Spend a little time in the Way Back machine and recall a training session you attended and the amount of content that you retained and more importantly used. According to Matt Bingham, a learning expert states that “cognitive science says that to actually learn something, the brain must build upon existing knowledge, flag it as “important” and reuse the information enough to deem it worthy of its efforts.”
Three facts about learning retention worth mentioning include:
- After one hour, people retain less than half of the information presented.
- After one day, people forget more than 70 percent of what was taught in training.
- After six days, people forget 75 percent of the information in their training.
The phrase – Use it or Lose it applies here. Training is often used as a stand-alone solution to a performance problem. The most important thing you need to change is your perspective with this IMPORTANT topic.
What does successful consist of? Try these 6 tips on for size.
- Customize the training
- Spread the training out over a period of time
- Include work assignments
- Review work assignments
- Conduct training review sessions
- Test for retention
Let’s explore each tip in more detail in which you can maximize the Return on Training Investment.
1. Customize the training
Customization is CRUCIAL when it comes to ensuring that the training is JUST IN TIME and COVERS the RIGHT CONTENT with an INTENTIONAL RESULT in mind. Customization DOES NOT mean that you need to start from scratch. In many cases, especially with Leadership, Management, and Soft Skills topics in mind, there’s SO much content available to draw from. Customization DOES mean that you take the content and customize to meet the learner’s needs based on real-world, case scenarios and examples.
CASE IN POINT: I worked with a client earlier this year where the trainers were tasked with converting instructor-led training to Virtual Learning. This training project ran over a period of 8 weeks with bi-weekly sessions conducted using zoom. We used tried and true content and imbedded activities and assignments that were relevant and timely. Participants took an actual in-person session and converted it to a virtual session. At the end of the training, each person delivered a portion of the converted training to the other trainers in a “dry-run” format. The fact that they were able to apply the learning using an actual work project was a win-win situation. This doesn’t mean that the learning is over and done with. What this does mean is that the learner was able to use the content and become familiar enough to be able to apply the learning to other conversion projects.
2. Spread the training out over a period of time
Doing this is important for a couple of reasons. First of all, people are busy and scheduling can be difficult. Secondly, engagement and retention increase when you have shorter, more frequent sessions such as 90 minutes or less. It’s difficult to get the learner to engage and stay focused for more than 90 minutes at a time, especially in a virtual environment. On the flip side, use caution in scheduling the sessions too far apart. Depending on the situation, scope, and audience, weekly sessions can be productive. There are many other training scenarios such as e-learning, micro-learning that require other considerations besides length of time.
CASE IN POINT: As mentioned in the previous example, training took place every two weeks. We also created mini-teams that took place between the two-week period so that we could focus on their specific project. This kept the engagement high throughout the entire process. We also brought in a Zoom Expert to train the team on this tool.
3. Include work assignments
Whenever possible, incorporate work assignments after each session in order to bridge the gap between sessions to promote learning application. Remember, learning retention is enhanced when participants have the opportunity to use what they learn. Also, proficiency takes repetition and time.
CASE IN POINT: This year, I received training from a marketing expert who built my new website. Part of the training involved learning how to write and posts blogs on my website. Because this was BRAND new to me, it took going over the content three times to be able to post blogs without assistance. Now, it’s much easier. There is more to learn to get to the next level; however, at least I can post blogs on my own.
4. Review work assignments
Feedback is crucial when it comes to work assignments. Feedback needs to include both positive and constructive information. The key word is “information” vs. “judgment”. How you set up the process for feedback and giving it makes all the difference. Make sure feedback takes place in the moment as much as possible, is relevant and supportive. The person receiving the feedback needs to know that your intention is for learning and success to occur as a result of the training. Sometimes, it may be difficult for you to give feedback, especially if someone else conducted the training. However, as part of the training design process, it’s imperative that feedback is part of the overall process. Coaching is often attached to the process of giving feedback so keep that in mind as well.
CASE IN POINT: The virtual training project mentioned above included review and feedback components. During the mini-sessions, assignments were completed, reviewed and discussed. This gave the learner the ability to integrate changes based on feedback received.
5. Conduct training review sessions
When possible, training review sessions can be worthwhile. Research shows that knowledge becomes memory after 7 times hearing or using the same information. This may or may not be true for you; however, the key point is repetition and review. Additionally, practice may not make the learning perfect, but it does drive proficiency. In other words, the more you use it, the more you retain it.
CASE IN POINT: For the virtual training project, we are holding a review session soon to discuss lessons learned and what might be the next level of desired performance for the individuals and the team as a whole.
6. Test for retention
Testing comes in a variety of ways. Testing could mean a knowledge test in the form of Q&A, T/F, Essays, Fill-in-the-blank, Multiple Choice, etc. Testing could also refer to presenting a final project and receiving a grade based on pre-defined items to be graded. Whatever the test component entails, this supports the overall retention outcome. You may also keep the testing fun and simple. This also depends on the type of training that you are providing. If the training occurs in a formal classroom and takes on a level of proficiency and certification (e.g., nursing, legal, accounting), then testing becomes important and a major component of the overall learning cycle.
CASE IN POINT: Let’s say that you majored in counseling and you plan to work with children in the school system. You can’t practice unless you pass required example and earn proper credentials and licenses.
Effective training is a PROCESS, Not an Event.
Training Stick Test!
Request a complimentary review of a training program that you are running or have conducted in the past. RTB will assess the overall “stickiness” of the training program and ensure that it’s a process not an event.