Forget Me Not: Defeating the Forgetting Curve

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Too often, businesses spend heaps of money and resources on corporate training programs only for the learning to end up forgotten by employees.

This is never the goal and it happens for one main reason: the forgetting curve.

The forgetting curve is a natural occurrence that was hypothesized by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus in the late 1800’s. Through experimentation, Ebbinghaus found that the more time that passes, after learning something new, the more likely it is we will forget the information, particularly if nothing is done to retain it.

In his research, Ebbinghaus also found ways to overcome the forgetting curve. Two primary aspects included revisiting the learned information regularly and utilizing the content in a relevant manner that is applicable to the learner.

“Revisiting” is an especially critical element for businesses to follow. By frequently reinforcing training with follow-up, practice activities and micro learning as refresher courses, employees will be prompted to remember what they’ve learned and influence their own behaviour as they see the relevance, importance and application of the content. Revisiting also ensures that a good bulk of the new information is retained long after the training has taken place. When this happens, and employees adequately apply the learning to their jobs, it results in better productivity, goal attainment and improved confidence.

This process, however, requires stakeholder involvement and buy-in to monitor the progress of learning transfer. Leaders must “walk the talk” if they expect employees to develop new skills and change behaviors. Leaders should be the role model. Remember the adage “what interests my boss, fascinates me” as employees will do what their manager’s inspect, rather than what they expect.

It’s also recommended to have regular conversations about the new learning: leaders should ask questions, remain curious, supportive and engaged in employee’s developmental journey. It’s important to guide employees and allow them to manage their own practice. This will result in change occurring.

Another method of overcoming the natural forgetting curve is to provide memorable experiential learning through gamification.

Employees who are engaged in the learning acquire knowledge much faster than if they were just observing a presentation or lecture. Thus, including aspects of “gamification” in corporate training programs is a great way to keep participants interested and help retain information.

Stay tuned for our next post as we delve more into the positive effects of gamification.