Tip #877:  Five Steps to Make Learning Stick

“Knowledge, skills, and experiences that are vivid and hold significance, and those that are periodically practiced, stay with us.” Peter C. Brown

Is it enough that only 20% of your training participants will use what they learned and change how they work or live their lives? Or would you like your programs to have a greater and more lasting impact?

There are five steps you can take when you design a learning experience to increase the possibility that learning will stick.

  1. Ensure Relevance and Immediate Application. Participants are interested in knowledge and skills that will help them in their current situation. They need to see that their learning has practical application and can be used immediately.

In a program orienting new call center employees, the participants had to learn how to use the phone system and gain sufficient information so they could respond to questions. They practiced using a simulated phone system and learned how to answer a specific set of questions. They knew they would be using these skills on the job.

  1. Get Buy-In at the Beginning. Participants will not change their behavior unless they see for themselves that the benefits of changing outweigh the negatives. Emotional messages will drive them to act. Participants are much more likely to remember stories than facts. We can raise their anxiety about the personal consequences if they don’t change their behavior and then offer that a clear solution will be provided during the learning experience.

In a program about the safe removal of asbestos, the male participants felt that using safety precautions wasn’t manly. I knew that family was important to them. I asked how many of them would be around small children who put their fingers in their mouths. Would it be all right with the participants if these children ingested the asbestos fibers clinging to their father’s or uncle’s shoes and clothing?  Since the answer was a resounding NO, the participants were now ready to learn how to follow safety procedures.

  1. Clarify Alternative Options for Implementation. It is important to give participants at least three different practical and concrete examples of ways to use what they have learned. Otherwise, the participants will wait for one specific circumstance before they will consider applying their new skills.

In a program about win-win negotiation techniques, the participants were asked to refine their definition of negotiation from a formal event to a discussion aimed at reaching an agreement. They realized that many conversations contained large or small disagreements. They were able to identify all types of situations where they could use their negotiation techniques.

  1. Provide Frequent Practice. Participants need ample practice to help automate their new learning. Their practice can be the following day, over several days, or simply later in the same day, after a break.

In a program on how to conduct a coaching conversation, the participants formed triads where each member had an opportunity to practice coaching in a role play. At the conclusion of the role-play, the other two members provided coaching to help that member improve. Each triad member practiced coaching (either in the role-play or to the role-players) three times. The participants then went back to their worksites to conduct coaching conversations with different employees.

  1. Build in an Action and Accountability Plan. When people are specific about when, where, and how they are going to implement what they’ve learned, that increases the likelihood that they will do what they say by 80%. You can increase transfer and accountability further by having the participants buddy up with someone who will check in with them on a regular basis to keep them on track.

For example, in a program for managers to develop their teams, each manager selected a peer buddy and committed to touching base with that individual once a week at a designated time. During those conversations, the managers were able to discuss and get feedback on issues they needed to address. They were also able to celebrate their successes with someone who understood the difficulties they had overcome. Being held accountable for progress on a weekly basis increased the managers’ effective team development by 70%.

If you want learning to stick, ensure that it is relevant, practical, and immediately applicable; make it meaningful by engaging the participants’ emotions; clarify a variety of applications; provide ample practice; and build in an action and accountability plan.

May your learning be sweet- and safe.



Question: What other design techniques do you use to increase learning transfer?


#learningtransfer #trainingdesign #engagelearners #actionandaccountabilityplan #learninganddevelopment #humanresources


Related Posts