Evaluating Training Programs: An Exploratory Study of Transfer of Learning onto the Job at Hotel A and Hotel B, Sydney, Australia

By Putra, Andreas | Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, April 2004 | Go to article overview

Evaluating Training Programs: An Exploratory Study of Transfer of Learning onto the Job at Hotel A and Hotel B, Sydney, Australia


Putra, Andreas, Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management


Holton III, Bates, Seyler and Carvalho (1997) define transfer of learning as the degree to which trainees apply to their jobs the knowledge, skills, behaviours and attitudes they gained in training. One of the focal points of the evaluation of transfer of learning is the investigation of the factors which influence how transfer takes place. Trainees in two Sydney hotels were interviewed to find out what methods and strategies they used to enhance their own transfer of learning. This study applied a case study approach and the results of the interviews indicate that there is no one single best strategy, but that different trainees use different strategies that are suitable to their work environments to aid their transfer of learning. One major finding was that all the trainees interviewed had knowledge of the importance of transfer of learning to the job.

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Evaluating the effectiveness of training programs is essential for managers who need to ensure that trainees apply the learning gained from training to their work situations (Kirkpatrick, 1998). This has been an imperative for a considerable time (Huczynski & Lewis, 1980). Training effectiveness can in part be determined by examining the transfer of learning to the work environment (Holton III, Bates, Seyler, & Carvalho, 1997; Kirkpatrick, 1998; Noe, 1986). Since Kirkpatrick's evaluation levels (reaction, learning, behaviour and results) were first introduced in 1959, evaluations of transfer of learning have included examining the characteristics of training programs and individual trainees, and then relating these factors to training and job performance (Rouiller & Goldstein, 1993). Kirkpatrick (1998) has found that many managers have only evaluated training programs at the first level (reaction) by using "smile sheets", because it is quick and simple. However, this is inadequate (Holton III, 1996). Instead, job performance also needs to be considered and this is related to training program outcomes through transfer of learning. Training evaluation should involve applying all four of Kirkpatrick's evaluation levels and be focused on whether the learning is transferred by the trainee who, as a result, becomes more efficient and effective in their work performance and, in consequence, improves the performance of the organisation as a whole (Huczynski & Lewis, 1980; Kirkpatrick, 1998).

This article focuses on the second of Kirkpatrick's levels of evaluation, specifically the transfer of learning. The aim of this article was to investigate how trainees went about transferring their training program learning to their work situations.

Literature Overview

A critical issue with any training program is the successful transfer of learning on to the job (Ford, Quinones, Sego, & Sorra, 1992; Kirkpatrick, 1998). The study of transfer of learning is important to all organisations, which are concerned not only with increasing productivity and performance improvement but also with the way people interact, that is, how they relate to one another (Mbawo, 1995). In the context of an organisation's training program, the word "transfer" refers to a trainee's application to the job of what is learned (Burke, 1997). Transfer of learning, in this context, can be defined as the degree to which trainees apply to their jobs the knowledge, skills, behaviours and attitudes they obtained in training (Baldwin & Ford, 1988; Burke & Baldwin, 1999; Holton III et al., 1997; Kirkpatrick, 1998; Tannenbaum & Yukl, 1992).

The criterion of successful training is the application of the newly acquired skills and knowledge to the workplace (Holton III et al., 1997). Baldwin and Ford (1988, as cited in Holton III et al., 1997), Goldstein (1986) and Wexley and Latham (1991, as cited in Holton III et al., 1997) have highlighted a number of factors that might impact on transfer of learning, and one of these is the extent to which the trainee is given the opportunity to perform the tasks taught in training sessions on the job.

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