Posted by: Stephen D. Froikin, JD, MSEd, ChFC, CLU, CASL, ITP
Updated: August 30, 2017
You sign up for a class. You’re excited, the teacher is inspiring, and you are learning things that really make sense. You complete the work with enthusiasm, and in the back of your head, you think, “I can’t wait to use this stuff back at the office!”
Then you get back to the office. You might write yourself a few notes about the class. Maybe you put some reminders in the calendar. But the reality is, you have a lot of emails to answer, calls to return, and meetings to attend. In a few weeks, you will look at your notes and think, “What a great class!” But you haven’t really put your new knowledge to work, and now you’re a bit fuzzy on the details. You don’t know how to change your workday in order to take maximum advantage of everything you learned.
We’ve all had a similar experience. According to research reported in The Wall Street Journal, “90% of new skills are lost within a year.”
Traditional instruction focuses on getting a learner up to speed, but loses influence when the learner walks out of the classroom, whether real or virtual. This is true no matter how effective and dynamic the instruction. This is not to say that traditional instruction is not effective. It is good up to the point of completion, but what happens after the point of completion is subject to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. If new skills are not solidified into new behaviors and routines soon after the instruction, they will likely become a fond memory.
Corporate trainers are in the best position to observe the skill loss. They are the ones that arrange training to achieve a particular business goal, and they are the ones who get the complaints when training fails to have the desired effect.
There are many reasons for the failure. Here are a few:
The desired connection between learning and the job is called “transfer of learning.” This means that people can apply what they learn at a course to their actual job. Transfer of learning can be promoted within a course and supported by various aids that can be accessed after the course is over. This does not solve the environmental factors (e.g., alignment with business goals, timing, relationships, rewards, punishment), but it does provide a scaffolding to allow a learner to try out new skills and gain proficiency in practice.
Let’s start with the job aids and performance supports. If you’ve ever stuck a note to your computer to remind yourself how to do a particular job, you’ve created a job aid. Job aids can come in a variety of forms:
Other performance supports include: