Designing Training Workshops


Understanding the basic principles of training design will enable leaders in organisations to train their staff more effectively leading to increases in productivity and motivation.

These principles apply to all subject matter areas, regardless of organisation type. The start point is to understand that training can impact in one or more of three areas….

  • The acquisition of knowledge – trainees acquire all of the information they need to be able to do a task and when tested they are able to explain that knowledge back to others
  • The development of skill – different to the acquisition of knowledge, skills are all about the trainee’s ability to apply knowledge to given challenges. When tested, trainees are able to demonstrate that skill to others.
  • The shaping of attitudes – deeply held views about life, whether work related or otherwise are almost impossible to change and so if those attitudes are in conflict with what is needed by the enterprise, you have a problem – as experienced recruiters know…’recruit for attitude, train for skill’.

But minor adjustments can be made to attitude in areas like ‘professionalism’ or ‘service’, although this Info Guide will not offer any specific help in this area – contact us if you need more.

Where to start

The suggested start point in designing any workshop is to identify all of the knowledge and skill areas that would be needed for a job holder to achieve a good standard of performance – trainers call this standard EWS which stands for Experienced Worker Standard and prioritise content as follows:-

  • Must know to get to EWS
  • Should know to get to EWS
  • Would be nice to know to get to EWS

With the definition of EWS broken down into the requisite knowledge and skill areas, then the organisation can do a gap analysis…..

Given the knowledge and skills base of my proposed trainees and that required for EWS, what should the content of my workshop be? And maybe I need to run this workshop at 2 or 3 different levels to accommodate the different stating points of my trainees?

Some purists prefer to start the design process with defining objectives first, but our experience is that if you do you may well find that they change in the light of your trainee levels.

Whether done first or second, defining objectives must be done professionally and cutting corners leads to poor design and/or workshop content. Learning objectives are created by asking the question….what do I want my trainees to know or what skills do I want them to have on completion of this workshop?

Knowledge objectives are best expressed incorporating a verb like ‘explain’ and skill objectives are best expressed incorporating a verb like ‘show’ or ‘demonstrate’. What follows is an example of a ‘customer service’ workshop….

OBJECTIVES On completion of this workshop trainees will be able to:-

  1. Explain the current and key principles of delivering customer service.
  2. Explain how the customer supply chain operates and how it and the Quality Improvement Loop can be used to analyse and define customer expectations and standards.
  3. Present a Customer Improvement Plan in response to a customer’s stated needs.
  4. Demonstrate improved interpersonal skills in the areas of listening, questioning, body language, giving and receiving feedback and handling customer-initiated conflict.

 Moving on to Detailed Design

Delivery of an effective workshop requires good design, the production of good trainer notes, the careful selection of appropriate audio-visual aids and the production of good course materials/handouts.

Let us start with the tram-line diagram……

Construct a tramline diagram to represent the time available for the workshop and assign natural break points….


Breaks during the day are important – a tired brain ceases to absorb. So with breaks suitably scheduled, the next task is to allocate workshop content to each of the primary session slots.

Research conducted back in the 1940’s by the Royal Navy confirmed that effective training consisted of three delivery components..

  • Explanation – about 10% of the session time
  • Demonstration – about 25% of the session time
  • Practice – about 65% of the session time

With objectives to achieve, content to cover, breaks to build in and the 10/25/65 rule to observe, the trainer has to work a miracle and most trainers build fairly comprehensive and carefully timed trainer notes and handouts/materials to help them deliver their plan.

This often involves chopping out much of the ‘nice to have’ and ‘should have’ content to fit the schedule – less content delivered to the 10/25/65 rule is always better than more content which ignores this rule because trainees can’t absorb an overwhelming amount of content.

Practice sessions can include discussion groups, role plays, presentations back, demonstrations, simulations, break out groups, video based practicals, exercises, tests and so on.

And as with all other human communication, the trainer is keen to include visual and audio materials and graphics to bring life to their sessions – ‘a picture paints a 1000 words’.

Some other points to consider

  1. Training delivery isn’t always possible in a classroom/office space – trainers also need to prepare for delivery over the web where there are geographical challenges e.g.webinars
  2. Trainers also need to consider the need for more flexible delivery mechanisms – self-paced learning packages whether manual or delivered via PC are the obvious options
  3. Trainers need to ensure that they have the delivery skills to support their design skills and knowledge of the content being delivered
  4. The acquisition of skills and knowledge doesn’t end with the training workshop – on-the-job learning and coaching also need to play their part
  5. Trainers should also follow-up after the delivery of their workshops to see how far the workshop objectives were met

Copyright: © Clive Weston, The Hartwell Consultancy, 2020

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