Reasons for Poor Employee Learning Retention and How Can Organizations Improve it

Viren Kapadia July 26, 2021
Reasons for Poor Employee Learning Retention and How Can Organizations Improve it

Retention is Key to Learning

It is a common fact that the objective of the training is to enhance the skills and knowledge of individuals for their development and consequently, as employees, contribute to corporate goals with higher levels of productivity. Trainers too are embedded with this purpose but at the same time understand that the intent will fall flat if the imparted know-how is not retained for future application. It is thus important to recognize that the element of retention is the most critical component of any external stimulus to prosper. No retention, no application, no gains, and money down the drain.

Globally, millions of dollars are expended on training. Less than optimal outcomes for this spends are a cause worth exploring and for finding solutions so that training becomes a true value proposition.

Review Training Methodology

Studies in the matter have revealed that the lack of the transition of acquired information from short-term memory to long-term memory, which is the essence of retention, perhaps lies in the training itself. Mode of delivery and composition of content are essential components that need to be examined in depth to get a grip on and find answers to the puzzle of retention.

To understand this further, imagine a classroom situation with around 50 odd trainees listening to a lecture with text on the blackboard. Within minutes, attention will flag, some participants may nod off, the backbenchers will find other diversions, some will doodle, and the front benches will pretend to be attentive. All of us have experienced this familiar situation at some point in time. The trainer is also aware but is helpless as the teaching is structured as such. He delivers, answers a few questions, and goes away. The students too carry on to the next activity. Training imparted, a box ticked but objective not fulfilled. Outside of the class, there will be little retention. Way back in 1885, the concept of the Forgetting Curve was theorized by Hermann Ebbinghaus which postulates that about 70% of new information is lost within 25 hours if no attempt is made to retain it.

Reasons for Poor Recall

The above example reveals the following clear insights on the reasons for poor employee learning:

  • Monotonous delivery is boring and not conducive to learning;
  • Texts and readings are at best incidental to absorption of knowledge;
  • Pushing large volumes of information is not helpful and creates cognitive overload;
  • Group dynamics are inimical and disruptive;
  • Long time frames and single sittings create ennui and disinterest;
  • Retention is effort elastic.

The Way Out

Corporations and trainers can derive solace from the above lessons. Answers to improving retention lie within the aforementioned reasons. Effective countering actions are the way forward. These are enumerated below:

  • Design training programs structure should be focused and seamless without disconnect with real-life situations;

  • Delivery should not be monotonous. Multi-channel, multimedia options that involve active participation to be used for delivery;

  • Content should be informative without overload. Specific, to the point, and relevant to the context content will have better acceptance. Relatable narratives provide greater comprehension and add a sense of reality for long-lasting memories. Trainees that find information that identifies with on-the-job situations and issues will be more receptive to the knowledge and remember it for longer;

  • Nugget/small chunks better Avoid large volumes, provide information in nuggets, bite sizes which makes it more manageable for the brain to retain; Focus and concentration is heightened with microlearning which aids better recall; Curating such course content is also easier as the subject matter is broken down to specifics making grasping concepts and ideas simpler;

  • Shorten training sessions Having many short length interlinked modules instead of a copious one, will not only cover all the essentials but help in creating long term memory; Small sessions give time to the trainee to process the information and boosts retention capabilities;

  • Test, test, and test Knowledge imparted must be tested frequently. But the tests must be interesting and interactive. Quizzes, Q&As, Case studies, Simulations, Feedback, etc. are some ways to improve trainee involvement and test learning. Participation and engagement enables faster absorption of content;

  • Reiterate and Refresh frequently Key knowledge points must be enunciated frequently during and after modules. Essentials of what has been just taught should be captured and presented in summaries, briefs, and reviews as reiteration is a good technique for encouraging stickiness of learning.

  • Motivation triggers Since retention is effort elastic, the trainee must be able to see the value it brings him/her. Corporations must drive home the benefits that will occur to a trained employee. Self-development and improved skill set improve the employability, better prospects of promotion and placement to higher grades, stand out amongst peers, recognition, etc. are some motivational factors that should be made clear to the person being sent for training. A motivated trainee will have greater retention capacity because he/she is aware of the benefits that will accrue by learning the new knowledge. Learning with a well-defined desired purpose goes a long way in its internalization.

In sum, retention will go up if training is well designed, engaging, and meaningful. Short interactive sessions with multimedia use and back home real work situation linkages, tested frequently with reiterations are the keys to a higher degree of knowledge retention.

Adapt to New Technologies

But how does one go about implementing the above features in training programs? A simple way is to go digital. New technologies enable off-the-shelf and customized training solutions that incorporate the above features. LMS platforms tailored to specific requirements provide engaging content, omnichannel, anytime-anywhere learning, multi-media, and gamification, scalable and flexible tools that can adapt to emerging challenges. Joining hands with companies that have expertise and domain knowledge of this area will be a good option. Solutions provided by Gyrus Systems will give your company a head start in your employees' training journeys leading to better returns and a satisfied workforce. Their LMS uses state-of-the-art technology that is 100% cloud-based, easily deployable, and simple to use. Such tools can get the best out of training and facilitate learning retention for long-term corporate advantage.