Tips for Achieving “training transfer” in Direct Selling


What can a direct selling company do to get the direct selling distributors to apply new knowledge and skills learned during training? This process is known as “training transfer.”

Most “one and done” training programs do not implement the basic principles of adult education. Most adults learn best when they a) apply new information and materials to their lives and work, and b) exchange ongoing feedback around their experiences and celebrate together.

Because of this, how to achieve training transfer should be the top goal of any training program or professional development. Sending our employees to attend trainings and seminars is one way of investing in our people. Our goal should be to have the learner “transfer” the knowledge and skills learned at a training back to their gig. 

Organizations spend billions of dollars each year on trainings and seminars, yet only a fraction of that investment results in improved performance if training transfer is not supported by stakeholders. These include managers, peers, customers and the employer. Stakeholders also assume responsibility for supporting transfer, otherwise the training transfer will fail and will result in a loss in the organization. 

Published research confirms that only a small percentage of the participants of training programs actually change their behavior. Experts have been telling us this for decades. They estimate that most of this investment—between 70 and 90 percent—is wasted.

There are 3 types of results on how training affects the employees:

  1. Positive Transfer – This means that after the trainees attended the training and return to their workplace, they were able to perform better and show positive good results and can now resolve problems that they can’t fix before the training. They become more efficient and productive and a lot more motivated. The training got an added value to the business as a result. 
  2. Negative Transfer – This means that after the trainees attended the training, they start performing worse, they become demotivated, than they would have had they not gone to training at all. This effect the business negatively as it results to poor performance of employees. 
  3. Zero Transfer – This occurs when the gaining of new skills or knowledge has little to no effect in the workplace. The productivity or performance of the staff who attended training is neither built up nor hindered. 

Action planning is one strategy that is successfully used to promote “training transfer.”

Action planning gives the learner the opportunity during training to focus their attention on the application of new knowledge and skills and make a commitment to implement these new learning in their lives.

Structured action planning that is integrated into the training program will guide your distributors to:

  • Identify what they hope to achieve in the program
  • Know the strategies to work toward improving that goal
  • Solidify their personal priorities
  • Focus their efforts in high impact areas.
  • Ask for support and resources needed to ensure success

An action plan can be as simple as having learners reflect on and complete the following statements:

  • Three things I will do in the next week to begin using my new skills.
  • Three people I will meet to discuss what I have learned and how it applies.
  • Three actions I will get done next month to use my new knowledge.

If you’re looking for more structure, you can look to incorporate some of these components:

  1. Goal / Objective – What will be achieved by taking the action steps?
  2. Action Steps – Task, Who, By When – What are the steps needed to accomplish the goal or objective? Who is responsible for completion? What is the timeline for each action?
  3. Strengths and Weaknesses – What will help accomplish the goal or objective? What will hinder meeting the goal and/or objective?
  4. Measuring Success – What are the statistics or milestones to reaching the objective?
  5. Resources – What is needed to accomplish the objective. Who can provide those resources?
  6. Celebrate – How will accomplishing the benchmarks or milestones be recognized and celebrated?

The goal of training is not simply to gain knowledge and skills, but to transfer learning into performance, which in turn leads to improvements in the company’s results. Training transfer is not an event; it is a dynamic and complex process that requires planning. It should be structured to become successful.