Cheif Learning Officer Solutions for Enterprise Productivity

The 80/20 Rule for Learning Transfer

 -  12/12/11

To ensure learning transfer requires learning leaders to make specific provisions before an event starts.

What Is Your Organization Doing to Ensure Learning Transfers to the Job?

Learning leaders, see how you respond to these statements. It can help you determine if you have a successful strategy in place.

If 10 CLOs were asked how best to increase the value of learning, almost all would say the same thing: Increase the amount of learning transfer in the workplace. However, if the same CLOs were asked about their own learning transfer success, they likely will express disappointment.

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. If CLOs followed typical advice, they 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.

The Rule of Three: Practical and Effective
There is a less costly approach to increase the desired learning transfer. A focused and practical approach 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,” was reported in Industrial and Commercial Training, Human Resource Development Review and other professional and research publications. It shows significant increases in the use of skills resulting from well-designed, efficient learning transfer activities. These activities, 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. These activities meet the 80/20 rule: They represent the 20 percent of learning transfer activities that create 80 percent of the impact. Based on results from a wide variety of organizations, the research showed learning transfer can be increased by as much as 180 percent, with only modest cost increases.

To simplify research results, 11 factors were consolidated into three critical areas where organizations can improve learning transfer. If a learning initiative is designed to address these three elements, its impact can be significantly increased. The three elements are: learner readiness, design for transfer and organizational alignment.

Article Keywords:   learning transfer   80/20 rule  


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