One of the challenges many companies face when creating training materials is to select and organize content that is meaningful and relevant to their employees. There is a fine balance in determining what information employees want and what information employees need in training. If you are trying to disseminate a lot of information to your employees all at once, they will likely do one of three things:
- They will scan through the material as quickly as possible and not really retain the information.
- They will get bored and spend more time on Facebook than actually engaging with the content.
- They will read every single word and do every single activity mandated in the training, and then not remember a thing.
Memory retention has been the focus of several studies. In the 1800s, for example, German scientist Hermman Ebbinghaus created what is now referred to as the forgetting curve. The forgetting curve compares the percentage of knowledge retained to the number of days since the knowledge was first introduced. Within an hour, about 50% of the information is already forgotten. After 2 days, about 80% of the information is forgotten. A month after the knowledge was first presented, 90% of it is already forgotten.
Ebbinghaus hypothesized the speed at which the learner forgot the information depended on several factors, including the complexity of the material and whether the material was meaningful to the learner. If you are investing time, money and resources into company training then you want your employees to remember what they learned. It all comes down to the content and how it’s organized and presented.
So how do you present content in a way that is meaningful and relevant without it being overwhelming? Here are some suggestions:
Offer a range of content options. Throughout the training, provide different ways to present the content, including short briefs to in-depth articles to job aids. This method helps cater to different learning styles and needs.
Put the content into context. You should try to communicate why the concepts and topics buried in the content are important and how they align with the values of the organization.
Use activities and gamification methods to encourage exploration. Your employees will be more likely to remember key concepts and information if they can interact with the content. Learning activities, like scenarios, can help the learner remember the material.
Select content that is relevant. The learners will be more likely to remember information that is relevant and meaningful. If you try to cram everything and the kitchen sink into training, your employees will likely become disengaged and overwhelmed.
Use content as a tool for action. Offer ideas on how to use the content to start discussions within teams or with colleagues.
Cognitive load theory suggests that when learners are given too much information or tasks simultaneously, it can result in the learner being unable to effectively process that information. So when it comes to content, sometimes, less is best.