The underlying causes of the 'learning transfer problem' are understood, but practitioners have been slow to adopt the remedies proposed by academics. Some suggest this reluctance is due in part to the absence of a cheap and reliable method of measuring how much learned content is converted into behaviour that is better. Whatever the reasons for the glacial rate of improvement, one thing is sure: the mountain of waste gets bigger every year, and the patience of those who control the purse strings of L&D budgets, grows ever thinner.
When learning occurs, by whatever medium, the baton of responsibility must pass from 'trainer' in classroom to manager in workplace. Sadly, managers are now so overburdened that something has to go and usually that is whatever is least likely to enhance legitimate self-interest. Managers think they have more important things to do than worry about staff development: 'That's HR's job.'
It needn't be that way.
Last month, I launched Kite, a social network that creates a 'transfer community', around the learner, featuring trainer, fellow learners, managers and six colleagues. By linking success in learning transfer over the long haul, to the reward of donations to a nominated charity, the system provides the motivation for the community to stay engaged, give support and hold the learner accountable for using capabilities.
This marriage of web 2.0 and altruism will reinvigorate the dialogue, improve effectiveness of training, enhance employee engagement, align CSR with L&D and provide cheap, reliable management information to measure what happens when the learning event is over. If they are correct, there may yet be a bright future for learning transfer.
As anyone who has worked with vulnerable people to help them overcome behaviours - substance abuse or alcohol dependency - will know, changing behaviour is difficult, but not impossible.
It requires the commitment of a community that cares enough to provide encouragement, praise and forgiveness in the face of failure. If you think this template may work for a drunk, but not a discourteous customer service operative, think again...
Kite has been set up by Robert Terry (pictured), founder of ASK and ex-chief executive of the Adam Smith Institute