Accelerating Productivity Through Microlearning
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The process of learning is one that never ends. This holds especially true in the ever-evolving sales landscape, as the adaptive nature of working as a sales rep means that methods to share information must replicate the speed at which new procedures should be implemented into sales strategies for optimum productivity.
In positions of management, ensuring new hires have an adequate and thorough understanding of company procedures and necessary knowledge bases can also be a challenge when striving to maintain efficiency and drive productivity at the same time. How can sales enablement teams strive for training that cultivates proficiency in a dynamic, timely manner?
The answer lies in adjusting traditional modes of learning to consider the ramifications of digital consumption and the possibilities created with modern technology that has allowed for the development of microlearning: a structure of learning that forms a particular mass of information into smaller, bite-sized chunks of knowledge catered to a more agile and potent learning experience.
Why Adopt Microlearning?
Workplaces in the past generation have undergone some drastic transformations. As Stephanie Middaugh, director of enablement at WorkRamp describes, one of these shifts has been in the volume in which people have become accustomed to consuming media and, in turn, knowledge.
“People are absorbing information in much smaller capacities than they have been in the past,” said Middaugh. “I think traditional styles of learning aren’t going to fit everybody.”
In addition to changes in the capacity of learning in a modern workplace, offices in today’s world often look very different than they did a decade ago. For the majority of companies that offer hybrid working options, the closed-door, cubicle environment of the in-person workspace has been replaced by a bedroom desk, a living room table, or a kitchen corner.
“In today’s remote environment, we’re competing really against multitasking,” said Sam Lau, head of sales enablement at Forethought.ai. “We lose attention to that multitasking. They [employees] are not retaining the information…Ultimately, we know that if [our sales force] is not confident with the information, they’re going to go back to their old habits…they’re not going to create that new habit if they’re multitasking while you’re trying to do a traditional type of training.”
These changes mean that, fundamentally, the structures behind disseminating modes of learning and training must shift accordingly. This is not to coddle employees into apathetic work habits but to avoid them and provide a type of flexibility that ultimately leads, even for employees working in more traditional capacities, to higher retention of material and good, confidence-filled work.
Implementing structures of microlearning also takes into consideration opportunities when learners are looking for refreshers on specific pieces of information rather than re-learning an entire concept or process. By condensing and re-organizing the necessary knowledge into different topics and subjects, microlearning can become an efficient means of learning reinforcement.
“Instead of bringing people in face-to-face to retrain them on an entire topic, this can save tons of time, money, and energy by just creating some small snippets of information to reinforce what they know already,” said Ryan Faggioni, VP of training and development at Redfin.
The specificity microlearning provides means avoiding unnecessary time spent scrolling and looking through large portions of text or slide decks, streamlining concepts for the learner to more adequately and efficiently master the material they need.
What Are the Foundations of Microlearning?
Because the microlearning experience is that much more personalized and conceived for the individual learner, it’s crucial to establish some empirical guidelines for crafting a system of microlearning. One of the first factors to ensure microlearning aligns with the best practices of a team or company is to think constantly of the needs of the consumer.
“Understanding your audience first and foremost and then kind of building towards that is a crucial piece first to make sure that you’re able to meet them where they’re at,” said Middaugh.
Faggioni also emphasizes the importance of listening and adjusting according to the needs of the people within an organization. He warns against the pitfalls of relying too heavily on one experience to formulate microlearning because everyone comes with different types and degrees of exposure.
“Your job is to be a common sense aligner,” said Faggioni. “Don’t try and do all of this on your own and guess what’s next. Take a step back, align on what the common sense is in this moment, and use the team and the soundbites around you to create the snackable learning.”
Establishing practices of microlearning doesn’t denote discarding existing material and structures of knowledge. Often, it simply means finding a different, fresh way to orient the new methods into pre-formed company procedures.
“One of the most important things that you can do is really challenge your thinking and challenge your approaches to things,” said Middaugh. “If there are programs already existing in your organization, re-look at those and see if maybe there’s something that you can do a little bit differently.”
How Can Microlearning Be Implemented?
The customizable opportunities of microlearning offer administrators the chance to create a system designed around the contingencies of their team. To begin to understand the needs of the team and reflect those needs appropriately during implementation, surveys can be a useful tool. For example, Middaugh sends periodic emails to ask her sales team a variety of qualifying questions about how enablement is supporting their learning.
“How supported by the enablement team do you feel? How do you enjoy learning?’” said Middaugh. “What types of things are we doing right? What types of things are we maybe not even doing at all or doing too much of?”
Using microlearning to target specific areas of need also means letting sales reps know that an organized condensation of information exists for them to use. This can be formatted and arranged in a way that stresses ease of use. Gabriella Petrone, who currently leads and grows a team of enablement professionals at Box, says she released a study guide of sorts that highlights microlearnings on specific skills that reps may need to prepare themselves for a particular exercise.
“That way, our reps can go in and say, ‘hey, these are the three areas I’m struggling with–I’m going to just focus on these for now,’” said Petrone.
Microlearning can also be implemented in the most introductory structure of corporate learning: the onboarding process. Utilizing microlearning in onboarding again employs its freedom for customization, whether for particular teams or individuals.
“Customize onboarding depending on the role,” said Brooke Coletti, senior partner enablement manager at Amazon Web Services. “The ability to have those smaller videos will allow other teams within the organizations to pick the topics that are the most impactful for them.”
Adopting this new method of learning may be difficult when accustomed to the more protracted breadths of traditional learning structures. It can be tempting to cram as much information as possible into a segment of microlearning or endeavor to perfect every detail of the micro-package. However, Faggioni warns against including too many elements of a concept, as this would defeat the very purpose of being ‘micro’ and hinder the inherent ideas of accelerated efficiency behind microlearning.
“If you come from a world where perfection is what was expected, and now you’re trying to get a bit scrappier, that can be just a personal scare to just make that transition,” said Faggioni. “You can’t always be worried about the exact video quality and that high-end production. Sometimes you’re just trying to get the information out.”
It is also vital to examine and quantify the impacts of microlearning post-implementation. While inspecting attainment as the lagging indicator of progress is important, it might be more helpful to look at key leading indicators. Using these segments can then predict the lagging indicators, strengthen them, and enable the sales team to meet their quota.
“Data is just the universal love language of anybody in a business,” said Faggioni. “You just have to use it to tell the right story.”
Building an infrastructure of microlearning requires engaging in receptive listening and feedback. Challenging traditional methods of learning always necessitates flexibility. Creating a culture of adaptation to better develop strategies for an efficient, micro-enhanced learning experience ensures that enablement and sales reps alike enhance and increase productivity. By using snackable learning to foster large-scale understanding, learners are enabled and optimized to succeed.