In 1885, German philosopher Hermann Ebbinghaus developed the Ebbinghaus Curve, which shows how quickly we forget new learning. If there is no reinforcement to the learning, according to Ebbinghaus, recipients will forget approximately 40 percent over the first 24 hours and 60 percent over 48 hours.

The ultimate measurement test for any professional development program is these questions: How much of what the participants learned through the program actually becomes part of their personal practice? What do they now do differently as a result of the training, and what new learning do they apply in the workplace? Do their new skills make the organization stronger?

Here is the hard part: How can you ensure that your development program passes the test? Start by identifying the most important factors to consider when designing training: timing, location and reinforcement.


Begin by asking, “Is this the right time? Why provide development for these individuals right now? Are they facing a specific challenge?”

All training professionals know that professional development can be challenging. It will stretch and create discomfort. Ask yourself whether the potential participants are ready, willing and able to handle the training:

  • Are they really willing to expose themselves to some uncomfortable situations in order to learn about themselves?
  • Do they have the bandwidth, and what else may distract them and possibly decrease their commitment?
  • What’s their current skill and experience level?
  • Is this an adequate platform to get the most out of the program?


Being placed in an unfamiliar and challenging situation forces us to reorganize how we think about our role, our relationships with colleagues and the organization we belong to. This is the essence of development.

Physically removing participants from their normal working environment allows them to bond as a group and provides a safe space to experiment with and rehearse new skills and behaviors. When that’s not possible, create an unfamiliar environment using simulations, which will challenge them to develop new working relationships with colleagues and to work on topics relevant to their organization and the people who work there, but in a new way. In addition to helping employees see the organization from a different perspective, simulations will enable them to practice a host of leadership skills, including working as a team, planning and aligning activities, and communicating ideas.


Unfamiliar challenges trigger development, but that’s just the first step – the learning needs to be carefully supported through further interventions as well as active reflection, providing learners with the tools to take control of their own development. Development is highly personal, but it is also social and relational. Participants need support, which you can provide in the form of peer groups that create the social capital that drives change and improvement in a business.

But development needs to go to the next stage: to be fully embedded back in the workplace. There are a number of ways you can help learners accomplish this goal. Active learning approaches can be useful in embedding the lessons; assign tasks and projects that challenge learners to work together across the business and continuously test and apply their leadership skills. Teaching assignments for the learners are useful, too. After all, why invest in a group’s learning without expecting them to pass it on? This distributed learning consolidates development and spreads good practice.

That’s What Gets Results.

Investing time in exploring how you will structure, design and support training development will pay dividends in the long term.