Getting Training to Stick

“Organizations should spend ten times more energy reinforcing the training they have just conducted, instead of looking for the next great learning initiative.” - Ken Blanchard

There is a transfer of training problem and it means that our ability to translate learning into application is a real concern; and it has been an issue for a while.  In 1957, James Mosel authored the study: Why Training Programs Fail to Carry Over, reporting, “mounting evidence shows that very often the training makes little or no difference in job behavior.”  Then, in 1982, Timothy Baldwin and Kevin Ford relayed some profound discoveries in their study: Transfer of Training: A Review and Directions for Future Research, finding that, “there is a growing recognition of a 'transfer problem' in organizational training today. It is estimated that while American industries annually spend up to $100 billion on training and development, not more than 10% of these expenditures actually result in transfer to the job.”  

Some ten years following, researchers Mary Broad and John Newstrom stated, “a generous assumption is that perhaps 50% of all training content is still being applied a year after training delivery.”  Further, “only about 40% of the content of programs [Human Resource Development professionals] conducted was transferred to the work environment immediately after training, about 25% was still being applied six months later, and - the true bottom line – a mere 15% was still being used at the end of a year.”    

Why?  Perhaps it’s the revenue and economic pressures, our increased workload, heavier demands on our time coupled with the tighter deadlines that lead many who complete a training program back to the comfort of ‘business as usual.’  This is a very unfortunate and costly outcome. 

 Yet, there is another way.  We know that a few of the major barriers to the transfer of training are:

  • No post training follow up plan
  • Manager’s discomfort with change and the absence of Leadership support and leading by example 
  • No reinforcement of learned skills on the job
  • Missing link between behavior and rewards and recognition 
  • SMART goal setting 

Through intentional interactions with co-workers and employees, coaching, performance evaluations, ongoing feedback and reinforcement, that which is discovered in training, and with encouragement and practice, will translate into good habits that produce breakthrough results.