This edition of Training Industry Magazine challenges us to think broadly about how and when we need to focus on the long-term skills impact of training programs. When it comes to truly impacting the performance of an employee on the job, we have to think beyond the event and focus on the battle against the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve – the consumer of much of our investment in employee development.

I liken an investment in sustaining support for a training program to an insurance policy for the return on investment of the program. Any time we can help employees retain the skills we helped them develop, the more likely they are to use that skill, and that in my opinion is at the heart of great training programs.

At a recent conference, I was amazed to see the degree to which the supply side of our industry is developing innovative ways to help employees retain information. The core of all this innovation is focused on a few key notions that can be included in any program, even the most budget constrained program.

First, your sustainment strategy needs to be relevant to the context in which the learner will consume the content. Having a salesperson watch a one-hour e-learning module on his/her smartphone to brush up before a sales call isn’t likely to work, and will probably be ignored. Second, we need to look for triggers in the employees work environment that can be used to prompt them to refresh a skill. For example, during performance review time (the trigger), it might make sense for a feedback tips and tricks video to be sent out to managers as they prep for their periodic employee reviews. Third, think broadly about what constitutes a sustainment strategy and what tools will be used for reinforcement.

As with any addition to an L&D project, be careful what you introduce into your programs because the learner will become accustom to the quality of your sustainment strategy (meaning: if it is effective then they will engage, if it is not then they will ignore the reinforcement).

This edition of the magazine has a collection of ideas that can help you sustain the impact of learning beyond the event and even how to build sustainment into your program design. The earlier you consider building it in, the less difficult and costly the additions will be.

As always, please feel free to reach out and let us know your thoughts.