How To Make Your Training Sticky: Training Transfer

How To Make Your Training Sticky: Training Transfer
Summary: Training (or learning) transfer is the real metric of success of an employee training program. In this article, we examine various types of transfer of learning, and how you can encourage them in the context of your online training.

Transfer Of Training: The Art Of Putting Skills Into Practice

Most students only remember a tiny fraction of the things they are taught. They will memorize knowledge in order to pass the exams and then promptly forget all about it. For most of what's taught in school, that's just as well. It's not like many people will need to solve trigonometry problems after graduating, for example.

But, when it comes to employee training, it's crucial that learners retain their knowledge long term, and be able to apply it to perform their job better.

What Is Transfer Of Training?

What we've described above defines the problem of "training transfer". In a nutshell, transfer of training refers to the ability of trainees to apply the information and skills that they've learned from their training to practical scenarios.

Training transfer is important because you're running a business—not an academic institution. That is, you don't train your employees so they can just learn for learning's sake: you train them because you want them to acquire certain skills that will increase their productivity.

An employee training program that fails from a transfer of training perspective is as good as useless, as it doesn't bring any ROI to your company.

Reverse Engineering The Problem

In order to create a successful corporate training program, you need to examine the factors affecting transfer of training and learn how to apply several 'transfer of training' strategies to your advantage. You then have to transfer that knowledge (pun intended) to the design of your training program.

Factors That Affect Training Transfer

While neither all learners nor all training programs are alike, there are some common knowledge transfer tips that apply to all learning scenarios.

The overall design of a course is perhaps the most important one. Making your content too academic and abstract not only bores and confuses your learners, but also takes the course to the exact opposite direction of direct applicability. Instead, you should design for training transfer.

And this goes beyond designing the course content—it's about designing the whole training program. This includes fostering a transfer of training culture upon your learners and controlling the learning and job environment so that it helps with training transfer.

Here are 4 tips to achieve it:

1. Train Both Inside And Outside Your eLearning Portal

Don't view your employee training as an isolated thing that happens in your LMS or during your Instructor-Led Training sessions. Build a culture of learning that extends beyond your online employee training program and complements it.

Involve managers and peers—not just those few employees directly participating in an online training program at each time. In general, extend stakeholders beyond trainers, trainees, and their direct supervisors.

If, for example, you're doing new hire training, get the message across that all senior employees can serve (and should try to serve) as trainers and mentors, not just the appointed instructors.

LMS features and integrations like discussion forums and other social learning elements can help break the barriers between trainer and trainee and boost transfer of training by having everyone learning from each other. This way, for example, senior employees can explain abstract knowledge that lies in your training program, as they already know how it applies in practice.

2. Encourage Skills Application

You probably already know that LMS tools such as gamification can be used to increase learner engagement.

Your job then is to leverage gamification and other similar motivational techniques, to boost skills application—as opposed to mere knowledge retention. Emphasize lesson units that deal with practical skills, and help instill the importance of knowledge transfer to your learners. For example, have learners gain more points when they master the more practical parts of a course.

Your content, too, should be reinforcing how acquired skills will benefit the learner—and accompany them with real-world examples of putting those skills to use.

3. Create A Positive Learning Environment

A negative learning environment will kill not just knowledge transfer but also knowledge retention. In plain terms, your learners will not only not know how to apply what they've just learned, but they'll not remember it either.

Things like rigid lesson schedules and uncomfortable classrooms, or, even worse, asking your learners to stay overtime or come to work earlier to listen to some boring lecture, are all motivational killers.

With online learning, your learners can create a positive learning environment for themselves—be it in their home office, on a plush pillow on their living room floor, or even during their train commute to work.

What's more, they get to set their own times. And set them for when they are in the mood for some learning—as opposed to when some calendar dictates that it's classroom time.

This positivity should go beyond the learning environment: it should extend to the workplace. You should, for example, eliminate any barriers to training in the workplace, and encourage learners to apply their newly learned skills in practice, even if they have not perfected them yet—and you should, of course, excuse any novice mistakes they might make.

4. Align Training With Business Goals

This advice applies to the entirety of your learning program, from your course content to your training schedule. You should align your training program with your business goals. Cut anything that doesn't promote your business goals from your training content.

Encourage in learners the kind of behavior and performance that you expect to see as a result of their training. Measure the success of your learning program with how well it helped you met your business goals—which, in itself, should be directly tied to the degree that training transfer occurred.


Transfer of training is the main differentiator between a training program that has a good ROI and one that doesn't. In this article, we examined a number of techniques and strategies for helping boost the transfer of training in the workplace.

Some of our suggestions depend on your workplace culture, and the way that you've designed your training courses, and are totally at your discretion and control. Others depend on the use of a capable online learning platform to deliver your training program. For which, we have you covered: sign up for a free for life TalentLMS account, and see how the industry-leading LMS can help boost transfer of training in the workplace and take your employee training to the next level.

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