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How to fix the lack of knowledge retention after a training session

Ana Nastase
2 Sep, 2021
2 m read

First of all: how do we learn?

According to the research conducted by the National Learning Laboratory, people learn in various ways and each of these ways brings different results in terms of the knowledge retention, as it follows:

  • Lecture: passive mode, 5% knowledge retention, auditory style
  • Reading: passive mode, 10% knowledge retention, visual style
  • Audio-visual: passive mode, 20% knowledge retention, audio-visual style
  • Demonstration: passive mode, 30% knowledge retention, audio-visual
  • Discussion: active mode, 50% knowledge retention, audio-visual-kinesthetic
  • Learn by doing: active mode, 75% knowledge retention, audio-visual-kinesthetic
  • Teach others: active mode, 90% knowledge retention, audio-visual-kinesthetic

Basically, there are two learning modes (passive and active), and three learning styles (auditory, visual, kinesthetic), and as it can be noticed from the listing above, learning by doing and teaching others result in the highest rates of knowledge retention. 

Why should you invest in active learning? 

Taking into consideration that we’ve started from the idea of knowledge retention, that’s one of the main reasons. The purpose of any training program is to provide a return on investment, which usually translates into applicable skills that are highly in connection with the retention of information. If the knowledge you’ve gained during training can go with you in the long run, then you’ll be able to rely on it while being asked to perform a certain task. 

Moreover, an active style of learning ensures that you achieve not only some pieces of information on a certain topic, but also other skills, such as communication, decision making, conflict resolution, crisis management etc.

Learn by doing: an efficient way

For example, let’s say you are enrolled into an Agile HR course in which you are only taught theoretical knowledge. That’s great, you gain some insights into a new methodology, you might even have some AHA! moments, but then you go back to your day to day job and you forget to put the information into practice. That means zero knowledge retention in the long run.

On the other hand, let’s say you enrol into the same Agile HR course, but with a different methodology from the trainer, and you’re being asked to come up with a plan to apply the Agile mindset to HR operations, while working in groups with other trainees. This is known under the method of learning by doing, mentioned in the learning pyramid above, which you should keep in mind while coming up with a learning plan for your teams.

Teach others to gain knowledge retention

Beside learning by doing, another method to actively gain information is by teaching others. This is a practice used by corporations all around the world, with great results on the upskilling of employees and on accomplishing learning and development goals. 

One example here is represented by the Googler-to-Googler learning network implemented by Google, which has more than 6000 volunteers who provide knowledge in various ways, from providing 1:1 mentoring to teaching courses and designing learning materials. This approach has lots of benefits, such as encouraging the social learning which is so important nowadays, increasing the knowledge retention rates and upskilling huge numbers of employees around new opportunities. 

You can develop this in any corporation by implementing learning networks where employees take turns in teaching one another a skill they master or a piece of information they’ve gained.

Some (final) thoughts

Learning is a good thing in every format and way you want to deliver it, but not every format and way can ensure knowledge retention, which should be a goal of every training program. Thus, active learning is essential and should always be kept in mind while implementing a learning and development strategy.

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