Implementing continuous development cycles

Excite, engage and embed … that’s how to improve skills retention, says Lorna Leck.

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Implementing a tangible change and clear ROI is vital for training providers to ensure their clients are happy with both the skills gained in the workforce and the evidence of improvement in company results.

It is not enough to simply leave the client at the end of a programme without the necessary tools and know-how to continue reaping the benefits of what you have delivered.

A key method of providing for the future is through enabling and assisting with the creation of continuous development cycles (CDCs).

The idea behind continuous development cycles is simple enough: re-engaging those who attend training events with the skills they learn, in an effort to avoid the typical forgetfulness that occurs once delegates leave the room and neglect their new skills.

This ‘curve of forgetfulness’ underpins the importance of implementing cycles. Research shows we lose up to 80% of information gained within 24 hours if nothing is done with it; by day 27 just 3% is retained. This is a natural occurrence as a result of the human brain deleting what it believes is of no use.

The good news is that once we learn the initial information it is easy to regain it from reviewing notes or materials from the initial training period.

Bite-size chunks of information are much easier to digest. Using neuroscience within a training programme helps provide individuals with small hints and tips that they can actually utilise in a working environment.

But this can only take a delegate so far, for sustained development there are three main steps in implementing continuous development cycles.

The initial stages

There are multiple stages involved with all learning journeys, regardless of what is being delivered. When it comes to business skills, and the hierarchy of individuals involved, it takes more than just the trainer and trainee to accrue long-term benefits; it requires buy-in at all levels.

Naturally, this will change based on the size of the company involved. But fundamentally any successful training programme requires that management (or generally anyone above those taking part) are fully aware of what is being delivered and are able to ensure new skills are utilised in the aftermath of a programme.

Three core stages are required in most training programmes and form the basis of our own courses: Excite, Engage and Embed. These are three of John Kotter’s seven steps to implementing a change programme but the three that hold the most relevance when it comes to CDCs.

It is not enough to simply leave the client at the end of a programme without the necessary tools and know-how to continue reaping the benefits of what you have delivered

Embedding is the most important of these as it involves the delegates’ managers and others in the business to bring the best results. However, the combination of all three elements is what delivers the best results.

Excite and Engage

Creating an anticipation and buy-in from the business leaders about the potential improvements stemming from training not only ensures support during the programme, but will lead to a more closely monitored post-programme system to maintain the acquired skills.

Training professionals can utilise the excitement from stage one to bring in engagement with trainees.

Blended learning techniques and tailored interventions based on the business and outcomes required, plus stretching individuals outside their comfort zone to ensure they are confident enough to actually use the new skills, are all key ingredients to the initial skills on-boarding.


The embedding stage is partly outside your control as it is the stage where the business in question needs to take up the initiative to begin continuous development cycle.

Encouraging long-lasting behavioural change within the organisation is the ultimate goal; beginning at the micro-level with delegates understanding and utilising their new skills within their day-to-day operations.

Post-programme interactions and follow-up meetings can be helpful in ensuring all those involved have changed the way they work in line with what was expected.

Using simulations during training programmes is a perfect way to kick-start this behaviour. Experiential learning with a blend of practical and relevant processes and tools ensure delegates are consistently reminded of the importance of the skills they are learning and their usefulness within their role.

This is not to say there are no methods of maintaining a grip on the post-programme embedding stage. A variety of tools and techniques can be provided or implemented during the programme to ensure the cycle has actually started rather than ending once you leave the building.

Some of these can be as simple as suggesting the business hold regular review meetings, using toolkits and materials from the training to consistently review and revise what they should be using.

A successful tool that we have applied with previous clients is mobile apps. These do not have to be fancy but a simple mobile-based quiz on the core elements of a programme can provoke revision in employees without their making a conscious decision to do so.



Some businesses may need an entire system shift in order to embrace this new way of working. While this is a task for management there are ways you can assist in a form that promotes the CDC way of working.

Activate Universal, for instance, is a method of tracking and promoting a system of consistent monitoring and promoting development. At its core Activate Universal offers a map towards development.

Asking users to identify successes, KPIs, level of adoption of learning, drive a coaching culture, recognising further development requirements, and measuring current capabilities, all with the aim of ensuring consistency and transparency of L&D across the business.

Ultimately, continuous development cycles envelop the entire training programme with the onus upon those taking part to pick up the mantle, plus the skills and techniques gained, to better themselves and their business.

Even the greatest programme cannot promise CDCs without buy-in from the decisionmakers and HR management within the businesses taking note and initiative to remain on top of employees and their work.

What we can all do, however, is provide a sophisticated programme together with the tools and materials necessary for the cycle to begin.


About the author

Lorna Leck is MD at Sales Activator




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