Learning Methods

Learning Retention: How to Maximize Your Training Efforts

Let’s pretend you are at seminar – the speaker is engaging, the presentation is interesting and you feel like you learned something new that you can apply to your job. How much do you think you’ll remember the next day? All of the information? Half of the information? How about a third?

Scientific research shows that people forget 70% of new information within 24 hrs. Shocking isn’t it? What’s more shocking is that Americans spend an estimate of $70 billion dollars a year in corporate training.

As an HR professional, manager or trainer, you want to maximize your training ROI, and you want to make sure that employees retain and apply what they learn. The good news is that there are many things you can do to improve memory retention. But first, let’s get rid of a couple of myths about memory.

Myth #1: “Forgetting is the failure of memory”

Neuroscientists say that forgetting is adaptive. We live in a fast-paced, busy world that is constantly feeding us new information. Television, news, media and advertisements are all around us every second of the day. In response, the brain appropriately filters out information that is no longer being used, and that is no longer important.

Forgetting is not a failure of memory – on the contrary – it is a fundamental part of the entire memory system. It is an active, normal and desirable component that helps us learn what really matters and forget what doesn’t.

Myth #2: “If the information is relevant, I will remember it”

While some people might think that if a piece of information is important to us, we will hold on to it a little longer, the answer is no.

People forget 70% of new information within 24 hours regardless of what the information is. It affects everyone the same way. Forgetting works independently of phenomena such as IQ, age and relevance.

Overcoming the Forgetting Curve

In 1885, German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus developed the forgetting curve. His studies show how information is lost over a period of time where there is no attempt to retrieve it. In other words, use it or lose it.

The brain uses this simple algorithm to decide what information to keep and what information to discard. For example, when you learn a new process at work and use it again the same day, then the next week and so on, the brain says “this is important, I better keep it!”

Conversely, if you attend a conference but don’t use the information until two weeks later, your brain most likely will have discarded what you learned. The minute you stop learning (reading, listening, watching), you start forgetting. Again, use it or lose it.

Maximize Your Training ROI

If you want your learners to retain new information, you must make sure that they use it within the hours and days after training. You must provide your employees with opportunities to recall the information and therefore reinforce learning.

In neuroscience, learning is called “encoding.” This is a one-time process that stores new information in the brain. To improve retention, learners only need to retrieve that information. Even talking or thinking about it serves as a boost to the brain that resets the forgetting curve.

For example, football players are required to practice almost every day, and for many hours, because true retention and transfer requires learning, practice and repetition. It is the same for musicians. They practice and practice for hours until they know the songs by heart.

We know that practice and repetition is true for everything, so why don’t we apply it to training?

Watch our on-demand webinar to learn more about retention techniques and maximize your training:

Booster Learning Webinar

SEM Specialist at BizLibrary