The Impact of the Forgetting Curve - PCG Digital

Imagine this all-too-familiar scene: a sales meeting with 15 salespeople and the manager. Once all of the business is completed it is time for daily training. A sales trainer’s video is started and all seem to be paying attention. At the end of the video the team is asked to answer the questions posed by the trainer.

Two individuals answer for the group. The manager asks if there are any other questions and releases the team to begin their day. The manager feels as if they have accomplished a good thing and begins their day as well.

Little did they know; the training is being forgotten as soon as those individuals left the room. Research on what is called the Forgetting Curve shows that within an hour, individuals can forget 50% of what they were taught. Within a day, possibly 70% could be lost. With corporations spending billions on training each year, what can be done to help close this gap?

Most training or education is done by the individual on their own with no interaction from management. With the advent of learning systems and online training, individuals are left to interpret how to implement the knowledge on their own.

Watching videos without any guidance or structure on how to use the information is now seen as a waste. For 18 years, adults were taught in a certain way at school. Topics were shared, reviewed, demonstrated and then quizzes and tests were given to judge application of the knowledge.  Yet as soon as adults enter the workplace, this style of teaching is no longer followed.

There are solutions for this scenario where more of training could be retained.

  1. During the training, don’t let one or two individuals answer for everyone.


  1. Transfer what was discussed to the team members day to day lives. For example if the topic was overcoming objections, how could it be used in their day to day? Role play situations they might encounter so the team knows how to apply what was learned.


  1. During the day, check in with the team to see if they have used the new skills and what the outcome was. Keeping it front of mind can help to retain what was learned.


  1. Set up a schedule for inspecting training and quizzing individuals on what was learned and how they are using it.


This takes effort and structure. We are all bombarded with information on a daily basis through our various mobile devices and as we move through our day. It is hard to focus and retain knowledge but without a structure, what success will a company really have?

Leaders need to remember how they taught their children to throw a ball, ride a bike, or any of the other skills needed. They explained how to do the task, demonstrated how to perform the task then watched their child execute the task. Then feedback was given, retraining was implemented, compliments were given and then this pattern was repeated the next day. This is what training should be for employees.

Technology can only assist performance. Relying on it to replace personal interaction is a mistake. People need to be trained in a way to limit the Forgetting Curve.

For those individuals who lead teams and are looking to improve their skills, join me in NJ on July 24th-25th for a two-day workshop titled You have the Job, Now What? Building & Leading a High Performing Team.

Click here for more information.

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