Integrating what is learned in practice

Esther Derendinger

Corporate continuing education is an investment which should equally benefit individual staff members and the company itself. A discussion between staff and superiors ensures that knowledge is transferred into practice. Continuing education providers and course instructors can help their customers by offering them tips on knowledge transfer in everyday working life.

Once a continuing education course is over, the task is to integrate the newly acquired knowledge in everyday working life. This is precisely the point at which things can go wrong. Everyday business calls for staff members’ full attention; the working day is characterised by appointments, deadlines and unexpected events. Newly acquired knowledge soon fades into the background and is left unused.

This can be prevented by including knowledge transfer early on, when planning a continuing education event. After all, the task is not just to tell staff the aims of the lessons; it is also about planning knowledge transfer – i.e. how knowledge is applied in practice – and, if necessary, planning in further resources to that end. This is why every continuing education course ends with a discussion on knowledge transfer, ensuring that this has taken place and can thus be of benefit to the company.

Knowledge transfer discussion between staff and superiors

A course of education is not over until a discussion has taken place involving the staff and their superiors. From then on, the knowledge can start to be applied in professional practice. But it is not enough just to ask “How was the course?”. For superiors, a knowledge transfer discussion means taking the time to examine what has been learned along with the staff, as a basis for what needs to be done as a result. The ideal time for this knowledge transfer discussion is one to four weeks after the continuing education course. As well as information about content, superiors also find out about the quality of the continuing education course they are helping to fund.

What a knowledge transfer discussion should include

These discussions should be tailored to each individual staff member. Not every question is appropriate for everyone.

Suitable questions which a superior might ask staff are:

What did you learn on the course?

What can you use in your everyday work?

What can we do better in our company?

When do/did you have trouble implementing what you learned? Why is that?

In which fields can we now make use of your new expertise? What tasks can you take on now to use the new knowledge you have acquired?

How would you rate the course quality from today’s point of view? (Quality of lecturer, programme, content, equipment, etc.)

How have you told your colleagues in your team about your experience? What plans are there?

What remains unclear or unexplained after you have completed the course?

Putting the expertise to wide use

Once it is sure that the course has resulted in knowledge transfer, companies can do well to go a step further by encouraging the exchange of information within the team. This can happen in that staff pass on specific knowledge from the course which the members of the team can use, or in that they are generally informed about the new knowledge so that they know what new expertise they can draw upon.

The Swiss Federation for Adult Learning, SVEB, has specially developed the website for companies. Here, they can carry out a simple online continuing education check which shows the situation regarding continuing education in their company. Various guidelines and checklists help managers plan continuing education and transfer into practice, as well as evaluating education programmes. Moreover, the website is of use to continuing education providers and course instructors, as they can leave their clients with helpful tips about knowledge transfer. The website is only available in German.

European InfoNet Adult Education, 22.06.2015