We’ve all had experiences of attending training sessions and events, only to find those action plans and good intentions made on the day are quickly sidelined, shelved or forgotten within hours of returning to work. Organisation development professor, Art Kohn has described this as the ‘forgetting curve’ and suggests that on average 50% of new information is forgotten within one hour, 70% is lost in 24 hours and a staggering 90% within a week.

So how can you make learning stick? Or more specifically, how can you make learning for your staff so sticky that they will not only remember what they learned months afterwards, but apply new skills and willingly change habits and behaviours?

Learning experiences have to be memorable, retrievable and applicable. To do that, they not only have to create an emotional response, but be reinforced over time.

Here are 5 PRACTICAL STEPS to help make learning stick:

1) Sell Benefits

Don’t spend all your time and money on just the training activity. The real return on investment only occurs when time and energy is spent on making the training meaningful, by engaging with delegates before any training takes place. If people believe that the benefits to them outweigh the time and energy it will take for them to attend, then they will be much more receptive to altering their behaviour or implementing what they have learned.

2) Tell Stories

Use storytelling rather than statistics to impart information or embed key messages. Stories are highly effective at motivating an audience, because storytelling evokes an emotional response. They embed information to a listener in a unique way which aids retention and retrieval.

3) Share Intentions

Take action planning and goal-setting to a new level. After the training or learning activity, ensure all delegates include their own ‘situational cues’ ie they identify when, where and how they are going to carry out their actions or achieve their goals. Including the ‘how’ is much more powerful and effective than just stating the ‘what’.

4) Keep it Small

Focus on training in bite-sized chunks. People learn and remember more when they receive new information in smaller amounts and have opportunities to practice what they have learned. If this is supported with further booster sessions, then retention is further increased.

5) Enable Transfer

Ensure there are plenty of opportunities to apply new knowledge and skills back in the workplace. This transfer is made much easier if actual learning scenarios are based on real work situations and the training covers when and how they can be applied back in the work environment.


Please share any of your own ‘sticky’ learning habits or ways to make learning stick for those that you manage.

If you liked this article you may also be interested in other management articles such as:

Are you an Extreme Engagement Employer?

Team Development (a case study)

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