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Motivation to Transfer

Our perceptions shape how we interact with everything we encounter in our day. It's the same in learning. A learning designer can create the most interactive training ever, see engagement numbers skyrocket, interest in sign-up go through the roof, but if you didn't consider what the learner will take from the training to benefit their role, chances are the fancy training you made was a waste of time and money.

Photo by Eugene Shelestov from Pexels

The degree to which learners feel the new knowledge will help them to improve in their role and their drive to use their new learning has long been known to influence training transfer (Bushe & Gilpin-Jackson, 2007; Burke & Hutchins, 2007; Facteau et al., 1995). A person’s motivation to learn new information significantly influences their motivation to transfer their learning, which in turn influences training transfer (Grossman & Salas, 2011).

Vignoli and Depolo (2019) studied the effect that having a “proactive” personality had on training transfer by surveying 617 trainees before and after a two-day training intervention, and again after completion of a task related to the training. The authors describe a proactive

personality as a relatively stable set of qualities characterized by the drive to identify

opportunities to improve one’s situation and realise personal goals. They found that a

participant’s motivation to transfer before training and after training was a strong

predictor for the amount of training transfer that took place.

Key takeaway:

Learning leaders, the chances are your company isn't overflowing with proactive learners. Focus your efforts on helping learners to see the WIIFM (What's in it for me?) for learning and transfer to be high. You need to make a strong case for learners to take time out of their day to implement what they learned after training. Go one step further and sell their managers on the WIIFMT (What’s in it for my team) to generate manager support to implement learning.


Explore more here:

Burke, L. A., & Hutchins, H. M. (2007). Training transfer: An integrative literature review. Human Resource Development Review, 6(3), 263–296. doi: 10.1177/1534484307303035

Bushe, G. R., & Gilpin-Jackson, Y. (2007). Leadership development training transfer: A case study of post-training determinants. Journal of Management Development, 26(10), 980-1004.

Facteau, J. D., Dobbins, G. H., Russell, J. E., Ladd, R. T., & Kudisch, J. D. (1995). The influence of general perceptions of the training environment on pretraining motivation and perceived training transfer. Journal of Management, 21(1), 1-25

Grossman, R., & Salas, E. (2011). The transfer of training: What really matters. International Journal of Training and Development, 15(2), 103-120. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2419.2011.00373.x

Vignoli, M., & Depolo, M. (2019). Transfer of training process. When proactive personality matters? A three-wave investigation of proactive personality as a trigger of the transfer of training process. Personality and Individual Differences, 141, 62-67. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2018.12.027


About Fergal:

Fergal is a learning transfer expert who shares his evidence-based learning transfer approaches with the learning community. Fergal holds an MSc in Education and Training, and a BSc in Psychology. Contact Fergal for speaking engagements, writing opportunities, or learning transfer consultancy by visiting



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