The transfer of new skills after training is critical.

Picture this, three employees from a team of 10 have returned from a one-day class on Lean Manufacturing. The class was engaging, with fun exercises mixed with lecture to explore process efficiency tools, especially process mapping and waste reduction. Since they have been out two days, the rest of the team has been stretched, and productivity is way down. The team has to work longer hours the rest of the week to make the required units. The following week, after the team has caught up, one of the learners, Don, shows a work assignment from the class to

his supervisor, Jayne. It is the first she has heard that there would be an assignment, and she looks it over, realizing she is expected to let this employee and the other two learners tackle an improvement project to reduce waste in the production line. Up to her eyebrows in emails and past due crises, she nods and says, “Go ahead and find something to work on,” and then she turns back to her list of purchase orders to approve.

Don tries to round up the other two to discuss their class assignment, with the thought that they could do it together. But they are still in catch up mode from the chaos of last week. They ask to put it off until the next week. So

Don lays the assignment down on his desk with tests results, records and quality alerts. When he saw it again a week later, he sighed, and laid it in a drawer. No one had mentioned the assignment since the class, and he was busy after all.

The memories, which had a chance to become long term, are quickly fading away, even though the class was interactive and full of great content. The skills and knowledge have not deepened, the insight and reflection that comes with practice did not happen, and the class soon becomes a vague memory of the course’s key message: That organizations often generate quite a lot of waste.

Here are some points on how to prevent this:

  • A direct supervisor, should know what their direct reports will learn, and plan to put that learning to use when they return to the job.


  • The training should have outcomes for the students that support the direct supervisor’s goals, which are aligned to the goals of the organization.  For example, if waste reduction was a goal for that supervisor, the trainees would have probably gained more attention and support from her.


  • The supervisor’s partnership and communication with the instructor and or others who set up the program could have prepared her to set up work assignments that allowed the use of the training in the job, making the knowledge turn into usable skills for the long-term.

As you can see, the role of the direct leader is important in driving real change after training.

Katy Caselli teaches the Building Giants Workshop- a course designed to turn leaders into the ultimate development drivers. See details in her catalog.