What to Do When Employees Forget What They’ve Learned

What to Do When Employees Forget What They’ve Learned

Bravetta Hassell at Chief Learning Officer flags a recent survey showing that relatively little of the information employees receive in corporate training is actually retained, and significant time and productivity is lost recalling forgotten learning:

According to a January 2017 survey on employee information retention by corporate learning management system provider Bridge by Instructure, 45 percent of employees spend at least 15 minutes per week looking up information that was taught in a company training session. For instance, in a company of 1,000 workers, nearly 6,000 hours are spent backtracking information.

This equals lost productivity, which Bridge attributes to infrequent training engagements and a lack of appropriate tools to help learners retain information. … When it comes to employees who want to quickly refer to information to keep them working, they go low-tech using sticky notes (46 percent) and calendar reminders (47 percent). Only 9 percent of employees search out corporate materials like an employee handbook for help, and while verbal reminders may be wildly popular they’re an inefficient way to reinforce training, yet 36 percent of companies continue to deploy them.

CEB research supports the finding that employees are retaining less of the information they are taught. Our 2016 study on developing digital learners found that employees retain and apply just over a third of what they learn at work. As learning and development functions think about how to improve that number, they must consider how learners themselves have changed. As Hassell correctly points out, “a growing number of workers seek out information at the point of need” and L&D is hardly the first place they look for that information. In fact, we know that 76 percent of employees will do what they need to do to learn effectively, taking learning into their own hands. As learners become more impatient, empowered, and networked, we must also reshape our approach in delivering learning experiences and offerings to them.

The key to increasing learning application and reducing the amount of time employees spend “backtracking information” (as Hassell puts it) is to provide an effortless, not just engaging, learning experience. What this amounts to is making learning easier for employees to access, consume, and apply to their future careers, not just current their jobs. Ultimately, we see that creating an effortless learning experience boosts learning application by a factor of 2.7, compared with creating an engaging learning experience.

(CEB Learning & Development Leadership Council members can read the full report here.)