18 June 2018

Soft Skills and Microlearning: Bite-sized Bursts of Learning




It’s Monday morning and you’re trying to plan the week ahead. A colleague from HR interrupts you to ask if you can do some soft skills training this month and you immediately roll your eyes. Not because you don’t want to learn, but because you’re simply too busy. It’s a recurring challenge that can be solved quickly and effectively through microlearning. Soft skills and microlearning combined make learning incredibly easy to incorporate into a busy working day.

What is microlearning?

Microlearning is a format of training that delivers content in the form of information nuggets, divided into several bite-sized chunks. It is not learning cut down to size but rather learning that has been designed from the bottom up to be consumed in shorter modules.

These chunks sometimes need to be consumed in order, but the beauty of this format is that each chunk lasts no more than five-then minutes.

soft skills
Soft Skills Development
Building the critical skills needed to succeed in the modern workplace
soft skills
Soft Skills Development
Building the critical skills needed to succeed in the modern workplace

This may not seem a very long time compared to a half or full-day or face-to-face training, but the full impact comes from combining all these nuggets of information to create a comprehensive learning experience.

Is your attention drifting?

In 2015 Microsoft conducted a survey revealing that the majority of people can focus effectively for only eight seconds; that’s less than the proverbial goldfish, which has an attention span of nine seconds, and less time than it’s taken you to read this sentence.

Aside from employee’s short attention spans, the workplace is also filled with distractions. The distractions come in many forms; untimely interruptions, information overload, social media activity, just to name a few.

Further reading

Organizations are under huge pressure to address this challenge and deliver their training in formats that captures the modern learner’s attention and keeps employees engaged. Short, focused and dynamic microlearning content is the ideal solution.

Soft skills and microlearning in action

Even if you haven’t taken a training course that was openly branded as microlearning, you will probably have experienced microlearning in your everyday life.

Perhaps you had a tricky piece of DIY to carry out like changing a washer in your bathtub. You visit YouTube and find a quick “Explainer” video, of which there are dozens dedicated just to this task. Seven minutes later and some consolidation of your new skills under your bathtub, you’ve proved the effectiveness of microlearning.

Microlearning is already incredibly effective in developing hard skills, like learning how to use Excel. You open the software and move through mini tutorials lasting a few minutes each.

After completing a number of these tutorials and practicing it for yourself the skill is embedded in your brain and your workflow.

So why not do the same with challenges that require an equally valuable soft skill? Soft skills and microlearning are a natural fit.

Imagine that two of your colleagues are in the midst of a tense disagreement and you are responsible for diffusing it.

You remember that your training provider has given you access to a series of microlearning units about ‘Conflict Resolution’. You sit at your desk, put on some headphones and quietly work through the content, each unit taking no more than ten minutes.

In a short amount of time, and without leaving your desk, let alone your office, you have attended a training course in a valuable and practical soft skill.

Microlearning, Fast Results

Microlearning requires little effort and puts learners in control of their learning. It is easily digestible and can include short-term activities to help them retain what they have learned and put it into practice.

Because microlearning is delivered at employee’s desks or their handset and embedded into their workflow it allows them to immediately deploy what they have learned which has much higher potential to deliver behavioral change.

Its delivery method is also a huge advantage over more traditional training formats.

According to the Journal of Applied Psychology, microlearning’s bite-sized format and the inclusion of video content plays well with learners.

  • One minute of video content was found to be equal to about 1.8 million written words for training retention.
  • Learning in bite-sized pieces makes the transfer of learning from the classroom to the desk 17% more efficient.
  • People who learn through microlearning techniques answer questions 28% faster.
  • 75% of tech-savvy employees are more likely to watch a video than to read emails, documents or web articles.

Microlearning and soft skills: The takeaway

Intensive, and expensive offsite soft skills training courses can now be replaced, where appropriate, with online microlearning and smart curation and assessment tools.

soft skills
Soft Skills Development
Building the critical skills needed to succeed in the modern workplace
soft skills
Soft Skills Development
Building the critical skills needed to succeed in the modern workplace

With soft skills and microlearning deployed in your organization, employees no longer need to devote weeks at a time to professional development, they don’t even need to attend formal training courses. They can access learning on their own terms, where they want and how often they wish.

Because microlearning can be utilized from a desktop computer, a laptop, tablet or even a smartphone, learners can take in a learning activity over their lunch, during a coffee break or even as a pause between other activities.

This ‘quiet and cost-effective revolution in professional training’, means that learning no longer needs to take employees away from their working day, it can become a part of it.

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