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Robert Terry, CEO of The Kite Foundation, an organisation that conducts research into the factors that inhibit learning transfer, concludes that:
“The widespread perception is that training fails to have significant impact because it either fails to transfer or is lost with time.”
Learning transfer is critical if training is to deliver a result for the business. All too often, training is looked at in isolation as a solution and training managers focus their time on creating engaging programmes that focus largely on what happens in the training room itself.
Learning transfer requires a holistic view of the ‘system’ in which training exists: the participants, their line managers, the organisation and its metrics of success and the market. We would make the case that the training process is not complete unless you ensure there is transfer of the learning to the workplace. How do you do this?
In the Needs Analysis section of our book, we give you three priorities to focus on in the analysis phase:
- Focus on being a performance expert
- Be a slave to the business outcomes required, and
- Identify and address the barriers to change.
If you do these three things, we believe that a blended approach to ensure learning transfer will naturally follow. It is only by first being clear on what the business outcomes are that we can design a programme that will deliver tangible performance improvements. Once we know what the desired outcomes are we can question and challenge to ensure we identify the barriers to change.
In looking at, and addressing, the barriers to change we need to consider the multiple stakeholders involved in the learning process. These include:
- The learner
- Their manager/supervisor
- Their colleagues
- The L&D professional
- The leadership team.
Our book includes ‘ten tips for trainers to help with learning transfer’ and these tips focus on addressing four key factors:
- Ensuring that the design of the training fits with what participants and the organisation needs
- The motivation of the learner
- The positive role of the trainer, and
- A supportive work environment.
This requires the training professional to bring constructive challenge to the stakeholders around surfacing the barriers and agreeing actions to avoid or address them. For example, the top three reasons cited in a recent survey that prevented learners applying what they had learned back in the workplace were:
- My immediate manager does not reinforce/support my use of the skills/behaviour
- It is difficult to break away from the way I have done it before (old habits)
- I do not have enough time to apply the skills/behaviour.
A blended solution might include conversations with participant line managers to ensure their buy-in, help them focus on creating opportunities for participants to apply the learning and further support them through coaching. Before any training it might be that you spend time identifying what habits are in place now and what habits need to be created. Training in isolation is unlikely to change habits so you need to consider how you will do this after the training. Other aspects of a blended approach might be methods to increase individual accountability for action, possibly through setting up buddy groups or some target setting around the changes you want to see.
By focusing on the real issues that hinder learning transfer you can create a bespoke blended approach that targets these issues. Focusing on these dramatically increases the chance of success and of you being seen as a performance expert rather than a training expert.
You can find out more about this topic in the Financial Times Guide to Business Training – just click on one of the links to the right to read more reviews and to buy the book. If you found this post useful please share with your colleagues using the buttons below.