Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is "training transfer?"

    Training transfer refers to the transfer of knowledge and skills learned in training into performance improvement on the job.

  • Why is training transfer the #1 problem in training today?

    Because our best estimates are that only 10 - 30% of training actually is used on the job which every year wastes over $100 Billion in direct cost and $1 TRILLION when the lost performance improvement is factored in.

  • Can trainers really do anything to fix the problem?

    YES, absolutely. We know that transfer interventions can significantly improve training transfer in organizations.

  • But trainers only CONTROL learning--why should they worry about job performance?

    In organizations the ultimate outcome MUST be changes in job performance or else training has failed. Organizations demand a return on their investment in learning and transfer must occur to realize those returns.

  • Will manaagement care about training transfer if I introduce the issue to them?

    Absolutely! Fundamentally what management cares about are the results that occur due to implementation of new skills and knowledge. You can earn lots of respect for tackling this issue in your organization.

  • What is the LTSI?

    The Learning Transfer System Inventory is the only validated instrument of training transfer in the world. The primary purpose of the LTSI is to diagnose barriers and catalysts to training transfer.

    The LTSI contains 48 items assessing 16 factors which include two sections: Training in Specific and Learning in General. The first section contains 34 items measuring 11 factors affecting the training program attended. Respondents are directed to think about "this specific training program. This section is program specific because transfer system factors vary depending on the training program. For example, it is possible for a technical training program but not an interpersonal skills program to have strong transfer. Thus, it is best to assess some constructs on a program-by-program basis.

    Another 17 items measure 5 factors that are not program-specific, but represent general factors that may influence any training program. Here, trainees were instructed to think about learning in general in an organization.

  • What can a practitioner use the LTSI for?

    Having valid and reliable measures enhances transfer because practitioners can use the LTSI to:


    * Assess potential transfer factor problems prior to conducting major learning interventions.

    * Follow-up on evaluations of existing training programs.

    * Investigate known transfer problems.

    * Target interventions designed to enhance transfer.

    * Incorporate evaluation of transfer as part of regular employee assessments.

    * Conduct needs assessment for training programs to provide transfer skills to supervisors and trainers.


    A general transfer system instrument would not preclude adding situation specific scales. Rather, it provides a foundation of validated constructs with established applicability across populations and settings. Research in organizational behavior, which produced a series of generally accepted job attitude scales, provides a strong example of such a goals value.

  • How would I use the LTSI to change my organization?

    Assessing and improving learning transfer systems is best viewed as an organizational change process. Organizational change interventions are typically structured using the action research model except in transformational change. The steps below describe the learning transfer system change process model used to implement diagnosis with the LTSI. Each step is briefly described below with specific sub-steps.

    1 - Plan System Assessment Any effective diagnosis begins with good planning. Part of the planning is focused on logistical issues and part on political issues with managers. It is particularly important to build political support because the LTSI assesses elements of managerial behavior. Sub-steps are:


    * Determine employee groups to be assessed

    * Build partnerships with managers

    * Address confidentiality issues

    * Obtain management support

    * Decide logistical issues


    2 - Diagnose System The LTSI is administered to collect diagnostic data as a pulse-check to identify areas for further inquiry. Focus groups are employed to investigate areas the LTSI identifies as potential problem areas and to provide more specific information about how the problems should be addressed. Sub-steps are:


    * Collect initial diagnostic data

    * Conduct focus groups to understand meaning behind data

    * Identify key transfer system gaps


    3 - Provide Feedback to System Members If diagnosis is to become action and solution oriented, system members should be involved. Consistent with the action research model, it is recommended that the diagnostic findings be reported to system members. Sub-steps are:


    * Arrange feedback meetings

    * Report diagnostic data

    * Avoid blame and criticism

    * Overcome objections to identified gaps


    4 - Plan System Changes Continuing with the action research approach, attempts should be made to involve system members in joint change planning. System members frequently are best equipped to recommend specific improvements. Sub- steps are:


    * Build support from management and transfer agents for change

    * Engage transfer agents in collaborative decision-making

    * Make realistic decisions


    5 - Implement System Improvements System improvements are most likely to endure if ownership is shared with system members. Part of the plan should include monitoring changes and periodic reassessment. Sub-steps are:


    * Share ownership of system improvements

    * Overcome resistance of system member

    * Monitor change progress

    * Plan for reassessment


    Finding Leverage Points for Change


    Research has not established whether there is an optimal norm level for the 16 LTSI factors. Theory suggests that the most potent learning transfer systems are those with high levels on all factors. However, cultural variations across organizations suggest that not all organizations will or should build the same types of transfer systems. Case evidence supports this. For example, one organization in which the author has worked had a very strong team culture that made peer support a more powerful predictor of learning transfer than supervisor support. In a state government agency the exact opposite was true.


    Such case evidence suggests that a different conception is needed. First, it is possible that a total overall level of transfer system factors is needed--not an absolute level on any one of them. That is, transfer system factors operate together as a constellation to influence transfer. Some elements might be interchangeable or compensate for missing elements. For example, strong reward systems might compensate for poor peer support or transfer design. This conception is consistent with the basic tenants of systems theory stating there are multiple configurations that can be effective.


    Alternatively, a fit perspective might be more appropriate whereby certain cultures will require certain elements of a transfer system to be stronger than in other cultures. This perspective would explain why supervisor support is essential in a bureaucratic structure (i.e., government agency), but peer support is less salient. Unlike the normative or constellation perspectives, this perspective suggests that other factors in the transfer system would not be able to substitute in a particular organization. Thus,there is an optimal level for a given organization with a specific culture.


    This suggests that the LTSI is best used to search for leverage points for change. It seems likely that the particular factors in an organizations transfer system that are optimal for intervention will vary widely. The leverage point is likely to be a function of the absolute level of a particular factor and its salience in a particular organizations culture. Most organizations would like to see a simple decision rule such as if supervisor support is less than 3.0, an intervention is needed. This is too simplistic. A value of 2.5 on the supervisor support scale in the government agency might be a critical leverage point, but the same 2.5 found in a team-based organization might not be a leverage point because the supervisor is less important.


    The LTSI authors expect to develop validated procedures to test this premise. For now, practitioners are advised to use a qualitative process to analyze LTSI results. Lower scores should be seen as candidates for intervention, then assessed through a second screen asking which of the factors are most important in that organizations culture. Low scores on factors important in an organizations culture are leverage points for change.



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