Retain, Retain, Retain!

Training Challenge Number Five: “the failure to measure longer term retention”

The only training initiatives that have positive impacts on an organization’s performance and future are those programs that generate longer-term retention and positive applications of the initial training.

Almost every vendor of training software or standup instruction refers to the wonderful statistics that trumpet the improvement made by most participants in their proprietary solutions. They claim that the post-test scores are considerably higher than the pre-test scores – so, obviously, the training solutions they are peddling really work. Voila!

Unfortunately for them, and for you, these results prove little. A trainee’s ability to memorize answers and retain them for a short time (usually hours, at most) proves very little and will definitely not positively contribute to your organization’s performance.

No – short-term retention has little benefit.

What matters is longer-term retention and that is not measured by taking both a pre-test and a post-test over the course of a short training session.

I would suggest that a second post-test is administered at least six months after the training. Compare that result to both the pre-test and the first post-test scores. Only then will you get a better assessment of the training program you have initiated. Longer-term retention is the aim of effective training. So ignore the vendor propaganda and find out for yourself.

When combined with a “just in time” approach, you’ll find many positive benefits to the training you implement. And today’s e-learning technology, when combined with a skilled instructional designer, allows your people to get on-the-job answers from anywhere at anytime in the event they need a refresher on something they have forgotten.

Training has never been more necessary or more powerful. It’s only unfortunate that too few vendors pay attention to that promise. You’ll find that measuring longer term retention will keep you ahead of the game and allow you to make more intelligent investments in what you purchase and the initiatives you develop.

— Bill Walton, Founder of ITC Learning