Safety Training Retention: Why Reinforcement Matters

By Danielle Solomon in Learning Trends
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You may not want to believe it, but your company safety training probably isn’t as effective as you think. In fact, studies have found that as little as one hour after training, people retain less than half of the information that was presented to them. And after just six days, 75% of that information has been completely forgotten. And while this lack of knowledge retention is alarming enough in any industry, it is especially worrisome in the realm of safety training—where retention of important safety information could quite literally be the difference between a safe workplace and a dangerous one.

If you’re worried about learning retention in your company safety training, you should be. The good news is that reinforcement can be used to improve overall learning retention and prevent employees from becoming complacent on the job.

What is Training Reinforcement?

Specifically, reinforcement refers to a training practice that involves repeated reminders and applications of recent training. It’s important to realize, however, that successful and effective reinforcement goes beyond just sending out reminders of what was covered in training. It means going beyond reminding to putting employees in a space that requires them to actively apply their new knowledge. By having employees apply new knowledge and skills, they are much more likely to retain the information long-term because it has been transformed from an abstract idea to a tangible act.

It’s also vital that training reinforcement begin as soon as your “traditional” training ends. This makes it easier for your workers to make connections between the concepts they just learned and their everyday activities on the job. Of course, this also means that training reinforcement techniques should be well thought-out and planned before you implement your formal training.

How Can You Reinforce Training in the Workplace?

Looking for some examples on reinforcing training in the workplace? There are plenty of simple yet effective reinforcement practices that can be useful, especially in the realm of safety training.

Printed Tools and Resources

Providing workers with a tangible resource that reinforces what they just learned is a great way to boost retention while also giving workers a convenient reference guide. Consider taking it a step further by offering not only printed materials, but easy online access of these documents as well. This way, employees can access them as needed on smartphones, tablets, work computers, and other devices.

These printed resources are also a great medium in which to incorporate microlearning modules, which have been proven to enhance learning retention by as much as 20%.

Schedule Frequent Safety Meetings

When safety training is only part of the job a few times a year, it makes sense that employees may not truly value and respect the importance of safety protocols in the workplace. However, by scheduling routine safety meetings in addition to occasional training, you can help to drive home the point that safety is of utmost importance in the workplace. As employees begin to see the value of safety reflected in their daily work experiences, they will be more likely to follow the protocols they’ve been taught and less likely to become complacent. And of course, these routine meetings are a great way to address potential safety issues as well as to reinforce certain key concepts and protocols.

Use Positive Reinforcement to Reward Safe Workers

Positive reinforcement can be especially effective in helping employees better retain what they’ve learned and have incentive to apply it in the workplace. Aside from the occasional “pat on the back” from a supervisor or manager, consider setting up a formal rewards system that truly motivates workers to be cautious on the job. Consider, for example, tangible rewards when workers as a whole go accident-free for a pre-determined amount of time. Providing this kind of positive reinforcement not only encourages workers to continue engaging in safe behaviors on the job, but also makes them more receptive to constructive criticism and feedback if and when the need arises.

Implement Microlearning Components

As mentioned above, microlearning can be an extremely effective means of improving retention of training information in the workplace, making now a great time to consider implementing more microlearning modules into your formal safety training. Essentially, these microlearning components consist of shorter, more digestible learning experiences that can be custom tailored to suit your employees’ unique learning styles. These modules can be made available at any time through workplace computers and personal devices (such as tablets and smartphones), making them a great reference tool and training material.

Most microlearning modules are about three to five minutes in length, so they keep workers engaged while delivering impactful information in a memorable way. This form of training also helps to reduce the total amount of time your workers need to spend in formal safety training classes, which in-turn frees up training funds without sacrificing quality of training or learning retention in the process. Instead of sitting in a company training seminar for two hours at a time (and forgetting up to half the information presented by the end of the day), workers can access these short training modules throughout their work days or even outside of the workplace. This added flexibility makes training more enjoyable and relatable to employees, which in-turn boosts their engagement and overall retention of information.

Microlearning is also a cost-effective training method for many organizations; for example, once a module is completed, it can be easily changed and updated as needed to reflect any future changes in safety protocols or regulations. This drastically cuts down on the time and resources often needed to create new traditional safety training materials (such as slideshows, presentations, and other documents).

If you want to maximize safety training retention in your workplace, your training needs to be followed immediately by constant reinforcement of concepts and protocols. Ready to find out more about incorporating reinforcement practices, such as microlearning, into your safety training program? Our team at IMPROV®Learning is here to help. Contact us today to find out more about what we can do for you!


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