The drastic shifts brought on by COVID have underscored the need for organizations to provide ongoing career development opportunities to adjust to the changing times and remote workforce. Providing learning opportunities to keep employee talent ahead of the curve is imperative to retention. However, roughly 75% of the global enterprise learning spend is wasted, according to McKinsey.
Therefore, companies will be more successful with impactful and innovative training techniques that meet the labor demands of the ever-evolving business landscape. Fortunately, new learning and development (L&D) solutions are leveraging proven science and the latest technology to maximize both training investments and the employee experience.
Why Traditional L&D Has Failed
Companies have continued to invest time and money in seminars, live coaching, and learning management systems (LMSs), and employees have been eager to learn at work. However, only 12% of employees apply new skills learned through these methods.
Taking all this research into account, it’s easy to see how over $312 billion in learning spend is wasted. Traditional learning methods are missing two critical ingredients: avenues for retention and reinforcement so the information can be properly applied in the workplace. In other words, learning isn’t effective because it requires tangible changes in behavior to make a true impact. Let’s take a deeper look at what that looks like:
Retention: If learning isn’t used, it tends to be forgotten. This concept dates back to the late 19th century when Hermann Ebbinghaus introduced the “Forgetting Curve.” His theory estimated that 75% of new information is completely forgotten within 6 days if it isn’t applied. This concept has been further corroborated over the decades by countless studies. However, most learning investments do not support retention efforts and do not require employees to implement new learnings within a specific time frame.
Reinforcement: While using new learnings at work is critical, to be truly successful, it is important for them to fit seamlessly into day-to-day tasks. Traditional learning systems rely on employees’ remembering to apply their new skills, and oftentimes, this isn’t sustainable as employees balance countless daily activities and priorities. Therefore, it’s not shocking when a coaching seminar or an LMS module fails to find its way into the day-to-day mix. Nudges and friendly reminders that come at just the right time can be the vital reinforcements required for truly sticky learning.
Transforming Corporate Learning Through Neuroscience
Even if we can grasp all these concepts, corporate L&D programs rarely tap into the nuanced corners of the human mind. The failures of traditional learning and the complexities of future learning have worn out companies and their employees alike. Ultimately, increasing recall and encouraging sustainability are two crucial elements needed to create a greater learning impact over time. Driving growth that can be seen will help galvanize an often wary and fatigued industry.
For the first time, technology gives us reason for hope to finally overcome all the traditional obstacles in learning by finally tackling the complexity of behavior change. Luckily, the study of behavior change is nothing new, and integrating our extensive and growing knowledge of habit formation with technology truly means the sky is the limit for the future.
Science: According to neuroscience research, human habits are developed by repetition that creates neural pathways. These pathways are composed of neurons connected by dendrites, which are created in the brain based on repeated behaviors. The number of dendrites increases as the behavior is performed more frequently. This is important to understand when developing an L&D program, as it underscores the importance of and need for constant reinforcement of learnings to create lasting behavior change.
The human brain is the world’s greatest supercomputer. There are three primary states of learning that can be traced back to three different parts of the brain.
- The prefrontal cortex: where higher-level thinking and conscious thought occur
- The neocortex: where the fight-flight-freeze response comes from
- The central limbic system: where “autopilot” thinking originates
To process its 11 million bits of information per second, the brain leverages the limbic system for efficiency. This part of the brain is where information is stored and processed as a means of quickly driving future decision-making. This system has contributed directly to human survival. With that said, when we understand this system within the context of learning and adapting in a fast-paced business landscape, it often manifests metaphorically into a “teaching an old dog new tricks” dynamic.
The Intersection of Technology and Neuroscience in L&D
Technology helps make learning more adaptable, deliverable, and reinforceable. Software-as-a-service (SaaS) technology has been able to incorporate some of the central principles of habit formation in a manner that embeds learning that is put into action.
A virtual coaching ecosystem of nudge messaging that can continuously emphasize learning over time and provide regular, practical application at work can help reinforce learnings to help the brain adapt and create lasting behavior change. Artificial intelligence (AI) in the form of machine learning and heuristics coding also can work hand in hand with our evolving understanding of behavior change while customizing learning to different learning styles and needs.
Denise Hummel is the founder and CEO of RevWork.ai, an enterprise SaaS learning platform that taps into the science of habit formation to deliver learning content that creates lasting behavior change. With a background in organizational psychology and civil rights law, and now as a female tech founder, Hummel has built an entrepreneurial career, with an eye for changing the future of work. She harnesses technology to enhance business performance and is a nominated Microsoft M12 Female Founder for disrupting Enterprise Learning & Development with RevWork’s enterprise behavior change learning technology.