Why Do Employees Forget Their Training?

When employees are sent to training, they are expected not just to retain the information, but also to be able to apply it to the job when they return from training. However, one of the major dilemmas with training is that trainees do not remember most of what they have learned in class. In this blog post, I will cover some of the most common reasons employees forget.

The first and probably most common issue is that the training was not engaging enough to begin with, so employees could not concentrate on it. As a result, they did not gain much from it. To solve this issue, instructional designers should aim to make their training, even if it is plain and boring, interesting and engaging. This can be achieved through inserting lively but informative movie clips and role plays into the course. Additionally, short quizzes along the way may be helpful as they ensure that the learner is paying attention. To add additional spark to courses, instructional designers may consider serious games, interactive demonstrations, scenarios and simulations.  It is also beneficial to personalize the learning by adding realistic situations and examples relevant to the learner. If the training is meaningful, learners are much more likely to become engaged and retain the content.

Another way to ensure better retention is to chunk information into pieces. As we all know, children have a very short attention span; when it comes to adults, however, we tend to believe that we can dump all the information on them and expect them to know it all at the end. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Our short term memory becomes overwhelmed and cannot process all the information it receives. Therefore, to increase retention, it is beneficial to break longer courses into smaller lessons of no more than 20 minutes in length. This will allow people’s brains to process the information. When instructional designers develop training, they should consider including a workbook or a job aid in their course.  Many learners find going back to the materials very beneficial as they can reference  them at any time. 

Another major cause of forgetting the content or not being able to apply it to the job has to do with timing and relevance.  Oftentimes, managers send employees to training, and then never give them the opportunity to use their newly gained knowledge or skill.  Just like with everything else, if learners do not use what they have learned, they  forget it.  Furthermore, employees are often being sent to trainings that are not relevant to their jobs; therefore, they do not see any value in them.

To conclude, I’d like to say that even though employers often blame instructional designers for creating ineffective courses, a lot of times, the root cause of poor retention is not related to the design of the course, but rather other external factors that need to be taken into consideration.

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