How to use Microlearning Principles to Create Microskills?

We all know that mastering a skill takes time and practice but ironically, that seems to be the biggest battle that organizations and learners struggle with — finding or making time.

So how is it possible to make time amidst all the jostling about that comes with regular work? And how does someone do that relentlessly?

The first simple step to make time could be to define what specifically would you like to master in a given skill. Once that definition is clear, it would help to break down the objectives into smaller, microscopic application points.

Microlearning and Microskills

For example, the salesforce in a financial services industry, would choose selling skills such as planning, probing and answering objections to master. To break that down further, for better planning, the application points (or Microskill as we call it) could include:

  1. Identifying the right type of prospects who have a need for my product or solution
  2. Rehearsing sales proposals for important presentations in two-minute sprints
  3. Identifying the most important value proposition prior to a negotiation discussion

By making application points microscopic, you have shrunk the learning content you may need to cover and made it more precise. Instead of thinking of sales planning as a potential two-hour eLearning course or a one-day classroom workshop or maybe even a 60-minute coaching conversation with your sales manager, you may learn about each application point separately and in shorter time bursts that fit your schedule. This is one of the key principles of microlearning.

Now that you’ve made time by creating simpler learning objectives that could be achievable in shorter time frames, the next step is to ensure you are as relentless in learning and applying the skill.

Again, by “miniaturizing time”, you have also increased the probability of investing time to learn a new Microskill.

How?

Think about it this way. In a typical workday, for how many minutes and how many times are you idle?

Here are your options:

  • Option 1: 2 to 3 minutes of idle time; 5 to 10 times a day
  • Option 2: 10 to 30 minutes of idle time; 5 to 10 times a day
  • Option 3: 30 minutes or more of idle time; 5 to 10 times a day

You would probably choose Option 1 as the most likely or probable option out of the three. This means that by shortening the time to learn a new skill, you increase the probability of fitting the Microskill within your schedule. Let’s see how.

Going back to sales planning, let’s assume that the first objective of identifying prospects has five different perspectives or concepts for you to learn and each perspective requires 5 minute to learn. In total, you would require 25 minutes to learn all the perspectives or concepts for identifying prospects.

Given that you may not have 25 minutes in one shot to invest, you could look at breaking up the 25 minutes into 3 minute chunks that fit your typical idle time as we saw in option 1. In the above example, this translates to three minutes of learning for eight days to achieve the first objective of sales planning (8 times 3 minutes ~ 25 minutes).

Of course, there could be several other learning patterns as well, such as 2 times a day, 3 minutes each for 4 days in a row. Every alternate day, randomized or inconsistent patterns, you name it.

The main point to note here is how you are able to “make time” by shortening the perceived investment of time required to master a Microskill through microscopic application points. This also improves your ability to form a habit to learn a new skill or improve an existing one.

Lastly, by thinking about application points, you also make the learning content more contextual to the end application, which makes your Microskill even more valuable to the learner. For example, the application point of “identifying the right type of prospects who have a need for my product” can imply learning specifically about reaching out to the right prospects and not wasting effort talking to unqualified prospects. This specific Microskill can be extremely relevant at the start of the year, quarter or month when a sales rep has to think about planning to achieving their sales quota or even while waiting to meet a new prospect, among other things.

Hence, by thinking about time (bite-sized content) and context (application points) you can create more effective Microskills which can enable your workforce to not only learn a new skill but also retain and apply it at the right moments, effortlessly.

By leveraging other elements such as gamification, behavioral psychology and data, you can further improve the value proposition (learning experience) of a Microskill for your workforce.

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