Training Transfer: how to masterfully transfer learning to the workplace

The Crucial Question in Corporate Training

The Reality of Training Impact: What Can We Measure?
Incorporate training, it is also always about that question: what will we get out of the training in real life? Will there be anything to measure on level 4 ofKirkpatrick’s evaluation model? Are there valuable results?

The Gap Between Learning and Application
This is connected to another crucial question: how do you get someone who learns something in a training environment to actually put it into practice in their work environment? If that does not materialise, there will definitely not be any results (level 4).


The Significance of Transfer in Learning

What is Transfer?
Transfer is when learners apply what they have learnt in their work context. Where it really matters. Transfer is by far the most researched subject in educational sciences. And yet, many trainers and HR professionals are hardly familiar with this concept, if at all. Let alone that they use transfer-aiding measures in learning activities.

Why is TransferImportant?
Every trainer wants to bring about something in their participants. Not just warm feelings or a great new insight. No, trainers want to make an impact. Trainers work every day to get people to learn something, but learning is not a goal inits own right. Learning in itself does not produce results, it does not change anything.

When learning does not go beyond acquiring new insight, it does not deliver anything. Only when someone applies the learnings will there be an effect.Trainers only really achieve something when learners start to show different behaviour in the context where it matters: in the workplace. Learning is a means to an end. And the end is to bring about change. The training profession is all about changing reality, about results. Preferably measurable ones.

Without transfer there are no results. After a training without transfer, participants will not change their ways. No transfer, no change. That is why transfer is such an important subject.

StructuringTraining for Effective Transfer
Transfer is something that trainers and lecturers should not leave to chance. Numerous studies have been conducted into the phenomenon of transfer and how to structure training in a way that creates the best enabling conditions for transfer.

The 5 Key TransferInfluencers
After a thorough study of the specialist literature, we have identified 5 transfer influencers, ranked from most influential to least influential.

1. Personal motivation
2. The leader’s role
3. Similarities learning environment
4. Motivation by the trainer
5. Emotions

Diving Deeper into Each Factor

1. Personal motivation
Are employees eager to learn? This aspect has the greatest possible influence on transfer. The higher employees’ motivation, the more likely they are to apply everything they learn in their work. If Mathilde wants to be TikTok famous and watches a video tutorial about that on YouTube, chances are that she will do something with the information she picks up from the video. Employees who want to sink their teeth into a subject will also be motivated to try something new. Motivated people do not need external pressure, they will get and keep themselves moving.

2. The supervisor’s role
The second biggest transfer influencer is the supervisor. Does the supervisor stimulate employees, show an interest, allow them to practise and make the odd mistake? The supervisor largely determines employees’ work environment and basic attitude.

3. Lifelikeness of the learning environment
Transfer is the art of taking the learnings from the learning environment to the practical work environment. The more the learning situation looks like the work situation in all respects, the more likely it is that participants will apply the learnings in their day-to-day work.  

4. Motivation by the trainer
Like all of us, training participants and learners think in terms of their own interests. The question they ask at every point is, ‘What am I getting out of this?’ If a trainer manages to make each and every participant believe that applying the learnings in practice will not only make them happy but will also get them positive feedback from colleagues, their supervisor, and customers, the chance of transfer happening increases exponentially.

5. Emotions
Think back to a holiday you went on a long time ago. Many of the details will be vague or have been forgotten altogether. What do you still have stored in your memory? Events that involved emotions. The stress of a flat tyre. Or when you held hands for the very first time as you watched the sunset. Or that sea turtle that suddenly swam right in front of you when you were snorkelling. Or that restaurant where you got food poisoning, remember how awful you felt after that meal?


The more emotions people experience, the better the brain retains information. So in that sense training sessions should be filled with emotions.

The Crucial Commitment to Transfer in Corporate Training

In the evolving landscape of corporate training, one question supersedes all: Will the training impact real-world performance? This essentially boils down to the concept of "transfer" — the ability of a learner to apply newly acquired knowledge in a practical work setting. Despite its paramount importance, transfer is a largely underutilized and misunderstood concept in training contexts. Yet, it is the bridge between a well-intentioned training program and measurable, impactful results.

A variety of elements can influence the efficacy of transfer, from personal motivation and leadership roles to the design of the learning environment. The best training programs meticulously plan for these elements. In particular, the five key transfer influencers—personal motivation, the role of the leader, the lifelikeness of the learning environment, motivation by the trainer, and thee motional aspects of training — offer a roadmap to maximizing the benefits of any training initiative.

The onus is not only on the trainer but extends to organizational leadership and the learners themselves. A well-rounded approach, involving all stakeholders, creates the fertile ground necessary for transfer to occur, and for the training to transform from an academic exercise to a practical toolkit.

So as we navigate the complex world of corporate training, let's shift our focus from mere content delivery to creating an enabling environment for transfer. After all, training without transfer is but an empty ritual. No transfer, no change. In a field committed to affecting real-world change, facilitating transfer isn’t just a good-to-have; it’s a must-have.  

As trainers, HR professionals, or corporate leaders, let us commit to making every training program not just an event but an impactful journey—a journey that takes the learner from the training room right into the beating heart of daily operations, changing not just minds but realities.






Training Transfer: how to masterfully transfer learning to the workplace

37 min