There are organisational costs to training – and not just financial costs but opportunity costs as well as other resources. Course participants invest their precious time and energy in the training – they are also taken out of their comfort zone and feel the stress of doing new things or doing familiar things in a new way. So everybody wants the training to be successful and obtain its perceived benefits. But how do you ensure that training sticks?
How do you ensure that the new skills, knowledge and attitudes learned are transferred back to the workplace? The key is planning for it.
For the successful transfer of learning to the workplace, one must develop a plan that encompasses three phases: the before, during, and after-the-training phases. Each of these phases is explored below.
Before the Training
This is the key phase as it is when the overall plan is created – unfortunately, in organisations of all sizes and in all industry sectors, it is frequently neglected. The starting point of course is when the training need was identified, whether this was through a formal Training Needs Analysis (TNA) or as the solution to a performance problem – what goal or objective was identified that the training is to achieve? This objective must be clearly identified. Any fuzziness to this objective will cause multiple problems such as unfocused training provision, lack of relevancy in the content, and unclear success criteria. Evaluation of training requires clear objectives to be set at the outset. So, spending time clarifying this with relevant line managers and those providing the training pays large dividends.
Associated with having clear objectives for the training is spelling-out the benefits of the training to the organisation, to the team and to the individual. The latter is most important because participants need to understand what is in it for them: Will they be able to do their job more easily or more productively, and if so, will there be a reward for doing so? Will they be able to take on more responsibility and thus improve themselves career-wise?
It is crucial that line managers are fully involved (regardless of how busy they undoubtedly are). The training manager should make it clear that the line manager has the primary responsibility for ensuring their staff are properly trained and that they must actively supervise the transfer of learning to the workplace. They should also be assured of the training department’s support. So before the training, the line manager should discuss the overall objectives of the training with the participants and set clear goals for the individual participants. This discussion should also include the benefits of the training to the team as well as to the individuals. The line manager should also briefly outline a plan to ensure that the learning and skills acquired are transferred back to the workplace – the training participants should be asked for their initial comments and be told that this discussion will be revisited after the training.
At the beginning of the training course (or seminar or module), the trainer should revisit the objectives of the training and briefly highlight its benefits. While the trainer will ensure that the course is engaging and includes techniques to aid the retention of learning, the training manager (or training administrator or internal trainer) should ensure with the trainer that exercises and examples are specifically work related and relevant – this will more easily facilitate the later transfer of learning to the workplace. A useful final exercise in the training is to have participants discuss how they will ensure their new skills or knowledge will be transferred to the workplace – have them develop a plan which can feed into their post-training discussion with their line manager.
The line manager should meet with the training participant(s) as they return to work and briefly discuss how the training went, what new skills or knowledge they learned, and together agree a plan how the new skills etc will be transferred to the workplace. As this was previously discussed before the training and participants also discussed it as the final exercise of the training, a feasible plan should quickly emerge. A review meeting should also be agreed in case things don’t go according to plan.
The before and after planning does not actually involve a lot of time for managers or training participants, but it’s essential if training is to be successfully transferred to the workplace. Training managers or training administrators should ensure the involvement of both line managers and training participants in the process.