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The Herman Trend Alert: Making Training Stick

Short-term, mass training is what we in the business call “sheep-dip training.” It’s called that because it’s similar to dipping sheep in disinfectant and expecting that dipping to last forever. It doesn’t, and neither does that kind of training.

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Herman Trend Alerts are written by Joyce Gioia, a strategic business futurist, Certified Management Consultant, author, and professional speaker. Archived editions are posted at http://www.hermangroup.com/archive.html

Short-term, mass training is what we in the business call “sheep-dip training.” It’s called that because it’s similar to dipping sheep in disinfectant and expecting that dipping to last forever. It doesn’t, and neither does that kind of training. Simply putting people in a one- or two-day training and expecting them to remember – and implement – what they were taught is not logical, and simply does not work.

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The New Consumer

The newspaper USA TODAY was the first to redesign for today’s consumers with their short attention spans. People simply do not like long lectures that are intended to upskill. Recently, we had the pleasure of meeting Shannon Tipton, founder of Learning Rebels, and the source of much of the content of this Herman Trend Alert.

What Does Work: Microlearning 

“Microlearning” is not new; it is as old as flash cards from 19th century school rooms. Technically, microlearning is the delivery of a small amount of content through any medium, focused on solving a specific problem. The appearance of new technologies has created opportunities for microlearning to grow on new platforms.

Why Microlearning Works

In part, microlearning works because it is, “designed to support performance in the moment of need.” In addition, microlearning can be designed to reinforce foundational messages over time with supporting content. Tipton believes the best microlearning involves content that is embedded into the workflow of the end-user. In other words, support at their fingertips.

The Right Length

There is no perfect length. Tipton states microlearning content should be “as long as necessary and as short as possible.” However, when it comes to video, the video software company Wistia conducted research on ideal video length. They determined people view video in stages, losing attention at two minutes and again at six minutes. Surprisingly, video producers could go up to 12 minutes, but only if the content is very “compelling and relevant for the need.” (For years, our author Joyce Gioia has been a subject matter expert for MyQuickCoach.com, a website offering 2,500 microlearning lessons of six minutes or less.)

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Two New Platforms Make Microlearning Super-Accessible

There are two new mobile platforms to support microlearning, INGOMU.com (a combination of trainING and COMmUnity), which delivers microlessons to smart phones, enabling learning anytime, anywhere there is wi-fi access. Umu.com is a microlearning development mobile app that allows for both creation and delivery on the go. It also features the ability to include polling questions and the ability to crowd source and answer common concerns.

Starbucks’ Solution

Everyone who commented on Starbucks’ recent unconscious bias training said, closing the stores for half a day was “only the beginning” of what the company needed to do to be effective. Starbucks’ best solution to reinforce behavior change is making use of microlearning opportunities to support learning reinforcement. Without reinforcement, their huge investment in employee training becomes a “sheep-dip” experience, unlikely to have a lasting effect.

The Best Training Option – For Now

For now – until augmented reality and virtual reality are more accessible – mobile microlearning is the best solution we have for making training stick. That’s why in the near-term future we expect to see trainers and training companies embracing these platforms to teach their employees whatever they need to know, whether it’s avoiding sexual harassment or how to do their jobs.

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For more information about microlearning, visit Shannon Tipton’s website LearningRebels.com.

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