According to the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve, learners generally forget more than half of their newly acquired knowledge in a matter of hours, unless they make a concerted effort to review and retain the learned material.
The challenge this presents to learning and development leaders is significant. How can you build learning programs that stick with participants for the long-term?
The ripple effect of creating sticky learning programs is far-reaching. Beyond increasing the skills and knowledge base of employees, training has other significant organizational impacts. According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD), training increases profit margins by about 24%. Furthermore, research shows employees cite their training as the number one factor in recruitment and retention. In the 2022 Workplace Learning Report, “opportunities to learn and grow” was named the top driver of a great work culture, a massive shift from just two years earlier when it was ranked ninth on the list.
Three Strategies For Sticky Learning
With so much riding on creating effective training programs that stay with learners, here are three strategies L&D leaders can implement to ensure a boost in knowledge and application transfer post-delivery.
1. Implement Team-Based Simulations
There’s a reason simulations have become a top-ranked training method – their success in developing management and critical-thinking skills in learners is proven. By creating a safe, consequence-free learning environment that allows managers to make decisions and learn from their mistakes and successes, simulations, and particularly those that are team-based, are an effective tool for developing critical business skills and ensuring post-training application transfer.
Simulations that incorporate an element of gamification are particularly effective. However, it is important to note that not all simulations are equal. Those that are excessively realistic can result in a negative impact on learning outcomes. As Nathan Kracklauer, Chief Research Officer at Abilitie explains, there are three reasons simulation design can overdo realism:
- Complexity obscures learning outcomes: The more detailed the representation of reality is, the more complex it becomes. This can create confusion resulting in a reduction of clarity and obscure outcomes.
- Complexity uses learners’ time inefficiently: The higher the levels of fidelity, the more indeterminate learning outcomes become and the more difficult and time-consuming it is to learn to use the simulation.
- Realism distracts from learning outcomes: The additional cognitive load learners carry when a simulation is too real, approaching the Uncanny Valley, the more the learning process is inhibited.
2. Organize Peer Accountability Groups
Once the delivery of a team-based learning program is complete, creating ongoing peer accountability groups is a highly effective way to keep new skills and knowledge top of mind for learners.
The higher degree of success that is accompanied by undertaking an endeavor with peers has been repeatedly proven, including by researchers at Indiana University. In their study, researchers who studied patterns of gym attendance found significantly higher monthly attendance among married couples than those who had joined without a partner. Dropout rates were lower among couples as well, 6% versus 43%.
Peer accountability groups apply the same principle — learners stay more motivated when engaging with their peers, thus leading to better outcomes for sticky learning.
3. Encourage Ongoing Coaching by Managers
Managers play a critical role in each phase of the learning process. Not only can their endorsement of a training program be a key factor for a learner’s participation, but managers also have the power to provide support that allows participants to engage in training in addition to their everyday responsibilities.
In the post-learning period, managers can help make learning stick by collaborating with participants to create 30-, 60-, and 90-day plans outlining specific actions that call on the newly learned skills. Additionally, managers can create opportunities for learners to apply their newfound knowledge and provide positive feedback around successes, as well as coaching on areas of improvement.
“We have begun to incorporate a simple ‘Start, Stop, Continue’ exercise to close our programs,” said Andy Rosenberg, Abilitie’s Director of Learning Programs. “This is a way for participants to commit to achievable behavior change based on their learnings. We encourage them to share these commitments with their managers; this provides managers with visibility into their team members’ learning experience, as well as an accountability measure to revisit periodically.”
Set Learners Up For Success
Learning and development leaders can set participants up for success and fulfill organizational learning objectives by choosing learning methodologies that keep participants engaged and attentive. Team-based learning in simulation environments, combined with post-delivery support from peers and managers, results in the long-term stickiness that most profoundly impacts learners’ skill and knowledge development. Furthermore, the positive impact of successful L&D programs will show in employee satisfaction and retention across your organization.