How much does it cost to design instructor-led training?

It’s an important question, but it’s not a simple question.

Costs can come in many forms. Financial costs are the traditional way in which this question is answered. “We were able to develop this training program for about $2,500.” But what’s the cost to you?

Just because you develop a training program in-house, doesn’t mean it was designed for “free”. Yes, your time is already budgeted and paid for, but it’s certainly not “free”.

If you didn’t have to spend so much time coming up with original activities and thinking of new ways to engage people, what else could you be doing with your time? Another way to think of it might be this: if you had an extra 4-8 hours of work time this week, how would you invest that time? Would you get one more project scratched off your to-do list? Would you shut down a bit early on Friday?

When someone (usually around budget season) asks: “How much does it cost to put together your training programs,” what do you tell them? Are you able to come up with a good answer?

Over the weekend, my colleague Tim Waxenfelter put this little calculator together to help determine the cost of training development.

As you can see, it’s based upon a few assumptions. It assumes that it takes about 8 hours of development time to put together a plan and materials for one hour of training (including background research, activity development, facilitator materials, participant materials, PowerPoint slides, etc). It also assumes your labor hours are the only costs involved in training. Costs go up even further if you’re using graphic designers, purchasing off-the-shelf content or videos, printing participant materials in full color, etc.

Yes, this particular training cost calculator brings Soapbox into the equation and offers an idea of how many labor hours you could save by automating some of your instructional design process, but there’s a bigger point to be made here.

The saying “time is money” is only partially true. Yes, when you’re at work, your time equates to labor hours, which have a cost to your business. Unlike money, however, your time cannot be saved. So the real question is: how do you want to spend it?

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