With technology increasingly making its way into our lives through so many ways, one might assume that it is the best time for making learning more effective. However, the truth is different. Despite there being so much free and readily accessible information around us, knowledge gaps among employees are increasing. As per a study by Bersin by Deloitte, 65-75 percent of organizations have an “overwhelmed employee.” Technology and its evolution has made any kind of information readily available, leaving employees drowning in data.
There are two problems that arise with such a high volume of information made accessible. First, leaving employees on their own to find data that will help them perform better, might leave them even more confused. Second, the precise knowledge required to perform tasks efficiently might not even be available at that moment. As per a study by IDC, 44 percent of the time, most employees cannot locate the answers they are looking for. And even if they do manage to find what they need, 61 percent of employees say they have access to four or more systems to do it.
The knowledge gained through such myriad ways will neither be retained nor help the employee, the customer or the business. Training that does not translate into application in real life situations is of no use. In fact, this has been cited as one of the biggest challenges that organizations face today. As per a research by Aberdeen, 49% of organizations reported that ensuring what is taught is actually applied on the job is one of the main challenges they face.
In such cases, knowledge gaps are going to widen, which will start reflecting in poor business results. This can cause serious damage, especially in industries such as pharmaceutical manufacturing, where the slightest error can have disastrous consequences.
In order to remedy this, organizations need to relook at the way they conduct training of their employees, contractors and suppliers . Training needs to be planned and delivered in a way that builds knowledge using real life examples, and not just be deemed as something that needs to be delivered every once in a while (just for the sake of it!). This would involve offering training that is preferred by the learner in a way that education becomes easier, not a burden. Without offering learning that engages and actually helps employees grow, organizations will be unable to close employee knowledge gaps, which in turn can have detrimental impact on businesses.
Here are a few ways in which this problem can be solved:
1. Using microlearning as a learning tool
Once a year training events that include days of boring and death-by-PowerPoint sessions are a thing of the past. They require a huge investment without strong results. Forcing employees to undergo these lengthy sessions can push them further away from achieving the organizational goals.
Instead of this, employees can be granted access to microlearning modules that break the same vast information conducted in classroom sessions into smaller, more digestible chunks. Employees can quickly go through these courses whenever they have some time and come back to it later, as per their convenience, and on a device of their choice.
With microlearning, employees are less likely to feel overwhelmed or stressed with lots of information being thrown at them at once. Instead, it allows for more flexibility as the employee can focus on learning only one thing at one time, as per his/her preference. The content is also way more engaging, using visual and auditory tools, that stimulates the senses and makes information much more easy to digest and retain. Bite-sized lessons can also be updated as and when there is a change, giving employees easy access to latest content in their specific industry.
2. Distributed learning over time
Several studies and research have proved that people learn better when training is distributed and consists of short and crisp lessons. Scientists, Kristine Bloom and Thomas Shuell, taught 20 new vocabulary words to students, breaking them into two groups. One group focused on learning in one 30-minute session and the other group spent time learning in 10-minute sessions in three consecutive days. They took a test four days after the lessons and found that the group that learned in shorter training sessions over 3 days was able to remember 15 words correctly, as opposed to the group with only one session remembered only 11.
Learner’s knowledge can be assessed through questions tied to granular learning objectives, which is focused on a specific nugget of content. This appeals to learners as they are not forced to consume large amounts of content that may or may not apply to their role or area of interest.
Applying microlearning in this format can keep learners engaged and reduce the total time spent in the learning environment. This helps employees focus on their jobs, and get back to learning at their own times. Content remains interesting in the form of videos, images, audio files and other multimedia content. Breaking down content into such multiple activities increases total learning time without making the learner feel captivated.
3. Repetitive content to ensure retention
There are a lot of studies being done on how much the human brain can actually retain. According to a Time article, in fact, the retention capacity of the human brain has gone even lower than that of a goldfish, thanks to the massive distraction we have around us. With phones buzzing with messages, email alerts, app notifications and chat pop ups distracting employees every other second, focusing on one thing is a herculean task.
The famous Ebbinghaus Curve shows how much human beings retain information in their memory. As the steep graph shows, retention levels drop drastically as time increases. This is why is it important to ensure that repetition is kept as a key strategy in training programs.
Microlearning makes perfect sense in this regard as it deploys refreshers from time to time post training, in order to keep trainees aware of what they had learned. These refreshers can be in engaging ways such as short videos or assessments that are pushed out to trainees at regular intervals to facilitate higher retention of concepts learned. Remembering key concepts will enable employees to actually transfer learning into knowledge and apply it on the job. By providing short doses of microlearning that focuses on elements of the same content, and testing it daily through assessments and quizzes can help employees solidify that information in their memory.
By continuing to measure knowledge on such basis, gaps can be identified and content can be adjusted accordingly to help employees catch up. Such analysis through regular learning and monitoring helps to close the knowledge gaps gradually, and builds expertise around key areas.
4. Gamification as a learning tool
Gamification in microlearning is an excellent way to help engage learners in a way that information becomes easier to retain. By introducing gamification in microlearning, learning takes place in a much more relaxed and informal environment, which also makes seemingly mundane tasks a lot of fun. Gamification helps boost participation rates in microlearning courses.
When training is made engaging through games play, friendly competition, incentives and rewards, it becomes a top-rated activity for employees, rather than just a mere compulsion. Gamification helps make the learners more and more curious and they stick to the training as a result. It allows for employees to have an immersive experience which motivates them to reach goals. Using online learning technology to reward learners with points, badges and certifications that motivates them to stay engaged and work harder to learn, while having fun all the time. Gamifying the learning experience helps increase the frequency of employee participation in training.
With such engaged activities in learning, employees will participate more and learn faster, which will gradually enable organizations to close the knowledge gaps and to have more impactful employee training program.Pre-training assessments can help identify where knowledge gaps exist among employees. Using this information, training can be customized to each learner’s specific needs, thus bringing in greater impact. Important concepts such as cash handling, loss prevention, receiving delivery of goods from the warehouse, POS procedures and store cleanliness can be informed via in-action scenarios. which thus help in improving in store customer service experience.
Microlearning can, thus, help organizations close skill gaps by producing immediate results that align with fast paced industry changes. It is also lighter on the pocket and easier to execute. However, this requires caution as microlearning is only as effective as it is used. It requires careful planning and a deep focus on the overall learner experience for it to be successful. The aim should be to reduce learner frustration and decrease time for on the job application for knowledge. All this needs to be accompanied by power packed content that keeps employees engaged throughout the experience.