Training employees is kind of useless if they either forget or go back to doing things the way they always have, isn’t it?
I’d say so and I’d like to think that’s not something you could argue with.
So, if your organization is creating training that’s being forgotten then you’re wasting people’s time, time developing training, and a whole lot of money.
Employees are way too important to your organization to waste their time and not have them learn anything from training. If employees forget their training, unlocking their true potential is impossible. That means it’s essential that your organization takes action to ensure employees retain what’s learned from their training and cement that knowledge.
Anything that will help employees regularly remember or even better use the information they’ve learned will maximize performance improvement and make sure training is contributing to projects and organization growth. Employee training retention is absolutely essential.
When it comes to remembering training, the adage ‘out of sight, out of mind’ is all too true. Without learning close to the point of need and with regular reinforcement, training and skills will be lost over time, leaving employees feeling confused or disoriented when it comes to completing tasks.
It’s kind of aggravating for employees to take a course and then have a two-week gap between using it and being expected to know what to do. That seems to be extremely common, though. For internal new IT system launches, it’s extremely common to have a two-week training period before the system is launched.
Ever heard that? “Everybody needs to be trained before we go live!”
Ugh. That’s a recipe for disaster.
That’s one reason we always say it’s essential to train employees as close to the time of need as possible. We’re going to go a bit deeper than that even with methods that can be used to combat forgetting.
Whether it’s a course for software use or a set of safety protocols, forgetting important training can have serious consequences.
Fortunately, there are ways to ensure employees don’t forget their training and help them retain more. It could come down to limiting the length of any given training session, spacing training, providing resources to help employees remember, or just training as close to the time of need as possible.
Instead of spaced learning which is a traditional L&D approach to helping improve retention, we like spaced doing even better. We’ll go over that a bit more but it is exactly what it sounds like but with a performance twist. Organizational training should always be about doing/performing and not just about learning.
Organizations must change how they do things and also invest in methods to ensure employees don’t forget their training. That’s the only way organizations can truly reach their potential. We just need to sweep away the people who get in the way of that and insisted on training being completed early among a few other strategies.
Benefits of Improved Employee Training Retention
This may be obvious and I don’t need to break down the benefits, but I will anyway!
Professional development is useless if employees aren’t retaining the information, plain and simple.
Improved employee retention of training has multiple positive benefits for any organization. Time is money and money is money. You’re wasting both with pointless training that isn’t done with purpose to provide maximum benefit to employees. Here are two of the major benefits of doing it right.
Improved retention of training ensures employees remain productive. Employees forgetting their training can cause mistakes, delays, poor service, or worse.
Implementing strategies that enable maximum performance improvement and ensure employees don’t forget their training can help to minimize these delays and ensure projects stay on track.
Employees are always more engaged in their job when they know what they’re doing and feel supported. Improved training retention contributes to that because it’s up to the employer to make sure employees know the specifics of how to do things in their organization.
Even the most highly skilled job where employees come knowing the vast majority of their trade requires organization-specific knowledge. When employees are supported with that knowledge through good training then they will be more engaged in their work.
I mean, when I feel confident that I can complete a task and do it correctly, I’m more motivated and enthusiastic. If I see no point, am not supported, and constantly have to second-guess myself then that’s pretty miserable.
When training is forgotten, the opposite occurs, leading to apathy and a lack of effort. Ensuring employees don’t forget their training can be the difference between an efficient and effective workforce and a disjointed and unenthusiastic one.
One of the biggest negatives that can occur from a lack of engagement is employee turnover. Nobody wants that and every organization wants to reduce high employee turnover.
Strategies for Improving Training Retention
Organizations have several strategies available to them to ensure employees retain their training. Sometimes it’s actions that need to be taken by the organization and sometimes it’s employee education.
There’s always a desire to get people trained with enough time before the launch of something new. That mindset has to be thrown away. Instead of trying to do everything on a schedule with plenty of time to spare, that mindset should be changed to do everything to maximize training retention and employee success.
Enough, though. Let’s get into specific things organizations can do to improve training retention and help employees learn (and remember) to do what they need to do better.
If you do something once then you probably remember a little bit from it unless it was a TikTok video that’s 10 seconds long. But, realistically speaking company training isn’t learning to do a household task on TikTok and it shouldn’t be.
Anybody who compares the two and thinks they should be the same needs to reevaluate reality. You can’t simplify everything in life by saying it’s all the same, it’s not.
But, in corporate training, spaced practice is a great place to start. By dividing up courses into smaller chunks and providing realistic practice it enables employees to keep their knowledge fresh in their minds. It could be as simple as providing a high-quality course with all the details and then spacing smaller practices that are pushed out in the days after training.
It’s kind of like an IV drip feed of training to reinforce the most important points of an actual training session or course.
Spaced doing is even better! Of course, if it’s anything that could cause damage to people then maybe spaced learning isn’t ideal.
Spaced doing involves providing employees with regular activities and tasks which require them to utilize what they’ve learned. It needs to be the actual job, though. It’s not cool to say an employee is going to take on a new process, make them take a course, and then never actually give them something to practice their knowledge on.
So, if employees have learned new software by taking a course, providing them with regular tasks requiring the use of that software will ensure they don’t forget the training and continue to maximize their performance.
They get to do until they cement their knowledge and know how to do it like the experts. Then you’ve made one more expert in your organization. That could never be a bad thing!
Never Too Much
Another great way to improve employee retention of training is by keeping the training short and to the point. That means only training on the essentials and sticking with a less is more mentality. You can’t deny that if everything is important then nothing is important.
Perhaps even start with our strategy of beginning every course with nothing. It’s a great strategy for simplifying complex content and giving employees just the right stuff when they need it and saving the rest for later.
It’s a helpful goal to keep any single training session to no more than 30 minutes. That’s our goal even if sometimes more is needed. If that’s the case then we figure out a way to break it up and ensure employees aren’t sitting in training for more than 30 minutes in any given hour.
No cramming please, it simply doesn’t work and is counterproductive. Talk about wasting organizational resources!
Make It Relevant
If employees don’t care about it then they’re not going to learn it. That’s one reason compliance training is typically so useless. Does it move the needle of compliance or are good people just going to be good while bad will be bad compliance or not?
By making sure training is relevant and employees can relate to it then they might pay attention and care.
If you look at some of the best examples of compliance training then you’ll see a trend. It’s relevant to people and they want to see more. One great example is Microsoft’s compliance training, The Trust Code. It’s a series of dramatic videos where Nelson plays the main character and is always running into compliance troubles.
Watch this video to see an overview and see how it’s making compliance training more relevant to employees.
It doesn’t have to be compliance, though. Sometimes it’s just about making training more approachable to people and more in tune with how it will help their job. Some messaging and positioning of a course could work wonders. It doesn’t always have to be a huge video production that wastes your whole budget.
Don’t Train Too Early
We wrote extensively on this topic in our post about training employees as close to the time of need as possible. That means I’ll spend a little less time on that topic here. The gist of this is that you shouldn’t give employees two weeks to take training when they can’t even use it for another two weeks.
When you give people too much time in advance to train then they’ll have forgotten everything by the time they need it. Then you’re just wasting people’s time and ensuring that they don’t know how to use the tool when they get access (if it’s software). Either that or they’re going to flood your help desk with questions that are clearly in the training.
That’s a common occurrence and then training looks bad when it was an issue with trying to train content too far in advance of the time of need. Performance support can help with that but only so much.
As I just mentioned, performance support can only go so far but it can also fill a lot of gaps and work seamlessly with training. There’s a reason why performance support is the ultimate form of training that’s often forgotten.
It’s because for those tasks that aren’t performed regularly, they’re a huge help as an aid to memory. Not only that but by leaving some tasks to performance support, the things taught in training are that much more effective.
So, while a course might cover the tasks that employees will do often, performance support should cover tasks that aren’t. If that’s done then a course can be more effective with material that’s more relevant and useful for employees to need to know.
No more wasted cognitive space on useless material that doesn’t need to be remembered!
Have Them (Fake) Do It If Possible
Practicing and doing are great which I covered above. But sometimes it’s not possible to do it and practice is elusive for some tasks. Learning how to use software for example. Practice could be considered being asked a question about how to perform something with abstract questions that are text-based. The problem is that software is something you do, not just read about.
Have you ever taken one of the tests on LinkedIn for software? Perhaps an Office test or Photoshop test?
They’re pretty bad. You’re asked bizarre questions about how to do a task and then have to choose from multiple text-based answers. How the heck am I supposed to know that and how does it help me or prove that I know it?
I can do most of those tasks all day long in the application but the minute you ask me in an abstract text-based question and answer, I’m done. I fail.
That’s why doing it in a simulation is the best possible option. Our specialty lies in creating realistic software simulations which is the best way to help employees do the task and retain the training.
Realistic scenarios and then doing them are much better than learning from abstract pictures that have no connection to one another. One of our super-powers is building effective eLearning that are realistic software simulations. That’s how we build custom software training.
This approach can lead to maximum performance improvement and significantly boost employee engagement and productivity. With fake but realistic practice scenarios in a fake but realistic practice system, employees are going to gain maximum training benefits.
Stories And Scenarios
One last method to help employees not forget training. In other words, help them retain more company training.
Tying in stories and scenarios to help people relate to the content will work wonders. This method can work with software, soft skills, compliance, or anything else.
If there’s something for employees to relate to, as long as it’s genuine, then it will make training more relatable and memorable. Instead of telling people not to leave the company laptop in the trunk, show or tell a story about what can happen if you do that.
This is one of the strong points of Microsoft’s Trust Code that I mentioned above. Instead of simply telling employees what to do and what not to do, they weaved those lessons into stories that helped people see those things and understand the consequences of their actions.
If you can make training more realistic to employee’s work and what they really could encounter then it’s going to be that much more relevant to them. Remember that I mentioned relevance is an essential way to increase training retention? This is a great way to make it more relevant.
Evaluating Results & Adjusting The Plan
Organizations should evaluate the success of their strategies for ensuring employees don’t forget their training. Surveys and feedback can also be a great way to gauge how successful a course has been and if information was retained.
Even a brief test that maybe asks them to perform one task or answer a few questions can be helpful. This might also be used to uncover any areas where employees are still struggling so training can be adjusted.
Whatever you do, just remember that nothing is perfect the first time around. Always be open to iteration the goal is continual improvement. It’s helpful to keep in mind that projects aren’t always a once-and-done sort of thing (unless they are). That’s why agile can work well together with instructional design and ADDIE.
Training should be regularly audited, updated, and adjusted as new information becomes available and things change with employees, systems, processes, and more. By regularly evaluating the results of training and adjusting their content accordingly, organizations can ensure employees remain up to date with the latest best practices and their performance continues to improve.
Encouraging Continuous Improvement
To ensure employees stay engaged and continue to retain their training, organizations should consider putting a system in place to encourage continuous improvement. Rewards and recognition for employees who demonstrate they are continuously improving and retaining what they’re learning can be a great motivator.
Feedback on how an employee has improved their work specific to training can also help to keep them motivated and engaged. Organizations can also benefit from encouraging employees to share their knowledge and skills. There’s nothing more powerful than a social organization that builds collaboration and conversations into its core values.
Training can only do so much and all this can lead to a healthier workplace culture, as well as improved performance. Your organization will go pretty far with good training and an environment that encourages learning and growth.
Using Technology To Facilitate Performance Improvement
Organizations can also use technology to ensure employees don’t forget their training and provide spaced practice. There are several solutions available for this purpose, such as online portals and mobile apps. These provide employees with access to essential resources and information in the palm of their hand, enabling them to review their training on the go.
This can be especially helpful for employees working in the field, who may be unable to access a computer.
Sometimes it could be as simple as sending a quick email as a follow-up to a course that reminds employees of an important task. It just takes a small piece of information to trigger people to remember more. There are entire companies that base their technology solutions on microlearning.
If you’d like to discuss what’s possible, schedule a free consultation and we’ll walk you through some available solutions and how they can be used to meet your overall employee retention and training goals.
If organizations want to maximize the performance improvement of their employees, ensuring they don’t forget their training is a great first step. Or possibly one of the most major steps.
There are many helpful strategies for achieving this and any good instructional designer will have lots of these tricks up their sleeve. It all comes down to knowing your stuff, knowing the strategies, and being able to put them into practice when relevant.
Ultimately, enabling maximum performance improvement requires relevance, regular reinforcement, and continual feedback. Luckily there are lots of methods to achieve this, you just need to know how and when to use them.
If you become an expert or work with an expert then it becomes second nature after a while. Employee training can have a profound impact on an organization’s success or failure. It’s either wasted money or efficient workplace transformation and improvement.
When you’re ready to work with an expert, we’d love to discuss your employee training and see if we can add value to your organization with top-notch technical training.