The Forgetting Curve is Steep – Start “Invertising”


Here are the results of a completely unscientific survey.

Please rank these in order of preference, with 10 being the most annoying.

  1. You are forced to share an office with your loud eating, aromatic, talkative co-worker
  2. You are stuck in traffic with all stations tuned to a Bieber marathon
  3. You hear your dentist say, “oh that’s interesting.”
  4. Buffering…damn buffering
  5. You found out your spouse won the lottery and never told you
  6. The person in front of you at the grocery store has a checkbook and is trying to return grapes
  7. You realize that your beagle has more friends than you do
  8. You’re trying to go to sleep and you hear a mosquito
  9. You encounter an uncovered sneeze and you feel the breeze
  10. It’s time for you to take your Annual Corporate Compliance Training

Employees are Drinking Out of the Fire Hose
drinkingoutofFirehoseTalk to a typical employee and the thing they hate the most is their corporate training.  It’s a necessary evil like mother-in-laws and health insurers.  When it comes to corporate training there is a lot of it – legal and regulatory training, your new five step sales methodology, updated product qualities, code of conduct certification, safety training, data security reminders and on and on it goes.  There are so many policies and trainings that are required and/or are being force fed to employees who for the most part just want to do there jobs well and not be hassled.  Mix that with the fact that employees are busier than ever, have shorter attention spans and are under various degrees of internal and external pressure to be successful.  And to top it off, there are 10 different departments each with their own set up rules and they are all a priority and important.  This is the reality of an employees’ environment, which is why it’s important to be thoughtful, empathetic and creative when engaging employees with your most important policies and trainings.

Out of site, out of mind.
In many companies, finding corporate policies are the equivalent of Where’s Waldo.  Employees certainly aren’t looking for them but if even if they were, no one can find them.



Or perhaps there is a dedicate learning intranet site or policy portal and they are readily accessible, but then they are often written by this guy.

Booooorrriinnng.  And we all know you can’t bore people into learning.


Your policies and trainings are hidden in plain site…like apocalyptic, futuristic survivors from a lost era that have morphed into unintelligible, painful legalese not meant for human consumption.  They don’t need to be protected by firewalls or war rigs or masked bandits because employees just aren’t that interested.

*note I recently watched Mad Max Fury Road so that may have influenced my forced analogy here.  But it was fun to write.  🙂


Communicate Like Human Beings
Here’s the thing.  Most policies and presentations are written from the writers’ perspective, pushing out information like a monologue.  But communication is not one way.  What you send has to be received, accepted and understood. That means that policies and presentations should be re-written from the employees’ perspective, telling them what they need to do and why, to better facilitate understanding.  Don’t push information.  Create dialogues.  When it comes to complex concepts, do simple better.  It’s the only way to win mindshare.

*In improv there is an exercise called “Red  Ball” which is an excellent exercise to demonstrate this point.


Many trainings are set up to show (measure) that employees have read something and presumably understand it.  Often educators need to prove that you took the course and passed the test.  But there is no actual learning going on.  Just because you check the box saying that you’ve accepted and understood the rules associated with your software upgrade, doesn’t make it so.  Demonstrating 100% compliance presumably provides legal protection but there is no pretending that employees are learning, which actually, in my opinion, increases risk.

Let’s say you’re one of the good companies that has invested in making learning more interactive and fun.  There is some interactivity.  There’s a gaming aspect.   There’s some videos involved. Etc.  That’s cool.  You care about learning. You’re on the right track.  That is step 1.


The importance of training AND communication
See, even if it’s great, that 45-minute annual training doesn’t work on its own.  You can’t treat your employees like bears and expect one big meal to sustain them through the winter.  They aren’t camels that can store up water and live off of it walking across the Sahara.  They aren’t penguins that live off their fat or pythons swallowing warthogs in one sitting.  In these analogies your training is the fat and the warthog.  These animals do survive, and penguins are cute, but nobody thinks camels and pythons are smart.  You wouldn’t ask them to help with your finances.

According to Association for Talent Development, “effective long-term learning is rarely achieved by a one-off event.”  The forgetting curve is steep with 87% of corporate learning is lost within the first month.  And this makes sense.  We’re all busy!  There’s a lot of info to keep in our heads.   So even the best training needs to be regularly reinforced to get knowledge into practice.  Both training AND communication are significant parts of the puzzle.


Invertising – Internal Advertising can Help

  • “Can You Hear Me Now”
  • “15 minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance”
  • “Melts in your mouth, not in your hands”
  • “Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm is There”
  • “The Few, The Proud, The Marines”


These are just a few memorable slogans that have been reinforced time and again and are imprinted on our brains.  Good advertising works.  Effective advertising makes an emotional connection with the audience.  Humor is great way to make an emotional connection.  But more important than funny is to be interesting and empathetic, in service of a message.  Advertisers talk about effective frequency, meaning the number of times a person has to be exposed before the message sinks in.  There is no right answer as to how frequent that is, but safe to say that not all your messaging will get through the first few times.  A regular, repeatable, thematic approach has a better chance of getting noticed by more people and breaking through employees’ outer shell.  The internal advertising methods – or Invertising – can work for your internal training, policies and corporate messaging.

Employees need to be fed throughout the year with a variety of interesting “snacks” to keep them nourished.  Variety and volume is important.  Short and interesting is essential.  Add in thematic and you can really be effective.  Regular, repeatable, fun, positive communications can not only help with learning transfer, it can help establish culture.  Focusing on fun, effective communication, demonstrates to employees that you believe their time is valuable. It demonstrates that the message is important.  Its’ so important, you need to ensure that they pay attention and remember.  A few additional thoughts and recommendations.

  • Clickbait – you don’t have to say everything in your message. Use teasers to highlight themes and employees know to click further when they need more info.  (You also can measure click-throughs)
  • Establish themes. Think through high level messaging that serves as an umbrella over the lessons/examples/teachable moments that fit underneath.
  • Chop it Up. Take your training and chop it up to its essential snackable parts and dole it out throughout the year.
  • Marketing Support – Make friends with your marketing and communications team and plot out a communications calendar. Map out what you are sending, to whom and when.
  • Building an Audience – Take a long term approach. Employees won’t receive every message. You are bombarding them with short, fun, thematic communications and hoping that some of them get through.
  • Have Fun! Most importantly, have fun and be creative.  People engage and learn when there is a sense of play.

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