Let’s face it, we all forget things – from the name of someone we’ve just been introduced to in a meeting to the reason why we walked into the kitchen. Our senses are frequently bombarded with visual and aural information and we can often feel overwhelmed with the sheer amount of data that we experience each day.
According to the forgetting curve theory*, information is lost over time when there is no attempt to retain it. In fact, within one hour, people have already forgotten fifty percent of the knowledge presented. The decline in learning retention only increases over time, with seventy percent of information forgotten after twenty-four hours, rising to as much as ninety percent with a week.
Organizations that need to train their employees can find this reality particularly frustrating. After all, companies devote considerable time, money and resources to assure that their employees are provided with the knowledge they need to succeed in their position, meet regulatory requirements, comply with SOPs and contribute to the bottom line.
What Can Be Done?
Modern learning organizations are addressing the problem of forgetting in several ways. One retention strategy is competency based learning, targeted towards the learner’s current job and or a role that they want to qualify for in the future, is more effective for career development. Its objective is to help the learner be better prepared to succeed at their current job, move up the ladder, or start work towards a new career path. A 360-degree assessment, consisting of self-evaluation, peer review and supervisor review, is effective in determining knowledge areas where the learner is strong and identify topics or competencies where additional training is needed.
An on-the-job training checklist is another effective tool to utilize against the forgetting curve. The immediate feedback provided by a colleague observing the completion of tasks by the learner can better address skills gaps and allow for immediate correction by the person assigned to the role of observer.
Other approaches to boost knowledge retention include the use of refresher training, which is scheduled some time after a learner completes an initial course. A microlearning curriculum with short form content is another great way to reinforce the information and concepts shared in previous training sessions.
Post-training quizzes and coursework, discussions, and surveys sent immediately after training are another way to reinforce learning content. Many organizations also utilize secondary surveys post-training to ask learners how they changed their behaviors as a result of what they learned. These additional prompts, asking the learner to consider how they have – or need to – put into practice what they learned can prompt recall or encourage an employee to revisit a knowledge resource.
Survey results also give instructional designers valuable feedback that can help them to improve existing content, consider ways to apply a variety of resource retention strategies and ultimately create training that is more relevant and impactful in the future.
Learning is an Evolution
One of Meridian’s clients said it best: “Learning is not just a single event—it is an evolution.” Organizations are always creating new content and finding new information to share. Learning should be touted as a resource. And companies need to create a culture that encourages staff to look at training resources as an important means to achieve their goals and grow in their careers.
It doesn’t matter if training is happening formally, by way of launching a course from the learning management system, or informally, by sharing information in a meeting or over lunch, learning is constantly happening all around us.
Discover the benefits realized by companies that embrace a culture of learning and development in this interview with Paul Terry, Meridian’s Chief Strategy & Operations.