Follow Up Your Training with Well-Placed Reinforcement
So you’ve just completed a large training program for your employees. You have a set of high-importance skills that you need to make sure your employees are proficient and reliable in performing. You’ve distributed all the training materials you have, and you’ve tested everyone to make sure they know the material.
But how do you prevent against “knowledge atrophy” in your employees’ comprehension and ability to succeed in newly trained areas? Just look for high-visibility spaces to reinforce mastery of the knowledge.
Walk like an employee
First, put yourself in the shoes of one of the employees you want to train. Walk through their environment as if you were coming to work and beginning the day. Are there any areas where all employees must pass or look at as they begin their day? This might be a log-in station, a break room, locker room or employee entrance.
Also take into account any virtual spaces that your employees must interact with during the first half-hour of their day. Is there an app, software program or company web page that employees must access when they start work?
While you analyze these high-visibility areas, look at each one with fresh eyes, especially if it’s an area where you also must pass by every day. Make a list of all of the blank walls, surfaces and virtual areas that employees see. Then, as you build your list, prioritize these spaces based on how long your employees are exposed to them and if there’s already information or graphics that might end up competing for their attention.
Next, come up with a list of short phrases that encapsulate the key areas of information you want to reinforce. Perhaps it’s a reminder of a new way of working with existing software, a new policy for using safety equipment, or a new communication protocol for a division of employees. Ideally, this list should be about one-third to one-half as long as the list of key spaces you’ve identified as high visibility, so that you can have the same phrase posted in multiple areas to increase the level of exposure and memorability.
Concise but unforgettable
For each of these phrases, try to be concise but unforgettable. Use acronyms, rhyming and "turn of phrase" to increase their effectiveness. If you have the area, time and ability, consider using eye-catching designs to help ensure that they are seen.
Next, hang these phrases in your high-visibility areas. Work with your managers or trainers to help you come up with a plan to gauge the success of these postings. Set a schedule for switching them out with new reinforcement phrases to keep them fresh to your employees. Consider doing a follow-up training months after the original training to see how comprehension and retention has improved from your new system of training reinforcement.
So, fight the temptation of “one-and-done” mindedness when it comes to your training, in which you assume that if someone has been trained once, they’ll always be proficient at that skill or always practice that knowledge. Instead, remember that we all need reminders and reinforcement to help us keep the important information at the top of our minds.