Maximizing Learning Retention: Why waste time & money on training if participants can’t practice their newfound skills or engage in long-term learning


Training employees can yield amazing benefits for organizations. For example, a study from the Association for Talent Development found that companies in the top quarter of per-employee spending on training had, on average, 24 percent higher profit margins and 218 percent higher income per employee than firms in the bottom quarter.
It makes sense. Training is a professional investment that pays off in performance and productivity gains, as employees learn to do their jobs more skillfully, effectively, and quickly. This is especially true of writing skills’ development, since writing is so foundational to every aspect of a business.
However, there’s a hidden roadblock that derails many writing courses: The Forgetting Curve.
Developing employee skills can pay off only if the new learning sticks. Unfortunately, most people forget most new information almost immediately. This is called the Forgetting Curve, a formula first tested and articulated by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus in the late 19th Century. Ebbinghaus discovered – and later studies confirmed – that most new information is forgotten almost immediately after learning it, and only a fraction of the new information is retained over time – as illustrated in this chart.

Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve

Sourced from MindTools

If trainees forget what they learned, they’ll simply default to previous habits, behaviors, and skills, yielding no real impact on behavior or productivity.
In other words, it turns out that retaining new knowledge is just as important a process as – and separate from – learning it in the first place. Yet many writing courses fail to account for retention over time.

How do you solve the professional training retention problem?

Repeated exposure is key, but there’s a science to it. Studies have found, for example, that you can’t just throw the new information at a person repeatedly in a brief timespan and expect them to retain it. We must use something called “spaced repetition.” This even works on animals: in one study, researchers trained bees to distinguish sugar water from other stimuli. Some bees were trained every 30 seconds, others every 10 minutes; the latter group learned much better.

Training reinforcement and retention activities also need to be baked into the learning process from the start. When designing in-house training scenarios or selecting training vendors, verify that they include tools and activities that will reinforce the new information and boost skills and information retention over time, like those employed at Hurley Write:

  • Training reinforcement. This easy-to-use platform sends email reminders about concepts and asks participants to engage in short writing tasks and reflect upon how they’re using the concepts. This type of reinforcement has been shown to increase talent retention by 79 percent.

  • Digital library. Includes short videos that remind participants about key concepts, mini-handbooks, and quizzes.

  • One-on-one and group coaching. We use screenshare technology to ensure that your team gets the feedback they need.

  • Customized webinars. These 60-minute webinars are completely customized and can be used for a deeper dive into concepts, for group discussion, or as refreshers.

  • Pre- and post-class writing assessment. Our pre- and post-class writing assessment provides participants with feedback on their writing before and after the workshop and provides analytics in terms of what your team learned in the workshop.

  • Editorial help. Either before or after the workshop, we can provide editorial assistance to your team or individual writers.

If your team needs help applying concepts after the workshop, contact us! We have a great program that will result in long-term results!

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