What is a knowledge retention strategy?

Pamela S. Hogle
Smiling woman with short hair, wearing glasses.
min read
min watch

The reasons for corporate training boil down to three goals:

  • Transferring knowledge
  • Teaching or improving skills
  • Changing behavior

For any of these to happen, learners have to not only do the training, they also have to learn and remember the content.

Too often, training is a one-time exposure to a fire hose of information. Employees might be able to remember it long enough to pass an end-of-training quiz — but few of them retain it for longer than a few hours or, at most, a week or two.

A knowledge retention strategy can address this challenge head-on.

Your knowledge retention strategy can be an add-on to your existing training approach or a reconfiguration of your training approach that adopts new eLearning formats that build long-term retention while teaching the content.

Either way, spaced repetition of content is likely to figure prominently in the strategy.

Continuous training boosts retention

Rocket launching into a clear blue sky

One-time exposure is seldom sufficient to embed a piece of information into a person’s long-term memory. Repeated exposures, with gaps of a few hours to several days, signal the brain that the information is important. This tells the brain to move the information from short-term to long-term memory.

For learners to be exposed to content multiple times, at spaced intervals, training has to operate on a continuous paradigm — a shift from the one-and-done or annual training approach that is common. An emerging concept, everboarding, recognizes that corporate training is an ongoing part of work and lifelong learning.

Adopting a culture of ongoing learning is a mental shift — one that requires changes to the way training is created and delivered.

Microlearning is an ideal vehicle for continuous training

Microlearning is short, narrowly focused training content. It is often delivered in mobile-first or mobile-friendly media, such as flashcard or quiz apps, games, or short videos.

It’s available on demand, and learners often use microlearning in their workflow, rather than scheduling or “going to” training. 

Much microlearning content serves an additional purpose, functioning as performance support. That’s because it’s accessible at the moment an employee has a question or needs to remember a detail. It’s easy for the learner to search the microlearning content, find the relevant information, and refresh their memory.

Because it is short, focused, and easily accessible anywhere, microlearning is often the vehicle of choice for delivering a knowledge retention campaign. Microlearning platforms can b continuous delivery into their approach, encouraging learners to develop a daily training habit.

Extend — or transform — training

A wooden ladder painted red pointing up into a blue sky. A hand rests on the lowest rung of the ladder.

A knowledge retention strategy might extend conventional training by adding a retention campaign after learners complete their annual or one-time training. That could mean a microlearning campaign that starts the day after an in-person workshop or kicks in once a learner has completed a course or curriculum in the LMS.

Either way, the retention campaign begins immediately after training and reinforces the material covered. A knowledge retention campaign might deliver information to re-expose learners to concepts covered in their training. To be even more effective, it will challenge learners, asking them to recall information they learned or, better yet, apply it to scenarios they could encounter at work. They might be asked to use the content in new ways, answer questions, or solve problems.

Each microlearning session should present different information; when added together, all of the micro-lessons add up to a comprehensive review of the training material. With continuous delivery, microlearning knowledge retention campaigns can ensure that every learner encounters 100% of the content during the campaign.

Alternatively, your microlearning knowledge retention campaign can teach and then reinforce content. Similar to the post-training retention campaign, this microlearning campaign could present information and activities, offering learners plenty of feedback and opportunities to test their knowledge. Repeated exposure to content and feedback will build mastery and long-term retention.

Knowledge retention campaigns work

Everboarding, continuous learning, and knowledge retention campaigns are effective because they align with how humans’ brains learn and remember information.

Delivering frequent short micro-lessons avoids overloading learners with too much new information at once. Spacing between lessons allows the brain to process new knowledge.

Repetition strengthens recall, builds connections between pieces of information — and embeds that information in long-term memory.

Providing examples and activities that are relevant to learners’ work responsibilities boosts the relevance of the training, which causes learners to pay attention, while also building more connections in their brains that strengthen retention.

Finally, the in-the-workflow aspect of microlearning, where learners do training or look up bits of content while they are engaged in related tasks, underscores the relevance of the learning and further solidifies their ability to recall it when they need it — at work.

Smiling woman with short hair, wearing glasses.
Pamela S. Hogle

An experienced writer, editor, tech writer, and blogger, Pam helps you make sense of learning science and eLearning technology. She provides information you can use to drive improvements in your training effectiveness and ROI.

Become part of our L&D community

We publish a new learning hub article — full of useful, practical topics —  weekly.

Not sure where where you want to start? Jump into one of our recently published articles and see where it takes you!