September 2010

Help us all to bridge the learning transfer gap
ASK is passionate about the transfer and application of learning: ‘making it stick’ is a common theme that runs across all our work, whether the primary focus be in Leadership and Management Development, Organisational Development or Executive Coaching. As we say on our website:

The purpose of learning and development is not simply to create more skilled or knowledgeable individuals, but to translate good learning into great workplace performance.”

As an organisation we are keenly aware that the ‘transfer gap’ between learning acquired during training and development interventions and its subsequent workplace application may be widely acknowledged, but that the L&D profession’s progress in addressing is little explored. Academic research over the several decades has identified a wide range of strategies and approaches for narrowing this critically important gap, but the extent to which these are being put into practice remains unknown.

To bring clarity and a greater understanding, ASK is working in partnership with Training Journal to undertake the first national survey of current transfer and application practice in the UK. The Learning Transfer 2010 survey will identify – for the first time – just how far transfer and application activities are actually being put into practice.

The survey opens for responses on 1 October 2010, and will remain online until 31 December 2010. To find out more, review a range of relevant online resources and – more importantly – spare five minutes to participate in this groundbreaking survey – visit the Learning Transfer 2010 section of our blog.

As you’ve probably noticed from previous posts (most obviously this one, but we are a serial offender on this particular point and would like several other posts to be taken into account), we’re not always a great fan of the prescriptive approach. Models – like their catwalk counterparts – may hold a glamorous appeal, but they sometimes need adapting to daily life every bit as much as a fashion designer’s more advanced flights of fancy. And while we recognise the efficacy of Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12 Steps programme, it has been evolved with rigour and had its value tested by countless people. If the same were true of the ‘5 steps to …’ and ‘7 easy ways to …’ articles that litter both the general and the specialist press, we’d hazard a guess they wouldn’t be quite so dependant on advertising for their revenue streams. But … we also have a sense of humour.


It’s terrible what a lack of discrimination (in the word’s original sense of possessing the judgement and discernment ability to see or make fine distinctions) can do to a man. (Or, no doubt, to a woman.) Last night I found myself watching The Science of the Young Ones, where a motley selection of the more elderly type of celeb were assembled in a 1970s house (lots of orange, patterned everything) and removed from all those associative triggers that have been whispering into their discreet hearing aids that they are old. The theory was that they’d feel – and act – younger. I’m obviously of the wrong generation for the experiment:I couldn’t stop recalling Oscar Wilde’s deathbed comment that “”My wallpaper and I are fighting a duel to the death. One or other of us has to go”. But the evidence – from Harvard professors, no less – was that the celebrities were indeed rejuvenated by the experience.

Once the world stopped telling them they were old (and not just in words, but in stereotypical images, TV characters, stair-lift adverts and so on), they stopped feeling so old. Given more control over their self-image and freed from a constant negative background babble, they regained valuable aspects of themselves. Mental agility and recall improved. One walked unaided having previously been in a wheelchair.  And Lionel Blair choreographed on the stage of The Palladium for the first time in 30 years. (You win some, …)  


Parting has traditionally been seen as a source of bitter sorrow, especially for the party being parted from. The stiff upper lip isn’t the only reason that someone leaving a job is usually described less emotionally, of course (calls for passion in the workplace aren’t usually meant literally: naked emotions and carpet tiles will never be a happy combination), but organisations do stand to gain from the experience.

The opportunity – all too often a missed one – is to pay real attention to the exit survey process, exploring the added value that anonymity or third party mediation can give by allowing uncomfortable truths to be spoken, and learning about both the push factors that drove the leavers away and the pull factors from elsewhere that lured them.

Organisations no longer a job for life; in return, they must acknowledge that talent will therefore tend to migrate. But if security cannot be part of the offer, how many organisations truly understand which other elements of their employee value proposition – both in theory and in practice – are actually effective in supporting their talent management and planning?

These are all issues among those that ASK Practice Director, Anton Franckeiss, explored in an article – Mining the good from the goodbyes – recently published by Strategic HR Review, a copy of which you can download here or from our Elsewhere page.

Once you’ve read the article, we’d welcome your reactions, feedback, experiences or opinion – just use the Comment box below to share your thoughts.

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Phil Jesson really has captured the moment with his ‘snappy’ guide, Piranhas in the Bidet. On the back of (at least as the media would have us believe) apparently the worst recession since forever, the time is well overdue to take a good look at de-mystifying some of the overblown bulk of management theory, MBA speak and TLAs (the dreaded three letter abbreviations) that proliferate in the corporate world.

In the same novelistic style very much preferred by Patrick Lencioni (read out review of his Five Dysfunctions of a Team) and even by the great man himself, John Kotter, in his tales of ‘melting icebergs’ (‘Hearts of Change’), Phil Jesson – or I should say more pertinently, his fictional occasional chauffer, George Willis – takes Simon Gray, the newly appointed CEO of Aldertons, on a journey that far exceeds a boss’s expectations.


We can be a perennially puzzling species. While the majority of us almost certainly head to work intending to do our best, it would interesting to know how many of us are that generous in our assumptions and assessments about those around us – and how far any gap is accounted for by the generosity we tend to extend when we are invited to assess ourselves. But I strongly suspect that the start of any new job – something we’ve (usually) chosen to apply for, polished our cvs and interview skills, cleared the hurdles of interview and assessment centre – is a time when all of us are at our most positively intentioned. There’s a lot of hoping as well as striving in the journey from hoping to induction, and the moment of arrival is a time when we are looking to invest that hope.

That’s a view echoed in the words of Orlagh Hunt, group HR director at the RSA Insurance Group, in an interview with People Management:

We know that people show up in a new company wanting to engage. Very few people think, ‘I’m going to do as little as humanly possible and be as destructive as I can’. They start off thinking this is a shining new opportunity, and then the job they do, the leader they get, the environment they’re in either translates that optimism into having a great time and doing a great job, or not quite so much.” 


Two very different views of the world of HR from the wider web have caught our attention to flag up for you, the first of which you might like to read in conjunction with our recent post, Rearranging the top table: a role for HR? and the second of which may raise a smile among those of who pondering where to take a late summer break. In their different ways, both articles provide a valuable mirror in which to reflect on the perceptions of HR and training functions from the outside of the goldfish bowl. (For a full list of our favourite items, pointing you to gems of wisdom from the web, see our Crackers page.)

  • A seat at the table: the trainer’s dilemma: a reflection by Fred Nickols at the Training Journal blogs on our readiness – as opposed to our desire – to have a seat at that mythical ‘top table’ as trainers, the impact that a change of role has on the individual and on the lingering perceptions of training, its purpose and value. A very thought provoking read.
  • 1,000 Places To Visit Before You Die. Number 1,001: HR Shire: an altogether less profound and somber reflection of the world – or in this case, the fictional (?) shire – of HR, but still one that may provoke a wry smile as you pause to reflect that (like any profession) your intentions and good deeds may look slightly different viewed through other eyes.

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