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A benchmarking exercise


I work in an organisation with 170 employees, all of whom I am responsible for in terms of addressing their training needs.

Is there a recommended number of learners to a trainer?
emily marosi

7 Responses

  1. It depends…
    Hi Emily,

    Can you give us some more information, because (in my opinion!) the ratio can vary greatly according to the type of learning, the individual learning styles, the delivery method, the amount of interaction required, etc, etc.

    Some training ‘seminars’ work fine with a ratio of 1:50 or more, whereas I wouldn’t want to deliver a ‘train the trainer’ programme with a ratio of more than 1:6, if I am to ensure everyone has the opportunity to practise their skills and receive effective feedback.

    In a past life I’ve received IT training on a public course in a group of 20+ students – perhaps needless to say I didn’t find it very effective.

    I’d be interested to hear more about your situation – and what others think!!

    Colin Hamilton
    email: [email protected]

  2. In Agreement
    I fully agree with Colin, I think it very much depends on the type and format of the training you’re running.

    I run Project Management training courses and run them very much as iteractive sessions with case studies. I wouldn’t want to run these types of session with more than about a dozen – 15 max. However, more theorytical lecture style sessions could be run with larger numbers.


  3. Approach to development
    Hi Emily,

    I agree very much with what Colin has said but would add that it depends on the organisation’s approach to learning and development.

    I have recently worked with an orgaisation that employed over 8500 staff and a training team of 20. A ratio of around 425:1. Appropriate training is made available to all staff because they take a Learner Centred approach to development.

    This approach has been adopted over the last 4-5 years prior to which the company used a Curriculum based approach and failed to satisfy even the basic needs of 8000 staff with a training team of around 50.

    Another organisation that I have been working with achieve an equal level of success for their 160 staff with no training team at all.

    They use the same Learner Centred approach with managers and supervisors taking responsibility for ensuring that development needs are met.

  4. Re: Approach to development
    The organisation I work for has a ratio of 450 learners per member of training staff (our training team includes 2 trainers, 1 e-learning author and 1 training manager).

    I’m interested to know whether the organisations that John Freshney mentions have other methods of training available in addition to classroom training (e.g. e-learning) and if so do they have staff dedicated to servicing these methods.

    In comparison to other firms within our sector we have more learners per member of training staff, however we are the only firm of those surveyed to have an author dedicated to e-learning.

    Jo Pearson

  5. Trainer learner ratio
    I understand your desire to get a benchmark but I fear you will be unlucky. Too many factors affect the ratio for it to be meaningful. Some have already been mentioned but I would also add things like the nature of the work, the degree of change, the level of staff turnover, the amount and type of training outsourced, the degree of commitment (and budget) given by senior management and so on.
    I would start from a different place. I would look at the analysis of training needs. From that I would work out a strategy and plan. And as part of that I would determine how much can and should be delivered in-house. Then, if the trainer(s) have the competence to deliver those topics, you can work out how many you need. A rough estimate of 100-120 days delivery per trainer is not untypical where they also have to do design, evaluation and other key tasks.
    Generally larger companies have higher ratios. For a small company such as yours between one and two trainers is not uncommon.
    Hope this helps!

  6. Response to Jo Pearson
    Just a short response to Jo Pearson’s comment as I do not want to distract from Emily’s original question.

    The number quoted in my posting includes all staff with dedicated training and development roles. The company uses a combination of Resource Centres, Internal Training Consultants and external training resources to fulfil development requirements.

    Coaching, mentoring, books, audio, video, workbooks, e Learning, CBT and facilitated workshops all contribute. Training courses represent only about 25% of the T&D budget spends.

    Jo, please e-mail me if you’d like to know more.

  7. Group Size & Teaching Strategies
    I’m in agreement with Colin. The course and delivery techniques will very much determine numbers. Alongside suitable training room size for exercises! Reece and Walker 2000 “Teaching, Training and Learning” give some good indicators for teaching strategies relating to group size. Preferred learning style does need to be accounted for. Personally, I rarely enjoy training more than 15 members at a time (when skills focused) as feel too big a group for individual attention re learning needs. However, seminar/presentation style can be 70+ for very theory focused information.

    I also agree with doing a TNA first. Not all staff will require same training and therefore courses can be more targeted. Additionally, rolling programmes of core competencies to work within an organisation is helpful.


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