ICMI is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


Make Training Count: Learning Doesn't Stop When the Training Ends

Continuing my series, Make Training Count: 10 Tips to Increase ROI, here is my fourth tip:

Make sure post-reinforcement also happens. Training can facilitate learning new skills, knowledge…and, like anything in life, without practice and reinforcement, it won’t stick.

Learning doesn’t stop when the training session is over. So the question becomes, “How will we ensure that the participants apply what they have learned?” Again, this involves a partnership between the training function and managers.

Trainer’s responsibility

Partner with managers and/or supervisors to promote the transfer of learning from the training room to the workplace. Some of the key questions you can work with them to discuss and decide might include:

  1. How will they (managers/supervisors/coaches) support and reinforce what was taught in the program?
  2. What concrete actions can they take to strengthen the new behaviors?
  3. Are there any conflicting programs/processes and metrics that might impede successful use of the new skills?

Manager’s responsibility

Right after training, it would be ideal to have the manager meet with employees to discuss what they’ve learned, whether it met their expectations, and how they can apply what they’ve learned. If is appropriate, ask participants to share their experiences and key learning points in a team meeting.

Also critical to success is continued reinforcement of the skills, knowledge and key learning from the training. This can be done in individual coaching sessions, team meetings, etc.

And, finally, onto question #3 from above – are there any conflicting programs/processes and metrics that might impede successful use of the new skills? This particular question is perhaps most often the greatest impediment to the transfer of learning. For example, let’s the employees are trained on how to cross-sell/up-sell, which will in most cases increase average handling time (all things being equal). The training will most likely be deemed a failure if the representatives are measured on their average handle time and are penalized if it increases. And while this conflict should come up during a needs assessment and would be cause for training not being the right solution, right now, if it does not, there can be disappointment, questions and ultimately lack of ROI for reasons beyond the training session.

I’d like to offer a tool that managers and learning and development professionals can use to assess another critical element in the “transfer of learning process” – organizational support.   The overall purpose of this tool/assessment is to identify current strengths and potential opportunities your respective organization may have in maximizing its investment in training by ensuring it creates an environment that supports the transfer and application on the job of the skills and knowledge learned in training (regardless of training delivery methodology).

The following are a list of criteria that reflect an organization that supports the transfer of learning.  Read each statement and decide if your this statement reflects/describes your organization. 

To keep it simple, use the following scale:
• Strongly agree
• Agree
• Disagree

And of course, any item you didn’t mark “strongly agree” is one that represents an opportunity for improvement. 

  1. Prior to learning events/training managers and trainees discuss anticipated learning objectives and outcomes.
  2. After training, trainees discuss progress toward achieving objectives with their managers.
  3. Learners are paired together to reinforce post-training performance.
  4. Potential obstacles to transfer are identified prior to the learning event and efforts are made to minimize or remove them completely.
  5. Performance of new skills is consistently recognized, rewarded and reinforced.
  6. Trainees are encouraged when they make efforts to use new skills on the job.
  7. Learners have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities.
  8. If appropriate, learners are provided with applicable job aids.
  9. The necessary systems, tools, materials and processes exist to ensure individuals can effectively perform their jobs (and by default what they learned in training).
  10. Trainees work in an ergonomically “correct” environment.
  11. The work processes of the learners are aligned with the organization’s mission, values and culture.

As you review this list of 11 items, please keep in mind that there will always be opportunities to improve, regardless of how well your organization currently supports the transfer of learning.  WE need to keep “our eye on the prize!”  Employees need, want and deserve the opportunity to grow and develop.  And organizations who invest in that development, expect a return on that investment, so it is critical that we identify both enablers and obstacles to the successful transfer of learning in our environments.  We can then create a plan to leverage our strengths and minimize or remove the obstacles.   Executing such a plan will go a long way to ensuring we everyone benefits: individuals because they have the chance to learn new skills and acquire new knowledge and can use them!   And organizations because they receive a big return on their training investments when, collectively individual trainees apply what they have learned and thereby move the organization forward in terms of achieving its goals and objectives.