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The One Key To Getting Your Employee Development To Stick

How much do you usually spend on employee development and education? It’s a lot, right?

Think about that number. Really feel into it. You want that money to be well-spent. You want what you spend on employee learning and development (L&D) to have a positive effect on your company, your employees, and your performance, and you think you’re doing a pretty good job.

Now comes the horrifying part:

According to this article from Panopto (based on learning research cited by the Training Industry), nearly 90% of all employee learning is lost within one year.

That’s a lot of money, and a lot of potential, going to waste.

We can explain why.

Why Employee Learning Is Often Lost

Professional development trainings usually focus on two areas:

  • Learning complex tools, like using a new software or applying a new framework

  • Essential skills related to leadership, interpersonal relationships, and emotional intelligence

These areas can’t be learned in a “one and done” format. And that’s the biggest reason that employee learning is lost: a lack of practice.

Think back to how you learned as a child. When we were kids, we were told “practice makes perfect,” and incorporated various kinds of practice into our days:

  • Homework to grasp the basics of reading, writing, and math.

  • Sports practice to learn the rules of the game and moves needed to play.

  • Music or dance lessons to attune our ears and motor skills.

  • Recess to work on socializing and connecting with people.

Practice allows you the time and space to apply new information, experiment with ideas, and get real-time feedback while being able to ask questions about the tricky spots.

Adults Needs Practice, Too

While practice may not make “perfect” (we know that there is no such thing), practice is an essential element on the path to improvement. It’s widely accepted that children retain what they learn through practice.

As adults, however, we are expected to hear or read information once and immediately change our behavior. If we’re lucky, there’s an expert available who we can go to with questions. But having no time to practice and experiment with real-life stakes? Forget it.

The process of “figuring it out” through practice – trying, failing, and iterating – is essential to real learning, and therefore real change. So, the next time you need to design an L&D program for your employees, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How can you make space for them to learn and explore?

  • Who can they go to for help and guidance?

  • When will they be able to practice?

Practice doesn’t make perfect. But it does make learning permanent.

Interested in reading more from Barometer XP? Access our full blog archive here.


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