Chief Learning Officer  Leimbach, Michael P.; Emde, Ed


The lack of learning transfer has been a long-standing issue in the learning community, and research on how to increase it is both complex and contradictory. Chief learning officers could add hundreds of components to their learning programs, put an undue burden on learners, managers and training professionals and more than double the investment they make in each skill development effort, not to mention ruin their budgets. However, there is a less costly, more focused and practical approach that has emerged from extensive research conducted during the past several years. This research, 2009’s “Exploring Trends in Human Resource Development: Bridging the Research-Practice Gap” and 2010’s “Learning Transfer: What Organizations Are Doing To Drive Enhancing Learning Effectiveness,” shows significant increases in the use of skills resulting from well-designed, efficient learning transfer activities, which, when analyzed to determine which had the greatest impact on improved performance, indicate actions organizations can take to increase the application of new learning on the job, deliver business results and improve ROI. The research identified 11 core activities that create a meaningful increase in learning transfer. The 11 factors were consolidated into three critical areas where organizations can improve learning transfer: learner readiness, design for transfer, and organizational alignment. Learner readiness is about ensuring that learners see the relevance and payoffs of new skills and are confident they can use their learning on the job. Research shows that addressing these elements can increase transfer by as much as 70 percent. Design for transfer involves paying more attention to opportunities to build in a variety of transfer elements such as structured follow-up activities, creation of specific action plans, or opportunities to practice behavioral models. Without these elements, performance outcomes can suffer. Organizational alignment is one of the most critical aspects to increase learning transfer. By securing executive sponsorship, engaging managers and encouraging peer support, the organization can create a learning culture, which makes it possible to increase learning transfer by more than 90 percent, according to the aforementioned research. While long-term, large-scale strategic initiatives have a place, they often become so time-consuming and burdensome they never reach fruition. By slimming down programs to focus on actions that maximize results, learning organizations can sustain a high level of effectiveness and business impact with every initiative they undertake.

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