Why Should You Care about Training Transfer?

Training is not always valued the way it should be. Some people see it as something you have to get through, rather than something that helps you do your job better. This mindset is self-perpetuating. If training is just something you have to do to meet requirements, then there is no point in putting more time, money, or effort into training than the bare minimum. This results in trainings that staff and volunteers suffer through, checking boxes on their way to the “real work.”

This sad cycle misses the point (and all of the opportunities good trainings provide) entirely. Good training doesn’t stand between staff and work – it teaches them how to do the work to the standards and values of your organization. Training transfer is when what you teach changes the way your staff or volunteers do their work.

For example:  Your staff are planning for the families they work with, but your program model requires them to teach the families how to plan for themselves, and then support them in doing that. Planning for the families is actually undermining your entire program and its outcomes. A successful training that engendered training transfer would be one where the staff learned how to teach and support families in planning for themselves, then went back to the families they work with and actually used the new method.

Training transfer happens when the new things taught in training actually change the way people do their work.

The promise of training transfer is the reason that we do trainings in the first place. So it is pretty shocking that the average training only has a 10% transfer rate (or less). That means that for every 10 people you training, 0-1 of them will actually change the way they work. No wonder some people don’t always see the value in training.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Good training that takes the time to build engagement, uses a multi-modal, adult learning principle informed approach, and focuses on skill building can average a 35% transfer rate. That good training, supported by follow up coaching can reach 90%.

The ability to change the way people do their work is what allows programs to adopt new methods, refine their styles, conduct research, and do all the other things that allow them to improve their outcomes over time. Without the kind of training that creates transfer, programs cannot grow or improve.

The health and future of programs depend on training transfer creating trainings. Next week, I will look at how previous experiences impact training transfer.


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