Training is an important investment to improve your employees’ performance, but it’s extremely expensive if what they learn doesn’t become what they do.

An important study* revealed that there are nine barriers to training transfer — nine reasons why skills developed in training don’t turn into performance at work. Fortunately, you can have a powerful influence on most. They are ranked below from most important to least important.

1. Lack of reinforcement on the job.
Meet with your employees before and after the training. Remind them why these skills are important to the success of your department or organization. Afterward, ask, “What did you learn? How can you plug it in, on a day-to-day basis?” “What are you doing well, that you’ll keep doing, and what do you need to stop doing?”  “What do you plan to do better or differently?” Then help them make an action plan with specific objectives.
Decide together how you’ll coach them as they practice their fledgling skills. Whose behavior should they copy?  When and how often will someone observe them and give them feedback? Set goals with them: What skill level will be expected, and by when?  Will this become part of their annual review?

2. Interference from the immediate environment (work, time pressures, insufficient authority, ineffective work processes, inadequate equipment and facilities)
Interference is often system-wide, but don’t cop out and think it’s always beyond your control. Temporarily reduce job pressures to give the employee a chance to practice skills. Give employees adequate authority, equipment and facilities, to ensure their success.

3. A nonsupportive organizational culture (no strong philosophical support for the goals of training and development programs)
Unless you are your company, this one may be beyond your control. However, be sure that at least your division or department culture supports training.

4. Trainees’ perception of impractical and 5. irrelevant training programs.
If you believe the training is practical and relevant, be sure to explain why you think so, before the training begins!

6. Trainee’s discomfort with change and associated efforts.
When you give employees the gift of conscientious coaching, positive reinforcement, and extra practice time, they’ll have no excuse not to improve performance.

7. Separation from inspiration or support of the trainer
Often, employees run into problems when they try out new behaviors, and they want a little confidential advice. Can the trainer remain available to employees? If not, can you arrange for a “graduate” to temporarily mentor your employees?

8. Trainee’s perception of poorly designed/delivered training.
If your employees gripe about these issues, listen and sympathize, but reinforce the importance of the training goals — namely, improved performance.  But also contact the training department and ask them to rethink design and improve delivery!

9. Pressure from peers to resist changes.
First, know how your employees’ peers are likely to react, and then be proactive; reinforce to all your employees why these issues and skills are important to the success of your department, your organization, and to employees themselves.

* This study was conducted by John Newstrom, Professor of Human Resource Management, University of Minnesota at Duluth, in 1986.

If your organization would like a keynote speech or training program on this or other topics, contact Jeanne Baer at  (402) 475-1127 or visit me on the web at or via email at
Copyright 2011 Creative Training Solutions