3 Phases For Learning Transfer Success

As a Learning & Development professional, how do I ensure learning transfers to behaviour?

There’s plenty of discussion at the moment about the future of work and I hear many examples of learning teams being re-structured and often centralised or downsized. As L&D professionals a key challenge we face is demonstrating our value to the organisation and securing our place as trusted professionals in the business. Being a ‘trusted professional’ means ensuring that  the learning opportunities we provide changes behaviour and results in better organisational performance.

In most of the reading I do on learning transfer the emphasis is on what occurs after the learning. This is important, however we also need to consider and plan for what happens before and during the learning. Focusing on these elements will increase the likelihood that  the learning will be applied and deliver real results for the individual and the organisation.

Let’s take a look at the three key elements to improve learning transfer, before, during and after.

Before any learning it’s critical that the organisation is ready, the participant’s manager is ready and the participants are ready. In each case the emphasis should be on explaining the behaviours we expect to see after any learning and the results that we are trying to achieve. Start with the end in mind, what are we trying to achieve?

There are likely to be wider organisational issues that will get in the way of learning transfer taking place. These can be quite simple to address for example streamlining a work procedure or process, but can also be very complex such as an organisation culture that does not support the new behaviours being developed. Professor Rob Brinkerhoff in his book Telling Training’s Story suggests we should be spending approximately 25% of our learning resource on activity prior to any learning. The Kirkpatrick’s wrote a very good white paper article that also outlines Rob’s findings.

Why is this important? Working in and on the organisation before any learning takes place will ensure that there is clear alignment between the intended learning and the organisation’s strategic priorities. It also ensures everyone knows their role in contributing to the success (or otherwise!) of any program. It’s not just about L&D ‘training’ people, it’s about everyone ‘singing from the same song sheet’ to ensure great results.

During the learning, keep pointing learners in the direction you want them to go and make sure they are actually practicing their new skills using real job aids wherever possible. Ensure they are confident and committed to take action when they return to work. At the same time, inform their managers of what’s been learnt so they can support, encourage and role model the desired behaviours themselves.

Why is this important? The purpose of learning is to change behaviour in the workplace to drive better results. Giving learners real life scenarios that they are likely to encounter, enables them to practice the skills they are learning in a safe environment before heading back at work.

After the learning use multiple approaches to ensure you hold the participant and their manager accountable for demonstrating their learnt behaviours on the job. We must monitor what is actually happening in the workplace, removing any roadblocks in the way and adjusting the support we are providing to ensure the best results are obtained.

Why is this important? I’m sure we can all think of occasions when we have left training with all good intentions of doing things differently but it just doesn’t happen! This can be for many reasons including it’s too difficult, I’m too busy or I don’t get support. So, our job as L&D professionals is to make it easy for participants to do things differently. By working with  business we give learners the best opportunity to do things differently which then generates the business results we’re looking for. Working in this way secures our place as vital, trusted professionals that add demonstrated value to the business bottom line.

To help you implement these three key elements in any learning initiative, we’ve created a checklist you can use to ensure you put actions in place before, during and after learning to give learning transfer the best chance of on the job behaviour happening. This particular template was developed from a soft skills program but can be adapted for use in any learning program. It’s funny how we talk about soft skills when they are often the hardest to develop!

If you find this blog and template useful or you’ve got suggestions for improvement drop us a line, we’d love to hear from you.

Download the checklist

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