Every project is unique and the complexity of a project will determine how much time training professionals need to craft training. As with all work, there’s a lot more to creating training than just going straight to development. There’s a lengthy analysis and design, a lot of back and forth, admin work, questions, review cycles, and more.
Needless to say, training is a complex machine just like all other parts of a project. It takes time to develop good training just like it takes time to develop a good change and project management plan and then execute it.
So, this post will attempt to answer when you should bring training into the project to give them enough time to do a good job.
If you just want to go straight to the answer with no details, here’s the TLDR:
Training should be brought in as soon as there’s some real progress on the project. At the bare minimum, that means 2-3 months before launching. Ideally, as soon as there’s something for the training department to look at, you’d bring them in.
So, that means as soon as you have the requirements put together and the development of the actual application begins, bring training in. They may not be able to get to work right away but they can begin to put together a plan and help decide the best approach.
If you want to know why training needs so much time, read on. There’s a lot more to good training than you might think. Yes, there is a big gap between training and good training. Anybody can throw some images in a PowerPoint and drone on for an hour. The problem is that it won’t be effective and overall will waste more time and provide minimal to no results. That type of training would harm the project more than help.
Training Type Will Determine the Time Needed
For new projects, there’s likely a need for training, but a good training department won’t automatically assume training is the answer. That’s one reason why training should be brought in early. That will give training experts the ability to properly analyze a project which is necessary to know the ideal type of training as well as if training is the best tactic.
When you’re looking at new technology and a new way of working for employees, a good assumption is that training is likely needed. To what level of training is needed needs to be determined but training helps with change management.
There are many ways to classify training and no easy way to do it. For example, there is synchronous (everybody’s in training at the same time) and asynchronous (take the training whenever you want!) training but then there’s also digital training which could be both synchronous and asynchronous.
When looking at the time needed for training to be brought into a project, it’s easiest to break training type into live and digital. That’s because live training can have a lot of overhead that doesn’t exist in the digital world.
Let’s take a look at live training first because it’s going to require a lot more to pull off than digital training. That’s one reason why digital is so popular now, there’s less overhead and it makes more sense with a distributed workforce.
Live training can vary a lot for how much time it takes to prepare, create, and execute. That’s because live training methods vary a lot. It could be an hour-long training session with a small group in a conference room or a multiple-day event where most people have to fly in and stay in hotels.
For projects, the long multi-day events likely aren’t going to be necessary. So, for when training should be brought in I’ll assume it’s an on-location training session that lasts an hour to a day.
There are still a lot of preparations that need to happen, though. The content to be trained must be planned, designed, and it has to be developed. That could mean having all the materials necessary to plan a schedule that works.
Live training isn’t always the best option given that everybody has to be pulled away from their job but that’s beside the point. Training should still be brought in well in advance of when training needs to be completed.
When live training is planned for, the training department should be brought into the project no less than 2-4 months before training should begin. That will vary a great deal for what needs to be trained so keep that in mind.
It’s always best to consult with training to make sure enough time is allotted. It never hurts to meet at the beginning of the project so they can begin planning for it in their project if they have the capacity. You never know, you could bring them into the project but their schedule doesn’t allow them to get started for 3 months.
Meet with training at the beginning of the project or at the latest when there’s something for them to look at. That could be as simple as the requirements documents for initial conversations.
Because training is never as simple as it seems, it’s always best to consult with your training department as early as possible. That will ensure there are fewer time and resource constraints to get employees trained for new systems or ways of doing things.
Digital training solutions are a bit more predictable in time to develop for the most part. While there are a lot of variables to account for, there aren’t as many things that could go wrong as there are in live training. There are fewer expenses and fewer moving parts.
Part of the beauty of digital training solutions is that there’s no traveling, no bookings, no catering, or anything like that. It’s as simple as a computer and time as far as what you need to account for after development.
Before development is when the variables come in.
When you should involve training depends entirely on what needs to be trained. If it’s a simple single task that people need to do then you could get away with bringing in training a month before launch.
But, for most training, if it involves at least one course and some other content, 1-2 months is the absolute minimum for a simple project. When I say simple, I mean a project that requires a job aid or two and perhaps one short course.
As with live training, it’s best to bring training folks in as soon as you can even to the point of beginning the conversations at the beginning of the project.
If you want to make sure there’s ample time to do the best job possible for digital training content including performance support, 2-4 months is even better. Most courses end up taking about 4 months due to shifting priorities, delays, and unique risks in every project.
If everything goes as smoothly as planned with quick reviews and minimal changes, 3 months is possible for the entire training process. Every project is going to be unique, though, so it’s best to have conversations about training as early as possible.
The Ideal Time To Bring Training Into A Project
This isn’t how long is needed to create content. That will depend entirely on the level of interactivity and many other factors. Because there is a lot of review time, and time when a project is held up, the actual development time varies a lot from the time you should bring training into a project.
If a simple course takes 80 hours to develop, you can’t bring in training two weeks before training is needed and expect it to be done on time. There are a lot of review cycles between each step, changes need to be made, and then I’m sure you’ve never heard of a person working 8 hours every day solid on only training with no time for questions, and all the other admin tasks that go along with a project. Just reviews alone can sometimes take weeks.
Nobody is a robot including instructional designers.
That’s why you should bring training in as early as possible. That might vary for each project but that should be no later than 3 months before the planned launch, ideally more.
You will be better off if you bring training into the mix as soon as the project is approved, scoped, and requirements are set. When there’s something in cement for the training people to look at, that’s when you need to bring them in.
When someone comes to us with a project deadline a month away, the training options are going to be limited. You can only throw so many people at a project to make it go faster before it turns into a mess with poor results. If you come to us with new technology launching in 4 months, that should be enough time to get a good training plan together that will cover the needs of employees and the project.
If it’s an in-person large event then it could require longer. We don’t manage those types of projects much so we can’t speak to the exact timing needs. In fact, we don’t do any type of instructor-led training at all. But, I’m sure they could take as long as six months to a year to properly plan and execute well.
A lot happens from the time you bring training into a project and when employees take training. I’ll give you a quick run-through of that process so you can see the interworkings of training and why so much time is needed.
What Happens In That Time
A lot happens when you come to us for a new training solution. Before we even begin presenting training solutions to you, our training design process begins with analysis. That’s even before training is decided upon. For that, we meet with you and get to know the project, requirements, goals, and if you have any content at all.
Before any training development happens, a proper analysis will help decide if training is the right answer. If training is determined to be a good solution then our analysis proceeds to determine the ideal solution. That could mean custom eLearning development, multiple courses, job aid(s), quick reference guide(s), or something else entirely. Each project is unique.
This can easily take a week or possibly even two depending on the complexity of the project. Once training design and development begin, that process takes time too.
We go through a process known as ADDIE (ADDIE still reigns supreme in the training world) which in its modern form is an iterative process for creating training and you could even work with it in an agile way. At its core it stands for Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, Evaluate.
- Analyze: The content is reviewed and we make sense of everything to see the big picture that needs to be trained on. This takes 1-2 weeks.
- Design: The bulk of the process happens here. With digital training the majority of this process happens in steps to put content together at a high level, group it together (called chunking), write the learning objectives, outline the content, storyboarding, etc. It’s essentially the blueprint for all the training content. This process takes 2-4 weeks.
- Develop: The blueprints are now turned into the final product using whatever tool is needed to accomplish this. This is where everything comes to life with recorded audio, images, and making it all come together for the first draft so you can almost see the final product. This typically takes 2-4 weeks.
- Implement: This is where the rubber meets the road. That means you could either begin training the trainer or in the case of eLearning, the content is loaded and assigned to a Learning Management System (LMS) or possibly just a website if the organization has no LMS. Depending on your requirements, this could take less than a week or more than two weeks.
- Evaluate: Did the project meet the goals? Are surveys telling us something needs to be changed? This is where we take a look back at the process and how it all came together. While each step of the process is done in iterations, this could be a big one. If things need to be changed then that might need to happen to make training a success. There is no specific amount of time this step takes. You may collect feedback and data and decide if a revision is necessary 6 months to a year after training is launched.
Between all of that, there are many other steps that take time and have risks of their own. There are typically about 3-4 sessions for SME and business partner reviews sprinkled throughout the process. Those can take time especially if a lot of reviews are needed or reviewers are busy.
I’ve seen projects take twice as long as the initial estimates simply because the reviewers were busy and took a month to review each step of the process. Having content reviewed by legal, compliance, privacy, or others can add additional time also. That could easily add at least 2 weeks or more to the process.
Don’t forget QA! All the content developed needs to be reviewed for grammar and functionality as well. As you can see a lot happens between initial training conversations and when employees see the content.
With everything that happens during the process, many risks could make it take longer. That’s not even mentioning the risks baked into the project itself. Software development can go over schedule easily and change the entire timeline.
As with all steps of a project, there are potential risks with training too. There are lots of potential risks that are nearly impossible to always account for. There are technical issues, slow review processes, regulatory concerns, and more.
One of the most common risks in a project is business partners or subject matter experts who become too busy to review. If the training side of things gets stuck at a review stage, that can throw the whole timeline off. It’s possible training could be delayed a month or more simply because training products aren’t getting reviewed in time.
So, a two-month project could easily turn into a four-month or more project without proper risk mitigations. It could be as simple as having a main content reviewer and a backup reviewer.
This is a list of some common risks that can delay the training portion of a project.
- Subject Matter Experts not being available.
- Reviews taking longer than anticipated with more changes or complete rewrites necessary.
- Systems not ready for instructional designers to view in order to start designing.
- Delays in the actual system launch date.
- Legal, compliance, privacy, or other regulatory concerns or delays.
There are ways to mitigate some of these risks but not all can be avoided. Often we do the best we can while planning for issues. With a good plan in place, training can meet any deadline and be available to help employees better adjust to their changing environment.
Now you know when you should bring training professionals into your project. Whether you’re a project manager or change manager foreseeing the need for training, knowing when to bring in training is half the battle.
Just as it’s best to bring change management into a project early, it’s also best to bring training in likely around the same time. Not every project gets a change manager at the ideal time and that also doesn’t always happen with training.
It’s okay if training isn’t always brought in early on as the project is starting. But, it’s best to bring training in as early as possible and no later than two months before launch. The expectation should be that training will be limited when they have less than two months to create training. It might come down to a handful of job aids instead of an interactive course that requires several months to build.
If you want the most effective training solution possible, bring training in four to six months before employees need training. That will allow for plenty of time to develop a great training plan as well as execute that plan.
Giving plenty of time for training to work their magic also means risks are easier to mitigate. A slow review process can have a much larger buffer if there’s plenty of time for reviewers to take the time they need.
The type of training required will also affect the time needed. So, while it’s a good idea to bring training in early to plan the right solution, they won’t necessarily need to work on training the entire time. Bringing training in early allows for the best results even if work isn’t being performed the entire time.
Even if we don’t begin working on the training itself, bring training into a project early to start having those conversations about the project and the best solution. We’d love to discuss your next project and how we can help you with training, just schedule a free consultation. Just give us enough time to work the best training magic possible.