Transfer Learning Back
It can be hard to transfer knowledge back to the workplace after you’ve been on a course. Asking around the office, we found a couple of colleagues with stories of how they had learned something, found the course brilliant, and then within a month had slipped into old ways of working because they hadn’t had the time to embed their new skills.
Fortunately, that was a learning point in itself, and we focus on making sure what we learn – and what we teach in our project management, earned value and software training – is easily transferable back to the workplace.
Here are 5 ways that you can make it even easier to put your new knowledge into practice after attending a training course.
Watch a colleague doing the task you’ve just learned on a course. You can have your notes open next to you. Follow along and see how they do it. How is it different to the process you learned? Does that matter?
Who knows, you might be able to share something you have learned with them to give them a shortcut!
We do a lot of knowledge transfer work at the end of consulting engagements or when one of our experienced consultants hands over to a new colleague after a period of staff augmentation. One of the best ways to recall what you know is to share it with someone else.
A mentoring arrangement can be informal. It can be a single conversation or an ongoing relationship. If you have learned something that would benefit other people on your team, practice your own skills by teaching it to them. If they feel that they would get more benefit from learning even more, why not sign them up to the course you did so they can work through the whole syllabus?
Lunch and Learn
Set up a lunch and learn session – they work virtually too – and recap the highlights from what you have learned. Prepare a short presentation for your team. We would recommend keeping it to three to five points so that you have enough time for questions and you aren’t contributing to ‘death by PowerPoint’.
Another option is to host an online call and walk your colleagues through the set up of a new report or a new function you discovered in your tools. This can also be a way of improving your credibility at work and positioning you as the go to expert for certain aspects of the process or software.
If you do a lunch and learn session online, record the call and make the video available to people who can’t make it. And when your colleagues ask you to show them again, you can point them to the recording!
Repeat the exercises
The training course would have included case studies, exercises or a simulation project for you to use your skills in the classroom. Why not repeat those exercises but with real data from a real project? Can you see how the tools work when applied to something you are working on?
Some courses offer access to a trainer via email, so if you hit any problems during the course you can get in touch with them. If your course is self-paced or takes place over a couple of weeks, you will have time to repeat the exercises with real data and reach out to the tutor if there is anything you don’t understand.
Schedule recap time
Put time in your diary to flick back through the course manual, re-watch a video on something you found challenging or don’t have to use very often. We recommend putting in an hour of professional development time per week. Just block out an hour – we often have it in our diaries for a Friday – and use that time for whatever you are learning at the moment.
One thing you could do is go through the course notes and take longer doing a task because you’re working through it for the first time in real life. It might be preparing the slides or demo for your lunch and learn session. Or perhaps you want to take the time to re-write your hastily scribbled notes from during the course into a personal guidebook that you can refer to later.
Ringfencing some time in your diary gives you the space to incorporate your new skills into your working practices.
Talk to your manager
Make sure you have the support of your manager. It takes time to be confident using new skills, especially if you have learned a new piece of software. That might mean it takes you longer to complete tasks for the first few times you are doing them, as you build ‘muscle memory’ and get used to new ways of working.
Your manager supported you attending the course in the first place, so they shouldn’t have any difficulties with supporting your commitment to transferring your knowledge to the workplace. Talk to them about how you plan to turn the course material into actionable steps you can take at work. Ask them to hold you accountable and to check in on your progress.
It does take a while to become fully confident using new skills, and all our courses are designed to help you hit the ground running back at base. However, proactively working out how you are going to transfer the course materials to your day job will help you make the most of your new knowledge and help the organization get the best return on their investment in your training.