Why micro-learning is not the only answer to your leadership development challenge

Insight shared by:

Kiddy & Partners

In a fast-paced, changing world we need to be constantly learning so we can keep up. We’re also now spending significant amounts of our time on digital devices (1). Micro-learning has been proposed as the perfect solution to meet our learning needs - taking advantage of our attachment to technology - and has steadily grown in popularity over recent years. 

However, as with everything, micro-learning has its limitations. If you really want to shift the dial in your leaders’ capability, there are a number of things you need to consider. We explore some of the challenges of micro-learning and whether it is a suitable method to build into your Leadership Development initiatives.

What is micro-learning? 

While there is not a single definition, micro-learning generally follows the below principles: 

  • Micro-learning is performed in short time bursts (typically 30sec-5mins) 
  • It requires little effort from individual sessions
  • It generally involves simple and/or narrow topics

 Micro-learning is not ideal for complex concepts or in-depth training 

A big plus of micro-learning is that it increases engagement in the learning (2). While it is effective for more simple topics, it is not best suited to more complicated tasks, skills, or processes (3). If there’s one thing we know about leadership, it’s that it is far from simple.

Leaders are increasingly required to be adaptable, have the ability to learn quickly, show empathy to others, be authentic and value inclusion (and that’s just a start!)   However, that’s not to say micro-learning for leadership is a complete no go. You need to work out what the key objectives are that you are trying to address, what elements can be broken down and delivered through micro-learning and which elements need to be delivered through different forums. 

Micro-learning needs to be focused in the right areas 

In an earlier article, we looked at the ways in which L&D spend is wasted. Micro-learning is short and seemingly easy to deliver and therefore Learning and Development providers may offer a selection of ‘off the shelf’ micro-learning modules to meet common leadership needs. However, it is important that if you are building micro-learning into your offerings that it is the right sort of learning for your business: Does it address the skills gaps you have identified as part of a needs analysis and does the content reflect your organisational context? If the answer is yes, then great! But remember there’s more to consider… 

Applying learning amplifies the value 

As discussed in earlier articles, learning is widely acknowledged to be made up of a mix of activities 

Individuals will not get the maximum learning and development if they are only exposed to one of these three learning opportunities. Micro-learning fits within the 10% of formal learning. While this is a critical part of learning, without feedback and coaching from others or the opportunity to practice and apply skills on the job, the learning interventions in the 10% aren’t going to get you far. It is vital that micro-learning is integrated into a broader, strategically aligned development plan, supported by feedback from others to further build skills and encourage application of skills back in role.  

Micro-learning has its place. Its ability to provide learning on the go in a world where we are always on the go, and the benefits it brings (such as increased engagement) means it’s here to say. But micro-learning is not the answer to all of your L&D needs. It is best thought of like a vitamin tablet - it can boost and aid your diet, but alone it will not make you fitter or healthier. If we want to improve our health, we need to look at our diet and lifestyle in the round.  Micro-learning is a helpful supplement to our learning and development needs, but to see significant shifts in performance, we need to make sure we’re looking at the whole picture.  

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  1. StudyFinds - Screen zombies: Average person will spend 44 years looking at digital devices — and that’s before COVID!
  2. Göschlberger, B., & Bruck, P. A. (2017, December). Gamification in mobile and workplace integrated microlearning. In Proceedings of the 19th International Conference on Information Integration and Web-based Applications & Services (pp. 545-552).
  3. eLearning Industry - Microlearning In Online Training: 5 Advantages And 3 Disadvantages

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