January 11, 2023

Understanding and overcoming the forgetting curve

What is the forgetting curve, and how is it impacting L&D?

At the individual, team, and company levels, ongoing learning and development matters. It gives individual employees essential opportunities to expand their abilities, improves team performance, and directly contributes to overall company success.

Our understanding of these likely outcomes is why companies around the world invest so heavily in training each year, spending over $350 billion in 2020. Here in the US in 2022, we saw companies invest over $100 billion in traditional learning solutions.

While we are all aware of the benefits of training and development, what many have continued to reckon with is the lacking culture of learning that so significantly influences when and how we take the time to invest in our own growth. And this is so important to employees — they crave opportunities to learn and grow at their companies. In fact, it’s one of the aspects of work life significantly impacting employee retention.

According to ClearCompany, 94 percent of employees would stay longer if companies invested in staff development. However, what we’ve continued to see with traditional learning and development solutions over the years hasn’t been enough to meet employee needs effectively. Even more important is what happens with the knowledge learners acquire after taking the step to invest in themselves.

What would you say if you were told that 70% of what employees learn is forgotten within 24 hours?

It doesn’t stop there.

What is the forgetting curve?

Think back to the last webinar, training, or online learning course you attended. Of what you learned, how much do you think you retained after 24 hours? And how about after the first week?

With no effort or opportunity to apply and reinforce that knowledge, chances are not much was retained. This phenomenon is referred to Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve.

The forgetting curve shows us how quickly information we learn is lost over time when no effort is made to retain it. This is particularly relevant to L&D leaders and professionals who are focused on developing strategies and programs to support the continued learning of their colleagues.

Learners begin rapidly forgetting acquired knowledge once learning ends. 70% of what employees learn is forgotten within 24 hours and 90% is lost within the first week.

These numbers should sound alarming to you, especially when considering the amount of budget that gets allocated to such programs. L&D is a vital component of any company’s growth strategy, however, the loss of 90% of what employees are learning through these traditional courses and solutions necessitates that we take a step back.

Something is clearly broken with the way in which L&D is approached today.

Overcoming the forgetting curve

Supporting learners in retaining knowledge and skills — overcoming the forgetting curve — requires a change in how we approach L&D. Companies seeking a return on their investment will want to offer programs tailored to the individual by teaching what is needed in the moment and reinforcing the lesson through additional resources. Those additional resources for mitigating learning loss might include follow-up learning content, additional sessions with the program facilitator, small cohorts to continue learning, or reminders sent to learners following course completion.

Why getting L&D right matters
“More than 8 in 10 HR managers believe training is beneficial to attract (83%) and retain (86%) talent, and many employees (48%) agree that training opportunities were a factor in choosing their current company. More than three-quarters of employees (76%) say they are more likely to stay with a company that offers continuous training.” 2022 Workplace Learning & Development Trends, SHRM

One additional way to overcome the challenge of the forgetting curve is coaching. Coaching presents an opportunity to learn and apply new skills in a moment of need. In collaboration with their coach, employees are able to identify skills they need to focus on and work on developing those skills through role play and reflection. Investing in learning skills when they’re actually needed and can be immediately put to use means that learners have a much greater likelihood of integrating what’s been learned.

For example, an employee might start a new role and encounter conflict with a manager, feel undervalued after a performance review, get promoted and start experiencing greater stress due to workload, or get promoted to manager on a team of their now former peers. In these situations, a coach can support an employee at any level in exploring where to focus, direct them to specific training material, and provide a safe place in which to practice new skills.

Unlike the traditional approaches to employee training and development, incorporating coaches into your L&D strategy drives retention through immediate, post-training application.

How Bravely solves this problem

Given how invaluable L&D is in today’s rapidly changing world of work, it’s time solution providers prioritize and enable learning reinforcement. Bravely’s answer to this problem — supporting learners in overcoming the forgetting curve — is a centralized solution where learning lives side-by-side with coaching.

Our new L&D platform makes it possible for HR and L&D leaders to provide everyone with one-on-one, individualized support for growth and well-being while also providing an effective way to extend the investment they get from their training solution.

We believe our modern approach to L&D, one that combines seasoned professional coaches with expert-designed learning content — including large-format trainings, small group workshops, and digital micro-learning — will ensure the necessary learning content is not only delivered but reinforced.

To learn more about our new L&D platform, book a demo.

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