Reinforcement: What, Why, & How?

Reinforcement – What, Why & How?

How effective is your organization’s training? According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD), 90 percent of training is forgotten within days no matter how skillful or engaging the trainer is.  If research studies are accurate, very few of your learners have actually changed their behaviors as a result of training. Reinforcing knowledge and skills learned in training or professional development programs is a process that takes time and strategic investment. Ultimately, your training will be more effective because of reinforcement.

What is reinforcement? Basically, “…training reinforcement is a solution that uses your current training material, learning objectives, and (reinforcement) goals to reinforce important skills and knowledge learned during a training event or course.”[1]

One explanation – and one aspect to reinforcement – is the Ebbinghaus Retention Curve, which displays the percentage of a topic that we recall after paying attention to it repeatedly. Named for psychologist Herman Ebbinghaus, this concept is about teaching people to remember something important. Ebbinghaus hypothesized that it is much harder for learners to retain something that is not meaningful to them, and that learners will have more success if the learning is stretched out over a period of time, instead crammed into a short burst. However, remembering information is only part of the issue when it comes to training and development.  Changing behaviors and/or developing new habits based on one’s training – that’s the other part of the issue.   A good reinforcement tool maximizes your training investment dollars and helps to change your learners’ behaviors.

So how do you change behaviors? Training reinforcement focuses on changing old habits and developing new ones. “Without behavior change, you’re not reinforcing; you are only reminding.” – Anthonie Wurth.  One of the founders of Mindmarker®, Wurth understood that your training content must be reinforced with small, bite-sized messages to engage the learner. More than a reminder service, Mindmarker® is considered the leader in training reinforcement.  The three learning phases of your reinforcement program are: awareness, knowledge and skills, and behavior change.  Of course, timing and content are critical to the process through each phase.

Just a few of the benefits of training reinforcement, according to Mindmarker®:

  • Training reinforcement leads to better training practices, which creates superior performance results.
  • A fully-integrated training reinforcement program helps decrease the amount of knowledge lost post-training.
  • With the training dollars spent by businesses each year, it’s critical to obtain the highest ROI.

Alber Enterprise Center has been integrating post-workshop reinforcement for clients who want specific behavior changes in workshop attendees, and those clients have seen positive results.  As you can imagine, instead of the normal 10-20% retention of the workshop material, clients are realizing a much higher return on their training dollar investment.

[1] From Mindmarker “Beginners Guide to Reinforcement” page 6

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