Employee Training Retention

Sending an employee to training is an investment in both the employee and the organization; put simply, there is a desired benefit for the employer who pays the tab. Critics of employee training claim there is little ROI attached to such expenses, and question the long-term impact on the bottom line of the organization. They assert that employees return to the workplace, place their training materials on the bookshelf and forget what was taught in the classroom. There may be some merit to these claims; androgogy (“the art and science of helping adults learn”) asserts that adults retain only what is important and useful to them. If employees don’t see the value of a given training session to their work, they won’t engage or retain, and the employer may be wasting their money.

So what drives employee retention of training? Multiple lines of research provide one clear answer – application and support back at work.

In the 70’s and 80’s, research by Malcolm Knowles clearly illustrated that learners apply more of what they learn in training when they have the direct ability to apply what they have learned within two weeks of instruction.  When organizations and supervisors intentionally provide the opportunity for the direct application and practice of learning, more learning is retained and more skills are applied.

In the 90’s research by Broad and Newstrom identified three key stakeholders and time-frames which most positively influenced the retention and transfer of learning.  They were:

  1. The Supervisor Before Training
    • What preparation, if any, did the Supervisor provide to their employees before the training started?
  2. The Trainer Before Training
    • What preparation, if any, did the Trainer provide to students before the training started?
  3. The Supervisor After Training
    • What follow up, if any, did the Supervisor have with the employee after their training?

In the 2000’s, The Center for Creative Leadership identified 80-20-10.  This sequence of numbers represents the answer to the question, “Where did you learn what you know?”

  • 80% from on-the-job learning
  • 20% from coaches and mentor
  • 10% from formal training/educational opportunities

While classroom and educational opportunities are foundational for learning, without the opportunity to apply at work (80%) and support from others (20%) learning does not go far.

Building on this research, Employers Council now offers a “Post Training Action Plan” on the Training Catalog home page. Designed by our Organizational Development and Learning team, this easy-to-use tool is to be completed by the employee immediately after training. When the employee returns to the workplace, supervisors may use it to guide constructive conversations with the employee to maximize the desired benefits of attending training. For any questions about this tool or training options, please contact us at 800-884-1328.