When a new employee comes onto the job, the organization expects a basic entry level of knowledge. Following orientation and cursory training, new employees should be able to perform their specific roles. They may get some help at times from a coworker or manager, but this combination of prior experience, training, and oversight leads organizations to believe that this is an effective model. Well, effective enough.
To advance in the organization, however, employees must build up their skills and knowledge base. Continual development training takes on the role of skill advancement. However, with the specialization and complexity of modern-day roles, we establish new knowledge baselines weekly. The average employee spends 80 hours a year in training, but is that enough to keep pace in a dynamic marketplace?
Compounding this problem of increasing complexity is that corporate learning and development organizations are not equipped to handle this challenge. Enduring decades of reduced funding and talent, most organizations employ amateur trainers—individuals who routinely fill up a PowerPoint slide with everything they can think of and then read it to an audience. This is a bad experience.
However, some organizations made a major leap by recording those lectures. Then placed on their company’s intranet, and asking people to rewatch at their own convenience. Not surprisingly, this mode of training wasn’t used very much, and the average abandonment rate was before three minutes of the video had played.
People want to learn, though. Human Resources listened and purchased huge online libraries. These held nearly every topic that an organization could ever need. However, most of these libraries held the same model of recorded lectures. They did not set up their approach for their employees’ busy lives and lack of available attention. These courses were designed for a different era. As expected, these costly libraries led to quick course abandonment and continued employee frustration with their stagnation.
The problem begins with the origin of modern-day education. The historical model of training adheres to a lecture-based format. This is useful in theoretical discussions, but theory isn’t highly relevant to skills development and training. As a society, we have experienced cognitive changes to learning. Our brain is now wired differently than it was 200 years ago.
Online technologies overtook corporate lectures. This led to massive open online courses (MOOCs). Now, we’ve evolved to webinars. All three are the same applications, just with different flavors.
This is based on organizational infrastructure. Companies structure their operations around time availability. This leads to allotting blocks of time to learning and development organizations. In turn, trainers design around the time to be allotted, which leads to the introduction of filler—nice information to have, but unnecessary, and may cause the audience to miss the key points.
The bad experiences continued. Viewers continued to abandon the online courses within three minutes. The learning products facilitate high disengagement, leading to poor retention and comprehension. It was a waste of time.
There is a way, though, to leverage modern-day technology to enhance the learning experience. The method begins by focusing on the learner instead of emphasizing the technology. The key question is how to transfer knowledge most effectively from one person to another.
The modern-day attention span has decreased by 25% over the last 20 years. Human attention, at 8.25 seconds, now trails the goldfish in terms of our ability to focus on tasks or objects. Ideally, instructional designers need to align their lessons with that fast-paced model to match how the mind works, and it is notoriously difficult to do short bursts of knowledge when stuck in a classroom for a predetermined block of time.
Technology paves the way for a convenient medium to transfer knowledge. By providing asynchronous material, students can tune in when it works best for them and when their minds are ready to take on new information.
Digital training content quickly unlocks the key to memory retention. This allows the easy repeat of material. Which reinforces the knowledge and mitigates the forgetting curve while sharing the content more effectively.
Some studies have reported a 38% increase in learning engagement by using micro-training. That number jumps to 54% when micro-training pairs with a gamified platform. Gamified micro training unlocks the learners’ user experience, allowing them to drive their learning journey instead of the organization doing it for them.
Time efficiency proves to be the major selling point of micro-training. However, there are a few ways to look at time savings. The first is the large chunks of time that the workforce and training staff are not stuck in a classroom. The second major time savings comes from the ability to take advantage of spare moments for bitable training. Thus, it enables just-in-time training and maximizes training effectiveness.
By leveraging technology in learning and development, organizations can design around the learner and the objective, building courses geared toward the audience’s mindset, and thus maximize their effectiveness by keeping the material concise, mobile, and asynchronous.
Using a sales organization as a case study—a specialty that typically has a significant amount of employee turnover and hiring—two weeks of initial training to adequately embed the organization’s culture to guide the direction of the sales process.
A single trainer ran the previous model where they would spend two weeks in formal classes when they ran an onboarding session. After the first three days, the course transitions into sales training but leaves ample spare time. This was followed by hour-long lectures.
Due to bulk hiring and a lack of instructor bandwidth, the company hosted 10 major onboarding classes per year. The training originally designed to provide all of the information at once when a person first started. This was driven by maximizing the efficiency of the trainer, not the students. As expected, knowledge retention was low. After evaluating this process, they set out to design an experience that new-employees would drive with light facilitation by the trainer.
By taking two weeks’ worth of material they stripped the lesson plan it down to 44 objectives. Then they built a combination of micro courses and experiences around those objectives. The redesign included experiences ranging from phone-driven videos and simulations to treasure hunts, independent research, and interviews.
A month after implementation, the organization observed a direct rise in learning engagement. Without provocation, speed of completion of the micro training course became competitive. New hires wanted to finish as quickly as possible, yet the design of the experience stretched it out, forcing the students to digest the knowledge adequately. The online sessions proved to be the most popular, as the students were able to take a few at a time and then repeat if they wished. The designed interviews and treasure hunts involved the whole organization in the process, which helped assimilate the new hires into the sales floor quicker.
In the end, they cut the onboarding from two weeks to one. In practice, the training became self-driven and took only days without rushing. Six months after implementation, an employee engagement survey showed a 62% improvement in positivity for onboarding. With further integration into the organizational culture, it reflected a 23% decrease in attrition and a 15% increase in the speed of achieving sales quotas.
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