Light for the Uncertain: Microlearning and Coaching

By Karen S. Walch, PhD

Is there someone who encourages your development or talks with you about your goals? Do your opinions and purpose seem to matter?

Do you have the opportunity to do what you do best? Do you know what is expected of you at work right now ?

These are some of the uncertainties many of us are facing right now. Economic disruption and a global health shut down set the stage for lost trust, uncertainty, and anxiety about finding a way forward. Such a systemic shock creates the conditions for increased social isolation, nervous system break down, and brain freeze. This kind of freeze and dissonance limits prosocial behaviors which are required now more than ever for recovery. Microlearning and coaching present the most effective and targeted nudges for stepping forward.

Neuroscience findings about simple or pure nudges highlight how the most effective approach to unfreeze and unlock high performance requires small and supportive changes to preexisting inattention, laziness, or defaults to fear. Stretching and transforming prosocial behaviors to help and support others comes about through simple behavorial not grand moral nudges.

Moral nudges are those that trigger fear, shame, or pride. Moral nudges reward “doing the right thing” and require social proof – “9 out of 10 people in your city pay their taxes on time—you are currently not one of them”. These nudges run the risk of backfiring and do not stimulate long term change.

Practical Nudges: Microlearning and Coaching

The need for active listening, turn taking, support, and positive reinforcement are prosocial behaviors that require small nudges at a time. Microlearning and coaching present the most effective targeted nudges for measurable results during a perfect storm of uncertainty, increase in doubt, hesitation, or isolation. In order to hold business together and ideate for the future on the front line requires mindsets and behaviors of motivation while managing feelings of threats or hesitation.

Behavioral change, insight, and energy for action in the post pandemic world requires a reappraisal about psychological safety, curiosity, empathy, and prosocial behavior. It also provides a critical time for reappraisal of enterprise wide coaching strategies and a coherent learning system that is timely, deliberate and effective.  Small timely steps can unfreeze and unlock innate resilience and positivity to engage with others in stepping through uncertainty together.

Simple Nudge: Re-building Trust

A microlearning session on a virtual learning platform, along with human coaching and feedback is an example of a simple nudge with high impact. In The Experience Accelerator study conducted on the methodology of a trust building course, results captured through analytical measures of trust building performance, along with personalized coaching and feedback yield positive outcomes.

In such a microlearning experience combined with personalized coaching, learners can study on their own pace and practice important aspects of trust building, credibility, reliability, empathy and ‘other’ focus. The session analytics track a participant’s credibility and reliability skills. Systematic overall tracking shows how the practice of credibility and reliability actions are strongly correlated with behavioral performance (the higher the individual scores on credibility and reliability the higher the overall trust building score).

The data analytics and personalized coaching in microlearning conclude that the impact of learning is best prioritized towards these attributes in trust building. Curiosity is also correlated with overall trust building performance. Open-ended and ‘why’ questions also correlate to building trust. For example, in microlearning conversational analytics, the average turn time appears to be an important metric. The average turn time for a participant who wants to build trust matters greatly to the quality of the conversation. The top quartile performers had an average turn time of 45 seconds vs. 30 seconds for the lowest quartile. If someone wants to establish credibility and reliability, it requires supplying quality evidence with examples and proof points, which takes longer than simple questions or statements. In addition, there is a required exchange in turn taking rather than dominating the trust building conversations.

Investment in Coaching: More Opportunities, Less Cost

The targeting learning through on-demand microlearning, along with personalized coaching, unlocks and enhances learning toward effective prosocial action. Personalized and attentive coaching by itself has been researched and measured for decades and provides significant results. For example, in a study conducted by the International Coach Federation, learners have increased their ability for smarter goal setting by 62.4% and have increased their energy and sense of a more balanced life by 60.5%. In addition, they experience less stress and burn out, with sick days, clinic and hospital days reduced by 51.1% compared to the control group. Coaching and personalized attention also increased self-confidence 44.4.% and overall quality of life by 43.3%. Completion of projects increased by 35.7% and increased income by 25.7%.

There is a lot to learn, experience and develop as the global economy and activity find a new normal. For most of us, there appears to be little that we can control through the uncertainty. However, on an individual and team level taking the lead on personal and professional development is more critical and motivating than ever before. There will be many ways to unfreeze and to collaborate more effectively with others, and experimenting with microlearning and personal coaching is a great way to begin.

 Virtual and on-demand microlearning and coaching to try:

  1. Quantum Negotiation – audio course
  2. Negotiations for Industry 4.0 Series – coaching and feedback course
  3. Agile Collaboration – coaching and feedback course