Overcoming Hurdles in Learning Transfer – Managerial Misalignment


When Managers Hinder Learning’s Journey

Imagine a team of enthusiastic employees who just completed a series of Presentation Skills Workshop, brimming with newfound confidence to conquer stages and captivate audiences. The excitement is noticeable as they envision themselves delivering impactful presentations that leave a lasting impression.


However, as the spotlight shifts away from the training room, a lurking challenge emerges—one that often remains in the shadows: managerial misalignment. In this exploration, we embark on a journey to understand the hurdles that arise when managers and L&D efforts find themselves on different trajectories.


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Challenge #1: Managers in the Shadows

Time is often a scarce resource in the fast-paced world of management. This scarcity can lead to a situation where managers find it challenging to attend the learning sessions alongside their team members. The consequences? A disconnect between what transpired in the training room and what managers are aware of.


With this communication gap, managers are left uninformed about the skills and knowledge their team members have acquired. This misalignment often results in missed opportunities for managers to provide the necessary guidance and support for applying new skills.


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Challenge #2: Clashes of Technique and Tradition

Within every team, there are established practices and methodologies that managers and team members are comfortable with. When managers have their own techniques that differ from those introduced in the workshop, it creates a mismatch.


Employees now armed with fresh skills might feel reluctant to embrace these skills if they perceive a misalignment between what they’ve learned and what their managers practice. This can lead to scepticism and hesitation and ultimately hinder the successful transfer of learning.


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Challenge #3: The Support Conundrum

A supportive and encouraging environment is essential for employees to experiment confidently with their newly acquired skills. Unfortunately, when managers lack the freedom to provide the space for practice or exhibit a judgmental attitude, employees may feel apprehensive. This lack of psychological safety dampens the eagerness to apply new skills, leaving employees stuck between their desire to learn and the fear of negative repercussions.



Empowering Managers to Enhance Employee Learning Experiences in the Workplace

Managers play a pivotal role in shaping the success of L&D initiatives, and their involvement can significantly impact the overall effectiveness of the learning process. According to research by Will Thalheimer, a founder of The Learning Transfer Evaluation Model, “Learners with supervisors who encourage, support, and monitor learning transfer are more likely to transfer successfully.”


As we’ve delved into the challenges of managerial misalignment in facilitating learning transfer, it’s imperative to explore how managers can actively engage and support their teams to bridge the gap between training and application. The first step is to understand the different levels of managerial support.


Understanding The Different Levels of Managerial Support

Managerial support encompasses a spectrum of involvement, from basic acceptance of training attendance to active participation as trainers. Here are the varying levels of support that managers can offer to ensure the successful transfer of training:


Levels of Managerial Support. 001


To maximise the transfer of training, trainees need to achieve the highest level of support possible. The greater the level of support, the more likely that transfer of training will occur.


A Glimpse into Best Practices

Let’s delve into a sample scenario illustrating how managers can actively prepare, participate in, support, and sustain learning in a presentation training workshop for optimal learning transfer.


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Step 1: Leaders Lead the Way

When the need arises to enhance presentation skills, this organisation takes a distinct route. Rather than instructing employees directly, the leadership steps forward. Senior-level leaders embrace the opportunity to undergo the presentation skills workshop themselves. This initial phase sets the stage for a powerful cascading effect.


Step 2: Leaders Become Instructors (Option 1)

After mastering the skills, these leaders become pioneers and instructors. They receive guidance on effectively conducting training sessions for the entire workforce. This guidance includes clear pre-training communication that explains the workshop’s purpose and what participants can expect. This demonstrates the organisation’s unwavering commitment to talent development.


Step 2: Partnering with L&D Specialist (Option 2)

However, if leaders are unable or unwilling to become instructors, they can still play a critical role in collaborating closely with L&D specialists to discuss learning needs and challenges. They have direct insights into their employees’ strengths and weaknesses and can offer crucial input to ensure the training addresses specific pain points and learning gaps.


Additionally, managers must communicate closely with their employees about the importance of attending the workshop. They clarify why participation is essential, setting the stage for an engaged and motivated learning experience. This collaborative approach ensures that all leaders and managers, whether they become instructors or not, are actively engaged in the learning process and contribute to its effectiveness.


Step 3: Facilitate Understanding

During the workshop, they actively ensure that employees are fully engaged and everyone understands the material by addressing questions and providing real-world examples. This hands-on approach by leaders fosters a dynamic and effective learning environment.


Step 4: Individualised Support

Following each training session, managers meet one-on-one with the participants to dive into their learning experiences. These sessions provide a platform for in-depth discussions about what was learned and offer personalised coaching and support. This personal touch ensures that learning doesn’t stop with the workshop but continues to foster individual growth.


Step 5: Sustained Growth

The organisation’s commitment to growth doesn’t end after training. Leaders actively contribute to skill development by following a structured approach towards career progression over the years. This approach includes setting clear expectations, providing real-time feedback, and holding themselves and their employees accountable for reaching talent development goals.


In this scenario, the organisation’s dedication to learning isn’t just a passing effort; it’s a dynamic ecosystem driven by leadership involvement, continuous support, and accountability. Each stage contributes to a comprehensive approach to learning transfer, where skills are honed, knowledge is shared, and growth becomes a collective journey.



A Checklist to Gauge Managerial Support

A checklist can be a valuable tool to gauge the extent of managerial support before, during, and after training. By assessing the agreement with a series of statements, managers can identify their level of support and tailor their involvement accordingly. The checklist acts as a roadmap for managers to align their actions with the needs of the learning process.


Before the Workshop

  • Understand the workshop topic to ensure it aligns with team objectives and requirements.
  • Offer insights to L&D on the training needs and provide any necessary resources to facilitate the workshop design.
  • Explain the importance of the workshop to employees and how it will contribute to their day-to-day operations.
  • Communicate workshop details (date, time, location and expectations or requirements) directly to employees instead of L&D specialists to demonstrate the importance of the learning event.


During the Workshop

  • Check on employee progress and understanding regularly.
  • Assist in answering any questions.
  • Encourage participation in activities.
  • Facilitate understanding by connecting the newly found knowledge to the real-life context.
  • Bonus: Managers to participate in the workshop to set an example.
  • Bonus: If possible, managers who have mastered the skills to become instructors.


After the Workshop

  • Schedule a meeting with employees to discuss their observations and ideas from the workshop.
  • Determine how newly acquired skills can be applied to their work.
  • Provide necessary support and ideas to assist in implementing new skills.
  • Consider additional training sessions to reinforce learning if required.
  • Create opportunities for on-the-job practice.


The L&D Manager’s Guide To Effective Feedback Forms

Getting learners to fill in a feedback form after the completion of a training is the norm. But how much of what is gathered is actually useful? What can you do with the data? 

If you cannot derive any actionable insights from the responses, you ought to challenge the effectiveness of the questions. Because the purpose of soliciting feedback is to evaluate and improve, with the goal to achieve better results in the future.


There are two aspects of the form to take note to get you closer to your goal: 

  1. The objectives of the questions is to help you collect the ‘right’ data
  2. The type of questions is to help you obtain better data


1. Objectives

“ Asking the right questions is as important as answering them”
Benoit Mandelbrot

Most survey questions I’ve seen are centred around learning experiences and engagement — Questions about the (i) Trainer, (ii) format, (iii) duration, (iv) learning environment. 

While experience is an important aspect of learning, it is only a means to an end. The application of skills is one that will make every dollar you invest in your learners worthwhile. The effectiveness of a training programme can be evaluated based on the following component:

Relevance and usefulness


Q: List the top 3 learnings that are the most relevant and useful to your work.

This question helps HR identify course content that contributed to the success of the workshop. If there is a need to tweak the programme outline in the future, these insights will guide the trainer’s decision on which parts to retain. You can also consider inserting a question on the least relevant areas of the course.


Q: How have the course materials helped you in your learning? What can be improved?

This uncovers how learners interact with the course materials to aid their learning. The responses may also reveal their learning habits and preferences. From these questions, the trainer can also assess if the case studies are useful in helping the learners internalise the course content or if new ones have to be created.

Growth/ Transformation

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your proficiency in [skill] before you attended this programme.

How has the programme contributed to the difference in rating? 

These questions identify learners who have had the most benefit, i.e. those who saw a big shift in rating. E.g. Did  the technical folks benefit most from the course while the marketing folks the least? If so, HR can consider organising future sessions that target a specific  learner’s profile in order to maximise the results.

If all learners move up at least 1 scale, HR can use this  to validate that the programme was indeed helpful in upskilling. It also allows HR to see who in the class is on the lowest end of the spectrum and; who might need further support. If the rating before and after the programme remains unchanged, the trainer can follow up with the learner to identify why. You can consider asking these questions to ensure learning has turned into skills and skills are applied

Future application


Q: What needs to happen for you to turn these learnings into skills and to eventually master it?

The answers would inform  HR on what additional support to provide  the learners the ability to sustain learning for long-term transformation to take place. For example, if the majority of learners indicated “practice”, HR can explore ideas on how to create conditions for them to do so. This might warrant another in-depth survey to formulate a quality solution.



Q: What would be an obstacle for you to gain mastery?

We cannot assume that once the learners are equipped with the new tools that they will apply it. This question helps HR uncover possible reasons why this knowledge didn’t  get transferred as  skills. These could be the lack of time, resources, support, culture, or working styles. Some learners have shared that while they would like to improve, their bosses are not aligned with the best practices. Hence, they throw in the towel after multiple attempts to improve  have been shot down. In such cases, HR can consider ways to get the buy-in from these bosses.

Future development 

Learning preferences:

Q: Given the same amount of content and learning, which mode of learning will suit you best and why?

This helps to invalidate  assumptions that one mode of learning suits all. It also uncovers ways to experiment with new learning modality  that can maximise outcomes. For example, due to Covid, there are  no other option  but to conduct learning remotely and digitally. At first, HR may  doubt the effectiveness of virtual learning but as it turns out, given a choice, 80-90% of learners prefer blended learning. When  asked why, many appreciated the ability to juggle work and learning, to have more time to internalise learning at their own pace for self-study  modules, while being able to also benefit from their peers sharing during live online discussions.

New skills:

Q: What other skills would you like to develop? Why?

This helps to identify new learning opportunities that HR might not have considered. Such questions also encourage the learners to pause and reflect on their learning needs and goals. When the goals are clear, they become more enthusiastic in filling the gaps.


2. Types of questions

“Data by itself is useless. Data is only useful if you apply it.” 
– Todd Park

There are different types of questions such as: 

Types Example:
Closed-ended Has this course met your learning objectives? 
Scaling questions On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate the effectiveness of the workshop? 1 being not effective, 10 being very effective.
Open How would you define the effectiveness of the workshop? 
Probing Did this course meet your objectives? Why or why not? 
Reflective What are the top 3 learnings that are  the most useful in  your work?

Closed ended and scaling questions are best at gathering quantitative data which removes ambiguity and subjectivity. However, many questionnaires placed too much weight  on such questions and with only one open-ended question like “any suggestions for improvement”. This might be due to the intention of creating  questionnaires that are easy and fast to complete. 

The problem with these questionnaires is that they only provide quantitative results but t you do not gain insights as to why learners gave a low or high rating.  For example, the question “The course has been relevant”, scale 1-5 disagree to agree. What can we do with the information? If 90% of the class rate 5 and 10% rated 2, it indicates that there is room for improvement but we don’t know  specifically where? Without actionable insights, the trainer and HR cannot pinpoint specific aspects on where to improve.

Hence, it is advisable to supplement closed-ended questions with a probing question such as “WHY?”. This allows trainers to take corrective actions that may help to increase the score on future runs. 

To avoid vague or one-worded answers that are subject to interpretation such as “practice”, you can frame questions with a more direct intent. Here’s an example a question that aims at gathering specific insights to meet a goal:


Instead of this

Ask this

Any suggestions for improvement?

How can this course be improved to help you get better at (skills)? Please elaborate with details so we can better understand how to help you. 

You will be amazed at how much you can uncover with thoughtfully crafted questions.

To sum it up

  1. Identify the purpose of the survey
  2. Design questions to meet specific objectives
  3. Collect both quantitative and qualitative data
  4. Frame questions to gain specific and actionable insights