By Raed S. Haddad, Senior Vice President, Global Delivery Services, ESI International
It’s not just what you know; it’s how you use what you know. Attending a training class without proper post-course knowledge application and integration is a futile, yet common practice. In fact, a recent study shows that organizations estimate a high level of learning transfer to the workplace, but the reality does not bear that estimate out.
To identify breakdowns in the transfer of learning and develop best practices for addressing these gaps, ESI International, an international provider of project management-centric learning, conducted a survey in March 2011. Titled Applying Training and Transferring Learning to the Workplace: How to Turn Hope into Reality, the global study highlights the shortfalls in applying training and opportunities for improvement.
Identifying Areas for Improvement
More than 3,000 government and commercial training-related managers assessed three key phases in the application and transfer of learning: pre-training strategies, post-training reinforcement, and rewards or incentives used to motivate employees.
Overall, the study highlights several weak areas in the on-the-job application of learning, including manager support, trainee preparation, incentives, and an overall formal design and measurement process. Findings show that:
It is interesting to note that pre-training preparation and post instruction reinforcement receive much lower marks.
But most surprising, the study suggests that organizations start out optimistic and hopeful that they are fully committed and engaged in the transfer of learning, but upon further questioning, one finds that hope and reality are two very different things when it comes to the transfer of learning in the workplace.
For example, while two-thirds of respondents estimate they apply more than 25 percent of training knowledge back on the job, they have little concrete proof. Almost 60 percent say the primary method for proving or measuring this estimate is either informal/anecdotal feedback or “simply a guess.”
The study points out some striking contradictions in how well organizations think they transfer learning and the lack of proof to back up their estimate of learning transfer or on-the-job application. Client experience at ESI shows us that organizations often fail to establish success criteria or identify expectations for learning engagements. This is a key pre-training strategy in order to measure trainee performance against agreed-upon standards.
More encouraging is that when it comes to post-learning tools and programs, survey responses showemployees leveraging an ever-expanding array of tactics to recall information learned during training, including post-course discussions with the manager or team leader, on-the-job tools, informal support such as social networks or online forums, and communities of practice such as peer groups and coaching.
Ways to Increase the Application of Learning
ESI International took feedback from the survey and added its own client experience to develop a list of the Top 10 best practices for learning transfer.
Learning can and should be a critical business process. With proper planning, training can “stick” and result in learning transfer that affects not only individual or team performance, but also has a significant impact on the strategic and financial goals of an organization.
For a free copy of the full ESI study, “Applying Training and Transferring Learning to the Workplace: How to Turn Hope into Reality,” visit www.esi-intl.com/learningtransfer.
Raed Haddad, senior vice president, Global Delivery Services, ESI International, has more than 25 years of multicultural, project management expertise across a range of industries, including health care, technology, government, telecom, and financial services. He brings his insights to executive audiences worldwide in the areas of project management, talent management and performance improvement program measurement. For more information, visit www.esi-intl.com