Have you ever traveled to a non-English speaking country, where you know a bit of the language? The longer you’re there, the more phrases you start to understand. But the minute you get home, those phrases float away like clouds on a warm, sunny day.
The same thing happens after a workshop or self-study program. After a few days, the content often is a fuzzy memory at best. Hermann Ebbinghaus called this the Forgetting Curve: almost 70% of any new knowledge or information is lost within a 24 hour period if we don’t make efforts to retain it.
The implication is this: Workshops and self-study programs by themselves usually are not the best way to help us grow and advance.
It’s important to create experiences over a sustained time that let us practice what we learn in order to benefit. You won’t improve your time as a runner if you only do it occasionally.
Or, you won’t lose that 10 lbs if you only change your eating habits when you feel like it. (You get the idea.)
But how do you do this? It requires planning a range of activities for both learning and retention as part of growing new “muscle” (skills and practices). We use our five-step GEARS™ (Goal - Engage - Apply - Reflect - Synch to Keep) model when structuring individual and team learning with clients.
Why are these steps important -- including the Synch It Up step? According to HR consultant Josh Bersin, spacing out learning in conjunction with practice is essential.
'When you study alone, you typically remember 28% of what you learned after two days. When you repeat the material, you remember 46%.
But when you use it, answer questions about it, and interact with others, you remember 69%. The reason? Actually conceptualizing, recalling, and using information is what creates the “memory pathways” that stick in your mind.'
There’s also a growing focus today on just in time training, which delivers learning in bite-sized chunks using a variety of tools and approaches. As Mike Schultz with the RAIN Group notes, bite-sized learning -- as well, bite-sized practices, I would offer -- are beneficial because
It’s more engaging for us
Using a variety of tools/approaches that are “snackable” has a cumulative effect on individual learning progress
We know we’ve truly learned something when we have been able to successfully or moderately successfully apply it in practice.
Here’s a short list of customizable, “just-in-time” or “snackable” tools that we draw from in our work. (If you want to take these tools a step further and learn about unlocking intentionality, read this great post from MJ Hall, Are You Teaching Others to Fish or Just Stocking the Pond?)
How many of these practices have you used before when learning to do something new in support of a personal or career or workplace goal? How often have you brought them into efforts to advance your team’s progress on new goals?
Check-In Mentoring: One-on-one, 30-minute mentoring sessions that zero in on how you’re applying a specific practice related to the goal -- what’s going well, what needs tweaking? Usually offered twice a month, but schedule can vary.
Short Articles: Brief, focused articles that are shared on an organization’s internal network or via email to highlight key topics, showcase case studies, or answer team questions.
Mini-Video Lessons: Short, 1-2 minute videos that provide an applied tip or insight about the topic participants learned about previously through self-study or a workshop. Can be shared via email, on internal networks, or at team meetings.
Team Meeting Refreshers: These quick exercises are a good way to offer a refresher of select points covered previously in a self-study or workshop-based program. A brief discussion follows about the key takeaways, bringing back a refresher of course content as well.
Qard Deck: A great tech tool that reinforces learning, featuring customized content that is mobile-friendly. This tool is great as a job aid -- for example, it can include a short checklist of “how-to” steps, downloads of supplemental resources, or a 2-3 minute video that extends learning objectives.
Quizzes and Games: Another easy way to engage team members in recalling and reinforcing self-study or workshop content. Offering prizes to top-scoring teams or team members is another way to incentivize and encourage active recall of material included in courses. Can be offered via email, closed groups on social media, the organization’s internal networks, or a stand-alone app.
Group Mentoring: Small group mentoring that serves as a “check-in” for progress or challenges members are experiencing with implementing their individual plans/activities in support of their goals.
EdApp: App-based, these game-type micro-lessons build on what’s covered in workshops or self-study programs. Reporting is available so you can see who’s completed micro-lessons among your team members. Micro-lessons can be accessed anywhere and at any time. We recently used EdApp for micro-lessons that supplemented learning at a workshop we delivered for the GrowU Festival hosted by the Alliance and Six Seconds.
Finally, coaching can complement these tools. Read more about coaching and what it can contribute to learning and growth in this Forbes article, How Does Coaching Actually Help Leaders?”
Small group coaching programs include a combination of both individual and team-based skill-building. We find they’re popular among organizations who want to foster leadership practices as well as functional skills like emotional intelligence.
In addition, individual coaching provides a more personalized level of support and reflection that can cause shifts in behavior as well as great self-awareness among leaders.
Try using the checklist of eight “snackable” items above when you’re building a plan for achieving what you want to accomplish next, professionally and on an organizational level. There are many free resources available online that you can draw from -- the key is having a plan and then using it. And when you have a plan for reinforcing and continuing to use what you’ve learned, you’re better able to make progress on the goal that’s before you.
Can we help with building and sustaining the skills you or your team need to advance professionally? Reach out to Beth Offenbacker, PhD, CPCC, ACC, at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone or text at 703-623-4811 to discuss if our Executive/Leadership Coaching or Talent Management services are right for you. We work with professionals and organizations that have a sustainability focus in their work. All services are customized to your needs.