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Interval Reinforcement: How It Can Help Improve Safety Training Retention

For organizations across the globe, low rates of learning retention can be problematic—especially when it comes to safety training materials. In fact, did you know that most learners—when exposed to new information just once—will forget more than 90% of that information within 30 days? This simple pattern has been demonstrated time and time again, and is known as the Ebbinhaus Forgetting Curve. By applying this concept to company safety training, it’s easy to see why one-time training sessions are often so ineffective; when information is presented to learners just once in a classroom or similar setting, learners never get the opportunity to practice or demonstrate their understanding of a concept and promptly forget about it within a month (or less). It is this exact pattern in learning retention (or lack thereof) that costs organizations millions of dollars a year in workplace injuries, accidents, and re-training expenses.

In an effort to improve learning retention, especially from a safety standpoint, many organizations are now re-thinking the way they train their workers. Specifically, some organizations have begun utilizing interval reinforcement in their safety training.

What is Interval Reinforcement?

Interval reinforcement (also commonly referred to as the Spacing Effect) is a training practice that focuses on repeating presentation of new information at recurring intervals as a means of boosting enforcement and retention. By taking training content and delivering it to learners in small, digestible, and ongoing formats (rather than all at once), workers are better able to not only retain information but successfully apply training concepts to their jobs.

How Can Interval Reinforcement Improve Safety Training?

There are many potential advantages to incorporating interval reinforcement within an organization’s safety training—many of which can overlap.

Increase Learning Retention

Perhaps the greatest benefit of the interval reinforcement approach is that of increased knowledge retention for employees. Rather than effectively forgetting 90% or more of the material presented to them during a one-time training seminar, learners are repeatedly exposed to information in different intervals after the initial training event itself. This, in turn, helps to fill existing gaps in understanding/knowledge while also giving employees a better opportunity to apply what they’ve learned in real-world scenarios.

Reduce Training Costs

When employees are able to better retain information, this can also help organizations cut down on their training costs. This is because interval reinforcement is a more cost-effective training approach, and the increased retention achieves through this approach should also reduce (or even eliminate) the need for re-training. Instead, workers will always have easy access to the training information that was presented to them. And from a safety training standpoint, greater retention can also save organizations money when it comes to reduced instances of employee injury and accidents. Overall, the use of interval reinforcement can help organizations maximize their training budgets—allowing them to see potential returns of anywhere from $2 to $6 for every dollar spent on safety training.

Boost Employee Retention

When employees are able to better retain safety training content, they’re also able to feel more confident in performing their jobs correctly. In addition to reducing instances of injuries and accidents in the workplace, this also fosters employee motivation and productivity, which in-turn can help to increased retention of an organization’s best workers. This is yet another way in which interval reinforcement training can actually help organizations save money long-term.

Create Safer Workspaces

Perhaps above all else, when interval reinforcement is successfully applied to an organization’s safety training program, the increased learning retention leads to overall safer workspaces. Critical safety information is introduced (and re-introduced) to workers on a regular basis and learners enjoy frequent opportunities to practice what they’ve learned. This results in better application of key safety concepts and reduced instances of avoidable accidents and injuries.

Components of a Successful Interval Reinforcement Program

For organizations looking to improve learning retention, maximize their training budgets, and create safer workplaces, implementing interval reinforcement to an existing safety training program can be a great place to begin. However, safety training managers may find themselves not knowing where to begin and what the key components of a successful interval reinforcement program should be.

Personalized Engagement

Personalization and engagement should be two key goals when creating an interval reinforcement program. Training managers need to understand that no two workers will acquire knowledge in exactly the same way, as everybody’s learning style is different. Therefore, offering training options that are personalized to an individual learner’s needs is a must. For example, some workers may be better motivated by microlearning modules, whereas gamification may be a more engaging approach for others. Either way, when training becomes engaging rather than feeling like an obligation, workers are better able to learn (and morale is boosted in the process!).

Accessible and Measurable

Successful interval reinforcement training should also be accessible and measurable. Ideally, workers should be able to access their training components anywhere and at any time; this is where mobile-friendly training modules can be beneficial, as this allows workers to quickly reference training material in a time of immediate need regardless of where they are. And of course, for safety managers, being able to measure the results of safety training is a must. Many microlearning and similar models make it easy for managers to track individual employees’ progress through training materials, which makes it easier to identify who is grasping the information and who may need some additional help. This type of detailed reporting can also help safety managers see first-hand the return on investment their training dollars are yielding.

Many safety managers and other training professionals may ultimately find that it’s better to trust a team of experienced professionals with implementing microlearning and interval reinforcement programs within their organizations. By doing so, they can rest assured that the correct steps are being taken to streamline and maximize their organizations’ safety training based on their specific needs, budgets, and outcomes.

To learn more about interval reinforcement for improved safety training retention or to find out more about what we can do for your organization, contact the IMPROV® Learning team today.

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