Sustained learning: A modern approach for results-driven L&D professionals

I recently heard a great analogy that workplace learning and development is like personal training.

A lot of people buy a gym membership and work out for a month or so, but it’s only those that make long-term lifestyle changes, committing to good exercise and eating habits, that see the benefits. For the rest of us, the gym investment is mostly wasted.

It’s exactly the same with workplace training. It’s sustained learning techniques that allow us to reach our long-term L&D goals.

The 3 greatest challenges to effective workplace training

Many organisations invest in L&D in the same way lots of us approach personal training.

A group training program is rolled out, which blasts employees with information in one or two training sessions. But there’s no long-term application of the new skills learned and organisations experience limited benefits of their expensive training.

Challenge number 1: training is delivered to but not applied by employees.

It’s difficult to apply information that you don’t remember. The Ebbinghaus forgetting curve tells us that employees will probably only retain a small percentage of what they were taught after a week. Over time, without sustained learning, this reduces to virtually nil.


Challenge number 2: 
training material is forgotten quickly, making training redundant.

For training to be effective, the material needs to be applied consistently and repeatedly over time. This is how new neural patterns and habits are formed. Without repeat application of new skills and information, there can be no long-term behaviour change and employees quickly revert back to their old ways.

Challenge number 3: training doesn’t produce the desired behaviour changes.

These three common challenges can be overcome by organisations that take a sustained learning approach to L&D.


How sustained learning allows us to think and behave in new ways

Sustained learning is a valuable approach to workplace training. It’s based on the scientific evidence that frequent, consistent and conscious practice over time forms new behaviours and ways of thinking. Neuroscientifically speaking, this is how we form new neural connections and pathways (also known as “neuroplasticity”).

Through repetition and practice, these new neural patterns overtake old ones, so we can think and behave in new ways. It’s a technique that we use throughout our training programs here at CJM and it’s based on a four-phase roadmap.

  • Preparing – fostering the motivation, support, and engagement of senior leaders, managers, and learners
  • Learning – maximising the impact of training that is delivered in multiple modalities
  • Applying – helping learners to apply new skills and knowledge in their work environment
  • Sustaining – moving learning from a program or project to long-term habitual behaviours

In a nutshell, sustained learning embeds training for program participants, making it more memorable, more effective, and more long-lasting.


3 ways we incorporate 
sustained learning principles into CJM training programs

1. Pushing boundaries in a safe environment to encourage growth

This is where the “conscious” part of sustained learning practice comes in. Learning environments that do not challenge participants to move outside their comfort zone don’t allow them to grow and practice new skills.

It’s an important part of the learning experience that employees explore and try out new ideas and techniques in a safe, supportive space. In our programs, trainees are pushed outside their comfort zone, doing over the top expression, gestures, vocal exercises, sometimes even being filmed presenting. In our training environment, they are able to make mistakes and learn from them without the stress of being in an operational work context.  

2. Personalised training content to aid the application of new skills

You know as well as I do that everyone learns differently. Putting a single trainer in front of a room full of different people and asking them to provide that group with new information is an ineffective one-size-fits-all approach to training.

Training content must be adapted to the needs of each group in order for it to be relevant. Not only do we do this in our training programs by thoroughly researching the attendees and building in content or stories they can relate to. We also help participants to understand how and when to apply it to their world.

3. Learning “little and often” to facilitate long-term behaviour change

One of the biggest reasons workplace training programs fail is because participants are unable to apply what they have learned. Research shows that micro-learning, or learning in bite-sized chunks, makes the transfer of learning from the classroom to the desk 17% more efficient.

Learning “little and often” allows employees to engage with new information more deeply (50% more, according to research). By breaking down large amounts of training content into small chunks, you help the brain to process and retain that information better. Not only that, but it’s much easier to introduce small (or micro) learning moments to employees’ work context.

The benefits of sustained learning

Taking a sustained, ongoing learning approach to training will ensure your development programs get better results.

1. Increased employee productivity

The quicker your training can produce the desired behaviour changes, the more productive employees are able to be.

2. Greater employee satisfaction and motivation

With effective training, employees learn and grow and enjoy greater job satisfaction. When employees are proving themselves to be productive and valuable, the better their morale.

3. More effective internal and external communication

With highly effective and sustained communication training, employees will develop greater confidence and ability when communicating with internal and external stakeholders.

4. Better training ROI

A sustained approach will achieve better training ROI, as desired behaviours become embedded sooner.


If these results sound good to you,
find out more about CJM® sustained and ongoing workplace learning here.

communication skills

The Colin James Method® Facilitators train corporate executives to improve their professional communication skills with a proven methodology. Our highly trained Facilitators and Coaches are recognised for their experience in their fields and have worked with many individuals and organisations around the world to master the art of communication.

Alison Carter

Alison Carter is a facilitator and coach at The Colin James Method® and Inner Profit Pty Ltd, a vibrant leadership development company in Australia. She is a qualified Chartered Accountant who has spent over 15 years in senior financial and communication roles. She now loves to share her passion for the design and delivery of effective and engaging communications.