Spreading the Learning: The Role of Workplace Climate and Co-workers

Human Resources

If it takes a village to raise a child, then perhaps it takes co-workers to help trainees shine.

Management development experts have long known that organizations get the most out of their training dollars when employees are supported before, during, and after training. Few organizations, however, actually follow this advice.

Models of training effectiveness focus on program design, trainee characteristics, and workplace environment as the key factors that determine transfer of learning. By contrast, Harry J. Martin (Cleveland State University) wanted to study the context in which employees apply and transfer the knowledge and skills learned, specifically the role of workplace climate and peer support.

(Workplace climate includes factors such as adequate resources, cues that remind trainees of what they have learned, opportunities to apply skills, barriers and constraints to transfer, and consequences for using training on the job.)

Martin focused on 237 managers of a manufacturing company in the midwest U.S. who completed a comprehensive training program. He devised a global measure of workplace climate for each of the 12 divisions in which the employees worked and used performance ratings of the participants to measure the level of training transfer.

Martin found that trainees in a division with a more favorable climate and those enjoying greater peer support showed greater improvement. Even better, in terms of transferring learnings, peer support overcame or lessened the effects of a negative office environment.

“The results of this study suggest that follow-up programs should be designed to address both the immediate and general organizational environments,” Martin reports in Human Resource Development Quarterly. “Care must be taken to help ensure that peers and immediate supervisors help trainees put the skills to work. Co-workers could provide general encouragement or be involved in more structured activities such as the peer meetings employed in this study.”

FACTOID: It is estimated that only 10 to 40 percent of learning transfers to the job.

Reference:

“Workplace Climate and Peer Support as Determinants of Training Transfer,” by Harry J. Martin; Human Resource Development Quarterly (Vol. 21 No. 1 Spring 2010; pp. 87-104)

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