A traditional challenge for training and development departments has been how to foster their staff’s retention of material. Training is often conducted for new staff at the start of their term of employment or once a year. Employees are required to attend and maybe take a short quiz at the end, but the enforcement of retention often ends there.
While some staff might see the relevance of the material and the importance of applying it to their day-to-day activities, most let much of that new information slip from their minds.
The Forgetting Curve
In fact, in an article for Learning Solutions, Art Kohn writes that research on the “forgetting curve” shows that within 1 hour, people will have forgotten an average of 50% of the information they learned in a training session. Within 1 week, that goes up to 90%.
There are many theories on why human retention of such information is so low, but a big reason is the lack of perceived relevance and a related lack of incentives for retention. Many employees attend a training session because it’s mandatory but see no need—whether consciously or unconsciously—to retain what they’ve learned.
An easy way to create such an incentive is by making retention of key information a prerequisite for getting something employees want, i.e., a raise or a promotion.
An Incentive to Retain Information
For example, a company that conducts training on time management and conflict resolution might make promotion to a supervisory role contingent upon passing a test on that material.
Or, a company that has offered training in six sigma or other process improvement topics might make a pay raise for an operations employee contingent on that person’s demonstrating his or her knowledge of that material through a test.
Employers spend a lot of time and effort on training staff. Unfortunately, retention is often extremely poor. One solution for boosting retention is to tie that retention directly to something tangible, relevant, and desirable.
In a follow-up post, we’ll discuss some specific tips and strategies for incorporating knowledge tests into the employee advancement process.