The rise of micro-learning to tackle ongoing skills shortages | theHRD – The HR Director Magazine

The pandemic has had an irreversible effect on the world of work. Lockdowns gave workers the opportunity to reflect on their priorities in the workplace and, as result, many opted to make drastic career changes, leading to a record-breaking number of employees resigning.
This has had an impact on all areas of the UK workforce. However, those industries that hire a large proportion of ‘deskless’ workers – such as transport, retail, construction, and hospitality – have been hit particularly hard by the Great Resignation and the resulting skills shortage. This, in part, is because these sectors were amongst the worst hit by the pandemic, prompting candidates to consider alternative careers that offered more short-term security.
The consequences of this are immense. Almost half of hospitality firms have been forced to cut their trading hours due to a lack of staff, whilst 99% of retailers reported that they are concerned about the impact of talent shortages this year.
As a result, HR heads operating in these industries are under enormous pressure to attract and onboard new talent quickly, whilst keeping their existing employees engaged to prevent further resignations.
Using Training to Tackle This Challenge
Effective learning and development strategies can play an important role in helping employers to do this effectively. Upskilling existing staff is, of course, a valuable solution to filling skills gaps. Plus, investing in employee development is an impactful way to ensure existing staff feel valued, helping to boost loyalty and minimise further resignations. Clear training and development opportunities can also make a business more appealing to prospective employees.
In addition, strong training strategies will enhance the onboarding of new employees and can even enable employers to begin the onboarding process before a new staff member starts their role. This is vital for understaffed firms that need new employees to get up to speed and perform quickly. A great onboarding experience will also decrease the risk of new employees leaving in their first few months. In fact, research by Brandon Hall Group found that if someone is onboarded successfully, they are 70% more productive, start performing quicker, and are 82% more likely to stay in a job.
The Science of Effective Learning
Of course, simply offering basic training to tick a box isn’t the answer. This training needs to be engaging and have a lasting impact on both new and existing staff if it’s to have a real impact. For those operating in deskless industries, this requires HR teams to recognise the important differences between the way these workers prefer to learn compared to their ‘desk-bound’ counterparts.
For instance, because of the vocational nature of the work, deskless workers are often more practical-minded and therefore less likely to respond well to self-led, computer-based learning. This isn’t how they operate in the workplace, so they can’t be expected to perform at their best under these conditions in a training scenario either.
Our research confirms this. 74% of deskless workers prefer a face-to-face or hybrid approach to training, with online learning in isolation found to be the least popular. This makes sense, given that deskless roles tend to rely on practical skills which are best observed and practised live, rather than on a computer screen. Self-led, computer-based training simply doesn’t allow for the kind of practical, sustained learning that vocational workers are demanding.
These preferences align with what we know about the science of learning. For example, a 2013 study conducted by researchers from universities across the US found that the best way to embed learning in the long-term is to repeat tasks frequently across multiple sessions over a period of time.
The advantages of short, bite-sized training that focuses on one learning outcome, otherwise known as ‘micro-learning’, are not new to us. The Spacing Effect theory, which was first detailed by psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus in 1885, suggests that humans tend to forget large amounts of information if they only learn something once. More recently, RPS research found that micro-learning improves focus and supports long-term retention by up to 80%.
Alongside the learning benefits, micro-learning also has practical advantages, particularly for those working in fast-paced deskless industries. Because the sessions are short, they can easily be incorporated alongside staff’s day-to-day duties, as opposed to longer training sessions which often require large chunks of time away from the workplace.
Incorporating Micro-Learning Practices in the Workplace
Micro-learning strategies present a huge opportunity for employers to upskill their staff effectively and in a way that will resonate with them. But how can time-poor HR heads roll out science-backed, micro-learning schemes for all of their employees?
Technology offers one solution. Fit-for-purpose training software designed around the unique requirements of deskless workers will enable employers to deliver effective learning backed by science to their entire workforce, without the need for time-consuming, paper-based processes. For example, by facilitating consistent, regular interactions between trainers and employees.
Opting for software that combines the advantages of both face-to-face and remote learning, alongside the efficiency benefits of digital training and assessment solutions will also reduce the time spent on admin tasks. This means schemes can be rolled out at scale and resource can be focused on delivering all-important learning experiences.
Conclusion
The challenge of staff shortages shows no sign of slowing. However, training and development strategies which focus on science-backed micro-learning offer one solution to this major problem. When done well, this training will enable businesses to build strong, productive, and loyal teams that will weather future market uncertainty.
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Transitioning to remote working ARTICLE BY: Viola Lloyd | Published: 28 October 2018




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