Informal learning and the transfer of learning: How managers develop proficiency

Date of Completion

January 2001


Education, Adult and Continuing|Education, Industrial




The estimated cost for formal managerial training programs in the year 2005 is 12.4 billion dollars. Taken into consideration that approximately 60% to 90% of what is learned during training is never applied on the job, companies will suffer a low return on investment of training programs. The problem companies face is how to develop the proficiency of managers and promote the transfer of learning. ^ The purpose of this study was twofold: (1) to expand the theoretical framework for understanding the transfer of learning by investigating the relationship between transfer of learning, proficiency, work environment variables, and informal learning; and (2) to contribute to the existing theory of informal learning by investigating the role that informal learning plays in the development of managerial skills. ^ Two research questions were developed to examine the relationship between the independent and dependent variables. Hierarchical multiple regression analysis and a thematic analysis of participant comments was applied to answer the research questions. Follow-up analyses were conducted to further understand the results. ^ The results of the study suggested that managers learned mostly from informal learning. In addition, the results showed that proficiency explained a significant amount of the variance in the transfer of learning, exhibiting a large effect size. Work environment variables and informal learning were found to have no significant relationship with the transfer of learning in this study. Further analysis showed that a significant inverse relationship existed between organizational support and informal learning. Overall, the results highlight how managers develop proficiency through informal learning. Theoretical and practical implications of the findings are discussed. ^