Is adaptive learning the answer to forgetfulness on the frontlines?

People forget – all the time. We forget where we put our keys. We forget the names of old acquaintances, leading to awkward moments in the supermarket aisle. We forget much of what we learned in school (just try remembering the steps of long division…I’ll wait).

People forget on the job, too. And forgetting things on the frontline comes with high stakes. When your employees don’t remember critical information and behaviors, it puts your business at risk of safety incidents, poor customer experiences, lost sales opportunities and more.

Despite this, many frontline employers still rely on one-and-done training sessions to communicate important customer service, safety and job-specific skills. Traditional frontline training is characterized by short periods of information overload (like a day-long onboarding session or an hour-long eLearning module), and then…nothing. No feedback. No practice. No follow-up. 

This is still the default, even though the research suggests that employees have probably already forgotten nearly 75% of the information they learned by the second day.

Staggering, right?

Fortunately, researchers have a solution to our propensity to forget, too: spaced repetition, which refers to the reinforcement of information over increasingly long time intervals. In simple terms, it’s like exercising a muscle. Each time a learner recalls a piece of information, their brain’s ability to serve up that information gets stronger and faster.

Reinforcement training on the frontlines

You’re probably already familiar with spaced repetition. It’s the basic principle behind flashcards. Apps like Duolingo use it to help people master new languages. But this reinforcement approach has been slow to catch on with the frontline workforce, and it’s not hard to see why. 

It’s a mindset shift to go from on-the-job or event-based training to ongoing training that takes place in short, 3-5 minute bursts every shift. Plus, every employee is unique. They learn at different speeds. They come to the table with different skills and experiences. And, to complicate things further, different employees will apply the knowledge in different ways. Some will have the chance to apply the training right away. Others may not put it into practice for weeks or months. So, to get the most benefit, they need personalized learning. 

In the past, personalization of learning was a significant challenge given the scale and diversity of the frontline workforce. Delivering ongoing, personalized learning was prohibitively time consuming for those supporting a large frontline workforce. Adaptive learning provides a solution to these historical problems. 

Find out how to build a successful adaptive learning strategy in your organization.

How adaptive learning technology changes the game

Adaptive learning leverages data, content and technology to meet the skill development needs of individual employees. It accelerates the learning process by providing just the right training and support at the right time.

LMSs and LXPs allow you to target content to specific employees using basic data, such as their role, team or location. Adaptive learning apps take this several steps further by capturing a wider range of employee data, including:

  • Engagement
  • Learning history
  • Areas of interest
  • Knowledge growth
  • Confidence
  • On-the-job behavior
  • Business results

All of this data is analyzed in real time, and the learning experience is adapted accordingly every time an employee logs in. 

Adaptive learning makes it possible to close individual employee performance gaps at scale through targeted training and reinforcement while keeping pace with the latest business priorities. 

Why adaptive learning and reinforcement training go hand in hand

Adaptive learning and reinforcement are a perfect match. The technology can automatically find employee knowledge and skill gaps before they become real-world problems. It can then boost employee performance through reinforcement training, without requiring any action from an administrator or manager.

Adaptive learning makes every login a personal and meaningful learning experience. It makes efficient use of frontline employees’ limited time, as people focus on just the training they need to do their best work. It also recognizes people who really know their stuff by accelerating their development so they can work on building new skills and not get slowed down by the people who need a little more help. 

With adaptive learning, you can finally overcome people’s natural forgetfulness and make every minute of training really count. Get ideas for how you can apply the principles in your own organization by checking out our Ultimate Guide to Personalized and Adaptive Learning. 

Lindsay Windover-Kroes has spent her career writing in the tech and education sectors. She’s passionate about helping others do their best work, from the head office to the frontlines.

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