5 ways to use insight about how your brain works to create better training

On May 17, I’ll be at the ATD Conference in Orlando, Florida participating in a panel discussion with Dr. Alice Kim—Research Associate at York University and the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest—and Jackie Morton—Manager, People Potential at Lululemon Athletica. We’ll be answering a number of questions about brain science and the evolution of corporate learning.

Left to right: Alice Kim, Carol Leaman, Jackie Morton

Here’s a sneak peek into one of the topics up for discussion: What are your 5 top tips for trainers seeking to make use of how the brain works?

  1. Make it Short and Sweet – You likely know individuals at your workplace who can talk a blue streak. But when they talk on and on and on and on, you start to tune them out. You don’t do this on purpose. It’s just that your brain is wired to learn and remember more information when it is presented in bite-sized pieces, rather than lengthy, drawn out discourse. So, when putting together employee training, think about how you can chunk information or hold shorter, more focused sessions instead of doing lengthy CBT.
  2. Make it Fun – Think about the training you’ve had in the past. What stands out in your mind? Chances are, you’ll remember the information that corresponded to a fun activity. That’s because when learning is fun, our brains associate that information with that particular event and are better able to recall it in the future. So, if you want employees to remember what you tell them, make sure you tie it to something enjoyable.
  3. Make it Personal – You’ve probably heard the corporate mantra, “It’s not personal. It’s just business.” Well, training is one exception when business should be personal. After all, when you make training relevant to the individual, learning is much more effective because the person can identify with what’s in it for them. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, consider creating sessions that are tailored to the needs of specific individuals and their roles within the organization to increase overall comprehension and memorability. This definitely requires more effort, but the payoff will be greater in the long run.
  4. Make it Stick – Telling something to someone once isn’t enough. To really boost retention, you need to repeat information again and again, over time to solidify neural pathways in the brain. This repetition helps employees recall the right information at the right time. So, when developing your training, consider holding several sessions on the same topic at specific times throughout the year to deepen knowledge and memory.
  5. Make it Memorable – If you want to help employees encode information more deeply in their brains, put it in context. In a classic experiment by Craik and Tulving, participants were shown a list of 60 words. They were then asked to recall certain words by being asked one of three questions:1)   Is the word printed in capital letters? (tests structural processing)2)   Does the word rhyme with ____? (tests phonemic/auditory processing)3)   Would the word fit in the following sentence: “He met a _____ in the street”? (tests semantic processing)The result was that participants were better able to recall words when asked if they would fit into a specific sentence. This higher recall rate resulted because the words had been processed more deeply in the brain. So, when putting together training, consider using as many real-life scenarios and examples as possible to illustrate the information and increase the likelihood employees will remember it long term.

Want to hear more? Join us at ATD on May 17 for answers to fascinating questions, like:

  • What has led to the explosion in brain/memory research over the last decade?
  • What is the disconnect between traditional approaches to learning and how the brain actually works?
  • Why is this research even more important, given the characteristics of the “modern learner” in today’s work environment?
  • What is the likelihood that, with the evolution of technology, we’ll be able to provide each employee with a training solution that nearly perfectly matches the way his/her brain works?

If you can’t make this session in person, we’ll make sure you don’t miss out. All our responses will be provided in a post-conference write up on our blog. Stay tuned!

Carol isn’t your typical leader. She’s driving a revolutionary approach to employee knowledge, but she’s also a doors-open, come-see-me-anytime kind of executive. Carol doesn’t just talk the talk—she definitely walks the walk. You can read more from her on Training Industry Magazine, ATD, CLO and as a regular contributor for Fortune.

Let’s work together to drive frontline performance in all the right ways.