Today's employees are eager to learn new skills. In fact, in a report from Sitel Group, 37 percent of employees said that, if they didn't have the opportunity to be trained in new skills, they would be willing to leave their current job.

It might not sound like it, but that's good news for businesses. Employees want to do better. They want to learn, expand their skills, and take leadership roles. But many companies lack a systematic approach to employee training and new-employee onboarding.

And companies that fail to plan their employee training and education in a strategic way may actually be losing money. One consequence of poor training--as I'm sure we've all experienced--is that employees tend to forget much of what they've learned. In that case, you've invested time and money for few returns--and you may even need to invest more to provide further education. 

How can you make sure your employees retain the information and skills you've invested in teaching them? Avoid these three common mistakes.

1. Your training materials don't include visual content.

Whether your training is in-person or in a virtual space, you'll need to use multimedia elements to amplify its effectiveness. One study found that, three days after a training or educational event, people remember 10 percent of an oral presentation, 35 percent of a visual presentation, and 65 percent of a presentation with both a visual and an oral component.

You can probably relate. Can you think of a boardroom presentation or a college lecture where the presenter spoke for so long that your attention flagged? I think all of us can.

But when visual aids are involved, we have more ways to interact with the information that's being shared. And given that about 65 percent of people are visual learners, it's no surprise that retention of that information increases with the use of visual content.

What types of visual content can you incorporate into your training? Here are just a few options:

  • Interactive quizzes

  • Motion graphics and videos

  • Infographics

  • Visual e-books

  • Interactive infographics and Web pages

  • Print materials, including brochures and handbooks

We'll talk about video and motion graphics next.

2. Your employee education doesn't incorporate video.

Much of today's employee training takes place online or in virtual environments. And especially in those spaces, video is proven to be highly effective.

In fact, one study found video to be the No. 1 most effective educational/training tool, in comparison to materials like brochures or text-based narratives.

Video is a preferred visual medium for internet users in general. According to Cisco, more than 75 percent of all internet traffic is video. And your employees are no exception--they probably like to watch a lot of videos as well. So when your training materials are in their preferred medium, they'll be more likely to engage with and retain the information you're sharing.

3. Your education materials use low-quality graphics.

Today's audiences--including your employees--don't respond well to low-quality images, videos, or graphics. Perhaps their standards have been raised because of the sheer amount of high-quality visual content there is to choose from. Or perhaps repeated exposure to a broad variety of media has helped consumers develop a more fully formed sense of when visual content succeeds and when it fails.

In any case, simply incorporating any visual content you can find into your training materials won't be enough.

Stock photos or video will make the training feel impersonal, or make it seem as though your company didn't put a lot of effort into developing the materials. This can cause employees' attention to drift, or their dedication to waver.

Likewise, graphs that fail to visualize data accurately or in a clean, legible way will do little to ensure quality training.

The question you should ask yourself whenever you incorporate a visual component into your training is what purpose it serves. Each graph, illustration, video, or infographic should have a particular goal it's trying to achieve--a specific concept or skill you want your employees to learn. If you're just incorporating visuals for the sake of having visuals, it isn't likely to help your employees learn.

Training employees well isn't easy, but it's well worth the time and effort it takes to do it right. Avoid these three common mistakes, and you'll be well on your way to a happier, better prepared workforce.  

Published on: May 20, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.