Engaging Learners is Key to Training Retention


Indulge us in a little experiment for a moment, won’t you?

Close your eyes. Think back to your days in high school. You likely had several classes a day with several different teachers. You sat in a classroom and listened to lectures, you went home and did homework, and then you went back to school and took tests and quizzes to assess what you’d learned. Perhaps you had your favorite studying techniques—flashcards, pneumonic devices or outlines—and if you worked hard at it, you usually received good grades.

Now think back to some specific classes you took—specifically, subjects you didn’t go on to pursue in higher education or your career path. What do you remember?

If you’re like most people, the answer is probably not much, if anything. When thinking about your History class, for example, you probably can’t remember specific dates of events. However, you might be surprised to realize you DO remember the entire process of how a bill becomes a law. That’s because your teacher staged a mock-Senate that allowed you and your classmates to debate on each other’s ideas for new laws. Funny, you haven’t thought about that lesson in years, and yet, it stuck with you.

This blast from the past is an example of when you were an engaged learner. Your teacher was able to get you to commit a lesson to memory because you were active and engaged with the material at hand.

What Does this Mean for Training Retention? 

Just as teachers try to find creative ways to get through to students, your company or organization needs creative ways to engage employees as they go through training. The more engaged they are, the more likely they are to remember the information they learn and then put it to use in their job duties.

So, just what kind of engagement do you need to provide? Well, according to Allan Bloom, who wrote “The Closing of the American Mind,” abreakthrough book on learning, engaged learning is best achieved through multiple perspectives. He broke down retention into these percentages, claiming learners retained:

  • 10% of what they READ 

  • 20% of what they HEAR 

  • 30% of what they SEE 

  • 50% of what they SEE & HEAR 

  • 70% of what they SAY 

  • 90% of what they SAY & DO

As you can see, the percentages increase considerably when the learner is more engaged with the material. A visual and an explanation yields better retention than just a visual, and active participation and reiterating creates even better results.

What Does this Mean for your Business Goals?

If your company is going to invest in training, you want to make sure it’s worth your while. Finding training opportunities that actively engage and motivate your employees will translate into better productivity and less need for repeat training in the future.

Traditional webinars and videos might not be cutting it when it comes to keeping your employees focused. An eLearning option that requires participants to SEE a visual, HEAR information and DO interactive tasks to hold their attention will help improve memory retention and make sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck.


Will Holland