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Communicating with Millennials, Part 5: Microlearning

By Kirsten Liston & Erin Jendras

In Part 2 of our series on communicating with millennials, we talked about engaging digital natives by creating content that’s transparent, direct, and well designed.

As we said then, millennials grew up with the internet, and they expect information to be visual, consumable, and sharable.

This has huge implications for compliance learning when you consider that this generation will make up more than 50% of the global workforce by 2020 — just three years away.

You’re probably familiar with the style of content we’re talking about – most of us spend some time in the digital ecosystem every day – but maybe you’re wondering where to start applying these concepts to your program.

One great place to start is microlearning – a useful strategy for prioritizing compliance topics in the workplace.

What is Microlearning?

Microlearning is exactly what it sounds like—learning in micro-sized bits, rather than in large chunks.

Online information is typically broken up into bits and pieces that are searchable (like Google) sharable (like Facebook or Twitter) and visual (like YouTube). Like an information cafeteria, users can pick and choose exactly what appeals them, and take in as much or as little content as they want. Microlearning applies this “cafeteria” approach to learning content, and, just like the internet, is accessible on your smartphone.

One great example of microlearning in action is the WaitSuite app. An early pioneer in the field of microlearning, MIT, recently developed the app, which teaches vocabulary during “micro-moments,” of inactivity, like standing in line or waiting for your wifi to connect.

Another leading expert in the growing field of microlearning is the training company Grovo. According to their white paper on the subject: “Most learners even consider a 4-minute video too long to watch. A third of all users abandon web pages within 5 seconds if they load too slowly.”

However, Grovo has found that microlearning, which packages learning content so it’s easy to access and digest, results in “20% more information retention than long-form training.” In one case study, employers saw an 80% increase in employee participation in their training modules.

Grovo's research on the topic has shown that microlearning “works for every employee, but because it’s the first training method created by and for 21st century learners, it’s especially useful for millennials. … [Microlearning] requires users to consume and interact with tiny pieces of content on the fly, while they’re working—exactly what smartphone users are already used to doing.”

So how can a microlearning approach work in your compliance program?

In the Code: If you’ve attended our Code webinars or heard us speak, you’ve heard us say this before, but we don’t recommend writing the Code in full paragraphs. First of all, it’s too easy for paragraphs to grow and expand as every subject matter expert or stakeholder stuffs in the details they just have to get in there. Second, a layout that is simply paragraph after paragraph can be visually boring.

Instead, turn the content into small, themed chunks. This gives your graphic designers more to work with, and it will support the kind of “information seeking” behavior that digital natives engage in—on and off-line.

So, for instance, you might:

  • Start with a “why” statement that explains what’s at stake—2-3 sentences that set the company’s point of view and general expectations.
  • Follow that with a bulleted list to give examples of specific actions and behaviors you expect employees to take—or avoid—given the company’s overall commitment.
  • Place long bulleted lists or definitions in sidebars, and write additional sidebars—like Q&As, positive case studies, or other materials that will help bring the Code guidance to life.

The resulting document might not be short, but it will be optimized for readers who expect you to design information so they can scan it and quickly screen out what’s not relevant.

Chunking up your content makes it easier to digest - even in a standard code format

In your curriculum: We’ve been experimenting lately with a true microlearning approach to compliance programs, and the results are promising.

For example, some of our clients are choosing to launch campaigns that consist of continuous communication—short but frequent touches instead of a “one and done” thirty-minute course.

Recently we advised a company who was looking to train on the Code using this approach. Instead of selling them a standard Code course, we developed the following plan:

  • Month 1, Week 1: We designed this campaign to start with a short, 90-second “explainer” video that addressed questions like: Why do we have a Code? How does it relate to me? How should I use it? The goal was to set the groundwork for what would follow—and also show employees that compliance training can be quick, engaging, and not boring or burdensome.
  • Month 1, Week 3: Two weeks later, we recommended following the first Code video with a second one, this one on ethical decision making and reporting. The goal was to explain to employees that they might face legal or ethical dilemmas at work and to walk them through the best ways to respond. What other company resources might they consult? What’s a useful framework for making decisions when the right choice is not clear? By this point, the program would have covered many of the introductory points in a Code course – and with the benefit of pinging employees twice.
  • Month 2, Week 1: The following month, we recommended that the company launch a 5-7-minute course on Code fundamentals, with topics like: what the Code covers, how to use it, and a brief dip into 2-4 key topics. Does 5-7 minutes seem like too short for a fundamentals course? It has to be well-designed, but you’d be surprised how much ground you can cover.
  • Month 2, Week 2: Finally, we followed the course with a short cultural survey, giving employees a chance to weigh in. Had they used the Code in the last year? Did they know where to find it? Were they familiar with the company’s values? Did they know where to report issues, and did they feel comfortable doing so? This gave the company some input that they could then use to tweak and direct training in the months that followed.

The specific content and cadence here was based on a careful evaluation of the company’s culture, risks, tone of voice, employee base, and compliance program maturity, but a version of this could work in place of many compliance training initiatives.

Ready to start applying micro learning to your compliance program — in your Code or somewhere else? We can help. Sign up here for a free consultation with the Rethink Compliance experts.

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