Skills transfer vs knowledge transfer

Skills vs knowledge transfer blog

“Can you deliver training for our staff?” is a question we are frequently asked. We are accredited by the Lean Competency System to deliver qualifications in continuous improvement, but we have a very specific view on what training works, and what doesn’t.

Anton Chekhov said: “Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.” This is why we differentiate between skills transfer and knowledge transfer.

Effective skills transfer

Knowledge transfer can be face-to-face or virtual; it could be delivered live by an instructor or consumed on demand. Either approach will work if you have somewhere to apply your newly acquired knowledge AND someone to coach you through the application.

To use the analogy of climbing Mount Everest, you need an experienced climber in your party who is able to coach you through the climb itself.

Often the organisations asking us for training want it because they lack the in-house capabilities. If they have the capabilities, the in-house resources lack the capacity to supervise and coach individuals through the application of their learning. To go back to our analogy: there is no point having the experienced member of your climbing party if they don’t have the time to coach everyone through the climb!

Our aim here is not to underplay the value of knowledge transfer. Assata Shaku rightly observed that “Theory without practice is just as incomplete as practice without theory.” We view knowledge transfer as a critical part of the skills transfer process. But it’s just that – a part of the skills transfer process.

Successful skills transfer moves through four stages and needs to be underpinned by reflective practice.

Ad Esse - climbing stairs illustration - skills transfer

1. Training & theoretical practical application

Ad Esse - rock wall climbing illustration - skills transfer

2. Seeing the theory applied in real life

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3. Being coached through delivery

Ad Esse - group of mountain climbers illustration - skills transfer

4. Ongoing professional support

We’ve worked with many organisations in the past who have already purchased training (and by this we mean just the knowledge transfer bit) from providers for their staff, but then fail to see the changes and benefits they expected back in the workplace. This is because once your people leave the classroom behind and come back to the real world, the application becomes much more difficult.

Remember, training only provides value for money if you get the skills you need in-house at the end of the process; a badge, belt or certificate is valueless without this.

So our answer to ‘will you do some training for us?’ is ‘yes, but…’ our approach is to impart skills, not just knowledge. Without the other elements in place, we don’t believe knowledge transfer is effective enough to deliver the outcomes you require – new skills that can benefit your organisation.

If you'd like to chat about up-skilling your staff as:

  • Effective Change & Transformation Practitioners
  • Problem Solvers
  • Implementation Managers
  • Change Leaders
  • Innovation and Improvement Facilitators

Or would like to find out more about our skills transfer approach, then drop us an email at You can also contact one of our directors, Gurdeep Gahir or Rhiannon Gibbs.

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