Organizational development (OD) is an ongoing process, but that doesn’t mean it should feel like being a hamster on a wheel. Yes, your efforts must be continuous, but the key is to produce continuous improvement. You want climb a spiral staircase, not walk in circles. So how do you ensure that your OD efforts culminate in results that last? Invest in experiential learning to produce sustained change.
Learning Decays Over Time
A certain amount of knowledge is lost shortly after you learn something new. This phenomenon is known as learning decay; up to 70% of training is lost within the first week of training! In an ideal world, you could teach somebody a new skill, they would remember it forever, and learning decay wouldn’t exist. However, we all know that reality is a different story. It often takes many training sessions before a new concept really sinks in. Fortunately, the more training you provide, the more effective it will be over time.
In addition to training frequency, the type of training you offer will also have a major impact on what the learning decay curve looks like. You can’t avoid learning decay, but you can improve it by using proven techniques and retention strategies.
Experiential Learning Limits Decay
Experiential learning is essentially learning by doing. Rather than sitting in a classroom and listening to a lecture or reading a book, experiential learning requires participants to navigate scenarios that mimic real-world situations. By engaging in the experience, making mistakes along the way, and then breaking down the lessons learned; the information stays with participants longer.
Four core principles contribute to the sustained learning effect:
- Conviction - Individuals want to succeed; so if they believe the learning they will get from the training session will help them perform better, they are more likely to stay focused and motivated.
- Knowledge - Once there is a conviction that the learning will make an impact, individuals are more receptive to learn.
- Skill - Sharing knowledge is not enough; individuals must also be provided with the tools and the steps of how to use it in order to optimize success.
- Results - After training, it is important to demonstrate and measure how training is being applied in the workplace and the impact it is having.
Too often, the skill portion is the only focus in OD. However, without the foundation of conviction and knowledge, there will be no sustained change. Additionally, without a good retention strategy that counteracts the decay curve, training efforts will not be maximized.
Retention Strategies Prolong Learning
Organizational development doesn’t stop after an experiential learning event. In fact, having a solid retention strategy is just as important as creating an effective training program. Some of the techniques you can employ to help improve retention include:
- Digital reinforcement tools
- Group discussions at regular intervals after training
- Gamification to reinforce knowledge
- Coaching from leaders
- Feedback assessments and surveys
- Linking training to HR initiatives
- Online resources
Keep the learning decay curve from nosediving by starting with a carefully crafted experiential learning event that instills conviction and enables participants to learn by doing. Follow up with a combination of retention techniques to develop an organizational development program that lets you keep climbing to new heights.