Keys to ensuring transfer of learning

Locking in positive manager engagement – key to development program learning transfers

It was the last day of a recently delivered HFL development program – time for participants to formally present to an Executive Panel their personal learnings, insights, and what they need to do differently to add and create greater value in their organisations.


‘’Wow – just wow!’’ commented a participant’s manager.  ‘’That’s the first time I’ve heard you talk about your incredible technical knowledge but also how important it is to connect with people at a personal level to be able to get better outcomes.  Let me know what you need from me to support you in actioning these things”.

Securing the Wow! for ongoing development commitments

“Wow” is exactly what we want to hear verbalised from a participant’s manager . But are we confident we’re building all the right check-in points to consistently get this sort of reaction? What do we need to do to get enthusiastic manager buy-in for on-going coaching, the support to ensure returns on development investments at both the individual and organisational level?

As a professional in this space you’ve probably come across the landmark work of Broad & Newstrom, The Transfer of Training – and even though it’s more than 20 years old now, it reminds us to continually challenge ourselves out of what’s comfortable, and convince ourselves that a successful development event translates to improved performance on the job.

1. Making it easy for Managers to commit

Translate the old language of Manager, Trainer and Trainee to Manager, Learner and Facilitator in the Broad & Newstrom findings below, and it still resonates today. What Managers do before and after a learning program is crucial to the transfer of learning. But Managers need a lot of support and direction in what those actions should be – so build this in to your program design and make it easy for Managers to carry out.

2. High value engagement points


A key step in your development program planning will be the list of key stakeholder engagement points. To ensure the maximum transfer of learning back to the job, there’ll need to be a strong focus on participant’s managers before and after the learning takes place.

Some of the high value activities we typically build in at HFL - and why we get responses like the Wow! from the manager at the start of this article - are:

Manager briefings:  So they know what the program is setting out to achieve, can nominate the right people, for the right reasons, and then to have input to what their participant needs to focus on.


Manager updates: So they know what insights have emerged during the program and can have an informed discussions with their participant – managers have told us this helps them learn as well as being able to better coach their participant.

Manager check-ins:  At timely points in the program – for example, to have input to the person’s Development Plan or Action Learning Project and/or coming to a key part of the program.


Manager check-outs: So the participant is able to effectively summarise what they’ve learnt and engage their manager and/or other key stakeholders in further coaching support.


3. Making it happen – via project management support


While planning these engagement activities is relatively easy, actually having the time and discipline to make them happen is a huge effort.


Clients tell us that’s what they rely on our project management team to schedule, send reminders, follow up and make these vital activities happen. Great project management means these activities happen, and that all adds up to a high level of manager engagement and vastly increased transfer of learning.


Want more detail? See our Top 10 Check List here for engaging managers in your development programs – it is a free download.






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