Training would be much more effective if we could remember all the new information we are exposed to.
According to Psychology Today, there is really no such thing as “photographic memory,” although some people can recall information vividly and in great detail. The phenomenon that comes closest is “eidetic memory,” which shows up in about 2 to 10 percent of children, but virtually no adults. “Eidetikers” can hold onto an image for about half a minute to several minutes after it is gone. If you give them 30 seconds to look at a picture, even after you whisk it away, they can describe it with unusual accuracy and detail.
Wouldn’t that be a great asset to possess, especially in a business situation?
Repetition Is the Key to Retaining New Information
Unfortunately, most of us don’t have an eidetic memory and must learn processes, techniques and concepts the old-fashioned way — by repetition. This is where the saying “Repetition is the mother of all learning” comes from.
When it comes to training, repetition is also the mother of retention. Too often, organizations rely on “one and done” training to teach their managers and agents or advisors new skills. This is the type of training that participants attend once — whether it’s a one-hour seminar, a one-day workshop or a three-day conference — and then go home without getting repeated access to the new material they were just introduced to.
When we are exposed to information just once, we retain almost none of it. Then, when we return to the challenges of everyday work, the chances of detailed recall of the material get lower and lower over time.
According to the “forgetting curve,” within one hour, people will have forgotten an average of 50 percent of the information that was just presented to them. Within 24 hours, they have forgotten an average of 70 percent of new information, and within a week, forgetting claims an average of 90 percent of the new material.
That’s why it’s important to access the new material repeatedly, and in different ways.
Research has shown that “spaced repetition” is key to retaining new information because it has a positive impact on long-term memory. With spaced repetition, new material is presented in growing intervals so that the knowledge is reinforced with each repetition. No one has figured out the ideal algorithm, but in general, if you expose yourself to new material many times, you are much more likely to retain the information than if you read it or heard it just once.
Three Types of Learners
If you are training groups of people, it’s a good idea to present the same information in several different formats so you can make sure everyone understands the concepts. There are three basic types of learning styles: visual, auditory and kinesthetic.
Get More ROI from Your Training
To make sure your training is effective for all three groups, you must build visual, audio and interactive elements into each part of your training. Because different delivery methods will be more impactful with different individuals, the key is to expose the participants to the material many times and in a variety of ways. This will not only boost retention of the material but also help eliminate the “one and done” aspect of a lecture-based training curriculum.
For example, if you have scheduled someone from your home office’s advanced sales department to come in and talk with your agents or advisors about buy/sell agreements, then take a few steps to boost retention of the new material so your organization can get the biggest return on investment:
- Give the participants material to review before the training so they can become familiar with it and be more engaged during the live presentation, since they’ll basically know what to expect.
- Ask the home office instructor to include handouts, PowerPoint visuals, audio clips and video segments during the training so all types of learners can get the most benefit from it.
- Include an interactive review of the new material at the end of the session. It could be an informal, verbal Q&A or a written quiz.
- Have the participants write down how they will apply the new information to their daily work. To make it really sink in, have them report back to the group after a few weeks to determine how they used the new information and to what extent it was helpful.
- Ask the participants to review the material every day for the next week.