Call it making learning stick, training transfer, embedding learning… the concept of learning transfer has been around for a long time, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone argue that it doesn’t make sense to them…
Yet, bums are still put on seats (or wherever they attend virtual sessions from). Personally, I have been fortunate to attend some top-quality courses but when I returned to my desk there was too much to catch up with and no space allowed to apply what I just learned. With the best will in the world, how much can you retain without your manager’s pro-active support?
Or imagine you attend a first aid course, proudly return with your certificate but nobody shows you where the first aid kit is or give you the time to familiarise yourself with the accident procedure…
From recent conversations with L&D professionals, virtual conference sessions, LinkedIn posts I’d say the L&D and training world appears to be split in three camps: The ones who just want to go back to face to face training (and their comfort zone?). Those who understand that learning transfer is at the heart of being partners to the business achieving targets but haven’t yet introduced any steps towards it. And those who get it and are willing to stick their neck out, change how they deliver learning, even if it’s uncomfortable. I have no scientific evidence for this but would say the latter is a small group and will remain so until the top management forces change.
Where do you fit in? If you want to move to at least the third group, then the L&D Mastermind Learning Transfer month is perfect for you! Check out the webinars we have lined up for you.
Tips from a learning transfer practitioner
One of the upcoming webinars is with Dr Ina Weinbauer-Heidel, CEO of the Institute for Training Effectiveness and author of ‘What Makes Training Really Work – 12 Levers of Transfer Effectiveness’. To provide an insight in the life of a L&D professional who has implemented steps to ensure training transfer, she has kindly made the following interview excerpt available.
Anja Priewasser, L&D Manager, has been a certified transfer designer for four years. As an enthusiastic user of the 12 Levers of Transfer Effectiveness, not only do her learners have the advantage of applying what they learn, but she also receives recognition of her expertise as a personnel developer.
What was your key finding during the certification that brought you further in practice?
Anja: Before the Transfer Designer Certification, it was like this: I planned and organised good training sessions but afterwards I had the feeling that only a fraction of what I taught was actually applied. It was enlightening for me to see how easy it can be to start solving this problem. Much of what we covered in the 12 Levers Certification wasn’t new, but from that point I had a different approach. I had already been doing a lot right, but now there is a clear method behind it.
The levers focus on three areas: First, the participants – do they see the point in applying what they have learned? Second, the training design – which I think we were already very good at. And third, the organisation – which in my opinion is the area with the greatest pitfalls and the most potential for both failure and success. This has been criminally neglected. And without this, every training is doomed to fail.
For example, we had already carried out training follow up conversations before, but – and I am now saying this somewhat provocatively – very often the managers didn’t even understand the real purpose of them. With the levers of transfer effectiveness, the importance and value of these and other transfer tools is now completely clear and we can clearly communicate them to management.
Which is your favourite transfer tool?
Anja: I always use the transfer matrix. It ensures I don’t miss anything critical for transfer success.
The matrix also helps me to illustrate to management the basic plan and that neither the transfer tools nor the evaluation is based on chance. When communicating with executives, I talk about the three areas (participants, training design and organisation) and the tools planned for them – this way, the system as a whole and the need for transfer measures can be understood very quickly.
What advice about learning transfer can you give to other practitioners?
Anja: I’ve been certified for four years, but I’ve known Ina for around 8 years. She infected me long before I was certified (laughs). My first tip to everyone using this highly effective and practicable method is to keep it simple and gradually introduce the management team to the transfer tools.
My second tip is: stay on the ball. As Ina’s graduates, we are passionate about the topic but our clients or senior management teams don’t get this at the beginning. They must first experience the effectiveness themselves. Training that is designed to be transfer effective takes more time and is more labour-intensive. The L&D function has to constantly demand this extra time from the executives. But it pays off. Training will definitely be more effective. That is our claim and it pays to stay tuned.
So far, I have been able to create awareness for every trainer and manager with these three areas in a simple, short, and concise manner and got them on board to take further steps.
How has your job as a personnel developer changed?
Anja: I can underline one hundred percent that the certification results in a change in the positioning of the L&D department within the company. Just prioritising training effectiveness and defining the actual success of a training course raises the importance of our work considerably. Sustainable training is not about gaining new knowledge but about changing behaviour. After the Training things must be done differently to get business impact. And evaluation has also reached a new quality: I can now understand much better what is covered well and where there is a need for re-sharpening. In the case of ongoing training sessions and programs, this is of particular added value because the design can always be improved.
I am convinced that consistent application of the system as well as qualitative and transparent evaluation, has improved the reputation of L&D and recognition of as a real business partner to our managers.
Where to start with learning transfer?
I hope this has inspired you to take the first steps or reinvigorated your motivation to making your learning initiatives stick, this is your month!
If you want to find out more about how to make learning really work, join Ina on 9 July and then talk about how to put this in practice with Paul Matthews on 21 July who covers the 12 Levers of Transfer Effectiveness and much more in his book “Learning Transfer at Work – How to Ensure Training >> Performance”.
We also have a Connect Members Lounge on our new website, a safe space for L&D professionals around the globe to connect, share, care, learn & grow together. Where better to share your previous experience with learning transfer and find out how your peers are getting on with it…