Your digital adoption strategy takes a lot of work to develop and deploy — it takes, on average, three months to get a sales rep buyer-ready and 15 months to make them a top performer. Yet all the time and effort go to waste unless you have a plan in place to reinforce your training. It’s not something to build into the plan after the fact. It’s the plan working at its best.
The average office worker uses four to five platforms per day, so while we can’t escape the proliferation of software (that, in many ways, makes work easier!), we can focus on the phase of learning that stops this disruptive cycle in its tracks and ensures your training goes the distance: reinforcement.
Reinforcement is a critical step in your digital adoption strategy
When learning something new, reinforcement is the key to cementing the skills or process in your mind — taking it from information to knowledge. It’s a key component in giving workers confidence, improving efficiency, and making them more competent in their work. Without reinforcement, your digital adoption strategy is doomed to fail.
If you’re trained on a tool your first week of work and then don’t use it again for a few more weeks, most of that initial training is out the window. In fact, without reinforcement, “learners risk forgetting 90% of what they’ve learned within the first month after training.” This is called " the forgetting curve ." Training your team to adopt new technology without reinforcement wastes time, wastes money, and starts the cycle over again.
But studies have shown that if you review the information you’ve learned for 10 minutes within the first 24 hours of learning, your retention will be almost 100%. As days go on, you’ll require less and less time to get back up to speed (only two to four minutes of review at the 30-day mark), because you’re creating a pattern of reinforcement in your brain.
The very concept of everboarding is built around this concept: learning is never really finished in the workplace, and that training is an organic process that requires consistent buy-in and support from management.
If the goal is truly knowledge retention rather than just checking off a list of training requirements, then reinforcement should be top of mind for any team responsible for digital adoption, as well as everboarding. So why are employees often left to their own devices at this stage without guidance or support?
The challenges with reinforcing your digital adoption strategy
There are many reasons reinforcement might not be the most resourced area of a training program. Nick Lawrence is the curriculum design manager at Snowflake and, in his experience developing learning models, reinforcement is often overlooked but never goes unnoticed.
“Without reinforcement, there’s no longevity to the program,” he says. “You’re not sustaining the behaviors you need to sustain.” Here are some friction points he’s noticed:
It’s a mindset shift
Teams build training programs around need-to-know information and deliver it to each new person who needs access. Because there are always ongoing needs, it’s easy to get into a mindset of teaching without focusing on the necessary follow-up — building learning events rather than learning environments.
“There's no training that, by itself, is going to sustain any behaviors for very long or deliver on any outcomes you want,” says Nick. “You have to build the environment, not the event.” When the mindset shifts to creating an ecosystem of learning rather than a series of learning moments, reinforcement becomes a more organic aspect of learning at work.
It’s not in the flow of work
There are, of course, occasions when teams provide retraining opportunities, but those often follow the event-over-environment approach once more. According to Forbes , “organizations that implement learning in the flow of work regularly experience greater business outcomes because they are better able to adapt to changes in the environment.”
According to Nick, this is also because so much of learning is about comprehending how to perform the behavior, not just understanding the logic behind it. “You don’t just watch videos about how to fix your dishwasher in your free time,” he jokes. “I only watch that video on YouTube when my dishwasher breaks, and that’s really important.”
“The more reinforcement can be aligned and embedded into someone’s flow of work, the better because it’s how people want to learn.”
It creates bottlenecks
Because the need for reinforcement comes up while in the flow of work, it’s natural for people to have questions for managers in those moments so they can understand and move on with their tasks. But managers aren’t always around to answer, and in today’s more hybrid and remote working environments, many people don’t have a colleague to quickly turn to and ask for help.
And when managers spend their entire days answering questions or being the keepers of knowledge for how to use certain software, this is how bottlenecks happen. It slows down productivity and steals time from everyone involved.
What it looks like when you get reinforcement right
Before building out an eLearning course, a walkthrough, or live training, there need to be a few key pillars in place. This is where just-in-time learning comes into play. Just-in-time learning delivers bite-sized information to reinforce learning exactly when and where the user needs it — in the flow of work. Truly helping people learn at work means providing the following foundation and weaving reinforcement in all along the way — this is the environment that truly values learning:
- The information they need to learn a behavior
- Performance support and guidance — including reward and acknowledgment
- A cadence of communication — what to do, when to do it, and how to do it
- Formal reinforcement in the flow of work
“Simple recognition and acknowledgment can go a long way,” says Nick. “Reinforcing can also mean saying, ‘yes, this is what you should be doing.’” Pulling out those moments of success also serves as further training material for the rest of an organization, helping feed that culture of learning for your entire company. “You can share those examples with, say, the sales field, so they’re seeing what good looks like and motivating them to get recognized too,” says Nick.
You’ll notice when learning is reinforced throughout the process because your team will know what they need to know. “Ultimately, unlearning is harder than learning something new,” says Nick. Those who are taught well will become active participants in their own learning, resulting in a more self-sufficient and confident workforce.
Reinforcement leads to retention
The link between employee engagement and employee retention can’t be overstated. Employees who are checked out at work, who don’t feel supported by their management, and who don’t feel the company is invested in them are much more likely to leave — and that’s going to cost you. According to insight from Gallup , “The cost of replacing an individual employee can range from one-half to two times the employee's annual salary.” In fact, it’s costing U.S. businesses $1 trillion a year.
But giving people the tools they need to succeed can help circumvent those feelings. Businesses that encourage employees to learn have up to 50% higher engagement and retention rates.
Remember: knowledge retention costs companies, too. Some $160 billion is spent by U.S. businesses on employee learning and training each year, and if some or most of it is in one ear and out the other, that’s a significant amount of budget flushed away annually. Investing in the reinforcement phase of your training is investing in your own business.
Spekit is the number one-ranked just-in-time learning platform that helps you reinforce the training you spend so much money and time on. It closes that gap between learning and doing and ensures your employees are engaged and participating in their own professional growth.