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How to Make Employee Training Stick

If you want to have the perfect training session for your employees, you need more than good training material and an engaging trainer. You need to make sure that all the time and money is worth it. In other words, you need to know how to make sure your employees utilize the training. There’s only one way to do that: practice.

When it comes to sticky trainings, practice is the glue. When it comes to the brain, practice can make perfect only if trainees really understand what they’re supposed to store in their memories — that is, perfect practice makes perfect. One of the biggest pitfalls in teaching and training is not checking to make sure that the trainees really have the information straight in their minds. After you know that they have it, they need to practice it.

The trainer has presented information, and trainees seem to understand. It is time to engage them in rehearsals of the material. Some research suggests that a person needs 24 to 28 engagements with new material to move it into long-term memory.

If the trainer used different memory systems to help participants understand the new learning, then fewer rehearsals may be necessary. For trainees to benefit most, they need to practice this material in an environment that is at least similar to where they will use the information. It's time to take the trainees’ knowledge and do some elaborative rehearsal. Elaborative rehearsal goes beyond simply repeating information and engages participants in some kind of interaction with the material.

Review the newly learned concepts or skills throughout the day. At the end of the training day, review again. This review may take the form of a game. Make it fun to make it stick!

Try working the following rehearsal strategies into any training session:

  • Pair up trainees and have them teach each other.

  • Have volunteer trainees demonstrate the information. Doing so is particularly important for a sales training in which trainees are learning a new sales pitch. The pitch should sound natural and sincere, which happens through practice.

  • Play games with the information. (Jeopardy is a favorite.)

  • Have trainees write about the training.

  • Have trainees draw pictures of the training.

  • Ask trainees to share with others how this training information is going to change their jobs.

  • Offer on-the-job training.

You may wonder how much practice is enough. In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell hypothesizes that to be really great at something, an expert needs to practice about 10,000 hours. Clearly, one-shot training is not enough to create experts. Your employees need practice in order for any information to become second nature to them.

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