This is the first article in a series of six for companies that wish to implement an effective and positive form of communication into their organization and to enhance employee training for sales and meeting situations.

You might know the situation, where you have used a lot of energy on training your new sales representatives or trainees. But it doesn’t take long before you notice how the very same people tend to forget what you told them. Things just did not stick, the way you expected them to, and your newly trained staff might already be running in all kinds of directions. Suddenly things go a little schizophrenic and it might be back to square one again.

There is a solution to this, which I will get back to in a moment. First, let us look at why your workshop or training program is important.

What you gain from structured communication training

I don’t necessarily need to remind you, what you can gain by improving the communication. That was your thought when you made that startup workshop in the first place – to give the new employees a mutual base of knowledge.

Instead, I’ll recap two good arguments, for why you’re already on the right track:

1) When employees work from the basis of a standard practice, it becomes much easier for you to help each member of the group with good advice. They also achieve a better understanding, of what you are telling them, when you have that talk about, what parts can be optimized. A shared base of knowledge is simply essential.

2) When all of your employees know the same practices, it is much easier to correct mistakes on joint meetings. And it is easier for employees to know, what you are referring to – since you both know the same things. Also, you don’t waste time, because you have to coach each and every member of the group in different ways.

So, if we can agree on that, why do people still tend to forget these things weeks after training?

Reasons for people forgetting

People forget. It is completely normal. There can’t be given a clear statistic, on how many percentages of your information will be lost under your workshop, and how much that will disappear in the wake of it. The reason is, that people are simply different. Some are more prone to remembering than others. But what can be said is, that there are certain reasons to why people forget. Ph.D. and learning expert Will Thalheimer has made a list, it is not final, but it shows that people forget due to:

1) The type of material that is being learned – stories are easier to remember than dry facts or nonsense, and relevant things are easier than irrelevant.

2) The learners’ prior knowledge – people with a basic knowledge on the subject remembers more than people who are totally new within the field.

3) The learners’ motivation to learn – the will to learn makes you better at remembering.

4) The power of the learning methods used – for instance; to have people help you by giving feedback, is better than sitting all by yourself and try to learn a subject.

5) The contextual cues in the learning and remembering situations – as pointed out at first, it is much easier to remember by stories and examples.

6) The amount of time the learning has to be retained

7) The time you use training your knowledge – you remember longer if you keep rehearsing the subject from time to time.

It is understandable, that you get a bit frustrated when you experience people, that don’t do, what you told them to do in the first place. But the realities are, that people don’t have a memory as elephants.

What can be done

Your company should look at the list above and try to make a mythic animal, that is half elephant and half employee so that the preservation of knowledge gets better. However, you can’t do much about the knowledge people has prior to starting, and their motivation can also be problematic. The motivation should be found within each person, and not all will take the bait if you, for instance, implement a bonus system of some sort. If you hope that the stuff they learn will last forever, it’s about optimizing the last points.

Look at your material and see if it can be made a little simpler. Maybe you can use better examples or even a story or two to make a great context to remember the material by.

To maintain knowledge you have to train often. You might not have the resources to pull your employees through your workshop regularly, but because people tend to forget, thinking about ways to help new employees, to keep training what you told them, can be a great investment.

If you miss inspiration for how to structure your workshops, in a way that can make remembering more effective, try to explore the subject of “Spaced Repetition”. For this, we recommend this introduction by Osmosis:

We can also help you digitize this kind of training through our pitch training tool. If that sounds interesting, you can learn more about that here[1].


Mads Damsø

Mads Damsø

My big interest is to better the communication between people. I hope my background, combining studies of Comparative Literature and Journalistic Communication, where analyzing the great stories and learning how to tell them, becomes handy.

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