By Martin Royal
In Part 1
of this blog series on training transfer, I introduced various strategies that trainees can adopt to help themselves apply what they learned in training to their work. In Part 2
, I presented ideas that leaders can implement to improve the transfer of learning back into the workplace. In Part 3, we will explore the Structural dimensions of our Safe Production Model and how they apply to training transfer strategies. These structural dimensions are the physical or organizational elements of your workplace that encourage this work. The structural dimensions of your organization may include actual training transfer practices, equipment and tools that encourage the application of training plans to implement the training strategy, etc.
In this blog post, I’ll share a few learning transfer practices that I have found to be highly effective.
Providing your team with material summarizing information provided in the training is a simple way to keep the training content alive with your team and actively support the transfer of knowledge from the training classroom into the workplace. Summary material may consist of 1-2 pages factsheets of relevant training content that are regularly shared with to trainees after the training. The purpose of providing a summary material is to maintain interest with training and to provide additional resources, insights and applications. As an example, one of our clients in the mining industry uses training content factsheets to drive conversations with his team to discuss how the training concept could be applied to resolve current operational and safety challenges. He found this an highly effective way to keep the learned concepts in the forefront of his teams mind
A job aid is a tool, or other resource, within the workplace which provides just the right amount of task guidance and support, at the moment it is needed. Job aids are typically used when you are trying to apply or remember new knowledge, Job aids are also ideal when you seek to adapt your performance to a unique situation, when you attempt to solve a problem or deal with something that has gone wrong. Job aids also work well when there is a novel situation that requires a change in how work gets done.
Job aids are especially helpful when a task is performed infrequently. They are most beneficial when used for complex, multi-step tasks. You can also expect job aids to greatly facilitate change when a task requires fine discrimination of stimuli. Consider using job aids when a failure could result in dire consequences or when there are frequent alterations in the steps that your team needs to take.
A job aid could be a checklist, a flowchart, guidelines or a set-by-step procedure. For example, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recommends the use of the I'M SAFE checklist as part of their Single-Pilot Crew Resource Management guidelines. This checklist helps pilots assess their overall readiness for flight when it comes to illness. The checklist takes into account such things as medication, stress, alcohol, fatigue, and emotion.
You will often find that your team reports difficulty retaining key elements learned in their training sessions. You may also find that employees who experience no difficulty repeating the information they learned will have difficulty transitioning their new knowledge into practice. These common issues clearly inhibit the practical application of your team’s learning.
Initiating a refresher course can improve your team’s ability to recall new information. For best results, this course should be simple and focus on a crisp and coherent summary of the key learning concepts. Refresher programs may be paired with problem-solving sessions for even greater impact. These problem-solving sessions should allow your team to work together and discuss how they use information in their everyday work experiences. Team members may be encouraged to help each other by recounting the challenges they faced while trying to implement the concepts they learned in training and sharing stories of their success. Team members are also great resources for providing each other with troubleshooting tips.
Peer Coaching relationships are a type of helping relationship. Unlike professional coaching situations, a peer coaching situation encourages employees of equal status to support one another. When you construct a peer coaching network you will want to start small. You may wish to set people up in trios. You may do this by asking employees to find two other people so the three can take turns serving as both coach and client for each other: A coaches B, B coaches C, and C coaches A. Suggest each person start by discussing their goals. The more open individuals are about their goals, the more committed they will be to them and the more likely they will be to realize their goals. The more open we are about goals, the more we increase our commitment to them, and the more likely they’ll be realized.
When to Use Peer Coaching:
• When you are looking to increase accountability in the workplace
• When you want to accelerate your team's learning
• When you want to increase your team’s personal development
The Harvard Business Review has a great article on how to encourage your team to coach one another: How to Get your Team to Coach Each Other
While a direct manager can usually provide effective performance coaching in the workplace, he or she can be supported in this role. Trainers are uniquely qualified to provide support through the use of follow-up reinforcement. Also, other interested individuals within an organization can provide support by developing formats for providing employee advice, feedback, encouragement, and coaching during the extended period of reinforcement. For greatest impact, your learning network should include: program co-participants, peers, co-workers, subordinate team members and mentors.
People in each of these roles should be encouraged to provide a support network for one another. Although trainers often encourage workers to establish their own unique support networks, this produces inconsistent outcomes for a variety of reasons. You can expect to have a more effective impact on the transfer of knowledge into the workplace if you establish a plan and set up a system to support learning networks, educate participants and their bosses in how to use it, and supervise its use. Highly successful organizations often use approaches such as:
• “brown bag” or informal roundtable lunch meetings, where participants are encouraged to review learning media, discuss on-the-job challenges, and share experiences
• webinars or teleconferences, where guest speakers or trainers can discuss performance topics with participants. This allows for both support from outside professionals and improved engagement among the participants without the cost of added trainings.
• online forums, that allow participants the opportunity to ask supportive individuals questions, discuss issues as they occur, both give and get feedback, or share direct encouragement
• action plan monitoring systems, in the form of an online service or a manual tickler system managed by trainers.
A great way to promote the transfer of learning into the workplace is to create a team of training ambassadors. These ambassadors can act as agents of change, reinforce the team's learning goals and support the learning culture within your workplace. Creating a team of training ambassadors to act as change agents to reinforce the learning culture and goals is a great way to promote the transfer of learning into the workplace. This is ideal for employees who demonstrate a strong alignment to company values, influencing skills, and role modeling behaviors. Ambassadors can help other employees to integrate learning into existing work processes, coach others to deal with challenges in applying the learning and provide feedback to the organization to further improve the transfer of learning. It is a great way to increase engagement as employees see that the training isn’t just a “flavor of the month” but a critical component of the organization’s journey. To help you select the most effective ambassadors, look for employees who demonstrate attitudes, such as:
• Being respectful
• Being patient
• Focusing on what is working versus just what is not
• Knowing when and how to challenge others
In addition, you’ll want to develop the following skills with your ambassadors:
• Being able to build rapport with someone quickly
• Having knowledge of the skills they are trying to develop in others
• The ability to ask helpful questions
• The ability to challenge someone’s perceptions or attitudes in a respectful manner
Not every training transfer strategy is suited for all situations or all organizations. The choice of strategy depends on (1) what results you are seeking and how critical the achievement of these results is, (2) what practices you already have in place to support implementing new training transfer strategies, and (3) your available resources of money, time and availability of skilled and capable staff.
While these strategies can help reinforce the adoption of learning into the workplace, your success will largely depend upon the organizational context and culture in which you operate. In the last part of this series, we will explore the strategic factors that contribute to creating a learning culture with successful support of learning transfer strategies, supervisory and individual efforts.