skills transfer

In this article:

  1. What to con­sid­er when opti­mis­ing skills transfer
  2. 4 Draw­backs of for­mal train­ing for skills transfer
  3. Using the 70/20/10 model
  4. 4 Impor­tant learn­ing activ­i­ties for staff train­ing and development
  5. Video-enabled train­ing and employ­ee development

The skills your employ­ees pos­sess are the foun­da­tion for the suc­cess of your organ­i­sa­tion. Under­stand­ing how to trans­fer these skills into, and across the organ­i­sa­tion will help you tap into hid­den poten­tial and cre­ate a stronger, more adapt­able workforce.

For more effec­tive staff train­ing and devel­op­ment, research shows peo­ple need access to learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties that are:

  1. Engag­ing
  2. Rel­e­vant
  3. Con­tex­tu­alised
  4. Ongo­ing

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, this is dif­fi­cult to attain. Con­ven­tion­al train­ing and employ­ee devel­op­ment meth­ods often strug­gle to achieve even mod­er­ate­ly suc­cess­ful skills trans­fer across their people.

Many organ­i­sa­tions invest heav­i­ly in learn­ing tech­nolo­gies to try and keep up with learn­ing needs in an ever chang­ing econ­o­my. But, just as Ama­zon hasn’t improved books, most learn­ing tech­nolo­gies only real­ly address issues of access and scale.

A good online train­ing tool for staff should address these issues of effi­cien­cy, but more impor­tant­ly it should increase the effec­tive­ness of your staff train­ing and devel­op­ment initiatives.

Before we get to the tech­nol­o­gy, let’s under­stand why you’d want to pro­mote skills trans­fer in your own organisation.

What to consider when optimising skills transfer

It’s impor­tant to con­sid­er both hard and soft skills when try­ing to opti­mise your learn­ing processes.

Essen­tial­ly, hard skills are those that help you do your job, and soft skills are the skills that help you do it well.

What are hard skills?

Hard skills are typ­i­cal­ly the types of skills you would use to actu­al­ly do your job, these would include things like:

  • Using a Cus­tomer Rela­tion­ship Man­age­ment (CRM) system
  • Mak­ing a sales call
  • Writ­ing an email
  • Con­duct­ing interviews
  • Use of sys­tems and job-relat­ed softwares

These skills are eas­i­er to trans­fer, because the rep­e­ti­tion required to embed this sort of skill is nor­mal­ly done ‘on-the-job’. Though there are still more effec­tive ways of learn­ing these skills, they are tra­di­tion­al­ly a nor­mal part of train­ing human resources in an organisation.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are more tricky to trans­fer. They’re the skills that help you be bet­ter at what you do by inform­ing the under­ly­ing atti­tude, method­olo­gies, habits and oth­er impor­tant skills that pos­i­tive­ly impact ordi­nary tasks.

Accord­ing to an arti­cle by LinkedIn Learn­ing, the top 5 most impor­tant soft skills that employ­ees should work on are:

  1. Cre­ativ­i­ty - A good organ­i­sa­tion should always be evolv­ing with the times, hav­ing cre­ative employ­ees will help to secure its future.
  2. Per­sua­sion - Under­stand­ing how to appeal to your cus­tomers, offer­ing solu­tions that will per­suade them to buy and ulti­mate­ly grow your business.
  3. Col­lab­o­ra­tion - Fast mov­ing mar­kets require high­er and high­er lev­els of effi­cien­cy with­in an organ­i­sa­tion, good col­lab­o­ra­tion is absolute­ly essen­tial to achiev­ing this.
  4. Adapt­abil­i­ty - As prob­lems change, your peo­ple need to under­stand them and adapt their strate­gies. A work­force that can adapt to a chang­ing envi­ron­ment is key.
  5. Time Man­age­ment - Spend­ing time on what most impacts your organ­i­sa­tion should be what your employ­ees pri­ori­tise. Under­stand­ing how to make the best use of their time is an extreme­ly impor­tant soft skill.

Accord­ing to a work­place report released by LinkedIn, 57% of senior lead­ers say soft skills are more impor­tant than hard skills.

It’s nev­er been more impor­tant to find bet­ter ways of empow­er­ing pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment activ­i­ties for employ­ees, ensur­ing no one in your organ­i­sa­tion is left behind.

Devel­op­ing hard skills is rel­a­tive­ly easy, because progress can be evi­denced by how well a per­son per­forms the hard skill.

No amount of data can accu­rate­ly express how per­sua­sive, adapt­able, or cre­ative a per­son might be.

Soft skills are far more com­plex to teach or track, and requires a learn­ing tech­nol­o­gy that allows for con­text spe­cif­ic, qual­i­ta­tive analy­sis and feedback.

4 Drawbacks of formal training for skills transfer

Would you explain to some­one how to dri­ve a car with class­room train­ing and expect them to par­al­lel park afterwards?

Obvi­ous­ly not.

1. Formal training doesn’t allow learners to apply theories in a real life situation

Learn­ing about some­thing in a class­room set­ting is a stark con­trast to a work envi­ron­ment, where dif­fer­ent vari­ables affect per­for­mance. Imag­ine the dif­fi­cul­ty of dri­ving in rush hour and how this would dif­fer from dri­ving being explained in a class­room setting.

2. The teaching style is designed for the masses rather than tailored to the individual

Each employ­ee will have a dif­fer­ent lev­el of expe­ri­ence and skills to build on, devel­op and share.

3. There is a low rate of transfer into practice

Learn­ers dis­play high lev­els of under­stand­ing after being pre­sent­ed with a the­o­ry, which lures train­ing teams to believe they are being effective.

In real­i­ty, less than 5% of course atten­dees imple­ment what they have learnt through a pre­sen­ta­tion style, class­room train­ing only approach (Joyce and Show­ers, 2002).

4. Time and cost constraints

It can be expen­sive and time-con­sum­ing to mobilise groups of peo­ple to attend for­mal training.

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Using the 70/20/10 model

The 70/20/10 mod­el is much talked about amongst learn­ing and devel­op­ment (L&D) pro­fes­sion­als for pro­vid­ing more con­tex­tu­alised learn­ing experiences:

  • 70% of our learn­ing comes from chal­leng­ing assign­ments and on-the-job experiences
  • 20% of our learn­ing is devel­oped from our rela­tion­ships with oth­er peo­ple in our net­works and the feed­back we receive
  • 10% of our learn­ing comes from for­mal train­ing, like cours­es, work­shops and programmes

This mod­el can be applied effec­tive­ly to both intro­duc­ing new skills to an organ­i­sa­tion, in which all employ­ees start at the same pro­fi­cien­cy lev­el, as well as trans­fer­ring exist­ing, tac­it knowl­edge — an often under­es­ti­mat­ed or com­plete­ly missed skills trans­fer oppor­tu­ni­ty, often lost when employ­ees leave an organisation.

4 Important learning activities for staff training and development

Research indi­cates that it’s not what you learn, but how you learn it that most affects the extent to which you can apply your new knowl­edge to problems.

Over-reliance on pol­ished con­tent and sum­ma­tive assess­ment under­mines adap­tiv­i­ty by rein­forc­ing pas­sive, dis­em­pow­ered learn­ing processes.

Rather than attempt­ing to trans­fer knowl­edge using only cours­es and pro­grams, learn­ing should hap­pen incre­men­tal­ly by:

#1 Understanding the theory behind the practice

Giv­ing employ­ees oppor­tu­ni­ties to learn the­o­ry in per­son­alised ways ensures deep­er understanding.

An online repos­i­to­ry of pro­fes­sion­al learn­ing con­tent and devel­op­ment activ­i­ties for employ­ees and man­agers allows them to dip in and out at times that suit them and doesn’t cause con­flict with oth­er work responsibilities.

Using embed­ded dis­cus­sion boards with­in indi­vid­ual mod­ules gives employ­ees the chance to ask ques­tions and work togeth­er to find solutions.

#2 Seeing authentic examples of practice in context

authentic examplesMov­ing staff train­ing online by estab­lish­ing an online com­mu­ni­ty where employ­ees can see and share real-life exam­ples of best work­ing prac­tices cre­ates a col­lab­o­ra­tive learn­ing space.

Allow­ing staff to record and share their work starts grow­ing an unend­ing resource of con­tex­tu­alised train­ing material.

When peo­ple can relate to the mate­r­i­al they’re con­sum­ing, they’re more like­ly to suc­ceed at imple­ment­ing it in their own role.

#3 Practising in context and getting feedback


Pro­vid­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for peo­ple to record them­selves with video for review and analy­sis is a pow­er­ful learn­ing opportunity.

staff comments

Giv­ing staff access to con­tex­tu­alised feed­back using sim­ple video-edit­ing tools and time-stamped com­ments cre­ates an entire ecosys­tem for col­lec­tive improvement.

#4 Working collaboratively in context to refine skills over time

team collaboration

Using tech­nol­o­gy, like an online plat­form for staff to work togeth­er and share ideas, avoids impact­ing on the day-to-day scheduling.

Time-shift­ed online col­lab­o­ra­tion helps to max­imise time effi­cien­cy and allow employ­ees to con­nect regard­less of distance.

performance analysis

Enabling employ­ees to engage in these pro­fes­sion­al learn­ing activ­i­ties in the con­text of their dai­ly jobs is what increas­es new skills trans­fer into prac­tice from only 5% in tra­di­tion­al trans­mis­sion-based learn­ing, to 90% with ongo­ing, incre­men­tal learn­ing. Using video makes that process scal­able, sus­tain­able and affordable.

Explore the power of video for staff training and development:

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3 More uses for video-enabled staff training and development

Whether it be for stan­dard­ised or bespoke train­ing, coach­ing or employ­ee onboard­ing, there is an under­ly­ing con­sen­sus that video is high­ly effec­tive at embed­ding adult learn­ing; an under­stand­ing that is backed and proven by research.

#1 Standardised training

Every organ­i­sa­tion has train­ing require­ments that are com­mon to more than one employ­ee; it is there­fore impor­tant for every­one to receive it to the same stan­dard. This would nor­mal­ly involve the hard skills employ­ees require to do their jobs.

Organ­i­sa­tions who use video to record their train­ing pro­vi­sions are able to ensure stan­dard­i­s­a­tion with ease. This process helps to pre­vent knowl­edge gaps with­in teams and depart­ments as all infor­ma­tion is record­ed on film.

#2 Sharing of standards

Anoth­er appli­ca­tion of video tech­nol­o­gy is the shar­ing of organ­i­sa­tion­al stan­dards. This is anoth­er impor­tant dynam­ic for organ­i­sa­tions as stan­dards influ­ence busi­ness out­comes such as client reten­tion, pub­lic image and reputation.

Video can pro­vide an engag­ing, yet pow­er­ful for­mat for Human Resources and Learn­ing & Devel­op­ment depart­ments to dis­trib­ute expect­ed standards.

#3 Onboarding new staff

When a new employ­ee is in ini­tial train­ing, there is always lots of new infor­ma­tion to be digest­ed. This can range from day-to-day respon­si­bil­i­ties and expec­ta­tions, to com­pa­ny his­to­ry, image, or standards.

It’s impor­tant for this infor­ma­tion to be under­stood and embed­ded for suc­cess­ful onboarding.

The intro­duc­tion of video tech­nol­o­gy into the ini­tial train­ing process makes this learn­ing curve more man­age­able. Crit­i­cal infor­ma­tion can be pre­sent­ed in the most effec­tive way that research sug­gests. Also, employ­ees can engage with the videos at times that suit them and also revis­it them after their ini­tial training.
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Skills Trans­fer: The Key to Suc­cess­ful Staff Train­ing & Development
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