Training transfer is often defined as the extent to which skill and knowledge learned in the training environment is applied back at the job.
In our current economic climate where every department within an organization (including training) is tasked with proving their value and worth, training transfer is more important now than ever. Savvy organizations want proof that training makes a difference, has an impact, and results in some sort of a return on investment.
If trainees are actually using the skill and knowledge they learn in training, once they get back to the workplace, this is one factor to suggest that training did what it was supposed to do.
The training transfer process is indeed that – a process. It starts with conducting a thorough needs analysis to determine if the organization has a true training need. It continues with the effective design and delivery of our training product. It requires on-going post-course evaluation. Lastly, it involves a joint partnership between the training staff and members of management to make certain that training will be supported.
The entire process is more than I can cover in one blog. Instead, I’ll focus on a few, easy-to-implement tips that can be done during a training course to promote training transfer.
If possible, structure the course so it can be delivered in individual modules. After the completion of each module, have the learners return to their jobs and apply what they learned. This immediate, real-world application doesn’t allow for extended periods of down time where the newly gained skill and knowledge may be forgotten or lost.
When the learners return for the next module, the instructor begins by discussing the progress, “ah-ha moments,” concerns, etc. from the last module and its real world application.
Effectively designed courses are chock full of activities and exercises. Upon the completion of each activity, an instructor-led debrief should be incorporated. This debrief not only serves as an opportunity to check learner comprehension and understanding, but it can also help with training transfer.
The instructor should ask open-ended questions to promote eventual application back at the job, such as, “How is this scenario similar to your actual job?” or, “In what ways can you use this information to simplify your work processes?”
Often learners may view our training activities as just another random activity to fill space and time during the course. I find this is especially the case when incorporating instructional activities such as games, role plays, and discussions. However, if we get the learners to think about the purpose of the activity, it really lends itself to training transfer.
Written Implementation Plans
Encourage the learners to develop some sort of a written implementation plan during training. At Langevin, we call them “action plans.” This action plan is included as part of the standard issued participant materials. In addition to manuals, workbooks, and job aids, our learners are given a separate document in which they can take notes and jot down ideas.
This simple note-taking document is elevated to another level, when every Langevin instructor makes strategic stops during the instruction to encourage the implementation of what’s been written in the action plan. This can be done after the completion of an exercise, before or after lunch, or at the end of the course.
I usually position the action plan activity by asking two basic questions: 1) “Have you picked-up any new ideas, tips, or concepts so far?” 2) “How do you plan to use them back at the job?”
Having been a learner myself, I personally found that when I put something in writing, I was more apt to follow through with it.
When learners leave the training environment, there’s a good possibility they’ll be faced with obstacles that might impede the progress of applying their new skills; however, if we take a proactive approach to addressing these potential obstacles and determine possible workarounds, it may ensure greater success of training transfer.
Toward the end of the course, the instructor can conduct a brainstorm that:
- Determines obstacles and barriers that are likely to occur
- Identifies the warning signs of the obstacles
- Lists the strategies to overcome each obstacle/barrier
If this isn’t done, the obstacles will likely present themselves. Our learners may relapse and revert to their old habits. And training transfer will not be realized.
By implementing a few creative action steps during the training course, we might find greater success with our learners’ actually using their newly acquired skill and knowledge after training.
What other techniques have you used to encourage the transfer of training?