You’re an amazing L&D leader: You have successfully navigated the leadership landscape and aligned your department’s work to the organization’s strategic initiatives. You collaborate across the organization, embedding the capabilities of your department where appropriate for strategic gain!
As a matter of fact, you are teaming up with sales, marketing, HR, and customer service to address the retention issues in the sales department. There are a couple of KPIs in particular that, through data and analysis, have been identified for performance support in the form of training.
Your team has developed a learning solution that will use microlearning, in part, to reinforce the overall retention initiative. The microlearning campaigns and their products need to align to the performance goal(s) of the training solution. How do you even do that!?
In Behind The Scenes: The Making of Microlearning Campaigns, we looked at the mechanics of a process, key terms, and the need for goal development and alignment. To conclude this two-part discussion, we pick up by mapping the campaign to ensure alignment of the products, the implementation plan, and the evaluative measures. For us to be able to do that, we need to think in more multifaceted ways.
Omitting singular thinking
Very little about performance-based microlearning is truly singular, so let’s keep the focus on what benefits an organization pursuing performance-based microlearning.
What I mean by “singular thinking” is designing products as “one-and-done.” Microlearning, in contrast, is about building skill over time. For example: negotiation isn’t a skill that comes from a single eLearning or a three-day workshop.
Microlearning is very much about envisioning what the outcome looks like; not only in the action of the salesperson executing the skill but also in the impact of that skill on the individual, their team, the division, and even the organization’s outcomes.
That is a journey!
Journeys do not commonly follow a single path, do not move quickly from A to Z (sometimes we need to repeat step K, maybe three times), and they do not always equip us with everything we need. Sometimes we have to pick up things along the way to keep moving our journey forward.
That is why it’s essential to map a microlearning campaign—a collection of microlearning products packaged together to focus on the development of a discrete skill—to plan how the skill will develop over time, with measurement. This entails more than creating a set of microlearning units: Part of the plan is mapping how the journey will actually occur and how progress will be measured.
We’ve talked about some of those facets before, like whether your microlearning campaign will be part of a larger curriculum or be pushed to the participants or pulled by them when they need it. These aspects of implementation affect the entire campaign, so let’s start with a look at implementation considerations.
Considering the campaign map through implementation
Because the philosophy of spaced repetition is an effective practice for skill development, we need that at the forefront of our thinking with this journey. In our example we are focused on attitudes, as well as skill and competency development, to minimize turnover with a sales team. The following questions provide the beginnings of mapping the campaign and breaking it down in meaningful ways for the salesperson.
- What is an average time frame to see changes in these attitudes, skills, and competencies manifest with consistency? This will help to put focus on how often to space opportunities and how many microlearning products need to be “released” (whether pushed or pulled) during a certain time frame.
- Are the attitudes prevalent enough? Or is time needed to develop them? Can they be developed through focusing on skill development? For example, confidence may be a larger issue than negotiation—or confidence may be tied to negotiation. If part of your analysis indicates that confidence is very low based on self-reports and that it isn’t associated to a specific skill or competency, then you might consider a separate microlearning campaign focused on confidence. It’s not usually the case but when dealing with attitudes and skills, we cannot always see them as cause and effect to one another.
- How many journeys are needed? Is it one big microlearning campaign that an individual can experience as they see fit, or do we need to guide them by building specific attitudes and skills to take on other parts of their journey? Does each attitude, skill, or competency get a discrete journey, and then more complex journeys put all three together to challenge application? Figuring this out helps to determine what tools the journey needs to start with and which ones can help equip the participant along the way. That means that as you map for alignment, you may put specific topics or objectives before others or in tandem, etc.
These implementation considerations begin addressing evaluative measures, as well. If part of the journey needs participants to equip themselves with a tool prior to moving on, then you know that some form of performance-based assessment or evaluation must occur.
Evaluating the performance of the journey
Development of skills and competencies for performance comes with a host of needs that rely on more than multiple choice and true-false questions. Again, the individual needs the opportunity for self-application, evaluation, and reflection, as much as they need to demonstrate competency and have it assessed.
This makes considering evaluation an essential preparatory step to mapping and implementing your microlearning campaigns.
- How do we help our sales reps plot their journeys? How do they know where to start on the map? Do we do a pre-assessment to help them get a better sense of where they should focus their time? Do we leave it to personal preference? Do we create structured goal development and achievement pathways for them? For example, one pathway may be more about building confidence and less about the competency, whereas another may be more about the skills and less about the attitude.
- How often should self-assessment and reflection occur compared to assessment that is external? External assessment by a regional manager, peer, or mentor may be something different from the norm and require more time of others. That, in turn, might mean that you must consider change management as yet another factor in successful execution of a microlearning campaign—along with implementation and evaluation.
- When or where should external assessments occur? After a specific number of days, so many microlearning products achieved/completed out of the campaign, as part of passive observation (like in a meeting), or as part of a staged evaluative event (such as at a workshop)? The nice thing here is that not every “evaluation” has to be formal, but if there is no plan in place that prompts external evaluation, your learners’ journey may be stalled if they lack the input that allows them to move forward.
By now it should be clear that evaluation feeds other aspects of implementation. In addition, operational factors may need addressing: For example, are there platforms in place to distribute assessments and manage that process? If no, where is assessment data going? It could be that there are no tools, no platform, and no dedicated staff to manage assessment needs.
The operations aspect can require new technology or obtaining support from other departments. This could have even greater impact on shifting the culture of how the organization embraces and supports employee development.
Once you’ve considered (and, ideally, addressed) implementation and assessment concerns, you can finally get to mapping out your microlearning campaign.
Mapping the campaign
Considering goals, implementation, and evaluation is a lot of mental heavy lifting that happens prior to mapping the campaign. However, there are good reasons for doing all of that. Had we done traditional mapping, breaking down content to develop skills into a content outline of sorts, we would have missed a lot of nuances that would make successful performance within the learning intervention more difficult.
To assist in remembering those nuances, use the following to reflect on performance-based microlearning your team has developed or to guide your approach when planning for microlearning:
- The person taking the journey. Did we hand them a map with no compass?
- The person or people and tools that aid in the journey, whether alongside the individual on the journey (like a coach or a manager) or something supporting behind the scenes to keep the journey going (a set of goals and milestones). Did we tell them where the journey-takers are coming from, what they should have, and how they can be moved on?
- The markers or milestones that help the journey-taker know they are headed in the right direction. Does our map have a legend to help identify what is on the map and the distance between items on the map?
- The capacity of the organization to support that type of journey. Do these journey maps overlay the workflow or require time outside of it? Does either approach require more time of individuals (whether journey taker, journey observer, or journey evaluator) to operationally support the journey then previous?
Remember, taking the time to recognize that jumping from an organization or department goal to selecting topics and breaking them down into microlearning products is oversimplifying the process of developing effective, performance-based microlearning campaigns. Considering the factors presented here, plus others that may be more relevant to your organization’s environment, is critical to the future success and use of microlearning within your learning ecosystem.
Explore microlearning in depth
Join us for an in-depth look at microlearning. On February 6–7, Robyn Defelice offers a hands-on workshop on using microlearning to drive performance at your organization. Then, on February 8–9 Robyn is one of eight experts sharing microlearning innovations and best practices in our online conference. Register today to explore chatbots, augmented reality, personalization, and much more.