How Long Does Training Take?

We are conditioned to everything happening quickly.  You get a cold, go to the Doctor and are prescribed medication and you want to know how long before I get better?  Some things can be timed, but most things are only estimates.  When it comes to training someone, the expectation is that once training is completed, the person will be able to perform their job.  Wrong!

Training begins the process of learning skills, but as any learning development professional will tell you, the application of skills in the work environment is when training takes hold.  Practicing in the real world is how we humans really learn, and how we acquire the skills.

This is what perplexes me the most about training expectations.  Most managers understand at a conscious level that if they send their employees to a training event, there is still a lot of time that must pass before they are competent performers.  And yet I find myself in the role of an ER Doctor more often with the patient bleeding out and they want me to fix things overnight.  I just love when a company has been through one employee relations issue after another and the bell goes off that they should train management development skills.

While this is a good idea, it would have been a better one 6 months ago.  But we all know that hindsight is 20/20, and often we need to deal with the issue today.  So we fix whatever damage the manager has caused, and begin a treatment plan for the manager to prevent a recurrence of these same interpersonal issues.  Great, let’s develop our managers in performance management communications.

A great training manager would have this scoped out in a couple of days, drafted a solution and be ready to implement a training program within the month.  A good training manager might need a couple more months, but at least in the next 90-days we are striving to prevent another outbreak of foot in mouth disease!

So what happens when this project remains a project for months, or even years?  One excuse after another for delays, and ultimately you have training taking longer than it should because it has not even started.  We said that training takes time to work into the blood stream, and yet here we are taking months to even wave the checkered flag.

How long does training take?  I love this question because I always answer it with the amount of practice time I believe is necessary after the event has occurred.  So if it is 3 months, I will say, “about 3 months after training has completed.”  In other words, if we plan to wait 9 months to implement training, then the skills won’t be available for a year!

Delays in employee development are the number one cause of poor performance.  We want instant performance change, and yet when part of the solution is training, we sit on our hands for months and get frustrated with nothing changes.

I tell training managers to always ask their client, “how soon do these skills need to be in practice?”  And if like most situations the answer is as soon as possible then we need to move now!!  I also tell managers to always ask training “how long will it take after the event for the skills to be learned behaviors, and when will we implement training?”

Setting dates are often tough for anyone that wants to procrastinate or drag out a project.  Yet if you are a training manager, most of the time you got to the party late and need to move quickly.  Training often takes longer than what is ideal, but it doesn’t need to take longer because we delay the implementation part of the equation.

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