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Transfer of Training - How to Promote Skill Transfer in Your Organization

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Problem of Training Transfer

A new inventory system was installed in a typical manufacturing company. Employees in the Purchasing Department were sent off to learn how to use the new software. One month later, the Purchasing Manager finds that only two out of the twelve Purchasing Officers are using the new system. The expected cost savings have not materialized and the Purchasing Manager resolves to take issue with the Training Manager at the next weekly meeting.

Does this sound familiar? Experts estimate that somewhat less that twenty percent of training investments lead to some organizational benefit. This anomaly is commonly referred to as the "problem of training transfer". Why is it that such a small proportion of training ends up being used back in the workplace? With increasing marketplace competition, leaner resources and a greater focus on tangible outcomes, more and more managers are asking this question.

How can you increase the transfer of training in your organization? For any given training program, you will need to look into three areas:

  1. training participant attributes (intelligence, attitudes)
  2. training program design and delivery
  3. workplace environment

What can you do to enhance the positive impact of each of these factors? Looking at the first factor, training participant attributes may be influenced when introducing new employees to your organization through an effective recruitment, selection and induction process. Attributes can also be influenced before training begins through pre-qualifying nominees during the registration process.

The second factor, training design and delivery, can be made more effective through ensuring that the training program objectives are clearly focused on your organization's priorities and goals. Tied in with this, participantsí learning outcomes must be stated in terms of behavior required in the workplace and measurable performance standards.

Along with effective design, in order to maximize training transfer to the workplace ensure that the training is delivered in accordance with what we know about how adults learn best. However, it is the third area mentioned above, the employee's workplace environment, that is the most significant, yet most neglected, factor influencing the extent of training transfer. What happens before employees attend the training event and what happens after they return to work are the most important variables determining workplace performance following training.

The PRACTICE Approach

The various attitudes and activities required by supervisors, managers and trainers for maximum transfer can be consolidated into an easy to remember and use model. I call this method the PRACTICE Approach ©. By focusing on each of the eight key elements, organizations can be confident of maximizing their training investments. These eight key elements of the PRACTICE Approach © to improving the transfer of training are summarized here. I have included examples of specific activities that can be undertaken to satisfy each element.

Procedures say how to perform and why

  • update relevant policies and procedures before training begins
  • use actual policy and procedural documents during training

Roles & Responsibilities say what level of performance is required

  • clarify role responsibilities and update relevant role descriptions
  • link learning outcomes to role descriptions

Aids on the job extend the training room into the workplace

  • replicate training aids on the job
  • encourage employees to use on-the-job aids

Coaching overcomes individual barriers to skill application

  • plan for and dedicate on-the-job coaching resources
  • train coaches in how to coach effectively

Targets and measurement proves people are performing

  • agree and set measurable organizational and individual goals
  • link program learning outcomes to organizational and individual goals
  • translate goals into required on-the-job behaviors

Incentives give a personal reason to perform

  • modify incentives to reward goal achievement and expected behaviors
  • provide employee feedback frequently and using a variety of methods

Communication informs and involves all stakeholders

  • communicate information to all appropriate levels in organization
  • use a variety of communication mediums and styles

Engagement motivates participants to apply skills

  • brief employees before training on purpose and application of program
  • managers and supervisors introduce training and attend sessions
  • review learning after training and identify opportunities for skill application
  • follow up regularly progress on skill application with employee

After you complete the training program, you will want to determine the extent of training transfer. Observe participants in the workplace or survey participants and their managers to find out how much they are using their newly learned skills on the job. Feedback the results to managers and use the learnings to improve your program further. You can even use the PRACTICE Approach © as the structure for your discussions with supervisors and managers on how best to work together to get the most benefit from your training programs.

2006 © Business Performance Pty Ltd. All rights reserved.

About the Author


Vicki Heath is the Director of Business Performance Pty Ltd, a company providing practical online information and resources in a range of business areas, including training and development. Her company's guides, tools and templates assist organizations engage and develop people, manage organizational change and improve project delivery.

Proven experts in the following areas: project management, change management, strategic planning, business process re-engineering, culture surveys, organizational communication, training and development, business performance measurement, employee performance management, leadership and team development, organizational capability and learning, coaching and mentoring. http://www.businessperform.com.


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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2006-09-08 18:28:11 in Employee Articles

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