My people have been trained; why is it not making a difference? Part 2

Woman wearing white hardhat on walkie talkie holding clip board

By Martin Royal

Ensuring you have an effective training transfer strategy is fundamental to get the most out of your training investment. In Part 1 of this 4-part blog series on training transfer, I introduced various strategies that trainees can adopt to help themselves to apply what they learned to their work. Part 2 focuses on ideas that leaders can put in place to improve transfer of learning with their teams. In our Safe Production Model, they are the dimension we regard as Interpersonal dimensions. These are the dimensions that exist between individuals and focus on interactions, e.g. the social dynamics that encourage training transfer, the oversight provided to hold people accountable for applying training, the communication channels in place, etc.

One of the crucial factors that can improve transfer of learning is the support of supervisors (Blume, Baldwin, & Huang, 2010). Supervisors can provide feedback, encouragement, reinforcement, set goals, and ensure trainees have opportunities to practice and apply newly learned skills and behaviors. In addition to the things that supervisors can do to facilitate the transfer of learning, the perceived credibility of the supervisor appears to play a particularly important role. How the leader sees the importance of the training, it's application and willingness to take part into it plays a strong role in trainee's transfer intentions to apply the learning.

Given the importance of leaders' role in facilitating the transfer of learning for their teams, here are a few simple low-cost strategies that you can apply to encourage you team to apply what they learn in training.

Build confidence.

Sometimes, the trainees are quite willing and motivated to apply what they learn in training but just don't know how and where to apply it. You may give your team advice about how they might apply learned concepts when they are faced with a specific situation. Providing the team with opportunities to apply learning in small ways can help them build their confidence. When your team is starting to apply some of the concepts and ideas, it's also worth asking them to share their successes and challenges with applying their training so others can learn from their experiences.

Provide reinforcement.

Provide verbal recognition or praise when you notice learned concepts being used. Talk to the team about the importance of what they have learned and how it will help achieve team/company goals. Often, the connection between the training initiative and the bigger organizational transformation effort has not been explicitly communicated and trainees don't have a clear understanding of the 'why' of the training. As a supervisor, you can definitely reinforce those connections post-training. Finally, role modeling transfer by using training terms and concepts as part of common language will definitely help to reinforce the importance of applying the concepts learned.

Integrate learning into daily routine.

Another helpful way to encourage learning transfer is to make the concepts learned as part of the team's daily routine. You could share specific examples of when team members could apply their learning in their day-to-day, you could talk about a learned concept as part of a regular team practice such as a meeting or you could integrate a learned concept into an existing tools or systems.

Demonstrate commitment and interest.

Simply showing interest and following up with each team member separately to ask them what they learned and how they might be able to use it on-the-job can go a long way. It demonstrates your commitment to the training and importance to apply the learning. Similarly, you could ask the team what they think are some of the barriers to their transfer of learning and work toward eliminating those barriers.

From an Interpersonal viewpoint, there is much that a leader can do to facilitate learning transfer by leveraging the trust and the relationship they have with their team. In Part 3 of this blog series, we will explore the Procedural dimension that contributes to training transfer and the various activities and strategies that can be implemented to encourage learning transfer on a broader scale.



Blume, B. D., Ford, J. K., Baldwin, T. T. and Huang, J. L. (2010), ‘Transfer of training: a meta-analytic review’, Journal of Management, 39, 1065–105.