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It Takes Too Much Time, But We Need More Time

Carving out time for learning in the workplace can be difficult.

10-10 Blurry Grasses2

Without a Clear Picture, It’s Difficult to See What to Do

There’s this cascading desire to reduce the time spent learning something. In the corporate world, for example:

  • If a course is a week long, someone will ask, can we do it in 3 days instead?
  • If it’s 3 days, can we do it in 2?
  • If it’s 2 days, maybe 1?
  • If it’s 1 day, can it be half a day?
  • Or really, could you just send me the materials?
  • [Oh, and the materials will sit on my shelf, where maybe I can absorb them via some form of osmosis.]

Given the many things that everyone has to do at work, the “time problem” is not going away any time soon.

So there will often be a conflict between learning something well and taking too much time for training.

Given that, what are some things we can do to lesson the time pressure? Here are a few design ideas:

  • Carefully define the goal for the training. What are you trying to make better or different? For example, decreasing time to a sales rep’s first sale, avoiding delays or rework, improving quality or customer satisfaction, or complying with regulations.
  • Specify only the objectives that are required to meet the goal.
  • Make sure we don’t offer training when information or a job aid will do.
  • Avoid extraneous topics…eliminate those that are just “nice to know.”
  • Provide essential information for learning new skills in a well-structured, concentrated way, via readings or recordings (audio or video).
    • This can take less time than giving a live presentation.
    • People can access the information in a variety of settings (depending on a variety of factors): for example, inside the classroom, at their desks during a workday, at home, or listening to a podcast while running or taking a walk.
  • If you can provide information outside the classroom, have people come together in a classroom or in study groups for shorter practice sessions.
  • Where allowed and feasible, allow people to “test out” of training.
  • If possible (and your culture and environment support this), offer the training in small chunks (maybe an hour or two at a time) rather than whole days at once. This takes advantage of the principle of “spaced practice,” which means that people learn better in small doses.

No matter what, if people must learn new knowledge and skills, then it will take time. There’s almost never more time than you need. So design ideas like these can be a big help. If you have a “loosely designed” existing course, it can almost always be both shortened and improved. Focusing closely on the desired results for the organization can result in learning programs that both save time and improve learning.

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