Transfer of learning is a key indicator of the success of any training program or strategy. It is the application of learned knowledge or skills to tasks or solving problems at work. Especially during times when there is a considerable amount of pressure on training budgets (the uncertainty brought by a pandemic is an illustrative example), companies strive for efficiency above all when it comes to training their talent. When resources are scarce, you try to do the best you can within the limits of your budgets and, at the same time, deliver results.
Transfer of learning is essential for businesses that have to adapt to an ever-changing market. Companies that want to survive must adapt quickly, train people, and make sure that they stay competitive in the long run. So accepting a low learning transfer rate would be incompatible with any quality standards for training and education. And still, it appears that only 20% of learning is actually transferred back to the workplace.
7 Factors that boost the transfer of learning
To make sure trainees are successful in their learning journeys and also apply what they learn in real-life work situations, it is essential to address these seven key factors: stakeholders, context, social environment, motivation, integration, intensity, and technology. Let’s see how each can improve the transfer of learning in companies and make training programs more efficient!
Commitment, alignment, and compliance of all stakeholders are essential in any training program. This is why effective communication will all parties involved should be a key objective of the HR or L&D department in charge of the training strategy. When people feel that they are included in the decision-making process, that they are a part of the solution, they tend to learn better.
Context is also a crucial factor when we design training programs for companies. Moreover, learning objectives should be in line with specific business situations; a general, non-specific training program about selling techniques might be helpful for sales managers that have to adapt their role to the new Covid-19 context. Keep in mind that people learn more if they feel that they could benefit immediately from the acquired knowledge.
Education (be it formal, informal, or non-formal) is a social experience. People learn better when they feel that the social environment is supportive. Meaningful social relationships with colleagues and a collaborative environment, in which all people feel that they are included and have a voice are key factors for the transfer of learning.
Learners’ motivation leads to transfer. It goes without saying that knowledge will stick for a longer time if people are motivated. The hardest thing is to find those motivation triggers for individuals and teams, as they might vary across organizations. Keep in mind that the motivation level and the social environment go hand in hand, so try to create a collaborative environment across teams.
Training programs should prove their applicability at work. Time is of the essence in companies, especially these days when people have to adapt to a lot of changes (some with a clear disruptive effect), so make sure that the time people spend in training is actually the time they need to learn something useful at their job; something that they can use the next day. Obviously, this means more pressure on training providers to offer tailor-cut programs, perfectly adapted to the specific needs of each customer.
If training programs are designed as single events, the transfer of learning will not be very high. Frequent and diverse stimulation lead to a more effective transfer. This is where edtech solutions come in handy, as they offer many possibilities for blended learning (online and offline, synchronous and asynchronous, the use of multiple devices, etc.), so feel free to innovate and offer a wide variety of learning opportunities.
Technology is more than a simple tool in training; it should be considered an integral part of any training strategy. Being tech-savvy is essential for any professional, it’s like being literate. So make sure that you can bridge any technological gap that may exist among employees and include technology in training opportunities. To paraphrase the famous French intellectual and politician André Malraux, the 21st century will be technological, or it will not be. Make sure that technology is not an issue, and use it to boost the transfer of knowledge.
There is a famous proverb that goes like this: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime”. It grasps the essence of any effective transfer of learning. Keep in mind that in any training program people should be taught how to fish.
Veronica is a multilingual trainer of trainers. She has years of experience working with adult learners, both in Higher Education and in the business sector.