Help your team beat the forgetting curve.
After you hold a training session, it’s discouraging to think that your team is likely to forget much of it. “If you are exposed to information only once in a training, within 30 days most people will only recall about 10%,” says Julie Nash, practice management consultant and owner of Practice Moxie.
Information is processed in our brains in a three-step process, Nash explains. It first enters as sensory input, lasting only a few seconds. If the brain finds it relevant, the information moves into short-term memory. With the right training tools in place, the information ultimately can move into long-term memory and last indefinitely.
To design effective training that sticks, put neuroscience to work for you:
1. Set the stage. Create a warm, low-stress environment to prepare the brain for learning, says Nash. Stress and anxiety can trigger the brain’s amygdala and inhibit information from passing to the processing parts of the brain.
Tip: The trainer should be friendly and smiling. Welcome your team with upbeat music.
2. Do a warmup. Plan an opening activity that gets staff talking and illustrates why your content is important to their jobs. “That shifts everyone from passive listening into a more active learning phase and helps capture their attention,” says Nash.
Tip: For example, in a safety training session, have each team member share a story about an accident at work or a time that something went wrong. Or ask them to talk about who they need to stay safe for (family or pets).
3. “Chunk” information. Structure your content under three main “umbrellas” or “buckets” to make it easier to process and remember.
Tip: In a one-hour training session, don’t try to cover more than three main points. “The short-term memory can only hold two to four pieces of new information at a time,” says Nash.
4. Have a laugh. “Laughing promotes learning,” says Nash. “If you can make them laugh, the dopamine surge will physiologically increase retention and help their brains form long-term memories.”
Tip: Search out cartoons and jokes to incorporate into your presentation.
5. Use storytelling. Stories build relevance and create a framework for information to stick in our brains. “Stories create powerful imagery and emotions that give the content more value, so our brain finds it stimulating and remembers it,” says Nash.
Tip: Rather than telling real stories from the workplace, represent problems using cartoon characters with funny nicknames, such as “Tardy Tammy the Technician” in a management training. “That sticks in people’s minds,” says Nash.
6. Build in repetition. The final and vital key to retention is repetition. The neurons in our brains fire repeatedly when information is revisited, forming connections that become wired to one another to form long-term memories, explains Nash. “Every exposure improves people’s retention,” she says.
Tip: Use games, stories, quizzes and colorful fill-in-the-blank handouts of your outline to revisit key points within the training session. Provide take-home job aides and templates. Follow up in a week or month with a quiz.
Create your own veterinary-themed quizzes for free on quizlet.com. For better retention, print them out. “Although sending electronic quizzes is easier, people retain more when they physically record it themselves,” Nash says. “The pen is still mightier than the laptop.”