Over several articles, I have pinpointed challenges that many learning and development (L&D) leaders face when integrating microlearning into their organization’s learning ecosystem. These have mainly been strategic and operational in nature, covering topics such as having an agreed-upon purpose for adopting microlearning to ensuring that the L&D department has achieved a learning maturity and agility level that enables them to leverage microlearning.

What still hasn’t been addressed, and what is equally critical to success, relates to your L&D team capabilities and tools.

As a leader in the L&D space, it’s your responsibility to look at innovations and trends in our field to determine their value in supporting the performance of your organization. Part of that decision-making process focuses on how your L&D team can adopt, adapt, and achieve success when doing something new. We know that if our talented team cannot leverage a method or tool effectively, we simply create departmental challenges on top of other issues more directly related to the target audience.

So how do you know if you have a team skilled to develop microlearning and tools to make that happen?

That is the key question. This article may not answer every nuance, but it will give you some guidance as to the types of skills to look for or develop in your L&D team so as to effectively adopt and leverage microlearning.

Performance-driven design

If your organization knows what performance-driven design is and is doing it, then skip to the next section. However, this is a significant challenge that many L&D departments face when switching gears, particularly if the team is more accustomed to creating training that “talks at” the participant—text-heavy eLearning or talking-head tutorials, for example.

Performance is driven by behaviors, attitudes, and dispositions; knowledge recall will not measure any of this effectively. If the majority of training products are built to convey information and measure recall, chances are that your L&D team will need opportunities to discuss and think through the impact of this new format on their processes, skills, and development and delivery platforms. It can literally shift the entire department’s way of doing its job.

Performance-driven design goes beyond proof of completion or proving a passable score on an assessment sitting in an LMS. Microlearning products are an example of performance-driven design: they are meant to help with ROI, whether that’s for safety, compliance, quality, productivity, retention of talent, or other metrics.

It will take your team time to walk through all the aspects of training design and development that can and will be affected by a shift in approach or addition of microlearning. Depending on the demand to move to a performance-driven approach to creating L&D products, specifically microlearning assets, you may need to create weekly goals to assess the strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities that your team will face.

If this is a goal your department and organization are working toward, then consider building in monthly milestones toward those assessments. Additionally, because this could be a major shift for your department, it will be a major change for your organization as well. Which leads me to the next factor for consideration.

Change management as part of the L&D solution

When incorporating microlearning or another new learning approach, remember that, if it’s new to your team, then more than likely, it’s new to your organization. This requires your L&D group to implement change management approaches and solutions as part of the overall microlearning strategy (or any other new learning strategy, for that matter).

The L&D department will need to redefine and communicate expectations. Learning leaders will need the buy-in of senior organizational leadership, as their commitment will lend support for adoption of new methods of implementing products, especially those more focused on performance.

Employees may see this change as a way to “thin the herd.” Your own team may think that if they cannot adjust to creating performance-driven products, their own jobs are in peril. The L&D team may therefore experience resistance from both within and outside the team.

Remember from above that performance-driven design focuses on the people. Changing things up and adopting new approaches creates risk, which can have a significant impact on an initiative. Change management efforts can support the ROI that your organization hopes to achieve through its new performance-driven efforts.

Microlearning can really shake up the human factors to your organization. By now, you may have guessed that adopting a performance-driven approach can do the same to your team as it upends their confidence in their capability to design for this new format.

Microlearning design takes a different approach

Putting a performance-driven design approach into action takes more effort in planning, implementation, and evaluation than conventional approaches because it is tied to more strategic aspects of the organization’s operations.

That’s because the performance-driven learning resources do not merely “talk at” learners; the new learning materials need to elicit and support action from learners. This means that your team may take a totally different approach to creating learning products.

Additionally, microlearning products by definition are short instructional units focused on engaging a participant in an activity to elicit a specific outcome. To gain that result, the microlearning product needs to be highly contextualized—while much conventional learning casts a broad net, using a one-size-fits-all approach that requires large numbers of learners to complete the same training units.

The skills required to create these performance-driven, more personalized and targeted products include the ability to tell stories, build scenarios, and design experiences that immerse the individual. Day-in-the-life. What would you do? A walk in their shoes. These are all ways to bring to life the behavioral and attitudinal elements sought in performance-driven initiatives.

What creates the larger challenge is the fact microlearning consists of short instructional units, which require concise writing. The luxury in creating a traditional eLearning module or even an instructor-led module lies in the content realty that they provide. Microlearning is the opposite. Its content is narrowly defined and constrained within the bounds of what is absolutely necessary for the learner to know.

Similarly, when assessment moves beyond multiple choice and creates ownership on part of the employee, novel development methods are needed to create meaningful assessments for the entire organization.

These changes in design and development could mean that the tools and techniques that your team is accustomed to using may no longer be the best ones for the job. For example, podcasts need different equipment, editing software, and skills (e.g., equalizing sound, trimming audio, creating multiple tracks, etc.). Even an infographic needs a heavier hand in graphics and simplified communications, though PowerPoint can work in a pinch. Adopting new tools and leveraging new design approaches obviously means yet another learning curve for your L&D team.

So, what’s the best first step for your team?

A shift in mindset is needed

It sounds like an obvious thing to state, but we have to alter our mindset to accommodate new approaches to developing training. It’s easier to think of this when we advise turning all training into stories.

Responses would immediately begin to play out, ranging from “that’s impossible” to “that’s going to be fun.” If the mindset remains rooted in whatever traditional formats and products your organization offers, then developing microlearning will be markedly more difficult.

Get a pulse on your team’s mindset through team activity and individual discussions. For example, have your team pick a curriculum and re-envision it without the use of an LMS. How would it be delivered? Formally? Informally? How would the content be broken up, and what would be the frequency of its delivery? All at once or over time?

Lastly, this mindset may not be for everyone and unless your organization is moving 100% to a different direction with L&D, you will need some team members to stay focused on what the organization already provides. If the team activity doesn’t draw out your members with the necessary mindset, provide another opportunity for individual members to select a course and turn it into a microlearning product.

Have them share with the team the challenges and opportunities in that undertaking. In preparation for this undertaking, ask the team member answer some questions—examples are provided below—that will enable you both discern where their mindset is rooted in performance-driven design. Sample responses provided that demonstrate comprehension of microlearning concepts.


L&D Team Response Example

What it Tells the L&D Leader

How do you envision the selected topic supporting performance?

Supervisors are told to create collaborative environments and current training shares tips for it but doesn’t actually give realistic examples in creating one or challenges that surround creating one.

With a response like this you see that the L&D team member recognized how training was “talking at” the supervisor more than it was helping to develop skills toward a specific supervisorial expectation.

What microlearning use case or cases will you apply?

A pensive approach will be used to assist supervisors in assessing their own position on what creates a supportive environment so they can begin to see how they may need to shift their mindset or validate and reinforce their current effort.

This is probably helping you see the design approach from a creative lens; the L&D member is conveying that they want the microlearning product to get the supervisor to think and reflect. Here is another sign of comprehending microlearning design principles.

What overarching goal does it align to?

Currently the organization has no known KPIs toward this subject matter. However, HR leadership has indicated an increase over the last few years in turnover through transfers and resignations based on factors surrounding collaborative environments. This piece will not resolve the entire issue, as it focuses only on helping the supervisor be more aware of what they are and are not doing to provide a collaborative environment.

Here you get a good sense of the need for performance-driven design. The team member also demonstrates comprehension of how to look at the larger, more broad issue and see that one microlearning product is not going to help change this problem for the organization. However, they identify a critical beginning, creating awareness. If this sounds familiar, it’s because this is the first level in the Affective Learning Taxonomy. Technically the level is entitled “Receiving,” but its effort is truly to begin building awareness.

Other questions of benefit are:

  • Where and when does this get delivered?
  • How does this impact current methods for implementing training?
  • What criteria will be evaluated for performance?
  • How does your evaluation plan differ from how we do it today?

Use these perspectives to begin assessing and informing your departmental audit for integrating performance-driven, microlearning initiatives.

Not sure where your organization is headed in 2022 with microlearning? Leverage all the articles Learning Solutions has shared in the past months to create a game plan of your own.

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