Microworkshops: The time has come


I have been facilitating training workshops for over a decade now. I have facilitated many week-long retreats and designed and conducted hundreds of two-day and one-day training programs. However, what I enjoy facilitating the most, and find the most effective for employee skill development, is the micro-workshop format.

Micro-workshops: a working definition

A micro-workshop is an intense four-hour, live, face-to-face training experience that is focused on a single learning objective and provides sufficient time for exploration, practice, feedback, and rich peer-to-peer and peer-to-expert interaction.

Micro-workshops are not the classroom equivalent of micro-learning. They are not short (5 to 10 minutes) learning bytes that are mostly consumed online. A micro-workshop is a focused and intense learning experience that is broken into smaller 45 to 60-minute sessions (we call them skill drills) that are paced to match the attention span of adult learners.

Here my arguments for why micro-workshops present a powerful alternative to (if not completely replace) the traditional classroom training format.

#1 They do one thing, and, do it well

Most training programs try to achieve too much. A single day’s agenda often includes several topics, many different concepts, principles, and learning objectives. This flies in the face of what we know about how humans learn. We usually learn one thing at a time and need enough practice, feedback, and support for learning to turn into real world skills.

By strictly focusing on a single objective, micro-workshops dive deep into topics and provide feedback and guidance to participants on a single concept or skill. Facilitators are not in a hurry to move on to the next session and complete a full training agenda with many topics and concepts.

#2 They are tuned to the attention span of adult learners

While attention span is a hotly debated subject, it is clear from research that an average adult cannot stay attentive for more than 30 to 40 minutes at a stretch. Traditional training programs are built around sessions that last several hours. This is way beyond the average attention span of adults.

Micro-workshops consist of sessions that last 30 to 45 minutes, just as long as learners can stay engaged. Each session is an intense cognitive and emotional workout involving concept discovery, elaboration, and practice.

#3 No ornamental design elements mean more focused learning

By restricting a tweet to 140 characters, Twitter ensures that every character in a tweet is used effectively. The design of a micro-workshop is similar.

A traditional, full-day training program has several overheads and inefficiencies built into its very structure and design. Usual training programs need to have icebreakers, activities, breaks, and a 45-minute lunch hour. There are complete books and websites dedicated to training icebreakers, games, and activities. If one calculates the effective training hours in an eight-hour training, it turns out to be only five to six hours.

A micro-workshop, on the other hand, has only one short break, it needs no icebreaker, or, time-wasting exercises and activities. A micro-workshop cannot afford to have any slack time, so it is action from the word ‘Go.’

The micro-workshop format ensures that designers and facilitators use every workshop minute effectively and all activities, exercises, and games are tuned to achieving the learning objectives of the program and are never ornamental in nature. A well-designed micro-workshop is like a well-written tweet – short, to the point, and effective.

#4 They reduce work disruption

Attending a training program can be disruptive for employees. It usually means staying away from the work desk for a whole day and impacts nearly two work days of a busy executive’s work-life. Participants spend several hours before the training ensuring that work does not get affected while they are away and they require several hours after the training event to take stock of pendency and get back to “Work as Usual.”

A micro-workshop is scheduled either at the beginning of a work day or after lunch. This ensures that participants experience very little disruption at work. Our experience has shown that participants of a micro-workshop are less likely to use their smartphones to check emails during the workshop, and are less stressed about work getting impacted while they are away from their workstation.

While it is difficult to achieve more than 70% attendance in most training programs, we have experienced more than 90% attendance records for micro-workshops and participants are keen to know when the next one is being scheduled.

#5 They are cost effective

Training budgets are always traveling south. Traditional training workshops have several overheads including the cost of hiring a training venue, organizing lunch, not to mention the cost of employees staying away from work for a whole day. Micro-workshops are low on overheads by their very design. Most micro-workshops can be hosted in existing meeting/training rooms within organizations and do not require elaborate food arrangements to be made. Employees also do not loose productive work hours.

Most organizations we work for schedule two micro-workshops in a single day. This means that more employees can be trained on a single day than traditional training programs.

I am a big evangelist of the micro-workshop format and believe that this format will soon replace the often bloated and less effective one-day/two-day training format. Having managed the training calendar for large organizations, I understand the pain points of training managers concerning training attendance, training effectiveness, budget restrictions, and scheduling. Micro-workshops are a more efficient method of dealing with several of these challenges and by focusing on a single skill they ensure higher impact.

Skills Café is at the fore front of leading the adoption of the micro-workshop format in organizations. We have conducted over 40 micro-workshops in the last six months alone and have reached over 600 learners from over ten organisations. Our micro-workshops are consistently rated +4.6/5 for content and facilitation and have consistently acheived a +4.8/5 net promoter score.

Call us for a free demo on a topic of your choice. You can view our complete catalogue of micro-workshops here. We add new topics almost every week, so, if you are interested in a topic that you can’t find in our brochure, please email us at ajay@skills.cafe / mansha@skills.cafe or call us – +91 7057299636