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Over and over again . . . What Role Does Repetition Play in Effective Training?

Have you ever walked through the wing of a music conservatory where the practice rooms are located?

If you have, you have heard students  – pianists, violinists, brass players and others – practicing short musical phrases over and over again. They’re repeatedly playing difficult portions of the pieces they are learning.

Why? The simple reason is that they are trying to commit those difficult sections of music to muscular memory. After enough repetitions, performing those sections becomes automatic. And you use muscular memory in your day-to-day life too. You use it when you press down the brake pedal of your car, turn up the hot water just a bit in your shower, or turn on a light switch inside your front door when you arrive home. You don’t need to think about how you will perform those actions, which are actually quite complex. You have done them so many times, they almost perform themselves.

What About Repetition in Employee Training?

If you have designed training courses for your company, you have discovered that making trainees perform the same actions over and over usually doesn’t produce meaningful rewards – even though the idea seems to make sense. If you are training your call center staff to handle incoming calls, for example, would you make them sit there and pick up a phone dozens of times, and say hello? No, you wouldn’t.

The people you are training will become frustrated or even irritated if your training requires them to perform rudimentary tasks over and over again. Another reason is that in training, you are most often teaching employees to perform more complex tasks that require flexibility and constant adaptation.

If you are training retail salespeople to provide a high level of customer service, for example, you need to teach them a number of complex skills, not just one that must be repeated over and over again. How should your front-line people deal with a hostile, displeased customer, for example? How should they sell certain products? How should they encourage repeat business? How should they encourage customers to buy more? To teach skills like those, there is usually no reason to make your trainees perform identical training exercises repeatedly.

But Use Repetition Anyway

Does that mean that there is no reason to ever use repetition in your training?

No, it doesn’t. In fact, lots of research confirms that students are more likely to master complex tasks when they are trained repeatedly to perform them.

So, how can you repeat lessons and experiences without causing your trainees to lose motivation? It can be done. Knowing how to do it is part of the “art” of being a great training designer and developer. For example . . .

  • You can vary the way you present a concept, sometimes using a video, sometimes a work simulation, sometimes a group exercise, etc.
  • You can send out text messages and other forms of communications every week or two that reinforce your key concepts and skills.
  • You can bring in a variety of experts from inside and outside your organization who can reinforce important skills and principles in varied, individual ways.

So, Is Repetition Only for Musicians?

No, it is not! In the hands of a master training developer, it can teach critical skills and concepts in a way that your trainees will never forget.

Why not speak with a Tortal Training developer today?