Companies invest significant resources in training and development programs to enhance their employees' skills and knowledge, devoting time and money with the aim of building the capabilities that will help employees to develop their careers and contribute to the organisation’s goals. But training on its own is often not enough - the true value of learning is only realised when it is effectively transferred to the workplace, improving performance, productivity, and helping drive innovation.
The reality is many organisations struggle with ensuring that learning outcomes are integrated into day-to-day activities, with Guroo Learning’s recent research showing that only 24% of organisations have an explicit plan for how learning will be applied within the workplace.
This article explores various strategies for promoting learning transfer and getting the best results from professional development, highlighting five steps businesses can employ to maximise their return on investment and foster a culture of continuous learning.
Alignment with Organisational Goals
One of the first steps in promoting learning transfer is to ensure that the training program is closely aligned with the organisation's goals and objectives. It should be clear to participants exactly how the results of learning are anticipated to contribute to the desired outcomes for the organisation, which helps create the foundations for integrating the outcomes of learning into the workplace.
It can be helpful, at this stage, to consider partnering with education providers who can help to uncover or clarify the training needs of the organisation and assist with aligning the learning strategy with the right training programs. However you progress through this stage, there are a few points worth considering:
- Understand your organisational goals: This is a step that you will most likely already have completed, but it is worth reviewing before you start to create a training plan. Having a clear view of exactly what your organisational goals are, and of how you plan to achieve them, will help to build a successful learning strategy.
- Conduct a Training Needs Analysis: Now your goals are understood, you can identify and map the skills you will need to get there, and where there are gaps in capability between where you are now and where you need to be exist. These are the areas that training should be focused to address.
Develop a strategic training plan: Organisations should develop a comprehensive training strategy that will deliver the skills and knowledge required to meet their goals. This strategy should address current and future needs, ensuring that training remains relevant, and should include which skills are to be developed and how, define how those skills relate to organisational goals and plan for how they will be transferred into practice.
Clearly Identify Learning Objectives
Once alignment with organisational goals is established, it's crucial to set clear learning objectives for each training program. This is your opportunity to make it clear to the participants exactly how their learning connects to the organisation’s bigger picture. With well-defined goals, participants are more motivated to engage with the learning, and more able to relate what has been learned back to the requirements of the business.
- Specificity is key: Ensure that objectives are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timed (SMART). Participants should know precisely what is expected of them, how their progress will be assessed, and how the results of the learning relate back to personal and organisational KPIs.
- Establish clear expectations: Clearly communicate the purpose of the training to participants, explaining how the new knowledge and skills will contribute to the company's success. This transparency fosters a sense of purpose and motivation and ensures that everyone is aware of the results that are expected, both within the learning journey and once back at work.
Highlight the bigger picture: Show how each employee's learning fits into larger organisational goals. When individuals understand how their contributions make a difference, they are more likely to embrace both the training and the steps required to incorporate outcomes back into the workplace.
Link Learning with Real-World Examples
One of the most effective ways to ensure that the results of learning are practically applied is to ensure that the learning itself is relevant, meaningful and connected with realistic workplace topics. Creating such links back to the situations that the learner is likely to encounter both helps engagement with the learning program, and helps to promote learning transfer.
This is another area in which organisations can benefit from a close partnership with education providers, who can build upon the organisation’s strategic plan and create custom learning solutions that are aligned closely with real-world situations and scenarios.
- Customise content: Tailor training materials and content to address specific challenges and scenarios employees encounter in their roles, embedding the learning within the context of the workplace.
- Use scenario-based learning: Incorporating scenarios and case studies that mirror real workplace situations can help participants to apply what they've learned in familiar or relevant circumstances, promoting knowledge transfer and improving overall performance.
- Use simulations and drills: Similar to scenario-based learning, incorporating a simulated real-world environment can allow learners to get hands-on experience in a safe environment. For some roles, you may also consider allowing learners to shadow experienced workers, providing real-world experience, commentary and advice.
Include Managers in the Learning Process
Managers play a pivotal role in promoting learning transfer within the workplace. Through feedback, coaching and contextualisation, managers are positioned to assist learners as they begin to apply their newfound knowledge and skills on the job.
Here, working with an education partner can help ensure that programs are developed in such a way as to formally involve managers with the training process and give them the tools to support learning transfer across their teams.
- Manager participation: Encourage managers to participate in the training either prior to or alongside their team members. With firsthand course experience, the manager is equipped with an understanding of the content involved and its relevance to the job, enabling them to give more targeted and relevant support.
- Post-training discussions: Creating the expectation for managers and learners to get together after the training has been completed provides an opportunity to review the training content, discuss how it can be applied, and refresh expectations for how it will be implemented into practice.
- Coaching and accountability: As the learner continues to apply their new skills in the workplace, their manager should continue to provide support and feedback through regular coaching sessions. These sessions can assist the learner with any questions or issues they may have as they apply their training, and can also be used to ensure the learner is effectively applying their new skills to their role.
Peer Support and Mentoring
As with manager support, peer support and mentoring can be powerful tools for promoting learning transfer, allowing colleagues who have already mastered the relevant skills and knowledge to provide valuable insights, guidance, and encouragement. As with manager support, it is worthwhile considering how support for this process can be formally built into the training process.
- Establish mentorship programs: Creating structured mentorship programs that pair experienced employees with those who have recently completed training provides the opportunity for staff to offer guidance and share their experiences, smoothing the transition from learning to application.
- Foster a culture of knowledge sharing: Encourage employees to share their learning experiences and insights within their teams and working groups. This collective knowledge exchange can lead to innovative solutions and best practices, helping extend the benefits of learning throughout the workplace.
- Peer feedback: Encourage employees to provide constructive feedback to their peers as they apply their new skills. Peer reviews can help identify areas for improvement and reinforce learning, with advice and guidance potentially more available when and where it is most relevant.
Promoting learning transfer within the workplace is essential to ensuring that training investments result in meaningfully improved performance.
Throughout every stage of this process, partnering with education providers can assist organisations to ensure that their training is delivering a relevant and practical impact in the workplace. Through such partnerships, businesses can access customised training solutions, featuring industry recognised experts that ensure that learning is applicable to the workplace and positively contributing to achieving organisational goals.