Many of our customers ask us to ensure the training we deliver encourages personal responsibility for learning – but exactly what they mean by that is not always clear.
Learning is the process of gaining knowledge, skills or abilities. Our classroom based in-house training focuses on doing just that – imparting knowledge, demonstrating skills through action learning, and encouraging participants to reflect on their abilities and development areas. Learning transfer is about taking that learning and putting it into practice, in order to ensure something better: better outcomes, better management, better effectiveness.
So who is responsible for making sure both learning and learning transfer happen? And who is accountable? On our courses we often talk about responsibility and accountability – it is after all a major issue for all organisations, whether in relation to, for example, managers, project management, fundraising or service delivery. We usually explain it a bit like this:
“When I’m delivering a training session, I (the trainer) need to make sure it goes to plan, and that you (the participants) are getting the learning you need from it. This is my responsibility. However, if I go off track, do a bad job, or simply disappear at lunch time never to be seen again, The Management Centre will be held accountable by your organisation. This is where the buck stops.”
But while this allocation of responsibility and accountability is the case during the training it doesn’t apply to the either time before or after.
Before the course, I and my L&D colleagues at =mc are responsible for asking the right (and often challenging) questions of the commissioner – usually someone from L&D or HR, though not always. We need to make sure we have a clear idea of what the commissioner wants to see happen as a result of the training – the outcomes – including what it will mean in terms of behaviour change. The commissioner is accountable for the briefing – the more accurate and rounded the information, with examples, the better we can tailor the content and approach.
After the course, it’s over to you – the participant. Each individual then needs to take forward that learning, use it as appropriate, reflect on it, and build on it by trying new things. This is personal responsibility.
It is also the role of the organisation – through management, HR and L&D practitioners – to ensure that each individual has the time and space to put their learning into practice. The accountability after the training is back with the organisation.
Sadly, there are times when we hear from participants that they haven’t been able to put their learning to good use, because their own manager (or some mysterious über manager) won’t ‘let’ them change. The organisation has not realised its accountability. Training that is seen as the end point rather than the start of – or a key stage in – development has little chance of lasting impact. Participants are not given room to experience and try new things that they picked up on the course. And this can lead to cynicism in participants about any training’s potential to be effective.
Fortunately, however, there are many more examples of organisations successfully fulfilling their accountability. Participants talk to their line managers about the learning and next steps, they review their development in appraisal meetings, and even in some cases form communities of practice with peers in the organisation. There are many ways to encourage learning transfer, and they are hugely beneficial. Enabling them to happen means a greater return on investment from the training, and ensures learning is a truly valuable process.
So it’s not all about training – its about learning. And all too often learning is left in the hands of the trainer and the learner, without the support needed from the organisation. For training to properly succeed, organisations need to foster learning cultures, create room for practice and encourage individuals to change behaviour. The commitment to this needs to be guaranteed at the start and followed through afterwards.
If you want advice on learning transfer, how to engage your organisation in learning, and getting the most from training call our L&D team on 020 797 1516 or email Yvette Gyles at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Clare Segal, Director