Section 10.2: Integrating Learning Transfer into Program Planning

Alisha Naresh; Ekta Nandha; Ivan Galay; and Riselle Peralta

Integrating Learning Transfer into Program Planning

The following are four science-based recommendations to help establish a learning culture in a team or an organization (Chamarro-Premuzic & Bersin, 2018).


  1. Reward continuous learning

Create an organizational climate that nurtures critical thinking, and encourages challenging authority and speaking up.

  1. Give meaningful and constructive feedback

Highlight knowledge gaps for employees and make them aware of areas of improvement.

  1. Lead by example

Leaders have a strong influence on their team’s behaviour and performance.

  1. Hire curious people

Proper selection focuses on increasing the individual’s willingness and motivation towards learning and performance.

An organization can incorporate learning transfer into the planning process of workplace education programs by considering many important factors, such as when management should use transfer strategies, how to identify key players, and how learning transfer can best be facilitated. To summarize, there is no need to rely only on your organization’s formal learning and development programs if you want to foster curiosity and learning in your employees. Reinforcing positive learning behaviours, providing constructive and critical feedback to align employees’ efforts with the right learning goals, displaying your curiosity, and hiring people with high learnability and a hungry mind will likely foster a stronger learning culture in your team and organization.


What Barriers Arise? What is Primarily Responsible for these Barriers?


Perspective from the ADKAR change management process (ADKAR: Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability, Reinforcement).

Newstrom’s three factors that act as barriers to the transfer of learning:

  1. Lack of on-the-job reinforcement
  2. Interference from the immediate environment
  3. Non-supportive organizational climate (Newstrom, 1986)

Kemerer’s three areas that inhibit the transfer of training:

  1. Structural expectations
  2. The improvement of skills
  3. Establishing rewards (Kemerer, 1991)

Three critical factors that act as barriers to the transfer of learning are a lack of on-job reinforcement, interference from the immediate environment and a non-supportive organizational climate (Newstrom, 1986). A lack of reinforcement can translate to employees reverting to their old ways before the transfer of learning occurs. Additionally, employees can face obstacles from their immediate environment due to understaffing, time constraints, or obsolete equipment (Maurice, 1997). In other words, despite the efforts of employees who are willing to apply their training, if the environment is not supportive and interferes with their ability to use their training, they cannot apply their new skills. Also, a non-supportive climate stunts an organization’s transfer of training. It is difficult for employees, supervisors, and trainers to change when management and leaders do not support the activity.


 Kemerer asserts that the factors that inhibit the transfer of training relate to three areas:

  1. Structural expectations: An employee who does not have the desire to change cannot be effectively trained or motivated to learn new skills and knowledge. Thus, expectations must be carefully timed so trainees accept a training program’s offerings.
  2. Improvement of skills: The elements of design and implementation do not effectively improve the skills of all employees, for example, if the training lacks information about the job’s responsibilities.
  3. Establishing rewards: A workplace that cannot reward staff or fails to reward staff with an appropriate level of recognition will impede the transfer since employees may not commit to training without a proper reward for their efforts (Kemerer, 1991).

In the paper “Back to the workplace,” the authors mention that organizational leaders identified that developing managers can provide significant competitive advantage if this process is done correctly. To help from competent managers in the workplace, they should take several “educational and development routes, including universities and independent business schools” (Belling, Kim, & Ladkin, 2004, p. 234).

Whatever the method, the transfer of learning serves as an essential component to building an employee’s knowledge, skills, abilities, and other attributes (KSAOs). Barriers include the following:

  1. Lack of peer support
  2. Lack of reinforcement
  3. Time and work pressures
  4. Lack of authority
  5. Perceived irrelevance of the educational program
  6. Lack of support from the organization
  7. Group resistance to training

The three barriers to the transfer of learning are the pressure to prioritize short-term financial targets, day-to-day pressures, and a lack of planning time (Belling, et al., 2004, p. 243). Participants rated these three variables as the greatest threats to applying their learning.

Image Attributions

“Caution sign with signal tape on closed playground” by Noun Project is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


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People Learning and Development Copyright © by Alisha Naresh; Ekta Nandha; Ivan Galay; and Riselle Peralta is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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