Transferring Learning into an Organization


Today was the first day of one of my two-day workshops that I faciltate on Reputation Risk Management. Whilst preparing for Day 2 I started thinking about the processes that organizations adopt to ensure that learning from external events are transferred back into the organization.

I have often wondered about this. Many executives attend conferences, seminars and workshops. BUT, how do we as training instructors and facilitators ensure learning.Some organizations address this through a very evolved knowledge management process. It is crucial because training is an investment. If the learners apply back at work what they acquired during their learning, there will be a return on the investment. If they do not, then the training time was merely spent (and hence wasted) rather than invested.

Why would learners not apply at work what they were taught during their training?

Three sets of factors are operating and serving to help or hinder the transfer of learning from class to job: personal, instructional, and organizational. Let us look at some examples of each.

• Personal Factors – These include such things as motivation (Does learner want to be in class? Know it already … or believes so? Enjoys the work and the job?); ability (Does learner have the ability to learn?); attention (Can learner concentrate? Or are weightier matters interfering … sickness, a marriage breaking up, etc.?); relevance (Does learner see the course as relevant to the job and to personal needs?).

• Instructional Factors – These include such things as course design (Appropriateness of methods and media? Facilities and equipment? Length and objectives?); emphasis (Theory vs. practice? Knowledge vs. skills’Talking vs. doing?); instructor (Credibility? Effectiveness?); follow-up (Do trainers get feedback on learners’ performance after training? Are actions taken accordingly, on the trainee and on the course design?).

• Organizational Factors – These include such things as climate (Do the norms, culture, and expectations of fellow employees and managers support the new behaviors that were just learned?); time and timing (Does trainee have time to do things the way they were taught? Was opportunity to apply new learning fairly immediate or too delayed?); degree of fit (Do local procedures, forms, equipment agree with those taught to the learner?).

The first of these three factors is internal to the learner, and there is often little the instructor can do to influence the personal side other than attempt to screen the participants (i.e., by assessing their “Entering Behavior” prior to the course and then making every attempt to get the right faces in the right places at the right times).

The second and third factors are external to the learner. Instructors, course designers, and management share a responsibility for establishing a maintenance system”that will recognize and reinforce the desired behavior of learners as they attempt to apply at work what they learned in class".

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