20 Pages, Grade: Grade A
1 Factors inhibiting or facilitating training transfer
1.1 Trainee factors
1.2 Training design and delivery
1.3 Environmental factors
Job-related environmental factors
Organisation-related environmental factors
2 A socio-cultural approach to training transfer
Socialisation during transfer
Socialisation at the workplace
The transfer of training into the work environment: a socio-cultural approach
In theoretical and empirical research the “elusive phenomenon” of training transfer has widely been neglected (Analoui 1993: 6). Attempts to grasp the many facets of the transfer of training in a comprehensive theory have been few.
Foxon (1993) defines transfer of training as “the effective and continuing application in the job environment of the skills and knowledge gained in a training context”.
Transfer has traditionally been regarded as a training product to be measured at a fixed point of time after the course. Alternatively, Foxon (1993) suggests a process approach to transfer. She argues that transfer of training is a complex and discontinuous process of successful skill application and recurring setbacks, of achieved behaviour change and frequent relapse to old habits. Consequently, the identification and measurement of transfer delivers a comprehensive picture only when it sets in at various points of time after the training.
Throughout the transfer process the trainee is exposed to a “force field” (Lewin 1951) of factors inhibiting or facilitating the transfer of training to the workplace. The influences of transfer facilitators and transfer barriers are briefly outlined in the following section.
Foxon’s process-oriented transfer approach sheds light on the fact that the problem of training transfer is located mainly within the post-training period. This simple insight has astonishingly been neglected in most studies on the topic. Instead, reasons for poor or non-existing transfer have been searched for in the training design and content, or in the individual characteristics of trainees. Environmental effects on transfer at the workplace have been investigated the least (Elangovan and Karakowsky 1999).
However, a variety of factors may have positive or negative impact on the transfer of training. Building on the landmark study of Baldwin and Ford (1988) and supplemented with more recent research results; Elangovan and Karakowsky (1999) differentiate between trainee factors, training factors and environmental factors.
Trainee factors influencing the transfer of training can be divided into three categories: those related to motivation, to ability, and to personality.
The motivation to transfer training, i.e. the trainees’ intention to apply the learnt skills on-the-job, is affected by a number of variables.
Pre-training factors such as having a choice in attending a training programme (Huczynski and Lewis 1980; Weiss et al. 1980) and the motivation to attend it (Cheng and Ho 1998) may have impact on the later application of trained skills on-the-job.
The perceived relevance of the training not only influences the motivation to learn but also the motivation to transfer learning to the workplace. Several researchers (Baumgartel et al. 1984; Axtell et al. 1997; Cheng and Ho 1998) found empirical evidence that those trainees who value the training and regard it as relevant are more likely to transfer it to their organisations. If, on the other hand, the training is perceived as being not directly related to job requirements, low transfer results are likely to occur (Lim and Johnson 2002). Likewise, the trainees’ motivation to transfer is usually enhanced when they expect a positive outcome of the training in form of improved performance and ensuing rewards (Noe 1986; Elangovan and Karakowsky 1999).
Finally, the psychological involvement in and identification with the job has a positive effect on the trainees’ motivation to transfer. Tesluk et al. (1995) showed that the trainees’ “organisational commitment” is conducive to the application of trained skills on the job.
Besides motivational factors, the importance of individual trainee abilities has been acknowledged in a number of transfer studies.
The degree and amount of learning during the training as well as its complexity and order of magnitude of challenges to the trainees’ personal style and values affects the trainees’ ability to apply the training on the job. Trainees with a high degree of understanding and skill mastery are better prepared to transfer training than those who leave the training with limited learning effects. Back at the workplace, the trainees’ ability to identify and recognise situations in which the learnt material is relevant and useful for improving performance is crucial for successful transfer (Elangovan and Karakowsky 1999).
Especially in the area of complex management and professional skills, self-efficacy has been identified as one of the most relevant trainee characteristics for transferring training. Trainees who generally believe in their capability to successfully mobilise and orchestrate the resources necessary to perform a task are usually more motivated and expend more effort in trying to apply newly learnt skills and knowledge at their workplace than trainees who lack substantial self-efficacy (Ford et al. 1998; Seyler at al. 1998). Moreover, they are more successful in maintaining skills and integrating them into their everyday work practice (Gist et al. 1991; Stevens and Gist 1997). The trainees’ self-efficacy is likely to be enhanced by satisfying training performance (Tannenbaum et al. 1991).
Researchers heavily disagree on the role of personality variables in transferring training. There is well-founded evidence that general personality traits do not have any direct impact on the success of training transfer. Accordingly, the predictive power of aptitude tests proved to be rather poor in empirical studies (Baldwin and Ford 1988).
Tziner et al. (1991) maintain that at least the trainees’ perceived “locus of control” is significantly related to the use of trained skills at the workplace. In their study, trainees with an internal locus of control were more successful in transferring newly learned skills than those perceiving an external locus of control.
Traditionally, research on training transfer concentrated on training design and delivery. Variables of the training itself were regarded as having the strongest impact on the post-training application of skills at the workplace (Analoui 1993). Inspired by learning theories, studies on training factors supporting transfer basically focused on identical elements, general principles, and stimulus variability.
Accordingly, the transfer of trained skills is likely to be enhanced when the training situation shows contextual similarity to and “identical elements” with the actual work environment (Baldwin and Ford 1988: 66; Goldstein and Musicante 1986). Foxon (1993) pointed out that transfer can be negatively affected if the training content is too theoretical and not practical enough.
At the same time, the value of integrating a certain share of theory into training contents is positively stressed with regard to complex management and professional skills. Teaching “general principles” may facilitate the transfer of training, as imparting “the general rules and theoretical principles that underlie the training content” (Baldwin and Ford 1988: 66-67) may support trainees in generalising the learned skills and applying them to new situations. There is, however, not sufficient empirical evidence to determine if the teaching of general principles only supports initial transfer, or if it is even conducive to long-term skill maintenance (Analoui 1993).
Not only the learning itself but also the learning transfer can be maximised by a high degree of “stimulus variability” (Baldwin and Ford 1988: 67). Various training stimuli may not only enhance understanding and skill mastery but also increase the trainees’ ability to generalise the learning in everyday work situations.
Finally, transfer of training is more likely to occur when the training content directly meets job requirements, and when it is not in conflict with organisational goals and values (Parry 1990; Foxon 1993; Bates et al. 1998).
 The term ‘transfer of training’ is explicitly differentiated from the expression ‘transfer of learning’. The latter has its origin in an educational context (Cree and Macaulay 2000). Educationalists speak of ‘positive transfer’ when previous learning supports new learning, and of ‘negative transfer’ when it is rather a hindrance. This may under a certain perspective be relevant for training processes but is not referred to by the notion of ‘transfer of training’ (Gordon 1989).
 Foxon (1993) outlines five stages of transfer, each of which is a prerequisite for the following stage. In the first transfer stage the trainee is motivated to apply the training on the job (“transfer intention”); in the second stage, there are attempts to apply the newly learnt skills (“transfer initiation”); some of the skills are inconsistently or sporadically applied in the third stage (“partial transfer”); in the fourth stage, the transfer is maintained, first consciously with some effort, then unconsciously as a daily part of the job performance (“transfer maintenance”); and, finally, there may be “transfer failure” when the learnt skills are not integrated into the repertoire of work behaviours. Transfer failure, of course, can occur at any stage of the transfer continuum.
 In his learning theory, Bandura (1977) pointed out individual differences in learning ability and pace of learning. Honey and Mumford (1986) differentiated between various learning styles which may be more or less compatible with the training design and may entail different learning outcomes. Cormier (1984) indicated that individual abilities of cognitive information processing and memorial processes have impact on the transfer of training.
 This certainly also affects the trainees’ superiors who are responsible for assisting this process of identifying opportunities of application.
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