How to ensure knowledge transfer from classroom to workplace

Companies spend large amounts on training annually, yet much of this money is wasted. Why? Because learners do not apply what they have learned!

There can be any number of reasons for this including lack of management support and follow-up. This is a subject on its own and I won’t go into it here except to say that if there is no transfer of knowledge and skills, the money spent on training will be wasted.
Employing a professional coach is one solution that can pay dividends.

The coach will meet with the manager or supervisor at regular intervals for 1 to 2-hour coaching sessions over a set period of time (e.g. over six months). Normally a contract is agreed upfront with the fees, method of payment, number and duration of coaching sessions, expectations and undertakings by the stakeholders are set out.

For example, the coach undertakes to prepare for coaching sessions, to be on time, to keep confidential what is said in coaching sessions and to give his/her undivided attention to the learner. The learner, on the other hand, also agrees to be on time, to prepare for the coaching session and to do any homework which is agreed.

Boundaries will also be agreed upon at this time. These could include when the learner may call the coach and what will happen in the event of a situation being too complicated to be dealt with on the phone.

There are no set time limits between coaching sessions but there must be enough time between sessions for the learner to try out specific behaviours.

The effectiveness of the learner’s efforts will be reviewed at the next coaching session, thereby reinforcing learning and behaviour change.

Through a process of clever questioning and astute listening, the coach will help the learner to self-reflect and identify areas of their management approach that need to be addressed.

In this way, the learner takes ownership of his/her need for behaviour change.

The learner will develop goals to be reached within the agreed period of the coaching intervention. As incidents or opportunities occur at the workplace, these will be discussed with the coach, who will encourage the learner to consider various options or approaches for the learner to take.

In the end, it is the learner who decides – not the coach. People usually react better to making their own decisions as opposed to having decisions thrust upon them. It is only when a person believes that he or she needs to change, that they actually do change. Coaching can help with this.

In order to be effective, the coach must have credibility and know what he or she is talking about. There must be absolute trust between the learner and coach and all things discussed between the two are strictly confidential.

The coach must take the trouble to get to know the learner as a person. Where there is a difference between word and deed, the coach must have the courage and sensitivity to confront the learner about this.

For example, in one case a supervisor was assaulted by an employee. The employee attacked the supervisor with a stick and was dismissed as a result of this. What needed to be explored was why the employee had attacked the supervisor in the first place. A coach in this situation would encourage the supervisor to self-reflect and be honest with himself.

Confidentiality and ethics are essential to the coaching process if it is to be successful. Comensa (Coaches & Mentors of South Africa) is the SAQA-recognised non-statutory professional body which regulates coaching and mentoring in South Africa. The organisation have a published Code of Ethics with which coaches are expected to comply.

If you decide to use a coach, it is wise to choose one who is registered with Comensa as he or she can be held to account for unprofessional or unethical behaviour.

There are various approaches or methods to coaching. These will be discussed in a future article.

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