Why Training Isn't Being Applied On-The-Job

The top three strategies indicated as the most important for the transfer of learning are:

  • (1) trainees have the time, resources and responsibility to apply learning (30 percent);
  • (2) manager support (23.8 percent);
  • and (3) the instruction approach simulates the actual work environment (21.8 percent).

While two-thirds of respondents estimate that they apply more than 25 percent of training knowledge back on-the-job, they have little concrete proof. Almost 60 percent say the primary method for proving or measuring this estimate is either informal/anecdotal feedback or "simply a guess."

Sixty percent of those surveyed indicate that they do not have a systematic approach to preparing a trainee to transfer, or apply, learning on-the-job.

When asked what specific rewards motivate trainees, almost 60 percent say the "possibility of more responsibility," followed closely by an impact on their HR/performance review. Only 20 percent indicated that there was any financial reward or other incentives.

When it comes to post-learning tools and programs to help trainees recall and apply what they've learned, survey responses indicate a varied mixture of tactics, including:

  • Post course discussions with the manager/team leader
  • On-the-job tools
  • Informal support such as social networks or online forums
  • Communities of practice such as peer groups/coaching

Sixty-three percent say managers formally endorse the program, while only 23 percent of managers hold more formal pre- and post-training discussions.

"Employees need to know that the application of learning is a priority for management. This can be shown by aligning training with company strategy, motivating employees by setting expectations beforehand and through incentives and sharing post-training reports on employee success or failure in applying what they learned," said Haddad.

The survey also asked respondents to share specific learning transfer tactics and identify best practices. However, the responses resembled a list of actions management or sponsors should do more of, which fell broadly into the following areas:

  • Incorporate real projects in the training and make it more relevant
  • Conduct more training and/or better marketing and communication on what exists
  • Communicate a transparent measurement strategy
  • Establish change management guidelines
  • Increase managers' involvement before and after training

For a free copy of the full ESI study, "Applying Training and Transferring Learning to the Workplace: How to Turn Hope into Reality," visit www.esi-intl.com/learningtransfer.

Survey Methodology

ESI International sent an email invitation to the survey of one open and 15 close-ended questions to training-related managers and leaders at government agencies and commercial organizations across the globe. The survey, conducted during March, had 3,209 respondents. Not all respondents answered every survey question. The survey was anonymous unless respondents wanted to receive the results, in which case they were asked to provide their details.


About ESI International

ESI, a subsidiary of Informa plc (LSE:INF), helps people around the world improve the way they manage projects, contracts, requirements and vendors through innovative learning. In addition to ESI's more than 100 courses delivered in more than a dozen languages at hundreds of locations worldwide, ESI offers several certificate programs through our educational partner, The George Washington University in Washington. Founded in 1981, ESI's worldwide headquarters are in Arlington, Va., USA. To date, ESI's programs have benefited more than 1.35 million professionals worldwide. For more information visit www.esi-intl.com.