Even after the most impactful training event, participants quickly forget much of what they have learned. It’s a phenomenon called learning decay and it happens to everybody, no matter how engaged they were during the training event or how interested they were in the content. Being aware of learning decay and taking steps to minimize it will help you get the greatest benefit from your investment in learning and development.
Training is clearly a key component of developing employee skills and competencies, but retention is another critical part of the equation. A thoughtful and effective learning retention strategy ensures you are maximizing training impact and minimizing the opportunity for learning decay. Ongoing post-course reinforcement keeps lessons from training top of mind and ensures that employees remember and apply what they learned once they are back on the job. Using some or all of the following reinforcement strategies can help you get more for your training investment.
Line Manager Reinforcement
Employees learn a lot from their direct leaders, managers, and supervisors. When direct supervisors model, coach, and require new behaviors among employees, one of the results is lasting behavior change. After a training event, leaders should be mindful of their own behaviors and how they support the training content, leading by example and highlighting when new concepts are being applied.
In addition to modeling the desired actions, it’s also a good opportunity to provide on-the-job and in-the-moment coaching for employees. Catching old behaviors while they are happening and correcting them accordingly will be highly valuable to an individual’s success and future application of training content. This will also help employees connect the dots between what they learned in training and what they’re seeing on the job. Leaders should also watch for opportunities to praise employees for demonstrating what they learned in training, which reinforces the desired behavior change.
In today’s digital world, we have grown accustomed to using our devices for a wide variety of purposes, including in our professional lives. Your training retention strategy should recognize and capitalize on this reality by incorporating digital tools. Deliver learning content, questions, and feedback from training to employees’ smartphones or tablets to keep them engaged after the event. This not only helps keep the training content top of mind, but it also gives employees digital resources to reference later.
To minimize learning decay, it’s important to present new knowledge in multiple ways and continue to do so over time. One way to do this in an engaging manner is through gamification, an approach that allows participants to play short games that test their knowledge of content and reinforce its relevance to their jobs. Additional elements you can incorporate include leaderboards, ROI reporting, rewards, and an interactive learner experience. When the learning process is fun, the new concepts are more memorable.
Focus on Training and Retention
In order to be effective, employee training should not be considered a one-time event, but rather an ongoing process that includes a comprehensive retention strategy. Incorporate various retention methods to help employees keep training content top of mind and to motivate them to use their new skills. To learn more ways you can get the most from your training investment, read our free guide, Closing the Gap: Maximizing the Impact of Learning and Development Initiatives.