Why Micro-Learning Will Improve Your Employees Performance


By: A.J. O’Connell

Your Employees Want Training But Have No Time For It. Micro-Learning Is the Answer. 

Tell your employees that they have to find the time in their workday to take a course on your organization's learning management system (LMS), and you're likely to hear groans.

It's not that they don't want to be taught — most workers do. A recent study from Deloitte suggests that younger employees don't feel they got the skills they need from college — and they expect their employers to provide it.

It's simply that most employees don't have time for traditional workplace learning.

According to recent research, employees have just 1 percent of their work week for learning — for someone who works a typical 35-hour work week, that's about half an hour of training a week. If your training is any longer than that, then you're asking them to either ignore their work responsibilities or complete their learning during their own time. 

Neither of those is reasonable demands to make on your employees. 

Enter micro-learning. 

What is micro-learning? 

Micro-learning is exactly what it sounds like — small amounts of intensely focused learning. 

Rather than log into a company's learning management system (LMS) for a full-sized course, learners are served smaller chunks of learning — either on mobile devices or on their desktop. They take very little time — often less than 10 minutes — and are designed so that the learner can accomplish some important task after the lesson is over. They can be delivered in several ways, from an LMS to a video, to a chatbot. 

This approach is useful because it complements the way humans actually learn. Think of a traditional training session. There's usually a lecture and some questions to prove that learners have ingested the information. While most learners do remember the lecture long enough to pass a quiz shortly after, the human brain isn't designed to take in a half-hour lecture and remember it forever. Micro-learning boosts retention by teaching one relevant piece of information at a time. 

Before you start carving up your existing lessons into chunks of five minutes or less, it's important to note that micro-learning is more than a traditional course or a pre-existing module, cut into small pieces — the purpose of micro-learning is to teach the learner how to perform a specific task or achieve a specific objective. These chunks of learning must be intentionally designed so that they offer exactly the right amount of information necessary to help the learner perform that task successfully while tying into the overall arc of a company's learning and development strategy.

Micro-learning in the workplace

Because these tiny lessons can be delivered to learners on their phones, it's a particularly effective way to train employees who aren't chained to a desk

This sort of learning has been used well with retail employees; rather than pull workers off the floor for training modules, retailers use mobile apps to train workers quickly. For example, home decor retailer At Home has used gamified micro-learning served in 3-5 minute chunks to successfully improve knowledge of safety topics, while sports retailer Gresvik AS, has used mobile micro-learning to teach workers about upcoming sales campaigns. 

Those results are causing micro-learning to gain traction; according to ATD, 92 percent of organizations using micro-learning plan to increase their use of it while more than 67 percent of organizations not using it plan to start.

Because the learning is served up with one objective and is tied to a task that's likely to be completed during or soon after the training takes place, it’s an excellent way to get new skills and new information, like new regulations, recently-updated policies, and compliance information — into learners' hands quickly.

Take the example of Lyse AS, a Norway-based power company, which recently adopted Workplace by Facebook.

Because of the nature of its industry, Lyse's employees must be upon compliance, policies and other information, but its customer service branch, Lyse Dialog, handles more than a million customer interactions annually — the team is too busy to stop for periodic training, and information sent through other channels, like email and Workplace by Facebook, is at risk of being lost in a deluge of other messages. 

Lyse addressed the problem by using Prepp's chatbot Anna to cut through the noise of other posts and help get workers up to speed. It worked — more employees read the message from Anna than read the regular Workplace post.

Chatbots like Anna tend to deliver results because unlike regular Workplace posts, Anna engages the learners by asking for an answer. And, if a learner doesn't respond to the chatbot, there's a record of that, and the supervisor can use the chatbot to follow up.

Chatbots meet people where they are

As we mentioned earlier, there are a lot of ways to provide micro-learning to employees. You can send a video, use your LMS to deliver tiny courses, or ask a retail employee to download an app.

But there's a problem with all of those items — they add at least one extra step for your busy employees. If your employees only have about 30 minutes for training a week, you don't want them blowing their daily training time on downloading apps or managing multiple sign-ins. The hassle of having to move from one platform to another will cost your employees time and attention — it takes workers about 23 minutes to get back to work after an interruption takes them off-task, according to research on interruption.

That's an unrelated interruption, however. An interruption related to whatever a worker is already doing, however — like a quick burst of relevant micro-learning — is good for productivity because the learner's mind is still on their work.

That's why a chatbot is so valuable. It can meet your employees where they already spend time, like on Workplace by Facebook, where they're already logged in, or by texting them. Without having to log into a completely different system, your learners are being presented with micro-learning they can complete quickly, that relates to their work, and which will improve their performance as soon as they complete it. 

No one's being asked to complete training on their own time. No work piles up while employees run off to a conference room for training. And management knows who is actually completing modules.


Have Trouble Connecting With Your Mobile Workers?

By: A.J. O’Connell

Have trouble connecting with your mobile workers? You might have a thing or two you can learn from the original remote workforce. 


When you think of getting internal communication to remote workers, what sort of workers do you think of? We’re willing to bet you think about telecommuters; full-time, white-collar workers, who work some or all of the time from home, usually on a computer.

If that’s who you pictured, it makes sense. Remote work is on the upswing. According to Globalworkplaceanalytics.com, the number of employees who work remotely has grown by 115 percent since 2005, nearly 10 times the rate of the rest of the workforce.

Those workers represent a communication challenge for companies. As with any employees, they need to be updated on important company information, but because they’re not all physically in one place, a manager can’t just walk over to them and follow up with them.

How can organizations make sure their remote team members are in the loop and aligned with their co-workers? They can learn a lot from industries that have always employed a remote, mobile workforce.

Employees in the service, tourism, food, retail, and transportation industries are members of the original remote, mobile workforce. These workers don’t sit at desks, have constant access to a computer, or work in one location. Their jobs require them to be on a factory floor, in one of several retail locations, or even in the sky.

The active nature of these workers’ jobs doesn’t mean, however, that they don’t need to be getting (and reading) internal communication.

 

Keeping employees updated at 30,000 feet

Businesses like airlines have always faced a special challenge when it comes to managing remote, mobile workforces: many of their employees are mobile by definition, and often not near a computer and unable to use a smartphone, especially while they’re working. Those employees do, however, need to read and understand critical internal communication to keep themselves and the company’s customers safe and comfortable.

The air industry has been solving the problem of communicating with remote workers in innovative ways for decades. One of the old ways of making sure everyone read a memo was a “read book,” a three-ring binder with memos and announcements in it. Staff had to initial each page to show management that they’d read it. That was back in the 1980s and ‘90s.

Now, however, there are several tools at the disposal of the Internal Communication Manager: SMS, compliance software, and of course, email is used at various airlines to push content out to the workforce and to make every employee in the company feel like part of a cohesive group.

Apps are the latest version of the read book. Many airlines use apps to control the schedules of cabin crews or to report safety issues. While cabin crews are obviously not checking their smartphones while they’re flying, they must check in before their flight so that scheduling knows if they’re flying on a given day (if they don’t check in, the scheduling staff starts looks for them), and then they can read the announcements.

Some of those apps are also used as a virtual bulletin board, a portal where crews can read announcements, notices,  memos, and other important internal communications, like videos, images, or even podcasts from management. Like the read book, those apps track and measure who has read what announcements.

 

Mobile tech for a mobile workforce

Measuring the read rates on internal communications is important in every industry, but particularly crucial for industries that employ a large mobile workforce; employees in the field might not come into an office for months, and may not read emails from the company at all. (Even if they are reading company emails, how would management know?)

That’s why apps and collaborative workspaces have become so important for companies with remote workforces; these platforms can deliver messages to employees where they are: on their phones. And they can show managers and internal communication directors who have read what.

Retailers, for example, have used apps to keep app store employees updated. Gresvik AS, a company which owns and operates a chain of sporting goods retailers in Norway, uses a mobile app to update its retail workforce to update them on weekly campaigns. (That app asks employees to confirm when they’ve read and understood a sales campaign). Rather than just updating store managers and hoping the managers will keep all of their employees updated, this app reaches everyone who works for the chain.

The service industry also uses mobile technology to communicate with employees in the field. Nelbud 360 Services Group in the U.S. is a fire prevention company whose employees are always on the road, traveling to clients’ locations to clean and maintain ducts. Because their employees sometimes don’t come into a field office for weeks at a time, the company provides its employees with smartphones pre-loaded with all the apps they need to communicate with the company, including campaign information, internal communications, and human resources.

 

A virtual breakroom for mobile employees

Sometimes when it comes to internal communications, a virtual message board isn’t enough. Companies with remote workforces also need a virtual breakroom; a platform that allows workers from across a company to communicate with one another in real-time.

Several companies (including airlines) have been using collaborative platforms like Workplace by Facebook to manage their internal communications. Workplace connects staff with senior management and employees in different departments or locations. Everyone gets a voice. And, like the airline read books of the ‘80s, Workplace offers a portfolio of information for every employee to read, and it also shows the manager who’s read what announcement.

There is a drawback, however, Workplace is a network, not a physical book, and because everyone can post in it, it can be noisy and inappropriate for important announcements that everyone must read.

Fortunately, there are tools like chat and chatbots that interface with Workplace. Chat is a natural way to deliver important communications directly to remote employees. Many employees (especially younger workers, who grew up with chat programs) communicate via chat in their daily lives. It makes sense to deliver important work-related information to them that way as well, rather than using email or SMS, or some other interface that takes them out of a collaborative platform like Workplace.

Chat also elevates internal communications over the noise of Workplace because important notices are delivered directly to an inbox, rather than in the platform’s newsfeed.

Think of it as a noisy airplane cabin; there may be a lot of chatter, people might be watching videos, reading books, or talking to their neighbors, but once the captain’s voice comes over the loudspeaker with an important announcement, everyone is forced to pay attention.

Remote workers are untethered by desks and computers, but they shouldn’t be untethered by internal communications. If anything, companies with a large remote workforce must have a better internal comms platform than companies with traditional workforces.

 

To be successful those companies must reach their workforce where they are, no matter where they are, even if they are in the sky.


The 10 Biggest Obstacles to Good Internal Communications At Work

By: A.J. O’Connell

Getting everyone on the same page can sometimes feel like a herculean task. Here are the 10 biggest obstacles to good internal communications at work, faced by managers who just need to get their message through to staff, and some reasons why internal comms can be so challenging.

Internal communications should be so easy: you have important information to share with your department, you send it out, they read it, and you’re done, right? But it’s never that simple; employees ignore emails, collaborative work platforms are filled with social noise, and you never know who reads what.

 

  • Your employees are victims of information overload.

Your job, as a manager, is to make sure people are reading the information that makes them better at their jobs; but are you loading them up with more information than they can handle? Your team gets a lot of emails every day. How much? This year, according to the Radicati Group, workers are sending and receiving 124 emails a day. That’s much more than twice the amount of email that most workers can comfortably manage; too much email stresses your team out.

 

  • Some team members just aren’t reading your email at all.

Does it feel like, no matter what you do, some people aren’t even looking at the messages you send? Some people aren’t. A study by APPrise shows that 30 percent of employers freely admit to ignoring emails from the boss. That might seem shocking, but consider the fact that your team only has a limited amount of time to spend on work email. Your employees have to prioritize the messages they’re going to read and respond to. Chances are, they’re looking at the most urgent messages first; emails about the projects they’re working on, or from clients. When they see a long boring message from IT, telling them about new system update, or a message from a manager about compliance training, they likely scroll past, thinking “I’ll deal with that later.” Unfortunately, later may never come.

 

  • Your employees would rather eat a jar of spiders than open an email.

Let’s face it — for most of your employees, email is not the preferred method of communication. Electronic mail hasn’t changed much since the ‘90s when it became the business world’s communication method of choice. The world itself, however, has changed. Outside of work, we communicate via text, over social media, and through instant messaging apps, which are far more engaging than your standard email. Your employees — especially millennials, who grew up with AIM and Facebook — may only really use email for work, and they might not be thrilled about doing that. According to Gallup, Americans younger than 50 prefer to text over any other kind of communication. It may be time to change up the way you’re communicating to get a better response rate.

 

  • Your collaborative work platform (or intranet) is noisy.

Collaborative platforms like Workplace by Facebook are great because they give everyone in the company a way to communicate with each other. Everyone gets a voice. There’s just one problem with that: a lot of voices talking at once means a lot of noise. If you have to get an important internal announcement through to employees on that platform, you may find yourself competing with social posts, memes, and gifs. And those are just the employees who are actually using the collaborative platform. You may have employees who haven’t logged in for days, weeks, or maybe ever. To reach everyone, you need a megaphone of some sort: something that lets you shout over the noise and get the attention of even the people who haven’t adopted the platform.

 

  • Not everyone on your team is on the same page.

As a manager, it’s your job to make sure everyone on your team is aligned. It’s not an easy task; some employees are up to date on everything. They read every memo, every update, every email, and they respond to internal communications with an “Okay” or “Got it.” Then there’s everyone else: employees who might be reading updates, or might not. That’s a problem, because in some cases if only one team member misses an important piece of information, the entire company might suffer. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) enforcement date is a good example of this. If companies aren’t in compliance with the new GDPR security and reporting protocols, they could face a huge fine. That means that if even one employee in one department of a corporation misses an important piece of information and makes a mistake, the whole company will be punished. It’s important to know who is seeing what message.

 

  • You don’t know who is getting what message.

Who is reading the messages you send out? If managers don’t measure the open, read, and click-through rates on internal communication, they will have no way of knowing what messages are read, or by whom. It’s possible — even probable — that several unengaged employees in your company haven’t read a single message from the boss, and those employees, whoever they are, are a liability.. You can’t know who they are, however, unless you measure read rates. That’s part of your job — you need to make sure that employees read and understand important information, and you can’t do that if you don’t have the tools to measure open, read, and click-through rates. Not knowing who needs a follow-up leads to the next problem...

 

  • You’re constantly nagging your whole team about reading messages.

No one likes to be a nag, but when you don’t know who is reading your messages, you don’t have any way of knowing who needs a follow-up message and who is already up to speed — at least not until it’s too late and someone on the team who hasn’t read an important internal communication makes a mistake that affects the whole company. Some managers may choose to address this by reminding the entire team to read their messages, and no one enjoys that. And how effective is nagging, really? You get angry because no one is reading your email, truly unengaged employees will become more resistant to reading your messages, and everyone wastes time on the reminders.

 

The IT department needs everyone off the system by a certain time. HR needs everyone to file a new tax form. A new policy has just been put in place, and everyone needs to read it. These are the sorts of urgent messages you need your team to read and remember, but not that many people read them, and almost no one remembers them. Often these sorts of important updates are delivered in long, boring emails and your staff either don’t have the time or the mental bandwidth to read and internalize them. As a manager, you may be wasting your own time writing long messages not many people read, and the messages may not be engaging enough to get employees through to the end of each message.

 

  • Employees are mad about being left out of the loop

Almost every manager has been there; an important email has gone out, you spent hours writing it, and no one reads it. Then, when a change goes into effect and people are unprepared for it, they’re upset they did not know. It’s a tricky paradox; employees may not always read messages but they really don’t like it when they don’t know what’s going on. CEB (now Gartner) found that poor internal communication makes employees angry to the point of acting out.  “Why didn’t you tell us,” they may ask. That can be — justifiably — frustrating for the manager who may have put a lot of time into crafting a long, detailed email that staffers did not read. Before you lose your temper or give up on trying to communicate with your staff, you may want to consider an approach to internal comms that causes less frustration for everyone.

 

  • Managers are bored by the messages they’re sending too.

You probably don’t like taking the time to write a long boring email any more than your staff enjoys reading it, you hate when it’s ignored, and you especially don’t love sending emails begging your team to read a previous email. Like your staff, you’re already juggling a lot of email messages that aren’t related to internal communications. Like your staff, you probably also don’t use email outside of work the way you use messenger apps or text.

 

So what do you do about it?

Except for perhaps the most disengaged employees, no one really wants to miss an important announcement at work. Employees are simply overloaded — with information, with work, and with email. It may be time to change the way you send messages at work. This will look different for everyone; shorter emails, for example, or a new communication platform that echoes the way we communicate when we’re not working.

No one should have to dread sending — or receiving — an announcement at work. Not management, not staff. Internal communications should be easy.


Who Needs Compliance Software? You Do.

By: A.J. O’Connell

What is compliance software, what does compliance software do, what does compliance software mean, who needs compliance software? You Do.

When you think “compliance software,” what do you think of? We’re willing to bet that you think of big banks, investing millions in software meant to keep them from running afoul of byzantine financial laws and regulations.

But while financial institutions do rely on compliance management technology to minimize risk, they’re not the only organizations who use compliance software. All companies need it, and not just for financial or legal reasons. Running a business means lots of rules, both external and internal. Employees need to know what the policies are, when they change, and how they’re expected to act in various situations. When employees don’t, the company or its customers may be at risk.

Software Advice, a Gartner-owned company, surveyed an anonymous sampling of employees across various industry about compliance. The survey found that 51 percent of employees admit to knowingly violating policy; 21 percent say they violate regulations daily and weekly.

The top violations aren’t financial (or at least no one admitted to financial infractions). The top three areas in which employees violated policy were:

    • online security
    • acceptable use of company resources
    • workplace behavior

 

This may sound terrible — and it does mean the employees are exposing their employers to risk — but when the employees who committed infractions were asked why they violated regulations their answers made their behavior more understandable.

Thirty-eight percent of the offending employees said there were simply too many compliance regulations, 16 percent said the regulations were too complex, and 14 percent said that compliance with those regulations is too time-consuming.

Simply put, compliance with every new regulation and policy is just too much for overwhelmed employees or managers to handle. Regulations change quickly, and often, even company owners don’t know when something has changed.

That’s where compliance management software comes in.

You need to look no further than the European Union’s looming General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) deadline in May, which has dominated most conversations about compliance in the past year.

Any company that does business with E.U. citizens must change the way it stores consumer data, reports data breaches, and handles consent and data subject rights. Any mistakes by employees will mean the company isn’t in compliance and will be fined. This doesn’t apply to just banks or large corporations. The GDPR affects all companies, of all sizes, in all sectors, who do business in Europe or with people who live there.

GDPR is just one of the many reasons all companies — not just the big ones — need to look into compliance software. Software can help companies keep track of all the rules, regulations, policies, and laws they need to obey. It can automate certain tasks so that already overloaded human employees don’t need to worry about them. It can help a company easily train its employees, and it can catch human error so that a small mistake doesn’t cause a huge problem.

But first: what does compliance mean for your business?

Compliance can seem like a big, intimidating subject to businesses that have never considered it before, but it doesn’t need to be. At its core, compliance is just about doing the right thing (or at least, the smart): obeying the law, industry regulation, or sticking to best practices. It’s about managing risks that could do damage to a company, its customers, or its employees. Software is simply a tool to make that job easier.
So, what is compliance? And what does it mean for you, and the company you work for?

Compliance falls under the umbrella of Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC), a concept defined in 2010 by Nicolas Racz, Edgar Weippl and Andreas Seufert as “an integrated, holistic approach to corporate governance, risk and compliance ensuring that an organization acts in accordance with its self-imposed rules, its risk appetite and external regulations through the alignment of strategy, processes, technology, and people, thereby leveraging synergies and driving performance.’

In other words, GRC simply refers to whatever combination of measures a company is taking to make sure it’s sticking to the rules: it's own, its industry’s, and the law itself. Those measures can be anything: communication from leadership, processes, or compliance management software.

Compliance is not just for the financial sector

Banks trade in risk, so a lot of the literature about GRC mentions financial institutions, but compliance goes far beyond the world of banking and finance — there’s a lot of risks involved in running any business.
Those risks can come in the form of tax regulations, IT security, the law, industry regulations or conduct code violations. Anything that poses a possible problem for a business is a risk. Not being aware of what those risks are, can be a huge problem for any company.

For example, in 2016 the United States’ Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) cited and penalized several companies for violating international sanctions. Less than half of those companies were banks, and several of those companies simply didn’t have compliance programs in place to keep them from violating trade laws. That lack of a compliance program didn’t mean OFAC went easier on them — it was considered “reckless disregard” and weighed against them when OFAC was handing out punishments.

The problem for companies is that there is an overwhelming amount of rules, regulations, and policies to comply with, governing everything from finance to cybersecurity to sexual harassment in the workplace to whether suppliers are obeying the law.

If company owners are having a hard time keeping up with new regulations, laws, and policies, it’s even worse for employees, who don’t have the same sort of stake in making sure their company is in compliance.

What can compliance software do for a company?

Compliance management software can take many forms.

In some cases, compliance technology manages risks by automating functions that would be time-consuming or tedious for employees to do manually. Sometimes it’s simply software that keeps relevant information in one place for reporting purposes. Often it takes the form of software-guided compliance training, walking employees through a new regulation or policy so that they’re aware of changes.

Software plays an increasingly important role in most organizations’ overall GRC strategy. From 2011 to 2017, major companies increased their spending on compliance technology by 36 percent, according to a study by Globalscape. For financial institutions, spending on regulatory technology is projected to grow to $80 billion by 2020 — 90 percent of that spending will be on compliance software and similar tools.

GRC software is very popular with employees, on whom the burden of compliance often falls. According to the Software Advice survey, 73 percent of the respondents preferred compliance software to emails and other compliance management measures.

The reason for its popularity is simple: software takes the burden of manual compliance management out of employees’ hands. It’s also more efficient than paper-based processes; employees aren’t wasting their time on it. In other words, compliance software manages and remembers regulations so humans don’t have to.

Software-guided compliance training is also a form of compliance software. This sort of technology has had a positive effect on employees, according to Software Advice. Almost half the employees at companies that provided no compliance training said they had no understanding or an imperfect understanding of company policies.

Companies with annual or semi-annual software-based training, however, reduced that number significantly. Employees who were trained showed less confusion, with more than 65 percent of employees reporting that they were very clear on their employers’ policies.

Compliance is not just about the law

Compliance management software is best known for keeping businesses on the right side of regulatory laws — and we’ve discussed some intimidating examples of that above — but sometimes compliance is about internal regulations as well.

Every business in every industry can save money, reduce risk and increase revenue by using compliance software to align the workforce with critical information about their internal policies. Using compliance management software can reduce waste at work when employees are updated on best practices or a new procedure. Using software to keep employees updated on new rules and regulations can keep them from unwittingly breaking one (and some software can let managers know who hasn’t read their updates.)

Businesses have rules and regulations for a reason: they help the company function efficiently, legally, ethically, and profitably.

When everyone in a company is following those rules, the company is functioning as it should be, and that means it’s not breaking any laws, taking any unnecessary risks, or losing of its profit to preventable infractions or violations. Compliance software is a tool that allows companies to get to this state.


Just-In-Time training is the future

Instant Learning: Why Just-In-Time Training is the Future

By: A.J. O’Connell

Just-In-Time Training, sometimes called Just-in-Time learning, is exactly what it sounds like: knowledge right when an employee needs it. Instant learning is all around us in our personal lives and that is why we believe that Just-In-Time training is the future of learning at work.

An office worker is having trouble navigating the software her department has just installed, so she looks up the information online. A newly-hired retail worker can’t remember how he’s supposed to fold a shirt for a store display. He asks a co-worker for help. A remote worker, new to direct selling, checks a mobile app once a day and completes a task on a checklist that helps her remember the details of her employers’ holiday sales campaign.

What do all of these workers have in common? They’re all practicing Just-In-Time Training (JITT) — looking up the information they need to do their jobs well, just when they need that information.

What is Just-In-Time Training?

Just-In-Time Training, sometimes called Just-in-Time learning, is exactly what it sounds like: knowledge right when an employee needs it.

Instant learning is all around us in our personal lives; we use “Google” as a verb, ask Alexa and Siri to find information when we need it and crowdsource answers on social media. The idea of Just-In-Time learning isn’t new, however.

Just-In-Time (JIT) originated as a manufacturing concept at Toyota in the 1970s. In order to reduce inventory to just what was needed, the ordering process was streamlined; parts for cars weren’t ordered until customers had placed orders. This system reduced waste and clutter in warehouses and on the factory floor. Eventually, this process was also applied to corporate learning. After all, asking an employee to sit through 30 minutes of e-learning to learn one relevant piece of information is just as wasteful as a warehouse of surplus parts.

Just-In-Time Training happens at almost every company. It’s often employee-directed and informal, something workers do when they identify a gap in their own knowledge. And it’s something organizations should expect — employees, who are used to having the world’s collective knowledge at their fingertips in the form of the internet — don’t have time to wait around for scheduled training. Why should they, when they can just look up the answer?

“When employees are stuck, they need the answer quickly. It doesn’t help them to sign up for a class that will happen three weeks from now and sit through a four-hour session to get the answer they need this minute,” said Britt Andreatta, a consultant, and speaker quoted in LinkedIn’s 2017 L&D report.

Just-In-Time training is the future

Although it’s often learner-driven, Just-in-Time Training can and should be incorporated into a company’s training strategy; employees want it. According to research from CEB, 57 percent of workers expect learning to be more “just in time,” than it was a few years ago. This brand of microlearning is very familiar to millennials, who grew up using the internet as an encyclopedia (remember those?). Despite possible objections from Gen Xers and Boomers, who are used to multi-day training and e-learning, learning information just before using it can be a very effective way to learn.

In the 1980s, educator Malcolm Knowles, who studied the principles of adult education, outlined the characteristics of successful adult learning: it should be self-directed, be based on previous experience and mistakes, be relevant, and be problem-centered, rather than content-centered.

Just-In-Time training ticks every box on Knowles’ list. Learners realize they need more information to complete a task successfully, seek out that information on their own, and solve their own problems at work. Applying that skill soon after they learn it reinforces the information. This sort of active learning has been shown by studies to improve people’s ability to learn — when learners use information, they create a meaningful connection with it and it stays with them longer.

The benefits of continuous learning

Organizations can  — and should — take advantage of this willingness to learn on the part of their employees. For one thing, Just-In-Time learning raises engagement among employees, something that’s desperately needed in the workforce right now. Gallup’s latest State of the American Workforce report found that two-thirds of employees are disengaged at work. They don’t like their jobs and are either doing the bare minimum at work or actively looking for new jobs.

Just-In-Time training is the future

Workers who look up information and train themselves, however, are engaged. They’re taking it upon themselves to find the learning they need and become better at their jobs quickly. They’re eager to learn. Because the learning is relevant to them, they’re not bored by it, and they’re in control of what they’re learning, and when they’re learning it.

This shift of control from the organization to the learner has a downside, however. Moving from a training culture — one in which organization controls when, where, and what employees learn — to a culture of continuous learning can be jarring for some organizations. After all, if learning becomes about what the learner wants and needs, that can seem like a loss of power for those in charge of Learning & Development (L&D). It’s a fair concern; CEB found that only 37 percent of employees expected their employers to actively manage their learning. Most of those employees were getting training on their own; 79 percent of that learning came from external sources.

Despite the learner-centric focus of Just-In-Time Training and continuous learning, however, the learners shouldn’t be running the L&D show. For one thing, learners don’t always choose the best sources of learning. CEB found that every day, employees were wasting 11 percent of their time on unproductive learning. That wasted time was costing employers millions in lost productivity.

Directing employees’ independent learning

Learners — though independent — still need the guidance of and support of L&D when it comes to learning. But with Just-In-Time learning, companies need to serve that learning to employees differently than they have traditionally done. Rather than decide who learns what when, companies must break down their existing training into small, digestible chunks that address one skill or task each, and they must make those bits of learning available to employees exactly when they’re needed. They have to anticipate the needs of employees and make relevant learning available for workers to find. Different companies do this differently: organizations can provide checklists, a searchable library of content, a social platform that allows workers to collaborate with colleagues, or a chatbot that delivers information directly to an employee when she needs it.

American Medical Systems (AMS) is an example of a company that uses Just-In-Time Learning in its training program. According to an interview in Training magazine, AMS is a company that makes and sells medical devices, found its sales reps weren’t retaining information about new products after training. The company used a gamified mobile app to boost retention. Every few days the reps played a game on their phones, responding to different scenarios that reinforced their product knowledge. It was engaging, helped with recall by providing sales scenarios as reps were out in the field, and helped to train a mobile workforce. It also had an unexpected side benefit: the company got feedback from the reps through the training app. Thanks to the app, AMS caught was able to quickly catch common misconceptions among reps about sales campaigns, and correct them.

Just-In-Time training is the future

Mobile and remote workforces often pose a special challenge for companies when it comes to development. Remote workers are not on site for in-person training, and they may not even be considered traditional employees; they may be contract workers, for example.

One company that uses Just-In-Time training with a mobile workforce in a very focused way is pawTree, a direct sales pet product company with an entirely remote salesforce. According to a case study, pawTree used Just-In-Time training to boost its engagement with sales training by breaking its learning material up into small bits of information, each aligned with a task that could be completed quickly. Rather than firehose new employees with onboarding information, pawTree made sure the employees were learning skills as they performed a task, applying skills as they learned them. The sales reps — who aren’t full-time employees, but who sell pawTree goods as a side gig — were extremely engaged in this training, with 90 percent of reps completing all the tasks in the course.

Gresvik AS, a company which owns and operates a chain of sporting goods retailers in Norway, has also successfully used Just-In-Time Training to boost sales. Because the stores rely on weekly sales campaigns to attract customers, employees in stores needed to be kept abreast of what those campaigns were and how to prep the store. Gresvig introduced a mobile app for its retail workforce to update them on weekly sales, replacement products, weather-based store displays, and also to see which employees are up-to-date — employees use the app to confirm when they’re campaign ready. According to information released in 2016, sales of recommended products rose by 154 percent at one chain, Intersport, after the app was introduced.

Trust employees to know what they don’t know

According to Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report, the half-life of a typically learned skill is five years. Employees — who can expect a 60- or 70-year career— need to skill up quickly, and they need to be able to fill the gaps in their knowledge as soon as they notice them. Companies need that too, but they also need to be able to strike a balance between allowing employees autonomy to learn on demand while directing those employees to relevant resources.

While organizations who remain chained to the idea of a central corporate university will be left behind, organizations that give their employees the freedom to learn as they need it will be more agile and sustainable as workers seek out — or are served — the knowledge they need at exactly the right time.