With all the time and effort it takes to design and develop quality training programs, what can you do to increase the odds that learners will remember what you teach them? Here are five ways you can improve learning — and make it stick.
1. Remember the Rule of Primacy
We tend to remember the first thing we learn. In other words, after a four- or eight-hour training class, learners are most likely to remember what happened in the first hour or two. Keeping classes short (one to two hours) can create a logistics challenge, but it also ensures that your learners are actually able to remember and implement their new knowledge and skills.
2. Use Patterns and Organization
People are much more likely to recognize and remember a pattern than they are text or other verbal content. For instance, if you are teaching a seven-step sales process, create a pyramid, ladder or stairs representing the seven steps. This approach works as mnemonic device to help learners recall each of the steps. Other ideas include color-coding pages in a workbook; creating a diagram (and referring back to it often); or telling a story with a beginning, middle and end.
3. Be Unique
Have you read any of the “For Dummies” books? They tend to be easy to follow and understand because they have unique features such as a “character,” callouts with tips or interesting facts, and a different approach to organizing the content. Beyond written materials, being unique can include asking trainees to create a song or a haiku to help them remember what they learn, creating analogies or using metaphors, and drawing pictures or creating a wall mural as the content unfolds.
4. Use Visuals
Have you noticed the picture boards held up on the sidelines of football games? There might be a picture of a car, an actress, a palm tree and a basset hound on the same board. Who knows what those pictures mean? The players do.
Unfortunately, we’ve all become so dependent on PowerPoint that we struggle to create visuals that aren’t pictures we can insert into a slide. Drawing a picture that represents the content is one way to use visuals, and another way is to use a physical example. I attended a presentation in the 1990s in which the presenter held up a pink packet of sugar substitute and said, “Computers used to take up entire rooms, and now that same power can be had in something as small as this packet.” It was such a powerful — and simple — image, I have never forgotten it.
Take a stroll through a toy store or a dollar store. You’ll be surprised what you’ll find that you can link to the content to help employees remember what they learn.
5. Remember the Rule of Recency
We tend to remember the last thing we learn, which supports the case for shorter and more frequent training offerings. If you keep your training to two or three main points, learners are more likely to remember and implement what you teach them.
People are busy, and information is coming at them all the time, in many formats. Training is critical to your organization’s success, so it behooves you to do the best you can to make it understandable and memorable for these busy learners. Use these tips, and you can improve learning and retention across your organization.