Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0140 | February 17, 2004 | 8,000 Subscribers...

Dear friends,

This week's article,
"Making it Stick: Supporting Learning Transfer at Work," was written by my friend and colleague, Margaret Wall, an adult learning specialist and president of Integrated Learning Solutions. This article looks at training from the much larger perspective of "Learning Transfer," and offers tips to employers, employees, and HR staff to help their organizations get more value out of staff training. Feel free to share this article with your clients or with leaders in your organization to show them how to get more long-term value from your training.

If any of you have any interesting stories or experiences about facilitation, group process, work groups, team building, training, etc. that might interest our readers, please
email them to us.

Have a great week!

Steve Davis

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Group Management Skill
Making it Stick: Supporting Learning Transfer at Work
The Point

Have you heard this one? Manager to HR Director: “What if I spend all that money on training just to have them leave.” HR Director to Manager: “What if you don’t train them and they stay?”

We regularly encounter the prevailing attitude that training and development is both costly and risky. If we believe half of the predictions about shortages and loss of company knowledge as large numbers of baby boomers exit their jobs, training and development is actually an investment essential to business survival. How do we reconcile these prevailing views? How can we support employee development and demonstrate to senior management that training is a strategic investment not a financial risk?

We can start by helping organizations understand that training is more than an “event.” It is part of a larger “process” necessary for learning transfer, whose long-term value can’t be fully assessed through simple return on investment (ROI) calculations.

So let’s briefly look at the learning process. Learning is incremental. Do you remember the first time you saw your sister ride a bicycle and you decided you wanted to learn too? It took many tries and lots of practice before you mastered the two-wheeler. This basic learning process does not change regardless of our age, speed, motivation or attention span. The chart below shows the six steps to learning transfer found in Holton and Baldwin’s book, Improving Learning Transfer In Organizations.

Steps to Learning Transfer
1. Awareness Knowledge Become aware of benefit and motivated to learn: The bicycle can help save travel time. I will be able to do more if I can ride a bike.
2. Knowledge for use Engage in purposeful learning: Recognize the parts of the bicycle including handlebars, seat, pedals, etc. Stop by reverse pedaling. Steer, balance and pedal at the same time to be successful.
3. Demonstration and Practice Practice is a safe environment: Get on the bike while someone is holding you and try to pedal, balance and steer until you can do it on your own.
4. Job Specific Application Apply with Support: Take your bicycle for a ride with your sister. She gives you feedback if you run into problems.
5. Repeating and Maintaining Application Work at it: Ride bicycle to ride to school, to visit friends, to go to the store. Improve your speed and accuracy.
6. Generalizing for Transfer Apply Learning to other Contexts: Transfer skills of bicycle riding to ten-speed, moped, a motorcycle or unicycle.

Note that the actual training “event” focuses on steps two and three no matter what the training method. Learning is effectively integrated into one’s specific job when first, individuals know the benefits of learning, and second, they repeatedly apply this learning to their specific jobs over time. We need to invest in helping our employees become learning ready and in helping them generalize their learning once they return to their jobs.


Are your employees “learning ready” prior to training?

Employees are learning ready when they understand why they are receiving training, how it will help them on the job, and what they will be doing following the training to apply and maintain their skills. Without this information, employees may struggle to put their learning into a work context or resist the introduction of new ways of doing things while trying to second-guess why they have been sent. Managers can enhance learning transfer by helping employees understand how the training will benefit them and the organization. Using and implementing individual learning plans as part of a performance management process can help align individual learning needs with company goals and ensure this necessary understanding. If employees are learning ready they are motivated to acquire knowledge for use.

Are your employees assured opportunities for on the job applications?

As a former program director, one of the most frequent complaints of learners after they successfully completed our training programs concerned the lack of opportunities to apply their new skills back on the job. Asking employees to prepare action plans at the end of a training workshop has become a trendy response to this problem. We now have employees, with lots of practice writing action plans, but few who have actually implemented their plans back at work. Many employee action plans remain just a plan without the involvement of supervisors and managers. Managers, who encourage the implementation of learning plans, create opportunities for practice and provide positive reinforcement will influence successful learning transfer. The role of supervisor or manager includes creating an environment for learning transfer through co-planning, coaching, feedback and support.

How can supervisors and managers support learning transfer?

  • Discuss options for learning transfer with the employee before the training begins.
  • Collaborate with your HR department to develop work-related examples and activities in training workshops.
  • Assist employees in setting realistic expectations for their learning.
  • Review action plans with the employee after workshop.
  • Monitor employee progress with learning application.
  • Support employees with positive reinforcement and encouragement.

What can employees do to support their learning transfer?

  • Discuss your learning goals during your performance review process.
  • Discuss options learning transfer with your supervisor before training.
  • Bring ideas/work samples to the workshop.
  • Commit to applying the new skills.
  • Recognize the overall goals of the organization.
  • Clarify how your work supports these goals.
  • Provide input into workshop design through pre-workshop questionnaires or post workshop evaluations

What can HR Practitioners do to support learning transfer?

  • Create performance outcomes and measures for training programs with supervisors.
  • Include information on learning transfer in pre-workshop information.
  • Work with employees and supervisors to develop transfer options.
  • Provide follow up coaching assistance to employees.
  • Link employees with peers who have already transferred this learning.
  • Use program evaluation results in future program planning.
  • Check with supervisors and employees on how changes in knowledge, skills and attitudes have occurred.
  • Recognize and reward learner completion of action plans.

In every organization employee performance and business survival are inextricably linked. This is the business case for strategic alignment of training and learning transfer. It takes a trainer to deliver a learning workshop; but it takes a whole organization to create and maintain an environment for learning transfer.

About the Author. Margaret Wall, B.A., M.Ed. is a trainer, adult learning specialist and president of Integrated Learning Solutions, Fredericton, New Brunswick. She can be reached at

As a manager, how can you apply these principles to training in your organization? As a trainer, how can you help your clients understand the importance of the steps above? Please
email us your thoughts on this topic.

New Self-Guided Teleclass

We're pleased to announce the release of the Self-Guided, "Real-Audio" version of our popular "Becoming a Learning Facilitator," Teleclass. This course comes with 5-hours of real-audio you can access anytime over the Internet and includes a 55-page ebook packed with useful models, strategies, and approaches to enlivening your approach to teaching and training. Here's a quick summary of the table of contents.

A Brief History of Teaching
An Integral Learning Model

Learning Content
The medium is the message
"Ability to do" vs. Info delivery
Covey Habit Model
From curriculum development to needs assessment

The Learning Facilitator
Role distinctions
Shift from Director to Guide
Core Values of the Learning Facilitator
Getting Full Participation
Prepare like crazy then let it go
Trainer self-assessment

Learning Models
Kolb's Learning Styles
Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic (VAK) Model Brain-Based Learning
Communities of Practice
Control Theory
Multiple Intelligences
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Temperament & Teaching Styles
Learning Domains

Learning Culture
Elements of a “Learning Culture”
A Learning Culture and Contemporary Society

Learning Strategies
Kolb Learning Cycle
Instruction Events
Socratic Method
Open Space Technology


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immediate access to this teleclass.
Regular price, $69, order by this Friday for only $59.


Improving Learning Transfer in Organizations, by Elwood F. Holton, Timothy T. Baldwin

This volume addresses learning transfer on both the individual and organizational level. It shows how to diagnose learning transfer systems, create a transfer-ready profile, and assess and place employees to maximize transfer. The book includes information on how to determine what process should be followed to design an organization-specific learning transfer system intervention. The authors focus on the actual learning process and show how to use front-end analysis to avoid transfer problems. In addition, they outline the issues associated with such popular work-based learning initiatives as action learning and communities of practice, and they also present applications on learning transfer within e-learning and team training contexts.

Facilitator Wanted

Seeking Facilitator in South of Spain

Construction company is seeking a facilitator to develop and hold cohesive partnership meetings with a client in the south of Spain. Facilitator should possess a minimum of one year experience working with construction projects. If interested, please email your resume, qualifications, telephone and email address José M Bejarano at Please address any questions you have about this position to Jose.

About the Publisher

Steve Davis helps facilitators, coaches, consultants and leaders who are struggling to present themselves confidently, empower their groups, enhance their facilitation skills, and build their businesses on and off line. Please email or call me at 805-489-4130 to schedule a Free exploratory session, or to share your suggestions and ideas for the journal. If you find this newsletter helpful, please forward it to your friends. If you'd like to reprint this article in another publication, you are free to do so providing you follow the guidelines here. Thanks for reading!
In the Spotlight
A Provocative Proposal for Unleashing the Power of What Works...

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Understanding the DNA of Appreciative Inquiry gives us a foundation upon which we can build the infrastructure of a change process that works.

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Leader Bios

Bert Stitt operates a home-based consultancy from Madison, Wisconsin. He provides facilitation services, public engagement consultation, and organizational development for community-building projects, coaching for non-governmental organizations, mediation and facilitation for governmental agencies, and strategic planning processes for associations, foundations, and small businesses. Appreciative Inquiry is a relatively recent tool that Bert is finding very useful as he reaches into the toolbox while helping to build the organizations he works with.

Patricia Clason has traveled across the continent doing speeches, workshops and media appearances as a professional speaker, trainer, consultant and writer, giving over 3,000 presentations for corporations, associations, government agencies and nonprofit organizations. Now the Director of the Center for Creative Learning which offers programs for personal and professional development and has written many articles, training programs and personal growth seminars and is a sought-after guest for radio and television. Patricia likes to focus on alternative methods of teaching and learning, addressing the psychological perspectives and principles behind the practical tools that she teaches. As a result, audiences are often entranced with her and excited about using these new ideas.

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