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The human brain doesn’t retain a lot in terms of memory, and 19th-century psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus’s forgetting curve shows just how rapidly new information is lost if we don’t have the opportunity to put it into practice quickly.
Just 12 percent of professionals use their newfound skills right away.
This means taking people out of work and putting them through a formal, structured class (where they might even be tested with the accompanying assumption they know what to do if they pass) and then putting them back in the workplace doesn’t actually influence the performance.
Being expected to retain large volumes of information all in one go is like trying to drink from a firehose—sure, you absorb a little bit, but the majority washes over you without sinking in.
Fortunately, though, there are employee education tactics to make knowledge “stickier” and avoid the forgetting curve.
Microlearning is also an effective way to improve uptake and engagement.
Eighty-five percent of all educational content is either forgotten or rendered useless within six weeks of learning it, which indicates that traditional training might not be the most effective way for people to learn.
Having team members share how they’ve applied what they learned is one of the most effective ways to overcome the forgetting curve and to ensure behavior change (which is usually the goal of employee education). These informal interactions can be brief; think of them more as a huddle than a formal check-in, as discussing what has been learned in conversation can help make knowledge stick.
Another way to bypass the effects of the forgetting curve in employee education is to build learning experiences. For example, an employee would need to be able to demonstrate and apply specific behaviors before learning something else. This type of information “stacking” creates a strong foundation and avoids learning loss. Over time, the lower levels of the “stack” become more and more ingrained.
To ensure that you’re stacking knowledge efficiently, request feedback from your team members. You can always fix something that’s not working.
Use laptops, tablets, smartphones and desktops for learning purposes. The more user-centric your learning content is, the more it will become a reliable resource.
Calculate which types of devices or learning styles are being used most often by your team. Maybe the majority of employees seem to tune into podcast-style micro-content on their smartphones, in which case you might like to add more audio formats to your learning toolkit.
Formal learning has a place in corporate training, as long as it’s equally as engaging and effective as other types of education. Intersperse formal learning with other types of employee education, such as microlearning, feedback loops, and self-directed learning.
When designing your learning processes, go for a blended approach with multiple touchpoints. Don’t just have a lecture-style marathon. Instead, add a post-workshop task and follow-up sessions to round out the learning and reinforce the transfer of knowledge.
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