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Eyes glazing over. Heavy sighs across the room. A left leg bouncing fitfully up and down beneath a desk. Unfortunately, this isn’t just a typical scene you’d witness in a pre-algebra room full of eighth-graders. This scene can also describe the current state of employee training programs across the U.S. — and no, employees aren’t being tasked with solving for “x.”

The benefits of a quality employee training system are too great to be ignored. Simply put, good training is good business. Employees who feel they’ve been adequately prepared for their jobs are less stressed and feel more confident when solving complex problems at work. They’re also more likely to feel a sense of loyalty to their employer and take initiative to follow through on deliverables. 

But while employee training is a crucial aspect of running a successful business, the lasting impact it has on employees can fall painstakingly short if not implemented properly. In 2016, 75% of managers surveyed across 50 organizations were dissatisfied with their company’s Learning & Development (L&D) initiatives. After just one day, people forget more than 70% of the information they received from their training — even though U.S. companies spent $82.5 billion on corporate training in 2020 alone. 

It’s clear that companies want to invest in corporate training, but the content just won’t stick. What gives?

Here’s Why Corporate Training Is So Easy To Forget


There is a myriad of variables that contribute to easily-forgotten training programs. Here are some of the most common reasons, as well as tips for how to improve employee training:

Employees are being taught the wrong things


One of the most common shortcomings of modern employee training systems is that they’re designed with a “one-size-fits-all” approach. That could mean a software engineer is handed a course that includes tips for business writing or driving safety — not necessarily information that will help them succeed in their role. Of course, the software engineer will forget the business writing tips. They have nothing to do with what this employee has been hired to do.

Our brains are much more likely to forget irrelevant information than to store it; after all, the brain only likes to remember what it categorizes as useful. That means leaders must invest in creating specific, role-based training programs, rather than one that’s generalized. Even a little bit of personalization goes a long way. Make use of services and technology that adapt lessons based on employee performance, tailoring content to each employee’s learning preference and progress.

The content doesn’t engage


Humans are visual creatures. Our eyes are immediately drawn to crisp images and well-timed videos. So when we open our virtual training content to find a poorly-designed PowerPoint presentation — or worse, a wall of text — we’re likely to become immediately disengaged. The same goes for poor audio and/or video quality; employees are much more likely to forget their training if videos aren’t properly edited or they can’t properly hear the information.

Content production aside, it’s also possible that the structure of the training is causing retention issues. This could mean the content is too long or outdated, the curriculum doesn’t progress well, or it doesn’t cater to multiple learning preferences.

So, how to make your virtual training more engaging? Virtual training content should be well-designed, with the principles of visual communication top of mind. It should always be carefully thought out (in other words, your training curriculum needs to make logical sense and flow seamlessly). It should also be optimized so that, regardless of an employee’s learning preference, the material can be consumed easily and with minimal distraction.

Some employees might prefer videos with accompanying text. Others might learn best with audio that’s accompanied by visuals. But no matter how your employees like to learn, be sure to provide them with the type of content they get the most from. All training content should be engaging and valuable — and entertaining, to a certain extent!

How To Create A Training System That Caters To Different Learning Preferences

Don’t just impact growth and development. Impact the foundation of your company culture and, ultimately, the bottom line.

Employees don’t engage, either


Perhaps your training materials are thoughtfully organized, tailored to every individual, and contain visually-pleasing text and images. Your employees are still not retaining the material. What’s happening?  

Sometimes, it’s not the content that’s the problem: it’s your employee engagement levels.

Employees who are disengaged to begin with are the least likely to pay attention to learning and development content. If they’re not happy at work or they’re debating leaving the company, why would they take training seriously? If this is the case, it may be time to refresh your company culture. Organizations with strong company cultures are more likely to cultivate highly-engaged employees. Employees with high engagement levels, in turn, report increased team performance, lower turnover rates, and decreased absenteeism, among others. 

Creating a culture of compassion can make your employees feel supported, heard, and needed at work. It will also boost retention levels and even employee happiness — which leads to higher output and success. 

If you’re revamping your company culture, you may consider adding a recognition system into your training material. That way, employees are individually recognized and lauded when they achieve certain goals, such as scoring highly on a quiz. Individual recognition ignites feelings of camaraderie and a sense of belonging in employees, which also helps bolster company culture. 

Companies don’t invest in ongoing learning and development beyond new hire training.


Unless your employees have photographic memories, it’s unlikely they will retain information they’ve only seen once. A single slideshow or training seminar won’t do much for them in the long run. Employees require continuous access to resources that help them grow and develop — otherwise, they might start to feel like they’re in a dead-end job.  

If companies hope to retain top talent, nurturing their professional development is crucial. Top performers constantly seek to be challenged and provided with resources to expand their skill sets. If those needs aren’t met, the employees are likely to find a job elsewhere.

As a result, companies should make ongoing training opportunities available for all employees. Regular assessments incorporating previously learned material can provide employees with helpful refreshers after their initial training program. Feedback on their assessment performance will also help them retain information and be better prepared to apply it in real-life contexts. It’s also helpful to always keep your resource library stocked so employees have something to refer to on demand.

Employees don’t receive feedback about their performance in training.


Employees are commonly left in the dark when it comes to their training progress. Without a specific outcome attached to their work, it’s easier for them to forget what they’ve learned.

Training programs should be transparent. Implement regular feedback into your training so employees are more likely to retain the information. A learning management system, or LMS, can help employees and their managers stay on top of their learning statistics and progress.

Furthermore, a recognition-based system can encourage employees to perform better and, by extension, retain more information. For example, employees will be much more likely to take a quiz several times to score well if their accomplishment is recognized in a way that’s visible to their colleagues. And, because they’re repeating the quiz a couple times to replace a mediocre score with a good one, they’re also better positioned to retain the information.

Our brains are wired to forget information we don’t use right away.


Sometimes, it just comes down to simple science: our brains are built to forget. That may sound counterintuitive, but it’s a phenomenon that was described in the late 19th century as “The Forgetting Curve.” This model states that if the new information we’ve just learned isn’t immediately applied, we’ll forget about 75% of it after just six days. 

New skills have to be practiced and applied. Without a strategy for reinforcing new skills after the training ends, 90% of what employees are taught could be lost. Again, this is why providing continuing training and educational resources for employees is extremely important!

It’s also important to apply the knowledge acquired in training to actual work scenarios right away. Provide your employees with relevant opportunities to flex the muscles they’ve acquired in training soon after they’ve wrapped up with a certain section or module, and continue to test comprehension after the fact. Assessments should include questions from material they’ve just learned, as well as questions from lessons in the past week to ensure they won’t be forgotten. Keep key takeaways in focus as often as possible and when it makes sense to do so. 

Last Words


Employee training is a complex, ever-evolving challenge for organizations. Unfortunately, poorly thought-out design and implementation, as well as little personalization, make most corporate training easy to forget. This becomes even more exacerbated when we factor in the fact that humans are wired to forget irrelevant information.

Ultimately, strategically-tailored training programs that offer engaging, relevant content will help employees retain information and boost business results. Never approach training with a one-size-fits-all mindset. Ask yourself: “How can this group, team, or individual learn, engage, and retain information the best?” A team of accountants may thrive with training that’s full of data points, whereas a graphic designer might fare better with infographics and videos. Furthermore, an LMS can help managers deliver relevant training content and performance insights, empowering employees to stay up to date and engaged with the material.

Don’t forget: investing in your employees is investing in your business, and it starts with effective, inspiring training.