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Coaching and Training Transfer

Submitted by  on April 13th, 2011

I have written a lot on transferring skills from formal training sessions to the workplace. My book on training transfer is devoted largely to this question of how to design and implement training programs to give participants the best chance of applying their knowledge and skills to their job. If you are a coach, you may be asking yourself what role you play in helping your coaching clients change their behaviors back at work.

Are coaching and skills transfer to the job natural cousins? Does it go without saying that a properly coached person will automatically behave differently (and better) on the job? I mean, coaches are there to support the client in their application of their new competencies on the job. Is coaching, then, a natural antidote to the problem of training transfer?

To my mind, coaching is fundamentally about transfer. If the coach isn’t focusing the coaching client on transferring the learning to their job or to some other pertinent aspect of their lives, they are not coaching. And this is true for whatever kind of coaching you practice; life coach, career coach, executive coach, business coach, sports coach, or whatever.

Take the familiar four stage GROW model for example:

  • Goals
  • Reality
  • Options
  • Wrap Up/Will

Once goals are set in the initial phase of the coaching assignment, in the Reality phase the coach should be helping the coaching client uncover roadblocks to reaching these goals. In this phase, in particular, they should be uncovering impediments to applying the skills they have developed. In the Options phase, the coach should be helping the coachee articulate options in overcoming the roadblocks. And in the Wrap Up phase, the coach and coaching client need to be drawing up an action plan to overcome the roadblocks.

At the beginning of each coaching session, a skilled coach will ask questions along the lines of, “How did you go applying/achieving X?” “You didn’t apply/achieve X, then why do you think that was? What is stopping you?” The coaching process then starts another cycle, setting goals for overcoming each roadblock.

Can you see how learning transfer to the job is central to the coaching method? If you are not focusing your coaching client on changing their behavior and getting results, then what are you focusing on?

High Impact Training Guide

If you want to create the right learning environment for effective transfer of training to the employee’s workplace, then check out our high impact training guide, From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance. Learn proven strategies and techniques for finding performance roadblocks, aligning training to real needs, developing training partnerships, engaging learners and maximizing learning transfer. Find out more about From Training to Enhanced Workplace Performance and download the free introductory chapter today.

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