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Texas expert: Tapping into tech can help you overcome training challenges with your workforce

Lawrence Schwartz — CEO of Trivie, a tech-enabled workforce training solution — shares how employees forgetting training is one of the biggest challenges for businesses. Photo via Getty Images

Forgetting is the hobgoblin of businesses everywhere. Globally, more than $300 billion is spent annually by companies hoping to train their employees to do their jobs successfully and safely. Yet, learning professionals know that people will forget 80 percent or more of what they learned after 30 to 90 days unless it's reinforced.

It's a human biology problem — people forget. However, if that were the only issue, it would have been solved long ago. Instead, it's a holistic issue that includes how people learn and forget, how people engage with training, and how knowledge gaps are identified and addressed across entire organizations.

How do we get people to remember what we need them to know to do their job more effectively? And how do we do it without it taking up so much of their time that training becomes impossibly expensive?

Therein lies the problem. Neuroscientists have done extensive research on how the brain remembers things long-term, and it's not what most people think.

We've grown up in a culture of cramming. Review the content over and over right before a test, take the test, pass it, and you're done. Check the box. Unfortunately, your brain is done with that material too, and over time, it will purge itself of that information unless you do something about it.

The act of forgetting allows our brains to strengthen their neurological pathways to help us remember. This is called "retrieval practice" and according to Dr. Henry Roediger, one of the authors of the book, Make It Stick: "Retrieval practice via quizzes spaced out over time helps to consolidate knowledge and keep it on employees' 'mental fingertips,' so it is easy to access when needed." In essence, you re-introduce something learned so that the brain "recalls" it, and if done enough over a certain period, it is more likely that people will remember this information longer.

With today's technology, we can automate spaced repetition. Artificial intelligence can predict when people will forget and proactively nudge employees to avoid creating knowledge gaps across organizations. Delivering information in a personalized way, such that every learner has their own proficiency map, enables knowledge retention with very little time expenditure.

It's human nature that when someone knows more, they are more confident in their abilities. This translates to better performance across nearly all use cases within a business. Top salespeople know their product like the back of their hands to identify solutions for customers quickly. The best customer service teams don't just reference knowledge bases; they are familiar with the product, processes, or services that allow them to be responsive and think holistically about issues. The safest work environments are a product of employees knowing what they need to do to keep themselves, and each other, safe. Knowledge retention powers high-performing people and organizations.

Forgetting can never be eliminated. Rather, businesses that leverage forgetting as opportunities to strengthen their people's knowledge will create a culture of continuous learning. Employees will feel more empowered and confident. Knowledge silos will be broken down, and the analog ways that knowledge was retained across peer interactions will become digital. An open network of knowledge will emerge and supplement our brains, making what was once a weakness in human biology, forgetting, an opportunity to remember.

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Lawrence Schwartz is the co-founder and CEO of Texas-based Trivie.

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Building Houston

 
 

As of this week, Lara Cottingham is the chief of staff at Greentown Labs. Photo via LinkedIn

The country's largest climatetech startup incubator has made a strategic new hire.

Lara Cottingham is the new chief of staff for Greentown Labs, a Boston-area company that opened in Houston earlier this year. Cottingham previously served as the city of Houston's chief sustainability officer and the chief of staff for the city's Administration and Regulatory Affairs Department for the past seven years. In her new role, Cottingham will oversee the day-to-day operations and communications for Greentown's CEO Emily Reichert, along with key stakeholder engagements and strategic initiatives for the incubator.

"Lara brings a tremendous wealth of knowledge and experience to our team from her dynamic leadership role at the City of Houston," says Reichert in a news release. "Her breadth of knowledge in sustainability, climate, and the energy transition, and her expertise in regulatory and stakeholder aspects of the energy industry, will be incredibly valuable to our team and community."

Under her leadership at the city of Houston, Cottingham was the chief author of Houston's Climate Action Plan, an initiative aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Houston, and getting the city to a point where it meets the Paris Agreement goal of carbon neutrality by 2050. Cottingham helped the city move to 100 percent renewable electricity, according to the release, and helped turn a 240-acre landfill into the nation's largest urban solar farm.

"In leading the Climate Action Plan, Lara helped spark Houston's leadership in what has become a global energy transition and was a passionate advocate for climate action in Houston," says Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner in the release. "While she will be missed, this new role will only strengthen our partnership with Greentown. I look forward to working with Emily, Lara, and the Greentown team to meet our climate goals and make Houston the energy capital of the future."

Before her work at the city, Cottingham worked at Hill+Knowlton Strategies' Houston office range of clients across the energy sector. Earlier in her career, she served as communications director for two congressmen in the U.S. House of Representatives. She began her work with the city in 2014.

"In working with Mayor Turner and Climate Mayors across the U.S., I saw how important partnerships are to helping cities decarbonize," says Cottingham in the release. "There is no better partner or place for climate action at work than Greentown Labs. Greentown is 100 percent committed to attracting and nurturing the energy companies of the future and making Houston the energy transition capital of the world. I'm excited to join the team and see how climatetech can help cities reach their climate goals."

Greentown Labs first announced its entrance into the Houston market last summer. The new 40,000-square-foot facility in Midtown across the street from The Ion opened its prototyping and wet lab space, offices, and community gathering areas for about 50 startup companies opened in April. Greentown was founded in 2011 in Somerville, Massachusetts, and has supported more than 400 startups, which have raised more than $1.5 billion in funding.

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