Emily Marsh January 7 2020

Why microlearning works for leadership development

Microlearning is effective for leadership development because it allows learners to consume content and apply new knowledge and skills quickly.

Traditionally, when we think of leadership development, we think of senior leaders going off on an immersive workshop for one or two days, where they learn new skills that are intended to make them more effective back in the workplace.

Yet learning trends show we are moving away from the static, outdated leadership development models of the past, and towards new models that better suit leaders in a fast-paced digital age.

Technological disruption, an unsettled political climate, and increasing customer demands mean there is more pressure than ever for organisations to develop leaders who can steer their company forward.

Microlearning is one of the biggest opportunities for doing just that.

What is microlearning?

Microlearning is a method of delivering learning content in short, focused bursts of 3-5 minutes. It’s a learner-centric approach that provides just-in-time training available on multiple devices, including tablets and smartphones. Content can take many forms, from text and images to short videos, audio snippets, and games.

Why microlearning works 

Improves knowledge retention

Short, bite-sized bursts create sticky learning experiences that make retention easier. Our brains are only able to absorb a small amount of information into our short term memory at any time. By breaking learning down into specific chunks, information is easier to understand, assimilate, and remember.

Just-in-time learning

Microlearning enables leaders to access learning content when they need it the most. As content is broken down into bite-size pieces, leaders are more likely to invest the time needed to use them when on-the-job. In moments where they come unstuck or feel lost, it’s easy to access the training there and then.

Makes training more personalised

There is no one-size-fits-all solution when developing your leaders. No two leaders are exactly alike, and this is where the granularity of microlearning becomes so powerful. The content can be tailored to the unique needs of each individual.

Outcome focused

Each bite-sized nugget of learning is designed to meet a specific outcome and can be used very effectively to bring about behaviour change.

Makes learning more effective

Learning in bite-sized pieces has been proven to make the transfer of learning from the classroom to the real world 17% more effective.

Microlearning as a beacon for wider trends in learning

Deloitte have identified three ways learning is evolving in the workplace:

  • Learning is becoming more integrated with work
  • Learning is becoming more personal
  • Learning is shifting - slowly - towards lifelong models

Microlearning taps into all three of these trends.

Learning becomes more integrated with work as individuals are able to access content on the job. They can pull on the learning in-the-moment while at work.

Learning becomes more personal as microlearning allows content to be easily tailored to the needs and goals of each individual.

Microlearning shakes up the outdated vision of leadership training as a workshop and towards a solution that supports learning and growth over time. We’re all works in progress, but it’s easy to get suffocated by the daily demands of the job and fail to deliver on what you promised in a workshop. Microlearning brings learning back to how we learn in real life.

Moving towards a blended, holistic approach to learning

Microlearning is effective because it allows learners to consume content and apply new knowledge and skills quickly. However, a blended, holistic approach that combines micro-learning with face-to-face training can often have the greatest impact.

When developing leaders, they need time and space to practice new skills before they can become habits that they slip into without thinking. Practice should start in a safe and supported environment, and this is where face-to-face learning modules are instrumental.

Microlearning modules can help you to deliver much of the critical knowledge building phase of your leadership development programme. With carefully designed, tailored microlearning ‘bursts’, you can teach people the core skill and why it’s valuable to them and their organisation before any face-to-face modules. This leaves more time in face-to-face training for getting individuals to practice the new skill in a safe and supported environment.

The neurobiology of successful behaviour change

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