Coworkers at Conference Table

Learning transfer is a key component to The Kirkpatrick Model for Training Evaluation. This model identifies four levels to objectively analyze the effectiveness and impact of training: Reaction, Learning, Behavior, and Results. The levels Reaction and Results are pretty straightforward: was the training well received and what type of impact did it have on the business? The Learning and Behavior levels get to the heart of learning transfer, but they are a bit more complex and not as straightforward to achieve.

The goal of the Learning stage is to evaluate how much information the trainees have gained and retained. Did you meet the learning objectives? Do you have an established metric by which to benchmark knowledge gain? The goal of the Behavior stage is to determine how trainees are applying this new information. Has their behavior changed as a result of the training?

According to Learning Solutions Magazine, the key to real learning transfer and changed behavior is through creating lasting memory. In their article, ‘Corporate Executives and the New Secret Weapon: Learning Data,’ the author states that it’s “really simple—human beings do what they remember. When they don’t remember, they exercise judgment, based on their (sometimes limited or non-existent) experience, the advice of co-workers (who may not remember), or on their best guess. Sometimes they get it right, and sometimes they get it wrong.”

Making learning resources available after the training concludes and providing opportunities for skill reinforcement is oftentimes what makes or breaks the long term success of a training program. According to Diane Lujan, Senior Manager of Global Learning and Development at Western Union, “In order for learning to stick, there has to be some sort of teach back or partnership.”

And the data supports this. A study by Jeffrey D. Karpicke and Janell R. Blunt suggests that the retrieval practice, described as the act of going back into the brain and being forced to recall one to five short pieces of information at a time, actually solidifies the neural pathways and creates memory.

With this in mind, training programs that do not include a platform for follow up or skill reinforcement can miss the stickiness and application that results in true learning transfer. Trainers and managers alike are looking for the best way to extend the life of a lesson so that participants think about it after the training and it becomes part of their daily life.

In their global Employee Development Program, Western Union utilized a social media component. The goal was to have a training program that people actually used and enjoyed using, while reinforcing the core company behavior of responsibility. In this program, participants were responsible for their own learning.

The social hub was a blended learning approach that made the learning come alive for participants in their day-to-day roles with the company. They could access all of the e-learning modules for repeat viewing when needed, and were supplied with additional learning materials such as blogs and job aids.

The hub also held them accountable- in a very social way. With each module, participants were asked what they learned, how they planned to implement this learning or how they would take action going forward. The hub was a platform for participants to share the experience with others. There were opportunities to give testimonies and share real-life feedback.

The result? Western Union actually found that employees actually sought out the social hub because they saw the power in it. Because they had uploaded their own Emergenetics Profiles, they were able to create WEteams for projects. Mentor/mentee relationships developed.

The social hub helped to instill a sense of community among the dispersed Western Union workforce. And it speaks directly to the article from Learning Solutions- when employees don’t remember, they exercise judgment based on their (sometimes limited or non-existent) experience, the advice of co-workers (who may not remember), or on their best guess.

Whether your company seeks a creative approach to learning transfer or utilizes a more traditional approach, the process has to fit the culture and goals of the organization and the training program.

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