Because our xPERT eCampus social learning platform is uniquely suited to supporting robust training to proficiency learning solutions, I end up having lots of conversations with workplace learning professionals who are concerned about learning transfer. As you can imagine, the question: “What’s the #1 factor impacting learning transfer?” is a hot topic of discussion and debate. The answers cover the waterfront – everything from quality content to scheduled mini-content reminders to SME coaching to self-directed communities of practice and on and on. Don’t get me wrong, I think all of these activities can and do make a real contribution to learning transfer. However, in my far too many years of experience in the work world the number one determining factor of whether learning transfer consistently take place is whether or not the learner’s manager is actively involved in the learning process.
You will notice that I didn’t use the words “management support.” Management support typically means the leadership is behind any corporate effort in spirit and they say all the right words we ask them to say. Active involvement means at a minimum that the learner’s boss:
- Has a conversation with the learner before the person attends training to clarify the reason the boss sees the training as a good thing and to discuss mutual expectations for what the learner is to do with what they learn from the training when they get back on the job.
- Is required to verify that their subordinate is applying what they learned on the job.
Ideally the boss would be held accountable for much more in terms of coaching & mentoring their people in the use of they’re being taught. The two steps above are, in our experience, the minimum effort required if the organization expects to get any real results.
The reason boss active involvement is critical is for a very simple reason: Employees tend to pay attention to what the boss pays attention to. Paying attention to that which engages our bosses is part of our natural pre-disposition to follow the leader, and to do what the leader/boss asks us to do. (Especially if the boss is checking up to see if we’re doing it.)
Invariably, I get a lot of wringing of hands and serious push back when I get strident about these two points. The push back takes the form of the following kinds of comments:
1. Our managers are too busy. We can’t ask them to spend two 15-30 minute meetings with their direct reports to calibrate on expectations and monitor application.
My response: If they are too busy to have a conversation with the learner before training to calibrate expectations and afterwards to check on application then the training must not be that important. Save your money and everybody’s time.
2. We trust our learners. We don’t want to be perceived as looking over our people’s shoulders and making them think we don’t trust them.
My response: It has nothing to do with trust. Monitoring and reinforcing the learner’s acquisition of any new knowledge and skill (present company included) is part of what is required for most everyone to master something new. So, get over it.
3. To tell you the truth, our managers are crummy coaches. They would more than likely just screw it up. It would be better to leave them out of it.
My response: Maybe if training to proficiency is important to your organization you might want to consider adding a component of the learning solution to train your managers on how to coach. (We’ve been doing this for years.)
4. We can’t monitor & track whether all those boss/learner conversations take place. Our LMS can’t do it and I don’t have enough resources to manually track it.
My response: I just so happen to know of a learning system that can solve that problem for you — Q2 Learning’s xPERT eCampus! Give us a call, we’d be pleased to show you how!