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Employee Training: How to Increase Knowledge Retention


Your organization has put a lot of time and resources into developing your training program, but are your learners retaining the information? Research has long shown that without special efforts to retain knowledge, learners quickly forget a staggering amount of what they are taught—roughly 70% within the first 24 hours according to Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve.

While alarming, this gap in retention does not have to be a foregone conclusion. You can increase knowledge retention for your learners by using the following techniques to engage and focus your audience in a training space conducive to learning.


Provide a Training Environment that Limits Distractions

The convenience offered by new training modalities, such as eLearning and remote participation, has led to learners attending training from less-than-ideal locations. Work demands, telephone calls, texts, and email are just a few of the distractions that impede a learner’s ability to focus on training and retain information.

The Peak Performance Center explains how multitasking can lead to considerable impairment in the ability to retain new information—taking twice as long to learn something as our brains switch between thoughts and tasks. This can be alleviated by securing an appropriate space for your learners.

By placing your learners in an environment free from distractions, you can dramatically improve their retention. Dedicated training facilities are available for individual learners as well as entire classes. For remote learners, interactive modalities such as hybrid learning can help limit multi-tasking by keeping participants engaged and accountable.


Use a Variety of Learning Activities in Your Training

Research by the National Training Laboratory shows that how the material is presented can have a considerable effect on retention levels. For example, pure lecture only leads to a retention rate of only 5%, while active learning methods lead to 90% retention of material.

Demonstration, discussion, and practice by doing are all effective learning methods that lead to higher retention levels. To most effectively influence the retention level of your learners, you should provide a variety of presentation styles.


RELATED READ: 7 Benefits of Incorporating Hands-On Learning into Your Training


Use Discussion to Make Training Relevant to Learners

Learners will be more likely to retain information if they’re able to relate to the content. Group discussion helps learners see the relevance of course material because it allows them to talk through applied concepts. Allowing learners to repeat concepts in their own words and applying them to personal experiences help knowledge retention.


Provide Ample Opportunity to Practice

When participants put new concepts into practice shortly after learning, this greatly boosts their memory strength. Role-playing, simulations, and case studies are excellent tools that help move newly applied skills to long-term memory.

To be most effective, the practice should be applicable to the learners’ experience and position. For example, if you’re providing software training, set up a virtual training lab to provide remote and classroom learners the ability to engage in experiential learning. Using real equipment will provide opportunities for learners to use their new skills on one of their own projects.

Use role-play to divide the class into groups by job type, to make the learning even more applicable to specific learners’ job positions. For remote learners, configure virtual training rooms with breakout rooms for role-playing and group activities.


Encourage Learners to Learn from Each Other

You can further enhance retention by including learners into the instruction process. Develop small group activities where each group teaches a different skill. Take advantage of virtual learning lab tools to encourage learners to share their screens while demonstrating to the rest of the class.

Creating a training environment that is conducive to learning, with activities that foster knowledge retention rates will go a long way towards increasing the effectiveness of your training program.

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