Many organisations made an immediate switch to fully online learning at the start of the pandemic. But how can they adapt their approach to ensure it engages with employees when they already live highly digital lives? Sarah Marshall investigates.
The role of learning and development teams across organisations has shifted dramatically in the wake of the pandemic.
As we enter a hybrid age of working, there has been a renewed interest in incorporating a holistic approach to employee training and how best to deliver these opportunities to maximise engagement.
On top of the added pandemic-related pressures of the great resignation, business leaders are now looking to invest in employee training that helps retain current employees and attract new talent.
It is well documented that impactful L&D plays a crucial role in promoting employee wellbeing, but there is often debate as to how best to deliver it.
One approach that is growing in demand is microlearning, a model that uses a holistic attitude towards education, encouraging the flexibility needed for the age of hybrid working.
Historically, employers leaned heavily on what we call a “push” model of workplace training, whereby employees listened to lectures in a boardroom or classroom, then returned to work.
Hybrid skills development
The “success” of this teaching method was determined by attendance confirmation. However, it became notorious for its low levels of retention among employees.
Even before the pandemic, it was becoming clear that this lecture-style teaching was not fit for purpose for the emerging and digitally native workforce.
Adapting to survive
But the years of digital transformation that we saw squeezed into a few short months during the global health crisis and resultant remote working environment have forced staff to adapt to new digital and virtual ways of learning.
There is more of a shift towards a “pull” model, which views learning as continuous, ongoing, and, more importantly, flexible.
With this model, training is embedded into employees’ roles. It champions small, frequent learning interventions – or microlearning – delivered in digestible pieces.
Not only can this bite-sized information be processed quickly, but some believe it can boost memory retention rates by as much as 90%.
This method promotes wellbeing and diversity within organisations as it can be more inclusive for neurodiverse employees, those on part-time or flexible working contracts.
The latest generation entering the workforce has different working preferences to their older colleagues and is more open to career side steps or portfolio careers”
It also removes some of the added pressures that come with learning in a classroom-style environment and is more interactive in approach.
It is easier to deliver in a hybrid or virtual working environment, making it perfect for the new age of business.
The latest generation entering the workforce has different working preferences to their older colleagues and is more open to career side steps or portfolio careers.
They are used to scrolling through reams of information very quickly; they also typically have shorter attention spans and struggle to focus on tasks for long periods.
Researchers estimate that Gen-Z individuals typically have an attention span of just eight seconds, a few seconds shorter than millennials at 12 seconds.
This means more effort is required to keep this group energised and engaged in their work, as failure to do so could result in them becoming quickly demotivated and looking for new roles.
In fact, inadequate L&D opportunities from employers could prompt workers to leave organisations: a survey by learning provider Digits recently found that two in five managers who haven’t received any training plan to change jobs over the next 12 months.
Many young people have already taken the initiative to engage in online learning, so employers should follow suit”
In this instance, microlearning becomes an incredibly useful tool in appealing to these workers by delivering small frequent learning units with just the right amount of information to pique their interests.
Organisations should actively capitalise on the emerging workforce’s digital empowerment and entrepreneurial spirit by providing access to platforms that allow for continuous learning to cultivate the next generation of leaders.
Employers who are serious about innovating their L&D programmes should consider adopting a holistic approach to training; one that prioritises collaborative learning via digital channels such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom.
The 70:20:10 model of learning has been around for some time, but applies well in the hybrid environment.
It purports that 70% of learning is experiential and comes through on the job learning such as shadowing colleagues, 20% comes from social interaction, and 10% is more formal, structured learning.
These interdependent areas of learning feed into one another to boost its overall impact – experiential and social learning are fundamental training components to complement more formal training.
They enable individuals to develop their skill sets further as they soak up knowledge from their colleagues, and receive regular coaching, mentoring and feedback.
This model also supports independent learning instead of a one-size-fits-all approach designed without individuals in mind, and is easy to adapt to hybrid work through a combination of different learning environments, offering a bespoke experience for employees.
Many young people have already taken the initiative to engage in online learning, so employers should follow suit. Investing in training without such interactivity arguably leaves a lot to be desired for today’s digitally native workforce.
Ultimately, to get the most out of eager young staff, employers should consider investing in holistic approaches to microlearning – ensuring the needs of all employees are met in the future.