How to make great corporate training

    Effective training is vital for both personal and professional growth. However, the harsh reality is that most companies struggle with delivering impactful training experiences.

    In this blog post, we'll explore practical techniques based on scholarly research and real-world examples to help you elevate your training sessions and, importantly, make it stick.


    Good training follows four clear principles

    1. The content is relevant (to your business or to the person’s personal development” - “If I master the training, I’ll be able to obtain superior KPIs”
    2. The content sticks - “I remember the most important learnings from the training I did one month ago”
    3. It’s never completed - “The two-week boot camp helped me become a great manager.”
    4. The student wants to do it - “By doing the training, I am going to more easily get what I want”


    Pull based learning


    It's no secret that the best training is conducted as a form of pull-based learning. In fact, there are plenty of studies that confirm this. This is where the learner actively seeks out knowledge and skills relevant to their goals and interests. It emphasizes the learner's autonomy, curiosity, and motivation and it's driven by the individual's desire to learn and their recognition of the value that new information or skills can bring to their personal or professional life. Examples of pull-based learning include self-directed study, online courses or tutorials, attending workshops or conferences, and engaging in discussions with peers or mentors.

    Most corporate training however is conducted as Push based learning, which involves presenting information or skills to the learner in a structured, predetermined manner, typically designed by an instructor, organization, or educational institution. The learning materials and pace are pre-determined, and the learner is expected to absorb and apply the knowledge being "pushed" to them. Examples of push-based learning include traditional classroom settings, mandatory training sessions, and structured seminars or webinars.

    Pull-based learning requires the student to have known unknowns. For example, if a student knows they can't speak Spanish, they can go to Duolingo to learn it in their own time. The problem with your corporate training is that your new employees have unknown, unknowns. They don't know what's needed for success so they cannot actively search out that content...yet.

    Start all training programs with a ‘Why do you care?’ section. This is to switch the learning from PUSH based (i.e, you need to know x,y,z) to PULL-based. If you show why mastering the training will lead to outcomes that those people want to achieve, they will be more inclined to want to learn it.

    As an example, if the new employee desires quick promotion, show them how the training will lead to that outcome.


    Retrieval based learning

    Retrieval-based learning is an active learning approach where learners recall information from memory, strengthening their understanding and retention through the act of retrieval itself. There are numerous studies that show how retrieval learning has positive outcomes on the retention of knowledge


    The best example of this is a pop quiz and these should be scattered all over your corporate training. Not just directly after the relevant content, but throughout the course. One study showed that a class that received a pop quiz on a text immediately after they read it, remembered 50% more of that text a week later.

    Shadowing is a good way to promote retrieval-based learning.  70% of everything you hear leaves your memory almost instantly and waiting until the end of a program of training will ensure that only a small amount will be ready to practice. Instead, try and create an environment whereby the person can take what they learned and apply it immediately (e.g. learn how to fly a plane then go into a simulator the next day and crash a hundred times)


    Interleaved learning

    Interleaved learning is a study technique where learners mix or alternate different topics or skills during a single session, enhancing retention and fostering connections between related concepts. 

    Studies show that this type of learning is harder in the short term, and participants will take longer to gather knowledge initially. However, effective training is all about making it stick and interleaved learning is scientifically proven to encourage long-term retention of information.


    This is exactly the point of corporate training. Your people aren’t going into an exam situation, they need to use what they learn for the next years!

    Begin every lesson with a short 5-minute recap of a previous one. You can also use a pop quiz here.

    An alternative approach is to pause a lesson halfway through and then conduct a 5-minute recap (or pop quiz) from a previous lesson)


    Spaced practice

    Spaced practice is a learning technique where study sessions are spread out over time, allowing for optimal retention and long-term memory consolidation.

    In the 19th century, Hermann Ebbinghaus discovered the "forgetting curve," which illustrated the rapid decline of memory retention over time if there's no effort to review or recall the information.

    Ebbinghaus also found that spaced practice could significantly improve retention. By spacing out review sessions and revisiting the material at gradually increasing intervals, the forgetting curve becomes less steep, leading to better long-term memory retention. 

    You can achieve this effect by putting a gap in your training (if you have 4 weeks of training, perhaps do three weeks then wait a week before the final week.)

    Additionally, utilising interleaved learning implicitly uses the concepts of spaced practice.


    Internal wiki

    As your team becomes more experienced, unknown unknowns turn into known unknowns. They will know what they don't know and so it's important to provide them with a way to find that knowledge.

    This is where a good wiki and good LMS come in. Good behaviour to foster is to encourage your team to create the learning on the LMS if they can't find it there.


    Examples of bad training

    • Cramming (massed practice) - it’s commonly believed that if you expose yourself to something enough times you can burn them into memory. Some people believe that dogged focus and repetition are the ways to mastery. This is because we do see rapid gains in perceived knowledge. Repeat, repeat, repeat and you’ll be able to recall, recall, recall…at least for a little while. However, research shows that gains achieved during massed practice are transitory and melt away quickly. If you want to pass an exam next week, massed practice is appropriate but it is a complete failure as a strategy for mastery.
      • Re-reading is time expensive, it doesn’t result in durable memory, it involves self-deception because a growing familiarity can seem like mastery (when it isn’t).
      • An example of this would be the Penny Memory Test - for Americans who see this penny all the time, the repetition of seeing this penny still won’t help you distinguish the right penny from the false ones
    • Distractions - It’s well noted that loud noises and other distractions significantly impact learning. Ensure that the environment is quiet and conducive to focus!


    Effective training is the cornerstone of personal and professional growth, but many companies face challenges in delivering truly impactful training experiences. By understanding and implementing the principles of pull-based learning, retrieval-based learning, interleaved learning, and spaced practice, you can create training programs that are engaging, relevant, and memorable.