How long should a training program be? A field study of “rules‐of‐thumb”

Nina Cole (Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada)

Journal of Workplace Learning

ISSN: 1366-5626

Publication date: 4 January 2008



This study aims to examine the question of how long a behavioral skills training program should be in order to result in measurable behavioral change.


An empirical field study was conducted to compare two different lengths of time for a managerial skills training program aimed at achieving behavioral change. The training time for the first training condition was based on “rules‐of‐thumb” found in the literature. The training time was increased in an “extended” training condition that covered the same material but permitted more time for lecture, role‐playing and discussion.


Results showed that, relative to a control group, participants in the “extended” training condition exhibited behavioral change, but those in the “rules‐of‐thumb” training condition did not. Self‐efficacy increased significantly for trainees in both training conditions.

Practical implications

More attention is required to the length of training programs as they are being designed, especially if behavioral change is a goal of the training. Using rules‐of‐thumb regarding training length may be insufficient for bringing about behavioral change. More importantly, the need for more effective management skills will not be met, and organizational performance outcomes may be jeopardized.


The results of this research have the potential to be broadly applicable to management training and may possibly generalize to training in other disciplines where the training is intended to effect behavioral change.



Cole, N. (2008), "How long should a training program be? A field study of “rules‐of‐thumb”", Journal of Workplace Learning, Vol. 20 No. 1, pp. 54-70.

Download as .RIS



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

To read the full version of this content please select one of the options below

You may be able to access this content by logging in via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.
If you think you should have access to this content, click the button to contact our support team.