No one doubts training is a worthwhile pursuit. But it also needs to pay off. And in order to pay off, employees must remember their training long enough for it to affect job performance.
There are many steps you can take to help boost retention. By far the most important concept to understand is how format influences what we remember.
People tend to remember information better when actively involved with and using it (through our words, our actions, or both). We tend to remember very little of what we read or hear. Seeing is better than reading or hearing, though not quite to the level of doing.
To put our money where our mouth is: here is an excellent visual from Edgar Dale’s book “Audio-Visual Methods in Technology” that nicely illustrates the “cone of learning.” The cone is a concise, memorable way to visualize how much information is retained in each medium.
So, if you want training to really “stick,” you need as many “Say and Do” kinds of activities as possible: performing a dramatic presentation, simulating a real experience, and so on.
Of course, “real experience” can be hard to come by...especially if “real” mistakes are costly. Still, we can get ideas for other formats that still work well in a safe training environment: giving a talk, participating in discussion, watching a video or demonstration, and much more.
In fact, these “safe” methods of learning can be successfully paired with simulations and real-world experience to provide the best retention. For example, conduct a simulation with your managers running a mock emergency. During the course of the simulation, how do they figure out what to do when they get “stuck” or make a mistake, as they inevitably will? If you have eLearning content ready to access and use, it greatly enhances the simulation’s educational aspect (and thus training value).
Likewise, if you have employees trying out a new skill in a real-life situation, you can give feedback about their performance. Then provide a video or web page that addresses the specific performance gaps they experienced. Having tried the real thing, they’ll have new appreciation for the content and will better remember it now that they have context.
By using multiple formats -- including eLearning -- you elevate the retention rate while promoting a “learning culture” in your organization. Put simply, information that’s retained is information that’s used.
And something special happens when you put this kind of retention-friendly multi-media training into place. People perform better at their jobs and, as a result, become more satisfied with their performance. This, combined with the feeling your organization cares enough to invest in their employees, makes them want to stay. And given the current climate of increased job hoppers, you need every resource to keep - and grow - your employees for the long haul.