Learning with post-training refinforcement

There’s a lot of knowledge emerging around the topic of post-training reinforcement and why it’s a critical factor in seeing behavior change, on-the-job application of training, and improved ROI. To help you better understand what you can do to successfully reinforce employee training, we’ve pulled together answers to these common questions:

What is training reinforcement?

Training reinforcement involves providing strategic content as a training follow-up, using the spacing effect to help the brain recall information and transfer it to long-term memory. Post-training reinforcement supports behavior change and on-the-job application by increasing a learner’s retention of knowledge gained during training.

Why do I need to reinforce employee training?

The object of training is for people to learn, but learning is not an event, it’s a process.

In an article with Training Industry, Cynthia Clay describes the learning process in these four steps:

  1. Learn it (being exposed to new information)
  2. Encode it (transferring that information from short-term to long-term memory)
  3. Recall it (retrieving it from short-term or long-term memory)
  4. Apply it (committing that new knowledge to long-term memory)

When employee training only addresses the first step in that process, and the learner needs to use the information several days later, a lack of training reinforcement means they won’t be able to recall what was learned and use it on the job.

Without training reinforcement, the brain has no indication that the information learned is important to keep, and its natural cognitive processes will flush that information away instead of transferring it to long-term memory for future use.

Learn strategies that leverage science to improve employees’ learning retention in this infographic: Science of Employee Training: Learning Reinforcement

How much do people forget after training?

While there are several factors that go into the amount of forgetting that happens after learning something, the research indicates that people forget approximately 50 percent of training within just one hour, and 70 percent at 24 hours. Within 30 days, that amount of forgetting increases to 90 percent.

The forgetting curve, developed by psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, demonstrates how quickly memory retention drops after learning new information.

How much does it cost if we skip training reinforcement?

When your employees don’t have any follow-up to training, your program is losing 50-90% of resources spent on learning. It’s just being flushed away by the brain’s memory processes. Compare that percentage to your training budget and you can see that skipping out on post-training reinforcement is definitely not cost-effective.

“Indeed, although corporations spend 60 billion dollars a year on training, this investment is like pumping gas into a car that has a hole in the tank. All of your hard work simply drains away.”

– Dr. Art Kohn

How can we make sure employees will retain what they’ve learned during training?

To ensure training isn’t forgotten before employees have a chance to use what they’ve learned on the job, you’ll want to use Ebbinghaus’ theory of spaced retrieval. This means sending “boosts” at periodic intervals after training.

The brain will naturally forget what it isn’t using, so to prevent that from happening, a boost will force the learner to recall the training, and signal to the brain that this is important information worth keeping.

With this kind of process, you can systematically help your employees to move training from the “forgettable” short-term memory into the long-term memory. That’s how they’ll learn new skills and improve performance.

Where should I start with creating training reinforcement?

In order to save the time it takes to set up post-training reinforcement manually, a simple answer to this conundrum is investing in technology to automate the process for you. There are a few out there that have different features, so looking into that option is a great place to start and get the ball rolling.

This step-by-step guide will walk you through the basic principles and provide examples of how you can incorporate reinforcement into your training program. 

What kind of content should I use to reinforce training?

An important point here is that reinforcement is not simply about studying for memorization. The goal of training reinforcement is to extend the learning process and provide content that allows the learner to think critically about how they’ll apply that new knowledge on the job.

In a study by Dr. Henry Roediger and Dr. Jeffrey Karpicke, they found that participants who were tested on materials several times fared much better than those who only studied the same material when it came to long-term learning retention. See this article for more on their studies.

For training reinforcement to be most effective for your employees, you’ll want to use content that tests them on what they’ve learned, and helps the brain apply that information in new ways.

Types of post-training reinforcement content should include:

  • Multiple choice questions
  • Short answer questions
  • Poll questions
  • Micro videos on similar topics
  • Thought questions

Also keep in mind that multiple choice and short answer questions are best for early follow-up, while thought questions should be sent later within your reinforcement program. This allows the learner time to absorb the information, think through its application, and experience it on the job.

What are the best intervals for reinforcing training effectively?

The intervals you choose would depend on the depth and breadth of your training content, but the point here is to interrupt the forgetting process. A good outline to follow is sending boosts two days after training, then seven days after, fourteen days after, and one month after: 2-7-14-30.

Quizzes are recommended for immediate training follow-up, and then two days afterward you would send the first boost.

The research on spaced retrieval by Ebbinghaus showed that learning retention improves after some forgetting has occurred. This is why if you cram for a test the night before, then don’t use the information again after that, a month later you’ll have forgotten nearly all of it.

Sending boosts in spaced intervals helps learners recall information after some forgetting has occurred, which in turn strengthens the memory for the next time it’s needed.

Should training reinforcement questions be easy or difficult to answer?

When you’re sending questions to help someone recall what they’ve learned, making it too easy is not helpful. The goal here is to force the brain to remember, even if it’s difficult and they answer the question incorrectly. Correctness is not the point with training reinforcement questions.

If the learner does answer incorrectly, be sure to provide the correct answer right away.

How can we keep employees accountable with completing training reinforcement?

No matter what type of training you’re delivering, the easiest way to track completion of reinforcement questions is by utilizing a post-training reinforcement solution, which will allow you to see when questions were sent and how they were answered.

How can we make sure employees are changing behaviors after they go through a course?

Manager involvement is an important aspect of making sure training sticks, and that’s certainly the case here. Managers need to be aware of the training that has taken place and the expected behavior changes from that training, so they can observe whether or not the training has proven effective.

You can also include thought questions with your training reinforcement program where you ask for the learner’s perspective on how they’ve put the training into practice. This will give you a well-rounded picture of your training program’s outcomes.

Is there technology available to help me automate post-training reinforcement?

Utilizing training reinforcement technology is certainly the simplest way to ensure your training program is maximizing ROI. Whether you’re looking for a full platform to customize and deliver your own post-training reinforcement, or you need a content library with this capability built in, there are training reinforcement tools to fit your needs.

Increasing learning retention is one of the most effective ways to improve your training program. With a process-driven, strategic approach to retention, you can increase your ROI and create change in your organization. Want to learn more about learning retention and strategic training?