When employee training ends, the countdown begins.
According to science (more specifically: Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve), workers will forget up to 50% of what they just learned within an hour without revisiting the material.
Within a day? 70%.
And within a month? 90%!
If you’re a manager or corporate trainer trying to impart important knowledge, these numbers can drive you crazy. How are you supposed to make this stuff stick? Force workers to write sentences on a chalkboard?
Technology may provide a solution. Alongside allowing companies to maintain content and administer digital training courses, learning management systems (LMSs) also have a number of knowledge management features you can leverage to ensure that workers don’t forget what they’ve learned over time.
Here are five ways LMSs can improve employee knowledge retention.
1. Course Authoring Tools Can Create More Engaging Content
The problem: Gartner found that 70% of employees have not mastered the skills they need for their jobs today, let alone the skills needed for their future roles.
Barry Kelly, co-founder and CEO of LMS platform Thought Industries, says that when you see what forms this training content often takes, you start to understand why.
“[Employees] are sitting there reading a 400-page document that’s just some sort of PDF display on a screen,” Kelly explains. “Or they’re watching a two-hour video that’s unmemorable or clicking through a bunch of really bad clipart.”
Simply put, if your training materials are unmemorable, the resulting training course will be, too.
The LMS solution: Course authoring tools embedded in LMS platforms can spice up bland courses by allowing trainers to leverage different content types. Simply adding images, videos and GIFs to your plain text courses could prove to be significantly beneficial.
But that’s just the start. Course authoring tools can go further by embedding content types that learners can actually interact with. Creating complex games and simulations or simply turning a page of text into a series of flippable notecards can make content more tactile, and subsequently more memorable.
“We find that with learners, physically interacting with content on the screen really helps to retain information,” Kelly says.
2. Blended Learning Support Can Play to Learners’ Strengths
The problem: No two trainees are alike.
One employee might thrive on classroom-based, instructor-led training where they can get individual attention and interact face-to-face with others on a set schedule. Another might instead prefer the cadence of a self-paced online course where they can consume content when it’s most convenient for them.
Multiply this by hundreds, if not thousands, of employees and a huge problem rears its ugly head:
How do you ensure training stays in long-term memory for each individual learner within a single course?
The LMS solution: In the ongoing battle between instructor-led and self-paced training, LMS software asks the all-important question: Why don’t we have both?
This approach, called blended learning, allows administrators to mix classroom and online elements so learners can get the best of both worlds.
Many LMSs support blended learning through a variety of features. For those that prefer a self-paced type of learning, these features include:
- Self-enrollment to sign up for training courses at will.
- Multi-device support to do training on a computer in the office or a tablet at home.
- Course deadlines for workers to complete courses on their own by a certain time.
For those that prefer more of a classroom-like setting, features include:
- Webinar integration for instructors to lead training classes through online video.
- In-course chat to ask experts questions on a particular subject.
- Classroom training management to track offline course materials and assessments.
Combining these elements in the right mix gives learners more options, which can improve retention rates.
“You might have a training program where you have to take four [self-paced] courses plus two live webinars,” Kelly says. “Access to individuals and subject matter feedback are built in and they can be turned on or off depending on the desired experience.”
3. Social Learning Features Can Fuel Ongoing Course Discussion
The problem: Even with perfectly crafted content, employees can still treat training as a necessary evil amidst a busy work schedule. It’s unlikely they will give what they’ve learned much thought when the course has ended.
To counteract this, John Males, president of Fathom Corporate Training, says businesses need to pay particular attention to cultivating a culture of continuous learning.
“If the corporate culture is one of learning and continued improvement and development, then it’s easier to keep people engaged,” Males says. “It’s this culture of ‘we really want to learn.'”
There’s a problem with this, of course: Cultivating a culture that values learning doesn’t happen overnight.
The LMS solution: Social learning features found in LMS platforms, such as course forums, social networks and learner microblogs, can at least begin to craft this type of collaborative training culture and encourage knowledge sharing.
After courses have finished—or even within courses themselves—employees can discuss what they’ve learned with each other or with subject matter experts (SME) to achieve a better understanding of the material, see the lesson from a different perspective, accumulate best practices or apply knowledge to real-life work scenarios.
There are other benefits as well. Microsoft found that millennials (the largest generation in the workforce as of 2017) seek out and stay with employers focused on collaboration. Over time, social learning can even generate new user-generated content and save you money.
4. Follow-Up Assessments Can Keep Training Fresh
The problem: The day has finally come. After poring through hours of course materials, it’s time for employees to take their final course assessment.
The scores come in…and everyone aced it!
Management couldn’t be happier with the results. Satisfied that workers are now experts in this area, the company moves on to the next training venture.
This is a common employee training scenario that’s missing perhaps the most vital component of knowledge retention: follow-up.
Remember the Forgetting Curve? It’s pretty much a given that workers will pass an exam at the conclusion of a course if they’ve paid enough attention. However, just because a worker passed an exam at the conclusion of a course doesn’t mean they’ll remember what they learned over time.
“[Companies] want to get problems out of the way and move on,” Males says. “Training’s function is that we need to keep you engaged.”
Following up days, weeks, even months after the initial course has ended is a necessary part of the process that will boost retention rates.
The LMS solution: LMS platforms allow admin users to quickly create assessments and use them in a variety of scenarios—not just at the conclusion of a course.
You can implement a “litmus test” assessment at the beginning of a course to get a sense of where learners stand before learning. You can also sprinkle short quizzes in the middle of modules to see what’s been retained from past lessons.
Scheduled follow-up assessments are useful, too. At Fathom Corporate Training, Males and company use a platform called ConveYour that sends out questions to learners via email or text for a set number of days after a training session or workshop to keep material top-of-mind.
“It’s just one question that they can engage with right away,” Males says. “It brings back what they’re working on.”
5. Learning Analytics Can Shed Light on Areas of Improvement
The problem: Despite your best efforts, odds are at least a few employees won’t retain training as well as everyone else over time. They could lack motivation, have trouble understanding concepts or simply be overwhelmed by other priorities.
However, workers aren’t always forthcoming when they’re struggling. DecisionWise, a 360 feedback software vendor, analyzed their survey database and found that 34% of employees are afraid to speak up at work when a problem arises.
On top of this, assessments can only tell you so much.
The result is it can often be difficult to identify the individuals that need more attention or *gulp* the topics that might need to be wholly retrained to cement knowledge further.
The LMS solution: Built-in learning analytics can help course administrators dig deeper into training deficiencies.
Besides assessment scores and course ratings, users can also look at things like course completion rates (to identify courses that are being abandoned), drop-off points (to identify where courses are being abandoned) and object engagement metrics (to identify which elements in courses are working and which ones aren’t).
In some cases, LMSs even allow users to input organizational goals and objectives to better measure how courses are impacting business results. Using this information, trainers can develop strategies that will better the course experience, such as proactively reaching out to employees that may need more individual attention or identifying specific courses or modules that need to be rebuilt.
Conclusion: Technology Can’t Do It Alone
Do you remember everything we’ve covered? Let’s review.
We learned LMS software can help employee knowledge retention in a variety of ways:
|LMS Feature||How It Helps Retention|
|Content authoring tools||Makes content more engaging and interactive|
|Blended learning support||Caters to a variety of preferred learning styles|
|Social learning||Fuels ongoing discussion and analysis of content|
|Follow-up assessments||Keep training top-of-mind over time|
|Learning analytics||Identify where you may need to go back and retrain|
Software can only do so much, though. Without proper training foundations and processes in place, employees are doomed to repeat their forgetful ways.
With that in mind, here are some last-minute tips to aid employee knowledge retention:
Gamify with care. Gamification features in LMSs like leaderboards and point systems are getting a lot of buzz these days. Sure, they’re exciting, but don’t let them distract you from what really motivates employee learners: results. “I think while those things are important, it’s really looking at if you’re providing value,” Kelly says. “Learners are just motivated by outcomes.”
Enthusiasm starts from the top, down. If management can’t muster excitement for a training initiative, workers aren’t going to either. “Don’t expect the audience to be more engaged or enthusiastic about the material than you are,” Males says. “If you’re not excited, they’re not going there. Enthusiasm is contagious.”
Pick your gold nugget takeaways. If workers are going to forget 90% of what they were taught after a month, the least you can do is make sure the 10% that’s left is what’s most important. “Choose your big gold nuggets,” Males says. “If they can take one, two or three tools from this training and it changes their direction by one degree, it can make a huge difference.”
If you think an LMS is right for you, start comparing LMS features and pricing on our LMS software page.