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Memory Retention: Instructional Design Tips #2: Selecting Content


Dr. Michael

Hanchett Hanson

In a previous post I talked about the overall curriculum plan that Hickory develops for clients when integrating its memory retention system into an existing training program. The Hickory Instructional Design team works with clients to develop the plan. Typically, we plan out 6-18 months, integrating Hickory into the existing training to maximize the overall program efficacy and efficiency.

One aspect of Hickory that users like is the fact that lessons are quick and easy to complete. There is an immediate sense of accomplishment. We have found that the sweet spot for lesson length is 15-20 cards, although lessons can also be shorter. The memory retention lessons cannot – and should not – cover all of the material that is included in several weeks of new hire onboarding or multiple sessions of advanced training.

It’s easy to see why the first step in developing a curriculum integration plan is to parse the content. There are three buckets: content that should definitely be included in Hickory, content that could be included and content that should not be.

Definitely want to cover in Hickory:

Any facts, concepts or processes that learners are likely to forget.

For example, complicated processes that by their nature are difficult to remember or apply. Others facts or concepts may seem straightforward but, from experience, trainers know learners have difficulty remembering or applying them. For example, it may take some time to remember the ten issues to investigate for a fraud claim, but by using Hickory during onboarding, a new hire would know them cold by the first day of work. Later lessons would examine the nuances of the issues that learners tended to find difficult when investigating the claims.

Over the course of the curriculum plan, Hickory can introduce new elaborations on basic knowledge already mastered.

These lessons are, in essence, pre-work for advanced training sessions and can make the overall training program substantially more efficient. Instead of introducing the new material in a class session, employees come to the training session knowing what to do. They may just need to practice doing it or share best practices with their colleagues. For example, a Hickory client needed members of one customer service team to cover the functions of another team during the holiday crunch period. Using Hickory the representatives learned the material in less than half the time (6 instead of 14 weeks). After the Hickory training their customer satisfaction scores (CSAT) were 93%, about the same as the agents who usually provided the service.

Revisions to company policies and procedures.

Rather than just sending out an email, including a Hickory lesson engages the employees with the new policy and its applications. This approach works because Hickory lessons can be produced very quickly. Furthermore, managers then know whether or not employees “read the memo” and whether or not they understood. Whenever appropriate, of course, following up with a short meeting to answer questions also helps.

May want to cover in Hickory.

Other content can be important to include in Hickory lessons, depending on the training goals and context.

More basic facts may be important during onboarding weeks when learners are covering large amounts of new material.

Remembering basic facts correctly can be key to building on those facts as the onboarding sessions continue. These lessons can be replaced by more difficult lessons after onboarding. As mentioned above, those later lessons focus more on application and the nuances of particular situations.

Conceptual frameworks for soft skills training, such as profiles of customer types or steps of sales or objection handling processes.

As they learn these skills your employees need to know the frameworks, steps and goals well. Hickory can include video or audio modeling of such skills as well. This training reinforcement will prepare the learners for later role-plays and coaching. Note, however, that skills training is not just knowledge but also habit. Therefore, role-plays, coaching, video feedback, etc. are key to this kind of training.

Basic principles related to corporate culture and objectives.

This is not the kind of material that needs direct review questions but can be important reminders for learners when they are answering how to apply other information. For example, “Always take the extra step” might be a corporate principle that is emphasized in the explanation for a question about handling a particular customer complaint. It, thus, comes up in answer explanations but not as a direct question.

Definitely do not include in Hickory.

The memory retention system should not cover information that people use regularly in their work. That content is being reviewed through use on an ongoing basis. Adding to Hickory would be unnecessary and irritating to the learners. Generally, that means that how to operate the company computer programs, knowledge bases, etc. is not a good application of Hickory. Those tend to be better taught in hands-on sessions. Once employees know how to use a system, they tend to remember because they use it regularly. Finally, as noted earlier, the retention system is not a replacement for soft skills role-plays and coaching.

Once we have divided the training content into these groups, we have to plan the rollout of the lessons. The next Instructional Design Tips post be be about the rollout schedule.

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