How to Create a Conducive Workplace for Transfer of Learning

Learning is an important aspect of any training programme. However, equally important is encouraging your employees to use what they have learnt and apply to their jobs. 

A 24X7 Learning survey revealed that only 12% of learners say they apply the skills from the training they receive to their job. For transfer of learning to happen, there is a need to have a supportive climate for transfer, managerial support, opportunity to apply new knowledge, peer support and technological support.

 1. Positive Climate
The climate for transfer of learning refers to the conditions or characteristics of the workplace that may inhibit or facilitate the application of newly learned skills and knowledge at work. A positive work environment provides a strong alignment between training programmes and the company’s goals. For example, in determining which training programmes to attend, managers may encourage and set goals with their employees for them to use new skills and behaviours acquired in the course of training. Once training has been completed, managers may create opportunities for employees to apply their new knowledge at work. Managers should also display an open mind when presented with new ideas for existing processes. In addition, companies should consider implementing positive consequences when new skills are used. For instance, employees who successfully apply their new skills can receive a one-off cash reward or incentive.
2. Managerial Support
Managerial support is the extent to which managers highlight the importance of training for employees and application of training content to the job. The greater the support to employee training, the more likely that transfer of learning will occur. The most basic level that a manager can provide support is by allowing employees to attend training. Managers should also be actively involved from the start by participating in the training design and delivery. Managers become role models when they participate in training with their employees. To facilitate the transfer of learning, managers should take an extra step by getting employees to implement action plans. Action plans lists the actions that employees will take once training is completed. A good action plan will list down what is to be done after training, strategies for reaching the goals, resources needed and expected results. Managers can help by providing practice opportunities, giving feedback and following up with employees to ensure new skills and knowledge are put to good use.
3. Opportunity to Perform
The opportunity to perform is equally important in transfer of learning and this is where managers play a crucial role in work assignment. Managers can create meaningful job assignments and tasks for employees to put their new skills to good use, for instance assigning them to a special work committee or training other employees. Employees who are given opportunities to apply training content more often are better able to maintain their learned capabilities than those who are given lesser opportunities. Low levels of opportunity to perform may imply that the work environment is not supportive of training transfer. It may further indicate to employees that training content is not important for improvement in their job roles.
4. Peer Support
A peer support network can enhance transfer of learning among employees. A support group is a group of two or more employees who share their experience and discuss their progress of their new knowledge to their jobs. Employees may come together in a series of face to face sessions to share successful stories of training applied to their work and also brainstorm on ways to overcome issues with transfer of learning. In addition, companies may consider partnering these employees with a mentor. Mentors can provide advice and support in issues related to transfer of learning. For instance, mentors may suggest which areas of work they can put utilise their new knowledge or link their mentees with other professionals to expand their network.
5. Technology Support
Technology is not just a learning tool, but in certain circumstances, it helps in retaining knowledge and applying new skills to the workplace. For instance, virtual environment simulation training can allow employees to leverage their new knowledge and practice their skills to prepare them for real-world situations. To give an example, in the medical profession, computer simulations allow learners to practice in a safe environment where there is no harm to personnel or equipment. These simulations offer employees a chance to solve problems, apply new techniques, visualise concepts and practice tasks. Managers can collaborate with instructional designers and creative artists to come up with scenarios or case studies that requires employees to increase their retention of knowledge and maximise learning impact. 
Source: A report by 24x7 Learning: "Workplace Learning - 2015". September 2015

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Topics: People Development (Part 1)