Transfer of Training

Posted by Jason Tapp

As professionals in training and development, one of our greatest challenges is helping individuals and organizations transfer learning from the classroom to the job. The accountability for that learning transfer lies with the learner, the leader, and with the organization in which the learner works. A few months ago, there was a post on LinkedIn in the CLO magazine group entitled “In one sentence, what’s the number one barrier to transferring learning back to the job?” There have been over 250 responses to that question to date (most of which are much longer than one sentence!) The answers consist of all of the usual suspects: it’s the learner’s fault for not taking responsibility for making the change; it’s the supervisor’s fault for not holding the learner accountable for changing; it’s the training department’s fault for being so disconnected from the work and worker; it’s the organization’s fault for not having a culture of support and reinforcement for learning and behavior change, and on and on.

My position is simple. It must be the wrong learning solution. For example, have you ever tried to screw in a nail with a power drill? Probably not, because common sense tells you that it wouldn’t work! Ironically, when it comes to learning, organizations often use the wrong tool for the job. I’ve seen this happen in numerous organizations where there was a problem with the systems in place, and they kept trying to “fix” the people by sending them to more training. This created more frustration with the systems and the organization, the necessary changes didn’t occur, and everyone was pointing fingers at who was at fault for the system still being broken.

If you’ve taken our Training and Development course, then you learned about the ADDIE process, which stands for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation. There are many organizational factors at play when it comes to transferring learning to the job. However, one of the most critical components of developing an effective learning intervention is conducting a thorough analysis of the gap and determining the best way to close the gap. One of the biggest mistakes that I’ve seen organizations make when it comes to closing a performance gap is to try and use training to “fix” the problem. Training will only be effective when the proper needs assessment indicates that training is the right solution. And of course training cannot happen in a vacuum, thus it needs to be integrated into a much larger talent management process.

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