Why Training Dollars Go Down the Drain
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  • Blog post

Why Training Dollars Go Down the Drain

Training doesn’t stick.

In 1885 a German psychologist named Hermann Ebbinghaus conducted a study showing that 30 days after a training event people retain just 20% of what they learned. Since the 1970s dozens of academic researchers have confirmed Ebbinhaus’ findings and conducted studies to determine how to achieve better knowledge retention after training events.

All companies — whether they do instructor-led training, e-learning, or blended learning — should be very interested in this research. I’ve read many of these studies, and trust me, you don’t want to read any of them. They’re long. They’re slow-going. They don’t give very practical advice. But … there are some diamonds in there.

Key insight

Here’s the most important insight I get from them: The key to making training stick is managerial follow-up.

If managers train their people, then review the content several times in the days and weeks after the training, people will retain most of what they learned. In many cases they achieve permanent mastery of skills.

Sound simple? It’s not. Getting managers to follow up regularly is extremely difficult. For starters, training is a process-oriented activity. Most managers are result-oriented. Second, follow up takes a lot of time, and most managers are insanely busy. They see training as an “input,” but they realize that they’re paid to achieve “outputs.” So when they make decisions on how to allocate their time, follow-up on training falls to the bottom of their priority list.

And the results are, of course, disastrous. As Ebbinhaus discovered 125 years ago, people will forget 80% of what they learned within a month. You’ll get little practical value from your investment in training if your managers don’t follow up.

If you’re looking for a solution to this problem, please take 8 minutes to watch an RLI rapid e-learning module called “Why 80% of Training Doesn’t Stick.” It explains a process called “The Four Rs” that will give your managers a blueprint for doing effective follow-up on their training.

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

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