While well-intentioned, a learning program that begins and ends with a leading subject matter expert on a topic isn’t enough for help make learning stick for your employees. Unless there is a retention strategy in place, much of that new knowledge will leave your employees’ heads as soon as they close their computers or step out the door. 

Because of the amount of information we’re constantly processing, it is difficult for our brains to know which information to hold onto. When learning something, people tend to forget new things right away. This phenomenon is called the “forgetting curve,” first researched by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus in the 19th-century. 

Ebbinghaus discovered that people could retain more if they repeated the most recently acquired information at regular intervals. This technique is known as “spaced repetition,” a method typically associated with agile learning in the workplace. It allows employees to learn in intervals and immediately apply their new skills. The spaced repetition approach increases the likelihood they’ll retain and build upon their skills.

For more ways to increase learning retention within your organization, try these seven strategies.

Preview of learning retention strategies

1. Leverage social learning 

Social cognitive theory says people don’t learn or change behaviors in a vacuum. Rather, observing and modeling what peers do can help individuals understand new information and change old behaviors. There’s also a clear connection between social learning and employee engagement. The continuous nature of social learning amplifies retention while reducing training costs.

2. Bite-sized learning

If your mind has ever started to wander in the middle of a lengthy lunch-and-learn, you might already suspect that inundating learners with information isn’t effective. Recent studies have shown the lunch-and-learn method comes up short. Instead, microlearning is closer to the way our brains process information. Microlearning teaches learners enough knowledge to achieve a specific goal and enables them to learn a new skill and immediately apply it.  

3. Use storytelling

Human beings tend to contextualize knowledge better when they have an emotional connection to what they’re learning. By creating a narrative that employees can relate to, they’ll be more engaged and ready to absorb information. It doesn’t need to be a Games of Thrones-style epic, just a straightforward narrative with clear applications to the subject employees are learning. 

4. Engage learners

Not only does active, participatory learning increase engagement, it also leads to better knowledge retention. It can be tricky to get employees to participate, but interactive experiences help make the information stick. The key is to design interactive content. Whether it’s a breakout session for teams to create a presentation on what they’ve just learned or a simulation of where they practice their new skills.

5. Use images

Eighty-three percent of the information our brains process is visual data. A unique image can leave a lasting impression. To increase learning retention, add more visual aides to your L&D programs. Varying the methods of content in your programs can help employees’ brains remember. 

6. Quiz often

Although the phrase “pop quiz” still might strike fear in your heart, the simple technique of adding a quiz to your learning program can help boost retention. It provides data on not only how effective your learning module is but also where you can improve. To maximize information retention, test often after each unit or module. That way, you’re testing for more tightly defined learning objectives. Your trainees will find it easier to focus on and remember the specified material rather than days’ worth of content.

Overcome other obstacles to learning

Helping the brain with memory recall takes more than finishing one Sudoku puzzle, especially when it comes to learning retention in the workplace. Get more tips for making learning accessible to your employees with How to Overcome Learning Obstacles in the Workplace.