Microlearning for Millennials and Generation Z

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s a service-on-demand world out there. If you want a meal, you can get one in minutes at the drive-through, or even have one delivered by drone. You can choose a movie, listen to music, or watch a live sports event with just a touch of a button. When it comes to learning, however, there are still gaps between what new generations of workers want and what is available for delivery.

It’s not to say we haven’t moved forward. Professional development courses in the 1990s were usually delivered on-site by an instructor who used PowerPoints to illustrate the key concepts. You received a handout to take with you and were able to ask questions after the session. You may have even forged valuable networking contacts.

Some of these workshop-style courses lasted an entire day, and included what some participants considered the highlight of the training – lunch! These courses were instrumental in helping workers move into the age of technology and keep up with rapidly morphing ideas in the workplace. They were also based strongly on the way Baby Boomers and Generation X workers learned.

Focused man presenting creative project ideas on a whiteboard.

Enter the latest members of the workforce – Millennials and Generation Z. Unlike previous generations, both of these cohorts grew up using technology from an early age, finding answers to their problems immediately through apps, search engines and social media. No longer did it seem necessary to slog through the basics of a subject to get to the section you needed to complete a project or learn a necessary skill. A four or six hour workshop seemed like a lot of time wasted when a shorter session would have delivered what you needed.

This is where microlearning comes in.

What is microlearning? It is quality learning delivered in smaller units that can be learned and applied immediately. It is characterized by better retention rates and works well with the shorter attention spans exhibited by younger generations of workers.

A study done at the University of Rochester (New York) suggests students have an optimal learning experience when a video is six minutes or less. Students become less engaged as they reach the nine-minute mark. Unless they are highly motivated to complete the entire lesson, their engagement continues to sag the longer the video is.

Is this attention span loss the result of the technological changes that foster rapid changes and fragmentation? Or is it the result of more young people being diagnosed with ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)? Many Generation Z workers are choosing to forego college as being too long and too expensive when they can get the exact training they need to succeed easily and immediately through microlearning.

While older generations may lament the loss of deep learning experiences grounded in fundamentals, millennial and Gen Z workers find microlearning works for them and the work they are doing. It works for employers, too. Companies find microlearning:

  • Is cheaper and faster to produce, maintain and consume
  • Gets delivered in short bursts that fits with younger employees who switch tasks frequently
  • Connects learning to what they already know and doesn’t overload working memory
  • Knowledge can be immediately put into action
  • Lessons can be accessed as needed to ensure long-term retention


What will the future hold for employees entering the workforce now? Using your phone to access on-demand training is a starting point. Learning is easy using these devices anywhere and anytime. Content can also be updated and revised with little cost or time demands.

Millennials and Generation Z workers are demanding this type of training. The company benefits as specific skills and knowledge required at a certain point can be delivered with minimal investment and certifiable results. The ease of production of these short videos will keep content fresh and up-to-date, and foster coach/tutor learning conversations to benefit all learners.

Perhaps one of the biggest benefits is using artificial intelligence (AI) to determine the optimal learning path and content for each worker. Imagine having a personally-designed lesson using your preferred learning style! Your lessons give you what you need in the way you learn best. While food may be supersized, learning content is being pared to deliver the best content in the most optimal way to benefit all employees.

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