Strategic Training Techniques to Negate the Forgetting Curve


Retail associates sales training retentionPicture this: A brand-new product launch is two weeks away. You gather your team for a training session to go over all the basics and prepare them to deliver a fantastic customer experience. Two hours later, the session ends, and you feel good about getting that training in early.

Fast-forward to launch day, and your sales team is struggling to remember all those finer details you went over. They must refer to you or the sales documentation to help customers.

This scenario is fairly common in retail, and it's one that you might have been on the other side of at one point. So, what happened? Where did all the information you gave to your team in this example go?

Contrary to popular belief, it has nothing to do with your teaching skills or the capabilities of your associates. It is often referred to as the Forgetting Curve.

What is the Forgetting Curve?

The Forgetting Curve is a theory that represents how the human brain loses information over time and originated with German psychologist Herman Ebbinghaus. Ebbinghaus performed a preliminary study on himself before publishing the hypothesis in 1885.

The theory shows how quickly people forget simple facts over a relatively short period. According to some studies, about 50% of new information is forgotten within an hour. By 24 hours, that figure jumps up to 70% and gets progressively higher in the coming days and weeks. The longer information isn't utilized or recalled, the quicker it vanishes.

It's a shocking figure but understanding how the Forgetting Curve works goes a long way in the context of employee training.

How Can the Forgetting Curve Affect Your Sales Associates?

Many companies are starting to reevaluate traditional training techniques, and the Forgetting Curve plays a part in shifting attitudes.

In the past, long-form training was the go-to. It involved managers using corporate training materials to deliver learning, sometimes all in one long session or consecutive days-long sessions.

When new hires join the team, their first day is usually an overwhelming bombardment of information. They might get a slew of pamphlets and handbooks to get caught up as quickly as possible.

The Forgetting Curve tells us that such information dumps aren’t practical or successful in employee training. In most cases, your associates have no opportunity to apply new knowledge or skills before the brain must make room for even more information.

As a result, they often need to refer to training materials or ask colleagues for help when interacting with customers on the salesfloor. This doesn’t go unnoticed by your customers.

How to Combat the Forgetting Curve and Improve Learning Retention

Henry Ford once said, "The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay."

Retail training is a must. Modern workers want training opportunities. They expect to have chances for career development. A successful training program can help:

  • Reduce employee turnover

  • Improve sales

  • Enhance the customer experience

  • Increase overall success for retail stores

But how can you implement training while overcoming the Forgetting Curve? It's easier than you think.

Focus on Convenience and Flexibility

Convenience and easy access are essential if you want your training to stick. Your associates are busy, and putting training sessions on a strict schedule will lead to low adoption.

Use an eLearning platform to help solve this issue. They let your associates access short lessons through their phones, tablets, or computers. Available 24/7, your team can complete training in a convenient way for them.

Create a Culture of Learning

Another element for getting out of the Forgetting Curve is consistency. The issue with long-form training is that it happens all at once, then never again. This doesn't leave any opportunity for retention.

To see success, training opportunities must be consistent and repeated. Make it a crucial part of your work culture. Encourage your team to collaborate and share what they learn from trainings. Incorporate friendly competitions to facilitate training with associates at other stores.

Use Microlearning Techniques

We already know that you forget most of the information you learn if you don't use it immediately. Instead of working against the human brain, you can craft your training to work with that distinct limitation.

Keep lessons short. In doing so, you're providing valuable information in bite-sized chunks that are easy to remember. Module-based studies are becoming increasingly popular because they're better for retention and recall.

Provide Engaging Lessons

Another way to work around the Forgetting Curve is to make things engaging. Switch things up and consider implementing a wide range of media styles that keep things interesting. For example, you can have short video trainings, fun quizzes, interactive elements, and more. Gamification is a huge plus, too.

This technique works because it goes beyond absorbing basic information. It encourages your associates to participate in the training and actively use what they just learned. The inherent motivation goes a long way.

Perfect the Timing

The Forgetting Curve strikes quickly, making it impossible for your team to put their newly obtained knowledge to good use before losing it. One way to get around that obstacle is to practice just-in-time learning.

This technique is the opposite of long-form training. It involves delivering crucial information and training materials right when your associates need them. Thanks to modern technology and sales enablement strategies, it's easy to practice just-in-time learning. You may notice vast improvements in learning retention when your team can apply those new skills quickly.

Empowering Your Associates with Training That Sticks

The best way to help your sales associates overcome the Forgetting Curve is to keep the concept in mind with planning your training. Understanding how the mind retains information can make all the difference.

The Intel® Retail Edge Program is designed to deliver training in ways ideal for retention and recall.  With interactive lessons, microlearning modules, and plenty of ways to stay engaged, your associates can improve their sales skills and learn about Intel® products and technologies.

Learn more about the Intel® Retail Edge Program and unlock your team's true sales potential.


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