Your Employees Aren’t Learning Anything: Here’s How You Can Change That

We aren’t the best at retaining information

Here’s something you’ve probably heard before: we human beings aren’t great at remembering information we’ve learned.

In fact, this 19th century German scientist had proven that in what he famously called The Forgetting Curve, a piece of data psychologists still refer to to this day. According to him, humans forget about 50 percent of the information they learned within just an hour. And by the end of the week, you will have forgotten as much as 90 percent of the information.

So imagine, your employees walk out of a corporate training session and come into work the next day having remembered, what, about 30 percent of what they learned?

And what’s worse is that a recent 2020 Training Industry Report shows that, in the US, about 1,000 dollars were spent per employee on training costs alone in 2020. That’s thousands upon thousands of dollars spent on Learning and Development that is barely applied in the workplace.

Corporate training can be beneficial to your employees when done right and applied properly.

How do I help my team remember what they learned in training?

Practical over theory

It’s easier to remember something when you’re presented with an actual model or real-life situation and asked to deal with it, otherwise, what’s the point of presenting a generic slideshow that only teaches you the theoretical side of the skill necessary to perform your job?

According to this press release by Gartner, not all employees apply the skills they learn from training, and for good reason. Too many trainers prioritize theory over practice; applying a skill is a completely different ball game from merely learning about a skill.

Look for trainers that put heavy emphasis on the practical side of training; visuals and models for your employees to see and maybe take screenshots or pictures of for future reference, and real-life case studies of what is being taught in training are all examples of practical ways your employees actually remember what they learned.

Get them involved, engage them.

Don’t just let trainers do the talking, let your employees voice their own opinions too. Active involvement during a training session—whether in the form of discussion, interactive material, and gamification—can increase employee engagement, and will surely prevent their eyes from glazing over during training.

When you involve them, you’re demanding more of their attention, and therefore, engaging more of their senses at once—they’re not just using their auditory senses, they’re also seeing, speaking, and activating different of brain muscles that will eventually help them remember what they learned.

So instead of telling them, ask them, inquire and let them theorize and hypothesize not their own. Hold your employees accountable of the content of the training by having them earn the course material, rather than handing it to them on a silver platter.

Encourage them to practice on the job

There’s a well-known Chinese proverb that goes, “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”

 If you want to lessen the chances of your team forgetting almost half of what they learned the same day training ends, you need to—as their leader—encourage them to actually apply the skills at work. This study from the University of Iowa proves that hearing isn’t enough—hands-on experience is what will help your employees remember what they learned and have that newly learned information stick for good.

Give them the green light to make mistakes, you employees will feel more comfortable applying these skills when they know you’re okay with them failing. Let them experiment in a controlled environment, and if you can, have an expert supervise them on-site.

Employees won’t learn a thing if they’re not inspired to

Before you schedule a training session for your team, think about the relevance of the skill in question—will this help team members perform their jobs better, faster, and more efficiently? Do they understand the importance of said skill? Does your team consist of people with varying skill levels?

Always make sure that the training event you’re providing them is relevant to their jobs, appropriate for their level or experience, and is something that will complement their current skillsets.


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