Training effectiveness in the utility sector is near and dear to my heart. My company specializes in this (as well an emergency planning), and I personally take great pains to do it right. But despite the greatest of intentions, sometimes things can go awry which is frustrating. Let’s face it – conducting employee training only to find out the information is not retained or practiced is essentially a waste of time and money. Luckily, there is one approach that can be used to improve the “stickiness” of the information.
Cognitive Load Theory and Training Effectiveness
Cognitive Load Theory focuses on how sensory inputs influence our ability to learn – the greater the number of sensory inputs (listening to a speaker, looking at a presentation, goofing off with others at the table, etc.), the lower the amount of information that gets transferred into short-term memory. From there, people unconsciously determine how much of the information is passed from short term to long-term memory based on how important they feel it is. Whatever makes into long-term memory is what is learned.
If trainers can increase the amount of information that makes it into long-term memory, they can improve training effectiveness. There are plenty of resources you can check out online for a detailed overview of how to do this – like this article – but in a nutshell the tactics boil down to games and competitions, mnemonic devices, group activities and quizzes, storytelling, and my favorite tactic, scenario based learning like exercises and drills.
The bottom line is that training is only as good as the degree to which the information is actually learned, and utilities employing some or all of the techniques above will improve their training effectiveness and, subsequently, the ROI on their training efforts.