Learning transfer: Best practice

by 06 Jun 2012


TMS hosted five complimentary forums for the OD community Australia wide in February 2012. The purpose of these forums was to facilitate a TMS community of practice and to collect techniques and tips on how to improve the rate of learning transfer from OD programs.

These interactive forums were a response to the numerous enquires received by TMS from HR practitioners, wanting to enhance the value and sustainability of their OD programs. 

Attendees were motivated to contribute to the discussion and learn more about TMS. They were asked to consider learning transfer as a process in terms of before, during and after the program, then come up with tips and techniques appropriate for each stage of the learning transfer process.

Results Summary

Many tips and techniques were generated from the forum discussions. The techniques most commonly agreed upon, across all forums nationally, include

  • Aligning training with organisational goals. This was seen as crucial by most organisational development practitioners.  Without the training contributing to organisational success in real terms, you will not get the ongoing senior management support required to resources your programs and your Return on Investment (ROI) will be negligible.

 Some steps to achieving this include

  1. Questioning the premise for the program – why have it in the first place (appreciative and evaluative enquiry can be employed here)? What is the initial issue? Is training the solution? What type of training is the best solution?
  2. Prioritise business imperatives and select the right type of training for each, if training is the solution.Cost effectively plan, implement, and measure and monitor training according to business imperatives. Factor in foreseeable problems and issues.
  3. Evaluate as specifically, objectively and quantifiably as possible the impact the right training will have (i.e. reduced error rate; reduced costs  due to increased productivity,increased efficiency due to improved communication etc.)
  4. Do a cost benefit analysis
  5. Gather relevant data for ROI analysis and continuous improvement
  6. Know what success looks like – have measurable, objective KPI’s in place

  • Using real life problem or simulations in your workshops. This makes it far easier for learning transfer to take hold, as the conceptual leap from the workshop to the workplace is so small. Furthermore, using real life problems makes it far more likely to again realise senior management backing for your programs, supervisor support back in the workplace and leaner motivation to apply the learning. As a general rule, the more relevant the training to the real workplace environment, the more likely that learning transfer will occur.
  •  Implementing a coaching/mentoring system after the training is complete. This strategy was also mentioned at each forum as a way for keeping learning on the agenda. Also acknowledged was a coaching program for supervisors, to enhance skill levels whilst fostering understanding of and empathy for the learner. Supervisors can be coached to


  • provide frequent, encouraging and constructive feedback as learners try out their new skills
  • see mistakes as learning opportunities and most importantly
  • acquire and model new skills or behaviours in their own work, to lead by example.

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