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Leadership ROI: It's Better Than Throwing Them In The River!

Leadership return on investment (ROI) on training programs can seem hard to get and hard to measure.  But getting greater ROI on the time and money you spend does not have to be hard if you use some of the actions steps I share here.  

First let's look at some startling memory statistics - they help us see why many training programs do not make a long-term difference.

Startling Memory Statistics That  Impact Leadership ROI...

  • 56%: the percentage of newly learned material that’s forgotten immediately.
  • 66%: the percentage of newly learned material that’s forgotten in a day.
  • 80%: the percentage of newly learned material that’s forgotten in one month.

If people remember only 20 percent one month after learning something new, the often quoted workplace learning factoid that only 10-30 percent of what’s taught in the classroom transfers to on-the-job performance (as cited in the book Transfer of Training, by Broad and Newstrom), makes sense. 

We Don't Remember Much, Do We? 
So - What Do We Need to Do?

We don't remember much!  What should we do to improve memory and retention so that training programs stick? 

Well, in Medieval times communities threw children in the river when they wanted them to remember important events.

They believed that if a child were thrown in the water after observing important proceedings, the event would be impressed upon the child and the memory would stay with him for a lifetime.

Does a trip down the river fit in your budget?  If not, here’s a robust list of actions you can take to improve participant memory and retention after your training program is over. These actions will increase your leadership ROI.

Note: Please don't let my long list of actions overwhelm you. If you implement even a couple of these into your development programs, you'll see a dramatic difference in retention and transfer of the information being taught.  


  • Share ‘why the training class and skills being taught are important to the company, to the department, the team and to each participant. 
  • Share training class performance expectations with the participants – let them know that their active participation in class and retention and use of the skills is expected and will be measured.

If the “why” and performance expectations can be expressed
by an executive via letter and they are  also communicated in person by the
participant's manager, participants will be more receptive and focused.

  • Measure participant skill level prior to the start of the Program with an online skill survey.
  • Give class assignments such as research and reading of relevant materials.


  • Restate the “why’s” and classroom performance expectations as you start the class.
  • Make the class interactive and energetic. Lectures do not work; people need stimulation every 10 minutes.

Brain Rules, by John Medina tells us,
“To improve thinking skills – move...get blood to your brain…
stimulate t
he protein that keeps neurons connecting.”

  • Include review tests and memory/knowledge competitions with prizes
  • Provide ‘real-life’ practice and role plays.
  • Show 'real-life' modelsof how-to’s and don’ts (videos or real life demos).
  • Have participants complete development worksheets and action plans that they agree to share with their manager.
  • Have participants select a class Accountability Partner to meet 30, 60 and 90 days after class to discuss goal progress.
  • Provide Memory Jogger Cards of key training skill points and models.


  • Hold follow up group and one-one conference calls to review and discuss progress on action plans.
  • Six to twelve months after the program, measure post class skill level through an online skill survey. Compare results to pre-class results and report progress or lack of progress.
  • Ask participants to teach the skills taught in training to peers at team meetings.  ("We teach want we need to learn...")
  • Develop online learning groups and communities through online forums and discussions.
  • Offer follow updevelopment classes: online, classroom and lunch and learns to reinforce content.
  • Send a Post Training Organizational Support Survey to participants to get feedback about how well the organization is helping or hurting the participant’s ability to use the skills taught in class.

Implement even a few of these development return on investment actions steps and your leaders will improve their retention, and maybe you won't have to throw them in the river!!

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