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Improving the Return on Training Programs

“The more you use your brain, the more brain you will have to use.” George Dorsey

While there is considerable evidence of the value of workforce training, many organizations have difficulty establishing the link between training and business performance. A couple of fundamental questions haunt managers and trainers – how much do our employees remember of what we teach them, and how well do they apply it on the job? 

These fundamental questions beg others:

  • Do they understand the written, verbal and visual information they are provided during training courses?
  • How well can they relate it to the workplace?
  • How automatic are their responses in a workplace situation in recalling the information needed?
  • And how effectively do they apply it in the right situations?

Training for workplace content (procedural skills and information) relies on learned curriculum (reading, math, etc.), but it also assumes that workers have the underlying cognitive skills that will enable them to take in, process, absorb, retain, and recall the information we want them to know. 

Unless cognitive skills are well-developed, an employee will spend most of his/her effort decoding and trying to process the information being presented.  Conversely, when the decoding and processing skills function automatically, he or she can think at higher levels and develop deeper understanding of what is being learned.  Corporate training, like K-12 education, assumes adequate development of cognitive ability, something not all employees have.

Improving cognitive skills improves understanding, memory, retrieval ability and retention. Thus, we can expect better retention of information/content contained in training programs by building stronger cognitive skills.  What would it be worth if employees could improve their retention of the material presented in training by 10% or 20% or 50% or more, or be trained in half the time it currently takes?

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