Training the Workforce Part 1: Transfer of Training

Brian Eddy, Training the Workforce 3 Comments

Brian Eddy | October 15, 2012

This is part 1 of an on-going series of blogs on using games for training the workforce.

Have you ever had a job that left you dumbfounded on the first day of interaction? Are you finding yourself unproductive and lacking some skills or knowledge essential to complete a task? However, you have been evaluated, selected and seen as “fit” for the organization that hired you. It is mentioned in the text of “The Problem of Training Transfer” that an organization benefits less than twenty percent of the time when spending money on new training approaches.

confused man
[photo source]

This may be a result of ill transfer of training within that organization. Training, as you can imagine, is vital to the “fit-ness” of an employee within an organization. Pertaining to an organization, transfer of training refers to the application of acquired skills, behaviors, and knowledge, through training, to the role of the employees’ position [1].

I would like to share my experience as an employee within two different, but similar, organizations named Organization A and Organization B, to give an understanding of effective training as opposed to ineffective training. Both organizations hired me for a retail position, provided the same amount of hours and a relative pay grade.

Organization A was one of my first jobs as a young adult. The job came with little superiority, as did Organization B, but provided much more enthusiastic approaches to retaining information and skills needed to be successful in the position. The initial introduction to the company lasted two days, in which they allotted training time to be spent on the foundation of the company and their policies through multiple videos and interaction with superiors. Following the introduction of the company and what they stood for, I was asked if I had any questions or concerns. Subsequently, the supervisor of my department continued to chat with me about his experience with the company and boasting its contributions to society. Organization A provided an informative training on product specifics through practices and games with instant feedback. I was then assessed with a quiz on the information and I could not proceed unless a satisfactory score was obtained. Apart from the product knowledge training, I received a printed reference sheet that summarized all the information. The supervisor and fellow department employees then gave insight on how to approach customers and provide the best experience possible. Lastly, Organization A had the trainees shadow seniors and supervisors of the department to model best practices of interaction between employees and customers.

Organization B, on the other hand, lacked the available time of superiors to provide such information on the foundation of the company and their policies. Instead, Organization B left me with a brief introduction of fellow employees, supervisors, and management then led me to a very small room where I was assigned a cubicle containing a training computer.

man in cubicle

[photo source]

The manager, wasting no time (or money), abruptly had me diving into the knowledge appropriated to the department. The training program focused solely on the knowledge of products, did not provide feedback, and was not coupled with games to quiz retention of information. Also, there were no shadowing or insightful lessons made available. Instead, I was essentially forced onto the sales floor, ill-prepared, and told that I would get the “hang of it” with time.
While reading the piece of writing “The Problem of Transfer Training”, I quickly evaluated both organizations I was affiliated in relation to what was being elaborated in the text. The factors that can lead to increasing effectiveness of training are [1]:

  1. Training Participant Attributes
  2. Training Program Design and Delivery
  3. Workplace Environment

Developing from the first factor, I can say that I entered both organizations with the same mindset. Organization A, however, provoked a sense of worth and camaraderie that immediately gave me the motivation and confidence needed to attack the training. Unlike Organization A, Organization B initially saturated me with bad vibes and the forethought of a distant relationship with managers and supervisors. Therefore, I was much more involved with the training process adopted by Organization A, which lead to my positive outlook and experience.

a happy team!

[photo source]

Overall, I completely agree that transfer of training will increase if the trainees’ attributes are in-line with the needs of the organization, but based on the premise that the organization and employees uphold such attributes.
The design and delivery of training for Organization B was unsatisfactory to me. The lack of feedback and absence of shadowing of a supervisor or department senior left me clueless at times during sales. I was not able to regress to ways my supervisor modeled behavior or answered the concerns of customers because there were none. I had learned all this product knowledge but had no prior experience of how to use it or to sell it to someone.

post-its, everywhere

[photo source]

The last factor, workplace environment [2], includes but is not limited to, involving defined processes, incentives, and what I would add as “availability of resources.” A defined process is the idea in which an employer provides and transfers ideal employee work performance or habits [2]. Organization A executed this objective superbly because of the divine sales techniques modeled from superiors. In addition, Organization A held workshop meetings in which all employees would round up and interact in role-plays involving sales tips and tactics from other departments. Whereas, Organization B showed poor representations of what the company expected and, furthermore, the managers misrepresented the ethics they supposedly held high regard. During my time at both organizations, extrinsic incentives in the form of pay raises and employee discounts were given. Although, as soon as I was given a pay raise at Organization B they neglected the fact that training was not fully compensated. On the contrary, Organization A provided a pay raise and also asked if I needed help or further training to optimize my ability to excel at my position. I was also given a chance to dispute any improper performance appraisals, allowing me to explain my position to get a better understanding of both sides’ expectations. Lastly, Organization A surpassed Organization B in the form of available resources. Organization A bestowed reference sheets with product knowledge and sales tactics for the advantage of the employees. Organization B, deficient in resources, put an employee with little training in belittling experiences with customers entitling us as experts.

Needless to say, Organization A was much more innovative with their training and accounted for different ways in which we (humans) learn new things. I was employed at Organization A for over three years and had excelled at my position to become a senior of the department within a short time-frame. Moreover, I had become the face of the department and was the “go-to” guy for all questions pertaining to the knowledge of products and problem-solving. Organization A made me successful in what I did by continuously providing department training while keeping me up to date on new products and sales techniques for different classifications of customers. Organization A is still a successful business.

Organization B, as you can see from my experience, lacks the unity and substance that these major factors provided. It took an immense amount of time to train MYSELF the correct way to do business at Organization B, which led to my overall dissatisfaction and voluntary dismissal of my position. Organization B is no longer in business.

In summary, a profitable company is one that evolves their training techniques to achieve a highly effective training program that gives their employees the best possible chance to succeed. The organization should adopt such a training program that fits best, provides coherence, and is easily and motivationally communicated to the employees.


[1] The Problem of Training Transfer
[2] The Importance of Workplace Environment

3 Responses to “Training the Workforce Part 1: Transfer of Training”

  1. Nibha says:

    Hi Brian,

    Nice blog on “Training Workforce”. Thanks for sharing your valuable insights, it is really very helpful.

    We also did a presentation on “Employee Training Process”. Here is the link:

    Hope you will like this…:)

    Can you please explain about how the organization would know that which is the best training program?

    • Brian Eddy says:

      First off thank you for taking the time to read my blog. This is my first, but there are more to come.

      Also, thank you for sharing your presentation, it provides a great deal of new information to me. I am not yet a graduate student, but I plan to continue my education into the field of Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Given my limited expertise in this area, I will provide you with the most intellectual/educational response of my ability explaining my position of this question.

      For a business or organization to develop/adopt an optimal training program, I can assume that it would involve quite some research. For example, in developing from Organization A (being a retail store, this may be easier to quantify) in the blog, this business researches the types of clients/customers that are most abundant and also which tend to spend the most dollars per visit. Once you can provide demographics of customers and the location in which the organization resides (big city as opposed to a small town), you can begin to develop a program and test its effectiveness.

      Organization A attracted two major types of customers, young adults and middle-aged couples. Given these demographics, the organization would try to recruit and employ people who exploit the knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics that are optimal in producing a trustful relationship between the employee and customer. These employees were usually young adults themselves that were a bit more technologically savvy and extroverted, giving them the upper-hand in a technology based environment.

      Knowing the population of applicants are going to be young adults, the organization would train the employees using training programs in forms that are most relevant to young adults, such as: computer interaction involving audible instructions, simple instructional games and interactive role-plays. Young adults have thrived in an era of video games and internet related learning. As for the previous eras, computer and technology based interaction results in a steeper learning curve.

      So in my opinion, I find that an organization (mainly retail or businesses with physical inventory) should take into account the demographics of the surrounding area and the characteristics of the successful employee to obtain an optimal training program to provide the transparency of the businesses’ goals and to underline the businesses’ objectives.

      I hope you find this helpful. In graduate school, I plan to focus a great deal of my research on training along with job satisfaction and productivity, so there may be some research I can provide to you in the near future.

      Again, thank you for your time in reading my blog and hope to hear from you again!

  2. Training the Workforce, Part 3: What Motivates Your Employees To Perform? says:

    […] my previous blog, I talk about my experiences with two organizations and the effectiveness of training types and […]

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