April 23, 2024

3 Ways to Make Learning and Development Stick

5 min read
By Jeremy Bell

It’s an age-old conundrum: Why should organisations invest heavily in learning and development initiatives when their people are likely to forget what they’ve learned? Companies spent £53.6 billion on training in 2022 according to the UK Government’s Employer Skills Survey, yet only 12% of people believe they apply the skills they’ve learned from their workplace training in their day-to-day role.

We explore some common causes of ineffective learning and development initiatives, and three solutions to improve your learning offering by making it more memorable, impactful, and sticky.

1. Make it Personal

45% of people say the training they receive isn’t applicable to their roles.

People are naturally more motivated to learn when they see themselves reflected in the content. This is the essence of “resonance science,” which focuses on creating a connection between information and the learner’s world. Here are some practical steps to build that bridge:

  • Know your audience: It all starts with understanding. Gather feedback through surveys or discussions, pay close attention to data on how your learners typically engage with content, and strive to understand the unique user perspective from learners in your organisation.
  • Tailor your language: Jargon might sound impressive, but it often creates a barrier to learning. Use clear, concise language that resonates with your audience’s existing knowledge and experiences. Bonus points if you can avoid using slang or jargon that’s too regional or localised – globally accessible language will speak to all your cohorts around the world.
  • Provide timely training: Remember the statistic above about training not being available when people need it? Relevance is key. When a specific skill is needed to tackle a current project, that’s the perfect time to offer targeted development opportunities.

2. Keep it Short

24% of people say their normal workload isn’t reduced to enable sufficient time and headspace to do training.

The days of lengthy, multi-week training programmes could be numbered. A Deloitte study found the average person struggles to spare even 24 minutes per week for workplace training amidst their daily workload – that’s precisely 1% of a 40-hour workweek.

Fortunately, emerging research is showing that shorter bursts of learning can be just as, if not more, effective than extended programmes: A study in Australia compared learning experiences in standard (12-week) and accelerated (6-week) courses across various disciplines. The results were significant:

  • Increased Confidence: Students in the accelerated courses reported a significant boost in confidence regarding their knowledge acquisition.
  • Enhanced Motivation: Nearly 75% of learners in the shorter course reported feeling more motivated by the program.
  • Consistent Outcomes: These benefits held true regardless of the learning content, discipline, or topics studied.

So accelerating your learning content will not only save you time, but could also lead to greater stickiness in your learning, and enhanced confidence in your learners.

3. Invest in Visuals

69% of learners believe training content could be more exciting and engaging.

How content is presented is crucial for boosting comprehension, not just in the workplace, but in your day-to-day life as well. Think about airport signage; even if you don’t understand the language, you’ll always have clear visuals to help you navigate thanks to some clever Japanese designers who created a series of pictograms to help visitors navigate Tokyo for the 1964 Olympics.

Similarly, overinvesting in how you visually present your learning content will pay dividends in how much it’s likely to stick with your learners. Here’s the science behind it:

  • Cognitive load theory (CLT) can help us understand why people struggle so much in understanding learning content. Put simply, think of our brains like computers. We have limited disc space, and we have to clear room whenever we learn something new. So, presenting information in a way that doesn’t take a lot of brain power makes that information stick.
  • Here’s the brain hack: Our computer-like brains are wired for visuals. Studies claim we process images a staggering 60,000 times faster than text! Our brain’s preference for visuals makes them a powerful tool for any learning designer looking to make their L&D content stick with their audience.

Discover sticky learning in practice:

Looking to dive deeper and discover more proven strategies to make your L&D programmes stick?

Watch The Smarty Train’s on-demand Sticky Learning Webinar now to see real-life examples of each of the above learning techniques in practice, and learn practical tips and tricks to implement them in your own programmes.


More insights

L&D Strategies for a More Inclusive Workplace

L&D teams are uniquely positioned to increase awareness, platform marginalised voices, and cultivate inclusive learning content. Read three simple strategies to get started.

Read more
L&D Functions Are Feeling the Squeeze: What This Means for Organisations

As budgets tighten, how are L&D functions expected to address issues like stagnant productivity and early careers skills gaps, when few have the budget to properly upskill their people?

Read more
Need-To-Know Graduate Development Statistics, Trends & Data: 2024

What do today's graduates want? How is “wave 2” of Gen Z different? In the build up to 2024’s graduate season, we’ve curated 20+ need-to-know emerging trends and statistics that will define the state of graduate development going into September 2024 and beyond.

Read more
The Smarts X•Change

The Smarts X•Change (TSX) is an Early Careers Development Programme in a box. We’ve done all of the design so you don’t have to: it's ready to deploy, scalable and affordable.

Read more
Back to insights

We’d love to
hear from you!

The Smarty Train
24A Marshalsea Road

Contact us +44 (0)20 7089 5630

Let's Chat...