female engineer using walkie-talkie in shipping yard, doing effective training

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

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 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, this is the dimension we refer to as Interpersonal dimensions. The Interpersonal dimension covers the aspects of the training transfer strategies 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.

Supervisor support is crucial to training transfer.

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 active things that supervisors can do to facilitate the transfer of learning, research indicates that the perceived credibility of the supervisor plays a particularly important role. When employees believe that the leader views training as important and applicable and see their willingness to take part in training, there is increased likelihood that a trainee will make more intentional transfer of learning into the workplace.

Now that we understand the importance leaders play in facilitating the transfer of team learning, here are a few simple low-cost strategies that you can apply to encourage your team to apply what they learn in training.

Build confidence.

Sometimes, your trainees will be quite interested and motivated in applying what they learned in training. They just may not know how and where to apply this new found knowledge. You, as a leader, may give your team advice about how they might apply newly 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 begins to apply concepts and ideas learned in training, it’s also worth asking them to share their successes and challenges in implementing their training, so others can learn from their experiences

Provide reinforcement.

Provide verbal recognition, non-verbal recognition or praise when you notice learned concepts being used. Talk to your team about the importance of what they learned and engage in conversation about how these ideas 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 model transfer of knowledge by using training terms and concepts as part of your team’s common language. This simple move will help to remind your team members of the information they have acquired and reinforce the importance of applying this valuable new knowledge.

Integrate learning into daily routine.

Another helpful way to encourage learning transfer is to make the concepts learned part of the team’s daily routine. You might provide specific examples of when team members could apply their learning in their day-to-day work practices, you can talk about a learned concept as part of a regular team engagement such as a meeting, or you might integrate a learned concept into 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 toward improving the transfer of knowledge from the training classroom into your team’s daily work. This simple engagement demonstrates your commitment to the training and the importance of applying this learning. Similarly, you could ask the team what they perceive as barriers to their transfer of knowledge and work as a team 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 already built with their team. In Part 3 of this blog series, we will explore the Structural dimension that contributes to training transfer and the various activities and strategies that can be implemented to encourage learning transfer on a broader scale.

If you’re interested in further brainstorming ideas on how you can improve your personal impact, or that of your leadership team, to drive organizational and cultural change, get in touch with a member of the Propulo team!


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.

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