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Overcoming Training Scheduling Challenges with a Blended Learning Approach

You have finalized the date of the next safety training program. You have checked the trainer’s availability and the availability of the venue. Now, you forward the tentative schedule to the line manager (who has to release his team to attend the training). You hit a roadblock.

The line manager says he cannot allow his staff to abstain from work that week because they have an urgent order to complete and cannot afford to stall production for half a day. You know that advancing the training to an earlier date is not possible because the trainer is not available. You have to go through the exercise of exploring alternative dates, yet again.

If you are responsible for training delivery in your organization, you would have come across similar situations. Scheduling classroom training can be very hard. There are just too many variables to manage:

  • Work Schedule Management: Employees have their weekly and monthly targets which cannot be compromised. Ensuring training provides minimum disruption to the work schedule is indeed a challenge.
  • Schedules of Employees: You need to consider the receptivity of employees. Long training or that which is scheduled close to the end of a work day may not be a great option in terms of gaining employee attention.
  • Schedules of Trainer and Space for Training: Trainers have their own schedules and you need to work around their availability. If you are hiring an external trainer, the problem of scheduling is heightened. You may also have situations where different departments need training space at the same time and you cannot accommodate them both at the same time.
  • Scheduling Sequential Trainings: If you choose to provide training over a period of time (so that employees have time to assimilate the knowledge and apply it in their jobs), each time you will need to take permission from the managers, for the time out for employees.
  • Clubbing Trainings Together: It is easier to plan for and take management approval so that employees are allowed time off from work, to attend training for a single long duration (say a block of 2-3 days or even a week). However, the challenge in such situations is, will employees be able to retain the knowledge crammed within a short period?

So, there is no perfect solution, but scheduling challenges can considerably be minimized if you consider a blended training approach. Blended training refers to using a combination of training delivery methods to achieve the purpose of knowledge transfer.

Here are some tips on how you can use blended learning to circumvent or minimize scheduling problems.

  • Check which training programs HAVE to be done in the classroom: Take a look at the annual training calendar and check which of the training programs need to be done through face-to-face classroom training only. Some training, such as behavioral or leadership training programs, may be better off through the ILT method. These can be prioritized for scheduling. Others may work well through e-learning formats and you can plan to roll out e-learning modules on that subject.
  • Can you limit classroom training time by moving some training online? Another thing that you can check is if you can cut down on classroom time and move some portion to the online format. For example, let’s say you are going to have a half-a-day classroom training on, “Product training for sales force”, can you cut down the face-to-face time to a quick 1-2 hour session, while the rest of the content is moved online? If so, your sales team can first take a set of e-learning modules that gives them a basic orientation of the products, and the classroom time can be used to go deeper into the subject by discussing providing customer value and selling strategies. You can evaluate other trainings on similar lines.
  • Convert ILT to e-learning: Scheduling programs often limit the number of employees who can attend classroom training. As a result, remote employees are often left out of training programs due to logistical and cost constraints. However, you can ensure that each ILT training session is captured and recorded. These resources can then be used to create self-paced e-learning modules that can be deployed to those who could not make it to the classroom session. Not just that, you can also create other learning nuggets such as podcasts or videos, along with these modules, that will serve as a reinforcement training, even to those who did attend, but might need to brush up their knowledge six months down the lane.
  • Spacing training becomes easy: If you have to schedule a classroom training every Monday, it would definitely be a challenge. It is so because typically, even if the classroom training is for (let’s say) 1 hour duration, the time involved in reaching the classrooms and back to the work stations all put together would be much higher. However, you can have a 1-hour classroom session that introduces the subject to the employees. Then they go back to reflect and practice as they do their jobs. Next week, they might be assigned a 20-minute e-learning module that they can complete at their desks. This way, it becomes easier to ensure training is not only completed, but effective. The best part is that employees are bound to complete the training at a specific time and they could do so during their down time (their mangers would not complain). 

By opting for a blended training approach, a lot of scheduling problems can be solved. The key is to view training programs in toto and plan ahead to budget for different training delivery methods. Obviously, it cannot be as simple as hiring SMEs to deliver the training to a fixed audience, at a fixed time. However, it is a plan that is worth it because, you end up building training assets that will serve you in the long run.

The best way to get started is to sift through your PowerPoint presentations that your SMEs or trainers have developed to deliver classroom training, choose the ones that have comprehensive speaker notes and use them to create e-learning courses.

Blended Learning: A Guide to Boost Employee Performance