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Diary: What to do about non-attenders?


diaryTraining manager and diarist Josie Roberts is trying to find a solution the age-old problem of non-attendance. Should the culprits be charged, or could pooling resources with another organisation help?

We have been getting lots of short notice cancellations of attendees. Options were discussed, including budgetary penalties - “After all, they wouldn’t do it on an external course” - but nothing was actually done.

I have mixed emotions. Allowing people to treat internal courses more casually than external ones can lead them to value the material less when they do attend. But I’ve worked for companies that encouraged cross departmental charging and never found it conducive to getting results. Leaving another department short of budget for things they need is an odd way to make the point that they should have attended that training session on “teamwork”

Therefore I have been reviewing all our courses to see what can be made shorter and whether we can run them with fewer people.

"I have heard of local but non-competitor companies sharing trainer resource for generic type courses. Someone else’s office might even have adequate training space!"
Today was the first running of a course taken from a full day to half a day. I inherited rather than wrote the course and the last time I ran it there seemed to be filler activities that could easily be dropped. I remember feeling quite relaxed when I said that it would easily run as a half day. Yesterday, pulling the material together, there seemed to be an awful lot of it, and I knew doubt!

This morning I set off at a brisk pace and was pleased with how well it went. I knew I had to keep on to time and that gave the course more pace and pep than before. It went rather well. Until I came to a part where I have some knowledge not in the course. Too good not to share, too complex just to be told – they needed to work it out for themselves. And time slipped by. The end time of the course passed. The fact that no-one commented on that point made me think that they were enjoying the training.

At the end of the exercise I checked whether they had to be anywhere and committed to finishing within half-an-hour.

So the course began well and ended with a mad dash through the last points. I’m a Londoner – I can talk really fast when I need to. (I do have to watch that closely as on more than one occasion I’ve gone too fast to be understood.)

Feedback forms were positive – two people highlighted the part I threw in as a key learning point, so it was worth doing. Suggestions for improvements (we specifically ask for these) were to have more people attending and to have more examples.

More people is tricky. I have heard of local but non-competitor companies sharing trainer resource for generic type courses. Someone else’s office might even have adequate training space! I remember dedicated training rooms – a luxury I didn’t appreciate when I had it. Would I get credit for proposing such a scheme or might someone else’s trainer be better than me? Maybe we could pitch our spare places at smaller companies less likely to have an in-house trainer?

As to examples, I use true things that have happened to me to illustrate points. I aim for stories where I got it wrong as these are more entertaining than stories of where I was great! I try not to use too many as I’ve sat through sessions where I felt I knew the trainer’s life inside out and it hadn’t helped with the training at all. Reassuring to know that I’m not over-doing it but I want to keep them where relevant. Perhaps I could seek out examples from websites so it’s not me talking about myself again?

Josie Roberts is a pen name for a training manager in the private sector.

Read more of Josie's columns:
A rookie mistake
Taking targets


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