What happens when employees walk out of a training program? Do they retain information and knowledge? Does their behavior back on the job change? Unfortunately, too frequently the answer to these last two questions is “no.”
As L&D professionals understand—sometimes to a painful extent—training is not enough. As Emma Weber writes in “The Missing Link in Learning: Transfer,” L&D pros need to make a difference in their workplaces “by facilitating the leap to effective learning transfer and actively helping their organization understand that training can be the means to real business benefit.”
This involves an ongoing process to support employees once they are back in the workplace in order to effect behavior change.
How do we go about implementing this? The knowledge transfer process involves three steps: preparation, action, and evaluation.
PreparationTo facilitate transfer, learners first must understand the importance of transfer and what business results the organization is looking for as a result of the training course or other learning. With the understanding that the current learning initiative is different from previous ones, the training participant signs a learning agreement, which is part of the action plan.
ActionRather than completing a post-learning survey about what they thought of the training, in this learning transfer process participants create an action plan toward the end of the training session. The action plan outlines learner targets and what success will look like for them as they leave training and move toward behavior change in the workplace.
The knowledge transfer process outlined here includes using an ACTION conversation model. For several weeks after training, the training participant and transfer specialist engage in ongoing follow-up conversations. The ACTION acronym stands for accountability, calibration, target, information, option, and next steps. The goal of these conversations is to give the learner ownership of the action plan, tips for collecting information to ease behavior change given barriers that are present in the workplace, and concrete guidance on how to move toward the goal that has been developed.
EvaluationThe impact dashboard is one method of showcasing results. The dashboard is a document comprised of visuals—items such as pie charts, bar graphs, and quotes—that features data highlighting program effectiveness. As Weber notes, leaders “now recognize that the key to transformation and genuine training success is the measured application of a behavior change process: learning transfer.”
To create such a dashboard, the trainer begins with the end goal in mind and decides on the course objectives.
Bottom LineLearning transfer has significant benefits across the spectrum, ranging from CEOs to participants, to talent development professionals and trainers. For example, without spending more on training—and often less—CEOs reap the benefits of real behavior change, ones that make an impact on the organization. Participants take ownership of their learning and have a framework for success: conversations with transfer specialists that can help participants stay on track moving toward behavioral change that drive outcomes.
A learning transfer process provides credibility to the TD function as CEOs see that there is an action-oriented process in place to lead to, and track behavior change. For their part, trainers have an opportunity for far better results. And that is a win for everyone involved.