Tips for Transferring Training to the Workplace

You Can Ensure Your Employees Use the Information Gained in Training

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Can you turn your training participants into learning magnets who can’t wait to attend their next training opportunity? Absolutely. Can you expect improved work performance as a result of the time, energy, and money you invest in training? Absolutely. You just need to pay attention to the key factors in training transfer:

  • who presents the training,
  • how the training is presented, and
  • the role you expect from the participants.

What participants do during the training session makes all the difference in whether training actually transfers to the workplace. Use these six ideas to address complaints about training (I don’t have time; training's a waste of my time; my boss won’t let me do anything I learn in the session anyway) and spark improved performance with training transfer to your workplace.

6 Tips for Training Transfer

You can improve your training and the employee transfer of the learned new skills and ideas back to your workplace if you successfully manage these six aspects of training.

The trainer and the expectations make a difference.

One of the most effective training sessions employees ever experienced was at a General Motors manufacturing facility. As part of a corporation-wide culture change process, all supervisory and management employees attended the same educational session which was crafted to help them understand, see the need for, and own the needed cultural changes.

The key ingredient was the instructor. He was a GM senior executive. As such, he expected each individual attending the training session, in turn, to instruct the people who reported to them once they were back on the job.

The ability to train others is one of the most important indicators of training retention. (An organization development consultant facilitated the training sessions as well, since not every manager was confident of his or her ability to train others effectively.)

Alternatively, participants react more favorably to trainers who have experience in their industry. They appreciate facilitators who have experienced and addressed the issues and situations highlighted in the training. The more closely the instructor can link the training to the participants’ real life experience, the better for training transfer, the application of the information later on the job.

Present training as part of a consistent message from the organization.

Classes must build on each other and reinforce the content learned in earlier sessions. Too many organizations approach training as a potpourri or menu of available classes and sessions.

When there is no interconnection between training sessions, and the information provided in the training sessions, organizations lose a great opportunity to reinforce basic shared skills, approaches, and values. Training must reference earlier sessions, draw parallels, and reinforce content.
For example, one university supervisory development program introduced an effective feedback process in a communication class. This feedback model was then reinforced and emphasized in the conflict resolution session, the performance management session, and the motivation session. Participants received a consistent approach, emphasized across sessions, to ensure the transfer of the training information to the workplace.

Ask each individual’s manager, and the manager’s manager, to attend the training session with their staff.

When three management levels of an organization attend training together, participants may be more willing to try out the new ideas learned in training. This is especially effective if participants see their manager trying out new skills as well.

This is also important for reinforcement of the training following the session, the subject of the third article in this training transfer series. Employees are prone to emulate the actions of their managers so when they see managers applying the new information on the job, it's a stimulus. Additionally, trained managers can knowledgeably ask their employees questions to further their learning and understanding of the concepts.

Provide training in “chunks” that are scheduled over a period of time.

People learn more in training sessions that provide chunks, small amounts of content, based on a couple of well-defined objectives. Participants attend these sessions, perhaps a couple of hours per week, until the subject is learned.

This allows the participants to practice the concepts in between the training sessions. Both the content of the training and the application of the concepts are reinforced at each subsequent session.

This also allows people to discuss their successes and difficulties in applying the training in their actual work session. The instructor can help participants practice the training content by giving assignments that are debriefed at the next meeting.

Train people in skills and information that are immediately applicable on the job.

Use it or lose it, is a common refrain about training. This is a true statement. Even with strategic skills such as listening, providing performance feedback, and team building, set up situations in which practice is immediate and frequent, to help participants retain the training.

In application-oriented training such as software training, don’t bother with the training unless participants have the software to use following the training session. In fact, training is often more effective if your employees are allowed to experiment with the program first, before attending the session. They attend the session armed with questions and a basic understanding of the program or process.

The trainer can set a positive, productive tone for the session and the later application of learning.

With a positive, informative, honest opening that stresses behaviorally oriented objectives., the trainer sets the tone for the meeting. How the instructor opens the training session begins the process of managing participant expectations. (“You will be able to do the following as a result of attending this session…”)

According to Jim Clemmer, of the Clemmer Group, "Research clearly shows far more people act themselves into a new way of thinking than think themselves into a new way of acting." Participants need to know what expectations they can have of the session so the objectives must be realistic and not over-promise.

At the same time, the opening should stress what’s in it for me, the WIIFM participants will experience as a result of their wholehearted participation in the session. Emphasize what's in it for the trainee, the value of session, and the value of the information during the entire session.

More Tips for Effective Training Transfer to the Workplace