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Robert Terry

the Kite Foundation

Founder And Director

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Blog: Kite Foundation encourages learning transfer through charitable donations


It is widely accepted that the biggest challenge facing trainers is not so much what goes on in the classroom but what doesn’t go on in the workplace.

For a myriad of entirely understandable reasons, learners struggle to find the time, opportunity and motivation to use their nascent capabilities in the crucial first few days following the training event.
As a result, newly acquired learning is quickly lost. The journey from learning event to improved workplace performance can be arduous, uncomfortable and fraught with risks.
To complete this journey, which could take many months, a learner might need continuing input from their trainer and encouragement from his or her manager and workplace colleagues. Sadly, trainers are frequently powerless to help and busy managers and colleagues can appear indifferent.
With neither support nor reward for their efforts, learners’ motivation to do things differently and better may quickly drain away. Little wonder that on average, less than 20% of what is learned during training is applied in the workplace.
In the 55 years since the learning transfer ‘problem’ was first articulated, researchers and academics around the world have identified over 60 factors that play a part in inhibiting transfer, but learning and development practice remains stubbornly resistant to change.
Some observers put the price of this failure to overcome the learning transfer problem at over $500 billion per year.
Learning transfer support tool
Given the scale of this opportunity for cost-saving and the unremitting pressure to do more with less in these times of austerity, it was to be expected that the introduction of a new learning transfer support tool might cause something of a ripple on the normally placid waters of the training and development industry.
What could not have been anticipated, even by its creators, was the veritable tsunami of interest that has surrounded the launch of Kite®, the world’s first and only learning transfer solution powered by altruism. Kite® is an initiative of UK-based not-for–profit think-tank The Kite Foundation.
In a radical departure from convention, Kite® combines social network technology with charitable giving to create a ‘learning transfer community’ that can raise money for a nominated good cause in return for evidence that transfer has actually taken place.
Over a period of nine months defined by three key milestones, Kite® creates an environment within which the mastery of newly acquired capabilities is actively encouraged.
At each successive milestone, Kite® offers the learner and his or her manager incentives in the form of donations funded by their organisation but attributed to them, in exchange for increasingly robust evidence of achievement in learning transfer.
Using the Kite® app, learners and their managers, supported by trainers and workplace colleagues, are prompted to assess the extent to which new capabilities are being used. Progress and achievement are ‘rewarded’ with donations to charity totalling up to £50.
Kite® is the product of a two-year research and consultation project undertaken by myself, as Director of the Kite Foundation, perhaps better known as the Editor of the UK Learning Transfer Survey.

Corporate social responsibility
Working with senior leaders in the HR community, I drew my inspiration from some of the issues that dominate their agenda – value for money, employee engagement and social responsibility – to create what some are describing as the first genuinely new development in learning transfer in a decade.
The claimed benefits that have generated so much interest in Kite® do make interesting reading. In addition to driving learning transfer with all the consequent improvements in training effectiveness, I can confirm that the beta test site results showed significant improvements in the frequency and quality of dialogue between learners and their managers, reversing a trend that has been observable for many years.
Looking at the organisational impact of Kite®, employee engagement was enhanced by the widening of participation in fund-raising to sections of the workforce not previously responsive to such opportunities.
For organisations with a well-developed social responsibility agenda, the opportunity to involve all staff, or at the very least all staff who participate in formal training, in fund-raising, creates a compelling alignment between ‘doing good’ and ‘being better’.
And for those seeking data to evaluate the effectiveness of their training, Kite® generates over 120 different learning transfer metrics. At just £10 per learner excluding the performance-related donations to charity, Kite® certainly looks like good value.  
Launched June 1st, it’s too early to tell whether Kite® will fulfil its early promise but with patrons like Rio Tinto, Invesco and First Group already signed up and ready to launch their first Kite®-supported training programmes, we could be witnessing the emergence of a significant new player.
If that is the case, it will be interesting to see how L&D practitioners respond. It might just be that the prospect of routine accurate measurement of learning transfer will encourage previously reticent trainers to revisit the design and delivery of their training programmes and place rather less focus on the ‘happy sheet’ and rather more on performance outcomes.
Robert Terry is founder and director of the Kite Foundation, a not-for-profit think-tank that focuses on learning transfer.

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Robert Terry

Founder And Director

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