The manufacturing labor shortage isn’t a new problem. According to a recent report from Deloitte, the US manufacturing industry faces an unprecedented labor shortage in the next five years. A wave of retirements and continued industry growth will create demand for upwards of 4.6 million manufacturing jobs by 2028, but more than 2.4 million are expected to go unfilled due to a persistent skills gap in the workforce.

Executives are willing to open their wallets to fix the problem, with 80% of those surveyed saying they will increase pay rates where necessary and implement new programs to find people who can fill these gaps, but with an average of nearly 90 days to recruit for highly skilled areas currently, and the shortage only expected to grow, the problem is only expected to get worse.

Increasingly, manufacturers are turning to new investments in internal and external training to address the issue. If they can’t find skilled workers, they’ll develop them. And the investments back it up, with the Manufacturing Institute estimating that manufacturers are set to spend $26.2 billion in 2020 on training initiatives for new and existing employees. In a recent survey, the found that nearly 70% of manufacturers are creating new programs or expanding existing programs to address these issues. As part of this, organizations are looking at not just adding new programs, but rethinking their entire approach to training – and a big part of that is through microlearning.

What Is Microlearning?

Based on fundamentals in cognitive science, microlearning involves breaking up complex topics into bite-sized “chunks” of information that can be processed and practiced as part of an employee’s normal workflow.

Rather than pulling an employee off the floor and sitting them in a training room for eight hours, new concepts are presented in context, where they’ll be used. Microlearning is adaptive, matching the learning style and speed of the individual, and presented in a flexible format. This is all made possible by technology tools that can pull from standardized training materials, but present them in personalized ways.

The Forgetting Curve illustrates how employees will forget 90% of what they learn within 30 days if it’s not reinforced through repetition. Microlearning is designed to ensure core concepts are not just repeated, but utilized frequently. At the same time, technology allows us to optimize how the content is presented. Through spaced repetition to embed information deeper in the brain, retrieval practice to strengthen memory, and other techniques, employees are trained not only in skills but in how to remember those skills.

The Advantages of Microlearning

Professional training has long involved sitting at a desk and attempting to absorb large volumes of information delivered in rapid succession. It’s no wonder employees get fidgety and can’t focus. It’s just not how our brains work. Microlearning is designed to match how people naturally learn. The benefits of using such a method include:

  • Greater Agility – Microlearning content is built around business needs, not vague concepts. The result is that you can rapidly shift gears and hone in on specific challenges as they arise. Quick, actionable training tools can help address quality issues, safety concerns, and more on the fly.
  • Stronger Engagement – Shorter, more direct training is easier to link to results. Employees see not only the purpose of what they’re learning but the end result and become more engaged in improving their performance.
  • Better Information Retention – An optimal attention span is no more than 20 minutes, meaning a multi-hour training session will put even your best employees to sleep. Shorter, focused bites of training materials are absorbed and retained at much higher rates.
  • Employee Empowerment – A Connected Worker Platform gives employees the resources they need to ask questions, find solutions, and engage with others faster. They aren’t at the mercy of a top-down training process that withholds key information. Training is designed around business needs and their best interests. This empowers them to learn more and proactive engagement with that content when they need it. Less “that’s not my problem” ‘and more “let’s find an answer.”

Implementing Microlearning to Address the Skills Gap

With the vast majority of manufacturers eager to address the growing skills gap, microlearning plays an important role in the process. Instead of paying more to entice an ever-smaller pool of qualified workers to sign on, companies are implementing progressive training programs that prepare workers for the advanced skills needed in modern manufacturing.

Microlearning delivered through a connected worker platform vastly improves retention, shortens training time, captures valuable knowledge that would otherwise leave an organization when older workers retire, and creates a culture of continuous improvement. Learn more about the role of a strong training program and microlearning, in particular, in our eBook, A Quick Guide to Solving the Perennial Worker Shortage

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