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Our Secret Weapon in the Transfer of Learning Battle

Emma Weber clarifies the battle in the transfer of learning.

With standard training approaches, less than 20% of learning is transferred back into the workplace and used to deliver positive business results. This book gives a new, step by step methodology as a proven solution to this problem.

Before the big reveal, let me start by clarifying what ‘the transfer of learning battle’ is exactly. Quite simply, it’s the challenge of transferring the learning from a training / learning environment back into the day-to-day business environment. Without such a transfer, the business results from learning are not fully realized.

It sounds so easy and so obvious – why wouldn’t someone take what they have learnt on a training program and put it into their day to day role? And it is equally as obvious that people don’t! You don’t need reports and statistics to know that on average only 10-20% of what is learnt on training programs is transferred back into the work place. You will have had your own experiences - and felt your own frustrations.

So, if that’s the battle then what, I hear you ask, is the secret weapon in this war?

Ready. The telephone.

Gasps round the room. How so?

Behaviours are controlled by our thoughts, feelings, values and beliefs, which often manifest as that voice in the head – sometimes called ‘the gremlin’ or ‘monkey voice’. It controls what we do, or don’t do.

To create behavioural change post learning, we need to change the internal dialogue that governs behaviours - and a direct ear to ear phone conversation is a hugely effective way to do this. And to clarify – as it is important - a handheld phone or headset is much more effective than a hands free / speaker phone unit. On a handset the voice, whether it’s your voice or the voice on the other end of the line, goes directly into head and heart. It can’t get lost in a room, bounce off the walls or be hidden from. A direct voice is heard powerfully on the phone.

Behavioural change is all about helping the learner have a reflective conversation with themselves. Reflection by phone with another person is far more effective than reflecting by yourself with pen, paper and only your own thoughts to challenge and brainstorm with - and is more effective than a face to face conversation.

Surely not? Any rational, people loving person, with any knowledge of rapport or exposure to the fact that just 7% of our communication comes from our words, whilst a whopping 53% is from other non-verbal elements such as body language, is going to try to argue with my secret weapon.

But I stand firm that for transfer of learning, the phone really is more powerful than face to face.

Having a transfer of learning, reflective conversation, face to face is Hard – with a capital H. The person needs to be able to be vulnerable, and to identify where the gaps are and what isn’t quite working out. They need to be able to pin point the challenges in their day to day role and get clarity on the things that they, even as a top performer, could do better. For this it helps to have a degree of anonymity, it helps to be able to hide in someway. Only when you can see and identify the gaps for improvement can you see where the learning is most useful, and how it can be applied to create a better business outcome.

I argue that because what you are trying to do is get the individual to have a conversation with themselves - it’s not about having rapport with the other person, it’s about connecting with yourself - other signs don’t matter. Going internal, inside your own head, is what’s important.

And if that weren’t enough, logistically it’s easier, more cost effective and hugely efficient to be able to schedule a series of transfer of learning follow up calls in a process that supports transfer of learning.

Wow. Who would have thought it – the humble old telephone?