Skip to content

Wait! I’m Not Quite Using Those New Skills

I described this process to a director who works in a Fortune 500 company the other day…

07-18 Chicago Marriott O'Hare Lights

  1. You go to class (or take one online). You learn how to follow a procedure or process to make the world better in some way…
    • Coaching Your Employees
    • Managing Time
    • Project Management
    • Any Number of Other Things
  2. But! There wasn’t enough practice to really be able to use your new skills.
  3. Good news: the course comes with a notebook (or a .pdf).
  4. You get back to the office, where there is so much to do because you were just away taking training.
  5. You put the notebook on the shelf.
  6. You intend to review what you learned so that you’ll be ready to put it to use.
  7. But, that notebook stays on the shelf, gathering dust.
  8. You end up barely using (or not at all using) those new skills.

Here’s what she said,

That is extremely accurate. What we need is a bridge between knowing it and doing it.

That bridge, of course, is transfer.

We’ve known for a long time how to enhance transfer (see the resources section below for links).

And I end up wondering… why do companies train people without taking the necessary steps to help them employ their new skills?

Here are some thoughts and observations about what can happen, and you may have ideas of your own:

  • Phew. Sometimes it feels like a big enough accomplishment to put people through training. And there’s the next program to worry about… the next one, and the one after that.
  • That’s Done. Training is seen as a series of discrete events. Once the class is over, that’s it.
  • What? Tell the managers how to help? It may not occur to anyone to support the managers in encouraging their employees to use their new skills.
  • How would we do that? Maybe there is no obvious mechanism for providing that support to managers.
  • I’m busy doing manager stuff. The culture may not encourage managers to help with developing their people.
  • Get to work now. Taking time to learn is seen as taking time off the job rather than being part of the job.
  • We didn’t know… People (learners, managers, training folks) may not realize that a few additional steps would provide so much more value for the training they take, support, or provide.

Sometimes it seems like the steps to enhance transfer and effectiveness must be difficult or maybe a well-kept secret. But if we have time to put people into training, surely we have time to support transfer. We can do this with just a little planning and not a lot of time or expense… especially when compared to the time and expense of sending people to training and then not having enough to show for it.

Let’s avoid the too little practice, not enough transfer, big pile of dusty notebooks scenario.


Post | Why Training Doesn’t Transfer and What to Do About It
Post | Don’t Forget the Follow Up
Post | How to Follow Up So the Learning Will Stick
Post | Bookshelf: The Six Disciplines of Breakthrough Learning
Post | No Naked Training

Disclosure: Some links on this site are “affiliate links,” which means that I may receive a small commission if you click on the link and purchase something.