Intentions to make it stick.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  This well-known phrase comes to mind when I think about intention to transfer training.  Many end-of-training evaluation forms ask participants to respond to a statement like this:  “I plan to (or will be able to) apply this training to my job”.  Technically this is referred to as intention to transfer.  Have you ever wondered if this is an accurate prediction that the training will stick?

A research study compared intention to transfer with actual behavior change on the job.  What they found in this study was that there was a fairly high correlation between intention to transfer and the actual transfer.  I don’t know, though –

· Don’t people often tell us what we want to hear (or what they think we want to hear)?

· How many people have kept their new year’s resolutions from last month, let alone January 2010?

· Aren’t people’s perceptions of their behavior often different from what other people see?

I’m reminded of a study conducted on the nutritional practices of the residents of Green Valley, Arizona.  The researchers wanted to see how accurately people reported what they ate, so they distributed questionnaires that asked detailed questions about their eating habits.  Then the researchers went through the residents’ garbage containers.  (Wouldn’t you like that job?)  What they found was that there were a lot more pizza cartons and empty junk food sacks than had been reported, and there was a lot less evidence of healthier food choices.

Should you stop asking “I plan to (or will be able to) apply this training to my job” on your end-of-training evaluations? No.  Answers to this question can be a good indication of the relevance of the training content as well as whether it is appropriate for a particular audience.  Just be careful about confusing intention to transfer with actual behavior.


Take a quick survey about this. I’ll share your feedback in the next Sticky Note.


Other ideas to get an indication that the training has stuck and is being used on the job –

·  You could repeat a variation of the above question three months later, but responses to “I am applying this training to my job” may still be tainted with wanting to tell you what you want to hear.

· Ask 3-5 specific questions about content application, and make them multiple choice questions.  For an example, take a look at this previous Sticky Note in my blog.

· If it’s not possible to “boil down” to 3-5 specific questions, send more than one survey.  Just because the learning content is grouped into one learning event doesn’t mean the feedback and evaluation on it has to be.

· Compare responses to any of the above level 3 evaluations with responses to the end-of-class question.  Over time if you see there’s a lot of consistency, you could confidently drop one or the other.

Don’t rule out responses to “I plan to this training on my job” as proof that the training is sticking, but look for other indicators to improve the reliability of the responses.  Remember the garbage in Green Valley.

P.S. Follow me on Twitter: @StickyTraining

Until next time…..

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