10 global differences in learning transfer from latest research

Emma Weber

The challenge of learning transfer is nothing new. For decades businesses globally have grappled to understand how best to increase the performance of their workforce in order to improve productivity, efficiency and engagement.

Earlier in the year we launched our global learning transfer research report “Insights for Impact” with Lentum Ltd. We are excited to be digging into the research in a webinar with Will Thalheimer on December 1st where we will examine the key findings from our research alongside Will’s recent review of scientific research on transfer.

Our research was the first of it’s kind in recent years to consider learning transfer on a global scale.

Check out the top 10 global differences in the state of learning and transfer below, and join us on the webinar for more in the world of learning transfer research.

1) 96% of contributors are still using classroom training as one of their delivery methods, with Australia focuses on classroom slightly more than those in the USA and UK. Australia is also ahead with a focus on mobile learning, with 28% of Australian contributors focusing on mobile for 20-60% of their delivery, compared to just 6% for the UK, and 16% for the US.

2) 31% of respondents felt that individuals are largely responsible for their own learning – with the USA behind the curve on this – 28% vs. 41% from the UK and Australia.

3) We asked organisations to consider what their primary goal is for learning. The most popular response for Australia (41%) and the UK (51%) was “to drive improved business results”. Interestingly, only 25% of contributors from the USA agreed.

4) The most popular goal for US organisations (34%) was “to support employees in performing their jobs well” (vs. UK – 25%, and Australia – 28%). It could be significant that the UK and Australia are looking at the broader organisational level in comparison to the individual contribution level of the USA. (This finding corresponded to a recent paper from Harvard Business Review by Beer, Finnström and Schrader about why leadership programmes fail. One of their concerns is that we view organisations as an “aggregation of individuals” rather than a “system of interacting elements”. Beer & co suggest that if leadership or learning development models don’t embrace the notion that organisations are systems of interacting elements, and instead purely focus on the individual’s development, then it will set people up to fail. If the system doesn’t change, then it will not support or sustain individual behaviour change. The results from the research would tend to suggest that the US respondents are indeed at danger of falling into this trap, by focusing on the individuals rather than the wider business.)

5) 17% of Australian respondents suggested that their primary goal for learning was to meet regulatory compliance or certification requirements, compared to 9% of UK contributors and 13% of US contributors.

6) 16% of US contributors suggested their primary goal was to provide engaging, relevant and well received learning opportunities, compared with 5% in the UK and interestingly 0% in Australia. This strikes the question as to whether perhaps compared to the USA, Australia is beginning to place less emphasis on the entertainment factor of learning and place more importance on driving business impact and improved job performance.

7) We asked contributors whether the financial investment their organisation makes in learning is producing sufficient benefits in terms of job performance. Overall 56% suggested that their organisation’s investments in learning were “generally beneficial”. Interestingly this breaks down as 54% in the UK who suggest their training investments are “generally beneficial”, compared to only 28% in Australia and 43% in the USA. More a point of concern however is that 29% in the USA, 27% in the UK and 37% in Australia don’t actually know whether their learning interventions are benefitting job performance.

8) 63% of respondents feel the percentage of formal classroom learning sustained as long term job improvement is less than 40%. Australia have the most in this bracket with 75% sustaining less than 40% of learning versus 62% in the UK and 59% in the USA.

9) With the manager playing an important role in the transfer process, we wanted to get to the bottom of how involved managers are in helping participants create behavioural change post learning. Nearly half (46%) of those surveyed said that their managers “were not significantly involved with their employees regarding training.” In the UK 38% have a 1:1 before and after the programme compared to only 24%
in Australia and just 14% in the US. However, Australia and the US are far more likely to facilitate group discussions with 21% and 16% respectively vs just 2% in the UK.

10) In line with managers having a low level of follow up conversations, the attitude and behaviours towards coaching are fairly low. 41% of Australians suggested “for the most part coaching
is not utilised in our organisation” compared to 31% in the UK and 29% in the US. At the other end of the scale, 25% responded that “our leaders practise and demonstrate coaching at every level”. The US were ahead with 32% agreeing with this statement, compared to 24% in Australia and 13% in the UK. The UK in particular are investing in external coaching for Executives, with 41% of those in the UK agreeing compared to 28% in Australia and 12% in the US.

With many more interesting findings on the state of learning transfer globally, this research has begun a much needed conversation around learning transfer practices in the workplace.

Download the full research report Insights For Impact here OR join me THIS FRIDAY in a live, interactive webinar where I will be chatting all things learning transfer with research expert Will Thalheimer who will be sharing findings from his scientific review of transfer.


Emma Weber

Emma Weber is a recognized authority on the transfer of learning. As CEO of Lever – Transfer of Learning, she has helped companies such as Telstra, Oracle and BMW deliver and measure tangible business results from learning. Emma has also been a guest speaker at learning effectiveness conferences worldwide and authored the hugely successful book Turning Learning into Action. Much more detail around the issues and solutions examined in this article are available in the book – please feel free to download a free chapter.