How Shared Vocabulary Can Improve Training Transfer
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How Shared Vocabulary Can Improve Training Transfer

One of the goals of any training effort should be to create shared vocabulary. That is, words and phrases that capture key concepts that drive performance in an organization. They become a sort of shorthand, or code, that improve knowledge retention after training events and help train new employees and reinforce the right behaviors with veterans.

The greatest example I’ve ever heard is President Clinton’s 1992 campaign slogan, “It’s the economy, stupid.” Propagating that slogan in the public domain had an ancillary benefit — voters saw that Clinton cared about the economy, which was coming out of a nasty recession. But the REAL power of the slogan was felt internally, among Clinton’s staff. “It’s the economy, stupid” was a training tool. Its goal was to make sure that nobody, but nobody, on Clinton’s team ever lost focus on what really mattered.

What do you think happened when a Clinton staffer started talking about retirement benefits, or gays in the military, or even healthcare? Somebody shouted them down with “It’s the economy, stupid.” Many political pundits agree that Clinton’s relentless focus on the economy won him the election, and that slogan was a major contributor.

Names Names Names

Here’s another example: the Daily Record newspaper in Dunn, NC had at one point a circulation equal to 112% of its population of 14,000. The publisher understood what all small local newspapers know – that getting the maximum number of local people’s names in the paper was THE key to circulation. Now, his journalists thought good writing or good reporting was the key to their success, but the publisher knew that would never get you 112% circulation. So he came up with the slogan “names names names” and was evangelical about it with his writers. He’d walk through the newsroom mumbling “names names names.” When he picked up a story he’d scan it right in front of the writer and see how many “names, names, names” it contained. No journalist at the paper ever had the slightest confusion about what REALLY mattered at the Daily Record. All because of names names names.

So what shared vocabulary exists in your organization? Surely you have shorthand words and phrases that are unique to your company. If so, make a conscious effort to incorporate them into your training. If not, create some. You’ll vastly improve training retention at your organization.

Stephen Meyer
CEO/Director of Learning and Development
Rapid Learning Institute

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