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How memory recall and retention affects long-term learning and worker productivity

When we continually read about new developments in the our field and learn things that expand our knowledge how do we retain what we learned? After all, if we don’t use it we lose it. Memory retention varies, depending on how much we are trying to retain and how often we try to absorb new information. Neuroscience tells us that we need to be reminded of things we are taught.

There is revealing evidence that if we are not aiding memory recall in some way that we will lose what we remember and will not regain what we’ve absorbed and forgotten. It also tells us that when we continue to be reminded of things that may have gone to the back of our memory retention they can be remembered even better with memory recall.

When we practice and apply what we’ve learned we retain it much better but how much are we doing that when we are reading blogs, articles, and books daily and attending webinars, seminars and workshops regularly. What are we doing to retain all that information? If we are smart we consistently try to apply at least one thing from most of what we read or attend.

When a sports team learns a new play they immediately begin to practice it. They practice it over and over then practice again later and eventually, when they use it in the game will be testing their memory recall. Sometimes the play doesn’t work that well. Occasionally, a player will get their assignment wrong and run a route wrong. Essentially, they are relearning for better memory retention every time they practice it or even use it in a game.

“Researchers suggest that memory recall works best if we refresh after 2 hours, then 2 days, then 2 weeks and then again after 2 months.” The more times they run the play the better they learn it until it becomes ingrained. When they stop using it for an extended time and then try it again they are relearning it again and the coach is hoping the memory recall has been good enough that it will be performed flawlessly. Depending on how long it has been since they used it and how often they used it will determine how well they remember it.


We are assuming all of our learning is all making us smarter and on top of our game, but is it really? If we aren’t retaining it or recalling it is it really helping us be more on top of our game? So how can we make sure that we are retaining more of all the data we are absorbing daily? Is there something we can do to aid memory recall of things that were introduced to our brain but sent to the back of our memory? What can we do to bring those things to the front again and relearn them? We know that the more times we relearn them the better we will recall and retain the information.

The key is to review your notes, repeat what you learned and share it with others. Have you ever heard that teaching about a subject helps us learn the subject much better? It is because of the neuroscience of learning. The more times we bring that information back into memory recall the better we remember it long-term.

The next time you read an article with good information, that you can envision using at some time in the future, share it with someone as soon as possible and as often as possible. Researchers suggest that memory recall works best if we refresh after 2 hours, then 2 days, then 2 weeks and then again after 2 months. That type of spread-out reinforcement tends to aid the memory best, not allowing it to forget too much.

If you have employees that you are sending to training get the best return on investment by having them share what they learned in the next staff meeting. Hopefully, they will review their notes fairly soon after the training if they know they need to present the information. Then they will repeat that information again in the meeting. You could also have them present a refresher the following month for even better return on your training investment. The more frequently that information is practiced and used in the work setting the more the work environment will be affected. Eventually, you could see a dramatic change in the intelligence and contributions of your key employees which could result in a more efficient, productive and capable workforce.

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