The transfer of training is a long-standing challenge for training and development researchers and practitioners. It is a form of positive of behavioral changes many employers anticipate from their employees to demonstrate the value of the organization’s training investment. Like most behavioral changes, the transfer of training is a challenging task given that the trainee must make changes which involves a high demand for self-regulation efforts to ensure that trainees transfer their newly acquired skills at work. Few trainees successfully adhere to the new training skills while the rest give in to the convenience of static practices at work. The disappointing transfer of training reality highlights the need for Human Resource Development (HRD) to be aware of an implicit barrier to the transfer of training—habit intrusion—and trainees’ tendency to revert back to their habits at work which, in many cases, contradict the desired behaviors associated with the training goals. Thus, there continues to be persistent transfer of training issues, performance gaps, and the loss of training investments. This study recognized these impediments to trainees’ ability to apply training skills. Additionally, the study investigated volition, a key variable, to unlock HRD’s understanding about the goal-shielding role in the transfer of intercultural adjustment skills over 14 weeks of a study abroad program. Selecting intercultural adjustment skills was based on similarities in intercultural adjustment needs between expatriates and study abroad students. A number of studies have suggested that these two populations experience mental health-related issues (e.g., depression) and other negative adjustment outcomes because many of them are unable to effectively use intercultural skills to make progress in their cross-cultural transition. The purpose of the study was twofold: (a) to examine whether volition (implementation intention) maintained students’ adherence to the use of training skills over 14 weeks, and (b) to examine the relationships among goal intention, implementation intention, and the transfer of training, especially the moderating role of implementation intention between the other two variables. This longitudinal study employed a randomized control trial design. Data were collected at three time points: pre-departure (week 0), week 6, and week 14. The total study sample (N=195) included 82 students in the treatment group and 113 students in the control group. They were all undergraduate students from two U.S. higher education institutions who studied abroad for one semester. The treatment group received a 5-minute online volitional intervention at the end of the online intercultural skills training while the control group received only the training. As expected, the volitional intervention (mental contrasting with implementation intention (MCII)) promoted trainees’ maintenance of goal intention, implementation intention, and the transfer of training over 14 weeks. The examination of within-person changes revealed a U-shape trajectory for most cases. A decrease in mean transfer of training scores at week 6 suggested the overriding effect of habit intrusion on goal-intended actions (i.e., the transfer of intercultural skills training). Additionally, volition was found to strengthen the positive relationship between goal intention and the transfer of training. The confirmed moderating effect echoed previous research findings that a combination of volition and goal intention are crucial for successful behavioral change. A volitional perspective of the transfer of training problem has the potential to change how HRD practitioners promote training effectiveness (e.g., increased skills practice time, emphasize repetition of skills practice, and changing trainees’ environment to facilitate new habit formation). The study concludes with a discussion of several contributions and directions for future research.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2020. Major: Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development. Advisors: Kenneth Bartlett, David Christesen. 1 computer file (PDF); xvi, 208 pages.
Volition to Transfer Training: An Examination of the Role of Volition in Supporting Study Abroad Students’ Adherence to the Transfer of Intercultural Skills.
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