How to have a Blended Approach to Learning Tranfer

2 May 2013
Comments: 3
2 May 2013, Comments: 3

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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.

3 responses on “How to have a Blended Approach to Learning Tranfer

  1. joanna dowdall says:

    Hi there both, in these cost conscious times many of our clients are toying with the idea that they should be making more use of technology particularly for delivering training globally.

    What types of training do you feel are suited to virtual learning and what are the issues we should consider when trying to decide if this is really a viable option?

    • Tom says:

      Hi Joanna,
      This is a question for lots of people in L&D. Technology undoubtedly has a part to play in training. Our view is that it is rarely a solution on its own. Why? Because most people need a combination of approaches working together to learn really effectively. But lets get a little more specific…
      eLearning packages are often used to deliver some knowledge – information backed by quizzes and reflective questions that can help a learner understand more about a topic. These can be particularly useful as pre-work or to ensure that a consistent level of knowledge / knowledge expectation is achieved before, for example, a group comes together.
      One area where technology really can help is not specifically in the context of formal learning but in providing ‘just-in-time’ resources for managers. Check our This is a technology based solution that enablers busy managers to find out answers to common issues when they need them.
      What is very interesting, and at this stage underused in our opinion, is video in training. In cost conscious times when the focus should really be on learning transfer, video provides an opportunity to provide learners anywhere in the world with reminders, examples of how to use certain approaches and, in some cases, knowledge in a way that is both easy to consume and remains available for when the user needs it. We are using short (<10 min) video clips to support learning for some of our global clients.
      So, a blended approach is, for us, the best way to use technology. For learning to take place there is often a need to combine taking in new knowledge with opportunities to discuss and practice as well as reflect. So technology is often only part of the picture but its role and benefit is increasing as bandwidth enables more to be done.
      Lots more we could write but hope that provokes some more thoughts…

  2. Elisabeth says:

    Very interesting points, thank you for the post.

    I believe that the type of training suited for each individual is depending on their personality as well. Managers should take this into consideration when choosing the best courses for their employees. Especially important this is when talking about very technical learning, such as IT courses, compared to so called “soft skill” courses.

    I believe you covered it well on your response what type of courses are more suitable for e-learning method. As said, thank you for this!

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