Successful training and employee development efforts provide a real-time connection between the classroom and the workplace. Without this connection, most of what employees learn and experience in training sessions never shows up at work.
Many suggestions for helping employees transfer training to the workplace focus on actions and best practices that should take place before and during the employee training session to promote the transfer of learning to the job.
Equally important to training transfer are the activities that start during and occur following the employee training session. You need to create an on-the-job environment that fosters the ability of employees to apply what they have learned in training to their jobs. These nine guidelines will help employees transfer knowledge learned in training sessions to their jobs.
- Work with the supervisor to make certain the individual who attended training has a chance to practice the new skills. As an example, if a group attends training in how to run an effective meeting, each person must schedule and run a meeting within a week of the training. This is not to encourage more meetings, but with frequent practice, the individuals get the opportunity to apply their learning quickly following the employee training session.
- The training provider, the trainee, and the supervisor all need to understand that a learning curve is involved in every attempt to apply training on the job. The person who attended the employee training needs time for the new ideas, skills, or thoughts to sink in or become assimilated and connected to what they already know and believe.
- Tie the employee development goals closely into an organization-wide performance management and development process. This enables the employee to participate in establishing the goals. The system helps create accountability for follow-up and learning. This point cannot stress this tie-in enough. Employee training that is provided as part of a bigger picture, as important to a staff person’s development and progress, is the most useful training at work.
- The trainee should work with their supervisor to plan additional needed training or coaching based on their experience of applying the learning on the job. Both peer and supervisory 360-degree feedback, formally or informally, can help the individual assess progress and needed assistance.
- Testing is not a favorite workplace word, but testing the application of training following the training sessions, at stated intervals, can assist with transfer. In one client company, staff members are developing a testing process that will certify employees as trained in a particular work process. Periodic reassessment is planned, along with job rotation, to ensure that all people perform each of the work processes regularly.
- As part of most employee training sessions, participants receive training manuals, training resources and job aids, and a bibliography of additional sources of information. The person who attended the training needs to make use of all of these materials to reinforce their learning. Facilitate access, if possible.
A trend in organizations and training that is exciting is that people attending employee training sessions are receiving books in addition to the training materials. Whole work units are purchasing the same book and reading it together and holding discussion meetings, frequently called employee book clubs.
In a health care center, tapes from a national conference were viewed during work time by all members of the organization. An old-fashioned popcorn machine provided a positive incentive for people to feel good about attending the employee training sessions.
- One of the most effective methods for reinforcing learning is to establish a “norm” within a workplace that every person who attends employee training or a conference is expected to train others, share the training materials and the learning experience, upon their return. It is one way to ensure that individuals who attend employee training spend a significant amount of time understanding and applying the material. One of the best measures of learning is the ability to teach others.
- Provide supervisory staff with job aids or follow-up lessons and brief readings to reinforce and support the training concepts with employees on the job. Training staff can provide these as part of the training materials and can co-facilitate until the supervisor is comfortable doing employee training. The goal is to encourage supervisors and coworkers to train each other.
- Following the employee training, people who attended can form an informal network for support and encouragement. Assigning a training partner at the session is also useful. Reviewing expectations of the network and the training partner at the session is also valuable.
The training presenter can facilitate this process of follow-up for employee training. In these days of electronic communication, people can share a forum, an email mailing list, or a weekly online chat, as well as meeting in person.
Implement more of these ideas to follow up on employee training to ensure the likelihood that trainees transfer classroom training to the workplace. The business of building productive, exciting workplaces in which people continue to grow and develop is a service to both the employees and the organizations. It sounds like a win-win time investment.