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This post addresses that age-old question that so many people ask the day before the training course – ‘Do I really need to be on this training course?’.

As an individual, manager, business owner, or even as the HR function, you’ll have asked yourself this question. Particularly as you had what felt like a million and one emails to deal with, a report to write, meetings to go to, and a project to get back on track. The real truth behind this question is that the learner on the course does not value the 8 hours they are investing in being trained versus the 8 hours they have lost sitting on a training course.

Man holding a graph 'it depends on how you look at it'

Profit is relative. Training Course Cartoon

Image courtesy of our cartoonist friend Mike Flanagan

As people who have sat on training courses many years ago, thinking the same question and now as trainers we remember that feeling of frustration. This frustration normally spills out into either being irritated by the first thing we can find to annoy us, or trying to fit a day’s work into the 15 minute breaks during the day, without success, or spending our energy proving that the day was a complete write-off and making sure that everyone at work knows this as soon as possible after. All of which are a ‘pointless exercise’, as Liam Neeson said in ‘Taken’ just after he’d driven a 6 inch nail into the knee of an Albanian that had kidnapped his daughter (!). Add to this frustration the deck of slides, handouts and manuals, that we were given at the end of the course to read and the instinctive knowledge that we’ll only remember 20% of what we have learnt, and we truly have a ‘pointless exercise’.

So, are we right to ask, “Do I really need to be on this course?”. A resounding yes. The only part we would change is when it is asked, not only during the course, but before, during, and after. Please let us explain why…

We believe that the key to training is to achieve a ‘Return On Investment’ (ROI). A ROI for the company and the individual. This can only be achieved if the final outcome is achieved, which is to deliver long-term behavioural change for the individual. For example, if a learner takes part in a time management course, their management of their time needs to be positively different 12 months after the course, not just the next day after the course. If the individual is prioritising their time better, they are more satisfied at work making them more productive, which means they are achieving more for the company. A win-win. To achieve a ROI is our ‘reason for being’ at MBM. This is what we have decided we will deliver for the company and the individual, and here’s 3 insights into how:

1. The Forgetting Curve

Our trainers completely understand the value of the research into the memory and how much it forgets and how quickly it forgets. By understanding these proven facts we are able to put in play items that will improve the amount retained from learning to achieve the long-term behavioural change. For example, 30 days after the course the chance of remembering what has been learnt is as low as 30%, which is why our learners follow the Sticky Learning ® method to greatly improve their chances of retaining what they have learnt.

Pink Sticky Learning Brain Logo - MBM

Sticky Learning Brain Logo

2. Learning Styles

Each of us has a particular learning style that when used will help us learn more, more quickly and retain more. Before a course each learner takes advantage of our ‘Learning to Learn’ training course, where they learn their learning style so that they can help themselves and the trainer to help them learn more, more quickly and retain more. As someone once wrote, ‘What is the best way to ride a horse? The way it is going?’.

3. What no handouts?

No handouts, slides, manuals or any other papers are given out on a MBM course. This is because we know from bitter experience that we all leave a course with great intentions to read the slides again because the course was so good. A year later, during an office clear out, the slides are found and binned. We use a tool we built called ‘Keepers’ to help learners capture their own set of personal notes for them, captured in a way that suits them, with notes that have meaning for them.

In summary, we believe that a learner should ask “Do I really need to be on this course?” because if they don’t ask we’ll be helping them to ask themselves this question before the course, during the course and after the course, with our ‘Individual Learning Objective’ tool.

If you’d like a copy of this tool please contact us using the button below with the words ‘Individual Learning Objective’ and we’d be happy to share because we want to put an end to this question being asked and leave Liam Neeson to debate ‘pointless exercises’.

How do you avoid the question ‘Do I really need to be on this course?’ for your team? Please share your view by commenting below.

Darren A. Smith

About Darren A. Smith

Darren has been working in the world of UK Supermarkets & Suppliers for over 25 years. He began his career as a buyer at big 4 UK supermarkets and after 13 years he decided to leave to set-up Making Business Matter because he wanted to help suppliers and supermarkets to work better together.


  • Oscar Vallance says:

    Great idea, specifically the lack of handouts given. Its more sensible and fits in perfect with the rest of Sticky Learning ®, which is an amazing concept.

  • Emily Wren says:

    Interesting thought to make the Return on Investment a focus, as it shows the training has worked after a 12 month period. Impressive that this is deemed so important as I too agree that there is no point being on a training course if you have nothing to show for it, especially after a year! Otherwise its just a waste of money!

  • Matt Cooper says:

    Its alway a thought from everyone at training courses, as to whether they need to be there or not. So this is a great issue to address, and I think the author has executed it perfectly.

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