In our last post we laid out the main reasons why training transfer is only about 20% and asked, “Which factor matters most?” The factors that could contribute to poor training transfer are:
- Poor assessment
- Low motivation
- Poor training quality
- Dysfunctional team environment
- Poor follow up
Based on my experience as a manager, hands down the biggest factor is poor follow up. Let me explain why.
For 10 years I managed a large pool of editors at a business-to-business publishing company. Since we tended to hire journalists from the mainstream media, training them to write for a business audience was a huge challenge. At the time I had no theoretical knowledge of the training field. I didn’t even see myself as a “trainer.” But I did all the things a trainer needs to do. When I look at the five factors above, here’s how I assess their difficulty based on my experience:
- : I found it easy to do, a 3 on a scale of 1-10. The biggest challenge mainstream journalists faced was getting on the phone and learning about customer needs. For me, a writer who could do that effectively was almost certain to succeed. So I created training exercises to make it happen.
MOTIVATION: Again, not a big problem, maybe a 4 out of 10. I knew how to paint a picture of success down the road and show my editors how acquiring certain skills was essential to achieving their goals. All good managers know how to do this.
TRAINING PROGRAM: This is a little tougher. Because training is ongoing, you need to be disciplined in order to ensure training programs are always executed correctly. Just because you hit a homer today doesn’t mean won’t strike out next time. I’d give this a 6 out of 10.
TEAM ENVIRONMENT: I’d give this a difficultly level of 3, not because it’s easy to create a high-performance team environment but because, if your team environment is killing your training effectiveness, you have much bigger problems than training transfer. For most competent managers, this isn’t a huge issue.
FOLLOW UP: I give this a 9.9 difficulty level. Doing follow up religiously — which is the only way to do it effectively — is absolute murder. Even highly skilled managers routinely fail to follow up on training. It requires pigheaded determination. It requires off-the-charts discipline. It requires an almost maniacal attention to detail. Every good manager knows that it MUST happen, but most simply don’t do it. Or they do it half-heartedly.
I belong to a CEO forum and talk about this issue all the time. I have yet to find an in-the-trenches leader who disagrees. Top executives all know three things:
- 1. That flawless execution of strategy is what distinguishes great companies from also-rans
- 2. That the ONLY way to make sure that flawless execution cascades from the top of the organization all the way to the bottom, is to have a highly trained workforce (and by highly trained I defer to Kilpatrick’s “KSA” definition — a highly trained person has exactly the right Knowledge, Skills and Attitude to perform the job at a high level of excellence”).
- 3. That managers are ONLY people who can ensure that training sticks. Follow up is THE factor that determines training transfer. The biggest challenge organizations face is getting managers to do it.
CEO/Director of Learning and Development
Rapid Learning Institute
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