9 Tips to Improve Employees’ Safety Training Retention

April 24th, 2024

If employers don’t understand how their people learn, their safety training programs won’t maximize risk control, according to Gina Anderson, CEO of Luma Brighter Learning. During the April Captive Resources Risk Control Webinar, Anderson used interactive memory exercises to demonstrate the science behind learning and offered nine ways to use the science to develop more memorable, actionable safety training. Read on for her innovative ideas.

Facilitating an Effective Learning Process

Anderson pointed out that training content won’t necessarily change employees’ behavior by itself — employers must customize content to meet their personnel's learning needs. She presented three stages of an effective science-based learning process for insight into those needs.

Get Their Attention

The first step is to get the employee’s attention with sensory inputs: sight, sound, touch, smell, or taste. The employee uses sensory memory to decide if the inputs warrant attention in less than a second.

Keep Their Attention

If the inputs get the employee’s attention, they go into working memory storage in the brain’s prefrontal cortex. Research indicates that information from sensory inputs typically stays in one’s working memory for eight and a half seconds before the mind wanders away.

Help them Retain and Retrieve

The next stage — the ideal state — is storing the information in long-term memory for future retrieval. Long-term memory has practically unlimited storage capacity and the information is retrievable for an indefinite period.

Anderson then explained how to help employees better retain training information.

Encoding Is Pivotal in Retention

Anderson pointed out that the critical transition between attention and retention depends on how effectively the information is encoded in working memory. She said that employees must make active, meaningful connections with training information to retain it before proving her point with a hands-on exercise.

After displaying a collage of brand mascots such as the Jolly Green Giant for eight and a half seconds, she had attendees indicate how many they could remember. Anderson said that the average person can remember five to seven images within five to 20 seconds. She added that attendees’ prior knowledge and experiences probably created connections with the images and aided their recall.

Anderson also suggested that employers improve retention with elaborative rehearsal — i.e., adding new information to existing knowledge. For example, a trucking company could show a video to train drivers on cargo securement and then have them repeat the steps under supervision, write down the steps, and supervise a coworker’s process.

The 9 Tips for Improving Retention

No. 1: Give Learners Choices

Because employees learn differently, give them choices in location (including physical and virtual), timing, method (passive observing vs. active thinking and doing), and format.

No. 2: Make It Authentic

Training should be authentic — i.e., applicable to employees’ jobs. For example, insert augmented reality “hot spots” into images to show drivers where they shouldn’t park their trucks in a crowded dock area.

No. 3: Keep It Short

Employees typically retain more information from shorter, more frequent sessions. Luma Brighter Learning breaks down content into proprietary, meaningful, and digestible “nuggets” designed to align with human cognition.

No. 4: Consider Content Frequency and Amount

Set up an automated schedule with at least a weekly lesson cadence reinforcing essential topics. Also, design a comprehensive on-demand content library.

No. 5: Use Different Formats Presented by Different Perspectives

Experiment with various content delivery formats to address organizational and individual employees' needs. Besides the traditional instructor-to-learner format, try learner-to-self, which gives employees opportunities during downtime to reflect on what they have learned, or learner-to-learner.

No. 6: Use Learners’ Knowledge Proactively

Setting up online discussion forums is a good platform for learner-to-learner interaction. For example, some Luma Brighter Learning transportation clients have their drivers post dashboard camera images and show their peers ways to handle traffic situations.

No. 7: Recognize and Reward

Incentivize employees to practice what they learn. Safety awards and retail points or gift cards are two types of effective recognition programs.

No. 8: Tap Into Motivational Theory

Draw on human behavior theory to address employees’ motivations in training session design. For example, people who often text while driving do so because their motivations, such as convenience, outweigh the perceived risk. Design training that shows them that the opposite is true.

No. 9: Use Differentiation and Data

Use data from training program feedback, assessments, and compliance reports to inform training program design. These resources can be valuable at both the organizational and individual levels.

About the Webinar

This presentation was part of Captive Resources’ Risk Control Webinar Series — regular installments of webinars to educate the group captive members we work with on topics like workplace safety, organizational leadership, and company performance. The thoughts and opinions expressed in these webinars are those of the presenters and do not necessarily reflect Captive Resources’ positions on any of the above topics.

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