The Next Big Thing: Micro-Learning
man in headset watching a woman presenting something in a video on his computer

By Paul Bergeron |

September 14, 2022 |

Updated September 28, 2022

6 minute read

Shorter video learning is all the rage in the apartment industry, especially when keeping professionals up-to-date on certain items.

Apartment companies are having a tough enough time with hiring, but once new hires come on board, the next challenge is training – particularly those new to the industry.

Needing these workers right away, some are finding micro-learning to be beneficial as a supplement to grow their knowledge without having to take time out of the office.

Mary Gwyn, CPM, Chief Innovator, Apartment Dynamics, says that long training programs “are nice to have, and we do use some, but micro-learning is really nice to have.

“The problem with longer training programs is that they are long. With shorter attention spans and employees being too busy these days, shorter, micro-learning videos work very well. We also know that when a new employee starts, they can’t train on everything in the first two weeks. This helps to ease them into it.”

Apartment Dynamics, a North Carolina-based owner and operator with about 5,000 apartment homes, has a strong manager onsite mentoring program that helps, Gwyn says. 

“We believe that it’s always better to learn when you can be ‘touching’ what you are doing,” she says. “We’ve done some training when we sent employees to learn at another office, and then had them come back to their office, but that didn’t work as well.”

Apartment Dynamics’ micro-learning videos are about three minutes long and are usually recorded by managers when they are explaining how to do certain tasks or behaviors to other staff. 

Gwyn says these short video tutorials generally are about things that don’t come up that often, which makes them more valuable.

“These are things that maybe they have been trained on, but you don’t truly know how to do them until they actually come up,” she says. “Besides, being able to see a person’s face and hear their voice makes a big difference in learning and retention.”

To determine new training topics to record, Gwyn asks her managers to be aware during their workday and identify when they are about to teach an employee a certain thing and be sure to record it, and especially if they have to teach the same thing multiple times.

Combining Off-the-Shelf with Customized Training

Similarly, Steven Fretwell, Senior Vice President, Learning & Leadership, The Bozzuto Group, says his company has been using micro-learning for about 10 years. 

“We branded it as ‘short takes’ – bite-sized pieces of learning that can happen in less than three minutes that are easy to access and digest,” he says. 

For Bozzuto-specific topics, they created their own but have since purchased a catalog of content from a talent management system and leadership training.

Fretwell says that during the past few years, especially with COVID-19, Bozzuto has taken a more customized approach to micro-learning, hosting it in a few different ways, based on the audience, subject matter and level of engagement. 

“Our micro-learning could be a ‘Top 5 Tips to Save Time’ on something and provide a link to this information in our newsletter,” he says. “This could be a quick module on a topic, or even a recorded segment from a webinar for people to learn a concept.

“Micro-learning is great for that one small ‘how-to’ or idea on how to provide the context with ideas of how to apply back in the real world, the real challenge, all while supporting the company’s strategic initiatives, is the real gamechanger in pushing performance.”

He says they might share short and humorous training examples on how not to establish rapport with co-workers, and then follow that up with training on how this is done at Bozzuto.

Training Tools with National Reach

Jenn Cassidy, Senior Vice President, Student Housing Operations, Cardinal Management Group, says e-learning and micro-learning
have become new ways of looking at employee training and it’s proving ideal for companies challenged for time and time away from the job as well as the evolving applications needed to get the job done.

Cardinal is embracing micro-learning and social learning through instruction on YouTube, TED, podcasts and blogs, which have evolved and allow for training that is consumed on-demand and in short bursts, she says. 

“This content is decentralized and easy to share regardless of location; it allows for organic learning,” Cassidy says. “Learning management tools have evolved and are now web-based, allowing for better reporting for analytics and insights.

“We are seeing learning experience platforms (LXPs) emerge that pull the learner into the learning experience using algorithms. 

“Overall, shorter is better. In the age of TikTok, learners want their content in bite-size pieces versus long, detailed training segments. Using technology allows us to easily reach team members all over the country, and it also offers the ability to cater the learning experience to their needs.”

Basic Property Management Topics for Review

Gwyn says having these shorter videos at employees’ disposal means they also can quickly refresh on what to do or learn how to handle something on the spot. They can watch them over again several times to really reinforce the proper methods or processes needed for a successful outcome.

Micro-learning videos include topics such as: 

  • What to do if a resident dies
  • What to charge during a move-out and how to enter it into the software
  • How to properly answer the phone
  • How to de-escalate an angry resident
  • How to set up a rent payment plan
  • Collections FAQs
  • Lease Expiration Management – What to Say
  • Quick Traffic Generation Tips
  • Maintenance Tips for Office Teams (multiple short ones)
  • Working the Waiting List
  • Budget Variance Reporting Tips
  • “Write me up” – Employee Discussion Tips
  • Google Business Tips

Some of the videos are shot by the company’s “superstar” trainers, NAAEI faculty members, Tracy Wesley, CAM, and Angela Raupp, CAM, CAPS, NALP, CPO.

Gwyn says that in cases such as training for using NAA Click & Lease, there are four, 30-minute recorded lessons where a trainer goes over every single line of the lease. 

“It could be tiring to sit through two hours of legal discussion, so having it divided helps,” she says. “This also means that our employees will have gone through every single aspect of the lease and have learned how to read it.” 

For maintenance, Gwyn says by using highly qualified online trainers, these short video lessons are helpful. “If you watch enough online maintenance videos, you can quickly determine which videos are most on-point.”

For the leasing teams, Gwyn says it would be great if the trainer can visit the property and offer one-on-one or small-group discussions, “but we’re finding there’s not enough time to do that each time, as we keep hiring new leasing professionals.” In those cases, she says videos are an effective alternative.

Some Apartment Dynamics training videos come from the company’s Zoom recordings. By using an online video editing tool, everything is demonstrated correctly in the final version, she says.


Paul Bergeron is a freelance writer.