In the 1914 book, The Psychology of Learning, Edward Thorndike used the term “decay theory” to describe the idea that if someone does not access and use the memory representation formed, that memory trace will decay over time. Today, learning decay is a widely recognized pitfall in corporate learning and development. Some learning decay is expected, and there are ways to mitigate this situation. Here are a few tips to improve knowledge retention among your team members.
Your employees are probably busy people. It’s difficult to focus on training when you have a major project due soon, or when you know the time spent training will cause you to fall behind in your work. If you want your employees to prioritize training, you need to fit training into your schedule by leveraging various modalities, including eLearning, virtual learning, job aids, et cetera.
Incorporate Practical Applications
Use it or lose it! Incorporate practical applications of the material into both the training and employees’ day-to-day activities. Most older learners (mid-twenties and above) benefit from hands-on or experiential learning. Learning by doing provides a higher level of engagement for adult learners more than traditional, didactic techniques.
Perform Follow-Ups and Set Reminders
Check-in with your staff a week or so after their training has ended. (Side note: this is also a great opportunity to get feedback on the training itself!) Ask questions about the material, both about the material and for clarification. When you have a well-crafted measurement and evaluation program for each learning intervention, you can proactively anticipate the need for refresher training.
Show Company-Wide Commitment
Repeat this mantra: “if I don’t, then my employees won’t.” Employees will be more likely to remember the information gained if they believe that the training was important or at least worth- while. If executives or managers joke about the training or complain about training being a waste of time, employees will mirror their attitudes. If you don’t take training seriously, then your employees won’t take training seriously. A good idea for all leaders is to lead by example.
Set Goals Tied to Training
Your employees will care about their training, and be more likely to retain the knowledge, if you implement realistic objectives tied to the training. Using quantifiable goals can help your learners make the connection between the content presented in training and the expected application of it to their daily responsibilities.
As previously mentioned, some learning decay is inevitable, but these tips should help to proactively address this and may improve rates of knowledge retention. Engaged employees are more receptive to training and show better retention, so consult with a learning and development professional, like CoreAxis, about your options for training strategies!