How To Ensure Your Employees Are Retaining Their Training

April 3, 2013

You’ve sent some of your team on different training courses and now you are looking for results. You know that they will not remember everything but there are some key techniques you want them to implement.

Hopefully you will have spoken to them before they went, to discuss the purpose for them going and what they were hoping they would learn. No doubt the training chosen by you or them will have a direct bearing on key objectives or a future role coming up soon.

The question here is ‘what are they going to do with it now?’ Here are a few quick tips to help them retain and apply what they have learned.

Have A Debrief As Soon As Possible

Depending upon your relationship with your team member and the time it finished, you might want to have a chat with them straight afterwards on their way home. This works well where you know they were really looking forward to it. The idea is get them to reflect on it there and then which helps them retain the information. Most learning is reinforced when you look at back at it within a short while of learning it the first time.

If you don’t think this is appropriate then aim to talk to them about it the next day back at work. Most training courses will have an exercise at the end where the delegate is asked to write down what actions they will take a result of the training. The delegates are given the choice of what these actions are going to be although in some instances this may have compulsory actions e.g. a technical course where they need to demonstrate the skills straight away.

Ask them to create some SMART objectives around the actions they are going to put into practice. In other words ensure the actions are Specific and therefore Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time bound. Once they have done this it is important that you set a time to review progress against these actions. It will also be worth asking them what help they might need from you to show that you are supporting them.

Ask Them To Prepare A Short Presentation On What They Learned

Some of the managers we have worked with on our training courses ask their people to present back to the team after every training course they attend. There are several reasons why they ask them to do this. First of all it encourages the employee to pay more attention to the training so that they can explain it to their colleagues. Secondly it develops the person’s presentation skills, which is such a useful skill in many situations inside and outside work. Obviously if it is the first time they have done so, then you will need to provide them with some additional support. Thirdly in terms of memory retention it creates further neural pathways in the brain and any repetition will increase the chance of memory retention. Finally it helps to demonstrate to the team the importance you place on their development and the investment you are making in them.

Create A Work Based Project To Use The Skills They Have Learned

This is one of the best ways to ensure that people retain what they have learned. Most people learn by doing or by practicing the skill. If there is not a natural opportunity to use their new knowledge or skills then it is worth thinking of how these can be put to the test.

For example if the employee has just attended a basic health and safety course, you can ask them to undertake a risk assessment of your department to ensure that everything meets the standards required to keep people safe. It could also link with the presentation we mentioned above and ask your team member to inform their peers about some of the areas needing attention and why.

Another possibility is to create product champions. Where they have received some product knowledge training give them the responsibility of creating simple to understand aide memoires. This also helps them to crystallise their understanding and helps retention not only for them but their colleagues too.

So as you can see they are a number of ways to help your employees retain and also practice what they have learned. By making these a natural habit or culture within the team, you help to create a learning organisation where learning is truly valued.

Many thanks

Scott Rumsey

Senior Management Trainer & Consultant at MTD Training

(Image by Stuart Miles at

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