Providing Training When Time is Limited

So frequently talent development professionals determine that training is needed but providing it is difficult because participants have very limited time available. Trying to implement training when participants are stretched for time, under pressure to perform and struggling to keep up with their primary roles is a problem most of us will face—in some cases, this challenge has become our new normal.

There are ways to deal with providing training when participant time is limited.

Create ‘skinny’ programs.

Strong instructional designers know that it is much more difficult to create a streamlined training program than one that is longer. Blaise Pascal, French mathematician, is quoted to have said, “I would have written a shorter letter, but I did not have the time.” It takes a keen eye, project time, an understanding of difficulty and time required to learn new skills and content and sometimes professional courage to create a training program that is efficient. During the design process the instructional designer should consider:

  • Is this content easy to learn or is it difficult to comprehend? If it is easy to learn, you can likely just explain or provide a reference guide. Those areas that are difficult to learn are where you should invest the most amount of learning and practice time.
  • If instructor-led training is the best approach, can I deliver in segments over time? Training doesn’t have to happen all at once. Breaking content into smaller components and delivering over time can ease participant time-crunches.
  • Can this content be learned just as well or even more effectively using a medium other than facilitator-led instruction? Sometimes a job aid or brief video overview or example is all that is needed to transfer knowledge and skills. Face-to-face learning is some of the most “time-expensive” learning there is.

Embed training into an existing format.

Some audiences have weekly staff meetings and conference calls. These can be places to insert brief learning segments, tackling a single skill per meeting or call. Other audiences receive pop-up online newsletters or are members of groups on Microsoft Teams, allowing self-paced learning to be embedded through these channels. While these approaches will save participants’ time, be aware that to work well they often take longer to design well than more traditional approaches.

Budget training time into heavily-trained roles.

When doing strategic staffing, we often plan for direct costs of a role including salary, benefits and more. Some roles in organizations require more training than others. For instance, continuing education credits are required to maintain certifications in many financial services roles. Sales Representatives often need to stay abreast of new services and products. Those in technology roles face upgrades to software as a routine part of their jobs. Sophisticated talent management systems can begin to build these training requirements into staffing plans, allocating ongoing time to learning as part of job requirements—rather than as something layered onto an overflowing plate of work.

There is no magical approach to address providing training when participant time is limited, yet by considering other approaches often the challenge can be overcome.

PPS International Limited has deep expertise in evaluating and creating new, efficient learning experiences from existing programs. Please contact us if you are interested in an audit of a program to give recommendations for creating a time-limited program.