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Promoting Training Transfer in the Workplace: Tips for Supervisors

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Imagine for a moment that you are playing basketball with a team of peers. Your team’s goal in playing is to, of course, win. Your whole heart is in the game. You pass the ball to a fellow player. To your surprise, instead of taking action, the teammate just stands there clutching the ball. Because he doesn’t know how to play the game, he remains frozen. Your team loses.

How frustrating would that be?

Companies experience similar scenarios when employees don’t do anything with the training they receive. Company leaders “pass the ball” when they train employees. Obviously, the goal of training is increased employee productivity and skillfulness. When employees fail to utilize training, they are “clutching the ball,” so to speak. In the end, the team loses (the company doesn’t meet its goals). Supervisors get frustrated and don’t understand why they are not receiving an ROI on training. The reason is because employees often don’t know what to do with training. Why? Because the training did not transfer well when they received it. In fact, only about 20 percent of employee training transfers to the point where it can be recalled and applied to daily tasks.

Training Transfer is Important

Training transfer is so important. Without it, the skills an employee learns in training are essentially lost, as is the money that was invested into them. You can bet that workers won’t know what to do with the ball or how to help their employers win if they can’t implement what they learn in training. This is where supervisors come in.

Promoting Training Transfer in the Workplace: Tips for Supervisors

Supervisors, you have the power to facilitate change in your company by promoting training transfer. Here are a few ways to do this:

  • Make sure workers use skills immediately after being trained. You don’t have to be micromanager-like in your overseeing of this process. Intentionally putting your employees into situations that demand the use of their new skills will suffice. For example, this may look like putting a worker fresh out of leadership training in charge of a team project and reinforcing the training information as challenges arise.


  • Promote trainer-trainee relationships – If possible, have trainees meet with the individuals who trained them. Relationships like this provide trainees with clarification, continued learning, answers to any questions they may have, and assurance that support is available.


  • Encourage risk-taking – Employees who are afraid to take risks are less likely to use skills learned in training. Make it clear to trainees that they are free to practice using their new skills. Human resources staff at wrote, “Never ‘punish’ an individual for attempting to practice a new behavior or approach. If your organization approaches performance reviews in a traditional manner, the system or instrument cannot grade him or her down for practicing a new skill.”

Training transfer (or the lack thereof) has a direct impact on company health. If managers will cultivate behaviors that are supportive of training transfer, they will see firsthand the corporate changes they desire.

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