How To Maximize Knowledge Retention For Employee Training
The “forgetting curve”, proposed by German psychologist Herman Ebbinghaus in 1885, is an actual mathematical representation of the exponential rate at which we lose a memory “if no attempt is made to retain it”. Roughly 70% of a memory is lost within the first 24 hours. While this principle has been known for over a century, the actual practices and attempts at retaining information are outdated in many arenas of life; from grade school to corporate and employee training.
Following are 3 tested and proven tips to improve retention in a corporate learning environment.
- Immediate application and repetition.
For the purpose of professionals learning to use specific programs and perform particular skills, the chief form of “attempts to retain” should involve using the learned skill immediately after or even during training. As memory retention is a time-sensitive model, to maximize results it makes sense to recall and apply the information as soon as possible. In a series of contemporary memory experiments by Dr. Roediger of the University of Washington St. Louis, active recall was tested by having subjects watch a slide show of images then having a portion of subjects simply write down as many images as they could remember immediately after. When tested at a later date to recall images, the group that was forced to actively recall the information and write it down, significantly outperformed the group that had no such activity. Similar experiments consisting of reading science essays followed up by immediate booster quizzes yielded commensurate results when tested on the information at a later date. Immediate recall interrupts the forgetting curve at its most nascent stage of decline when the memory is basically still entirely intact. What this means in the context of a traditional lecture or presentation, is basically to have a more engaging presentation where students are initially presented with information, then immediately challenged with questions to answer. Regularly spaced repetition of the skill will continually reset the forgetting curve till it becomes ingrained as a long term memory.
- Microlearning in knowledge nuggets.
The newly dubbed “microlearning” is an emerging popular learning format. It is made up of “microcontent” – or small chunks of information that can be easily digested. These bite-size pieces of information are now considered to be one of the most effective ways of teaching people new information because it helps the mind retain knowledge easier. Microlearning doesn’t rely on you to process a large amount of information before breaking it down. Microlearning includes very short lectures or modules with clearly defined learning goals for each section. This allows a user to hone in on a particular skill, then given the immediate opportunity to practice the skill after. This learning principle can be applied to a long traditional presentation as well by segmenting the lecture into clearly defined chunks and corresponding recall practice sessions.
- Contemporary solutions: eLearning, mobile learning, etc.
eLearning and mobile learning are excellent candidates to apply the ideal teaching methods to. There is the opportunity to tailor easy-to-access learning programs to the digital world in a plethora of interactive ways. Digital training is ideal because it is available 24/7; students can learn, practice and review at their leisure. There are some young start-up companies that understand these principles. Onscreen contextual guidance in the form of step-by-step walkthroughs is one example. By guiding people through an online process, where he/she clicks through the process himself/herself, the likelihood that the person will remember how they performed certain processes, is greatly higher. Learning the skill while performing the skill is one of the most efficient methods there is. These systems are typically used to optimize employee training on internal applications and can be easily integrated into CRMs, like Salesforce. The GRE/GMAT test prep startup Magoosh forgoes the traditional heavy textbook approach in favor of short interactive lectures and a student dashboard that monitors student progress. Code Academy in a similar vein has interactive tutorials to teach students how to code. Because learning can be tedious, Code Academy makes coding fun. There is a mix of “fun lessons, practical exercises, and rewards for progress”. There is more than one way to learn a language. You can choose the process that works best for you.
Offsetting Mr. Herman Ebbinghaus’s forgetting curve should be the primary focus of any type of training system. How we train, how we follow up training, and then how often we revisit and refresh our skills are the keys to maximizing long term retention with our employee training methods.