ATD Blog

Learning Transfer: Come to Las Vegas and Stop Gambling

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Training without a well-conceived learning transfer strategy is a gamble. Obtaining results from training requires more than just good instruction; it also requires a process approach for ensuring learning transfer. Without learning transfer, there are no positive training results.


It does not matter how good your instruction is if learning transfer fails. In the above equation, if your learning is a perfect 10 and your transfer is a zero, then your results are also a zero. Are you prepared to gamble on learning without a transfer strategy?

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 because the transfer climate can make or break the success of any training program.


We first became interested in the problem of learning transfer 13 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 seemed to work much better for some programs than for others. Why was that?

We discovered that the success or failure of learning transfer often goes all the way back to the initial request for training. This influences every subsequent step in the process, most significantly the transfer rate and ultimate results.


The following six disciplines (6Ds) are essential to driving learning transfer and business-relevant results:

  • Make sure that the business needs that training is meant to address are fully and clearly understood.
  • Design the learner’s complete experience. 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.
  • Deliver 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 practice with feedback.
  • Take responsibility for driving learning transfer by developing strategies, systems, and structures that keep learning the priority. Also, hold learners accountable for using what they learned.
  • Make developing and deploying performance support an integral part of training. This might include job aids, online support, help desks, or any other means of support that help optimize success when learners try new approaches for the first time.
  • Evaluate the outcomes in ways that are relevant, credible, and compelling. The evaluation should not only show that the program is contributing to the desired business results, but also provide insights to support continuous improvement.

Taken together, these six disciplines have proven to be a powerful—and much more predictable—alternative to gambling that something akin to a miracle will cause learning transfer and produce results. They have provided real and demonstrable value to training organizations large and small in companies around the world.
Would you like to learn more about the 6Ds and how to drive learning transfer and improve business impact? Join us in Las Vegas at the ATD TechKnowledge 2015 preconference Learning Transfer Certificate Program, January 12–13.

About the Author

Andy Jefferson, JD, is President and Chief Executive Officer for The 6Ds Company.  He is co-author of The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning and Getting Your Money’s Worth from Training and Development. Andy is a frequent and popular global presenter who excels in helping companies maximize the value they realize from their investments in learning and development. He is an accomplished executive with deep line-management expertise as well as experience in strategic planning, sales and marketing, productivity, and technology development. Andy views learning as a critical source of competitive advantage in an increasingly knowledge-based economy. He knows the challenges of running a company and making every investment count. Prior to joining The 6Ds Company, Andy served as the Chief Executive Officer of The Fort Hill Company, CEO of Vital Home Services, and Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel of AmeriStar Technologies, Inc. Andy is a graduate of the University of Delaware and graduated Phi Kappa Phi with honors from the Widener University School of Law, where he served on the school’s Board of Overseers.

About the Author

Roy V. H. Pollock, DVM, PhD, is Chief Learning Officer of The 6Ds Company and co-author of The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning and Getting Your Money’s Worth from Training and Development. Roy has a passion for helping individuals and teams succeed. He is a popular speaker and frequent consultant on improving the value created by training and development.

Roy has a unique blend of experience in both business and education. He has served as Chief Learning Officer for the Fort Hill Company; Vice President, Global Strategic Product Development for SmithKline Beecham Animal Health; Vice President, Companion Animal Division for Pfizer; and Assistant Dean for Curriculum at Cornell’s Veterinary College.

Roy received his BA from Williams College cum laude and his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and PhD degrees from Cornell University. He studied medical education at the University of Illinois Center for Educational Development. Roy served as a member of the faculty at Cornell for eight years, where he received numerous awards including the Ralston-Purina Research Award and Veterinarian of the Year.  He is a Fellow of the Kellogg Foundation National Leadership Program.

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