Transfer of Training - Knowing What CAN be Changed Matters

a knight chess piece is reflected on the wall as a charging stallion

As experts in the field of talent management and the transfer of training, we know that the adage that you can’t teach an “old dog” new tricks is only partially true.

You may not be able to transform a farm horse into an Arabian race track winner, but the farm horse can learn to do its job better. The same with people…you can utilize highly customized training to leverage an employee’s natural abilities, but you will not be able to fundamentally change their innate personalities and their basic predispositions.

All of this has a major impact on what we can expect with the results of transfer of training and change initiatives and their true impact in the work environment. As learning leaders, we cannot try to do too much. If you truly want to maximize your learning investments and measurably improve employee engagement, you need to know (and apply to your expected goals) what people can actually change.

When you take into account that an adult’s ability to learn and apply new skills may be still high, you cannot expect to transform their natural talents and working style. So that’s what you need to work with when it comes to the transfer of training. Assess your workforce. Be clear on individual employees’ strengths and abilities. Figure out what you need in the future to succeed and then see how your current workforce can support that future. In other words, you need to be very strategic about leveraging the strengths of your current staff…and then fill in the blanks.

You need to adjust your assumptions as you plan your talent management and learning strategies as informed by the overall organizational strategy. Employees are not all the same, they don’t develop the same, and they won’t handle the transfer of training on the job the same. Allow for those differences and use them to your advantage.

It’s all about not forcing a square peg into a round hole. It can’t be done and it’s a painful process in the meantime. When you can focus on an individual’s innate strengths and use them to build your workforce in the right direction, you will see not only higher performance but also greater levels of employee engagement and performance.