities are aligned to the organization’s mission.

Forbes outlined key statistics and trends from 2023 pertaining to various challenges HR faced in 2023—things like new-hire turnover rates, organizational culture, engaging a remote workforce, and developing a future-of-work strategy. These highlight HR’s responsibility toward optimizing organizational capacity by way of aligned and optimized workforce capabilities. For HR teams to succeed, they need to have a strong—but adaptable—performance development strategy.

In considering our 2024 challenges, let’s consider how to leverage microlearning to achieve many of our most pressing demands. This article dives into the basics of microlearning while highlighting several opportunities to consider its incorporation into your HR performance development roadmap.

How you define microlearning matters

For HR leaders unfamiliar with the term, “microlearning” is commonly used to mean three different things: A concept, a method, and a product. It’s important to keep this in mind as you work with your team or your L&D function or make an effort to convey expectations.

Microlearning is often spoken about as a broad concept that fosters continuous learning. Here the term “learning” is also broad, as it covers the likes of knowledge, skills, and behaviors. Consider here the onboarding of new hires or exemplifying the organization’s learning culture, e.g., sharing and managing the exemplary ideas, tactics, and tools that bring success to your organization.

From a standpoint of method, microlearning is flexible and accessible. It can be delivered through various channels such as eLearning platforms and mobile apps, or even be integrated into daily work tools. This adaptability ensures that employees can access learning materials whenever and wherever they need them, promoting continuous learning. It’s an ideal medium for compliance-based topics, which often sit stagnant each year, or to sharpen essential interpersonal skills that all employees need, like conflict resolution or active listening.

We then have the most common definition of microlearning, as a thing or training product. Microlearning products are often defined by characteristics like how many objectives they address, duration of seat time, or the use of technology. My co-author of “Microlearning: Short and Sweet,” Karl Kapp, and I developed the following definition of a product: An instructional unit that provides a short engagement in an activity intentionally designed to elicit a specific outcome from the participant. Microlearning products include a range of content formats, from interactive quizzes and videos to infographics and morning huddles or weekly briefings.

Microlearning can make HR activities matter more

With these definitions in mind, let’s turn our attention to HR activities around the growth of the employees and their capabilities. Specifically, let’s focus on trending HR topics where the use of microlearning provides flexible and employee-centric development opportunities.

Onboarding and retention

Statistics from the Forbes article reveal that 30% of new hires leave within the first 90 days, often due to unmet expectations or poor cultural fit. Microlearning can address these challenges by offering engaging onboarding programs: Forbes also cites data showing that companies with structured onboarding programs retain 58% of employees for three years, demonstrating the impact of effective onboarding.

Skill development

Microlearning is especially effective for skill development. According to the Forbes data, 75% of companies plan to create custom learning programs; microlearning offers a tailored solution. HR leaders can curate microlearning content to align with organizational goals, ensuring that employees acquire the skills needed to fill gaps and advance their careers.

Employee engagement

Comprehensive onboarding experiences make employees 18 times more committed to the company and 38% more effective at their job, according to the Forbes data. Microlearning contributes to positive onboarding by delivering bite-sized, relevant content.

Engaged employees, in turn, are more committed and effective, potentially leading to a 147% increase in company earnings, compared with competitors.

Remote work integration

With 17% of HR leaders struggling to integrate remote workers into their teams and 15% facing challenges in conveying company culture virtually, microlearning offers a solution. Short, engaging microlearning products that focus on key attrition issues can bridge the gap, fostering a sense of inclusion and connection among remote employees.

Future of work strategy

In a landscape where, according to Forbes, 43% of HR leaders lack a future work strategy, microlearning allows HR departments to adapt quickly to changing work dynamics by providing timely updates and skill development opportunities aligned with the organization's evolving needs.

Example of an HR-related microlearning campaign

To illustrate the practical application of microlearning in HR, consider a microlearning campaign (a series of products themed on a developmental goal) focused on improving onboarding experiences. The campaign could include short products covering company culture, job expectations, and career development opportunities. Microlearning products may include interactive videos introducing key team members, infographics summarizing company values, and activities that have direct job application to reinforce critical information.

This microlearning campaign benefits HR by streamlining parts of the onboarding process while providing a consistent message. To take it a step farther, HR can create an accompanying microlearning campaign that departments can use with their staff when onboarding a new team member. Developing clear and consistent organizational messages ensures that microlearning content aligns with the company's values and goals. Consistency fosters a unified learning experience across the workforce.

How HR gets started also matters

Hopefully this has you excited about the prospects of where you can take HR activities for 2024, but to make sure it’s a success from the start, here are a few points to consider.

Have the right relationships

If HR is not doubling as the learning and development function, HR leaders should initiate collaboration with the L&D team—or work with a trusted vendor if there is no internal L&D arm. Building strong ties ensures a cohesive approach to implementing microlearning strategies. An important aspect here is having a common definition of microlearning and its purpose and potential for the organization or minimally for HR.

Goal alignment

Consider opportunities that align with departmental or organizational goals. Whether it's addressing retention challenges or enhancing remote work integration, microlearning should be a strategic tool supporting broader objectives.

Piloting strategies

If this is new for your team, decide whether to pilot microlearning with a specific department or organization-wide. Pros of piloting with a specific department include targeted feedback, but it may limit the broader impact. Pros of organization-wide implementation include scalability but may pose challenges in catering to diverse departmental needs.

In conclusion, microlearning presents an innovative opportunity for HR leaders to address the evolving challenges in talent management. By embracing microlearning concepts, methods, and products, HR can enhance onboarding experiences, promote skill development, and adapt to the changing dynamics of the modern workplace. Initiating a thoughtful integration of microlearning aligns with the future of work strategies, ensuring that HR remains a strategic driver of organizational success.

For more

For more information, download my new checklist, Getting Started With Microlearning: The Basics.