Transfer of training

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Transfer of training is applying knowledge and skills acquired during training to a targeted job or role. This is a term commonly used within industrial and organizational psychology.[1]

For example, after completing a safety course, transfer of training occurs when the employee uses learned safety behaviors in their work environment.[1]

Theoretically, transfer of training is a specific application of the theory of transfer of learning that describes the positive, zero, or negative performance outcomes of a training program.[2] The positive transfer of training-- the increase in job performance attributed to training-- has become the goal of many organizations.[1][3] Characteristics of trainees, the work environment, and training strategies contribute to this goal of positive transfer.[4] Ultimately, transfer of training provides organizations with a method to evaluate training's effectiveness and identify areas for training's improvement.[5]


There are three types of transfer of training:

  1. Positive Transfer: Training increases performance in the targeted job or role. Positive transfer is the goal of most training programs.[2][3]
  2. Negative Transfer: Training decreases performance in the targeted job or role.[2][3]
  3. Zero Transfer: Training neither increases nor decreases performance in the targeted job or role.[2]

Model of transfer[edit]

Baldwin and Ford (1988)[6] is the most commonly cited model of transfer, which defines the transfer of training as the generalization and maintenance of material learned in training to the work environment.[7]

Within this model, the authors conceptualize transfer of training as a three-stage process.[6][8] In the first stage, the inputs to training, including the training strategies, the work environment, and trainee characteristics are defined.[6][8] Next, through the training process, these inputs generate training outputs in the form of learning and retention.[6][8] Ultimately, transfer of training occurs in the final stage when learning and retention are generalized and maintained in the work environment.[6][7] Using the training inputs defined in this model, psychological research has identified many factors that contribute to the positive transfer of training.[7][4]

Influences on positive transfer[edit]

Within the current literature, there is a lack of consensus over what factors contribute to the positive transfer of training.[4][7] However, across psychological research, the following factors have consistently impacted positive transfer.

Trainee characteristics[edit]

  1. Cognitive Ability: Higher cognitive ability typically leads to higher levels of retention and generalization of learned material.[4][9]
  2. Self-efficacy: Higher self-efficacy contributes to positive transfer through its influence on confidence and persistence.[4][9]
  3. Motivation: Individuals with a higher motivation to learn tend to experience higher levels of positive transfer of training.[4][9]
  4. Personality: Higher measures of conscientiousness increase the likelihood of positive transfer.[9]
  5. Perceptions of Utility: Beliefs in the value and usefulness of training increase the likelihood of positive transfer.[4]

Work environment[edit]

  1. Transfer climate: By definition, a positive transfer climate is a work environment that contains cues and feedback mechanisms that remind employees of learned material.[10] Positive transfer climates tend to facilitate higher levels of positive transfer.[4][2]
  2. Support: Support from supervisors and peers leads to higher levels of positive transfer.[4][9]
  3. Opportunity to Perform: Work environments that provide opportunities to use learned material promote higher positive transfer of training.[4][9]
  4. Check-Ins: Regular reviews of training material solidify knowledge and contribute to positive transfer.[3][4]

Training strategies[edit]

  1. Similarity: Also referred to as identical elements theory, a high degree of similarity between the training environment and work environment increases the positive transfer of training.[2][4][3]
  2. Active Learning: Hands-on practice of material contributes to positive transfer, especially when it incorporates a variety of different contexts.[3]
  3. Behavioral Modeling: A training technique inspired by Albert Bandura's theory of social learning, which involves explanations, demonstrations, and active learning, feedback, and reinforcement .[4] Behavioral modeling is associated with increased positive transfer, especially when both incorrect and correct behavioral examples are provided during training.[11][4]
  4. Error-based examples: Training that focuses on how to deal with problems and learn from errors facilitates higher positive transfer.[4][9]
  5. Collaboration: Collaboration between trainees, trainers, and supervisors during training increases positive transfer.[3]
  6. Multiple Strategies: The use of variety of teaching and learning strategies facilitates positive transfer.[9]
  7. Goals: Setting goals and expectations for training increases positive transfer.[9][3]
  8. Assessments: Intermittent assessments of participant's knowledge of learned material increases positive transfer.[9]


Positive transfer is the goal of many organizational training programs.[3] Therefore, transfer of training plays a vital role in evaluating a training program's effectiveness.[5] Common training evaluation methods, such as Kirkpatrick's Taxonomy[12] and the Augmented Framework of Alliger et al.,[13] utilize transfer as an essential criterion to evaluate training.[3] Due to its behavioral outcomes, transfer of training allows organizations to quantify the impact of training and measure differences in performance.[5]


  1. ^ a b c Ford, J. Kevin (2007), "Transfer of Training", Encyclopedia of Industrial and Organizational Psychology, SAGE Publications, Inc., doi:10.4135/9781412952651.n320, ISBN 978-1-4129-2470-2
  2. ^ a b c d e f Goldstein, Irwin L. (1986). Training in organizations: needs assessment, development, and evaluation. Internet Archive. Monterey, Calif. : Brooks/Cole Pub. Co.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Levy, P.E. (2016). Industrial/Organizational Psychology: Understanding the workplace. New York, New York: Worth Publishers.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Grossman, Rebecca; Salas, Eduardo (2011). "The transfer of training: what really matters: The transfer of training". International Journal of Training and Development. 15 (2): 103–120. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2419.2011.00373.x. S2CID 17108133.
  5. ^ a b c Blaiwes, Arthur S.; Puig, Joseph A.; Regan, James J. (1973). "Transfer of Training and the Measurement of Training Effectiveness". Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. 15 (6): 523–533. doi:10.1177/001872087301500604. ISSN 0018-7208. S2CID 108500214.
  6. ^ a b c d e Baldwin, Timothy T.; Ford, J. Kevin (1988). "Transfer of Training: A Review of Directions for Future Research". Personnel Psychology. 41 (1): 63–105. doi:10.1111/j.1744-6570.1988.tb00632.x. ISSN 0031-5826.
  7. ^ a b c d Blume, Brian D.; Ford, J. Kevin; Baldwin, Timothy T.; Huang, Jason L. (2010). "Transfer of Training: A Meta-Analytic Review". Journal of Management. 36 (4): 1065–1105. doi:10.1177/0149206309352880. ISSN 0149-2063. S2CID 146637689.
  8. ^ a b c Yamnill, Siriporn; McLean, Gary N. (2001). "Theories supporting transfer of training". Human Resource Development Quarterly. 12 (2): 195. doi:10.1002/hrdq.7.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Ford, J. Kevin; Baldwin, Timothy T.; Prasad, Joshua (2018-01-21). "Transfer of Training: The Known and the Unknown". Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior. 5 (1): 201–225. doi:10.1146/annurev-orgpsych-032117-104443. ISSN 2327-0608.
  10. ^ Rouiller, Janice Z.; Goldstein, Irwin L. (1993). "The relationship between organizational transfer climate and positive transfer of training". Human Resource Development Quarterly. 4 (4): 377–390. doi:10.1002/hrdq.3920040408. ISSN 1044-8004.
  11. ^ Burke, Lisa A.; Hutchins, Holly M. (2007). "Training Transfer: An Integrative Literature Review". Human Resource Development Review. 6 (3): 263–296. doi:10.1177/1534484307303035. ISSN 1534-4843. S2CID 145235042.
  12. ^ Tracey Pratchett; Gil Young (2016), "Kirkpatrick's four levels of evaluation model", Practical Tips for Developing Your Staff, Facet, pp. 23–26, doi:10.29085/9781783301812.012, ISBN 978-1-78330-181-2
  13. ^ Alliger, George M.; Tannenbaum, Scott I.; Bennett, Winston; Traver, Holly; Shotland, Allison (1997). "A Meta-Analysis of the Relations Among Training Criteria". Personnel Psychology. 50 (2): 341–358. doi:10.1111/j.1744-6570.1997.tb00911.x. ISSN 1744-6570.

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Broad, M. L., & Newstrom J. W. (1992). Transfer of training: Action-packed strategies to ensure high payoff from training investments. New York: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.
  • Ford, J. K. & Weissbein, D. A. (1997). Transfer of training: An update review and analysis. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 10, 22-41.
  • Gist, M. E., Bavetta, A. G., & Stevens, C. K. (1990). Transfer training method: Its influence on skill generalization, skill repetition, and performance level. Personnel Psychology, 43, 501-523.
  • Gist, M. E., Stevens, C. K., Bavetta, A. G. (1991). Effects of Self-efficacy and post-training intervention on the acquisition and maintenance of complex interpersonal skills. Personnel Psychology, 44, 837-861.
  • Holton, E. F., Bates, R. A, Ruona, W.E.A. (2000). Development of a Generalized Learning Transfer System Inventory. Human Resource Development Quarterly.
  • Holton, E. F. III, Bates, R., Seyler, D., & Carvalho, M. (1997) Toward construct validation of a transfer climate instrument. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 8, 95-113.
  • Paas, F. G. W. C. (1992). Training strategies for attaining transfer of problem-solving skill in statistics: A cognitive load approach. Journal of Educational Psychology, 84, 429-434.
  • Royer, James M. (1979) Theories of the transfer of learning. Educational Psychologist, 14, 53-69.
  • Tracey, J. B., Tannenbaum, S. I., & Kavanaugh, M. J. (1995). Applying trained skills on the job: The importance of the work environment. Journal of Applied Psychology, 80, 239-252.
  • Tziner, A., Haccoun, R. R., & Kadish, A. (1991). Personal and situational characteristics of transfer of training improvement strategies. Journal of Occupational Psychology, 64, 167-177.
  • Warr, P. & Bunce, D. (1995). Trainee characteristics and the outcomes of open learning. Personnel Psychology, 48, 347-375.
  • Werner, J. M., O’Leary-Kelly, A. M., Baldwin, T. T., & Wexley, K. N. (1994). Augmenting behavior-modeling training: Testing the effects of pre-and post-training interventions. Human Resource Development Quarterly, 5, 169-183.
  • Wexley, K. N. & Baldwin, T. T. (1986). Posttraining strategies for facilitating positive transfer: An empirical exploration. Academy of Management Journal, 29, 503-520.