There’s a well-known bridge just north of New York City where the concrete pylons that separate the three lanes of traffic in both directions sometimes need adjustment in response to the flow of cars. A mechanical unit rides the pylons like a zipper and as the unit passes over, pylons are moved, one at a time, over several feet; by the time the unit crosses the bridge span, three lanes in both directions has become four lanes in one direction, two in the other. A shift in corporate culture through a microlearning initiative works in a similar way: small individual steps, repeated by all members of a team, can – as time goes on – manifest genuine, observable change.
Microlearning offers a unique and effective model that slowly but surely moves an organization in the direction it needs to go culturally. A great example of this is a shift toward a diverse and inclusive workplace, in particular.
From ideas to action
Microlearning solutions can be crafted and curated to meet the specific needs of an organization. Because content is generally brief and concise, microlearning is a good tool to address highly specific issues in actionable ways. For example, it’s one thing to set a goal and say the organization will become more inclusive. The challenge can be in making that actually happen. Microlearning functions as the mechanics: show people what needs to be changed through illustrative examples and give them tools to do so.
Meet people where they are
Microlearning works on an individual level. When used as part of a diversity and inclusion effort, this model provides people with a chance to learn something new – without distraction. It encourages deeper reflection and engagement, and gives folks time to recognize their own behaviors and actions that do and don’t model an inclusive culture. For example, a microlearning series on finding value in the contributions of all team members – from the person who dominates every conversation to the person who’s constantly reminding others of the budget – can foster collaboration and innovation. Employees can learn to see differences as strengths within the group instead of obstacles to overcome.
Foster ongoing conversation
Microlearning makes conversations about diversity and inclusion more productive. This kind of training, even when it happens individually and within the day’s ordinary workflow, isn’t completely separate from management involvement. Rather, it can contribute greatly to the effectiveness of management involvement. If individual training can be compared to studying the materials for taking a learner’s permit test for driving, talking about these issues with other staff can be compared to getting behind the wheel for hands-on practice.
When a department head meets with her team to discuss age discrimination, for example, everyone will already be familiar with the concept and have the vocabulary to ensure clear and effective communication. This makes it possible to identify problems and develop innovative solutions. It also provides an opportunity for employees to give feedback and discuss issues in meaningful ways, given what they’ve learned.
Microlearning’s big impact
None of this is to suggest that microlearning ensures a smooth evolution into a more diverse and inclusive organizational culture; there will certainly be bumps in the road and detours, too. However, it does shift the process from passive to active, generating greater employee participation and adaptability in fostering positive change. As part of an ongoing conversation about diversity and inclusivity, microlearning supports hands-on learning, respectful discussion, and responsive solutions toward a unified goal.