Learning transfer: Best practice

by 06 Jun 2012

The ability of organisations to learn and improve faster than their competitors is thought by many as the only sustainable competitive advantage in the business world of the 21st century (Deane, Clark et al., 1997). 

Globalisation, cost cutting and talent wars in recruiting and retaining high performers are among the major reasons that organisations seek to leverage training outcomes to foster workplace productivity. This is compounded by the pressing need to communicate and collaborate more effectively, as organisational command structures become increasingly horizontal and people move from team to team, project to project.

Thus the bottom line is becoming critically dependent on people working well together.

However, becoming a learning organisation is a complex and elusive apparition, requiring simultaneous involvement and commitment from the trainer, the learner, the workplace and the organisation. Only about 15-20% of the learning investments that organisations make actually result in work performance change (2009 Wilson Learning Worldwide Research Report).  This of course means that 80-85% of the learning investments organisations make have no effect at all.

This statistic is well understood by the L&D profession, as is the theory of learning transfer. The metamorphosis of this theory into practice is harder to fathom. The research seems to imply, in general, that training works when the

  • trainee is ready and motivated to learn
  • training is aligned with organisational goals and designed for learning transfer
  • workplace is supportive and encouraging, in terms of realistic opportunity to practice the learning and receive constructive feedback. 

Achieving this is harder than it may seem. However, there are many effective techniques and tools available to enhance the learning transfer from OD programs.  One that is widely recognised is the appropriate use of psychometric profiling, as it gives the learner and their manager something tangible and objective to refer to in the workplace when required, once the program is complete. When strategically and consistently applied, psychometrics also give you a common workplace language, which helps minimize misunderstandings, misinterpretations and conflict at work, that often snowball into bigger issues if not dealt with proactively.

Valid psychometrics and 360 degree feedback tools further enhance learning transfer by providing objective data for you to benchmark, measure and monitor performance improvement over time.  It is this data which will help you calculate your return on investment and secure the senior management support, pivotal to becoming a learning organisation.

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