Jonathan DeVore

By: Jonathan DeVore on May 20th, 2020

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What Does Zero-Memorization Training Look Like?

Live Training | Training

If you know about Zero-Memorization Training but aren't sure how it would look if you implemented it in your employee training program, check out the video below to learn what it looks like.

Download this checklist so you can be prepared to run your next Zero-Memorization Training.

Check out the video, What does a Zero-Memorization knowledge base look like?

It's not your traditional employee training

When you see what Zero-Memorization Training looks like, you might be a little skeptical. It's a very different way of running a training program. Instead of being the sage on the stage, you take your place as the guide on the side. Your role as a trainer becomes less about lecturing and more about facilitating a learning experience by giving employees a space to hear a scenario and figure out how to respond to it.

You sit back as your employees:

  • learn how to find answers (and be self-sufficient),
  • read through your guides,
  • discover how your processes work,
  • learn how to use your systems,
  • walk through the steps of a procedure, and (if applicable)
  • learn what to say when interacting with customers

During this process, your employees are very engaged and are learning how to solve problems and work more independently.

It's kind of like a scavenger hunt 

When I was a teenager, one of my favorite games to play as a student was when the teacher posted a question and then asked us to find the answer in the book - kind of like a scavenger hunt. This was before Google, so I had to use the book's topical guide and index to figure out where the answer was. (I always enjoyed racing my classmates to try and find the answer first.)

Once we found the answer in the book, we would discuss it as a class. We would talk about what the answer meant, the context of when the answer would be used, how it could be applied to various situations, etc. That way, when those situations came up later on, I was familiar with them and I could quickly do a search to find what I needed and respond appropriately.

You're doing the same thing during Zero-Memorization Training. Only now, the process of finding the answer is even faster because you have a knowledge base that can be searched using keywords.

What you need to run Zero-Memorization Training

You must have these four things to run a successful Zero-Memorization Training:

  1. Knowledge base
  2. Scenarios 
  3. Channel for communication
  4. Sandbox environment

Let's break these down in a little more detail.

Knowledge base

If you are going to implement Zero-Memorization Training you must have a great knowledge base and it must be keyword searchable. You want to give your employees a similar experience to using Google.

When employees type in keywords, relevant guides need to appear in the list of search results.

You also need to have guides that are easy to follow. If your guides look like walls of text and employees have to read paragraphs before they understand whether they're even looking at the right guide, then your training is going to be a flop.


Pull from real-life examples. What does an email say when employees are asked to run a report? What words do customers use when they ask for an invoice?

When we coach customers on running Zero-Memorization Training, we tell them to pull exact phrases from customer support tickets, colleague emails, and real events that come up. Write down those scenarios and either present each one an a PPT slide or just have the scenarios written down so you can read them aloud to your employees

Channel for communication

This one is obvious, but it needs to be said. Make sure you have a way to communicate with your employees during training. You need to be able to talk to them, and they need to be able to talk to you. If you're in a classroom, well then this is pretty easy. But if you're remote, make sure they can either chat with you or take themselves off of mute and speak to you (they need to have a mic or a call-in number).

Also, it helps if your employees can write down how they would respond. This reinforces what they are doing because it pushes them to formulate how they would respond to the scenario. Use Slack or ask your employees to use Word so they can write down their answers and then read aloud what they wrote down.

Sandbox environment

If possible, give employees a way to play around in your systems without breaking anything. At first, they won't use the sandbox to respond to scenarios – you'll just talk through them. But after your employees get comfortable using your knowledge base and going through your guides, you'll ask them to navigate through the systems to perform the operations.

What to do during training?

Start your training the way you start most trainings – do your icebreakers and your introductions. Do a high level overview of the systems you use, the company, the products, etc.

When you're ready to learning the details, follow this process:

  1. Present a scenario
  2. Ask employees, "What do you do?"
  3. Wait for employees to find the appropriate guide in your knowledge base
  4. Ask them to write up a response or talk through the guide that they think is applicable to the scenario
  5. Repeat

Start off with easy scenarios then gradually move on to more complicated ones. As training progresses, ask employees to go into the sandbox environment and perform the tasks by following the guides.

If they can't find the correct guide, ask what they're searching for and go into your knowledge base to optimize search (either modifying the title of the guide or adding additional search terms to the guide).

If they don't know how to search, give them tips on what to search for. If employees are using the search term "accounts" for the scenario "Chet calls in asking to be transferred to the accounts receivable manager," then you will need to coach them on how to use search terms to find the correct guide.

If they can't follow the guide, ask what's confusing and make updates on the spot. Training time becomes a check for you to make sure your guides are accurate, complete, and easy to follow.

If they need to develop soft skills, incorporate coaching during this time. This will be very important for any employees who interface with customers (e.g. call centers, customer support). As employees respond to you, give them feedback on their empathy, their tone, power words, etc.

The end goal is that your employees know how to find and use your guides to respond to 80-90% of the situations that they will face when training is over.

After Training

After training is over, employees will have gone through dozens (maybe hundreds depending on how long your "classroom" training is) of scenarios and learned how to use your knowledge base to respond to any situation.

Now, the key here is that the knowledge base they used during training was NOT a training knowledge base. It was the actual knowledge base they will use while doing their everyday job. When employees sit down at their desk to answer phones, respond to questions, and perform operational tasks, they will know how to find and use your guides.

The perks of Zero-Memorization Training

What’s great about this approach is that employees don’t have to rely on learning tribal knowledge from shadowing other employees. And they don’t have to stress over memorizing what to do and worry they’re bothering you with questions after training is over.

But it's not just a great experience for employees — Zero-Memorization is awesome for trainers as well. You have a handle on what goes on in the business. You have guides that can be used to respond to 80 or 90% of the situations that come up. That's peace of mind!

And at any time, you can confidently bring on a new employee or cross-train employees in a repeatable way. Just bring up your list of scenarios, have employees go through them, and they'll be ready to go. You can get employees up and running in a consistent, predictable way. 

Also, you can give employees homework assignments. If you need to train out of cycle and nobody is available, new employees don't have to sit around and wait for the "expert" to teach them. Just send them your document with scenarios and ask them to respond with the link to the guide they would use and a brief explanation of what they would do. You or somebody on your team can review their responses and provide feedback. It's not ideal, but in a pinch, it's better than the alternative (e.g. paying new employees for weeks without them doing anything).

What's next?

Now that you know what Zero-Memorization Training looks like, download this checklist so you can make sure you've got everything you need to run your own Zero-Memorization Training.

Check out the video, What does a Zero-Memorization knowledge base look like?

About Jonathan DeVore

Customer Success