The following post was featured in OH&S Online on May 6, 2013.
If you are exposed to new information only once, after 30 days you retain less than 10 percent of that information. However, if you are exposed to that same idea six times, after 30 days you retain more than 90 percent of that same information. This is the power of interval reinforcement.
Interval reinforcement is the process of repeating the presentations of specific content to employees over predefined intervals so that the content is effectively reinforced. An example of interval reinforcement: hazardous materials handling.
Currently, employees may receive training on how to handle hazardous materials in a classroom setting once or twice a year. As mentioned earlier in this post, retention rates on one-time training events such as this decrease significantly over time if the material is not reinforced. This is scientifically proven through the principle of the forgetting curve.
With a comprehensive interval reinforcement program, employees will receive training on hazardous material handling once a day. This training would be delivered electronically through a device such as a computer or a mobile phone. This training would have been broken down into bite-sized pieces, therefore making it easier for employees to digest. Through the continued use of this program, employees will be exposed to the training material multiple times throughout a year. This method has proven to be far more effective than when it comes to retaining training information.
Why is Interval Reinforcement Needed?
It is a known reality that organizations are currently experiencing training challenges. The primary challenges include:
- Training is not being effectively applied in the workplace. This is also known as a lack of knowledge transfer.
- The results and ROI of training cannot be effectively established because there is no system in place to track training metrics.
- Employees are not retaining enough of what they learn because learning is a one-time event and it is not being effectively reinforced.
What Are the Benefits of Interval Reinforcement?
Among the many benefits of having interval reinforcement as part of your training strategy are these four key benefits:
- Higher knowledge retention, lower cost of training: If employees continue to learn consistently after initial training, knowledge transfer will increase. Investment in training dollars will be maximized and the overall cost of training will also go down.
- Improved employee retention: Having highly engaged and motivated employees means greater job satisfaction and lower turnover for employers.
- Higher employee productivity: Interval reinforcement greatly reduces and often eliminates the need for retraining so employees can spend more time doing their jobs.
- Improved knowledge application: With interval reinforcement, employees are able to keep critical information top of mind and apply it in a timely manner during the work day.
How Can Interval Reinforcement Be Applied to Safety Training?
The goal of any safety training program is always to try to reduce workplace accidents and health and safety violations; however, it may be difficult for organizations to keep health and safety knowledge top-of-mind with their employees.
With an interval reinforcement program, an organization can deliver safety tips to employees as often as daily on specific areas of concern. This ongoing repetition of information will allow for improvements in the short term and also will create long-term knowledge retention of key information.
Interval reinforcement has proven to improve the efficacy of safety awareness programs. In some cases, organizations have realized a greater than 50 percent reduction in safety incidents, which in turn has lead to millions of dollars in savings.