4 Roadblocks to Knowledge Transfer and How to Overcome Them

Transferring knowledge from any training material to any trainee is complicated. Add to that the fact that knowledge transfer can happen between employees in informal situations, and a steeplechase at the Olympics seems like a piece of cake compared to creating and delivering a successful training program.

A successful training program is one that delivers the right piece of information in the right format to the right employee at the right time so said employee can apply the newly acquired knowledge in the right real-life business setting. This leads to better employee performance, which, in turn, leads to better business results. But there are quite a few “right”s in that first sentence.

L&D professionals know there are very many variables—some that are controllable, others that are simply not—that can negatively affect the success rate of any training program. Transferring knowledge from any training material to any trainee is complicated. Add to that the fact that knowledge transfer can happen between employees in informal situations, not just from formal training courses to each participant, and a steeplechase at the Olympics seems like a piece of cake compared to creating and delivering a successful training program.

What Can Go Wrong?

Understanding what can go wrong along the way is the first step in avoiding or overcoming any potential roadblock. So let’s explore a few of the most common things that can prevent knowledge transfer from happening during a training program, as well as the available means of solving each problem.

1. The physical and mental state of employees

This can be the best ally to knowledge transfer or its worst headsman. The thing is, how someone feels during the learning process greatly impacts his or her capacity of acquiring new information. Hunger, headaches, other types of physical pain, the common cold, depression, stress over a loved one are just a few examples of things that hinder a person’s ability to remember what he or she learns.

Since the physical and mental wellbeing of employees is one of the most unpredictable factors that can negatively affect learning and knowledge transfer, Training professionals don’t have that many options in overcoming this. However, creating and maintaining a safe learning environment where people are allowed to make mistakes is a good first step. 

2. Lost focus

People lose focus easier than we care to admit. The infamous Microsoft report stating that even the goldfish stands better than humans regarding attention span does not help. People can focus for more than a few seconds actually, with intense focus stretching for up to 20 minutes. But reaching this state of intense focus can be incredibly hard in today’s distraction-riddled workplace.

With all this in mind, Learning and Development (L&D) professionals can turn to a variety of tactics to help employees focus while learning and remain knowledgeable. For example, employ bite-sized learning modules instead of longer ones. Each module should have a clear learning objective and some corresponding resources. All training modules in a course should have a clear structure and learners should be able to easily navigate between them. Also, gamification techniques and other interactive elements should be included within the course to make the content as engaging as possible.

3. Faulty technology

Love it or hate it, technology is here to stay, as its advantages clearly overcome its drawbacks. However, problems do arise because of faulty technology, from broken hardware to bad Internet connections to not-so-great software. Considering the rise of the knowledge economy, the mobile employee, and remote work, the good functioning of a business—not just the delivery of a training program—relies heavily on technology.

Even though they can’t control everything that can go wrong, there are some things L&D professionals can do to ensure the least amount of tech-related problems occur. The most important of all is choosing the best training software such as a cloud-based business learning management system (LMS) with a comprehensive set of features, that runs automatic backups and provides a secure connection at all the times. If employees can’t access training materials, learning can possibly happen. And knowledge transfer? Even less so. 

4. Making training a one-time hit

Training is a continuous process. If people don't practice what they learn, over time they will forget it. Knowledge transfer is a series of events, not just one event. Moving information from the short-term memory to long-term memory is not as simple a trajectory as it may seem. The forgetting curve affects everyone.

Instructional designers can fight the forgetting curve by adopting the spaced repetition technique in the course content. Repetitio mater studiorum est, after all. While including the same important piece of information in more than one place during the course is a great start, there is one more thing L&D professionals can do to increase the chances of knowledge transfer to happen: post-training activities. These will help employees to better remember what they learned and better apply that knowledge in real-life business situations.

All in All

Even though there are many factors that can negatively affect knowledge transfer, Training professionals can overcome all of them—to some extent, at least, if not completely—by employing the right tactics.

Graham Glass is the CEO of CYPHER LEARNING, a company that specializes in providing e-learning platforms for organizations around the world. For more articles on training and e-learning, visit the MATRIX Blog


Training Top 125

Applying for Training magazine’s 2020 Training Top 125 awards program can help you benchmark the excellence and effectiveness of your employee training and development.

Digital Issue

Click above for Training Magazine's
current digital issue

Training Live + Online Certificate Programs

Now You Can Have Live Online Access to Training magazine's Most Popular Certificate Programs! Click here for more information.

Emerging Training Leaders

Company Assets

People are an organization’s most valuable asset,” the saying goes.

Rising Stars

The 2016 Emerging Training Leaders are leading lights at their organizations, shining examples of how strategic-minded, results focused, and people-oriented Learning and Development (L&D) profe

Learning from the Future

Includes ISA Directory of
Learning Providers