You're Going to Forget 50% of What You Just Learned in an Hour. Here's the Smart Way to Change That.

February 9, 2021 6 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Over the past year, digital evolved from a nice-to-have to a necessity. Without the ability to conduct in-person training sessions, companies flocked to cloud solutions that would enable them to train an increasingly dispersed and remote workforce. 

For many, the LMS (Learning Management System) was a safe and obvious solution. Convert the sessions, tool or process training traditionally shared in a classroom-style format into LMS courses easily consumable from anywhere, at any time. 

Yet, despite the popularity, compelling research suggests there are detriments to relying solely on an LMS for training and onboarding employees. Here are four of the most common pitfalls every entrepreneur should be aware of when evaluating an LMS solution and what you can do about it.

1. LMS course content is quickly forgotten

Studies have shown, (specifically, the Forgetting Curve by Ebbinghaus) employees will forget up to 50% of what they just learned within an hour without revisiting the material. This number jumps up to 70% by the following day. 

What’s happening? Our working memory has a limited capacity, known as cognitive load. It’s estimated that the average adult can store between five to nine pieces of new information at once in their short-term memory. So, if an employee goes through a two-hour course on a new tool, it’s likely they’ll forget most of the training when they go and use the tool the next day. 

2. It’s not easily accessible

A McKinsey report found employees spend, “1.8 hours every day – 9.3 hours per week, on average – searching and gathering information.” 

If that number feels hard to swallow, I bet this scenario isn’t: on day one, an employee takes a course on your company’s competitors where they learn about your unique differentiators. On day 45, they run up against one of those competitors on a prospecting call. To recall that information from their training they need to find the course, the right module and fast-forward to the exact section just to recall the competitive differentiator.  

Compound that by the fact that today, instead of being able to turn to a coworker for a quick answer, employees are waiting for responses on email, Slack, etc. The result is a staggering amount of time and energy wasted.

Retrieving knowledge from an LMS course requires an employee to leave what they’re doing, find the course and identify the exact spot within the course containing the answer they’re looking for. 

Learning teams put so much energy and effort into developing these courses but ultimately if the information isn’t readily accessible, it won’t be used. 

3. It’s not reinforced

This goes back to the original challenge of short-term memory capacity. When information isn’t reinforced and processed into our working memory, it’s discarded to make room for new concepts and ideas. 

For knowledge to be retained, it needs to be reinforced as the employee is going about their day-to-day workflow. Imagine, you’re trying to learn and the coach walks you through a two-hour course and sends you on your way. Do you feel like ? Likely not. 

In the same way that the fundamentals of a sport are repeated over and over to make it into long-term memory, employees need repetitive training on processes and tools before they’re proficient. 

4. It doesn’t mirror how employees learn outside of work

Let’s say you’re at home and you want to know how to cook the world’s best scrambled eggs. Odds are, you’re not going to comb through hundreds of cookbooks to find that recipe. A simple , or search and within seconds, you’re whipping up an caliber feast.

In our personal lives, information is instant. Yet, in our professional lives, we’re forced through lengthy courses that are rarely immediately applicable. 

In essence, we’re accustomed to learning as we’re doing. Rather than treating training as a corporate destination, effective professional learning should align and flow with our working days as simply and friction-free as a YouTube search does in our personal lives. 

5. It’s not designed for training on small changes

Businesses are evolving more rapidly than ever before. A recent study revealed 44 percent of companies change or update tool processes at least every two weeks! Between rapidly changing processes, frequent adoption of new tools and the tools themselves constantly changing – employees struggle to keep up. 

Training on these changes using an LMS would require the creation of a new course for each of these frequent updates. Due to time constraints, businesses typically defer to low-retention, easily ignored methods to communicate small changes like email, Zoom meetings or Slack channels. This results in crucial information and updates getting lost in the day-to-day shuffle. 

Methods for adapting your training to the modern age

Despite all of the shortcomings, there are still benefits to LMS platforms.  Before you toss your LMS out the window, ask yourself, “what type of training is suited to course style learning and what type of training is not?”  

For example, general company policies, security training or department overviews might make sense to deliver in a course-style format. But, training on tools, processes or methodologies could be better served in a different format. 

For the latter, ensure you’re addressing the below key challenges:

  • Reinforcement: How can you reinforce crucial training throughout an employee’s day-to-day workflow? 

  • : How can you make training instantly accessible in the moment of need, right where questions arise? 

  • Digestibility: How can your training more closely mirror how employees learn outside of work? 

  • Flexibility: How can you train on those small, frequent changes in a way that solves the above challenges? 

Luckily, there are new solutions specifically designed for these challenges that pair well with an existing LMS. There are also strategies you can adopt, regardless of what tools you use, to adapt your training. 

For recommendations on strategies and solutions, feel free to reach out to me directly or share your best practices in the comments.

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