Investing in internal training and development is necessary to remain competitive in today’s market. Ad spends and campaigns cannot rival the revenue that can be generated from well-trained and motivated employees. The growth and development of your company heavily depend on your employees’ abilities to gain skills, acquire positive behaviors, retain knowledge and feel empowered to perform their jobs.
In the book Designing Successful e-Learning, Michael Allen, a pioneer in the e-learning industry, describes four elements that contribute to effective instructional design. He calls them the “4Ms”. Great employee training requires a smart and simple recipe.
The ingredients in my own 4Ms — micro, mobile, memorable content and measurable data — are slightly different than Allen’s but align with his instructional philosophy. Each one is critical when designing and developing an effective training solution. By combining these 4Ms, companies can make a positive impact on their employees’ learning experience and improve their business outcomes.
Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve shows the memory decline of what people learn within 30 days of learning it when there’s no effort to retain it. Microlearning helps combat this issue. By reinforcing small, short and specialized learning modules, companies can train their employees more effectively and drive greater retention.
Walmart’s training department relies heavily on this philosophy. The big-box store wanted to create a safer work environment in its distribution centers so they started training employees using microlearning. By posing daily questions about safety, they changed employee behavior on the job and decreased safety incidents in distribution centers by 54%.
Microlearning is affordable, accessible and easily digestible, and it lends itself to easy content updates over time. Whether you’re creating videos, podcasts, animations, games or bullets, your content is most effective when delivered as micromoments, lasting no more than one or two minutes. Microlearning lends itself to nearly any topic and caters to those who claim they don’t have time for training or those who are bored by the way their training is otherwise being delivered.
The second ingredient needed to achieve great training is device-agnostic content. By delivering your content via mobile, tablet and desktop, companies ensure that their employees can engage with it whenever and wherever is most convenient.
For example, Microsoft needed a new training approach for their global sales teams and chose to create a three-course program. The courses were available on tablets and smartphones in addition to desktop computers. A year after its launch, the revenue attributed to the program exceeded $50 million.
Mobile learning is changing the way content is delivered and how the workforce is trained. Multimedia capabilities and on-the-go learning keep employees engaged and active with your content and vastly improves learning outcomes.
By marrying smart instructional design and addictive game mechanics, companies can draw employees in and keep them focused on the content. In my experience, games are more memorable than any other medium because they achieve the following:
1. Provide a practice playground for real-world situations.
2. Drive trainees to interact with and reflect on the content.
3. Appeal to people’s emotions and, as a result, amplify their memories.
A great example of game-based training is Rep Race, developed by Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals. This salesforce training simulation game was designed to help Bayer market Betaseron, a multiple sclerosis product. The game provides a much more entertaining solution than the multiple-choice skills tests used in the past. It also delivers real-time feedback on in-the-game versus in-the-field performance. Bayer reported that some employees even played the game up to 30 times, representing significantly higher engagement than with other training methods. The company also reported an increase in sales team effectiveness of 20% among those who played the training game.
The last “M” in my training recipe is for measurable data. For nearly two decades, the training industry has tracked a limited amount of employee performance data using a standard system called SCORM, which stands for Sharable Content Object Reference Model. Individual- and group-level data allows companies to evaluate learning behaviors, gaps and successes. However, the data collected via SCORM only tells part of the story.
A few years ago, the training industry began to adopt the Experience API (xAPI), an advanced protocol designed to more effectively track employees’ performance across online courses, simulations, videos, articles, conversations (with a trainer or mentor) and much more. While this sounds complicated, it’s actually quite simple. The xAPI method plugs into many enterprise solutions and tracks three variables: a noun, a verb and another noun. Consider the following example as a method for tracking the path of employee training and subsequent success.
[Employee] [did] [this learning experience].
• John read a book about marketing.
• John visited a website about marketing.
• John watched a video about marketing.
• John played an online marketing game.
• John passed the marketing 101 course.
From a “big data” angle, xAPI is on its way to becoming a game changer. By tracking data across multiple platforms, companies can identify employee patterns and utilize their findings to optimize both individual careers and overall organizations.
Memorable microlearning modules on a variety of platforms are necessary for effective training. To get the most out of your training, you must also collect and measure data. By optimizing the 4Ms, trainers can deliver engaging content, create motivated learners, increase comprehension, improve higher retention and drive better on-the-job performance.