These days, we provide our employees with as much reference material as they can handle. They have online resources, manuals, checklists, and even posters on the wall to remind them of procedures, dates, safety measures, and more. But sometimes, you just need to have facts in your head. If your team needs to commit some information to memory, here are several good ways to help them do it.
Employees need key information in their heads.
Depending on your industry, your team might need to know:
- Product information
- Parts and functions of machinery
- Industry jargon/terms
- Value statement/key differentiators
- Good responses for customer service
- Step-by-step processes
Traditional approaches don’t always work well.
Usually, when we’re trying to memorize facts, we read them over several times, study them hard for a few days or even hours, then take a test which we pass beautifully. But this approach, favored by students and teachers for decades, actually does little to keep the facts in our heads for the long-term.
The most effective way to memorize information is to use it.
The best way to learn a fact is to use it. Research has found that you’re much more likely to remember information if it helps you complete a task or solve a problem. If your sales team has to remember product features in order to finish daily tasks, they’d have those features down cold.
But you may have a new product which you don’t sell very much. The team needs to have the details in their heads in case an opportunity pops up, but they haven’t really thought about it since they passed the training test six weeks ago. In that case, you need some more reliable training techniques to get those facts tucked away in their long-term memory.
Give pretests to get ready for new information.
Yes, the test is supposed to go at the end, but researchers have found that tests make great learning tools as well. In fact, researchers have found that giving people a test on material they haven’t learned yet, actually helps them learn it better.
As the New York Times reports, “U.C.L.A. psychologist Elizabeth Ligon Bjork found that in a live classroom of Bjork’s own students, pretesting raised performance on final-exam questions by an average of 10 percent compared with a control group.”
If tests make you squirm, any kind of guessing appears to work. You can ask people to guess what the product features will be or imagine the safety procedure before you introduce it. They’ll get it all wrong, and that doesn’t matter. Their brains are still primed for the right answers you’re about to share.
And if guessing is too stressful, Julie Dirksen, author of Design For How People Learn (Voices That Matter), suggests giving people a list of topics they’re about to learn and asking them to rate their level of comfort with each one. They become more aware of their own learning process, which may help them focus better on the information.
Use context to learn details faster.
After your team has done a pretest, put new information into a context your employees know well. Peter C. Brown, author of Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning, writes, “Prior knowledge is a prerequisite for making sense of new learning” and connecting new information to old makes it easier to recall later.
For example, if it’s a recent product, compare and contrast it to other products they know well. If it’s an updated procedure or software, connect the new steps to older, familiar ones.
Help learners remember what they’ve just forgotten.
Once you’ve done a pretest and introduced new information in a familiar context, don’t ask people to cram for and take an evaluation test. Instead, use a technique called “spaced retrieval.”
With spaced retrieval, you give people a little time after they’ve seen new information and then ask them to try and remember it. For example, you might wait one day after your training class and give a quiz on the facts. Or ask people to do some flashcards. Or ask your team to write as much of the material as they can remember.
This task should be difficult, and they won’t get everything right, but the act of trying to remember actually improves memory over the long term. The benefit comes from trying to remember, not getting right answers.
With today’s easy access to information, we don’t have to remember nearly as many facts as we once did. (How many phone numbers can you recite today??) But sometimes, your team just needs to have the details at hand. So for those cases, don’t forget these remembering tricks.
At Pract.us, we’re dedicating to helping your team learn and remember outside the classroom and away from the videos. Learn more.