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How to Effectively Overcome the Forgetting Curve in Employee Training

As any business owner knows, employees are essentially the backbone of the business. Ultimately, employees are the ones in front of customers every day generating sales. Essentially, employees serve as representatives of the business. With that said, it's important that employees are completely competent in their job role and that there aren't any knowledge gaps in their training to ensure the utmost efficiency. For this reason, we're going to explain what the forgetting curve is and how to overcome it in the workplace.

What is the Forgetting Curve?

Simply put, the forgetting curve represents a decline in memory retention over time. The idea of the forgetting curve was introduced in the 19th century by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, who was one of the first scientists to experiment with memory processing.

Ebbinghaus performed experiments on himself where he would memorize nonsense syllables. He found that his memory quickly decayed. However, Ebbinghaus also found that he would remember just a few syllables, and remember them for many days afterward.

What Contributes to the Forgetting Curve?

There are various factors that could contribute to the forgetting curve. Some of these factors include, but are not limited to:

  • Memory Overload: The brain is a powerful tool, however; an individual trying to store too much information at one time will likely be unsuccessful. This means that an employee is more likely to throw out important information needed to perform their job because too much is being taken in at one time.
  • Lack of Habit: Essentially, habit helps you remember. The moment you stop doing something, over time you begin to forget crucial aspects of it. Employees who are not actively practicing what they learned in training will begin to forget how to do it.
  • Lack of Relevance: If the information in training isn't deemed relevant to the individual, it will not be stored to make room for more important information.

Overcoming the Forgetting Curve in the Workplace

#1. Spaced learning for Memory Retention:

Overloading the brain with new knowledge leads to rapid memory decay. This means that employees will forget information from training almost instantly.

Spacing out information in intervals rather than jamming everything into one session will help employees retain the crucial information given during the training session. This gives the employee more time to process new knowledge in a more effective way.

#2. Real-time Practice:

Employees being able to learn kinesthetically is important to the training process. Ultimately, learning by doing is one of the most effective ways for employees to retain information. Essentially, employees are better equipped to deal with problems and perform their role well when their training gives them true-to-life scenarios that they can then implement into the actual workplace. Essentially, constant practice leads to results because our brain connects to experiences.

Traditionally, training has involved asynchronous learning, which is when we first absorb information and then apply it in the workplace. However, this method has proven to be insufficient as employees have no real practice that helps them remember what they are supposed to do in certain situations.

#3. Micro-Training to Support Employee Needs:

Micro-training is an approach that is focused on supporting informal learning processes in organizations and companies. Essentially, information is compact, allowing employees to learn only what is essential to achieve a specific objective.

Employees absorbing condensed information makes it easier for them to retain knowledge as this certainly helps with reducing memory overload. This also provides a more valuable experience for the employee as they can come out of training feeling completely competent and confident in their abilities to perform their role.


Merlin Guides helps business owners empower their employees and managers to work more efficiently for a better business outcome. If you have any questions on how to overcome the forgetting curve in your workplace or you want to know more about how we can help your business, contact us and we will gladly assist.

To learn more about the forgetting curve, register for our webinar.