The biggest concern organizations have when they invest in training is retention. By this, I mean having employees retain the material once they leave the class. No company wants to create a program and take employees out of the operation only to have the same issues occur repeatedly. It’s important for training programs to be designed and delivered in a way that increases retention of the content.
So how do we do that? Here are some things I’ve experienced that help employees retain the material:
- Set expectations. Sessions that are required to end at a certain time can backfire. Instructors should not be required to talk for the sake of talking. Employees leave frustrated rather than motivated. Instead of holding people accountable for being in training for a specific amount of time; hold them accountable for the content.
- Make the content relevant. I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but I’m amazed at the number of programs that aren’t practical and offer no takeaways. Today’s corporate training cannot be all theory. Programs need to give participants information about how to apply the information.
- Use models to make a point. I believe participants like visuals. When you can use a visual to make a point, show a process, or demonstrate causality…do it. And give participants copies of it. Or let participants take pictures of it with their cellphones. It helps in the learning process.
- Create engaging activities. Participants expect activities. Clarification: they expect a variety of activities. Having a full-day of training where the only activity is “discuss” isn’t enough variety. This puts some pressure on instructional designers, but if we want participants to be engaged, it’s necessary.
- Take logistics seriously. I realize training isn’t about food and snacks, but the comfort of the room sets the stage for learning. Room temperature, chair comfort, refreshments all factor into the experience. Today’s participants expect WiFi, places to plug in their devices, and a comfortable place to sit. I always joke that the mind can absorb only what the rear can endure.
- Deal with fidgeting. Let’s address the elephant in the room. Anyone who attends training is a busy person. They are not used to being in an all-day (or half-day) session. If you don’t give them something to occupy their hands, then they will reach for their phone. I love the fidget toys from Trainer’s Warehouse – inexpensive and effective!
- Give participants the opportunity to practice. I’ve written before my POV on role plays but there are times when they must be utilized. There’s an old phrase “Telling isn’t training.” We can’t simply tell someone what to do and then say, “Do this when you’re back on the job.” That’s not training.
- Tell participants how to use the information on the job. Speaking of practice, there’s a lot of relevant training that misses the debrief or takeaway moment. Training needs to include not only the knowledge but the application. The value is in the debrief. That’s the learning moment participants will take with them.
Classroom training programs are not dying or dead. They are however, facing higher expectations. Participants are willing to invest their time for training programs that are engaging and provide a takeaway.
Organizations want the same thing. When training is engaging, and offers a takeaway, employees learn. And they remember what they learn. This translates into a valuable investment. It’s all about the investment.
Image taken by Sharlyn Lauby after speaking at the 2016 People Matters Learning and Development League Conference in Delhi, India