What Makes Training Effective: Understanding Training Transfer

Dr. Susan Cain Training & Development, Training and Development Leave a Comment

cli_blog_logoOrganizations all over the world spend countless dollars providing training services to employees. Many invest millions of dollars in training each year, because “they believe that their people do not have the right skills to compete effectively,” (Cheese, 2004, p.12). A continuous challenge for developers of training programs is to ensure that training dollars are well spent and that training impact transfers to the work place.

How Real Training Dollars Can Translate to Real Learning Gains

In their monograph “Making it Sticky, How to facilitate the Transfer of Executive Education Experiences Back to the Workplace,” researchers Haskins and Clawson (2005) of the University of Virginia found that there were three areas in their executive education program that would allow for “sticky” mechanisms to be embedded: before, during, and after the training. They believe that the “stickiness” of a mechanism increases as it moves from the pre-program to post-program phases.

The authors note that this phenomenon exists in both open enrollment programs as well as custom designed single corporation training programs. Additionally, they found that adults learn best in response to immediate learning needs, which implies that training must focus on the impact it can make back in the workplace.

Traditional training transfer studies have explored the significance of trainee characteristics, training design, and work climate variables on training transfer in attempting to validate the influence of each of these independent variables on training transfer (Baldwin & Ford, 1988, Ford & Weinstein, 1997).

Why Training Transfer Can be Difficult to Ensure

After an extensive review of the literature, it was found that many different theories have been used to explain training transfer variables (Miles, 1975). Noël and Schmitt (1999) found that individuals might attend training to gain equity in pay or other rewards. Baldwin & Ford (2010) developed a training transfer construct composed of trainees’ characteristics: ability and aptitude, personality and motivation, as well as work environment variables (supportive organizational climate, discussion with supervisor, opportunity to use knowledge and skills, post training goal setting and feedback).

Holton et al (2000) created the Learning Transfer Systems Inventory, which considers a comprehensive list of training transfer variables including trainee characteristics, motivation, work environment, and ability. Mathieu and Martineau (2008) classified trainees’ motivation in two areas: motivation to learn, and motivation to transfer learning. It is important that programs address both needs and deliver programs for adult learners with both preferences.

Key Questions to Ensure Training Transfer

CLI has developed a list of key questions to help training participants achieve optimal transfer back to the workplace. This template can be used prior to training to ensure maximum readiness and return on training investment:

  1. What skills and abilities are required to meet the goals of the present situation?
  2. What are the current skill gaps?
  3. What skills and abilities are most useful immediately following the training?
  4. How can the training best introduce, coach and reinforce these?
  5. What pre- and post-training steps needed to ensure both readiness and integration?

CLI also encourages organizations considering training to assess participant readiness as well as the training design features that could allow more transfer to occur. By concentrating on hands-on skills that would be readily used on the job, organizations can almost guarantee that training will impact performance.

Finally, training design needs to focus on allowing the transfer of skills directly back to work with practice sessions or homework given as learning aids. There are many creative training approaches that can work for your organization. For more information contact Dr. Susan Cain at scain@corplearning.com.

CLI designs and facilitates training, coaching and strategy development. Visit our website at www.corplearning.com or call us at 1.800. 203.6734.  

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Dr. Susan CainWhat Makes Training Effective: Understanding Training Transfer

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