How long should a training course be?

Written by Paul Matthews on 10 July 2017

After requests, lots of discussion, and eventual sign off, you have developed and delivered a one day training course. It was brilliant, even if you say so yourself! The managers were happy that the course was addressing what they saw as training needs, and the delegates were happy with the day as proven by all the smiley faces circled on the feedback forms.

Job done. Or is it?

For your wonderful training course to have any impact on the business, and its operations, the delegates have to do something with the material you have so carefully designed and delivered.

However, as is often the case in this time-stressed world, they are not given the opportunity to practise or implement their new ideas. They get back to a full in-tray and the hurly-burly of business as usual.

The training course was developed and sold to all stakeholders, including the delegates and their managers, as a one-day course. So that is the time they have allowed for it. But there is so much more for the delegates to do to get any benefit from their day in the training room.

If you call it a one-day training course, people will allow for one day, and that is not enough.

How much time do you think your delegates should spend testing, practising, and implementing the new ideas from your amazing one-day training course?

It depends on the subject, but let’s say your answer is that they should spend three days of time spread over the next six months. Realistically, they will need that amount of time to embed what they have learnt into their day-to-day operations.

Without that time, it is unlikely that much, if any, of the material from the training programme will find its way into the workflow. Learning transfer won’t happen.

So, what we are talking about here, is a four-day programme spread over six months, and one of those days, the first one, happens to be in the classroom.

My suggestion is that it is always called a four-day programme, and is marketed that way to all stakeholders in the business. All the paperwork, budget requests, joining instructions, everything talks about a four-day programme. All the stakeholders need to sign up to a four-day programme, or the single day in the classroom is not worth doing.

If you call it a one-day training course, people will allow for one day, and that is not enough.

Have a look at all the training courses you are currently delivering and figure out what time should be ‘added’ to each one to make it a programme that has a realistic chance of making an impact and changing behaviour. Now go back to the stakeholders and give them the news.

If that is too difficult, or politically unacceptable, make sure that any new training course you design has time included for learning transfer. Call it a programme, not a training course, and include all the time required for it to be effective, and result in the required return on stakeholder expectations.

Of course, you also need to make sure that delegates do use the learning transfer time effectively, and are supported by their managers while doing it, but that is another story :-)


About the author

Paul Matthews is the founder of People Alchemy and an expert in workplace learning, especially informal learning, learning transfer, performance consultancy, and how L&D can help achieve business targets. 


Read more from Paul here.

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