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Training and Development Policy Wiki

Page History: Training Transfer

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Page Revision: 9/24/2012 4:26:53 PM

Training Transfer

Training transfer (also known as the Transfer of Training) is the trainee's ability to apply what they have learned back on the job.  The goal of training is to transfer learning into performance, which in turn leads to improvements in agency results. 

Effective transfer of training practices are key to improving the impact of training efforts.  Training transfer is not an event; it is a dynamic and complex process.  Multiple factors need to be taken into account when trying to maximize training transfer.

Many training professionals commonly just assume that training is transferred from training to the job.  This means that it is assumed that whatever is learned during training will be retained or remembered over time and used in the right situations.  However this is usually not the case.  Trainees generally give training programs positive reviews and go back to the work with sincere commitments to change their behavior.  However, they usually return to their old habits in short order.

The purpose of transfer planning is to develop a system that gets all stakeholders working together instead of training being developed and delivered in a vacuum.  Many professionals employ various transfer strategies to various degrees.  What is typically lacking, however, is an organized, systematic approach to their application.

Why is Training Transfer Relevant

In 2010 the American Society for Training and Development estimated that U.S. organizations spent about $171.5 billion on employee learning and development and $1,228 per trainee.

With the increased austerity of government resources, an evolving workforce, and the increased focus on measuring and justifying investments, training investments are coming under increasing scrutiny.  The use of effective transfer of training principles can help maximize the effectiveness of training initiatives.

Many forces make effective training initiatives critical.  Some forces include:

  • Increased interdependence among agencies
  • Employee development
  • Talent retention
  • Increased reliance on human capital
  • Increased focus on linking training to agency strategies
  • Emphasis on the quality of public service
  • New technology
  • Changing demographics/diversity
  • Skill deficits in the workforce

It is vital to design and implement effective training programs to help address these forces and further agency objectives. It is also important to understand that there are many factors that can inhibit the transfer of training so that these challenges can be avoided or overcome.  Examples of challenges include: few opportunties to use the training, lack of accountability, and inadequate resources.

Estimates range that only about 10-20% of training is transferred into the workplace.  When training does not transfer it is likely that trainees and supervisors will question the benefit of their investment in the training.  Time and money are both wasted.  Conversely, fully utilized learning is perceived as valuable and demonstrable.  Using effective transfer of training strategies can help to demonstrate the value of training initiatives.

Factors That Affect Training Transfer

Training transfer is affected by many different stakeholders.  The primary stakeholders can be grouped into four categories:
  • Supervisors
  • Trainers
  • Trainees
  • Co-workers

All four stakeholders must have a strong interest in training initiatives, agree to work together to support the full application of the training on the job, and be committed to making the training investment pay off. 

Training transfer can also be viewed from the standpoint of when transfer strategies occur.  Transfer strategies can be viewed from the standpoint of three different timeframes:

  • Before Training
  • During Training
  • After Training

Transfer strategies are not simply picked at random.  They picked while considering the stakeholders, timeframes, and many other variables.  For example, whether the training will be created in-house or will be provided by a vendor will have a significant impact on the transfer strategies that are available to use.

Training Transfer References and Resources 

The following are references and resources used to create this page and can be used to help increase one's understanding of training transfer.  OPM is currently developing a transfer of training guide for the federal government and will be added to this list when it is finished:

1.        Broad, M.L., & Newstrom, J.W., (1992).  Transfer of Training: Action Packed
             Strategies To High Payoff From Training Investment.
  Basic Books.

This book describes the importance of training transfer and provides strategies for increasing the effectiveness of training initiatives in the workplace. 

2.        Carnes, B. (2010).  Making Learning Stick: 20 Easy and Effective Techniques for 
            Training Transfer
.  Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press.

This book provides strategies that can help increase training transfer.

3.        Holton III, E.F., & Baldwin, T.T. (2003).  Improving Learning Transfer in Organizations. 
             San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.

This book takes the viewpoints from experts in the field of learning transfer and offers information, ideas, and theories on the topic and illustrates how to put transfer systems into action.

4.         Burke, L.A., & Hutchins, H.M. (2007).  Training Transfer: An Integrative Literature
  Human Resource Development Review, 6(3), 263-296.

This journal article is a review of the training transfer scientific literature.  The article provides information on multiple factors related to training transfer (i.e., learner characteristics, intervention design and delivery, and work environment influences) and provides strategies on how to increase training transfer.

5.          Coates, D.E. (2007).  InfoLine: Enhance The Transfer of Learning.  Alexandria, VA:  
               ASTD Press.

This publication by ASTD provides general information about training transfer, along with tools and recommendations that could be used to help increase transfer.

6.           Transfer of Learning: A Guide to Strengthening the Performance of Health Care 
(2002).  Prime II & Jhpiego Corporation.

This publication provides general information about training transfer and provides a "transfer of learning matrix."  The matrix can be used as a job aid and provides the framework for a set of recommendations that could be used to increase the transfer of learning.

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