In recent years, the topic of training retention has garnered greater attention. ROI experts Jack and Patti Phillips argue that this increased attention is a result of training sponsors who apply pressure on training professionals to focus on measurement and evaluation. They also make the case that training and development departments struggle to meet these demands and suggest that when learning professionals fail to demonstrate that training retention occurs as a result of their programs, those departments are likely to experience either budget reductions or elimination. Traditionally, efforts to increase training retention are approached with techniques that follow one of two major philosophies: a performance support philosophy or an instructional design philosophy.

The Performance Support Philosophy

Performance support philosophies focus on experiences on the job and are perhaps best typified by the efforts of Morgan McCall and his colleagues at the Center for Creative Leadership, who promote the 70/20/10 technique. The argument for this technique is that 70 percent of learning retention is a result of challenging assignments, 20 percent comes from developmental relationships, and 10 percent is the result of coursework and training. Proponents of this framework argue that increased retention results from ensuring that the educational experience contains each of these three components at the appropriate levels. Critics of performance support philosophies argue that there is a lack of empirical evidence to support the effectiveness of these techniques.

The Instructional Design Philosophy

The instructional design theory promotes efforts that focus on the instructional makeup of courseware. It is based on the belief that adult learners retain 5 percent of what they hear, 10 percent of what they read, 30 percent of what is demonstrated to them, 50 percent of what they do with a group and 75 percent of what they practice. This view of training retention drives the approach of learning experts like Boaz Amidor, the head of corporate and marketing communications at WalkMe Inc., who argues for repetition, microlearning and e-learning as a means of increasing training retention. A criticism of learning retention efforts that follow the instructional design philosophy is that they fail to focus on variables outside of the instructional environment that are known to impact retention.

The Inclusive Training Model

To address the shortcomings of these two major philosophies, I recommend the inclusive training model. This model focuses on the three major training stakeholders, trainer, employee and business leader and their roles during the three phases of training retention: pre-training, training and post-training. The components of this approach align with both the 70/20/10 approach for learning retention as well as the instructional design philosophy.

Before training takes place, business leaders must ensure there are clear goals that the student must meet as a result of the training. Employees must ensure that they understand the goals, and the trainer must be aware of the performance goals and tailor the instruction and instructional activities to support the desired result.

During training, the business leader should ensure that there are no distractions, the employees should give their full attention to what is taking place in the instructional environment, and the trainer should apply best practices as it relates to training delivery.

When the training is complete, the business leader must ensure adherence to the support system that was determined before the training, and the trainer should provide the business manager with data that quantifies the employee’s performance during the training session. The employees must monitor their progress against the agreed-upon goals, leverage mentoring programs and take advantage of the post-training support infrastructure.