Training develop

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Unit II Journal

Read CHapters 3 and 4

Question 1


Of the seven techniques and methods used in conducting needs assessments, which would you select to use? Why?

Your journal entry must be at least 200 words in length. No references or citations are necessary.


  • Who should be included in a needs assessment, and why? Explain the three components of a needs assessment.

    Your response must be at least 200 words in length.


  • There are various reasons why training is needed. Identify some causes, and pick one to explain in detail.

    Your response must be at least 200 words in length.

Chapter Three

Needs Assessment


After reading this chapter, you should be able to

Discuss the role of organization analysis, person analysis, and task analysis in needs assessment.

Identify different methods used in needs assessment and identify the advantages and disadvantages of each method.

Discuss the concerns of upper- and mid-level managers and trainers in needs assessment.

Explain how personal characteristics, input, output, consequences, and feedback influence performance and learning.

Create conditions to ensure that employees are receptive to training.

Discuss the steps involved in conducting a task analysis.

Analyze task analysis data to determine the tasks for which people need to be trained.

Explain competency models and the process used to develop them.

Needs Assessment at McDonald’s, ADP, and HireRight

Needs assessment is a critical first step in designing new training courses and revising existing ones. Consider how needs assessment was used at McDonald’s, ADP, and HireRight.

McDonald’s conducted a needs assessment to help examine where the company needed to go from a learning perspective to help the company achieve its strategic goals. The chief learning officer and her team examined employees’ backgrounds, including education level, gender, language, age, and generation, to get a better understanding of trainees. They gathered data from employees about how frequently they used online training content and how easy it was to access it. Also, they reviewed the responsibilities, tasks, and leadership skills for each job to ensure that they were supported by training classes and curriculum. The needs assessment showed that although more trainees were millennials and Generation Z, the way that training was delivered did not meet their needs or expectations. As a result,

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they created a shorter training curriculum that was more accessible using smartphones, computers, and tablets.

ADP provides human resource management software and services. ADP needed to revise a new hire training program that took 17 weeks to complete. The program was too long to train newly hired service associates and prepare them to begin performing their roles. To redesign its training program so that it was shorter but still effective, ADP conducted a needs assessment. Learning and development team members interviewed high-performing sales associates, observed client calls, and analyzed data from over 3 million client calls to identify the reasons for the calls and how they were typically resolved.

HireRight, a company that provides background screening services, conducted a needs assessment by surveying all of its employees about the type of work environment they considered the most engaging; interviewing company leaders and high-performing employees about their skill needs; reviewing benchmarking data; and analyzing important company performance data. The needs assessment data were used to create a new leadership development program and performance management system, as well as to start an employee engagement initiative.

Sources: Based on A. Kuzel, “How to Conduct a Learning Audit”, Chief Learning Officer (November/December 2016), pp. 23–25, 66; “Outstanding Training Initiatives: ADP, LLC: Major Accounts (MAS) Fast Path”, training (January/February 2017), p. 100;, accessed March 14, 2018; “Building Talent: The Very BEST of 2017, HireRight, LLC”, TD (October 2017), p. 81.


As discussed in Chapter One, “Introduction to Employee Training and Development,” effective training practices involve the use of a training design process. The design process begins with a needs assessment. Subsequent steps in the process include ensuring that employees have the motivation and basic skills necessary to learn, creating a positive learning environment, making sure that trainees use learned skills on the job, choosing the training method, and evaluating whether training has achieved the desired outcomes. As the company examples in the chapter opener highlight, before you choose a training method, it is important to determine what type of training is necessary and how it should be delivered. Needs assessment refers to the process used to determine whether training is necessary.

Needs assessment typically involves organizational analysis, person analysis, and task analysis.1 An organizational analysis considers the context in which training will occur. That is, organizational analysis involves determining the appropriateness of training, given the company’s business strategy, its resources available for training, and support by managers and peers for training activities. You are already familiar with one aspect of organizational analysis. Chapter Two, “Strategic Training,” discussed the role of the company’s business strategy in determining the frequency and type of training.

Person analysis helps identify who needs training. Person analysis involves (1) determining whether performance deficiencies result from a lack of knowledge, skill, or ability (a training issue) or from a motivational or work-design problem; (2) identifying who

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needs training; and (3) determining employees’ readiness for training. Task analysis identifies the important tasks and knowledge, skills, and behaviors that need to be emphasized in training for employees to complete their tasks.


Needs assessment is important because a manager or other client asking for training—which focuses on closing skill gaps resulting from a lack of knowledge or skill—could really be asking for or need something else, such as a way to motivate employees, change their perspectives or attitudes, or redesign workflow.2 If a manager requests training for a performance problem, what he or she is looking for is a solution to a problem that may (or may not) involve training. In conducting a needs assessment, your role is to determine if training is the appropriate solution.

Needs assessment is the first step in the instructional design process, and if it is not properly conducted, any one or more of the following situations may occur:

Training may be incorrectly used as a solution to a performance problem (when the solution should deal with employee motivation, job design, or a better communication of performance expectations).

Training programs may have the wrong content, objectives, or methods.

Trainees may be sent to training programs for which they do not have the basic skills, prerequisite skills, or confidence needed to learn.

Training may not deliver the expected learning, behavior change, or financial results that the company expects.

Money may be spent on training programs that are unnecessary because they are unrelated to the company’s business strategy.

Figure 3.1 shows the three types of analysis involved in needs assessment and the causes and outcomes that result. There are many different causes or “pressure points” that suggest that training is necessary. These pressure points include performance problems, new technology, internal or external customer requests for training, job redesign, new legislation, changes in customer preferences, the introduction of new products or services or changes to existing ones, and employees’ lack of basic skills. For example, consider the pressure points that suggested training was necessary at BNSF Railway and Verizon.3 BNSF Railway had to design new training to ensure employees were proficient in inspecting brakes because of the introduction of new federal regulations on brake system safety standards. BNSF Railway developed virtual reality training in which the employees work in a simulation performing brake inspections on rail cars. New consumer and business pricing plans meant that Verizon’s learning and development team had just six days to train thousands of customer service representatives. To deliver the training, the team used webcasts and videos accessed on iPads and in-person skill drills conducted by trainers and store managers.

FIGURE 3.1 Causes and Outcomes of Needs Assessment

Note that these pressure points do not automatically mean that training is the correct solution. For example, consider a delivery truck driver whose job is to deliver anesthetic gases to medical facilities. The driver mistakenly hooks up the supply line of a mild anesthetic to the supply line of a hospital’s oxygen system, contaminating the hospital’s oxygen supply. Why did the driver make this mistake, which is clearly a performance problem?The driver may have made this mistake because of a lack of knowledge about the appropriate line hookup for the anesthetic, because of anger over a requested salary increase that his manager recently denied, or because of mislabeled valves for connecting the gas supply. Only the lack of knowledge can be addressed by training. The other pressure points require reviewing and making decisions related to the driver’s anger-motivated behavior (fire the driver) or the design of the work environment (remind supervisors and drivers to check that valves and hookup lines are properly labeled at all work sites).

What outcomes result from a needs assessment? Needs assessment provides important input into most of the remaining steps in the training design. As shown in Figure 3.1, the needs assessment process results in information related to who needs training and what trainees need to learn, including the tasks in which they need to be trained, plus any other knowledge, skill, behavior, or additional job requirements. Needs assessment helps determine whether the company will outsource its training (i.e., purchase training from a vendor or consultant) or develop training through internal resources. Determining exactly what trainees need to learn is critical for the next step in the instructional design process: identifying learning outcomes and objectives. Chapter Four, “Learning and Transfer of Training,” explores identifying learning outcomes and learning objectives and creating a training environment so that learning occurs and is used on the job. Through identifying the learning outcomes and resources available for training, the needs assessment also provides information that helps the company choose the appropriate training or development method (discussed in Part Three of this book). Needs assessment also provides information regarding the outcomes that should be collected to evaluate training effectiveness. The process of evaluating training is discussed in Chapter Six, “Training Evaluation.”


Because the goal of needs assessment is to determine whether a training need exists, who it exists for, and for what tasks training is needed, it is important that all stakeholders are included in the needs assessment. Stakeholders include persons in the organization

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who have an interest in training and development and whose support is important for determining its success (or failure). Stakeholders include company leaders and top-level managers, mid-level managers, trainers, and employees who are end users of learning. There are several ways to ensure that stakeholders are involved in needs assessment. One way is through establishing formal advisory groups that meet on a regular basis to discuss learning issues. Another way is to ensure that relevant stakeholders are included in interviews, focus groups, crowdsourcing, and surveys used for needs assessment. Traditionally, only trainers were concerned with the needs assessment process. But, as Chapter Two showed, as training is increasingly being used to help the company achieve its strategic goals, both upper- and mid-level managers are becoming involved in the needs assessment process.

Table 3.1 shows the questions that company leaders, mid-level managers, trainers, and employees are interested in answering for organizational analysis, person analysis, and task analysis. Company leaders include directors, CEOs, and vice presidents. Company leaders view the needs assessment process from the broader company perspective rather than focusing on specific jobs. Company leaders are involved in the needs assessment process to identify the role of training in relation to other human resource practices in the company (e.g., selection and compensation of employees). Company leaders want training to anticipate needs and to be aligned with where the business is going. Training and development need to improve employee performance in such a way that they support the business strategy. Learning efforts (training, development, knowledge management) need to take an integrated and holistic approach—rather than consist of a series of fragmented courses or programs—and add value to the company. Company leaders are also involved in identifying what business functions or units need training (person analysis) and in determining if the company has the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities in its workforce to meet the company’s strategy and be competitive in the marketplace.

TABLE 3.1 Key Concerns of Company Leaders, Mid-Level Managers, Trainers, and Employees in Needs Assessment

Mid-level managers are more concerned with how training may affect the attainment of financial goals for the particular units they supervise. As a result, for mid-level managers, organizational analysis focuses on identifying (1) how much of their budgets they want to devote to training; (2) the types of employees who should receive training (e.g., engineers, or core employees who are directly involved in producing goods or providing services); and (3) for which jobs training could make a difference in terms of improving products or customer service.For example, at the BayCare hospital system in Florida, the learning team created an advisory council comprised of leaders from all levels of the hospital.4 The purpose of the council is to provide advice and ideas about any planned talent management program. For example, the advisory board provides advice about how training should be delivered, who should be included in the training, and how training effectiveness should be determined.

All of the 150 employees at LaSalle Network, a staffing and recruiting company based in Chicago, are regularly asked what weaknesses they want to improve and what skills they want to learn. Everyone, including the company CEO, the human resources staff, managers, mentors, and the training staff, ask these questions. Training programs, courses, and employee development activities are chosen to address the weaknesses and skills identified.5 At CarMax, top-performing employees are observed and interviewed to identify the behaviors that are responsible for their high performance.6 These behaviors are emphasized in training to help benefit all employees. Top performers are also asked to provide content or

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to appear in videos used for training. The learning team partners with business leaders and human resources to come up with a plan for evaluating the effectiveness of training.

As discussed in Chapter Two, trainers (including training managers and instructional designers) need to consider whether training is aligned with the business strategy. However, trainers are primarily interested in needs assessment to provide them with the information they need to administer, develop, and support training programs. This information includes determining if training should be purchased or developed in-house, identifying the tasks for which employees need to be trained, and determining upper- and mid-level managers’ interest in and support for training.

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Employees have several interests in needs assessment. From an organizational perspective, they are concerned with how the company values learning: Is learning rewarded? Does learning help them improve their job performance or meet their career goals? Is it easy to get access to formal and informal learning opportunities? They also want to know if their manager can be expected to encourage them to take courses and programs or informally learn, and whether they will be given support in applying what they have learned. Employees have to determine whether they are motivated to learn, as well as what tasks, knowledge, skills, or competencies they need for their current job or career.

Company leaders are usually involved in determining whether training meets the company’s strategy and then providing the appropriate financial resources. Upper-level managers are not usually involved in identifying which employees need training, the tasks for which training is needed, or the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics needed to complete those tasks. This is the role of subject-matter experts (SMEs). Subject-matter experts (SMEs) are employees, academics, managers, technical experts, trainers, and even customers or suppliers who are knowledgeable with regard to (1) training issues, including tasks to be performed; (2) the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for successful task performance; (3) the necessary equipment; and (4) the conditions under which the tasks have to be performed. A key issue with SMEs is making sure that they are knowledgeable about the content that training must cover, as well as realistic enough to be able to prioritize what content is critical to cover in the time allotted for the subject in the training curriculum. SMEs must also have information that is relevant to the company’s business and have an understanding of the company’s language, tools, and products. There is no rule regarding how many types of employees should be represented in the group conducting the needs assessment. Still, it is important to get a sample of job incumbents (employees who are currently performing the job) involved in the process because they tend to be most knowledgeable about the job. Also, these employees can be a great hindrance to the training process if they do not feel they have had input into the needs assessment.

MasTec, a construction company that engineers, procures, constructs, and maintains the infrastructures for electric power transmission and distribution, oil and natural gas pipelines, and communications companies, wanted to develop an online learning management system through which employees could access training and development courses.7 MasTec conducted a needs assessment to determine the technology and functionality that was needed to support new training programs and to identify unique employee needs. The development team started by conducting a stakeholder analysis. This involved considering who would be involved in the process, understanding how to partner with them, and determining what type of information they could offer. It included meeting with safety team leaders, trainers, and construction crew members, observing employees performing their jobs, and attending existing training classes. The development team recorded every need and request made throughout this process. As a result of this analysis, it identified four goals for the learning management system. These goals included (1) increasing the accessibility of training content, (2) increasing the flexibility and variety in how training is delivered and completed, (3) improving the training registration process for employees, and (4) creating reporting tools to make training requirements, participation, and completion visible to employees, their managers, and the employee development group.

At Fatima Fertilizer Company in Pakistan, engineers or technicians who have become training coordinators work with employees and managers to measure performance anddetermine training needs based on the knowledge and competency goals established for each department. Each department submits monthly training reports to the training and development team. Executive and department committees meet quarterly with the training and development team to review their progress toward meeting the knowledge and competency goals and to make adjustments in training plans.8


Several methods are used to conduct needs assessment, including observing employees performing the job; interviewing SMEs; asking SMEs to complete surveys designed to identify the tasks and knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics required for a job; conducting focus groups with SMEs; reading technical manuals and other documentation; using technology; and using historical data. Table 3.2 presents the advantages and disadvantages of each method.

TABLE 3.2 Advantages and Disadvantages of Needs Assessment Techniques





· Generates data relevant to work environment

· Minimizes interruption of work

· Needs skilled observers

· Employees’ behavior may be affected by being observed


· Inexpensive

· Can collect data from a large number of persons

· Data easily summarized

· Requires time

· Possible low return rates; inappropriate responses

· Lacks detail

· Only provides information directly related to questions asked


· Good at uncovering details of training needs, as well as causes of and solutions to problems

· Can explore unanticipated issues that come up

· Questions can be modified

· Time-consuming

· Difficult to analyze

· Needs skilled interviewers

· Can be threatening to SMEs

· Difficult to schedule

· SMEs provide only information they think you want to hear

Focus groups, Crowdsourcing

· Useful with complex or controversial issues that one person may be unable or unwilling to explore

· Questions can be modified to explore unanticipated issues

· Reduces risk that training based on needs assessment will be rejected by stakeholders

· Time-consuming to organize

· Group members provide only information they think you want to hear

Documentation (technical manuals, records, research studies)

· Good source of information on procedure

· Objective

· Good source of task information for new jobs and jobs in the process of being created

· You may be unable to understand technical language

· Materials may be obsolete


· Objective

· Minimizes interruption of work

· Requires limited human involvement

· Data can be quickly summarized into reports

· May threaten employees

· Manager may use information to punish rather than train

Historical data reviews

· Provide data related to performance and practices

· Available data may be inaccurate or incomplete, or may not fully represent performance

Sources: Based on A. Kuzel, “How to Conduct a Learning Audit”, Chief Learning Officer (November/December 2016), pp. 23–25, 66; S. V. Steadham, “Learning to Select a Needs Assessment Strategy,” Training and Development Journal (January 1980), pp. 56–61; R. J. Mirabile, “Everything You Wanted to Know About Competency Modeling,” Training and Development (August 1997), p. 74; K. Gupta, A Practical Guide to Needs Assessment (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1999); M. Casey and D. Doverspike, “Training Needs Analysis and Evaluation for New Technologies Through the Use of Problem-Based Inquiry,” Performance Improvement Quarterly 18, 1 (2005), pp. 110–124.

Face-to-face and telephone interviews are time-consuming, but more detailed information regarding training needs can be collected. Consider how Nuance Communications used interviews for needs assessment. Nuance Communications is a global company with headquarters in Massachusetts that focuses on voice communications that can help people use new technologies to interact and communicate with machines.9 Nuance’s CEO wanted its learning and development team to help improve the retention and career progression of its technologists. The learning and development team talked with the company’s leaders to understand their concerns and expectations. Based on their input, the team provided some initial training ideas and asked for feedback. Also, they interviewed the technologists to get their impressions of the strategic direction of the company and identify the characteristics and behaviors of average and outstanding performers. The interviews with the leaders and technologists were critical for designing three training programs that met the company’s needs. These training programs included one in which internal experts share their knowledge and experiences, another that helps technologists develop a better understanding of the company, and a third that helps technologists acquire knowledge specific to the industry or technology in which they work.

The advantage of surveys is that information can be collected from a large number of persons. Also, surveys allow many employees to participate in the needs assessment process. However, when using surveys, it is difficult to collect detailed information regarding training needs. Focus groups are a type of SME interview that involves a face-to-face meeting with groups of stakeholders or SMEs in which the questions that are asked relate to specific training needs. For example, the learning team at Cartus uses focus groups consisting of managers and employees from the department for which training is being developed.10 The focus groups discuss the department’s business goals and the gaps they feel need to be closed to reach those goals. The focus groups help identify and prioritize training needs. Crowdsourcing can also be used for needs assessment. In this context, crowdsourcing refers to asking stakeholders to provide information for needs assessment. Computer Services Corporation uses “Ideation,” a web-based tool for collaboration and crowdsourcing, to help identify training needs.11 The process requires a review team to filter, sort, and build on the best ideas. The process allows the learning department to get a larger number of employees involved in the needs assessment process rather than relying

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only on interviews with SMEs. It is important to verify the results of interviews, surveys, and focus groups however, because what employees and managers say they do and what they really do may differ.

For newly created jobs, trainers often do not have job incumbents to rely on for needs assessment information. Technical diagrams, research studies, simulations, and equipment designers can provide information regarding the training requirements, tasks, and conditions under which a job is performed. This information is especially useful for newly created jobs where trainers do not have job incumbents they can observe, survey, interview, or ask to participate in a focus group. LeadingRE used the results of a research study it purchased from a consulting firm as part of its needs assessment.12 The research study identified residential real estate customers’ interests, desires, emotions, attitudes, and lifestyles. LeadingRE used this information to design training to teach its agents the types of questions to ask their customers to better understand their preferences, create stronger relationships, and enhance sales.

Technology that monitors employee behavior and performance also can be used for needs assessment. Software and wearables such as Google glasses can be used to collect data on employee behavior and performance. For example, employees in the melt department at H&H Castings have a demanding and potentially dangerous job that requires them to pour hot aluminum into casting molds.13 To reduce the risk of accidents and improve new employee training, H&H Castings analyzed the job tasks of its melt department employees and identified the procedures needed to complete them. To identify the tasks and procedures, employees wore eye-tracking glasses as they worked. A computer connected to the eye-tracking glasses recorded what employees were looking at as they worked and provided a detailed and precise view of how employees completed their job tasks. The results showed that the work requires a high level of concentration. The perspective obtained from the eye-tracking glasses was used to create videos that are now used for both training new employees and identifying changes that could be made to make the mold-pouring process safer and more efficient. This information also is useful for identifying training needs and providing employees with feedback regarding their skill strengths and weaknesses. In call centers, technology provides an ongoing assessment of performance.14 An employee who triggers the online system by failing to meet a defined standard, such as receiving more than five callbacks on an unresolved issue, is automatically referred to the appropriate job aid or training event. As shown in Table 3.2, online technology offers several advantages: it provides an objective report of behaviors, the data can be quickly summarized into reports, it does not require a trainer or SME to observe or interview employees, and it minimizes work interruptions. However, for technology to be effective, managers need to ensure that the information is used to train employees, rather than punish them. Otherwise, employees will feel threatened, which will contribute to employee dissatisfaction and turnover.

Historical data reviews can also provide helpful information to determine training needs. Historical data review involves collecting performance data from electronic or paper records. It provides information regarding current performance levels, which is useful for identifying gaps between actual and desired performance. For example, a needs assessment conducted at a hospital to determine the causes of a high number of errors in radiology orders (e.g., x-rays) from physicians collected historical data on errors, including incorrect exams, examination of the wrong side of the patient’s body, use of incorrect diagnosis codes, and duplicate orders.15 The historical data were used along with semi-structured

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interviews and observations to identify the causes for the errors and interventions to reduce them. For companies that have introduced a new technology, another source of historical data is the help desk that companies often set up to deal with calls regarding problems, deficiencies in training, or deficiencies in documentation, software, or systems.16 Help-desk management software can categorize and track calls and questions by application, by caller, or by vendor. Report creation capability built into the software makes it easy to generate documents on user problems and identify themes among calls. Analyzing these calls is practical for identifying gaps in training. For example, common types of call problems can be analyzed to determine if they are due to inadequate coverage in the training program and/or inadequate written documentation and job aids used by trainees.

Because no single method of conducting needs assessment is superior to the others, multiple methods are usually used. The methods vary in the type of information, as well as the level of detail provided. For example, at Brown-Forman Corporation, producer and marketer of beverages and alcohol brands such as Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, training needs are identified in a number of different ways, including monitoring employee development and performance management data, trends in the beverage alcohol industry, and issues raised by the company’s operating groups who pay for training services.17 To help develop Choice Hotels’ leadership foundations program for new managers, focus groups were held with experienced managers to identify topics that should be included.18 Also, data from talent assessments were reviewed. The company’s top executives reviewed the course descriptions as they were being developed to ensure they were focused on the right skills.

Many companies are also using information about other companies’ training practices (a process known as benchmarking) to help determine the appropriate type, level, and frequency of training.19 For example, The Boeing Company, UPS, Walmart, Johnsonville Sausage, and 50 other companies are members of the ATD (Association for Talent Development) forum.20 Each company completes a common survey instrument, responding to questions on training costs, staff size, administration, design, program development, and delivery. The information is then summarized and shared with the participating companies.


This section examines the three elements of needs assessment: organizational analysis, person analysis, and task analysis. Figure 3.2 illustrates the needs assessment process. While any one analysis can indicate the need for training, companies need to consider the information from all three types of analysis before the decision is made to devote time and money to training. In practice, organizational analysis, person analysis, and task analysis are not conducted in any order. However, because organizational analysis is concerned with identifying whether training suits the company’s strategic objectives and whether the company has the budget, time, and expertise for training (the context for training), it is usually conducted first. Person analysis and task analysis are often conducted at the same time because it is difficult to determine whether performance deficiencies are a training problem without first understanding the tasks and the work environment. An initial organizational analysis may suggest that a company does not want to spend financial resources on training. However, if person analysis reveals that a large number of employees lack a skill in an important area

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that is related to the company’s business objectives (such as customer service), upper-level managers may decide to reallocate financial resources for training.

FIGURE 3.2 The Needs Assessment Process

Organizational Analysis

Organizational analysis involves identifying whether training supports the company’s strategic direction; whether managers, peers, and employees support training activity; and what training resources are available. Table 3.3 provides questions that trainers should ask in an organizational analysis. Some combination of documentation, interviews, focus groups, or surveys of managers, individuals in the training function, and employees should be used to answer these questions.

TABLE 3.3 Questions to Ask in an Organizational Analysis

· How might the training content affect our employees’ relationship with our customers?

· What might suppliers, customers, or partners need to know about the training program?

· How does this program align with the strategic needs of the business?

· What business and performance results do clients of training and development (typically business leaders) want?

· Should organizational resources be devoted to this program?

· What do we need from managers and peers for this training to succeed?

· What features of the work environment might interfere with training (e.g., lack of equipment, no time to use new skills)?

· Do we have experts who can help us develop the program content and ensure that we understand the needs of the business as we develop the program?

· Will employees perceive the training program as an opportunity? Reward? Punishment? Waste of time?

· Which persons or groups (e.g., employees, managers, vendors, suppliers, and/or program developers) have an interest in seeing training succeed? Whose support do we need?

Sources: Based on D. Robinson, “Transitioning from Order-Taker to Impact-Maker”, TD (January 2018), pp. 42–46; F. Nickols, “Why a Stakeholder Approach to Evaluating Training?” Advances in Developing Human Resources (February 2005), pp. 121–134; S. Tannenbaum, “A Strategic View of Organizational Training and Learning.” in Creating, Implementing, and Managing Effective Training and Development, ed. K. Kraiger (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2002), pp. 10–52.

The Company’s Strategic Direction

How the company’s business strategy influences training was discussed in Chapter Two. The strategic role of training influences the frequency and type of training and how the training function is organized in the company. In companies in which training is expected to contribute to the achievement of business strategies and goals, the amount of money allocated to training and the frequency of training will likely be higher than in companies in which training is done haphazardly or with no strategic intent. For example, companies that believe learning contributes to their competitive advantage or that have adopted high-performance

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work systems (e.g., teams) are likely to have greater training budgets and conduct more training. The business strategy also influences the type of training. For example, as noted in Chapter Two, companies that have adopted a disinvestment strategy are more likely to focus on outplacement assistance and job search skills training than are companies with other strategic initiatives. Last, the greater the strategic role of training, the more likely that the company will organize the training function using the business-embedded or corporate university models. Both of these models emphasize the use of training to help solve business problems.

For example, to stay competitive, IBM has to stay up-to-date on the newest technology and business trends.21 IBM has to constantly reinvent itself to ensure that it can meet the needs of its customers. This means that employees also must continue to develop new knowledge and skills. From a learning perspective, IBM has to ensure that the learning content it offers, including both face-to-face and online courses, provides employees with the latest knowledge and skills. To accomplish this, IBM keeps track of both how often employees use the learning content it offers as well as how useful that content is, based on employees’ evaluations. At the end of 2013, IBM eliminated 39 percent of the learning content that few employees found useful or used. This included 7,600 courses!

Support of Managers, Peers, and Employees for Training Activities

A number of studies have found that peer and manager support for training is critical, along with employee enthusiasm and motivation to attend training. The key factors for success are a positive attitude among peers, managers, and employees about participation in training activities; managers’ and peers’ willingness to provide information to trainees about how they can use the knowledge, skills, or behaviors learned in training to perform their jobs more effectively; and opportunities for trainees to use training content in their jobs.22 If peers’ and managers’ attitudes and behaviors are not supportive, employees are not likely to apply training content to their jobs.

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Training Resources

It is necessary to identify whether the company has the budget, time, and expertise for training. One of the questions that the company must answer is whether it has the resources (i.e., time, money, and expertise) to build or develop training programs itself or whether it should buy them from a vendor or consulting firm. This is known as the “buy versus build” decision. For example, if the company is installing computer-based manufacturing equipment in one of its plants, it has three possible strategies for dealing with the need to have computer-literate employees. First, the company may decide that, given its staff expertise and budget, it can use internal consultants to train all affected employees. Second, the company may decide that it is more cost effective to identify employees who are computer literate by using tests and work samples. Employees who fail the test or perform below standards on the work sample can be reassigned to other jobs. Choosing this strategy suggests that the company has decided to devote resources to selection and placement rather than training. Third, because it lacks time or expertise, the company may decide to buy training from a consultant. We will discuss how to identify and choose a high-quality vendor or consultant to provide training services in Chapter Five, “Program Design.”

One way to identify training resources is for companies with similar operations or departments located across the country or the world to share ideas and practices. Kaiser Permanente, a California-based health-care company, is organized by regional business units.23 In each region the company integrates health-care delivery, including hospitals, outpatient services, and insurance providers. One of its concerns was how to provide consistent and high-quality learning and development opportunities for employees in all of the regions. To do so, the vice president of learning and development created a group, the National Learning Leaders, which includes leaders from account management, sales, compliance, quality improvement, and patient safety. The National Learning Leaders meet three times every year and in smaller working groups in the months when the full membership is not scheduled to meet. They discuss how to develop learning solutions that can be implemented across the business and what kinds of services should be provided by the learning organizations within each region. This has resulted in learning initiatives that are consistent across the regions and delivered in a way that enhances employee participation. For example, based on input from the National Learning Leaders, online and hybrid training courses on patient safety were developed. So far, 19,000 employees have completed these modules, compared to only 50 who attended classroom-based training.

Person Analysis

Person analysis helps identify employees who need training, perhaps due to lack of training or poor previous training. This is often referred to as a gap analysis. A gap analysis includes determining what is responsible for the difference between employees’ current and expected performance. The need for training may result from the pressure points in Figure 3.1, including performance problems, changes in the job, or the use of new technology. Person analysis also helps to determine employees’ readiness for training. Readiness for training refers to whether (1) employees have the personal characteristics (ability, attitudes, beliefs, and motivation) necessary to learn program content and apply it on the job, and (2) the work environment will facilitate learning and not interfere with performance. This process includes evaluating person characteristics, input, output, consequences, and feedback.24

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A major pressure point for training is poor or substandard performance. Poor performance is indicated by customer complaints, low performance ratings, or on-the-job incidents such as accidents and unsafe behavior. Another potential indicator of the need for training is if the job changes such that current levels of performance need to be improved or employees must be able to complete new tasks.

The Process for Person Analysis

Figure 3.3 shows the process for analyzing the factors that influence performance and learning. Person characteristics refer to employee knowledge, skill, ability, and attitudes. Input relates to the instructions that tell employees what, how, and when to perform. Input also refers to the resources that the employees are given to help them perform. These resources may relate to equipment, time, or budget. Output refers to the job’s performance 133

Consequences refer to the type of incentives that employees receive for performing well. Feedback refers to the information that employees receive while they are performing.

FIGURE 3.3 The Process for Analyzing the Factors That Influence Employee Performance and Learning

Sources: R. Jaenke, “Identify the Real Reasons Behind Performance Gaps”, T+D (August 2013), pp. 76–77.; C. Reinhart, “How to Leap over Barriers to Performance,” Training and Development (January 2000), pp. 20–24; G. Rummler and K. Morrill, “The Results Chain,” T+D (February 2005), pp. 27–35.

Interviews or questionnaires can be used to measure person characteristics, input, output, consequences, and feedback. For example, a package delivery company believed that lead drivers were valuable for providing on-the-job training for new employees.25 The company employed 110 lead drivers, and the job involved driving, delivery, and bookkeeping duties. The lead drivers benefited from their training role because coaching and training made their jobs more interesting, and the company benefited because on-the-job training was relatively inexpensive and effective. Lead drivers were often able to quickly spot and correct performance problems with new trainees, and they knew the technical aspects of the delivery job quite well. Although many of the lead drivers were already good trainers and coaches, the company believed that they needed to learn how to coach and train the new drivers. The company used interviews to identify what type of coaching and training skills the lead drivers needed. Interviews were conducted with 14 lead drivers, six supervisors, and two regional vice presidents. The interview for the lead drivers consisted of questions such as the following:

What types of situations call for coaching on your part?

What keeps you from being a good coach on the job?

How do you encourage or motivate other lead drivers? Do you use incentives or rewards? Do you try other things (compliments, personal attention)?

What common types of performance problems do new hires have?

What were the biggest problems you encountered as a new coach and trainer? What mistakes did you make? What lessons have you learned over time?

Tell me about a successful coaching experience and an unsuccessful coaching experience.

Recurring trends in the interview data were noted and categorized. For example, interview questions on obstacles to coaching related to three themes: lack of time to coach, the physical environment (no privacy), and reluctance to coach peers. These three topics were covered in the coaching course.

Person characteristics, input, output, consequences, and feedback influence the motivation to learn. Motivation to learn is trainees’ desire to learn the content of training programs.26 Consider how your motivation to learn may be influenced by person characteristics and the environment. You may have no problem understanding and comprehending the contents of this textbook. But your learning may be inhibited because of your attitude toward the course. That is, perhaps you do not believe that the course will be important for your career. Maybe you are taking the course only because it fits your schedule or is required in your degree program. Learning may also be inhibited by the environment. For example, maybe you want to learn, but your study environment prevents you from doing so. Every time you are prepared to read and review your notes and the textbook, your roommates could be having a party. Even if you do not join them, the music may be so loud that you cannot concentrate.

Marriott International, the hotel and restaurant chain, found that personal characteristics were having a significant influence on the success rate of the company’s welfare-to-work program.27 This program involves training welfare recipients for jobs in the company’s hotels and restaurants. (These types of programs are discussed in greater detail

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in Chapter Ten, “Social Responsibility: Legal Issues, Managing Diversity, and Career Challenges.”) Many trainees were unable to complete the training program because of poor attendance due to unreliable child care, drug problems, or abusive partners. As a result, Marriott has instituted strict standards for selecting welfare recipients for the training program. These standards include requiring trainees to have child care, transportation, and housing arrangements. Also, Marriott added an additional drug test during training.

A number of research studies have shown that motivation to learn is related to knowledge gained, behavior changes, or skill acquisition resulting from training.28 Besides considering the factors of person characteristics, input, output, consequences, and feedback in determining whether training is the best solution to a performance problem, managers should also take these factors into account when selecting which employees will attend a training program. These factors relate to the employees’ motivation to learn. The following sections describe each of these factors and its relationship to performance and learning.

Person Characteristics

Person characteristics include basic skills, cognitive ability, language skills, and other traits that employees need to perform their jobs or learn in training and development programs effectively. Person characteristics also include employees’ age or generation, which might affect how they prefer to learn. As mentioned in Chapter One, recent forecasts of workforce skill levels and survey results suggest that companies are experiencing a skills gap. That is, companies are having difficulty finding employees who have the right knowledge, skills, or abilities to fill open positions or to succeed in training to prepare them for today’s jobs.

Basic Skills
Basic skills refers to skills that are necessary for employees to perform on the job and to learn the content of training programs successfully. Basic skills include cognitive ability and reading and writing skills. For example, one assumption that your professor is making in this course is that you have the necessary reading level to comprehend this textbook and the other course materials such as PowerPoint slides, videos, or readings. If you lack the necessary reading level, you likely will not learn much about training in this course. As Chapter One discussed, recent forecasts of skill levels of the U.S. workforce indicate that managers will likely have to work with employees who lack basic skills. A literacy audit can be used to determine employees’ basic skill levels. Table 3.4 shows the activities involved in conducting a literacy audit.

TABLE 3.4 Steps in Performing a Literacy Audit

Step 1:

Observe employees to determine the basic skills that they need to be successful in their job. Note the materials the employee uses on the job, the tasks performed, and the reading, writing, and computations completed.

Step 2:

Collect all materials that are written and read on the job and identify the computations that must be performed to determine the necessary level of basic skill proficiency. Materials include bills, memos, and forms such as inventory lists and requisition sheets.

Step 3:

Interview employees to determine the basic skills that they believe are needed to do the job. Consider the basic skill requirements of the job yourself.

Step 4:

Determine whether employees have the basic skills needed to perform the job successfully. Combine the information gathered by observing and interviewing employees and evaluating materials they use on the job. Write a description of each job in terms of the reading, writing, and computation skills needed to perform the job successfully.

Step 5:

Develop or buy tests that ask questions relating specifically to the employees’ job. Ask employees to complete the tests.

Step 6:

Compare test results (from step 5) with the description of the basic skills required for the job (from step 4). If the level of the employees’ reading, writing, and computation skills does not match the basic skills required by the job, then a basic skills problem exists.

Sources: U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Labor, The Bottom Line: Basic Skills in the Workplace (Washington, DC: 1988), pp. 14–15.

It is important to note that possession of a high school diploma or a college degree is no guarantee that an employee has basic skills. If participants do not have the fundamental reading, writing, and math skills to understand the training, they will not be able to learn, they will not apply their training to the job (a process known as transfer, which is discussed in Chapter Four), and the company will have wasted money on training that does not work. Trainers need to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of trainees before designing a training program. The skill weaknesses that are identified can be used to determine prerequisites that trainees need or must acquire before entering a training program. How do trainers identify skills gaps?29 First, trainers collect general information through position-specific training materials and job descriptions. They also observe the job to become familiar with the necessary skills. Next, trainers meet with subject-matter experts (SMEs), including employees, managers, engineers, or others who are familiar with the job. With the help of these SMEs, trainers identify a list of regularly performed activities and prioritize the list according to importance. Finally, trainers identify the skills and skill

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levels that are needed to perform the activities or job tasks. For example, nurses must watch for changes in patient conditions, reactions, and comfort levels; they need to identify and recall details when observing patients. These activities require good observation skills, and the trainer needs to find or create a test to measure those skills. Once the skills analysis is complete, trainers conduct a basic (or pretraining) skills evaluation to identify skills gaps that need to be addressed prior to enrolling employees in a training session.

Cognitive Ability
Research shows that cognitive ability influences learning and job performance. Cognitive ability includes three dimensions: verbal comprehension, quantitative ability, and reasoning ability.30 Verbal comprehension refers to the person’s capacity to understand and use written and spoken language. Quantitative ability refers to how fast and accurately a person can solve math problems. Reasoning ability refers to the person’s capacity to invent solutions to problems. Research shows that cognitive ability is related to successful performance in all jobs.31 The importance of cognitive ability for job success increases as the job becomes more complex.

For example, a supermarket cashier needs low to moderate levels of all three dimensions of cognitive ability to perform that job successfully. The supermarket cashier needs to understand the different denominations of bills and coins to give customers the correct amount of change. The cashier also needs to invent solutions to problems. (For example, how does the cashier deal with items that are not priced that the customer wants to purchase?) Finally, the cashier needs to be able to understand and communicate with customers (verbal comprehension). In comparison, an emergency room physician needs higher levels of verbal comprehension, quantitative ability, and reasoning ability than the cashier. For example, when dealing with an infant experiencing seizures in an emergency situation, the physician needs to be able to calculate the correct dosage of medicine (based on an

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adult dosage) to stop the seizures after considering the child’s weight. The physician also has to be able to diagnose the situation quickly and determine what actions (blood tests, x-rays, respiratory therapy, etc.) are necessary. And finally, the physician needs to communicate clearly with the patient’s parents in describing the treatment and recovery process.

Trainees’ level of cognitive ability also can influence how well they learn in training programs.32 Trainees with low levels of cognitive ability are more likely to fail to complete training or (at the end of training) receive lower grades on tests that measure how much they have learned.

To identify employees without the cognitive ability to succeed on the job or in training programs, companies use cognitive ability tests. For example, consider the actions taken by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to identify potential air traffic controllers who will complete training successfully.33 Air traffic control work requires quick analytical thinking and strong communications skills. These skills are emphasized and further developed in air traffic controller training. In addition to classroom training, air traffic controllers receive training through computer-based simulations of airport towers and en route centers, which direct planes between airports. The FAA estimates that in the past, it spent $10 million per year on unsuccessful trainees, which resulted in a doubling of training costs. To reduce its training costs and increase the number of new controllers who will be successful, the FAA uses an eight-hour test of cognitive skills that identifies whether applicants can think spatially, have good short- and long-term memory, and can work well under pressure—skills that are needed by successful air traffic controllers. Determining a job’s cognitive ability requirement is part of the task analysis process, discussed later in this chapter.

Reading Ability Readability
refers to the difficulty level of written materials.34 An inappropriate reading level can impede performance and learning in training programs. Materials used in training should be evaluated to ensure that their reading level does not exceed that required by the job. A readability assessment usually involves an analysis of sentence length and word difficulty.

If trainees’ reading level does not match the level required by the training materials, four options are available. First, trainers can determine whether it is feasible to lower the reading level of training materials or use video or on-the-job training, which involves learning by watching and practicing rather than by reading. Second, employees without the necessary reading level could be identified through reading tests and reassigned to other positions more congruent with their skill levels. Third, again using reading tests, trainers can identify employees who lack the necessary reading skills and provide them with remedial training. Fourth, trainers can consider redesigning the job to accommodate employees’ reading levels. The fourth option is certainly the most costly and least practical. Therefore, alternative training methods need to be considered, or managers can elect a non-training option. Non-training options include selecting employees for jobs and training opportunities on the basis of reading, computation, writing, and other basic skill requirements.

To develop basic skills or close the skills gap, many companies are engaging in skills assessment, training, or a combination of the two. They are working to identify and close skill gaps, either alone or in partnerships with state government agencies.35 For example, to help ensure that employees have the basic skills needed to succeed in training, Georgia-Pacific, a paper manufacturer, used skills assessment in combination with a training program. To be eligible to attend training programs, employees had to take reading and math skills tests and score at or above a ninth-grade level. Those who scored below a ninth-gradelevel were advised to attend basic skills training. Test results were communicated confidentially and were not part of employees’ personnel files. This was done to alleviate employees’ fears that their lack of literacy would cost them their jobs and to establish the trust needed to motivate them to attend the basic skills training. A local community college provided the basic training at sites close to Georgia-Pacific plants to make it easy for employees to attend classes before or after work. As a result of the assessment and training, the current workforce has reached the basic skills standard established by the company. To ensure that new employees meet the basic skills standards, Georgia-Pacific changed its hiring qualifications. New job applicants are required to have completed (or meet the requirements for) a specific 18-month schedule of courses at the local community college. Delta Wire, a small manufacturing company in Mississippi, developed a basic skills training program to help employees understand how to record, interpret, and communicate information on a statistical control chart. This training has helped Delta Wire reduce product defects from 7 percent to 2 percent.

Business is booming at PK Controls, an Ohio-based maker of automation controls, but the company has difficulty finding the technicians it needs.36 PK Controls does some of its own training to develop technicians but it also partners with Columbus State Community College to develop employees with the skills it needs. Along with other Ohio companies, including Honda and Worthington Industries, PK Controls participates in Columbus State’s Modern Manufacturing Program, which offers an associate degree in electro-mechanical engineering. Students spend two days a week in class and three days a week on the job. On-the-job training starts after the students have completed three semesters of classes, including advanced engineering. Graduates of the program quickly get jobs that pay $50,000 to $60,000, and the companies—including PK Controls—get employees with the skills they need.

Self-Efficacy Self-efficacy
is employees’ belief that they can perform their job or learn the content of the training program successfully. For many employees who may not have been successful performers in the past, the job environment can be threatening. For example, as you will see in Chapter Ten, employees hired through a welfare-to-work program—a program designed to help find jobs for welfare recipients—may lack self-efficacy. The training environment also can be threatening to those workers who have not received training or formal education for some length of time; lack education; or are not experienced in the training program’s subject matter. For example, training employees to use equipment for computer-based manufacturing may represent a potential threat, especially if they are intimidated by new technology and lack confidence in their ability to master the skills needed to use a computer. Research has demonstrated that self-efficacy is related to performance in training programs.37 Employees’ self-efficacy level can be increased by:

Letting employees know that the purpose of training is to try to improve performance rather than to identify areas in which employees are incompetent.

Providing as much information as possible about the training program and the purpose of training prior to the actual training.

Showing employees the training success of their peers who are now in similar jobs.

Providing employees with feedback that learning is under their control and they have the ability and the responsibility to overcome any learning difficulties they experience in the program.

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Awareness of Training Needs, Career Interests, and Goals
To be motivated to learn in training programs, employees must be aware of their skill strengths and weaknesses and of the link between the training program and improvement of their weaknesses.38 Managers should make sure that employees understand why they have been asked to attend training programs, and they should communicate the link between training and the improvement of skill weaknesses or knowledge deficiencies. This can be accomplished by sharing performance feedback with employees, holding career development discussions, or having employees complete a self-evaluation of their skill strengths and weaknesses as well as career interests and goals. For example, New York Life Insurance provides an online tool that allows employees to create a plan for their career development.39 The tool helps employees identify how learning through experiences, relationships, training, and formal education can help them reach their career goals.

If possible, employees need to be given a choice of what programs to attend. They should also understand how actual training assignments are made, to maximize their motivation to learn. Several studies have suggested that giving trainees a choice regarding which programs to attend and then honoring those choices maximizes motivation to learn. Giving employees choices but not necessarily honoring them can undermine motivation to learn.40

Age and Generation
There is biological evidence that certain mental capacities decrease from age 20 to age 70.41 Short-term memory and the speed at which people process information decline with age. However, with age also comes experience, which can compensate for the loss of memory and mental quickness. Although mental quickness and memory losses diminish at a steady pace, at older ages, memory loss is much greater because mental resources are more depleted than at earlier ages.

Chapter One discussed some of the differences (and similarities) of employees from different generations. Generation Z refers to people born after 1995. They are digital natives, perhaps more entrepreneurial than other generations, and more interested in meaningful work than money. The terms millennials and Generation Y refer to people born after 1980. They are optimistic, willing to work and learn, and technology-literate; they appreciate diversity. The term Gen Xers refers to people born from 1965 to 1980. Gen Xers need feedback and flexibility; they dislike close supervision. They have experienced change all their lives (in terms of parents, homes, and cities). Gen Xers value a balance between their work and nonwork lives. Baby boomers are people born between 1946 and 1964. They are competitive, hardworking, and concerned that all employees be fairly treated. Traditionalists are people born between 1925 and 1945. They are patriotic and loyal, and they have a great deal of knowledge of the history of organizations and work life. Each generation may have specific preferences for the arrangement of the learning environment, type of instruction, and learning activities.42 For example, traditionalists prefer a stable, orderly training environment and expect the instructor to provide expertise. But Gen Xers prefer more of a self-directed training environment in which they can experiment and receive feedback. As a result, it is important to consider the learners’ ages and generations as part of the person analysis. We will discuss these preferences and their implications for training design in Chapter Five.


Employees’ perceptions of two characteristics of the work environment—situational constraints and social support—are determinants of performance and motivation to learn.

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Situational constraints include lack of proper tools and equipment, materials and supplies, budgetary support, and time. Social support refers to managers’ and peers’ willingness to provide feedback and reinforcement.43 If employees have the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behavior needed to perform but do not have the proper tools and equipment needed, their performance will be inadequate.

To ensure that the work environment enhances trainees’ motivation to learn, managers should take the following steps:

Provide materials, time, job-related information, and other work aids necessary for employees to use new skills or behavior before participating in training programs.

Speak positively about the company’s training programs to employees.

Let employees know they are doing a good job when they are using training content in their work.

Encourage work-group members to involve each other in trying to use new skills on the job by soliciting feedback and sharing training experiences and situations in which training content has been helpful.

Provide employees with time and opportunities to practice and apply new skills or behaviors to their work.


Poor or substandard performance can occur on the job because employees do not know at what level they are expected to perform. For example, they may not be aware of quality standards related to speed or the degree of personalization of service that is expected. Employees may have the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to perform and yet fail to perform because they are not aware of the performance standards. Lack of awareness of the performance standards is a communications problem, but it is not a problem that training can “fix.”

Understanding the need to perform is important for learning. Trainees need to understand what specifically they are expected to learn in the training program. To ensure that trainees master training content at the appropriate level, trainees in training programs also need to understand the level of proficiency that is expected of them. For example, for tasks, level of proficiency relates to how well employees are to perform a task. For knowledge, level of proficiency may relate to a score on a written test. The standards or the level of performance is part of the learning objectives (discussed in Chapter Four).


If employees do not believe that rewards or incentives for performance are adequate, they will be unlikely to meet performance standards even if they have the necessary knowledge, behaviors, skills, or attitudes. Also, work-group norms may encourage employees to not meet performance standards. Norms refer to accepted standards of behavior for work-group members. For example, during labor contract negotiations, baggage handlers for Northwest Airlines worked slowly loading and unloading baggage from airplanes. As a result, many passenger departures and arrivals were delayed. The baggage handlers had the knowledge, skills, and behaviors necessary to load and unload the planes more quickly, but they worked slowly because they were trying to send a message to management that the airlines could not perform effectively if their contract demands were not met.

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Consequences also affect learning in training programs. Incentive systems, such as providing gift cards redeemable for food, clothes, or movies or accumulating points that can be used toward paying for enrollment in future courses, may be useful for motivating some employees to attend and complete training courses (discussed in Chapter Five).44 However, one of the most powerful ways to motivate employees to attend and learn from training is to communicate the personal value of the training. For example, how will it help them improve their skills or career? How will it help them deal with problems they encounter on the job? It is important that the communication from the manager about potential benefits be realistic. Unmet expectations about training programs can hinder the motivation to learn.45


Performance problems can result when employees do not receive feedback regarding the extent to which they are meeting performance standards. Employees may know what they are supposed to do (output), but they may not understand how close their performance is to the standard. Training may not be the best solution to this type of problem. Employees need to be given specific, detailed feedback regarding both effective and ineffective performance. For employees to perform to standard, feedback needs to be given frequently, not just during a yearly performance evaluation.

In Chapter Four, the role of feedback in learning is discussed in detail. Keep in mind that feedback is critical for shaping trainees’ behaviors and skills.

Determining Whether Training Is the Best Solution

A root cause analysis is often used to determine whether training is the best solution. A root cause analysis refers to the process of determining whether training is the best or most likely solution to a performance problem or gap. There are four methods that are useful for conducting a root cause analysis.46 First, the following seven questions should be considered:

Is the performance problem important? Does it have the potential to cost the company a significant amount of money from lost productivity or customers?

Do employees know how to perform effectively? Perhaps they received little or no previous training, or the training was ineffective. (This problem is a characteristic of the person.)

Can employees demonstrate the correct knowledge or behavior? Perhaps employees were trained but they infrequently or never used the training content (knowledge, skills, etc.) on the job. (This is an input problem.)

Were performance expectations clear (input)? Were there any obstacles to performance, such as faulty tools or equipment?

Were positive consequences offered for good performance? Was good performance not rewarded? For example, when employees are dissatisfied with their compensation, their peers or their union may encourage them to slow down their pace of work. (This involves consequences.)

Did employees receive timely, relevant, accurate, constructive, and specific feedback about their performance (a feedback issue)?

Were other solutions—such as job redesign or transferring employees to other jobs—too expensive or unrealistic?

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If employees lack the knowledge and skills to perform a job and the other factors are satisfactory, training is needed. If employees have the knowledge and skills to perform but input, output, consequences, and/or feedback are inadequate, training may not be the best solution. For example, if poor performance results from faulty equipment, training cannot solve this problem, but repairing the equipment will. If poor performance results from lack of feedback, then employees may not need training, but their managers may need training on how to give performance feedback.

Second, the 5 Whys, another questioning method, can be used to explore the root cause of a problem. Examples of possible questions include, “Why are employees performing poorly?” or “Why can’t employees greet customers as they enter the store?” The questions are used to identify possible causes that can be acted upon. For each cause identified, you need to consider if it is occurring because of a lack of knowledge, skills, or behaviors that can be influenced by training or if other factors are responsible. Third, the Fishbone diagram can be used. The Fishbone diagram is a structured brainstorming technique that can be used to help identify, explore, and visually display the possible causes of a problem. It considers how machines, methods, materials, measurements, the environment, and people contribute to a problem. Fourth, the 4 Square method involves drawing a square with four different themes represented: motivation, resources, training, and bad job fit. The factors that are believed to be causing the problem can be listed in the appropriate theme. The 4 Square method is useful in identifying whether training alone is the problem or if motivation, resources, and/or bad job fit are also involved. For example, if an employee knows how to perform well but there is a lack of motivation to do so, then lack of training is not the likely cause of the problem. However, if an employee doesn’t know how to perform well then the lack of training is likely a probable cause of the problem.

It is also important to consider the relationships among a critical job issue (a problem or opportunity that is critical to the success of a job within the company), a critical process issue (a problem or opportunity that is critical to the success of a business process), and a critical business issue (a problem or opportunity that is critical to the success of the company).47 If the critical job issue, critical process issue, and critical business issue are related, training should be a top priority because it will have a greater effect on business outcomes and results and will likely receive greater management support. Table 3.5 shows the relationships among the critical job, process, and business issues for a sales representative. This

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analysis resulted from a request from a top manager who suggested that sales representatives needed more training because incomplete sales orders were being submitted to production.

TABLE 3.5 Example of the Relationships Among a Critical Job Issue, a Critical Process Issue, and a Critical Business Issue

Critical Job Issue

Critical Process Issue

Critical Business Issue

Desired Results

Desired Results

Desired Results

No incomplete order forms 100 percent accurate orders

Order cycle time of 3 days

Market share of 60 percent

Current Results

Current Results

Current Results

10 percent incomplete order forms 83 percent accurate orders

Order cycle time of 30 days

Market share of 48 percent

Source: Based on G. A. Rummler and K. Morrill, “The Results Chain,” T+D (February 2005), pp. 27–35.

Consider how a global retailer of rugged, athletic, casual, and stylish clothes for kids and young adults identifies whether a performance need should be addressed by training or other solutions. Figure 3.4 shows how this retailer determines the type of need, who is affected, and the corrective strategy. As you can see from Figure 3.4, training and development is only one of several possible solutions and addresses issues related specifically to knowledge gaps, sharing knowledge and skills, informal learning, and manager and supervisor support.

FIGURE 3.4 Identifying How to Solve Performance Issues

Task Analysis

Task analysis results in a description of work activities, including tasks performed by the employee and the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to complete the tasks. A job

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is a specific position requiring the completion of certain tasks. (The job exemplified in Table 3.6 is that of an electrical maintenance worker.) A task is the employee’s work activity in a specific job. Table 3.6 shows several tasks for the electrical maintenance worker job. These tasks include replacing lightbulbs, electrical outlets, and light switches. To complete tasks, employees must have specific levels of knowledge, skill, ability, and other considerations (KSAOs). Knowledge includes facts or procedures (e.g., the chemical properties of gold). Skill indicates competency in performing a task (e.g., negotiation is a skill that results in getting another person to agree to take a certain course of action). Ability includes the physical and mental capacities to perform a task (e.g., spatial ability is the ability to see the relationship between objects in physical space). Other refers to the conditions under which tasks are performed. These conditions include identifying the equipment involved and the environment in which the employee works (e.g., the need to wear an oxygen mask and work in extremely hot conditions), time constraints for a task (e.g., deadlines), safety considerations, or performance standards.

TABLE 3.6 Sample Items from Task Analysis Questionnaires for the Electrical Maintenance Job

Source: E. F. Holton III and C. Bailey, “Top to Bottom Curriculum Redesign,” Training and Development (March 1995), pp. 40–44.

Task analysis should be undertaken only after the organizational analysis has determined that the company wants to devote time and money for training. Why? Task analysis is a time-consuming, tedious process that involves a large time commitment to gather and summarize data from many different persons in the company, including managers, job incumbents, and trainers.

Steps in a Task Analysis

A task analysis involves four steps:48

Select the job or jobs to be analyzed.

Develop a preliminary list of tasks performed on the job by (1) interviewing and observing expert employees and their managers and (2) talking with others who have performed a task analysis.
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Validate or confirm the preliminary list of tasks. This step involves having a group of SMEs (job incumbents, managers, etc.) answer several questions regarding the tasks, either in a meeting or on a written survey. The types of questions that may be asked include the following: How frequently is the task performed? How much time is spent performing each task? How important or critical is the task for successful performance of the job? How difficult is the task to learn? Is performance of the task expected of entry-level employees?
Table 3.7 presents a sample task analysis questionnaire. This information is used to determine which tasks will be focused on in the training program. The person or committee conducting the needs assessment must decide the level of ratings across dimensions that will determine that a task should be included in the training program. Tasks that are important, frequently performed, and of moderate-to-high level of difficulty are tasks for which training should be provided. Tasks that are not important or are infrequently performed should not involve training. It is difficult for managers and trainers page 145
to decide if tasks that are important but performed infrequently and require minimal difficulty should be included in training. Managers and trainers must determine whether or not important tasks—regardless of how frequently they are performed or their level of difficulty—will be included in training.

Once the tasks have been identified, it is important to identify the knowledge, skills, or abilities that are difficult to learn or prone to errors, such as those required for decision making or problem-solving tasks. For these tasks it is necessary to determine how the thought processes of experts differ from those of novices. This information is useful for designing training that includes the right amount of practice and feedback for novices to learn. This information can be collected through interviews and questionnaires. Recall this chapter’s discussion of how ability influences learning. Information concerning basic skill and cognitive ability requirements is critical for determining if certain levels of knowledge, skills, and abilities will be prerequisites for entrance to the training program (or job) or if supplementary training in underlying skills is needed. For training purposes, information concerning how difficult it is to learn the knowledge, skill, or ability is important—as is whether the knowledge, skill, or ability is expected to be acquired by the employee before taking the job.49

TABLE 3.7 Sample Task Statement Questionnaire




Please rate each of the task statements according to three factors: (1) the importance of the task for effective performance, (2) how frequently the task is performed, and (3) the degree of difficulty required to become effective in the task. Use the following scales in making your ratings.



4 = Task is critical for effective performance.

4 = Task is performed once a day.

3 = Task is important but not critical for effective performance.

3 = Task is performed once a week.

2 = Task is of some importance for effective performance.

2 = Task is performed once every few months.

1 = Task is of no importance for effective performance.

1 = Task is performed once or twice a year.

0 = Task is not performed.

0 = Task is not performed.


4 = Effective performance of the task requires extensive prior experience and/or training (12–18 months or longer).

3 = Effective performance of the task requires minimal prior experience and training (6–12 months).

2 = Effective performance of the task requires a brief period of prior training and experience (1–6 months).

1 = Effective performance of the task does not require specific prior training and/or experience.

0 = This task is not performed.





1. Ensuring maintenance on equipment, tools, and safety controls

2. Monitoring employee performance

3. Scheduling employees

4. Using statistical software on the computer

5. Monitoring changes made in processes using statistical methods

Table 3.8 summarizes key points to remember regarding task analysis.

TABLE 3.8 Key Points to Remember When Conducting a Task Analysis

· A task analysis should identify both what employees are actually doing and what they should be doing on the job.

· Task analysis begins by breaking the job into duties and tasks.

· Use more than two methods for collecting task information to increase the validity of the analysis.

· For task analysis to be useful, information needs to be collected from SMEs, including job incumbents, managers, and employees familiar with the job.

· In deciding how to evaluate tasks, the focus should be on tasks necessary to accomplish the company’s goals and objectives. These may not be the tasks that are the most difficult or take the most time.

Source: Based on A. P. Carnevale, L. J. Gainer, and A. S. Meltzer, Workplace Basics Training Manual (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1990); E. A. Surface, “Training Need Assessment: Aligning Learning and Capability with Performance Requirements and Organizational Objectives,” in The Handbook of Work Analysis: Methods, Systems, Applications and Science of Work Measurement in Organizations, 1st ed., eds. M. A. Wilson, W. Bennett, S. G. Gibson, and M. Alliger (Routledge Academic, 2012), pp. 437–462.Example of a Task Analysis

Each of the four steps of a task analysis can be seen in the following example from a utility company. Trainers were given the job of developing a training system in six months.50 The purpose of the program was to identify tasks and KSAOs that would serve as the basis for training program objectives and lesson plans.

The first phase of the project involved identifying potential tasks for each job in the utility’s electrical maintenance area. Procedures, equipment lists, and information provided by SMEs were used to generate the tasks. SMEs included managers, instructors, and senior technicians. The tasks were incorporated into a questionnaire administered to all technicians in the electrical maintenance department. The questionnaire included 550 tasks. Table 3.6 shows sample items from the questionnaire for the electrical maintenance job. Technicians were asked to rate each task on importance, difficulty, and frequency of

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performance. The rating scale for frequency included zero. A zero rating indicated that the technician rating the task had never performed the task. Technicians who rated a task zero were asked not to evaluate the task’s difficulty and importance.

Customized software was used to analyze the ratings collected via the questionnaire. The primary requirement used to determine whether a task required training was its importance rating. A task rated “very important” was identified as one requiring training regardless of its frequency or difficulty. If a task was rated moderately important but difficult, it also was designated for training. Tasks rated as unimportant, not difficult, or done infrequently were not designated for training.

The list of tasks designated for training was reviewed by the SMEs to determine if it accurately described job tasks. The result was a list of 487 tasks. For each of the 487 tasks, two SMEs identified the necessary KSAOs required for performance. This included information on working conditions, cues that initiate the task’s start and end, performance standards, safety considerations, and necessary tools and equipment. All data were reviewed by plant technicians and members of the training department. More than 14,000 KSAOs were grouped into common areas and assigned an identification code. These groups were then combined into clusters that represented qualification areas. That is, the task clusters were related to linked tasks in which the employees must be certified to perform the job. The clusters were used to identify training lesson plans and course objectives. Trainers also reviewed the clusters to identify prerequisite skills for each cluster.


In today’s global and competitive business environment, many companies are finding that it is difficult to determine whether employees have the capabilities needed for success. The necessary capabilities may vary from one business unit to another and even across roles within a business unit. As a result, many companies are using competency models to help them identify the knowledge, skills, and personal characteristics (attitudes, personality) needed for successful performance in a job. Competency models are also useful for ensuring that training and development systems are contributing to the development of such knowledge, skills, and personal characteristics.

Traditionally, needs assessment has involved identifying knowledge, skills, abilities, and tasks. However, a current trend in training is for needs assessment to focus on competencies, especially for managerial positions. Competencies are sets of skills, knowledge, abilities, and personal characteristics that enable employees to perform their jobs successfully.51

A competency model identifies the competencies necessary for each job. Competency models provide descriptions of competencies that are common for an entire occupation, organization, job family, or specific job. Competency models can be used for performance management. However, one of the strengths of competency models is that they are useful for a variety of human resource (HR) practices, including recruiting, selection, training, and development. Competency models can be used to help identify the best employees to fill open positions and to serve as the foundation for development plans that allow employees and their manager to target specific strengths and development areas. The competencies included in competency models vary according to the company’s business strategy and goals. They can include sales, leadership, interpersonal, technical, and other types of

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competencies. Competency models typically include the name of each competency, the behaviors that represent proficiency in the competency, and levels that include descriptions representing demonstrated levels of mastery or proficiency. Table 3.9 shows the technical cluster of competencies from a competency model for a systems engineer. The left side of the table lists technical competencies within the technical cluster (such as systems architecture, data migration, and documentation). The right side shows behaviors that might be used to determine a systems engineer’s level of proficiency for each competency.

TABLE 3.9 Competencies from a Competency Model

Technical Cluster

Proficiency Ratings

Systems Architecture

Ability to design complex software applications, establish protocols, and create prototypes.

0—Is not able to perform basic tasks.

1—Understands basic principles; can perform tasks with assistance or direction.

2—Performs routine tasks with reliable results; works with minimal supervision.

3—Performs complex and multiple tasks; can coach or teach others.

4—Considered an expert in this task; can describe, teach, and lead others.

Data Migration

Ability to establish the necessary platform requirements to efficiently and completely coordinate data transfer.

0—Is not able to perform basic tasks.

1—Understands basic principles; can perform tasks with assistance or direction.

2—Performs routine tasks with reliable results; works with minimal supervision.

3—Performs complex and multiple tasks; can coach or teach others.

4—Considered an expert in this task; can describe, teach, and lead others.


Ability to prepare comprehensive and complete documentation, including specifications, flow diagrams, process control, and budgets.

0—Is not able to perform basic tasks.

1—Understands basic principles; can perform tasks with assistance or direction.

2—Performs routine tasks with reliable results; works with minimal supervision.

3—Performs complex and multiple tasks; can coach or teach others.

4—Considered an expert in this task; can describe, teach, and lead others.

Source: R. J. Mirabile, “Everything You Wanted to Know About Competency Modeling,” Training and Development (August 1997), pp. 73–77.

One way to understand competency models is to compare them to job analysis. As you may recall from other classes or experiences, job analysis refers to the process of developing a description of the job (tasks, duties, and responsibilities) and the specifications (knowledge, skills, and abilities) that an employee must have to perform it. How does job analysis compare to competency models? Job analysis is more work- and task-focused (what is accomplished), whereas competency modeling is worker-focused (how objectives are met or how work is accomplished). Focusing on “how” versus “what” provides valuable information for training and development. A recent study asked competency modeling experts (consultants, HR practitioners, academics, and industrial psychologists) to compare and contrast competency modeling and job analysis.52 The study found several

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differences between job analysis and competency models. Competency models are more likely to link competencies and the company’s business goals. Competency models provide descriptions of competencies that are common for an entire occupational group, level of jobs, or an entire organization. In contrast, job analysis describes what is different across jobs, occupational groups, or organization levels and generates specific knowledge, skills, and abilities for particular jobs. It is used to generate specific requirements to be used for employee selection. The competencies generated by competency modeling are more general and believed to have greater application to a wider variety of purposes, including selection, training, employee development, and performance management.

Another way to think about competency models is by considering performance management.53 Unfortunately, many performance management systems suffer from a lack of agreement on what outcomes should be used to evaluate performance. Manager–employee discussions about performance deficiencies tend to lack specificity. By identifying the areas of personal capability that enable employees to perform their jobs successfully, competency models ensure an evaluation of what gets done and how it gets done. Performance feedback can be directed toward specific concrete examples of behavior, and knowledge, skills, ability, and other characteristics that are necessary for success are clearly described.

How are competencies identified and competency models developed? Figure 3.5 shows the process used to develop a competency model. First, the business strategy is identified. The implications of business strategy for training were discussed in Chapter Two. The business strategy helps identify what types of competencies are needed to ensure that business goals are met and the company’s strategy is supported. Changes in the business strategy might cause new competencies to be needed or old competencies to be altered. Second, the job or position to be analyzed is identified. Third, effective and ineffective performers are identified. Fourth, the competencies responsible for effective and ineffective performance are identified. There are several approaches for identifying competencies. These include analyzing one or several “star” performers, surveying persons who are familiar with the job (SMEs), and investigating benchmark data of good performers in other companies.54 Fifth, the model is validated. That is, a determination is made as to whether the competencies included in the model truly are related to effective performance. In the example of the technical competencies for the systems engineer shown in Table 3.9, it is important to verify that (1) these three competencies are necessary for job success, and (2) the level of proficiency of the competency is appropriate.

FIGURE 3.5 The Process Used in Developing a Competency Model

Following the development process outlined in Figure 3.5 will ensure that competencies and competency models are valid. However, trainers, employees, managers, and other experts should be trained (especially inexperienced raters) in how to determine accurate competency ratings. Training should ensure that raters understand each competency and the differences between them and can distinguish between low, medium, and high levels of proficiency.55

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Competency models are useful for training and development in several ways:56

They identify behaviors needed for effective job performance. These models ensure that feedback given to employees as part of a development program (such as 360-degree feedback) relate specifically to individual and organizational success.

They provide a tool for determining what skills are necessary to meet today’s needs, as well as the company’s future skill needs. They can be used to evaluate the relationship between the company’s current training programs and present needs. That is, they help align training and development activities with the company’s business goals. They can be used to evaluate how well the offerings relate to anticipated future skill needs.

They help determine what skills are needed at different career points.

They provide a framework for ongoing coaching and feedback to develop employees for current and future roles. By comparing their current personal competencies to those required for a job, employees can identify competencies that need development and choose actions to develop those competencies. These actions may include courses, job experiences, and other types of development. (Development methods are detailed in Chapter Nine, “Employee Development and Career Management.”)

They create a “road map” for identifying and developing employees who may be candidates for managerial positions (succession planning).

They provide a common set of criteria that may be used for identifying appropriate development training and learning activities for employees, as well as for evaluating and rewarding them. This helps integrate and align the company’s HR systems and practices.

For example, at American Express, competency models are used to help managers lead their own teams by providing a framework that their employees can use to capitalize on strengths and improve weaknesses.57 At the company level, competencies are used to determine the talent level of the entire company, including capabilities, strengths, and opportunities. This information is provided to managers who use the data to identify key needs and plan actions to ensure that current and future competencies are developed in employees.

Table 3.10 shows the competency model that Luxottica Retail, known for its premium, luxury, and sports eyewear sold through LensCrafters, Sunglass Hut, and Pearle Vision, developed for its associates in field and store positions.58 The competency model includes leadership and managerial, functional, and foundational competencies. The goal was to define and identify competencies that managers could use for hiring, performance management, and training. Also, the competency model helps associates identify and develop the skills they need to apply for different jobs. To use competency models effectively for performance evaluation, they must be up to date, drive business performance, be job-related (valid), be relevant (or customized) for all of the company’s business units, and provide sufficient detail to make an accurate assessment of employees’ performance. At Luxottica Retail, developing competencies started with meeting with business leaders to understand their current and future business strategies. Business drivers were identified and questionnaires, focus groups, and meetings with managers and associates were used to identify important competencies and examples of behaviors related to each. Competencies across business units and brands are reviewed every four or five years or whenever a major change in jobs or business strategy occurs to ensure they are relevant. Also, the weighting givento each set of competencies in the performance evaluation is reviewed to ensure that it is appropriate (e.g., what weights should be given to the functional skills?). Depending on their relevance for a specific job, various combinations of these competencies are used for evaluating associates’ performance. Associates are rated on a 1–5 scale for each competency, with 5 meaning “far exceeds expectations.” At Luxottica, HR, training and development, and operations teams worked together to define the levels of each competency. That is, together they decided what it means and what the competency looks like when an employee is rated “meets expectations” versus “is below expectations.” This is necessary to ensure that managers are using a similar frame of reference when they evaluate associates using the competencies.

TABLE 3.10 Examples of Competencies at Luxottica Retail

Leadership and Managerial

Coach and Develop Others

Foster Teamwork

Think Strategically


Global Perspective

Financial Acumen

Business Key Performance Indicators


Build Relationships and Interpersonal Skills

Customer Focus

Act with Integrity

Source: From C. Spicer, “Building a Competency Model,” HR Magazine (April 2009), pp. 34–36.


Up to this point, the chapter has discussed the various aspects of needs assessment, including organizational, person, and task analyses. This involves interviews, observations, and potentially even surveying employees. You might be saying to yourself, “This sounds good, but it appears to be a very elaborate process that takes time. What happens if I don’t have time to conduct a thorough needs assessment? Should I abandon the process?”

Needs assessment is often skipped for several reasons based on assumptions such as training is always the issue or is mandated; it’s too costly, takes too long, and is too complex; and managers will not cooperate. Despite the constraints to conducting a needs assessment, it is necessary to determine if a problem or pressure point exists and to identify the best solution, which could be training.

However, even if managers demand a training course right now, needs assessment should still be conducted. There are several ways to conduct a rapid needs assessment. A rapid needs assessment refers to a needs assessment that is done quickly and accurately, but without sacrificing the quality of the process or the outcomes.59 The key to conducting a rapid needs assessment is choosing the needs assessment methods that will provide the results you can have the greatest confidences in while using the fewest resources (i.e., time, money, SMEs). There are several ways to conduct a rapid needs assessment. First, the scope of needs assessment depends on the size of the potential pressure point. If the

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pressure point seems to be local and has a potentially small impact on the business, then the information-gathering part of needs assessment could consist of only a few interviews with managers or job incumbents. If the pressure point will have a large impact on the business, then more information gathering should be conducted. If, after interviewing SMEs and job incumbents, you can tell that you are not learning anything new about the job, then interviewing could be stopped. Second, consider using already available data collected for other purposes. Error data, sales data, customer complaints, and exit interviews might provide valuable clues as to the source of performance and survey problems. JetBlue uses on-the-job performance data and business results data to identify training needs.60 For example, using data collected when aircraft are regularly serviced, JetBlue found that there was an increase in cosmetic damage to airplanes. This triggered the learning team to conduct more in-depth assessment to identify potential learning needs that may have resulted in an increase in the damage rate over time. Customer complaints tracked by the U.S. Transportation Department revealed an increase in problems experienced by JetBlue’s disabled passengers before boarding. Based on these data, training was revised and expanded, resulting in fewer complaints. The web may be another useful source for quickly conducting interviews and surveys with SMEs in different locations. Finally, if you are attuned to the business problems, technological developments, and other issues facing the organization, you will be able to anticipate training needs. For example, if the company is opening sales offices in an international location and introducing new technology in the manufacturing plants, cross-cultural training and training designed to help employees use the new technology undoubtedly will be needed. Be prepared by understanding the business.

Needs Assessment in Practice

KLA-Tencor supplies process controls and equipment to the semiconductor industry.61 KLA-Tencor service engineers diagnose and repair complex machines that use advanced laser, optical, and robotic technologies. The engineers need to maintain proficiency in their current skills as well as add new skills to keep pace with new technology used in the company’s equipment. This is critical for KLA-Tencor to quickly solve equipment problems, which, if unresolved, can result in millions of dollars of lost revenue for its customers. Providing effective service is critical for the company to keep current customers and develop new business. In fact, one of the company’s values is “Indispensable” (the other values are “Perseverance,” “Drive to Be Better,” “High Performance Teams,” and “Honest, Forthright and Consistent”).

KLA-Tencor uses a skill management process (the Right People, Right Knowledge process) to monitor its workforce skills and uses this information to change its training programs. The process involves developing a task list, training on the task, practicing on-the-job training to gain certification, and conducting an annual skills assessment. To conduct the skills assessment, a survey was sent to all of KLA-Tencor’s more than 1,000 service engineers. For each task, the engineers were asked to rate their capability of doing the task on a scale from “I don’t know how” to “I can teach it to others.” Also, they were asked to evaluate how frequently they performed the task, from “Never” to “More than two times per year.” Based on their responses, they were assigned a training task. More than 200 courses were created to train the engineers. To ensure that the training was completed, both engineers and their managers were held accountable. This helped achieve a 95 percent completion rate within one year after training was assigned. The skills assessment data were also

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used to identify gaps in current training, resulting in more than 2,000 changes in courses and certification programs. The skills assessment is done annually to ensure that service engineers keep up to date with new technology and products.

This example illustrates several aspects of the needs assessment process. First, training was viewed as critical for helping the company meet its strategic objectives. As a result, resources and time were allocated for needs assessment and training. Second, the needs assessment included a task or skill assessment that helped determine who needed training and what tasks they needed to learn. Third, based on the needs assessment, training programs were developed or changed to improve the identified skill deficiencies.


The first step in a successful training effort is to determine that a training need exists through a process known as needs assessment. Needs assessment involves three steps: organizational analysis, person analysis, and task analysis. Various methods—including observation, interviews, and surveys or questionnaires—are used to conduct a needs assessment. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Organizational analysis involves determining (1) the extent to which training is congruent with the company’s business strategy and resources and (2) if peers and managers are likely to provide the support needed for trainees to use training content in the work setting.

Person analysis focuses on identifying whether there is evidence that training is the solution, who needs training, and whether employees have the prerequisite skills, attitudes, and beliefs needed to ensure that they master the content of training programs. Because performance problems are one of the major reasons that companies consider training for employees, it is important to investigate how personal characteristics, input, output, consequences, and feedback relate to performance and learning. Managers and trainers need to be concerned about employees’ basic skill levels, attitudes, age and generation, and the work environment in determining if performance problems can be solved using training and how training should be designed.

Training is likely the best solution to a performance problem if employees don’t know how to perform. If employees have not received feedback about their performance, if they lack the equipment needed to perform the job, if the consequences for good performance are negative, or if they are unaware of an expected standard for performance, then training is not likely to be the best solution.

To maximize employees’ motivation to learn in training programs, managers and trainers need to understand these factors prior to sending employees to training. For example, lack of basic skills or reading skills can inhibit both job performance and learning.

A task analysis involves identifying the task and the training that employees will require in terms of knowledge, skills, and abilities. Competency modeling is a new approach to needs assessment that focuses on identifying personal capabilities, including knowledge, skills, attitudes, values, and personal characteristics.

Discussion Questions

Which of the factors that influence performance and learning do you think is most important? Which is least important?

If you had to conduct a needs assessment for a new job at a new plant, describe the method you would use.

If you were going to use technology to identify training needs for customer service representatives for a web-based clothing company, what steps would you take to ensure that the technology was not threatening to employees?

Needs assessment involves organization, person, and task analyses. Which one of these analyses do you believe is most important? Which is least important? Why?

Why should upper-level managers be included in the needs assessment process?

Explain how you would determine if employees had the reading level necessary to succeed in a training program. How would you determine if employees had the necessary computer skills needed to use a web-based training program?

What conditions would suggest that a company should buy a training program from an outside vendor? Which would suggest that the firm should develop the program itself?

Assume that you have to prepare older employees with little computer experience to attend a training course on how to use the Internet. How will you ensure that they have high levels of readiness for training? How will you determine their readiness for training?

Explain the process you would use to conduct a root cause analysis of a performance problem.

Review the sample tasks and task ratings for the electronic technician’s job shown next. What tasks do you believe should be emphasized in the training program? Why?
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1. Task

1. Importance

1. Frequency

1. Learning Difficulty

1. 1. Replaces components

1. 1

1. 2

1. 1

1. 2. Repairs equipment

1. 2

1. 5

1. 5

1. 3. Interprets instrument readings

1. 1

1. 4

1. 5

1. 4. Uses small tools

1. 2

1. 5

1. 1

Explanation of ratings:
Frequency: 1 = very infrequently to 5 = very frequently
Importance: 1 = very important to 5 = very unimportant
Learning difficulty: 1 = easy to 5 = very difficult

Why would we consider age and generational differences as part of a needs assessment? Is this important? Explain. Discuss the types of evidence that you would look for to determine whether a needs analysis has been conducted improperly.

How is competency modeling similar to traditional needs assessment? How does it differ?

What is a rapid needs assessment? How would you conduct a rapid needs assessment so that it is valuable and accurately identifies training needs?

Application Assignments

Develop a competency model for a job held by a friend, spouse, or roommate (someone other than yourself). Use the process discussed in this chapter to develop your model. Note the most difficult part of developing the model. How could the model be used?

The Department of Social Services represents a large portion of your county’s budget and total number of employees. The job of eligibility technician is responsible for all client contact, policy interpretation, and financial decisions related to several forms of public aid (e.g., food stamps, aid to families with dependent children). Eligibility technicians must read a large number of memos and announcements of new and revised policies and procedures. Eligibility technicians were complaining that they had difficulty reading and responding to this correspondence. The county decided to send the employees to a speed reading program costing $500 per person. The county has 200 eligibility technicians.
Preliminary evaluation of the speed reading program was that trainees liked it. Two months after the training was conducted, the technicians told their managers that they were not using the speed reading course in their jobs, but were using it in leisure reading at home. When their managers asked why they weren’t using it on the job, the typical response was, “I never read those memos and policy announcements anyway.”

Evaluate the needs assessment process used to determine that speed reading was necessary. What was good about it? Where was it faulty?

How would you have conducted the needs assessment? Be realistic.

Consider the interview questions for the lead drivers that are shown on page 133. Write questions that could be used to interview the six lead driver supervisors and the two page 155
regional vice presidents. How do these questions differ from those for the lead drivers? How are they similar?

Several companies are known for linking their mission, values, and HR practices in ways that have led to business success as well as employee satisfaction. These companies include Southwest Airlines (, Cisco Systems (, SAS Institute (, Men’s Wearhouse (, Container Store (, Google (, Steelcase (, Whole Foods (, and TELUS ( Choose one of these companies’ websites and reviews of the companies at and perform an organizational needs analysis. Read about the company’s values and vision; look for statements about the importance of training and personal development. Is training important in the company? Why or why not? Provide supporting evidence.

Go to, the website for CareerOneStop, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration to help job seekers, students, businesses, and career professionals. Choose and review one of the industry competency models. How might this competency model be useful for training and development for companies within the industry you selected? For their employees? For individuals such as students or the unemployed interested in working in the industry?

ConocoPhillips finds and produces oil and natural gas. Go to Click on “Careers.” Under “Career Development,” click on “Leadership Competencies.” Review the competencies. How could these competencies be used in the learning and development of new and aspiring company leaders and managers?


Identifying Training Needs Using Virtual Brainstorming at EY

Ernst & Young, historically considered an accounting and consulting firm, transformed itself into a global professional service company known as EY. To be a successful global professional services organization, EY’s client-facing employees must understand how to apply their knowledge, skills, and behavior to increase margins and provide great customer service. Existing training programs at EY addressed these areas but the emphasis they received differed across the U.S. and global locations. As a result, EY decided to create one training program for all EY employees that would provide a consistent understanding of margins and great customer service. To identify the knowledge, skills, and behavior to include in the new program, EY conducted virtual brainstorming sessions. The virtual brainstorming sessions involved 300 high-performing employees representing all services, regions, and positions, including senior managers and partners. Employees who participated in the brainstorming sessions shared how they work to improve margins and satisfy clients, the knowledge and skills they use to do so, and issues that lead to low margins. Based on the information gathered during the brainstorming sessions, EY developed a multiplayer simulation. It delivers knowledge and provides opportunities to practice applying the knowledge with simulated clients. When participants return to their jobs, partners and senior managers encourage

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them to use what they have learned with their clients and provide coaching to help them further develop and use their new skills.

In addition to the virtual brainstorming, what other methods could EY have used to conduct the needs assessment? Describe the method, why you would recommend it, and who would be involved. Would you recommend your method replace or be used in addition to the virtual brainstorming sessions?

Source: Based on “Training Top 10 Hall of Fame Outstanding Training Initiatives, EY: Economics@EY Challenge”, training (January/February 2018), pp. 96–97.

Chapter Four

Learning and Transfer of Training


After reading this chapter, you should be able to

Discuss the five types of learner outcomes.

Explain the implications of learning theory for instructional design.

Incorporate adult learning theory into the design of a training program.

Describe how learners receive, process, store, retrieve, and act upon information.

Discuss the internal conditions (within the learner) and external conditions (learning environment) necessary for the trainee to learn each type of capability.

Discuss the implications of open and closed skills and near and far transfer for designing training programs.

Explain the features of instruction and the work environment that are necessary for learning and transfer of training.

Energizing Training Means Better Learning and Transfer of Training

Boring lectures, lack of meaningful content in e-learning, training that doesn’t give employees the opportunity to practice and receive feedback, training that takes too long to complete—all demotivate trainees and make it difficult for them to learn and use what they have learned on the job. However, many companies are using innovative instructional methods to make training more interesting and accessible to help trainees learn and apply it to their work.

Bankers Life, an insurance company, revised its training program for new sales agents to appeal to the way millennials want to learn and use new technology. It segments learning into small modules that build on each other. Each module includes online coursework, a debriefing, role play, and training in the field.

Intermedia, a business services company, uses virtual instructor-led training including video, e-learning modules, lab activities, and role play to train its agents. Agents are able to access any of the training content after they are back in the field, which helps them review what they have learned and keep their skills updated.

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To prepare employees to perform technical installation and maintenance roles, Verizon uses training labs with live circuits and equipment and a practice field with telephone poles. To maintain and update learning, small chunks of learning content and questions are sent to learners’ computers or smartphones. Correct answers to the questions are reinforced and incorrect answers require the learner to review the learning content. Using a social media platform, employees can share learning, ask questions, connect with other trainees, and access resources.

SuperValu, a supermarket chain, uses web-based training that emphasizes microlearning or breaking training content into small chunks of information that employees can easily commit to memory. Training might include a short video or brief online modules that employees can work on at their own pace.

Sources: Based on “Top 125 2018 Rankings 46–55, Bankers Life,” training (January/February 2018), pp. 60–61; “Training Top 125 2018 Rankings 111–115, Intermedia Inc.,” training (January/February 2018), pp. 80–81; “Verizon: Emergency Work Assignment Training,” training (January/February 2016), p. 56; A. Paul, “Microlearning 101,” HR Magazine (May 2016), pp. 36–42.


Although they use different methods, the purpose of the training at the four companies just described is to help employees learn so they can perform their jobs successfully. Regardless of the training method, certain conditions must be present for learning to occur and for employees to use what they have learned on the job. These include (1) providing opportunities for trainees to practice and receive feedback (i.e., information about how well people are meeting the training objectives), (2) offering meaningful training content, (3) identifying any prerequisites that trainees need to complete the program successfully, (4) allowing trainees to learn through observation and experience, and (5) ensuring that the work environment, including managers and peers, supports learning and the use of learned skills on the job. For example, feedback from trainers is provided during the role plays used by Bankers Life and Intermedia. The meaningfulness of what is being learned is enhanced at Verizon by having learners work on equipment that is identical to what they will use on the job. Bankers Life and SuperValu deliver training content to match trainees’ preferences about how they want to learn.

As you may have recognized by now, this chapter emphasizes not only what has to occur during training sessions for learning to occur, but also how to ensure that trainees use what they have learned on the job. That is, this chapter discusses both learning and transfer of training. Learning refers to a relatively permanent change in human capabilities that can include knowledge, skills, attitudes, behaviors, and competencies that are not the result of growth processes.1 A key part of learning is that trainees commit to memory (i.e., remember) what they have learned and recall it. Transfer of training refers to trainees effectively and continually applying what they have learned in training to their jobs.2 As the organizations in the chapter opener illustrate, trainee characteristics, the design of the training program (or what occurs during training), and the work environment influence whether trainees learn and use or apply what they have learned to their jobs. Figure 4.1 presents a model of learning and transfer of training. As the model shows, transfer of training includes both the generalization of training to the job and maintenance of learned material.

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Generalization refers to a trainee’s ability to apply what has been learned to on-the-job work problems and situations that are similar but not necessarily identical to those problems and situations encountered in the learning environment (i.e., the training program). Maintenance refers to the process of trainees continuing to use what they have learned over time.

FIGURE 4.1 A Model of Learning and Transfer of Training

It is important to realize that for training to be effective, both learning and transfer of training are needed. Trainees can fail or incorrectly apply training content (what was emphasized in training) to their jobs, either because the training was not conducive to learning, or the work environment does not provide them with the opportunity to use training content or fails to support its correct use, or both. Also, it is a mistake to consider transfer of training as something to be concerned about after training because it deals with the use of training content on the job. Instead, transfer of training should be considered during the design or purchase of training. If you wait until after training to consider transfer of training, it is likely too late. Trainees’ perceptions of the work environment and its support for training have likely influenced their motivation to learn and what, if anything, they have learned (recall the discussion of motivation to learn in Chapter Three, “Needs Assessment”).

This chapter coverage is based on the model shown in Figure 4.1. First, we discuss learning. We begin by identifying what is to be learned—that is, the learning outcomes. Learning outcomes should be related to what is required to perform the job successfully. As the chapter opener illustrates, this may include selling products, providing services, working with operating systems, or developing and fixing software. As a student, you are familiar with one type of learning outcome: intellectual skills. We also discuss how trainees’ learning style may influence the way they prefer to learn. The influence of other trainee characteristics—such as basic skills, cognitive ability, self-efficacy, age and generation, and interests—on motivation to learn and learning was discussed in Chapter Three.

Next, we consider training design. Training design includes consideration of how to create a learning environment that will help the trainee acquire the learning outcomes. We discuss various learning and transfer of training theories. Last, we look at how these theories are used to create a learning environment and supportive work environment designed to help the trainee learn the desired outcomes and apply them on the job.


Understanding learning outcomes is crucial because they influence the characteristics of the training environment that are necessary for learning to occur. For example, if trainees are to master motor skills such as climbing a pole, they must have opportunities to practice climbing and receive feedback about their climbing skills. Learning outcomes are presented in Table 4.1.

TABLE 4.1 Learning Outcomes

Type of Learning Outcome

Description of Capability


Verbal information

State, tell, or describe previously stored information.

State three reasons for following company safety procedures.

Intellectual skills

Apply generalizable concepts and rules to solve problems and generate novel products.

Design and code a computer program that meets customer requirements.

Motor skills

Execute a physical action with precision and timing.

Shoot a gun and consistently hit a small moving target.


Choose a personal course of action.

Choose to respond to all incoming mail within 24 hours.

Cognitive strategies

Manage one’s own thinking and learning processes.

Use three different strategies selectively to diagnose engine malfunctions.

Source: Based on R. Gagne and K. Medsker, The Conditions of Learning (New York: Harcourt-Brace, 1996); K. Kapp, “Matching the Right Design Strategy to the Right Content,” T+D (July 2011), pp. 48–52.

Verbal information includes names or labels, facts, and bodies of knowledge. Verbal information includes specialized knowledge that employees need in their jobs. For example, a manager must know the names of different types of equipment as well as the body of knowledge related to Total Quality Management (TQM).

Intellectual skills include concepts and rules, which are critical to solve problems, serve customers, and create products. For example, a manager must know the steps in the performance appraisal process (e.g., gather data, summarize data, or prepare for an appraisal interview with an employee) in order to conduct an employee appraisal.

Motor skills include coordination of physical movements. For example, a telephone repair person must have the coordination and dexterity required to climb ladders and telephone poles.

Attitudes are a combination of beliefs and feelings that predispose a person to behave a certain way. Attitudes include a cognitive component (beliefs), an affective component (feeling), and an intentional component (the way a person intends to behave with regard to the focus of the attitude). Important work-related attitudes include job satisfaction, commitment to the organization, and job involvement. Suppose you say that an employee has a “positive attitude” toward her work. This means the person likes her job (the affective component). She may like her job because it is challenging and provides an opportunity to meet people (the cognitive component). Because she likes her job, she intends to stay with the company and do her best at work (the intentional component). Training programs may

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be used to develop or change attitudes because attitudes have been shown to be related to physical and mental withdrawal from work, turnover, and behaviors that affect the well-being of the company (e.g., helping new employees).

Cognitive strategies regulate the processes of learning. They relate to the learner’s decision regarding what information to attend to (i.e., pay attention to), how to remember information, and how to solve problems. For example, a physicist recalls the colors of the light spectrum through remembering the name “Roy G. Biv” (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet).

As this chapter points out, each learning outcome requires a different set of conditions for learning to occur. Before this chapter investigates the learning process in detail, it looks at the theories that help explain how people learn.


Each theory about how people learn relates to different aspects of the learning process. Many of the theories also relate to trainees’ motivation to learn, which was discussed in Chapter Three. The application of these theories for instruction and program design are discussed later in this chapter and in Chapter Five, “Program Design.”

Reinforcement Theory

Reinforcement theory emphasizes that people are motivated to perform or avoid certain behaviors because of past outcomes that have resulted from those behaviors.3 There are several processes in reinforcement theory. Positive reinforcement is a pleasurable outcome resulting from a behavior. Negative reinforcement is the removal of an unpleasant outcome. For example, consider a machine that makes screeching and grinding noises unless the operator holds levers in a certain position. The operator will learn to hold the levers in that position to avoid the noises. The process of withdrawing positive or negative reinforcers to eliminate a behavior is known as extinction. Punishment is presenting an unpleasant outcome after a behavior, leading to a decrease in that behavior. For example, if a manager yells at employees when they are late, they may avoid the yelling by being on time (but they may also call in sick, quit, or fool the boss into not noticing when they arrive late).

From a training perspective, reinforcement theory suggests that for learners to acquire knowledge, change behavior, or modify skills, the trainer needs to identify what outcomes the learner finds most positive (and negative). Trainers then need to link these outcomes to learners’ acquiring knowledge or skills or changing behaviors. As was mentioned in Chapter Three, learners can obtain several types of benefits from participating in training programs. The benefits may include learning an easier or more interesting way to perform their job (job-related), meeting other employees who can serve as resources when problems occur (personal), or increasing opportunities to consider new positions in the company (career-related). According to reinforcement theory, trainers can withhold or provide these benefits to learners who master program content. The effectiveness of learning depends on the pattern or schedule for providing these reinforcers or benefits. Similarly, managers can provide these benefits to help ensure transfer of training.

Behavior modification is a training method that is primarily based on reinforcement theory. For example, a training program in a bakery focused on eliminating unsafe behaviors

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such as climbing over conveyor belts (rather than walking around them) and sticking hands into equipment to dislodge jammed materials without turning off the equipment.4 Employees were shown slides depicting safe and unsafe work behaviors. After viewing the slides, employees were shown a graph of the number of times that safe behaviors were observed during past weeks. Employees were encouraged to increase the number of safe behaviors they demonstrated on the job. They were given several reasons for doing so: for their own protection, to decrease costs for the company, and to help their plant get out of last place in the safety rankings of the company’s plants. Immediately after the training, safety reminders were posted in employees’ work areas. Data about the number of safe behaviors performed by employees continued to be collected and displayed on the graph in the work area following the training. Employees’ supervisors were also instructed to recognize workers whenever they saw them performing a safe work behavior. In this example, the safe-behavior data posted in the work areas and supervisors’ recognition of safe work behaviors represent positive reinforcers.

Social Learning Theory

Social learning theory emphasizes that people learn by observing other people (models) who they believe are credible and knowledgeable.5 Social learning theory also recognizes that behavior that is reinforced or rewarded tends to be repeated. The models’ behavior or skill that is rewarded is adopted by the observer. According to social learning theory, learning new skills or behaviors comes from (1) directly experiencing the consequences of using that behavior or skill, or (2) the process of observing others and seeing the consequences of their behavior.6

According to social learning theory, learning also is influenced by a person’s self-efficacy. Self-efficacy is a person’s judgment about whether he or she can successfully learn knowledge and skills. Chapter Three emphasizes self-efficacy as an important factor to consider in the person analysis phase of needs assessment. Why? Self-efficacy is one determinant of readiness to learn. A trainee with high self-efficacy will make efforts to learn in a training program and will be most likely to persist in learning even if an environment is not conducive to learning (e.g., a noisy training room). In contrast, a person with low self-efficacy will have self-doubts about mastering the content of a training program and will be more likely to withdraw psychologically and/or physically (e.g., daydream or fail to attend the program). These persons believe that they are unable to learn and that, regardless of their effort level, they will be unable to learn.

A person’s self-efficacy can be increased using several methods: verbal persuasion, logical verification, observation of others (modeling), and past accomplishments.7 Verbal persuasion means offering words of encouragement to convince others they can learn. Logical verification involves perceiving a relationship between a new task and a task already mastered. Trainers and managers can remind employees when they encounter learning difficulties that they have been successful at learning similar tasks. Modeling involves having employees who already have mastered the learning outcomes demonstrate them for trainees. As a result, employees are likely to be motivated by the confidence and success of their peers. Past accomplishments refers to allowing employees to build a history of successful accomplishments. Managers can place employees in situations where they are likely to succeed and provide training so that employees know what to do and how to do it.

Social learning theory suggests that four processes are involved in learning: attention, retention, motor reproduction, and motivational processes (see Figure 4.2).

FIGURE 4.2 Processes of Social Learning Theory

Sources: Based on A. Bandura, Social Foundations of Thoughts and Actions (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1986); P. Taylor, D. Russ-Eft, and D. Chan, “A Meta-Analytic Review of Behavior Modeling Training,” Journal of Applied Psychology, 90 (2005), pp. 692–709.

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Attention suggests that persons cannot learn by observation unless they are aware of the important aspects of a model’s performance. Attention is influenced by characteristics of the model and the learner. Learners must be aware of the skills or behavior they are supposed to observe. The model must be clearly identified and credible. The learner must have the physical capability (sensory capability) to observe the model. Also, a learner who has successfully learned other skills or behavior by observing the model is more likely to attend to the model.

Learners must remember the behaviors or skills that they observe. This is the role of retention. Learners have to code the observed behavior and skills in memory in an organized manner so they can recall them for the appropriate situation. Behaviors or skills can be coded as visual images (symbols) or verbal statements.

Motor reproduction involves trying out the observed behaviors to see if they result in the same reinforcement that the model received. The ability to reproduce the behaviors or skills depends on the extent to which the learner can recall the skills or behavior. The learner must also have the physical capability to perform the behavior or exhibit the skill. For example, a firefighter can learn the behaviors necessary to carry a person away from a dangerous situation, but he may be unable to demonstrate the behavior because he lacks upper body strength. Note that performance of behavior is usually not perfect on the first attempt. Learners must have the opportunity to practice and receive feedback to modify their behavior to be similar to the model behavior.

Learners are more likely to adopt a modeled behavior if it results in positive outcomes. Social learning theory emphasizes that behaviors that are reinforced (a motivational process) will be repeated in the future. For example, a major source of conflict and stress for managers often relates to the performance appraisal interview. A manager may, through observing successful managers, learn behaviors that allow employees to be more participative in a performance appraisal interview (e.g., give employees the opportunity to voice their concerns). If the manager uses this behavior in the performance appraisal interview and the behavior is rewarded by employees (e.g., they make comments such as, “I really felt the feedback meeting was the best we have ever had”) or the new behavior leads to reduced conflicts with employees (negative reinforcement), the manager will be more likely to use this behavior in subsequent appraisal interviews.

As you will see in the discussion of training methods in Chapters Seven, “Traditional Training Methods,” and Eight, “Technology-Based Training Methods,” social learning theory is the primary basis for behavior modeling training and has influenced how models are used in videos, which can be part of face-to-face, online, or mobile training programs.

For example, to train customer-facing employees about its new pricing plans, Verizon used videos showing the best way to talk to customers.8

Goal Theories

Goal Setting Theory

Goal setting theory assumes that behavior results from a person’s conscious goals and intentions.9 Goals influence a person’s behavior by directing energy and attention, sustaining effort over time, and motivating the person to develop strategies for goal attainment.10 Research suggests that specific, challenging goals result in better performance than vague, unchallenging goals.11 Goals have been shown to lead to high performance only if people are committed to the goal. Employees are less likely to be committed to a goal if they believe that it is too difficult.

An example of how goal setting theory influences training methods is seen in a program designed to improve pizza deliverers’ driving practices.12 The majority of pizza deliverers are young (ages 18–24) and inexperienced drivers, who are compensated based on the number of pizzas they can deliver. This creates a situation in which deliverers are rewarded for fast but unsafe driving practices—for example, not wearing a safety belt, failing to use turn signals, and not coming to complete stops at intersections. These unsafe practices have resulted in a high driving accident rate.

Prior to goal setting, pizza deliverers were observed by their managers leaving the store and then returning from deliveries. The managers observed the number of complete stops at intersections over a one-week period. In the training session, managers and trainers presented the deliverers with a series of questions for discussion, such as: In what situations should you come to a complete stop? What are the reasons for coming to a complete stop? What are the reasons for not coming to a complete stop?

After the discussion, pizza deliverers were asked to agree on the need to come to a complete stop at intersections. Following the deliverers’ agreement, the managers shared the data they collected regarding the number of complete stops at intersections they had observed the previous week. (Complete stops were made 55 percent of the time.) The trainer asked the pizza deliverers to set a goal for complete stopping over the next month. They decided on a goal of 75 percent complete stops.

After the goal setting session, managers at each store continued observing their drivers’ intersection stops. The following month in the work area, a poster showed the percentages of complete stops for every four-day period. The current percentage of total complete stops was also displayed.

Goal setting theory also is used in training program design. Goal setting theory suggests that learning can be facilitated by providing trainees with specific challenging goals and objectives. Specifically, the influence of goal setting theory can be seen in the development of training lesson plans. Lesson plans begin with specific goals, providing information regarding the expected action that the learner will demonstrate, conditions under which learning will occur, and the level of performance that will be judged acceptable. Goals can also be part of action plans or application assignments that are used to motivate trainees to transfer training.

Goal Orientation

Goal orientation refers to the goals held by a trainee in a learning situation. Goal orientation can include a learning orientation or a performance orientation. Learning orientation

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relates to trying to increase one’s ability or competence in a task. People with a learning orientation believe that training success is defined as showing improvement and making progress; prefer trainers who are more interested in how trainees are learning than in how they are performing; and view errors and mistakes as part of the learning process. Performance orientation refers to learners who focus on task performance and how they compare to others. Persons with a performance orientation define success as high performance relative to others; value high ability more than learning; and find that errors and mistakes cause anxiety and want to avoid them.

Goal orientation is believed to affect the amount of effort that a trainee will expend in learning (motivation to learn). Learners with a high learning orientation will direct greater attention to the task and learn for the sake of learning, as opposed to learners with a performance orientation. Learners with a performance orientation will direct more attention to performing well and less effort to learning. Research has shown that trainees with a learning orientation exert greater effort to learn and use more complex learning strategies than do trainees with a performance orientation.13 There are several ways to create a learning orientation in trainees.14 These include setting goals around learning and experimenting with new ways of having trainees perform trained tasks rather than emphasizing trained-task performance; deemphasizing competition among trainees; creating a community of learning (discussed later in the chapter); and allowing trainees to make errors and to experiment with new knowledge, skills, and behaviors during training.

Need Theories

Need theories help explain the value that a person places on certain outcomes. A need is a deficiency that a person is experiencing at any point in time. A need motivates a person to behave in a manner that satisfies the deficiency. The need theories of Abraham Maslow and Clayton Alderfer focused on physiological needs, relatedness needs (the need to interact with other persons), and growth needs (self-esteem and self-actualization).15 Both Maslow and Alderfer believed that persons begin by trying to satisfy needs at the lowest level and then progress up the hierarchy as lower-level needs are satisfied. That is, if physiological needs are not met, a person’s behavior will continue to focus on satisfying these needs before relatedness or growth needs receive attention. The major difference between Alderfer’s and Maslow’s needs hierarchies is that Alderfer allows the possibility that if higher-level needs are not satisfied, employees may refocus on lower-level needs.

David McClelland’s need theory focused primarily on needs for achievement, affiliation, and power.16 According to McClelland, these needs can be learned. The need for achievement relates to a concern for attaining and maintaining self-set standards of excellence. The need for affiliation involves concern for building and maintaining relationships with other people and for being accepted by others. The need for power is a concern for obtaining responsibility, influence, and reputation.

Need theories suggest that to motivate learning, trainers should identify trainees’ needs and communicate how training program content relates to fulfilling these needs. Also, if certain basic needs of trainees (e.g., physiological and safety needs) are not met, they are unlikely to be motivated to learn. For example, consider a word processing training class for secretaries in a company that is downsizing. It is doubtful that even the best-designed training class will result in learning if employees believe that their job security is threatened (unmet need for security) by the company’s downsizing strategy. Also, it is unlikely the

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secretaries will be motivated to learn if they believe that word processing skills emphasized in the program will not help them keep their current employment or increase their chances of finding another job inside (or even outside) the company.

Another implication of need theory relates to providing employees with a choice of training programs to attend. As Chapter Three mentioned, giving employees a choice of which training course to attend can increase their motivation to learn. This occurs because trainees are able to choose programs that best match their needs.

Expectancy Theory

Expectancy theory suggests that a person’s behavior is based on three factors: expectancy, instrumentality, and valence.17 Beliefs about the link between trying to perform a behavior and actually performing well are called expectancies. Expectancy is similar to self-efficacy. In expectancy theory, a belief that performing a given behavior (e.g., attending a training program) is associated with a particular outcome (e.g., being able to better perform your job) is called instrumentality. Valence is the value that a person places on an outcome (e.g., how important it is to perform better on the job).

According to expectancy theory, various choices of behavior are evaluated according to their expectancy, instrumentality, and valence. Figure 4.3 shows how behavior is determined based on finding the mathematical product of expectancy, instrumentality, and valence. People choose the behavior with the highest value.

FIGURE 4.3 Expectancy Theory of Motivation

From a training perspective, expectancy theory suggests that learning is most likely to occur when employees believe that they can learn the content of the program (expectancy). Also, learning and transfer of training are enhanced when they are linked to outcomes such as better job performance, a salary increase, or peer recognition (instrumentality), and when employees value these outcomes (valence).

Adult Learning Theory

Adult learning theory was developed out of a need for a specific theory of how adults learn. Most educational theories, as well as formal educational institutions, have been developed exclusively to educate children and youths. Pedagogy, the art and science of teaching children, has dominated educational theory. Pedagogy gives the instructor the major responsibility for making decisions about learning content, method, and evaluation. Students are generally seen as (1) being passive recipients of directions and content and (2) bringing few experiences that may serve as resources to the learning environment.18

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Educational psychologists, recognizing the limitations of formal education theories, developed andragogy, the theory of adult learning. Malcolm Knowles is most frequently associated with adult learning theory. Knowles’s model is based on several assumptions:19

Adults have the need to know why they are learning something.

Adults have a need to be self-directed.

Adults bring more work-related experiences into the learning situation.

Adults enter a learning experience with a problem-centered approach to learning.

Adults are motivated to learn by both extrinsic and intrinsic motivators.

Adult learning theory is especially important to consider in developing training programs because the audience for many such programs tends to be adults, most of whom have not spent a majority of their time in a formal education setting. Table 4.2 shows implications of adult learning theory for learning.

TABLE 4.2 Implications of Adult Learning Theory for Training

Design Issue



Mutual planning and collaboration in instruction


Use learner experience as basis for examples and applications


Develop instruction based on the learner’s interests and competencies

Time perspective

Immediate application of content

Orientation to learning

Problem-centered instead of subject-centered

Consider how adult learning theory is incorporated into training programs.20 To help New York Life Insurance Company’s early career product consultants—employees who support sales agents by phone—improve their presentation skills so they can move from a support role to a sales role, the company’s learning and development team designed a year-long program that combines five months of classroom training with five months of practice, feedback, and coaching and includes an action learning project. The action learning project presents groups of career product consultants with an important business problem. As a group they decide on a solution and present it to the company’s senior leaders.21 Yapi ve Kredi Bank’s program to help managers improve their skills in motivating and coaching their employees includes classroom sessions in which trainers review case studies of common situations in coaching and provide students with online readings and videos. Senior managers review coaching and development techniques, and program participants are given coaching assignments to complete with their peers. The first-line manager course at B&W Pantex focuses on soft skills as well as human resource (HR) policies, discipline, and supervision using instructor-led training with video presentations and role playing. The course includes real-life scenarios based on actual situations that have occurred in its facilities. The program also includes on-the-job training in which trained and qualified subject-matter experts (SMEs) teach tasks and procedures. Brown-Forman, one of the largest companies in the global wine and spirits industry (its brands include Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey, Southern Comfort, Findlandia vodka, and Herradura tequila), created a two-and-a-half-day training program focused on helping the company’s marketing professionals build the brand. The company’s chief marketing officer visits the class to explain the

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importance of the course’s content and why it was developed. In the course, participants work in teams to develop a brand campaign for a sample brand. This includes making presentations and completing exercises. Representatives from Brown-Forman’s creative agencies attend the program, part of which involves interacting with consumers to identify their drinking patterns and preferences. At the end of the program, participant teams present their final project to a panel of senior marketing executives who serve as judges.

Information Processing Theory

Compared to other learning theories, information processing theories give more emphasis to the internal processes that occur when training content is learned and retained. Figure 4.4 shows a model of information processing. Information processing theories propose that information or messages taken in by the learner undergo several transformations in the human brain.22 Information processing begins when a message or stimulus (which could be a sound, smell, touch, or picture) from the environment is received by receptors (i.e., ears, nose, skin, and eyes). The message is registered in the senses and stored in short-term memory, and then it is transformed or coded for storage in long-term memory. A search process occurs in memory, during which time a response to the message or stimulus is organized. The response generator organizes the learner’s response and tells the effectors (muscles) what to do. The “what to do” instruction relates to one of the five learning outcomes: verbal information, cognitive skills, motor skills, intellectual skills, or attitudes. The final link in the model is feedback from the environment. This feedback provides the learner with an evaluation of the response given. This information can come from another person or the learner’s observation of the results of his or her own action. A positive evaluation of the response provides reinforcement that the behavior is desirable and should be stored in long-term memory for use in similar situations.

FIGURE 4.4 A Model of Human Information Processing

Source: Based on R. Gagne, “Learning Processes and Instruction,” Training Research Journal, 1 (1995/96), pp. 17–28; D. Rock, “Your Brain on Learning,” Chief Learning Officer (May 2015), pp. 30–48.

Besides emphasizing the internal processes needed to capture, store, retrieve, and respond to messages, the information processing model highlights how external events influence learning. These events include:23

Changes in the intensity or frequency of the stimulus that affect attention.

Informing the learner of the objectives to establish an expectation.

Enhancing perceptual features of the material (stimulus), drawing the attention of the learner to certain features.

content so that it can be stored in memory.

Meaningful learning context (examples, problems) creating cues that facilitate coding.

Demonstration or verbal instructions helping to organize the learner’s response, as well as facilitating the selection of the correct response.


Transfer of training is more likely to occur when the trainee works on tasks during training (e.g., knowledge, equipment, or processes) that are very similar, if not identical, to the work environment (near transfer). Transfer of training is more difficult when tasks during training are different from the work environment (far transfer), such as applying customer service principles to an interaction with an angry customer in front of a long line of customers at a cash register. The tasks that are used during training should relate to the training objectives.

Closed skills refer to training objectives that are linked to learning specific skills that are to be identically produced by the trainee on the job. There is only one correct way to complete a task if it requires closed skills. In contrast, open skills are linked to more general learning principles. Customer service skills are an example of open skills. There is not a single correct way to perform and the learner is given some general principles to follow. For example, a sales clerk is likely trained on general principles or processes for how to interact with an angry customer but has the freedom to choose from among those principles in an actual interaction, because the customer’s intentions and responses are not entirely predictable.24 Open skills are more difficult to train than closed skills because they require the trainee to not only acquire and recall general principles, but also to consider how they can be adapted and used to fit a wide range of circumstances, many of which cannot be practiced during training. Also, manager and peer support on the job is important for giving the trainee the opportunity to learn by seeing how experienced employees use the skills and to get feedback when the trainee has the chance to apply them. Later in this chapter, we discuss the implications of transfer of training theories for designing training. In Chapter Five, we will discuss how specific training program design features can facilitate learning and transfer of both open and closed skills.

Consider the transfer of training issues that Continental Airlines faced in preparing its pilots to fly the new 787 Dreamliner airplane.25 First, Continental flew the airplane on its U.S. routes to familiarize flight and ground crew staff with it. Continental trained approximately 24 pilots for each plane that was delivered. The 787 flight deck was similar but not identical to the 777 airplane that Continental’s pilots were currently flying. Training included use of a flight simulator of the 787 and computer-based courses. One of the most difficult tasks for pilots was becoming familiar with a display that drops down in front of them, providing important flight information. The purpose of the display is to improve visibility during difficult flying conditions. Pilots liked the display but found that it takes time to get used to it because it requires them to adjust their depth perception.

Three theories of transfer of training have implications for training design (the learning environment): the theory of identical elements, the stimulus generalization approach, and the cognitive theory of transfer.26 Table 4.3 shows each theory’s primary emphasis and the most appropriate conditions for its consideration.

TABLE 4.3 Transfer of Training Theories



Appropriate Conditions

Type of Transfer

Identical elements

Training environment is identical to work environment.

Training focuses on closed skills.

Work environment features are predictable and stable.

Example: Training to use equipment.


Stimulus generalization

General principles are applicable to many different work situations.

Training focuses on open skills. Work environment is unpredictable and highly variable.

Example: Training in interpersonal skills.


Cognitive theory

Meaningful material and coding schemes enhance storage and recall of training content.

All types of training and environments.

Near and far

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Theory of Identical Elements

The theory of identical elements proposes that transfer of training occurs when what is being learned in the training session is identical to the tasks the trainee has to perform on the job.27 Transfer will be maximized to the degree that the tasks, materials, equipment, and other characteristics of the learning environment are similar to those encountered in the work environment.

The use of identical elements theory is shown in the hostage training simulation used by the Baltimore Police Department. The Baltimore Police Department needed to teach police sergeants the skills to handle hostage-barricade situations in which lives are at stake—skills such as negotiating with a troubled husband holding his wife and/or children hostage. The first hour of a hostage situation is critical. The sergeant must organize resources quickly to achieve a successful end to the situation, with minimal or no injuries. Baltimore PD chose a training simulation because it provides a model of reality, a mock-up of a real situation without the danger. Multiple scenarios can be incorporated into the simulation, allowing the sergeants to practice the exact skills that they need when facing an actual hostage crisis.

The simulation begins by briefing the trainees on the hostage situation. Then they are directed to take charge of resolving the incident in the presence of an instructor who has personally been involved in similar real-life incidents. Each trainee supervises one difficult and one easy scenario. The simulation is designed to emphasize the importance of clear thinking and decision making in a situation in which time is critical. It is essential that the trainees take actions according to a set of priorities that place the greatest value on minimizing the risks to the hostages and isolating the suspects before communicating with them. The simulation scenarios include elements of many actual hostage incidents, such as forced entry, taking persons against their will, the presence of a weapon, and threats.

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As trainees work in the simulation, their actions are evaluated by the instructor. The instructor can either provide feedback to the trainees in writing after they complete the simulation or correct mistakes as they happen.

The training simulation mirrors the exact circumstances of actual hostage situations encountered by police officers. Also, the checklist of activities and behaviors that the sergeants are provided in training is the exact checklist used in hostage situations that occur on the street. Evidence of generalization is provided by police sergeants who have successfully dealt with a bank-hostage situation by using the skills emphasized in the simulation. The Baltimore Police Department is also concerned with maintenance. At the conclusion of the simulation, officers may be able to demonstrate how to free hostages successfully. However, the incidence of hostage situations is fairly low compared to other tasks that police officers perform (e.g., issuing traffic citations or investigating burglaries). As a result, the police department is concerned that officers may forget what they learned in training and therefore have difficulties in hostage situations. To ensure that officers have opportunities to practice these infrequently used but important skills, the training department occasionally schedules mock hostage situations.28

Another application of the theory of identical elements is found in the use of simulators for training airline pilots. Pilots are trained in a simulator that looks exactly like the cockpit of a commercial aircraft. All aspects of the cockpit in the simulator (e.g., gauges, dials, and lights) are the same as in a real aircraft. In psychological terms, the learning environment has complete fidelity with the work environment. Fidelity refers to the extent to which the training environment is similar to the work environment. If skills in flying, taking off, landing, and dealing with emergency situations are learned in the simulator, they will be transferred to the work setting (commercial aircraft).

The identical elements approach also has been used to develop instruments that are designed to measure the similarity of jobs.29 Job similarity can be used as one measure of the extent to which training in the knowledge and skills required for one job prepares an employee to perform a different job.

The theory of identical elements has been applied to many training programs, particularly those that deal with the use of equipment or that involve specific procedures that must be learned. Identical elements theory is particularly relevant in making sure that near transfer occurs. Near transfer refers to trainees’ ability to apply learned capabilities exactly to the work situation.

Identical elements theory does not encourage transfer where the learning environment and the training environment are not necessarily identical. This situation arises particularly in interpersonal skills training. For example, a person’s behavior in a conflict situation is not easily predictable. Therefore, trainees must learn general principles of conflict resolution that they can apply to a wide variety of situations as circumstances dictate (e.g., an irate customer versus a customer who lacks product knowledge).

Stimulus Generalization Approach

The stimulus generalization approach suggests that transfer of training occurs when training emphasizes the most important features of a task or general principles that can be used to complete a task or solve a problem. It is important to identify the range of work situations in which these general principles can be applied. The stimulus generalization approach emphasizes far transfer. Far transfer refers to the trainee’s ability to apply learned capabilities

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to the work environment, even though the work environment (equipment, problems, and tasks) is not identical to that of the training session.

The stimulus generalization approach can be seen in the design of some skill training programs, which are based on social learning theory. Recall from the discussion of social learning theory that modeling, practice, feedback, and reinforcement play key roles in learning. One step in developing effective interpersonal skill training programs is to identify key behaviors that are needed to be successful in a situation. Key behaviors refers to a set of behaviors that can be used successfully in a wide variety of situations. In a training scenario, the model demonstrates these key behaviors in a video, and trainees have opportunities to practice them. The key behaviors are believed to be applicable to a wide variety of situations. In fact, the practice sessions in this type of training require the trainee to use the behaviors in a variety of situations that are not identical.

Cognitive Theory of Transfer

The cognitive theory of transfer is based on the information processing theory of learning discussed earlier in the chapter. Recall that storage and retrieval of information are key aspects of this model of learning. According to the cognitive theory of transfer, the likelihood of transfer is increased by providing trainees with meaningful material that enhances the chances that they will link what they encounter in the work environment to the learned capability. Also important is providing the trainee with cognitive strategies for coding the learned capabilities in memory so that they are easily retrievable.

The influence of cognitive theory is seen in training design that encourages trainees, as part of the program, to consider potential applications of the training content to their jobs. Many training programs include having trainees identify a work problem or situation and discuss the potential application of training content.


Now that you have reviewed the learning and transfer of training theories, you are ready to address three questions: What are the physical and mental processes involved in learning? How does learning and transfer occur? Do trainees have different learning styles?

Mental and Physical Processes

Table 4.4 shows the learning processes, including expectancy, perception, working storage, semantic encoding, long-term storage, retrieval, generalizing, and gratification.30 Table 4.4 emphasizes that learning depends on the learner’s cognitive processes, including attending to what is to be learned (learning content), organizing the learning content into a mental representation, and relating the learning content to existing knowledge from long-term memory.31 As noted earlier in this chapter, expectancy refers to the mental state that the learner brings to the instructional process. This includes factors such as readiness for training (motivation to learn, basic skills) as well as an understanding of the purpose of the instruction and the likely benefits that may result from learning and using the learned capabilities on the job. Perception refers to the ability to organize the message from the environment so that it can be processed and acted upon. Both working storage and semantic encoding relate to short-term memory. In working storage, rehearsal and repetition of

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information occur, allowing material to be coded for memory. Working storage is limited by the amount of material that can be processed at any one time. Research suggests that not more than five messages can be prepared for storage at the same time.

TABLE 4.4 The Relationship Among Learning Processes, Instructional Events, and Forms of Instruction

Processes of Learning

External Instructional Events

Forms of Instruction


Informing the learner of the lesson objective

Demonstrate the expected performance.

Indicate the kind of verbal question to be answered.


Presenting stimuli with distinctive features

Emphasize the features of the subject to be perceived.

Use formatting and figures in text to emphasize features.

Working storage

Limiting the amount to be learned

Arrange lengthier material in chunks.

Provide a visual image of material to be learned.

Provide practice and overlearning to aid the attainment of automaticity.

Semantic encoding

Providing learning guidance

Provide verbal cues to the proper combining sequence.

Provide verbal links to a larger meaningful context.

Use diagrams and models to show relationships among concepts.

Long-term storage

Elaborating the amount to be learned

Vary the context and setting for presentation and recall of material.

Relate newly learned material to previously learned information.

Provide a variety of contexts and situations during practice.


Providing cues that are used in recall

Suggest cues that elicit the recall of material.

Use familiar sounds or rhymes as cues.


Enhancing retention and learning transfer

Design the learning situation to share elements with the situation to which learning applies.

Provide verbal links to additional complexes of information.


Providing feedback about performance correctness

Provide feedback on degree of accuracy and timing of performance.

Confirm whether original expectancies were met.

Source: Based on M. Cole, The Science of Learning (Alexandria: VA: Association for Talent Development, 2017); R. Gagne, “Learning Processes and Instruction,” Training Research Journal, 1 (1995/96), pp. 17–28; D. Rock, “Your Brain on Learning,” Chief Learning Officer (May 2015), pp. 30–48; A. Beninghof, “Pathways to Retention,” T+D (June 2015), pp. 21–22; M. Torrance, “Nine Moments of Learning,” T+D (September 2014), pp. 76–77.

Semantic encoding refers to the actual coding process of incoming messages. Different learning strategies influence how training content is coded. Learning strategies include rehearsal, organizing, and elaboration.32 Rehearsal, the simplest learning strategy, focuses on learning through repetition (memorization). Organizing requires the learner to find similarities and themes in the training material. Elaboration requires the trainee to relate the training material to other, more familiar knowledge, skills, or behaviors. Trainees use a combination of these strategies to learn. The “best” strategy depends on the learning outcome. For knowledge outcomes, rehearsal and organization are most appropriate. For skill application, elaboration is necessary. After messages have been attended to, rehearsed, and coded, they are ready for storage in long-term memory.

To use learned material (e.g., cognitive skills or verbal information), it must be retrieved. Retrieval involves identifying learned material in long-term memory and using it to influence

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performance. An important part of the learning process is not only being able to reproduce exactly what was learned, but also being able to adapt the learning for use in similar but not identical situations. This is known as generalizing. Finally, gratifying refers to the feedback that the learner receives as a result of using learning content. Feedback is necessary to allow the learner to adapt responses so they are more appropriate. Feedback also provides information about the incentives or reinforcers that may result from performance.

The Learning Cycle

Learning can be considered a dynamic cycle that involves four stages: concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation.33 First, a trainee encounters a concrete experience (e.g., a work problem). This is followed by thinking (reflective observation) about the problem, which leads to generation of ideas of how to solve the problem (abstract conceptualization) and finally to implementation of the ideas directly to the problem (active experimentation). Implementing the ideas provides feedback as to their effectiveness, so the learner can see the results and start the learning process over again. Trainees continually develop concepts, translate them into ideas, implement them, and adapt them as a result of their personal observations about their experiences.

Researchers have developed questionnaires to measure trainees’ weak and strong points in the learning cycle. Some people have a tendency to overemphasize or underemphasize one stage of the learning cycle, or to avoid certain stages altogether. The key to effective learning is to be competent in each of the four stages. Four fundamental learning styles are believed to exist. These learning styles combine elements of each of the four stages of the learning cycle.

Table 4.5 shows the learning characteristics and dominant learning abilities of individuals according to the four learning styles: Divergers, Assimilators, Convergers, and Accommodators.34 Keep in mind that researchers disagree about whether we have learning styles and preferences and, if we have them, how they should be measured.35

TABLE 4.5 Learning Styles

Learning Style

Dominant Learning Abilities

Learning Characteristics


· Concrete experience

· Reflective observation

· Is good at generating ideas, seeing a situation from multiple perspectives, and being aware of meaning and value

· Tends to be interested in people, culture, and the arts


· Abstract conceptualization

· Reflective observation

· Is good at inductive reasoning, creating theoretical models, and combining disparate observations into an integrated explanation

· Tends to be less concerned with people than with ideas and abstract concepts


· Abstract conceptualization

· Active experimentation

· Is good at decisiveness, practical application of ideas, and hypothetical deductive reasoning

· Prefers dealing with technical tasks rather than interpersonal issues


· Concrete experience

· Active experimentation

· Is good at implementing decisions, carrying out plans, and getting involved in new experiences

· Tends to be at ease with people but may be seen as impatient or pushy

Source: Based on D. Kolb, Learning Style Inventory, Version 3.1 (Boston, MA: Hay/McBer Training Resources Group, 2005).

In trying to match instruction to learning preferences, it is important that instructional or training strategies be determined first by what is being taught, or the learning outcomes. Then, learning styles should be considered to adjust the training or instructional strategy.36

For example, AmeriCredit, an auto finance company located in Fort Worth, Texas, is trying to modify training to better match its employees’ learning styles.37 The company has created a database to identify and track each employee’s learning style. Also, employees’ learning styles are being considered in course design. In a new e-learning class, employees who prefer learning by action will receive information in bullet points and will complete activities that help them learn. Employees who prefer thought and reasoning will receive more conceptual material during the course and be involved in fewer experiences. The company plans to compare the new e-learning class that takes into account learning styles with one that does not, so it can determine whether the adaptation to learning styles makes a difference in trainee satisfaction and learning.

Implications of the Learning Process and Transfer of Training for Instruction

Instruction refers to the trainer’s manipulation of the environment in order to help trainees learn.38 Returning to Table 4.4, the right side of this table shows the forms of instruction that support learning. To provide trainees with the best chance to learn, it is important to ensure

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that these forms of instruction are included in training. Table 4.6 summarizes the features of good instruction that facilitate the learning process. The features of a positive learning environment and transfer of training need to be designed into training courses, programs, or specific training methods that might be used, whether in the form of lectures, e-learning, or on-the-job training. Here, as well as later in the chapter, we discuss these features.

TABLE 4.6 Features of Instruction and the Work Environment That Facilitate Learning and Transfer of Training

· Objectives

· Meaningful content

· Opportunities to practice

· Methods for committing training content to memory

· Feedback

· Observation, experience, and social interaction

· Proper coordination and arrangement of the training program

· Encourage trainee responsibility and self-management

· Ensure that the work environment supports learning and transfer

Employees Need to Know the Objectives

Employees learn best when they understand the objective of the training program. The objective refers to the purpose and expected outcome of training activities. There may be objectives for each training session, as well as overall objectives for the program. Keep in mind that training objectives are the last step of the process that begins with businesspage 178

goals.39 Business goals influence the expected performance of roles or positions, and in turn, the tasks that need to be completed. Training objectives focus on the behavior, knowledge, or skills needed to complete the tasks.

Recall the discussion of goal setting theory earlier in the chapter. Because objectives can serve as goals, trainees need to understand, accept, and be committed to achieving the training objectives for learning to occur. Training objectives based on the training needs analysis help employees understand why they need training and what they need to learn. Objectives are also useful for identifying the types of training outcomes that should be measured to evaluate a training program’s effectiveness.

A training objective has three components:40

A statement of what the employee is expected to do (performance or outcome).

A statement of the quality or level of performance that is acceptable (criterion).

A statement of the conditions under which the trainee is expected to perform the desired outcome (conditions).

The objective should not describe performance that cannot be observed, such as “understand” or “know.” Table 4.7 shows verbs that can be used for cognitive, affective, and psychomotor (physical abilities and skills) outcomes. For example, a training objective for a customer-service training program for retail salespeople might be “After training, the employee will be able to express concern [performance] to all irate customers by offering a brief, sincere (fewer than 10-word) apology, in a professional manner [criteria], no matter how upset the customer is [conditions].” Table 4.8 shows the characteristics of good training objectives.

TABLE 4.7 Examples of Performance or Outcomes for Objectives



Knowledge (recall of information)

Arrange, define, label, list, recall, repeat

Comprehension (interpret in own words)

Classify, discuss, explain, review, translate

Application (apply to new situation)

Apply, choose, demonstrate, illustrate, prepare

Analysis (break down into parts and show relationships)

Analyze, categorize, compare, diagram, test

Synthesis (bring together to form a whole)

Arrange, collect, assemble, propose, set up

Evaluation (judgments based on criteria)

Appraise, attack, argue, choose, compare

Receiving (pay attention)

Listen to, perceive, be alert to

Responding (minimal participation)

Reply, answer, approve, obey

Valuing (preferences)

Attain, assume, support, participate

Organization (development of values)

Judge, decide, identify with, select

Characterization (total philosophy of life)

Believe, practice, carry out

Reflexes (involuntary movement)

Stiffen, extend, flex

Fundamental movements (simple movements)

Crawl, walk, run, reach

Perception (response to stimuli)

Turn, bend, balance, crawl

Physical abilities (psychomotor movements)

Move heavy objects; make quick motions

Skilled movements (advanced learned movements)

Play an instrument; use a hand tool

Sources: Based on H. Sredl and W. Rothwell, “Setting Instructional Objectives,” in The ASTD Reference Guide to Professional Training Roles and Competencies, Vol. II (New York: Random House, 1987), Chapter 16; R. Mager, Preparing Instructional Objectives, 3d ed. (Atlanta: Center for Effective Performance, 1997).

TABLE 4.8 Characteristics of Good Training Objectives

· Provide a clear idea of what the trainee is expected to be able to do at the end of training.

· Include standards of performance that can be measured or evaluated.

· State the specific resources (e.g., tools and equipment) that the trainee needs to perform the action or behavior specified.

· Describe the conditions under which performance of the objective is expected to occur (e.g., the physical work environment, such as at night or in high temperatures; mental stresses, such as angry customers; or equipment failure, such as malfunctioning computer equipment).

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Some of the most common problems with objectives include that they are unclear, incomplete, or unspecific.41 Table 4.9 provides some examples of learning objectives. As you review each objective, identify if it includes each of the three components (performance, criteria, condition). Are these good objectives? How can they be improved?

TABLE 4.9 Examples of Learning Objectives

· Develop a diverse multifunctional team that can compete in a challenging environment to produce outcomes that will enhance results.

· Use conflict management skills when faced with a conflict.

· Smile at all customers, even when exhausted, unless the customer is irate.

· Reduce product defects from 10 to 7 percent.

· List all of the nodes of a DC-3 multi-switch correctly, without using a reference manual.

· Use the software 100 percent accurately, given access to the quick reference guide.

Employees Need Meaningful Training Content

Employees are most likely to learn when the training is linked to their current job experiences and tasks—that is, when it is meaningful to them.42 To enhance the meaningfulness of training content, the message should be presented using concepts, terms, and examples familiar to trainees. Also, the training context should mirror the work environment. The training context refers to the physical, intellectual, and emotional environment in which training occurs. For example, in a retail salesperson customer-service program, the meaningfulness of the material will be increased by using scenarios of unhappy customers actually encountered by salespersons in stores. Some useful techniques for convincing trainees that the training program content is meaningful include:43

Telling stories about others’ success in applying training content, especially former trainees.

Relating training content to what trainees already know about their jobs.

Showing how training relates to company goals and strategy.

Showing how trainees can use training content ideas at work.

Discussing examples or cases that remind trainees of the good and poor work they have seen.

Repeating the application of ideas in different contexts.

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Presenting evidence that what they will learn during training is what high-performing employees use in their jobs.

Showing how the conditions that trainees face in training are similar to those on the job.

Providing practice or application activities that can be used on the job.

Providing hard copies or electronic access to well-organized materials so trainees can refer to them on the job or use them to teach others.

Allowing trainees to choose their practice strategy and how they want training content presented (e.g., verbally, visually, problem-based, or using a combination of approaches).

Employees Need Opportunities to Practice

Practice refers to the physical or mental rehearsal of a task, knowledge, or skill to achieve proficiency in performing the task or skill or demonstrating the knowledge. Practice involves having the employee demonstrate the learned capability (e.g., cognitive strategy, verbal information) emphasized in the training objectives under conditions and performance standards specified by the objectives. For practice to be effective, it needs to involve the trainee actively, include overlearning (repeated practice), take the appropriate amount of time, and include the appropriate unit of learning (amount of material). Practice also needs to be relevant to the training objectives. It is best to include a combination of examples and practice, rather than all practice.44 This helps avoid overloading trainees’ memory so they can engage in the cognitive processes needed for learning to occur (selecting, organizing, and integrating content). Viewing examples helps learners develop a new mental model of skills, which they can then use in practice. Some examples of ways to practice include case studies, simulations, role play, games, and oral and written questions.

Pre-Practice Conditions
Trainers need to focus not just on training content, but also on how to enable trainees to process information in a way that will facilitate learning and the use of training on the job. There are several steps that trainers can take within the training course prior to practice to enhance trainees’ motivation to learn and to facilitate retention of training content. Before practice, trainers can45

Provide information about the process or strategy that will result in the greatest learning. For example, let trainees in a customer service class know about the types of calls they will receive (irate customer, request for information on a product, challenge of a bill), how to recognize such calls, and how to complete the calls.

Encourage trainees to develop a strategy (metacognition) to reflect on their own learning process. Metacognition refers to an individual’s control over his or her own thoughts and learning process. Two ways that individuals engage in metacognition are monitoring and control.46 Research shows that metacognition, including self-regulation, promotes learning.47 Self-regulation refers to learners’ involvement with the training material and assessing their progress toward learning. Learners who engage in self-regulation likely learn more effectively because they are able to monitor their progress, identify areas needing improvement, and adjust their learning. Self-regulation may be especially important for online training courses, in which learners have control over the learning experience such that they can decide to drop out of courses and decide how much effort, if any, they want to exert to learn the training content. Table 4.10 provides examples of questions that trainers can encourage trainees to answer to help encourage metacognition and self-regulation. Trainers (and online learning designers) can also aid metacognition by asking page 181
trainees to summarize the key points after a topic is completed; consider how to deal with factors on the job that might inhibit application of learning content; and develop quiz questions and answers and ask other trainees to answer them.48

Provide advance organizers—outlines, texts, diagrams, and graphs that help trainees organize the information that will be presented and practiced.

Help trainees set challenging mastery or learning goals.

Create realistic expectations for trainees by communicating what will occur in training.

When training employees in teams, communicate performance expectations and clarify the roles and responsibilities of team members.

TABLE 4.10 Examples of Questions That Encourage Self-Regulation

· Am I concentrating on the training material?

· Do I understand the key points?

· Am I setting goals to help me remember the material after I finish the course?

· Are the study tactics I have been using effective for learning the training material?

· Would I do better on the test if I studied more?

· Have I spent enough time reviewing to remember the information after I finish the course?

· What additional help and resources do I need?

· What do I need to remember? How will I remember?

Source: From P. Shank, “Self-Sufficient Learners Make Successful Workers,” TD (April 2017), pp. 43–46; T. Sitzmann, “Self-Regulating Online Course Engagement,” T+D (March 2010), p. 26.

Practice Involves Experience
Learning will not occur if employees practice only by talking about what they are expected to do. For example, using the objective for the customer service course previously discussed, practice would involve having trainees participate in role-playing with unhappy customers (customers upset with poor service, poor merchandise, or unsatisfactory exchange policies). Training should involve an active learning approach in which trainees must explore and experiment to determine the rules, principles, and strategies for effective performance.49 Trainees need to continue to practice even if they have been able to perform the objective several times (known as overlearning). Overlearning helps the trainee become more comfortable using new knowledge and skills and increases the length of time the trainee will retain the knowledge, skill, or behavior. For example, customer service representatives in Verizon’s video training program were asked to watch multiple scenarios of interactions with customers, record their responses using a smartphone or webcam, and submit the video to their assigned coach. The coach provided feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of the representatives’ responses. The representatives could record a new response after they received feedback from the coach. Verizon found that the recording and feedback process encouraged employees to practice multiple times. This repeated practice resulted in improved customer service skills.50

Conventional wisdom is that we all learn the most from our errors. However, most people feel that errors are frustrating and lead to anger and despair. Research suggests that from a training perspective, errors can be useful.51 Error management training refers to giving trainees opportunities to make errors during training. In error management training, trainees are instructed that errors can help learning, and they are encouraged to make errors and learn from them. Trainees may actually commit more errors and may take longer to complete training that incorporates error management training. However, error management training helps improve employee use of learned skills on the job (i.e., transfer of training).

Error management training is effective because it provides the opportunity for trainees to engage in metacognition; that is, it allows them to plan how to use training content, to monitor the use of training content, and to evaluate how training content was used. This results in a deeper level of cognitive processing, leading to better memory and recall of training. Trainers should consider using error management training in the training program along with traditional approaches by giving trainees the opportunity to make errors when they work alone on difficult problems and tasks and encouraging them to use errors as a way to learn.

It is important to note that allowing trainees simply to make errors does not help improve learning. For errors to have a positive influence on learning, trainees need to be taught to use errors as a chance to learn. Error management training may be particularly useful whenever the training content to be learned cannot be completely covered during a training session. As a result, trainees have to discover on their own what to do when confronted with new tasks or problems.

Massed versus Spaced Practice
The frequency of practice has been shown to influence learning, depending on the type of task being trained.52 Massed practice conditions are those in which individuals practice a task continuously, without resting. Massed practice also involves having trainees complete practice exercises at one time within a lesson or class rather than distributing the exercises within the lesson. In spaced practice conditions, individuals are given rest intervals within practice sessions. Spaced practice is superior to massed practice in general. However, the difference in effectiveness of massed versus spaced practice varies by the characteristics of the task. Task characteristics include overall task complexity, mental requirements, and physical requirements. Overall task complexity refers to the degree to which a task requires a number of distinct behaviors, the number of choices involved in performing the task, and the degree of uncertainty in performing the task. Mental requirements refers to the degree to which the task requires the subject to use or demonstrate mental skills or cognitive skills or abilities to perform the task. Physical requirements refers to the degree to which the task requires the person to use or demonstrate physical skills and abilities to perform and complete the task. Table 4.11 shows how tasks can differ.

TABLE 4.11 Mental and Physical Requirements and Overall Complexity for Tasks

Mental Requirements

Overall Complexity

Physical Requirements




Task Examples: Rotary pursuit, typing, ball toss, ladder climb, peg reversal, bilateral transfer, crank turning




Task Examples: Free recall task, video games, foreign language, slide-bar task, voice recognition, classroom lecture, sound localization, word processing, stoop task, verbal discrimination, maze learning, connecting numbers, upside-down alphabet printing, distance learning, web training




Task Examples: Gymnastic skills, balancing task




Task Examples: Air traffic controller simulation, milk pasteurization simulation, airplane control simulation, hand movement memorization, puzzle box task, music memorization and performance

Source: J. Donovan and D. Radosevich, “A Meta-Analytic Review of the Distribution of Practice Effect: Now You See It, Now You Don’t,” Journal of Applied Psychology, 84 (1999), pp. 795–805.

For more complex tasks (including those that are representative of training settings, such as web-based instruction, lecture, and distance learning), relatively long rest periods appear to be beneficial for task learning. After practice, trainees need specific feedback to enhance learning. This includes feedback from the task or job itself, as well as feedback from trainers, managers, and peers.

Whole versus Part Practice
A final issue related to practice is how much of the training should be practiced at one time. One option is that all tasks or objectives should be practiced at the same time (whole practice). Another option is that each objective or task should be practiced individually as soon as it is introduced in the training program (part practice). It is probably best to employ both whole and part practice in a training session. Trainees should have the opportunity to practice individual skills or behaviors. If the skills or behaviors introduced in training are related to one another, the trainee should demonstrate all of them in a practice session after they have been practiced individually. Practice activities should expose trainees to a variety of training content by switching between topics throughout the session. This helps facilitate learning because it helps ensure that content

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is retained in trainees’ long-term memory. Transfer of training is also enhanced because trainees are being asked to recall and apply skills and knowledge in the same way they work (i.e., using different knowledge and skills as they shift their focus between different tasks and problems).

Effective Practice Conditions
For practice to be relevant to the training objectives, several conditions must be met.53 Practice must involve the actions emphasized in the training objectives; be completed under the conditions specified in the training objectives; help trainees perform to meet the criteria or standard that was set; provide some means to evaluate the extent to which trainees’ performance meets the standards; and allow trainees to correct their mistakes.

Practice must be related to the training objectives. The trainer should identify what trainees will be doing when practicing the objectives (performance), the criteria for attainment of the objective, and the conditions under which they may perform. These conditions should be present in the practice session. Practice activities should be as realistic as possible. That is, trainees should be involved in practice that mirrors how they will be asked to use the training content on the job. Next, the trainer needs to consider the adequacy of the trainees’ performance. That is, how will trainees know whether their performance meets performance standards? Will they see a model of desired performance? Will they be provided with a checklist or description of desired performance? Can the trainees decide if their performance meets standards, or will the trainer or a piece of equipment compare their performance with standards?

Finally, in the event that trainees’ performance does not meet standards, the trainer must decide whether trainees will be able to understand what is wrong and how to fix it. That is, trainers need to consider whether trainees will be able to diagnose their performance and take corrective action, or if they will need help from the trainer or a fellow trainee.

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Employees Need to Commit Training Content to Memory

Memory works by processing stimuli we perceive through our senses into short-term memory. If the information is determined to be “important,” it moves to long-term memory, where new interconnections are made between neurons or electrical connections in the brain. Research shows there are several ways to help trainees commit content to memory (see Table 4.12).54

TABLE 4.12 How to Help Trainees Commit Training Content to Memory

· Help them understand how they learn

· Emphasize important points and eliminate irrelevant content

· Use a concept map to show relationships among ideas

· Teach key words; provide a procedure, sequence, or visual image

· Encourage trainees to take notes and engage in reflection

· Have trainees engage in overlearning

· Provide rest breaks during training

· Use quizzes or boosters

· Break courses into small chunks of learning using modules or microlearning

· Have trainees complete pretraining work

Sources: Based on K. Kraiger and V. Mattingly, “Cognitive and Neural Foundations of Learning,” in The Cambridge Handbook of Workplace Training and Employee Development, K. Brown, ed (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018); “The Art & Science of Learning That Sticks,” from, accessed February 9, 2018; D. Rock, “Your Brain on Learning,” Chief Learning Officer (May 2015), pp. 30–48; A. Beninghof, “Pathways to Retention,” TD (June 2015), pp. 21–22; R. Weiss, “Memory and Learning,” Training and Development; (October 2000), pp. 46–50; R. Zemke, “Toward a Science of Training,” training (July 1999), pp. 32–36.

One way is to make trainees aware of how they are creating, processing, and accessing memory. It is important for trainees to understand how they learn. A presentation of learning styles (discussed earlier in this chapter) can be a useful way to determine how trainees prefer to learn.

Important points should be highlighted and irrelevant content eliminated to help trainees maximize the use of their cognitive resources for remembering what’s important. Visuals such as graphs and videos can be especially useful in providing the learner with relevant, important content.

To create long-term memory, training programs must be explicit on content and elaborate on details. One approach that trainers use is to create a concept map to show relationships among ideas. Another is to use multiple forms of review including writing, drawings, and role play to access memory through multiple methods. Teaching key words, a procedure, or a sequence, or providing a visual image gives trainees another way to retrieve information. Reminding trainees of knowledge, behavior, and skills that they already know that are relevant to the current training content creates a link to long-term memory that provides a framework for recalling the new training content. External retrieval cues can also be useful. Consider a time when you misplaced your keys or wallet. In trying to remember, we often review all the information we can recall that was close in time to the event or that preceded the loss. We often go to the place where we were when we last saw the item because the environment can provide cues that aid in recall.

Like other teams in the National Football League, the Cleveland Browns players have notebook computers to learn plays, schemes, and prepare for opponents by watching videos and taking notes.55 However, the Browns coaches also believe that players can’t

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just watch videos, they need to actively learn. So coaches are encouraging players not just to type on their notebooks but to write things down using pencil and paper. The idea is to get the players to mentally process what they are supposed to be learning, which helps commit that learning to memory. Taking notes by writing rather than typing causes the learner to rephrase ideas in their own words, which means they must process the information at a deeper level in the brain. Another way to help employees commit what they learn to memory involves reflection. Reflection involves having trainees spend a short amount of time, such as 15 minutes, reviewing and writing about what they learned and how they performed.56 Rest breaks are necessary to help trainees optimize their focus and attention on training content. Without rest breaks memory becomes overloaded, which makes it difficult for trainees to retain content in long-term memory. Finally, quizzes and tests enhance learning by requiring the trainee to retrieve information from memory. This helps ensure that the training content will be retained over a longer period of time.

Long-term memory is also enhanced by going beyond one-trial learning. One-trial learning refers to the first time trainees correctly demonstrate a behavior or skill or correctly recall knowledge. It is often assumed that they have learned the behavior, knowledge, or skill at this point but this is not always true. To retain the knowledge, skill, and behavior or other training content, trainees need to engage in overlearning. As discussed earlier, overlearning refers to reviewing and practicing multiple times to help ensure training content is stored in long-term memory. Overlearning also helps autonomize a task. Automatization refers to making performance of a task, recall of knowledge, or demonstration of a skill so automatic that it requires little thought or attention. Automatization also helps reduce memory demands. The more that automatization occurs, the more that memory is freed up to concentrate on other learning and thinking. The more active a trainee is in rehearsal and practice, the greater the amount of information retained in long-term memory and the less memory decay over time. For example, opportunities for learners to retrieve what they have learned can also increase retention.57 Boosters refer to retrieval opportunities that can help the learner’s brain consider training information as important and help retain it. Boosters can include short multiple-choice questions, short-answer quizzes, or other activities that require learners to retrieve what they have learned from long-term memory.

Research suggests that no more than four or five items can be attended to at one time. If a lengthy process or procedure is to be taught, instruction needs to be delivered in relatively small chunks or short sessions in order to not exceed memory limits.58 Rather than requiring employees to take the time to go through an entire course that may include information that is not helpful or needed, courses are being modularized or broken down into small chunks of learning.59 Learners can skip content they are not interested in or can demonstrate mastery by completing tests. Chunking courses allows employees to save time and money by focusing on topics that they need for their job or want to learn.

Microlearning refers to training delivered in small pieces or chunks designed to engage trainees, motivate them to learn, and help facilitate retention.60 The chunks of learning are presented using videos or games that are typically five to eight minutes long. Microlearning is used to replace longer training courses with one or several short courses. It is also being used to reinforce or supplement formal training (e.g., sending quizzes after training, sharing short pieces of training content before the program to generate excitement) and to create just-in-time learning content. Survey results of talent professionals provide important insights into the use of microlearning.61 Microlearning is most frequently delivered using videos, self-pace

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e-learning, or visuals such as PowerPoint slides or infographics. Quizzes, learners responding to scenarios, simulations, hands-on activities, or games tend to be used in microlearning. Microlearning is being used to replace longer courses that include technical content, focus on performance support or onboarding, or are considered mandatory and must be completed to meet compliance standards. Talent professionals report that the primary benefits of microlearning for learners focus on time; that is, learners can access learning when it is convenient for them, learning does not take a lot of time, and learners can access learning on-the-job when they need it. Also, trainees’ progress in games or simulations can be tracked and reported, and microlearning content can be linked together based on topics or skills. The primary barrier for effective microlearning is that trainees are not held accountable for learning.

Consider how several different companies use microlearning.62 Trainees at Avenade, a management consulting company, have access to minicourses that include topics like design thinking and leading the self. The courses are organized into either a progressive series or as pathways in which courses of related content can be taken in any order. All of the minicourses include learner guides, activities, reflection prompts, and an interactive discussion board. Trainees’ reactions to the minicourses have been positive. They report that the minicourses allow them to fit learning into their busy schedules. CDK Global, a provider of computing services to automobile dealers, uses microlearning to support the performance of its sales team. Sales team members can access short podcasts while driving to visit their clients and make their own playlists based on the issues and situations they will encounter with their clients. PopHealthCare uses microlearning as a prerequisite for electronic health care record training. American Dairy Queen uses microlearning for introducing new products and showing the ingredients and steps in the recipe. Trainees complete microlearning and then are able to review it before practicing making the product.

If you are designing a new training course or program—or modifying an existing one—and you don’t have the time or resources to apply all of the principles of microlearning, you can still help avoid overwhelming trainees with complex material during training by providing them with pretraining work that can be completed online or using workbooks.63 For example, trainees can become familiar with the “basics” such as names, definitions, principles, and characteristics of components before they are trained in how the principles are applied (e.g., dealing with angry customers) or how a process works (e.g., testing for pathogens in a blood sample, changing a car’s water pump). This will help free up cognitive resources so they can focus on and retain content covered during training.

Employees Need Feedback

Feedback is information about how well people are meeting the training objectives. To be effective, feedback should focus on specific behaviors and be provided as soon as possible after the trainee performs the behavior.64 Also, positive trainee behavior should be verbally praised or reinforced. Videotape is a powerful tool for giving feedback. Trainers should view the videotape with trainees, provide specific information about how behaviors need to be modified, and praise trainee behaviors that meet objectives. Feedback can also come from tests and quizzes, on-the-job observation, performance data, a mentor or coach, written communications, or interpersonal interactions.The specificity of the level of feedback provided to trainees needs to vary if trainees are expected to understand what leads to poor performance as well as good performance.65 For example, employees may need to learn how to respond when equipment is malfunctioning

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as well as when it is working properly; therefore, feedback provided during training should not be so specific that it leads only to employee knowledge about equipment that is working properly. Less specific feedback can cause trainees to make errors that lead to equipment problems, providing trainees with opportunities to learn which behaviors lead to equipment problems and how to fix those problems. Difficulties encountered during practice as a result of errors or reduced frequency of feedback can help trainees engage more in exploration and information processing to identify correct responses.

Employees Learn through Observation, Experience, and Interaction

As mentioned earlier in the chapter, one way employees learn is through observing and imitating the actions of models. For the model to be effective, the desired behaviors or skills need to be clearly specified and the model should have characteristics (e.g., age or position) similar to the target audience.66 After observing the model, trainees should have the opportunity in practice sessions to reproduce the skills or behavior shown by the model. According to adult learning theory, employees also learn best when they learn by doing,67 which involves giving employees hands-on experiences or putting them with more experienced employees and providing them with the tools and materials needed to manage their knowledge gaps. One way to model behavior or skills is to show learners what to do using YouTube videos. For example, the Cheesecake Factory has videos of outstanding servers at work available at its Video Café.68

Employees also learn best through interaction—interacting with training content, with other learners, and with the trainer or instructor.69 Table 4.13 shows the three ways that employees learn through interaction and when to use them. Learner-content interaction means that the learner interacts with the training content. Learner-content interaction includes reading text on the web or in books, listening to multimedia modules, performing activities that require the manipulation of tools or objects (such as writing), completing case studies and worksheets, or creating new content based on learned information. Traditionally, all of the training content that employees needed came from trainers and the training and development department during formally scheduled courses. Today, one of the trends is for training content to include learner-generated content and to be available when trainees need it.70 One example of learner-generated content are videos of work practices and processes captured on smartphones that can be shared with peers.

TABLE 4.13 Three Types of Instructional Interaction


When to Use


Requires mastering a task that is completed alone. Learn process of studying information and acting on it .


Requires mastering a task that is completed in a group. Learners gain new knowledge or validate their understanding by discussing content with peers.


Best for in-depth topic exploration and to develop strengths in critical analysis and thinking. Discussion may be limited when large amounts of material need to be presented in a short timespan.

Sources: Based on H. Nuriddin, “Building the Right Interaction,” T+D (March 2010), pp. 32–35; D. Leonard and W. Swap, “Deep Smarts,” Harvard Business Review (September 2004), pp. 88–97.

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Learner-instructor interaction refers to interaction between the learner and the expert (trainer). Trainers can facilitate learning by presenting, demonstrating, and reinforcing content. Also, trainers provide support, encouragement, and feedback that are valued by most learners. Learner-instructor discussions can be useful for helping learners understand content, enhance their self-awareness and self-assessment, gain an appreciation for different opinions, and implement ideas on the job. To maximize learners’ critical thinking and analysis skills, discussion should go beyond instructors asking questions and learners providing answers.

Learner-learner interaction refers to interaction between learners, with or without an instructor. Learner-learner interaction, including observing and sharing experiences with peers, may be especially useful for training interpersonal skills (such as communications), acquiring personal knowledge based on experience (such as tacit knowledge about how to close a sale or resolve a conflict), providing context-specific knowledge (such as managing in an international location), and learning to cope with uncertainty or new situations (such as marketing a new product or service).71

Consider how training at Farmers Insurance and General Motors gets learners actively involved and helps ensure transfer of training.72 Farmers’s “CE—It’s Up to Me” training includes four online modules and short two-minute videos with supporting worksheets that allow employees to observe actual customer interactions, identify their impact on the interaction, and determine how they can improve the experience. Managers hold team meetings to discuss the training after trainees complete both the online modules and the short videos. At General Motors, district manager training includes face-to-face instruction; experiences in dealer operations, customer call centers, and after-sales centers; self-directed training; mentoring from more experienced district managers; and opportunities to share what they have learned with other trainees.

Communities of practice (COPs) refers to groups of employees who work together, learn from each other, and develop a common understanding of how to get work accomplished.73 COPs can involve face-to-face or electronic interaction. The idea of COPs suggests that learning occurs on the job as a result of social interaction. Every company has naturally occurring COPs that arise as a result of relationships that employees develop to accomplish work, and as a result of the design of the work environment. Leading Real Estate Companies of the World (LeadingRE) provides “CEO Exchange Groups,” groups of principal and managing brokers of real estate companies who do not compete with each other.74 They meet face-to-face or on conference calls several times each year to discuss challenges and opportunities they are facing and share best practices.

COPs also take the form of social networks, discussion boards, list servers, or other forms of computer-mediated communication in which employees communicate electronically. In doing so, each employee’s knowledge can be accessed in a relatively quick manner. It is as if employees are having a conversation with a group of experts. Wyeth Pharmaceuticals has 11 COPs that focus on maintaining shop floor excellence.75 The COPs make it easy for employees to share best practices, learn from one another, and improve business processes. The maintenance function used its COP to deliver more than 600 hours of training on new technology and maintenance processes. This has resulted in more reliable equipment and higher productivity, such as increasing equipment use in one manufacturing plant from 72 to 92 percent.

COPs are most effective for learning and improving work performance when managers and employees believe they contribute to the core operating processes of the company,such as engineering or quality.76 Despite the benefits of improved communication, a drawback to these communities is that participation is often voluntary, so some employees may not share their knowledge unless the organizational culture supports participation. That is, employees may be reluctant to participate without an incentive or may be fearful that if they share their knowledge with others, they will give away their personal advantage in salary and promotion decisions.77 Another potential drawback is information overload. Employees may receive so much information that they fail to process it, which may cause them to withdraw from the COP.

Employees Need the Training Program to Be Properly Coordinated and Arranged

Training coordination is one of several aspects of training administration. Training administration refers to coordinating activities before, during, and after the program.78 Training administration involves:

Communicating courses and programs to employees.

Enrolling employees in courses and programs.

Preparing and processing any pretraining materials, such as readings or tests.

Preparing materials that will be used in instruction (e.g., copies of overheads, cases).

Arranging for the training facility and room.

Testing equipment that will be used in instruction.

Having backup equipment (e.g., paper copies of slides or an extra overhead projector bulb) should equipment fail.

Providing support during instruction.

Distributing evaluation materials (e.g., tests, reaction measures, surveys).

Facilitating communications between the trainer and trainees during and after training (e.g., coordinating exchange of e-mail addresses).

Recording course completion in the trainees’ training records or personnel files.

Good coordination ensures that trainees are not distracted by events (such as an uncomfortable room or poorly organized materials) that could interfere with learning. Activities before the program include communicating to trainees the purpose of the program, its location, the name of a person to contact if they have questions, and any preprogram work they are supposed to complete. Books, speakers, handouts, and videotapes need to be prepared. Any necessary arrangements to secure rooms and equipment (such as DVD players) should be made. The physical arrangement of the training room should complement the training technique. For example, a team-building session will be less than effective if the seats cannot be moved for group activities. If visual aids will be used, all trainees should be able to see them. Make sure that the room is physically comfortable, with adequate lighting and ventilation. Trainees should be informed of starting and finishing times, break times, and the location of bathrooms. Distractions such as phone messages should be minimized, and trainees should be advised to turn off their cell phones and pagers. If trainees will be asked to evaluate the program or take tests to determine what they have learned, allot time for this activity at the end of the program. Following the program, the names of trainees who have completed the program should be recorded and credit given (if appropriate). Handouts and other training materials should be stored or returned to the consultant.

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The end of the program is also a good time to consider how the program could be improved if it will be offered again. Practical issues in selecting and preparing a training site and designing a program are discussed in more detail in Chapter Five.

Encourage Trainee Responsibility and Self-Management

Trainees need to take responsibility for learning and transfer,79 which includes preparing for training, being involved and engaged during training, and using training content back on the job. Before training, trainees need to consider why they are attending training and set specific learning goals (either alone or, preferably, in a discussion with their manager) as part of completing an action plan (action plans are discussed in detail in Chapter 5). Also, trainees need to complete any pretraining assignments. During training, trainees need to be involved. That is, they need to participate and share experiences in discussions, to practice, and to ask questions if they are confused. After training, trainees need to review and work toward reaching the goals established in their action plan. They need to be willing to change (e.g., try new behaviors or apply new knowledge) and ask peers and managers for help if they need it.

Self-management refers to a person’s attempt to control certain aspects of his or her decision making and behavior. Training programs should prepare employees to self-manage their use of new skills and behaviors on the job. Self-management involves:

Determining the degree of support and negative consequences in the work setting for using newly acquired capabilities.

Setting goals for using learned capabilities.

Applying learned capabilities to the job.

Monitoring use of learned capabilities on the job.

Engaging in self-reinforcement.80

Research suggests that trainees exposed to self-management strategies exhibit higher levels of transfer of behavior and skills than do trainees who are not provided with self-management strategies.81

Ensure That the Work Environment Supports Learning and Transfer

There is no magic “formula” for ensuring that transfer of training occurs. Effective strategies for transfer of training include ensuring that trainees are motivated and managers and co-workers support learning and transfer.82 These strategies are especially important when training open skills; that is, when trainees have more choice about what and how to apply trained principles. Closed skills include prescribed behaviors that likely are less influenced by managers, peers, and the work environment. Also, designing training to increase knowledge and self-efficacy has a positive relationship with transfer of training.

Table 4.14 shows a list of obstacles in the work environment that can inhibit learning and transfer of training. They include (1) lack of support from peers and managers and (2) factors related to the work itself (e.g., time pressure).

TABLE 4.14 Examples of Obstacles in the Work Environment That Inhibit Transfer of Training

Work-Related Obstacles

Description of Influence

Time pressures

Inadequate equipment

Few opportunities to use skills

Inadequate budget

Trainee has difficulty using new knowledge, skills, or behavior.

Lack of Peer Support

Peers discourage use of new knowledge and skills on the job.

Peers are unwilling to provide feedback.

Peers see training as waste of time.

Peers do not support use of new knowledge, skills, or behavior.

Lack of Management Support

Management does not accept ideas or suggestions that are learned in training.

Management does not discuss training opportunities.

Management opposes use of skills learned in training.

Management communicates that training is a waste of time.

Management is unwilling to provide reinforcement, feedback, and encouragement needed for trainees to use training content.

Managers do not reinforce training or provide opportunities to use new knowledge, skills, or behavior.

Sources: Based on J. Tracey and M. Tews, “Construct Validity of a General Training Climate Scale,” Organizational Research Methods, 8 (2005), pp. 353–374; R. D. Marx, “Self-Managed Skill Retention,” Training and Development Journal (January 1986), pp. 54–57.

For example, new technologies allow employees to gain access to resources and product demonstrations using the Internet or notebook computers. But while employees are being trained to use these resources with state-of-the-art technology, they often become frustrated because comparable technology is not available to them at their work site. Employees’

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computers may lack sufficient memory or links to the Internet for them to use what they have learned.

These obstacles inhibit transfer because they cause lapses. Lapses take place when the trainee uses previously learned, less effective capabilities instead of trying to apply the capability emphasized in the training program. Lapses into old behavior and skill patterns are common. Trainees should try to avoid a consistent pattern of slipping back or using old, ineffective learned capabilities (e.g., knowledge, skills, behaviors, and strategies). Also, trainees should understand that lapses are common and be prepared to cope with them. Trainees who are unprepared for lapses may give up trying to use new capabilities—especially trainees with low self-efficacy and/or self-confidence.

One way to ensure that learning and transfer of training occurs is to ensure that the climate for transfer is positive. Climate for transfer refers to trainees’ perceptions about a wide variety of characteristics of the work environment that facilitate or inhibit the use of trained skills or behavior. These characteristics include manager and peer support, the opportunity to use skills, and the consequences of using learned capabilities.83 Table 4.15 shows characteristics of a positive climate for transfer of training. Research has shown that transfer of training climate is significantly related to positive changes in managers’ administrative and interpersonal behaviors following training. To support the transfer of financial training emphasizing Southwest Airlines’s key business metrics, cost checklists explaining how employees can contribute to the company’s bottom line are distributed companywide following training.84 Flip charts showing highlights from manager–employee question-and-answer sessions are posted in work areas. All managers receive large posters displaying the company’s four “magic numbers” (net income, unit cost measure, net margin, and invested capital). The posters include

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blank columns that managers are expected to complete and regularly update to show the past year’s performance, the current year’s goals, year-to-date numbers, and quarterly results.

TABLE 4.15 Characteristics of a Positive Climate for Learning and Transfer of Training



Supervisors and co-workers encourage and set goals for trainees to use new skills and behaviors acquired in training.

Newly trained managers discuss how to apply their training on the job with their supervisors and other managers.

Task cues: Characteristics of a trainee’s job prompt or remind him or her to use new skills and behaviors acquired in training.

The job of a newly trained manager is designed in such a way as to allow him or her to use the skills taught in training.

Feedback consequences: Supervisors support the application of new skills and behaviors acquired in training.

Supervisors notice newly trained managers who use their training.

Lack of punishment: Trainees are not openly discouraged from using new skills and behaviors acquired in training.

When newly trained managers fail to use their training, they are not reprimanded.

Extrinsic reinforcement consequences: Trainees receive extrinsic rewards for using new skills and behaviors acquired in training.

Newly trained managers who successfully use their training will receive a salary increase.

Intrinsic reinforcement consequences: Trainees receive intrinsic rewards for using new skills and behaviors acquired in training.

Supervisors and other managers appreciate newly trained managers who perform their job as taught in training.

Source: J. B. Tracey, S. I. Tannenbaum, and M. J. Kavanagh, “Applying Trained Skills on the Job: The Importance of the Work Environment,” Journal of Applied Psychology, 80 (1995), pp. 235–252; E. Holton, “What’s Really Wrong: Diagnosis for Learning Transfer System Change,” in Improving Learning Transfer in Organizations, eds. E. Holton and T. Baldwin (San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003), pp. 59–79.

Consider what Sacramento Municipal Utility District and Gables Residential are doing to create a positive climate for learning and overcoming obstacles to transfer of training.85 Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) is the provider of electricity and electrical-related products and services for the Sacramento, California, county region. SMUD needed its strategic account advisers, who represent the company to its largest commercial customers, to become more proactive in identifying sales opportunities. To help these associates, SMUD created a two-day course. During the course associates learned the value chain for their customers and how to match products and services to their needs. Six weeks after they attended the class, participants had to create an account plan for a customer and present their plan to SMUD’s top managers. The account plan and presentation was based on what they learned in the course. Following their presentation, participants were asked to identify 10 additional accounts to create a plan for. They received coaching by their manager to ensure their success in applying what they learned in the course on the job. The leadership development program at Gables Residential, a real estate company, focuses on developing self-awareness and skills in coaching and managing high-performance teams. Each month following a training session a training and development manager meets with each participant to discuss what they learned and provide coaching and support to encourage them to further develop their skills.

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Incentives can help create a positive climate for learning and transfer. Hudson Trail Outfitters has 300 employees who work in its stores selling outdoor equipment.86 Managers at Hudson Trail have found that employees are motivated to learn and value free jackets and merchandise discounts more than bonus checks for completing training programs. The benefits for Hudson Trail Outfitters outweigh the costs of providing the jackets and other gear. Employees who complete training stay longer with the company. They also make more sales per day and sell more items in each transaction. Dunkin’ Brands (you might know them for their donuts and coffee) awards stores with certificates and trophies and provides employees with cash rewards, “money” employees can use to cash in for gifts, and field trips to meet with executive chefs.

Some companies are awarding digital badges to employees who have completed courses, earned a certification, or mastered a skill.87 The badges can be placed in the employee’s personal profile, shared on social networks, and even put in a virtual backpack to take along to job interviews! Badges encourage learning in several ways. They provide feedback to trainees that they have completed the course or module or mastered a skill, and they provide an incentive to continue to learn in the future. Badges allow learners to display their achievements for their peers and social network to see, which encourages them to accomplish more. Also, badges help employees communicate to others what they know, which can help further their job and career opportunities. Badges are also beneficial to companies because they can be used to create a database identifying employees’ knowledge and skills. The database can be used for quickly identifying employees with specific skills or knowledge needed for a project or work team. Also, the database gives an overall picture of the company’s human capital (i.e., areas of knowledge and skills strengths and weaknesses).

For example, at IBM, over a million employees from 178 countries have earned badges. IBM has seen positive results from badging. Employees who attend at least one online course at IBM’s Big Data University return to earn an average of three additional badges. Downloads of courses at Big Data University have increased by 64 percent and survey results indicate that 87 percent of badge earners desire a higher level of engagement with IBM. Samsung Electronics provides employees with badges for completing learning modules and passing quizzes. The employees’ most recent badges are displayed on their homepage and all badges they earn are in their personal learning space. The use of digital badging at Samsung has improved course completion rates and visits to the company’s learning management system, which provides access to online courses.


This chapter’s discussion of the implications of the learning process for instruction provides general principles regarding how to facilitate learning. However, you should understand the relationship between these general principles and the learning process. Different internal and external conditions are necessary for learning each outcome. Internal conditions refers to processes within the learner that must be present for learning to occur. These processes include how information is registered, stored in memory, and recalled. External conditions refers to processes in the learning environment that facilitate learning. These conditions include the physical learning environment, as well as opportunities to practice and receive feedback and reinforcement. The external conditions should directly influence the

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design or form of instruction. Table 4.16 shows what is needed during instruction at each step of the learning process. For example, during the process of committing training content to memory, verbal cues, verbal links to a meaningful context, and diagrams and models are necessary. If training content is not coded (or is incorrectly coded), learning will be inhibited.

TABLE 4.16 Internal and External Conditions Necessary for Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcome

Internal Conditions

External Conditions

Verbal Information

Labels, facts, and propositions

Previously learned knowledge and verbal information

Strategies for coding information into memory

Repeated practice

Meaningful chunks

Advance organizers

Recall cues

Intellectual Skills

Knowing how

Mastery of prerequisites

Recall of prerequisites

Link between new and previously learned knowledge

Skills taught in order from simple to complex

Provide a variety of examples and practice opportunities

Cognitive Strategies

Process of thinking and learning

Recall of prerequisites, similar tasks, and strategies

Verbal description of strategy

Strategy demonstration

Practice with feedback

Variety of tasks that provide opportunity to apply strategy


Choice of personal action

Mastery of prerequisites Identification with model

Cognitive dissonance

Demonstration by a model

Positive learning environment

Strong message from credible source Reinforcement

Motor Skills

Muscular actions

Recall of part skills

Coordination program



Gradual decrease of external feedback

Source: Based on R. M. Gagne and K. L. Medsker, The Conditions of Learning (Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt-Brace College Publishers, 1996).

The training programs of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) help to illustrate many of the internal and external conditions necessary to achieve learning outcomes. With campuses in New York, California, Texas, and Singapore, the CIA is the world’s finest training facility for chefs and has approximately 2,000 full-time students in its degree programs. CIA graduates are chefs in some of the best restaurants in the world and in prestigious private dining rooms (such as the White House), and they direct food service operations for large hotel chains such as the Marriott, Hyatt, Radisson, and Hilton. For example, you might have heard of Cat Cora, the Iron Chef on the television show Iron ChefAmerica. Besides offering degree programs, the CIA also hosts more than 6,000 trainees from a wide variety of companies that have food service operations.

Whether an instructor is teaching meat-cutting or sautéing techniques, the learning environments of CIA programs are basically the same. A lecture is followed by demonstration and several hours of guided hands-on practice. The trainee then receives feedback from the instructor. The trainer moves from a show-and-tell approach to become a coach over the course of the training session. Videos are produced for every class and given to students. Whether viewed from residence halls or seen at the video learning center, students review the tapes at their own pace and control what they see.

CIA programs deal not only with cognitive learning, but also with physical and emotional learning. In addition to cooking and baking courses, students are required to study psychology, total quality management practices, languages, marketing, communications, restaurant management, and team supervision. Food ethics, sustainability, physical fitness, and stress management also are required parts of the curriculum. Why? Running a commercial kitchen involves long hours and high levels of stress—it is very physically demanding. Thanks to the learning environment created at the CIA, the institute is recognized as the world leader in gastronomic training, providing a foundation of basic knowledge for chefs from around the world.88


Learning and transfer of learning must occur for training to be effective. This chapter began by defining learning and transfer of learning and identifying the capabilities that can be learned: verbal information, intellectual skills, motor skills, attitudes, and cognitive strategies. To explain how these capabilities can be learned, the chapter discussed several theories of learning: reinforcement theory, social learning theory, goal setting theory, need theories, expectancy theory, adult learning theory, and information processing theory. To understand how to ensure that what is learned is applied to the job, three transfer of training theories were discussed: identical elements, stimulus generalization, and cognitive theory. Next, the chapter investigated the learning process and its implications for how people learn. The section on learning process emphasized that internal processes (expectancy, storage, and retrieval), as well as external processes (gratifying), influence learning. The potential influence of learning styles in learning also was examined. The chapter then discussed the relationship between the implications of the learning process, transfer of training, and the design of instruction. Important design elements include providing learners with an understanding of why they should learn, meaningful content, practice opportunities, feedback, opportunities for interaction, and a coordinated program. Also, the training design should encourage learners to self-manage and ensure that the learners’ work environment supports learning and transfer.

page 196Discussion Questions

Compare and contrast any two of the following learning theories: expectancy theory, social learning theory, reinforcement theory, information processing theory.

What learning condition do you think is most necessary for learning to occur? Which is least critical? Why?

Are learning and transfer of training related? Explain why or why not.

How do instructional objectives help learning to occur?

Assume that you are training an employee to diagnose and repair a loose wire in an electrical socket. After demonstrating the procedure to follow, you let the trainee show you how to do it. The trainee correctly demonstrates the process and repairs the connection on the first attempt. Has learning occurred? Justify your answer.

Your boss says, “Why do I need to tell you what type of learning capability I’m interested in? I just want a training program to teach employees how to give good customer page 197
service!” Explain to the boss how “good customer service” can be translated into different learning outcomes.

How does practice help learning? What could a trainer do in a training session to ensure that trainees engage in self-regulation?

Can allowing trainees to make errors in training be useful? Explain.

What learning conditions are necessary for short- and long-term retention of training content to occur?

What is microlearning? How does it help to enhance learning and transfer of training?

What is near transfer? Far transfer? What are their implications for training design?

How can employees learn through interaction? Are some types of interaction best for learning in some situations but not others? Explain.

How can the work environment inhibit learning and transfer of training? Explain. In your opinion, what work environment characteristics have the largest influence on transfer of training? Justify your answer.

You have a one-day classroom experience in which you need to help a group of engineers and software programmers learn to become project managers. After training, they will have to manage some significant projects. Discuss the instructional characteristics and activities you will use to ensure that the engineers and software programmers learn project management.

Application Assignments

Using any source possible (magazines, journals, personal conversation with a trainer, etc.), find a description of a training program. Consider the learning process and the implications of the learning process for instruction discussed in the chapter. Evaluate the degree to which the program facilitates learning. Provide suggestions for improving the program.

You are the training director of a hotel chain, Noe Suites. Each Noe Suites hotel has 100 to 150 rooms, a small indoor pool, and a restaurant. Hotels are strategically located near the exit ramps of major highways in college towns such as East Lansing, Michigan, and Columbus, Ohio. You receive the following e-mail message from the vice president of operations. Prepare an answer.
To: You, Training Director
From: Vice President of Operations, Noe Suites
As you are probably aware, one of the most important aspects of quality service is known as “recovery”—that is, the employee’s ability to respond effectively to customer complaints. There are three possible outcomes to a customer complaint: The customer complains and is satisfied by the response; the customer complains and is dissatisfied with the response; and the customer does not complain but remains dissatisfied. Many dissatisfied customers do not complain because they want to avoid confrontation, there is no convenient way to complain, or they do not believe that complaining will do much good.
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I have decided that to improve our level of customer service, we need to train our hotel staff in the “recovery” aspect of customer service. My decision is based on the results of recent focus groups we held with customers. One theme that emerged from these focus groups was that we had some weaknesses in the recovery area. For example, last month in one of the restaurants, a waiter dropped the last available piece of blueberry pie on a customer as he was serving her. The waiter did not know how to correct the problem other than offer an apology.
I have decided to hire two well-known consultants in the service industry to discuss recovery, as well as to provide an overview of different aspects of quality customer service. These consultants have worked in service industries and manufacturing industries.
I have scheduled the consultants to deliver a presentation in three training sessions. Each session will last three hours. There will be one session for each shift of employees (day, afternoon, and midnight shift). The sessions will consist of a presentation and question-and-answer session. The presentation will last one-and-a-half hours, and the question-and-answer session approximately 45 minutes. There will be a half-hour break.
My expectations are that following this training, the service staff will be able to recover successfully from service problems.
Because you are an expert on training, I want your feedback on the training session. Specifically, I am interested in your opinion regarding whether our employees will learn about service recovery from attending this program. Will they be able to recover from service problems in their interactions with customers? What recommendations do you have for improving the program?

Identify what is wrong with each of the following training objectives. Then rewrite it.

To be aware of the safety rules for operating the ribbon-cutting machine in three minutes.

Given a personal computer, a table, and a chair, enter the data into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet.

Use the Internet to learn about training practices.

Given a street address in the city of Dublin, Ohio, be able to drive the ambulance from the station to the address in less than 10 minutes.

Go to, Big Dog’s Instructional System Design (ISD) page. This website is an excellent resource that describes all aspects of the ISD model. Click on “Learning” and scroll to the concept map or list of terms under the map. Click on “Learning Styles” and take the Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic (VAK) survey. What are the implications of your learning style for how you learn best? What type of learning environment is best suited for your style? Be as specific as possible.

Watch the YouTube video of a flight simulator at Are the skills developed in the flight simulator open or closed skills? What transfer of training theory was applied to develop the flight simulator? Does the flight simulator encourage near or far transfer? Explain your answers.

Go to, a site created by Marcia L. Conner about how adults learn. Click on “Learning Style Assessment” and complete it. What are the assessment’s implications for the way that you learn best?transportation management company that provides logistics and trucking services. Click on “Jobs.” Under “Company Drivers,” click on “Orientation,” and then click on “New CDL Holders.” Watch the videos “The best in the industry” and “Your Training Engineer.” What types of learning outcomes are emphasized in training? Considering the features of good instruction discussed in the chapter, identify the features of Schneider’s training program that contribute to learning and transfer of training. Explain how each feature you identify contributes to learning.

Go to for an example of training for new employees developed by AllenComm for Domino’s Pizza. Review the examples of the Pizza Maker course that are provided. What features does the Pizza Maker course include that help to enhance learning and transfer of training? Identify each feature and discuss how it enhances learning, transfer of training, or both.

Watch “Front Desk First Impressions” at, a video used to train hotel front desk associates. What features of this video can help trainees learn and transfer what they have learned to their jobs? If you were conducting this training program how would you use this video? In addition to the video, what else would you add to the training program to make it more effective?

Watch the YouTube video showing examples of microlearning at What features included in these examples help to enhance learning and transfer of training?

Take the BuzzFeed quiz on multitasking at How did you do? Could this be why driving and doing other things like eating, texting, or putting on makeup (yes, I’ve observed this while driving) is dangerous. Have you found it difficult to multitask in your life? Explain why. Next, watch the YouTube video on multitasking at to see why it is difficult to multitask. Since our brains have difficulty multitasking, what are the implications of this for training, particularly training that trainees can access anytime, anywhere, using smartphones, tablets, or notebook computers?


Safety First

BNSF Railway is a North American freight transportation company with over 32,000 miles of routes. BNSF Railway hauls agricultural, consumer, and industrial products and coal. BNSF Railway puts safety above everything else it does, including productivity. BNSF Railway recognizes that safety is based on having well-trained employees who share BNSF Railway’s vision for an injury- and accident-free workplace and who are willing to look out for one another. Thanks to its employees’ commitment, a carefully maintained network and equipment, and well-prepared communities, BNSF Railway is a safety leader in the rail industry. Approaching Others About Safety (AOAS) is a training program for all BNSF Railway employees. Four hundred and fifty BNSF Railway employees train their peers. Employees serve as trainers because

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BNSF Railway believes they are in the best position to keep themselves and their peers safe. The goal of the program is for BNSF Railway employees to be confident about giving feedback to each other about safe behavior and avoiding unsafe situations. Employees need to learn the value of providing feedback when they see unsafe behavior or situations, including positively recognizing when someone is working safely or correcting them when they perceive another employee is at risk. Training should focus on the types of exposures that tend to result in the most injuries, including walking/path of travel around trains, rails, and equipment, pinch points between the railway cars, and climbing or descending locomotives and railway cars.

Describe the different types of instructional characteristics that this program should have for learning and transfer to occur and for a decrease in injuries and accidents to result. Would these characteristics vary depending on who was attending the program (e.g., managers, train crew, employees who maintain track, structures, or signals)? If so, how would they vary? Explain how a community of practice (COP) could be beneficial for this program.

Source: Based on M. Weinstein, “BNSF Railway Is on the Right Track,” training (January/February 2017), pp. 42–44; “BNSF Railway: Approaching Others About Safety,” training (January/February 2014), pp. 108–109;, website for BNSF Railways, accessed March 11, 2015.

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