Leadership development programs have gained popularity over the years, with rising numbers of organizations sending participants on various courses every day. But how can they ensure that the learning from these programs is effectively applied in the workplace? In this Idea, three key areas are identified that play a vital role in the transfer system.
The need to develop strong leaders and competent managers has increased over the past few years, as technological advances and economic uncertainties have created a more competitive business environment than ever before. But though substantial investment is being poured into leadership development programs, do they actually have a tangible impact on individual and business performance?
Leadership development involves more than just learning new skills and acquiring new knowledge; to develop as a leader, new behaviours and new ways of working must be learnt, and a change in attitudes is implicit. Transferring this from the classroom to the workplace is something that not only participants of programs, but organizations and program designers need to understand well.
Through their studies, Lee Waller and her fellow researchers identify three key areas that are influential in the transfer of learning:
Methodology: Using questionnaires and telephone interviews, data was collected from participants attending various tailored management development programs. The first questionnaire was completed by 88 participants one week after the programs were held. The second questionnaire was sent 6 weeks after the programs and completed by 72 participants, allowing time for them to have applied what they had learned.
Shortly after completion of the second questionnaire, one-on-one telephone interviews were held with two participants randomly selected from each program to explore their experiences in regards to transferring the learning from the programs. Fourteen participants were interviewed altogether.
Overall, the management development programs studied appeared to have a tangible impact on participants’ skills acquisition and development. However, there is scope for improvement that can improve the long term impact of management development programs, return on investment for organizations, and lead to learning that transfers from the classroom to the workplace.
Though Waller provides a number of suggestions, some of them include the following:
From the Classroom to the Workplace: Enhancing the Transfer of Learning. Lee Waller. Ashridge Business School White Paper (October 2011).
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