This is the fourth installment in our series on improving your training “batting average.” In baseball, a player’s batting average is the number of base hits per times at bat. The higher your batting average, the more valuable you are. In learning and development, your batting average is how often you improve performance per training initiative. The higher your batting average, the more valuable you are.
So far, we have discussed the importance of making sure that training is the right solution, clearly defining the business objectives, and limiting the amount of content. In this installment, we’ll explore the importance of ensuring learning transfer.
Action Is Required
Training—and even learning itself—does not create value. Value is created only when new skills and knowledge are transferred and applied to the work of the individual and organization. Don and Jim Kirkpatrick put it this way: “If the trainees do not apply what they learned, the program has been a failure even if learning has taken place.”
In other words, training’s batting average (success rate) depends on the amount that people learn and the amount that they apply.
The results of training are the product of the amount that people learn times the amount that they apply. Maximizing success requires maximizing both learning and transfer.
An easy way to remember the relationship is the formula learning x transfer = results. That means that even if the learning is a “10 out of 10,” but the transfer is zero, the results for the business are zero. To maximize learning’s value, we need to optimize not only the instruction, but also its transfer.
Partnership Is Required
Historically, learning organizations focused their efforts exclusively on the learning experience, reasoning that it’s the only thing they directly control. Unfortunately, an exclusive focus on learning has hurt, rather than helped, us. Failing to plan and influence what happens after the training program is like a baseball player hitting the ball and just standing there. Scoring a base hit requires connecting with the ball and running as hard as you can. Scoring a hit with training means connecting with the business needs, delivering a great learning experience, and making sure learners run with it.
The challenge is, of course, that we do not control the post-training environment. That is the province of management. So we must partner with management to maximize the probability of learning transfer. It is in everyone’s interest—the business, the learners, and us—to do so.
Improving the Transfer Climate
Rouiller and Goldstein defined the transfer climate as “the practices and procedures used in an organization that connote or signal to people what is important.” In other words, what does my work environment communicate to me about the importance of transferring and applying what I learned?
- Does my manager expect me to use it?
- Did she even mention the training before I went?
- Did my manager ask me about it afterward?
- Does the performance management system align with what I was taught?
- Is there any recognition or reward for using what I learned?
- Are there any repercussions for not using it, or does no one care one way or the other?
We explore these and other elements of the transfer climate in ATD’s Learning Transfer Certificate Program. At a minimum, learning professionals need to educate managers about the impact they have on whether training creates value for their department. We need to provide them with short, simple, effective things they can do to maximize training’s impact.
The work environment (transfer climate) to which learners return after training makes or breaks the success of any training program. If we want to improve our batting average for delivering training that adds value, then we need to include the post-training environment in our planning and learn to influence it positively.
Want to Learn More?
Join us for the next Learning Transfer Certificate Program at TechKnowledge in Las Vegas, January 11-12, 2016.
Editor’s Note: Adapted from Pollock, R., A. Jefferson, and C. Wick. 2015. The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning. 3rd Edition. Alexandria, VA: ATD Press; Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.