When organisations say they have a learning or training problem, it is likely that what they really have is a learning transfer problem. When people learn, they do so by relating new information to something they already know. This explains why teachers and trainers use examples and case studies, and why they so often say ‘For instance…” Metaphors – which also equate one thing with another – are useful ways to explain too. Which might be why we might the following point in our [modal_text_link name=”WhitePaperLT” class=”” id=””]White Paper: The Problem with Learning Transfer[/modal_text_link]:
“[…] any approach that suggests that learning ceases at the end of the last session of formal learning is akin to suggesting that a marriage ends once the rings have been exchanged.”
Learning Transfer: A Broken Engagement?
Formal learning – whether it takes place in a lecture theatre, a seminar room or on the screen of a smartphone – can achieve only so much. While it delivers new attitudes, skills and knowledge, there are two things it cannot do:
- Ensure that they are personalised to ensure the understanding of each individual learner
- Put them into practise.
What Comes After
Learning Transfer is relatively easy to define. In a widely quoted 1988 research article that included an initial ‘model’ that showed the factors that influence it, Timothy Baldwin and Kevin Ford offered the following:
“The generalization of the skills acquired during the training phase to the work environment and the maintenance of those acquired skills over time.”
But decades of research that show that only 5 – 20% of formal learning is ever subsequently transferred demonstrates that achieving it is rather harder, despite not just the huge amounts spent on training but also available evidence that shows how less of this might be wasted.
There are over 60 well-documented and researched ‘best practices’ that can be deployed before during and after training that can make learning transfer more likely to occur. They range from selecting the most appropriate candidates and preparing them properly to ensuring that the workplace they return to encourages and supports them in putting their learning to best use, and in being able to adapt what they have learned to apply in a range of circumstances.
Our research – including two national surveys of L&D practice – reveals that organisations deal more successfully with the ‘Before’ stages than the ‘After’. It’s tempting to ascribe this to laziness – as we’ve cheekily done in our infographic – and it’s certainly possible to cut corners, in terms of effort if not expenditure. But there is another explanation: of those documented best practices, the ones most likely to be deployed all related to aspects of training where trainers, learning designers and their L&D colleagues have the greatest influence and control.
Married Life and the Broken Engagement
While training and learning are fundamentally about tomorrow – not least in being better prepared for it – organisations often display ‘legacy thinking’: the argument that these essential elements of development and progress happen outside the flow of daily work, and that all will be well once they have been completed. We’d suggest they take another look at Baldwin and Ford’s definition: learning is complete once it has been transferred and maintained, not when the final training session comes to an end.
And referring to ‘a broken engagement’ is not just a way of extending our opening metaphor. A sense of being personally developed is vitally important in ensuring that staff feel both engaged and valued. Without a conscious effort by organisations to demonstrate the same degree of engagement with learning and development after as well during training, the direct benefits of training and its by-products in terms of staff commitment are easily lost.
But to return to that metaphor, ASK’s Engage, Learn, Transfer, Evaluate methodology – which underpins the design and delivery all our programmes – purposefully sets out to build this engagement, actively involving line managers, colleagues, mentors and coaches in working together to ensure that learners get the support and encouragement they need to put their learning into practice. Unless, they do so, good learning will never be translated into great performance.
Work and personal development are, like a marriage, a long-term relationship, and success depends on commitment to making it a success. And if your organisation is ready to make that longer-term commitment, so are we.
To find out more, [modal_text_link name=”WhitePaperLT” class=”” id=””]download our free White Paper[/modal_text_link] – and you can [modal_text_link name=”ELTE” class=”” id=””]download our free guide to our Engage, Learn, Transfer, Evaluate methodology[/modal_text_link] too. Alternatively, use the button below to book a conversion with one of our consultants to discuss how ASK can help make your organisation’s training and learning programmes more effective – or call us on 01234 757575.[/fusion_text][button link=”https://calendly.com/consulting-team-ask” color=”custom” size=”large” stretch=”no” type=”flat” shape=”square” target=”_self” title=”Book a Conversation” gradient_colors=”#009abf|#009abf” gradient_hover_colors=”|” accent_color=”” accent_hover_color=”” bevel_color=”” border_width=”” icon=”” icon_position=”left” icon_divider=”no” modal=”meeting” animation_type=”0″ animation_direction=”left” animation_speed=”1″ animation_offset=”” alignment=”center” class=”” id=””]Book a Conversation[/button][modal name=”meeting” title=”Book a Conversation” size=”large” background=”” border_color=”” show_footer=”yes” class=”” id=””]
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