Forward planning learning and development for the workforce is no mean feat. Whether you’re a small or large organisation the logistics in making sure staff receive the appropriate training but still trying to maintain business operations is a challenge not to be taken lightly. One of the main issues faced by managers is trying to decide between having all your team out on a full day of training or to have smaller sessions on a rota basis. Evidence suggests that shorter training sessions are likely to be more beneficial and we take a look at why.

Firstly, the most obvious advantage of having shorter sessions is that it is easier to find cover for staff that are on training leave if the time they are absent for is a few hours rather than if it was a full day. It is also more acceptable for your clients to receive a recorded message when they call notifying them someone will be with them within a few hours rather than someone will get back to you next day! Simply put, shorter training sessions benefit your staff in that they are not having to play too much catch up with their usual day to day activity on their return to work. This structure also helps the wider organisation and customers.

Many of us may have been to full day training sessions where rather than focusing on the subject matter at hand, more time is spent attendees thinking and discussing about whether the trainer will let them go early! Having shorter sessions removes this unnecessary distraction, ensuring that participants are fully present for the full duration.

A key variable that impacts on the effectiveness of the length of a training session is the adult attention span. Current research indicates that the span is reduced to at the most 20 minutes. With that in mind it is clear that shorter training sessions are likely to have more of an impact. Of course, this doesn’t necessitate doing away with good training content because you think people will not be paying attention; on the contrary, good training content becomes even more important to try and lengthen that attention span a little further.  A shorter session also means that it is less of an issue if the trainer does not have very good facilitation skills, whereas a longer training session requires the lead person to be on the ball for a lot longer which requires significant skills.  To get the most of your short training sessions, consider facilitation skills training for your training team.

According to the Harvard Business Review, organisations are getting learning and development all wrong and should focus on lean learning – learning the right thing, at the right time for the right reasons. This approach increases the chance of staff retaining what has been taught, particularly if the learning has taken place via ‘micro courses’. These sessions are short and are in response to immediate challenges or opportunities and therefore are likely to be more relevant and in the long term more effective. Longer training sessions are often the result of a schedule that was set up a year ago and by the time the session is due, people often find it difficult to equate the subject of the training with their current activity.