How Neuroscience Should Influence Your Training Design

Brigg Patten

When it comes to the growth and development of your team, training is vital. Training programs help employees grow and improve; without them, your employees could be stuck on both personal and professional levels. Because your business depends on your team, if they are stuck, so are you.

While good training methods can encourage your employees to learn and evolve, there is one problem: Research indicates that only 15% of training is retained in memory, which is a very low return on investment. So what can we do about it?

The answer is to use neuroscience. In other words, you can increase the amount of information that employees retain by understanding how the brain works and using that information to your advantage.

Tell stories

Stories are very powerful. When we hear stories that involve sound or smell, the sensory part of our brain activates. Telling stories during training sessions is an invaluable tool. You can use this in your training sessions by telling stories of mistakes people made and what happened as a result.

When you tell stories, your employees will remember information much better than if they had simply read from a textbook. Your team becomes engaged because a part of their brain experiences the story as if it were real. This helps engage them on an emotional level to keep them focused and attentive.

Use technology

Part of the reason that training doesn’t stick is because it is often incredibly dull and unmemorable. The way you package and present training material to employees plays a big role in determining whether or not employees will engage with it (which increases their chance of retaining it) or turn their attention off within the first 15 seconds when they realize they are getting the same old thing.

Micro-learning and gamification for e-learning-formatted training are great examples of how you can use technology to engage employees. In other words, move your training to desktop and mobile, break it into small digestible sections, and work in some form of reward element to help the user feel like they are in a game, progressing toward a goal and getting small pats on the back along the way. Training like this is both affordable and practical for any business.

Inspire emotion

By default, people go about their daily routines on autopilot. It takes a lot of mental energy to exit autopilot and make choices. Therefore, standard training methods and programs cause employees to lose focus and stop paying attention. This is one of the top reasons training programs are not effective.

To avoid this problem, training consultants suggest inspiring emotion during training sessions. Engaging your employee’s emotions will capture their interest and help them retain information. To achieve this,  show videos or slideshows of successful employees who are happy and engaged in their work. Also include material that relates what can go wrong if the training is not properly followed.

Use analogies

Using analogies is a great way to increase information retention. It takes effort to process new information; you can offset this by relating new information to what your team already knows. Our brains are more receptive to information it already agrees with. Be creative — find ways to link new information to past training sessions, or relate new information to your team’s interests or hobbies.

Encourage goal-setting

If you want your training to be effective, encourage your employees to set goals. Without goals, they will quickly forget what they have learned. When we don’t implement information right away, we forget quickly. But when we find practical ways to use new information, that information gets transferred to long-term memory.

Encourage your team to set goals related to the material covered in the training session. Use both short- and long-term goals. Short-term goals are important so that your team can start practicing new skills right away. Long-term goals give your team a vision to aim for, which will keep both them and your business on track.

If possible, offer incentives for employees who find the most effective method to implement their training and skills. This will inspire and motivate them. It will also encourage some friendly competition, which can increase your team’s desire to push themselves.

Standard training can be boring and ineffective. To overcome this and increase information retention, learn more about how the human brain works and use that information to captivate and inspire your team.

For more corporate training strategies that get results, see A New Model For Corporate Learning.


About Brigg Patten

Brigg Patten writes in the business and tech spaces. He's a fan of podcasts, bokeh and smooth jazz. His time is mostly spent learning the piano and watching his Golden Retriever Julian chase a stick.