Why training requirements are broken and not concise

Author: Dean
November 30, 2021

Training is important for any business, but the way it's done needs to change. The problem with many modern-day training courses is that they're too long and wordy, which means employees get bored quickly. This results in a lack of engagement and retention among learners. A new approach to learning might be needed to make sure people retain information better while having fun doing it.

We frequently receive instructions from clients that they need training 2 hours long or 5,000 words. How do they arrive at these numbers?

We get it - from a business perspective, two hours is measurable and can be a measure of success against an arbitrary 2-hour metric. It makes sense; we all want an achievable goal for success. It ticks all the boxes in a business sense, but does it fail the learner?

The Learning Experience

Learning needs to be efficient, effective and enjoyable. It's only natural to think in word and time limits because they are ingrained in us as young school learners. "Write a 500-word biography on your favourite Roman Emperor", might feel familiar. Word limits can be great as a guideline - in some cases. A University professor might estimate a written assignment will take approximately 1,500 words to address accurately and it provides a level playing field to fairly and consistently mark 30-150 students.

In my high school teaching experience, before learning and development, I marked many written assignments. Regardless of the word count range, most students submitted work that is only slightly longer than the minimum allowed, whether they completed the requirements or not. It's important to keep sight of the learning objectives and not arbitrary measurements.

The problem of writing to word counts or delivering to time limits is that it can introduce fluff and irrelevant information to pad out the content to meet the minimum. Learning and development tries to borrow from education, but in this instance, it shouldn't.  This extra fluff detracts from the core content and learning experience. Word counts and time limits can have their place in education assignments, but they're a poor fit for corporate learning and development.

So what's the solution?

Time is precious, and the goal of learning and development is to train learners to increase their competence, knowledge and skill in an area. A 10-15 minute high-quality learning exercise with no irrelevant information or fluff that respects learners helps improve the learning experience, their perception of learning and the learning outcome.

Too often, we see outdated and ineffective learning material created with an unnecessary word or time limit. Suppose your learning material is glorified PowerPoints with a boring next button that takes 2 hours to complete. In that case, you have to ask yourself if things can be done better. They can and should be!

boring learning sleeping
Photographer: The Creative Exchange | Source: Unsplash

Any learning activity should aim to meet the 'Learning Goal' in the most efficient, effective and enjoyable way possible. Writing efficiently and concisely is a difficult skill. Creating effective learning with no fluff that might only be 20 minutes can be more time consuming and costly than the 2-hour learning. The investment at the beginning will lead to a workforce that enjoys learning again, retains more and performs better, improving your bottom line.

At the end of the day, the length of a learning piece does not make it inherently good or bad, but the best learning is only as long as it needs to be.

I'll leave you with the famous quote from Blaise Pascal often misattributed to Mark Twain;

"I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter." - Blaise Pascal