Tips & Tricks

Helping your learners to transfer their new skills and knowledge

So, you’ve carried out a skills assessment, collated everyone’s availability, organised a training room, booked a trainer and successfully had the course delivered. Everyone attended, the evaluation forms suggest that it was a successful event and the delegates all return to their workplace after an enjoyable day out of the office.   That’s it, right? Well, no, that’s just the start…

Research shows that only 5% – 20% of what is learned in formal training is transferred and applied in the workplace in a way that will improve performance.  That’s an incredibly low percentage and not a great indicator that the training was successful despite the evaluation data.  And, although there are various reasons why this statistic is so shocking, the single and largest cause has been identified as the inability or unwillingness of line managers to take an active role in their colleague’s development.  (See for further information and survey results).

So what’s the impact of this?  Well, potentially those delegates will feel unmotivated and that it was a waste of time, a ‘tick the box’ exercise etc and will tell their colleagues who are yet to go on the training not to bother.  So, next time the course goes ahead, there are fewer attendees. And, productivity and behaviour change can be seriously affected.

So, what can you do to help the learning transfer take place?  Here’s some top tips…

Before the training is even arranged, get yourself out and about in the organisation and ask the right, relevant questions.  What exactly are the learning goals?  And, the behavioural goals?  The group of learners need to ‘want’ to attend and gain the new skills and knowledge.  If you get the right group together, then the learning transfer will be more successful.

The course needs to be right.  To be most effective, it needs to have relevant learning activities which closely resemble real life.  Speak to us about exercises you might want included and, where possible, allow us to use real, credible data to work on.  This is particularly relevant for an Excel course – if the data is familiar and logical, the learning is more easily transferred and retained.

The learning activities need to allow delegates to make mistakes, in a safe environment where they can learn and take the knowledge forward.  The giving and receiving of feedback is key, and can be drawn on later, after the course has taken place, reinforcing the skills and knowledge gained during the course.

Talk to your learners before the course goes ahead and make sure it’s the right course for them.  Will it suit their learning style?  It can be difficult for a session to cover all learning styles, but it is possible.  Ask how they’ll apply the new skills in the workplace so that they can form their own aims and objectives.  And, endorse the quality of the learning before the event – champion it and pull out the benefits, not the negatives.   Going into a course with negative pre-conceived ideas will impact on the learning transfer.

Once the course is over, this is the key time for learning transfer.  Support your learners back in the workplace by giving them the opportunity to apply the new skills, and as quickly as possible after the training.  Ask them how they now do things differently, and what they have found most useful.  Give feedback and identify individuals who would be excellent as mentors for new staff, or those that are yet to undergo the training.