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Staff training provides many benefits for employees and the organisation, but not all training is equal in its effectiveness. If fact, companies waste millions each year on training that doesn’t work as well as it could.

Training must be properly planned and implemented if it is to meet the aims of the employer and serve the needs of employees. Modules should be concise, to the point with the right mix of anecdote, instruction and example, so ideas can be remembered and put into practice straight away.

Matt McKay of Demand Media says that to be effective sessions should last no longer than 60-90 minutes. This helps ensure full engagement and prevents the inevitable boredom and fatigue than can set in with traditional day-long training sessions.

I have been increasingly concerned that sitting people in a room for four to six hours is a waste of everyone’s time. Though this traditional format can work (for practical, skills-based topics for example), the vast majority of workplace training is simply too long and too much for people to take it all in.

Training as we know it has three main drawbacks:

  1. It takes employees away from work. They must travel to the training venue, and even if this is in the same building where they work there is the added problem of distraction as they hurry back to their desks or catch up on email or calls during breaks in the training.
  2. It is expensive. Sending people on training courses can cost several hundred pounds per person per day. Chucking money at training like this is madness.  One pundit recently claimed that people only remember 16% of what they are taught in training. Would any organisation buy another product or service that only worked 16% of the time?
  3. Much of it is irrelevant. To be understandable training must be context-specific and relevant to an individual’s needs. Too much information leaves attendees feeling bombarded with too little opportunity to reflect on and assimilate the content.

To be effective training must be accessible, brief and relevant. The way to do this is to schedule regular opportunities for staff to learn and consolidate in bite-sized chunks that they can  absorb and apply easily.

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