3 Quick Tips for Improving Learning Transfer

Learning transfer

3 Quick Tips for Improving Learning Transfer

One of the biggest challenges in corporate learning is not the acquisition or retention of knowledge, but learning transfer. Employees might learn the conceptual knowledge and take in information, but often it’s the application phase where we fall short. You see, learning things is easy (relatively speaking!). However, when trying to apply to learning, you may run into barriers like lack of practice or support, organisational culture, resistance to change, unfitting operational practices etc. Naturally, many of these problems will be outside of the immediate purview of learning and development. However, smart learning design choices enable us to tackle some of these problems already before they emerge.

Thus, here are 3 tips for improving learning transfer:

1. Focus more on practical learning

A lot of corporate learning is not very practical. Courses and programs are often heavy on rather abstract concepts and knowledge. In such cases, the learners are required to bridge the gap between the abstract and the real life themselves. Often, that may be asking too much. It’s not that people are not capable, it’s just that they do have a lot of other things occupying their mind. Hence an overload of conceptual, abstract knowledge often goes to deaf ears.

So, if you want to improve learning transfer, focus on the practical. Focus on how to make the employees succeed at their jobs. And be specific. The learning should put more emphasis on “here’s how you can do things” rather than “here’s what you need to know”. Use learning mediums that serve the purpose. Visual elements may help to illustrate how things work in real life.

2. Provide adequate practice opportunities

Another area where we in corporate learning could do better is giving opportunities to practice. People need to be confident in their ability before they dare to do things in a new way. Hence it’s important that we provide them with a safe environment to practice, make mistakes and fail during our learning programs. Naturally, there are several ways you could do that. If you’re planning to do fully online training, simulations can be a big help in ensuring learning transfer. On the other hand, if you’re running blended learning programs, this might be a good use of the expensive and intensive face-to-face time!

3. Understand the learners’ context

Finally, the biggest hurdle of learning transfer is related to the learners’ context. Even before you start putting together learning content or activities, you should spend time figuring out the work, tasks, routines, responsibilities and environment of the end-users (learners!). To make learning transfer possible, you should identify if any of these might conflict with the objectives of the learning you’re looking to do. On paper, doing something in a particular way may seem feasible, but in practice it might be impossible. Therefore it’s important to know the practical environment and setting – the context – of the learners. Otherwise, you’ll end up producing a lot of learning that can never really be applied.

Final words

Learning transfer is not always easy. However, good design methods, time spent on discovery and focus on practical things can help a lot. Of course, you should never forget the importance of relevance in corporate learning. Furthermore, it’s also important to provide a support infrastructure that acts as a safety net for the learners. As we solve these kind of problems, we are gradually getting closer to learning with real impact. After all, if people don’t apply the knowledge, our work has been meaningless.

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3 Learning Design Tips to Improve Learning Application Rates

Learning application

3 Learning Design Tips to Improve Learning Application Rates

A major challenge in corporate learning is the application of new knowledge and skills learned. The learners are often active in completing the learning activities. However, somewhere along the way back to the workplace most of it gets lost and they go back to doing things the same way as before. If that happens, the ROI of learning is clearly not very high. Hence, here are 3 learning design tips for improving the learning application rates.

1. Establish relevance of the learning topic and communicate well

One of the key things for learning engagement as well as application is relevance. We can always deliver training on new methods, tools, theories and frameworks. However, if we don’t establish the relevance and link it back to the learners’ daily jobs, we are not likely to see a change in behaviour. This means that we should spend a lot of effort on communicating the benefits of applying whatever it is that we are trying to train. This requires good and concise communication. For every piece of learning content, make sure you provide a clear reason why the learner is better of using the new way over old ones. Perhaps its time savings. Perhaps its increased efficiency, perhaps it enables the learners to do new things that might progress their career. Whatever the benefits are, they need to be well communicated.

2. Provide opportunities for practising the learned content in a safe environment

The traditional cycle of e-learning would be to learn something first, and then go back to the workplace to apply it. However, many people are risk-avoiding and don’t tend to apply new things unless they are very confident in them and themselves. But thanks to digital tools, we can flip the paradigm around. We can build the learning content into activities that provide a safe, risk-free way for the learners to practice applying their new knowledge.

For instance, we can use learning simulations to help our learners practice different decision-making scenarios, soft skills and much more. Various types of simulations help learners to see the effect of the application of the newly learned skills. Since everything happens online, it’s also risk-free for the learners to try different things and experiment. They don’t have to risk doing their jobs any worse by shifting away from the ways they “have done things for a long time”. As the confidence in the newly learnt methods increases, we are likely to see an increase in learning application as well.

3. Enable consistent follow-up to keep learning application cycle going

Finally, we should always do comprehensive and consistent follow-up on all learning activities. First of all, good follow-up should collect learner feedback on the relevance and communications. We, the L&D professionals, are not able to improve the content if we don’t know there’s something wrong with it. We should also survey whether the learners have had opportunities for adequate practice and received the needed support.

Secondly, we should follow up on the learning application. Naturally, it’s important to ask if the learners have applied the knowledge. But the more important part is why they have or have not. There’s an endless amount of possible reasons why the learner has not applied the new knowledge. Perhaps they’ve been overwhelmed, perhaps they still lack the confidence. Whatever the reason, we can capture that with the question “why” and then agree on steps to work around it. And sometimes, the reason might be that the learner does in fact have a better way of doing things. In these cases, maybe its worthwhile to investigate and see if the rest of the organisation could benefit from their original way of doing things. Consider this an example of sourcing knowledge from your own organisation.

Are you having problems with putting the learning into practice? We can help you to craft an approach in which the learning application is at the centre. Just contact us here

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