Learning Transfer Model:
Enhancing Learning Effectiveness
A Research-Driven Approach to
We all know that a seminar alone is not likely to result in significant changes in job performance, and much has been written about different techniques for ensuring that skills transfer into organizational performance improvement. However, while many have promoted specific activities to support the transfer of learning, there has been little research comparing the actual impact of these different techniques. In this study we reviewed the literature from the past two years and found 32 research studies that compared the impact of training seminars alone to training plus one or more learning transfer activities. This research allowed us to identify 11 specific actions that have a significant impact on whether training results in measurable performance improvement. Overall we found that if an organization implemented all of these actions, they could improve the effectiveness of their learning by over 180%. The outcome of this research is a model of Learning Transfer that is costeffective to implement, captures the majority of transfer improvement actions, and has the maximum likelihood of improving the effectiveness of learning in your organization.
Learning Transfer: Enhancing the Impact of Learning on Performance The fundamental purpose of learning and development is to help people develop skills which, when applied to work, enhance job and organizational performance. While this is widely acknowledged, how we measure the success of learning is not often in alignment with this idea. In fact, the most popular model for evaluating learning and development (Kirkpatrick Model) has three “levels” devoted to measuring learning outcomes, and only one measuring performance outcomes. This focus on learning outcomes, rather than performance outcomes, has also influenced how learning has been designed and delivered for most of our industry’s history. More recently, it has been widely researched (and largely accepted) that learning and development, as usually conducted, does not create performance change at an acceptable rate. In fact, most estimates suggest that only about 15 to 20% of the learning investments organizations make actually result in work performance changes. For example, the graph below (from research conducted by Saks and Belcort in 2006) shows the decline in the use of learning on the job over time. The research clearly shows that for the average training and development program, there is a steady decline in the use of new skills. It is estimated that only about 35% of the skills are still in use 12 months after the typical training event. Over the years, a number of people have offered theoretical models for how to enhance learning so that it results in greater impact on performance. This work goes under many names: extended learning, learning transfer, transfer climate, and relapse prevention, to name a few. In this article we will use the term Learning Transfer, because in our opinion, Learning Transfer best represents the desired outcome – transfer of learning to actual job performance.
© 2009 Wilson Learning Worldwide Inc. RESEARCH REPORT Learning Transfer Model: A Research-Driven Approach to Enhancing Learning Effectiveness was first published by Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Learning Tranfer Activities • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •
Decline in the Use of Skills over Time
100 90 80 70 60 50 40 30
Event Immediate 6 Mos 12 Mos Training alone
Saks and Belcort, 2006
There are several limitations to these theoretical models. First, most of them are rather complex, containing a large number of factors. Second, they are difficult, maybe impossible, to implement in any practical setting. Finally, while some of the models have a basis in research, they all began from a theoretical perspective, rather than from a practical perspective. Therefore, the purpose of this research was to...
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