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  • Writer's pictureLaura Ellen Christian

Applying Microlearning Concepts that Blend In-Person & Online Learning

We’re all struggling to find staff. No one is immune. And trends are telling us the problem is not going away anytime soon.

  • 64% of new hires in aging services turn over within the first six months of employment1

  • 1 in 4 nursing assistants report they are actively looking for another job1

  • The cost of replacing an employee can be upwards of 16% of the annual salary for the position.*

So, what do we do about the staffing crisis? One strategy is to double down on creating the best experience for your current staff. I’m a strong believer in that experience beginning well before the new employee’s first day, but we’ll save that for another article! Let’s hone in on how you’re setting up an engaging learning environment. 95% of employees state that they would stay longer at a company if their employer invested in career development1. How do you equip new employees to feel comfortable and confident in their new role? Do you offer a well-rounded, ongoing learning environment or is the person mostly left to figuring it out on their own? If that latter sounds more accurate and you have a feeling of dread in your stomach – keep reading!

You’re not alone if pandemic threw most of your best practices out of the window. The Arbor Company, an Atlanta-based operator of more than 45 senior living communities, used this time as an opportunity to rethink how they were delivering training connected to a key component to every caregiver’s job: dementia care. You might be thinking, is dementia care really key to EVERY caregiver’s job?

With staggering statistics such as one in nine people aged 65 and older has Alzheimer's type dementia2, you bet it is!

To set out on this mission, the Arbor Company first connected in with their employees, asking caregivers to share their learning experience – the good, the bad and the ugly. Here’s what they learned:

Experiential learning components are key. Caregivers were quick to talk about training that included experiencing how it may feel to live with dementia.

Long, complex training sessions are out. Focus group participants shared their frustration with long training classes or online modules, stating by the end they couldn’t retain a lot of the information shared.

Enter the research for experiential learning modules and microlearning strategies. Caregivers were reinforcing these approaches! Experiential learning places the learner directly in touch with the realities being studied. It is a cycle that allows for experience, reflection, thinking, and action, leading to motivated application and change. Microlearning is based on the principle of content chunking, a concept that originates from the field of cognitive psychology. Content is broken into shorter, bite-sized pieces that are manageable and easy to remember.

When we bring the two together, we see:

  • Boosts in engagement

  • Closing of skill gaps

  • Fostering of practical application in the workforce

  • Greater use of common technology

For Arbor, the company was already using an experiential training program called Dementia Live®, a simulation of what it might be like to live with dementia. And Susan Robbins, Regional Director of Dementia Training for the Arbor Company set off to create quick follow up training videos and huddle notes aimed at turning “ah ha” moments during the experience into expanded learning and skill focused conversation among peers. What’s next for the Arbor Company? Susan has set her sight on supporting ongoing learning and skill building for staff by incorporating more microlearning modules coupled with ongoing Dementia Live® experiences, offered through different topical lenses. She feels this approach will help keep millennial workers engaged.

With millennials set to make up 75 percent of the workforce in 2025, and 87 percent saying on-the-job learning and development is important*, I would say Susan and the Arbor Company are on the right track. The more engaged our current employees are, the more likely they will be to convince their friends to join the team. It’s a win-win. So, the question remains, what kind of learning environment are you creating for your staff?

About the Author

Laura Ellen Christian is the Vice President of Client Engagement for AGE-u-cate Training Institute . She began her career as an Activity Director for a senior living community, which quickly led to the opportunity to an expand her reach. For the first 17 years of her career, she led a top senior living management company in the development and implementation of comprehensive dementia training programs for care partners and innovative engagement programs for seniors at large. As VP of Client Engagement, she leads the strategic development of AGE-u-cate’s brand awareness, product accessibility across market channels and quality collaborative partnerships.


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