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16 Ultimate Ways to Improve Learner Retention in Training

Do you need to improve learner retention in training for your employees? Does this matter? The statistics don’t lie. Research on the forgetting curve shows that within one hour, people will have forgotten an average of 50 percent of the information learned. Within 24 hours, they have forgotten an average of 70 percent of new information, and within a week, forgetting is on average 90 percent of what was learned. So yes, this is a big problem.

As great as your training materials, program design and process to roll out your development is, it means little if no one remembers. So how do you improve learner retention in training? The first thing to look at is what makes an effective learner? There are three important components.

Motivation

Employees must want to learn. They need to be engaged and feel like the learning will be beneficial to them personally. Overall, training must be interesting.

Collaboration

Although learning is individualized, employees need to be supported throughout the training process. This has to be both administratively and also from their peers and manager. Employees need a collaborative environment to succeed.

Retention

And most importantly, information can’t simply be learned and forgotten. It needs to be put into action, learned and retained. Employees should be able to reflect on what’s learned and refine the information over time to better utilize it.

Now that you know what makes a good learner, there are several steps you can take to build knowledge retention. Here are 16 tips to help refine your training program.

1. Make material relatable

In order for employee buy-in, they need to see how the material will benefit their lives directly. So, make training relatable. The brain retains what it deems useful so explain why employees are taking assigned modules and why they will benefit on the job after they complete these. Also, use stories or case studies. If an employee can walk through the process of a new product roll out for example, they can better visualize actually using that product.

2. Use peer to peer learning

Another way to improve learner retention in training is through peer-to-peer learning. Simply put peer-to-peer learning is employees learning from each other. Again, it comes down to buy-in. Whether you have an instructor in a classroom setting or an online tutorial you are taking, employees may feel disconnected from who is teaching the material. But on the other hand, if a coworker is giving an employee a lesson on a new skill for example, they are more willing to listen and more importantly retain the material. 

3. Break material up 

Whether you have a complex topic or a longer tutorial, everyone has only so much attention span. Eventually, even the most patient employees will either zone out or start thinking about something besides what’s being taught. Either way it’s a lose-lose situation. So, a great way to improve learner retention in training is by breaking up the topics into bite-sized pieces.

Bite-sized learning offers several benefits. For one it takes less time. New compliance training for example could be broken into five 20 minutes sessions. An employee could easily fit 20 minutes of training into a busy day and better retain a smaller amount of information. Also, it’s more mobile-friendly for employees who are remote or are traveling for work. And when you make modules more flexible, you in the process improve learner retention in training. 

4. Make it fun

Often training is viewed as a formality by employees. Just like a kid listening to a lecture in a classroom, they can even view it as just plain boring. So, make it fun. There are several methods to make learning interesting even at the employee level. One of these ways is gamification in training. And there’s really no need to reinvent your training sessions. Simply look for places in training modules you want employees to solve challenges and change behaviors. Then add gaming elements at these points in the training process. It can take any topic and make it instantly more exciting.

5. Use repetition

The more an employee hears something the more they are going to remember it. So key topics or skills needed to be memorized should be restated throughout your learning modules. Whether it’s a complex topic where previously training modules overlap each other repeating key points throughout the process or acronyms are built in to learn valuable information, repetition can improve learner retention in training. 

6. Incorporate microlearning

Microlearning is another great way to drive key points into memory. Basically, it involves taking short learning sessions around three to five minutes long with the goal to drive a specific learning outcome. Microlearning can be used both in training programs and also more informally like improving employee performance. However, you choose to apply it in training, it’s beneficial since it involves short bursts of an employee’s attention span. 

7. Go for collaboration

As we mentioned previously, employees learn from one another and it also helps improve learning retention in training. So, by using brainstorming breakout sessions, it’s a great way to accomplish these points. This type of in-person training is best for multi-faceted topics or more free-flowing subjects. It’s a chance to take a topic learned and gather different viewpoints from peers. 

For example, say you hold an employee retreat with keynote speakers from the company. You could then take your employees, divide them into smaller groups and have them discuss what they heard during the lectures. You could use a whiteboard to write what everyone took away from the talks, how they plan to use it within their daily tasks and why each person thinks the information was valuable. This collaboration offers different viewpoints and gives a singular topic more depth. 

8. Get personal

You can make your employees take the necessary training courses, but if they don’t see a personal connection with their daily tasks, they won’t put what’s learned into action. So, to counteract this, make training personal. By using techniques like voice overs, personal aviators and actual company images within your learning modules, it humanizes the process. Employees are more willing to absorb what’s being taught if they perceive a human connection.

9. Build in assessments

In order to improve learner retention in training, you’ll need to assess how training is going overall. One way to do this is by incorporating assessments into your program. These are short quizzes that act as recaps for your employees. So, for example, you have a topic that is broken out into three subsections. After each subsection, employees would be asked four multiple choice questions pertaining to what was learned within a previous training module.

Not only do assessments instantly give employees feedback into how well they are learning a topic, but it also helps administrators’ efforts. Using analytics, you can see how well employees are doing on each training session. If overall scores are low for a particular section, tweaks may need to be made to strengthen parts of the program. 

10. Create visually-appealing content

Developing learning content is just one part of the process. The other key component is training design. You want to vary the types of design elements you use from visuals to graphs to incorporating color. The bottom line is what can you use to catch and keep the attention of the learner throughout the training process? The more elements you can use even within a single training session the better. No one wants to listen or watch a straight lecture for an hour. Breaking it up with interesting elements helps the monotony and aids to improve learner retention in training.

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11. Go for a blended learning style

Some subjects are best learned in person while others are better learned online. The use of blended learning is simply a balance between in-person learning and virtual learning. By using a mixture of both, you break up the way your employees learn. This helps learner retention in training. Plus, it provides the best platform for each new subject learned and creates a more dynamic experience for employees. You can also cross-train the same subject in person and online. While this may seem repetitive, it gives employees a chance to revisit the same subject matter in a different way. 

12. Explain the “why”

Oftentimes employees get that notice in their inbox that they have training assigned. They read the message and wait until the last possible moment to take the training. It’s an afterthought. Why? They simply don’t see the value. So, it’s important to explain why each employee is being given the training rolled out to them. If they understand the value and how it will benefit them in particular, the buy-in will be greater. And when the buy-in is greater so is the learner retention in training. 

13. Train in small groups

Sometimes training can be a bit singular. In other words, each employee has their own training track, gets their modules assigned and takes the training on their own. However, some subjects work better in group training sessions. Group training can take several forms but the end goal is two or more brains are better than one. Ideas can be shared and different viewpoints given. Plus, ideas can build off one another. 

You can incorporate group learning through an LMS by using things like chat functions where employees can communicate with one another on a certain topic. Or you can do this in person by assigning something like a group project to work through as a team. A group project is a great way to use individual skill sets to help others learn. Plus, it shows how different personalities can collaborate together strengthening soft skills in the process. However, you incorporate group learning, it’s beneficial to building lasting learner retention.

14. Throw in rewards and recognition

Another motivating factor for learning is recognition. This comes in several forms from a “shout-out” in a company newsletter, to a tangible gift, to earning badges. Whatever form it takes, building in some healthy competition and rewarding success, is important when it comes to learner retention in training. While ideally, you'd expect employees to jump at learning opportunities, this is not always the case. By adding in rewards, you give employees an additional incentive to not only go through the motions of training, but to do it successfully. 

Just make sure whatever reward you give is for applying what’s learned on the job. As we’ve said before, anyone can take the training, but retaining the information and putting it into action is key. Some examples of rewards may be electronics, flowers, paid time off and office accessories. Not only will employees tie successful training to rewards, but it gives them credibility in the eyes of their peers. So, it carries benefits beyond training retention.

15. Get social

In order to make training more relatable to everyday life, incorporate social media aspects. Just like employees may turn to Facebook groups for questions or LinkedIn for industry trends, social media can also be used within training to help skill retention. For example, add features like course forums, social networks or microblogs. These vehicles will let employees talk to each other about what they are learning. So, training becomes less of a one-time initiative and more of a collaborative continuous learning effort. This will help employees better understand the material learned, gather different perspectives and gain some best practices.

16. Develop brain workouts

Just like you work out physically, the brain benefits from exercises as well. This will help increase learner retention in training. For example, by incorporating things like problem solving and decision making, you improve employee memorization. And these are easy techniques to add to any training module. 

How do you ensure knowledge retention?

We’ve given you several ideas for improving learner retention in training. Although each learning program is unique, forgetting what’s taught is a universal human problem. So that’s why it’s important to look at how you can help your employees retain needed skills. It will strengthen your workforce, but also add value to your individuals. 

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