Micro-learning, the latest hot approach to corporate training, serves up small doses of information, usually through short videos. It’s kind of like watching a YouTube video about how to do your job. But if you’ve ever relied on a video for instructions on “easy do-it-yourself home plumbing” and found that your project didn’t go as expected . . . then you understand that watching videos is only the first step in acquiring skills. After micro-learning, you need micro-practicing.
Support for micro-practice includes structure and accountability.
Micro-learning videos are available for watching any time. Employees can look up whatever information is most relevant, and managers don’t have to be involved in that process. But if you want to assist employees as they practice their skills, managers need to get involved.
Managers can provide this support by pairing learners with short-term mentors, experienced peers who help them implement new knowledge and provide feedback. Colleagues can also help people handle circumstances not addressed in the videos. These are practical working sessions that can take just a few minutes, so they fit within the normal flow of a day, just as micro-learning is designed to do.
Practicing with others also helps learners continually push to the next level, which increases employee satisfaction. Research in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology concluded that employees who could challenge themselves at work had an improved sense of well-being.
Infrastructure that helps match up learners and short-term mentors and keeps employees accountable for their own progress makes micro-practicing easier to manage and report on. And tracking results will reveal areas for further improvement.
For learners, here are some micro-practicing techniques you can use today:
Contact a mentor to practice with you.
Once you’ve seen a video and want to apply the concept to your work. Ask a mentor to sit in with you and offer feedback and suggestions. You can continue working with a mentor until you both feel you’ve acquired the skill.
[Here’s a tool that helps mentors and learners connect.]
Work on your own and debrief with a mentor.
After the video, identify some work tasks appropriate for practicing. Give it a go on your own and meet briefly afterward with your mentor to discuss challenges and options for improving.
Jump first without a parachute.
If the consequences of mistakes are low, go ahead and dive into a task even before watching the video. Afterwards, watch the presentation and compare results. Some research has suggested that getting the wrong answer first will help you retain the right answer when you learn it.
Adopt a learning theme.
Take a couple of related micro-learning videos and pay attention to how you use them at work for a week or two. Each day, write down your opportunities to use the skills, how it went, and any challenges or insights you had. You can review the videos occasionally as reminders if that’s helpful. Share your experience with a mentor or manager who can help you overcome obstacles and provide suggestions for continued improvement.
Practice as a team.
If the micro-learning video is applicable to a team project, have all members view it. Then, as part of your kick off, discuss how you’ll use it over the course of the assignment. During your project debrief, discuss how well the team used the skill or information and list out improvements you could try for next time. Make that list of improvements part of your next kickoff.
Micro-learning videos can make information much more accessible than traditional courses, but they don’t complete the circle. If your company invests in a curriculum of short teaching presentations, make sure employees get the support and guidance they need to turn small training steps into real business results.