“The great aim of education is not knowledge but action” – Herbert Spencer.

Did you know that only 20% of what is learnt in training programs is actually applied back on the job? We know this is an issue that many L&D professionals face when designing programs for their trainees. We at The Learning Gym (TLG) believe we can do much better than 20%, closer to 80% actually! Read on to find out how.

We understand that the learning to performance path is a challenging one and our endeavour at TLG is to design, and equip you with the design tools to create, unique learning journeys for participants, to enable them to translate that learning to on-the-job performance.

In order to make learning stick, we focus on ‘building one’s transfer muscles’ by using science-based transfer tools and interventions. To make learning professionals even fitter, we have partnered with The Institute For Transfer Effectiveness spearheaded by Dr. Ina Weinbauer-Heidel, who has been passionately working towards increasing the effectiveness of training and development programs for many years now.


The Transfer “Problem”

Are my programs really effective? Can’t I get more out of them? Does what I am doing here even make sense? Every L&D manager faces these challenging questions. These are the very same questions that led Ina to delve deeper into the transfer problem. She realized that there were certain loopholes that needed to be plugged and that transfer was definitely a weak spot in her program. In her quest to find a solution to this problem, she undertook some research and was surprised to find out what the evaluation studies of renowned transfer researcher, Prof. Robert Brinkerhoff revealed.

The Transfer Problem

The above diagram shows that 85% of trainees do not apply on the job, what they have learnt in training. However, Brinkerhoff also found that in some cases and programs the results were the other way. 85% off trainees were achieving sustainable transfer success.

Transfer Problem

So how do we achieve that 85% of sustainable transfer success? Through Ina’s research she found that there were 3 main areas that determined transfer and that there were 100s of determinants and predictors of transfer training.

What determines Transfer

The 12 Levers – Significant Determinants of Transfer Effectiveness:

Ina understood that not all these factors could be influenced or controlled by L&D practitioners, so she dropped those factors which only had a slight influence on transfer success and narrowed in on 12 factors. She called them the ‘12 Levers Of Transfer Effectiveness’. These levers show L&D professionals what it takes to make training programs effective, scientifically sound and with measurable success.

12 levers

At The Learning Gym, in addition to offering the 12 Levers webinar, we also use them in our training programs to ensure that the insights of a learning event are transferred into real life in a sustainable way.

Of all of the determinants for transfer effectiveness, one of the most heavily researched levers is the support that trainees get from their supervisor. Through our own observation and data taken from a Case study from a leadership development program at American Express, we have found that the difference between trainees that show improvements and apply trainings effectively and those that don’t are mainly effected by the support they get from the supervisors and whether or not they have an effective plan of action for implementation post training.

American Express Case Study

Support From Supervisors

Can training be effective and provide maximum results in the absence of support from the supervisors? Not really. Because only the supervisors can produce and manage on-the-job performance. They are the driving force when it comes to assigning tasks, setting priorities and providing valuable feedback to the trainees.

As L&D professionals, we need to create Manager buy-in so that the supervisors can be better leaders and transfer supporters on-site. We need to offer them simple, charming and easy to use tools and interventions that support the desired outcome. For instance, instead of a pre-training meeting with time-consuming forms to fill in, why not suggest a “coffee-to-go” with your employee before the training. A simple 15-minute conversation between supervisor and employee has proven to be a highly effective tool that increases transfer success.

These are 3 important things to consider when designing any transfer tools that are aimed at targeting supervisor support:

  • What’s In It For Managers (WIIFM): Saying you have to do isn’t going to cut it. Instead inspire them by helping them understand what the benefits to them are if they get involved. For example: By showing them some of the research to help them understand the importance of the role they play.
  • I’m a VIP: make them feel important about their status and role, also make them feel valuable and appreciated and acknowledge that their buy-in on such a project would have a positive impact.
  • WOW, it’s EASY: show managers that it’s not as complicated as they thought, it’s not a lot of extra work and that it’s actually easy for them to support learners.

The Transfer Toolbox

Here are a couple of tools you can use to help encourage support from supervisors. If you’d like the PDF version of these, please get in touch with Errol on errol@thelearninggym.co

Self- Check for Managers: Ina first developed this tool for a large automotive company that had a huge issue in supervisor involvement. There were a series of simple questions which people had to respond to and in the end, one could take a look at the results.  So rather than telling the manager that ‘I need you to be there at the start of the program’ or ‘I need you to have a conversation with your participant’, they were offered a self-assessment tool that allowed them to check-in on their role and how they were doing in terms of supporting learning for their participants. This tool started influencing the way managers and supervisors reviewed their roles with regard to training. The managers themselves realized ‘maybe I should do something different’ and came knocking on the door of the L&D department to ask for support.

Guiding Questions for A Proactive Talk With Your Manager: Instead of a top-down approach, here the L&D team is encouraging the participants to approach their managers and have a quick dialogue about the training they are about to attend.

There is of course a lot more that can be done to encourage supervisor involvement, however, we found that these are 2 simple, easy, charming and highly effective tools that have a significant impact on getting managers and supervisors more engaged in supporting the training initiative.

If you’d like more information on the programs we run and how to make learning really stick through Transfer Effectiveness, get in touch at info@thelearninggym.co.

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