SHRM Foundation Research
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SHRM Foundation Research


Transfer of Training: A Meta-Analytic and Integrative Review

Funded: November 2008     Completed: March 2010 

Brian D. Blume, Ph.D., University of Michigan, Flint
J. Kevin Ford, Ph.D., Michigan State University
Timothy T. Baldwin, Ph.D., Indiana University
Jason L. Huang, Doctoral Student, Michigan State University

Factors related to the Success of Employee Training

Excutive Summary
Organizations in the United States spend more than $125 billion annually on employee training and development.  However, the success of these interventions is largely unknown.  Training is only truly successful when employees apply what they learned by using the knowledge, skills, and/or abilities gained in training on the job. 

Brian D. Blume and his colleagues examined previous research that has explored the factors related to whether trainees use the material they learned in training on the job.  They identified several important trainee characteristics, and work environmental factors that may play a role in determining just how effective an organization's training efforts are. 


Several trainee characteristics influence the extent to which trainees actually apply what they learned in training to the job. 
●  Intelligence is the most important predictor of training success, such that intelligent trainees are more likely to use what they learned in training on the job.
●  Trainees that are conscientious, emotionally stable, and motivated to learn are more likely to use what they learned in training.  
●  Trainees who volunteer to participate in training are more likely to apply what they learned than those who do not volunteer for training. 

The work environment can also influence the effectiveness of training.  In particular, work climate and support predict training success.
 ●  Trainees who have an opportunity to practice what they learn in training, and are given necessary resources to implement what they learned, are more likely to use those skills later on the job. 
 ●  Trainees who have the support of co-workers and supervisors are more likely to apply what they learned in training when they go back to their jobs. 

Open skills are those in which there is not one single correct way to act, and the objective is to learn general principles (such as leadership training).  Closed skills are those where workers are trained to respond in one particular way on the job according to a set of rules that are implemented in a precise fashion (such as computer training). 
 ●  Learner characteristics and the work environment have a stronger influence on whether the training content is used on the job when open skills are the focus of training, rather than when closed skills are the focus of training.
 ●  Therefore, focusing on the personal characteristics of the trainee and the post-training work environment is even more crucial for the success of training when the focus of the training is on open skills.

Bottom Line
HR  professionals can influence the likelihood that the training content will be used by trainees later on the job.  The actions that are likely to have the strongest impact on training success include the use of proactive selection of training cohorts, a focus on increasing the motivation of trainees, and encouraging supervisor and peer support in the work environment. 

Study Methods
Results from 61 field studies and 28 laboratory experiments were examined and summarized quantitatively using a technique called "meta-analysis." The trainees within the studies included undergraduate students (24 studies, 27%), MBA or graduate students (12 studies, 13%), managers and supervisors (21 studies, 24%), and other non-managerial personnel (30 studies, 36%). The majority of the samples (85%) were from the U.S. and Canada.

Read the full report.

View the full list of SHRM Foundation funded research.