Training Retention

What is Training Retention?

The definition of training retention refers to a person’s capacity to absorb and recall learned information. Retention preserves learning and experience in one’s memory. It is the ability to make new knowledge stick for a long time. Training retention reinforces, strengthens, and supports new knowledge and skills. What participants do after training is more important than what happens while they are there. 

Challenges Faced by Learning and Development Leaders

The “forgetting curve” is a common challenge that learning and development (L&D) and human resource (HR) leaders face. It refers to the phenomenon of learners forgetting information and skills they acquired during a training program.

According to the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve, learners can forget a significant amount of information over time, with up to 60% being forgotten within 20 minutes of the training experience, 70% within 24 hours, and 80% within 31 days. To overcome this, L&D and HR leaders must recognize that forgetting is a natural outcome of how the brain processes and discards information.

One strategy to combat the forgetting curve is to incorporate practical, hands-on activities allowing participants to apply what they have learned in the real world. This helps to solidify the learning and make it more memorable. Additionally, spaced repetition is a technique that involves repeating information at increasingly longer intervals to help retain information over time.

Performance maintenance tools must be part of the L&D strategy and budget from the start to prevent the knowledge and skills acquired from being lost over time. By providing ongoing support and resources, such as refresher training and job aids, L&D and HR leaders can help participants continue to build on what they have learned.

What’s the Importance of Training Retention?

A company’s greatest asset is its employees. Their performance directly affects and sustains business growth and success, so training and development is a crucial investment. 

The importance of training is so embedded into business strategies that employers invested an average of $1,286 per employee in 2019. And that amount continues to increase each year.

blog training impact - the cost of not training is high - Hone graphic

Studies show that organizations that invest in employee development experience throughout the employee lifecycle have: 

  • Better workplace relationships and peer collaboration
  • Boosted job satisfaction and morale
  • Enhanced company interest (i.e., Attract top talent)
  • Higher sales and profits
  • Improved employee retention
  • Increased productivity and workplace engagement

New skills and knowledge increase employees’ value and improve organizational performance. But employees need to retain training to apply new abilities and information. Imagine measuring the return on investment of training if participants fail to retain information. If stakeholders relate this investment to the forgetting curve, organizations might believe they lose around $900 per participant within a day. Dedicated L&D initiatives and support systems promote employee engagement and motivation. They also encourage a competitive and resourceful workforce. Here are examples of companies that have achieved significant results through effective training retention strategies.

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3 examples of companies that achieved significant results through training retention strategies

1.     Amazon’s training program improves customers’ experience

Amazon’s User Experience Design and Research Apprenticeship is a yearlong program to help improve customers’ experiences. It is an upskilling initiative to enhance employees’ skills for new and existing job requirements.Participants can train in person or online. Since many employees work full-time and have families, the educational strategy focused on making training available virtually with flexible hours. In addition to helping individuals gain career-driven knowledge and abilities, the program improves employee retention and loyalty. Amazon is one of the most successful companies in the world and attributes employee engagement as one of its driving factors. 

2.     Chipotle improves employee retention through training mentoring program

Unlike their other fast-food competitors, Chipotle isn’t dealing with high turnover. In 2018, the company created employee development plans. The initiative aimed to provide career growth opportunities and strengthen the connection between employees and the brand. Additionally, the company built a foundation to reestablish operational standards and ensure new and existing crew members remain on top of best practices. As a result, accuracy, timing, and other frontline tasks improved. Further, workers are more dedicated to the organization, reducing the cost of turnover, recruiting, and hiring. 

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3.     Sephora’s diversity and inclusion blunder

The make-up retailer, Sephora, closed all stores in 2019 for a one-hour training workshop on diversity and inclusion. The lecture-only experience did not engage employee engagement, conversation, or feedback. And the data from a Racial Bias in Retail study over the course of 2019 to 2020 illustrated that employees failed to retain training information. Since then, the corporation decided to increase its DEIB action plan to mitigate the adverse effects of bias.

What are the Challenges in Improving Training Retention?

3 Common Reasons Why Employees Fail to Retain Training

Employees fail to retain training for three common reasons: lack of interest and motivation, insufficient repetition, and lack of association.

  1. Interest and motivation play a critical role in how the brain processes and retains information. Learners who are uninterested or unmotivated may lack the effort to preserve information for longer periods. To increase interest and motivation, trainers can use strategies such as gamification or interactive learning activities that make the learning experience engaging and relevant to the learners.
  2. Repetition is another critical factor in retention. When learners repeat or practice a task, they reinforce the learning and better retain it in their memory. Without support after a learning event, the “one and done” strategy means that participants could forget what they learned and fail to overcome barriers to translate learning to improved performance. To overcome this, trainers can incorporate spaced repetition techniques or provide ongoing opportunities for learners to practice and apply what they have learned.
  3. Association is also crucial to retention. Individuals learn more quickly and retain information longer when they pay attention to the content’s meaning and significance or associate it with real-life scenarios. Theorized training without application can be too abstract for learners. To address this, trainers can use real-life scenarios and examples to make the training more relevant and practical for the learners. They can also provide opportunities for learners to apply what they have learned to real-life scenarios to solidify their understanding and retention.

How to Address the “Forgetting Curve” & Other Challenges in Training Retention

1.     Set SMART goals

According to a McKinsey & Company article, 70% of training programs fail to achieve their goals. Education programs need clear targets that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). 

For instance, positive workshop feedback is not an accurate indication of results. While participants may have enjoyed (been interested and motivated by) the event, their satisfaction may not translate to training retention without a method to measure the results. 

Administering assessments at the beginning and end of the program can show learning gains. And leaders can show stakeholders the behavior change differences in participants before and after training. Additionally, evaluations demonstrate the importance of the event to learners. 

2.     Space out learning events

Break up training programs into multiple shorter modules with spaced intervals. This strategy reintroduces sessions multiple times over several days, weeks, or months so learners recall information numerous times. 

Individuals will better retain information long-term when they repeat or practice tasks. Spaced-out learning also reduces the loss of knowledge with one-time learning by repeating training after certain intervals.

3.     Apply learning to the workplace

Participants better remember things that relate or are relevant to their environment or needs. Knowledge and skills directly applicable to their professional duties help them understand how training will impact their work. 

For instance, simulations demonstrate how learning objectives apply to the real world. Before using their new skills, they can see the benefits or consequences in a risk-free environment. Trainers can create a narrative with situations, characters, and other content related to the job.

3 Best Practices for Creating a Training Retention Strategy

1.     Incorporate active learning techniques into training programs.

Trainers can bump learning retention statistics by crafting interactive and engaging content. The best training retention practice is incorporating active learning techniques into training programs. 

A 2020 Workplace Learning Report from LinkedIn highlighted that 36% of global trainers need help with employee engagement. Different learning styles work more effectively with other people. Therefore, it is vital to choose the appropriate learning method or technique – such as instructor-led vs. hands-on vs. visual cues – or provide a combination to boost learning retention.

The below list is various learning methods and their expected retention percentage according to the learning pyramid or cone of learning:

  • Teaching others – 90%
  • Practice by doing – 75%
  • Discussion group – 50%
  • Demonstration – 30%
  • Audio/visual – 20%
  • Reading – 10%
  • Lecture – 9%

In almost all cases, multiple channels have the highest training retention rate. Blended learning combines the training methods, such as traditional face-to-face learning with eLearning or cohort groups with autonomous learning.

2. Create a supportive learning environment that promotes retention.

A supportive learning environment promotes retention. Around 42% of global L&D professionals note a need for a learning culture in corporations. Evidence-based strategies support ongoing learning, most involving practice distributed over time.

Company culture sets procedural and behavioral norms. The work environment, policies, goals, attitudes, and expectations significantly influence training retention. The organization’s learning climate and environmental factors can impact training success and retention.

3. Provide ongoing training and development opportunities for employees.

Continuous learning in the workplace builds upon previous classes and training programs to encourage employees to embrace, retain and expand knowledge over time. Organizations can start by training new hires to fulfill their positions and continue with ongoing learning initiatives to help their career growth.

Companies that demonstrate an ongoing commitment to participants’ success extend their engagement. Employees feel encouraged by an organization that supports their development to improve their skills. Therefore, they need the proper tools and resources to perform their tasks and excel in their positions, including continuous training programs. 

Training Retention for Learning Leaders

Learning is essential, but retention leads to applying new knowledge and skills while encouraging the achievement of results and organizational goals. Therefore, what happens after participants leave training is more important than what happens while they are there. Training retention strategies are the natural next step toward improved performance. As such, retention extends employee engagement, and learners can demonstrate a commitment beyond training delivery. Ultimately, if participants do not retain the knowledge over time, they have not really learned. 

By strengthening learning retention, learning leaders can get more value from professional development, capacity building, and training investments. L&D initiatives need deliberate and effective training retention support to reinforce and apply learning objectives in the workplace. 

Training creates a mutually beneficial collaboration for the participants and the organization. Employees learn new skills and build on existing ones, which, in turn, makes them more valuable, improves their performance, and makes them more productive.

Additionally, retention programs can deliver essential data about successful learning and performance outcomes and needed changes to learning events. L&D leaders can construct impact studies that look before and after training, prove the value, and explain the tremendous benefits clearly. 

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