Learning Transfer at International Conference & ExpositionOur favorite training cartoon of all time is the two learning leaders at the blackboard. On the left side of the board they have written “Course.” On the right side: “Results.” The arrow in the middle is labeled “And then a miracle happens.”

The one leader is saying to the other, “I think you need to be a little more explicit here in step two.”

It may be funny as a cartoon, but it is a serious problem in training and development. Far too many training departments “need to be more explicit in step two.” Instead of hoping that by some miracle the investment in training will produce results, training professionals need to take more responsibility for influencing the transfer climate. Our future depends on it; the transfer climate can make or break the success of any training program.


We became interested in the problem of learning transfer twelve years ago. Initially, we thought the solution was simple: Just remind learners periodically after training of the need to revisit, reflect on, and apply what they had learned. That certainly helped. But it worked much better for some programs than for others. Why?

What we discovered is that the root causes of the success or failure of training transfer go all the way back to the initial request for training. This influences every subsequent step in the process of designing, delivering, supporting, and ultimately, evaluating the training.

Six disciplines (the 6Ds®) are essential to improve the results, and thus the ROI, of training:

  • Ensuring that the business needs that the training is meant to address are fully and clearly understood.
  • Designing the learner’s complete experience. That is, don’t stop with the training event; the ultimate  results depend as much or more on the learner’s experience before and after the training.
  • Delivering the training in ways that enhance the learner’s ability to apply the training. That means paying attention to the findings of learning research and, in general, delivering a lot less content and a lot more opportunities for practice and feedback.
  • Driving learning transfer by developing strategies, systems, and structures that keep learning top of mind and hold learners accountable for making use of what they learned.
  • Developing and deploying performance support as an integral part of the training. This might include job aids, online support, help desks, or any other means of support that will help ensure success when learners try new approaches for the first time.
  • Evaluating the outcomes in ways that are relevant, credible, and compelling; that not only show that the program is achieving the desired results, but also provide insights to support continuous improvement.

These six disciplines have proven to be a powerful—and much more predictable—alternative to hoping for a miracle to produce results. They have added real and demonstrable value to training initiatives large and small in companies around the world.

Want to learn more about how to increase learning transfer, reduce training scrap, and improve business impact?  Attend the pre-ICE 2013 Learning Transfer Certificate Program, May 17-18, 2013.