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Why Learning Retention is Key to Employee Training

Everywhere I look these days, it seems that someone is writing an article or hosting a webinar on the science of learning (BizLibrary included). Given the annual spending on corporate training, it only makes sense for organizations to want to improve learning retention and make sure employees are applying what they learn to their day-to-day activities.

What we know about the science of learning

Research on the science of learning dates back to the 1800’s, when German psychologist Herman Ebbinghaus developed the forgetting curve. However, it seems that this topic is becoming more and more relevant these days and here’s why, at least from my perspective.

As organizations continue to see the value in providing ongoing development opportunities to their employees and the amount of money spent on training and development continues to increase year over year, there comes a time when training professionals have to stop and ask themselves, “How do we know if this training program is really working? How can I prove to C-level executives that this investment is worth it?”

Proving ROI on corporate training programs

For some organizations, linking training and development to strategic goals and increased business performance may be easy, but that is not the case for many others. Like it or not, employees simply completing the training is not enough – in fact, it’s not even close.

“Forgetting is a great frustration within the training industry. The reality is that people forget and no matter how much we invest or how hard we work to create great training experiences; the fact remains that people forget. This a normal, natural, necessary process from the perspective of neuroscience. However, recent scientific work shows us way that we can actually overcome the forgetting curve and in turn improve our long term ROI on training.”

Art Kohn, PhD.

Scientific research has revealed that 70% of employee training is forgotten within 24 hours. Now that’s a hard pill to swallow, especially if you are responsible for training in your organization and already spend hours on administering the program or creating custom content.

But the good news is that you can do something about it! By providing learners with opportunities for effortful retrieval after completing a training video or lesson, you can reset the forgetting curve and improve learning retention.

The Forgetting Curve without BoosterLearn

Overcoming the forgetting curve

So what exactly is “an opportunity for effortful retrieval” and how does that work? Effortful retrieval simply means giving learners a chance to recall the new information. Here at BizLibrary, we refer to them as “boosts.”

Once a learner completes a video lesson, they are automatically enrolled in a booster program. Included in that program are four opportunities for effortful retrieval (boosts) in the form of a poll question, a fill-in-the-blank question, a multiple choice question and an open-ended question.

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These short boosts delivered via email, prompt learners to recall specific points from the recently completed lesson, which tells the brain, “this is important information, I need to keep this,” also known as encoding in neuroscience.

Learning Retention with BoosterLearn minimizing Forgetting Curve

Here’s an example to better portray how this process would work: Let’s say you have been experiencing low close rates among your sales reps. You have assigned them a video lesson on “Closing the Sale” in the past, but guess what… Within 24 hours of them completing that course, they forgot 70% of what they learned.

Now, suppose you assign them the lesson again and upon completion of the lesson, they are enrolled in the booster program. Over the next two weeks, they receive the three initial boosts that help them reinforce the key learning points from the video lesson.

The fourth and final boost on day 14 is a thought question, which asks the learner to summarize in their own words how “Closing the Sale” has helped them improve their skills as a seller. Your sales rep with the lowest close rate to date responds,

“I have been able to use the tips provided in the video lesson and have changed my communication style during the final calls. I now understand the importance of owning the sales process and have closed two new deals because of that tip.”

To me, that sounds like a direct connection between employee training and increased business performance!

If you are reading this, you most likely agree that providing training for your employees is very important. As a training provider, we agree, but we also believe that what happens before and after the training is just as important as the training itself.

Interested in hearing more about the importance of providing learning reinforcement to your organization? Check out our infographic on learning retention below:

Learning Retention Infographic

Vice President of Marketing at BizLibrary