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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

 
 

Cheers Health has expanded its product line as it evolves as a wellness-focused brand. Photo courtesy of Cheers

Houston-based startup Cheers first got a wave of brand devotees after it was passed over by investors on Shark Tank in 2018. In the years since, Cheers secured an impressive investment, launched new products, and became a staple hangover cure for customers. When the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted businesses, the company rose to the occasion and experienced its first profitable year as drinking and wellness habits changed across America.

Cheers initially started its company under the name Thrive+ with a hangover-friendly pill that promised to minimize the not-so-fun side effects that come after a night out. The capsules support the liver by replacing lost vitamins, reduce GABAa rebound and lower the alcohol-induced acetaldehyde toxicity levels in the body. The company's legacy product complemented social calendars and nights on the town, providing next day relief.

With COVID-19 lockdowns and social distancing measures, the days of pub crawls and social events were numbered. Cheers founder Brooks Powell saw the massive behavior change in people consuming alcohol, and leaned into his vision of becoming more than just a hangover cure but an "alcohol-related health company," he says.

When the pandemic first hit, Powell and his team noticed an immediate dip in sales — a relatable story for businesses in the grips of COVID-19.

"There is a three day period where we went from having the best month in company history to the worst month in company history, over a 72 hour stretch," he remarks.

He soon called an emergency board meeting and rattled off worst-case "doomsday" scenarios, he says.

"Thankfully, we never had to do any of these strategies because, ultimately, the team was able to rally around the new positioning for the brand which was far more focused on alcohol-related health," he says.

"We found that a lot less people were getting hangovers during 2020, because generally when you binge drink, you tend to binge drink with other people," he explains.

He noticed that health became an important focus for people, some who began to drink less due to the lack of social gatherings. On the contrary, some consumers began to drink more to fill the idle time.

According to a JAMA Network report, there was a 54 percent increase in national sales of alcohol for the week stay-at-home orders began last March, as compared to the year prior.

"All of a sudden, you have all of these people who probably aren't binge drinking but they're just frequently consuming alcohol. Their drinks per week are shooting up, and they're worried about liver health," explains Powell.

Outside of day-after support, Cheers leaned into its long-term health products to help drinkers consume alcohol in a healthier way. Cheers Restore, a dissolvable powder consumers can mix into their water, rehydrates the body by optimizing sodium and glucose molecules.

For continued support, Cheers Protect is a daily supplement designed to increase glutathione — an antioxidant that plays a key role in liver detoxification — and support overall liver health. Cheers Protect, which was launched in 2019, became a focus for the company as they pivoted its brand strategy and marketing to accommodate consumer behavior.

"The Cheers brand is just trying to reflect the mission statement, which is bringing people together through promoting fun, responsible and health-conscious alcohol consumption," says Powell. "It fits with our vision statement, which is a world where everyone can enjoy alcohol throughout a long, healthy and happy lifetime,."

At the close of 2020, Cheers had generated $10.4 million in revenue and over $1.7m in profit — its first profitable year since launch.

During the brand's mission to stay afloat during the pandemic, the Cheers team was also laying the groundwork for its entry into the retail space. When Powell launched the company during his junior year at Princeton University, bringing Cheers to brick-and-mortar stores had always been a goal. He envisioned liquor and grocery stores where Cheers was sold next to alcohol as a complementary item. "It's like getting sunscreen before going to the beach, they kind of go hand in hand," he says.

"When we spoke with retailers, specifically bars and liquor stores, what we learned is that a lot of these places were hesitant to put pills near alcohol," he says. Wanting an attractive and accessible mode of alcohol-support, the Cheers team created the Cheers Restore beverage.

Utilizing the technology Cheers developed with Princeton University researchers, the Cheers Restore beverage incorporates the benefits of the pill in a liquid, sugar-free form. The company states that its in-vivo study found that the drink is up to 19 times more bioavailable than pure dihydromyricetin (DHM), a Japanese raisin tree extract found in Cheers products and other hangover-related cures.

"What we figured out is that if you combine DHM — our main ingredient — with something called capric acid, which is an extract from coconut oil, the bioavailability shoots way up," says Powell. He notes the unique taste profile and the "creaminess" capric acid provides. "Now you have this lightly carbonated, zero-sugar, lemon sherbert, essentially liver support, hangover beverage that tastes great in 12 ounces and can mix with alcohol," he explains.

The Cheers Restore beverage is already hitting the Houston-area, where its found a home on menus at Present Company. The company has also run promotions with Houston hangouts like Memorial Trail Ice House, Drift, and The Powder Keg.

Currently, the beverage is only available in retail capacity and cannot be ordered on the Cheers website. As Powell focuses on expanding Cheers Restore beverage presence in the region, he welcomes the idea of expanding nationally in the future to come. While eager customers await the drink's national availability, they can actively invest in Cheers through the company's recently-launched online public offering.

Though repivoting a company and launching a new product is exciting, the process did not come without its caveats and stressors. While Cheers profited as a business in 2020, the staff and its founder weren't immune to the struggles of COVID-19.

"I think 2020 was the first year that it really became real for me that Cheers is far more than just some sort of alcohol-related health brand and its products," says Powell. "Cheers is really its employees and everything that goes into being a successful, durable company that people essentially bet their careers on and their family's well-being on and so forth," he continues.

"It really does weigh on you in a different way that it's never weighed on you before," says Powell, describing the stress of the pandemic. The experience was "enlightening," he says, and he wants others to know it's not embarrassing to need help.

"There is no lack of great leaders out there that at long periods of their life they needed help in some way," he says. "For me that was 2020 and being in the grinder and feeling the stress of the unknown and all of that, but it could happen to anyone," he continues.

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