This was originally posted on TD.org
There is a massive demand for soft skills training, but it seems this demand hasn’t been met with any measure of success. This 2018 survey paints a familiar picture of the state of soft skills—everybody wants them, and no one can find them. So, while the “tough nut” of effective soft skills training is unlikely to crack in one blow, training professionals should seriously consider using an often underutilized tool for the task: microlearning.
Why Is Microlearning Underused?
At a surface level, it makes a lot of sense why microlearning would be useful for easily measured concrete tasks like the proper pizza-making procedure, but soft skills are by their nature much harder to define and evaluate. Microlearning faces the same challenges as other e-learning methods when it comes to soft skills such as:
- artificially manufacturing essential feedback from individuals
- assessing training effectiveness
- removing human interaction
Detractors of microlearning’s effectiveness in teaching soft skills have largely considered these factors to be prohibitive and have counseled L&D professionals to look elsewhere in their soft-skills-teaching efforts.
Why Microlearning Should Be Used More
The concerns we’ve listed, while certainly real factors, fail to consider the ways in which microlearning is uniquely positioned to enable employee development. Here are a few advantages of microlearning:
- Targeted, Narrow Focus: Soft skills training often has too broad a focus to be successful. Microlearning resolves this issue with its targeted, narrow focus, teaching specific practices for relevant situations rather than dealing in generalizations.
- Requires Individual Responsibility: Traditional soft skills training happens in an instructor-led setting and contrives interactions between employees to practice using those soft skills. However, as most facilitators quickly learn, a conversation between a handful of engaged students looks remarkably similar to a miniature lecture in which one student carries the conversation for his classmates. Unfortunately, you can’t guarantee the participation of each student. Those who are better equipped with relevant soft skills are more engaged. So, the students who would benefit most from the activity are often the least likely to participate in it.
Microlearning, despite its lack of interpersonal interaction, eliminates the ability for learners to hide in a crowd. There’s an added individual responsibility that comes with digital learning.
Learning in the Relevant Setting
Harvard Business Review recently noted, on the difficulty of effective leadership training (soft skills), that executives tend to leave their lessons in the classroom. They don’t go on to apply them in their roles. “The farther removed the locus of learning is from the locus of application, the larger this gap becomes.” Microlearning, literally and figuratively, circumvents this problem by removing the gap between one’s locus of learning and one’s locus of application. Microlearning modules can be delivered in the flow of work.
Find a Better Way
Creating effective soft skills training can seem like an impossible mountain to climb, but it’s certainly not a lost cause! You just need to be sure to use the right tools and the right team. Choose your resources wisely and you can create durable change in your organization. And, of course, let us know if you need some help along the way.