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Encouraging training attendance


I have recently joined a firm where there has been no training strategy. I have established some of the staff's training needs by questionnaires and by looking at what calls we received on our helpdesk and prepared courses which I think people will found useful. My problem is poor attendance: some people are very keen and have attended everything on offer while others (the ones that need it most) are very reluctant to attend and cancel appointments on a regular basis.

Although I understand that lack of attendance does not necessarily reflect on me, I am trying to make a good impression and to demonstrate that I can be a useful member of staff.

Does anyone have any suggestions on how I can take matters forward?
Cris Sasovsky

12 Responses

  1. Explain the benefits of the courses to management and / or the s
    A possible way forward is to explain the benefits of your courses to management i.e. tell them what behavioural changes your courses can create and how these then add value to the company / organisation. It is then up to management to identify where the training can be applied. This does have its problems from your perspective in that your courses can be perceived ascorrective rather than developmental.
    Another alternative may be to speak to those who you want to attend your courses and show them how your courses can add value for them at an individual level. The downside to this is that you can be perceived as desparate for students.
    Not knowing the culture or sector of your company / organisation I don’t know which would be the most appropriate.

  2. Go the root of the Problem!
    I think you need to attack the root of the problem, in terms of why they aren’t attending. People don’t like training for several reasons, possibly they are scared of looking silly, they don’t think it is relevant, they are uncomfortable with learning new things, or they may have had a bad experience of training in the past.
    Picking a handful of consistent offenders and having a one to one with them to discuss their lack of attendance could be a good way of overcoming this problem. If you simply can’t do this due to the volume of people or feel uncomfortable, tackling their line manager instead, as they need to be aware if people are not attending and therefore need to manage this.
    If there has been no training before, people may not even know what training is! Or what benefits they can get out of it.
    Maybe making a song and dance of how great training, what the benefits are and what to expect on one of your courses, would spark some interest!
    Good Luck

  3. A couple of thoughts.
    Both the comments below have hi-lighted interesting approaches.

    There are two other approaches I would suggest:
    1.There is nothing like peer pressure. You need to get those who do attend the training to talk about it to their colleagues – preferably in positive terms. Ensure you get feedback from everyone who attends and not just immediate feedback but longer-term responses. These help with reasoning why others should attend.
    2. Some form of mentoring may help – if it is you who is telling them then they may resist, but if it is someone they respect or have to listen to then they will consider it more seriously. The mentoring may only be restricted to training and development (although I would suggest that it is wider-ranging than that) but the effect that you want is for mangement to support all people taking advantage of training (this links to a comment from a contributor below).

    I hope you solve it. Good luck.


  4. Encouraging attendance

    Appreciate this is always a tough one – businesses where training has not been the “norm” often struggle in the initial stages of setting up and getting buy-in to the new initiative – it’s change!

    Before you did your TNA, did you do a BNA [business needs analysis]? To make sure that the courses that you are now offering are relevant both to the business objectives, and therefore of the participants. If the participants are aware that the training is to enable them to be more successful within their roles, thus enabling the business as a whole to be more successful, perhaps their attendance will improve. Maybe you could also remind them that this “new” initiative has top level approval – and they too will be inline for development [and if they are not, they should be].

    Hope this helps Cris.


  5. It’s a PR job
    I agree with Nigel that peer pressure is one of the best ways to get people on board – it works for me. But in order to win the hearts and minds of the staff you need to make yourself as visible as possible – presentations, perhaps, to demonstrate the strategy and why you are doing what you are doing. It will also help if a senior member of the management can be present to lend his/her support.

  6. Raising the Profile
    You’re always going to get some people who think they either don’t need the training, or that the positions they hold within the organisation make them too important to attend. It’s all down to attitude and behaviour.

    I had the same problem at a television company a few years ago, and it took some radical changes to get people to attend.

    1) We introduced a limit on the number of times an individual could cancel. This meant that once they had reached the limit they were banned from booking a place for the next year. OK, it sounds harsh, and almost unworkable. Wait until their manager starts asking questions when you refuse them a place on a critical course. OK you give them the place, but there is an added incentive for them to attend. The boss is on their back, and it could seriously effect their performance appraisal, and their job.

    2) Students may simply be under so much pressure they are being held back from training by their manager. We offered a travelling trainer. It worked brilliantly. They can schedule a slot with a trainer who will come to their workplace/desk and help them with the immediate issue, almost as a mentor or coach.

    3) On the fun side, we introduced rewards for the student that gained the most out of training each quarter. They received a small trophy and even some vouchers as a small pat on the back..

    It worked for us, and things have continued to improve.

    Attitudes to training have improved, attendance is up, and the company increased the budget. Can’t be bad.

  7. PR and Profile
    I agree with a couple of respondants – you need to advertise, sell yourself, sell the benefits to ALL levels! (And in particular to management.) I work alongside the IT Help Desk so I can hear the regular queries, and once I decide this needs addressing I start to take a note of who is asking, setup a workshop and then “bully” the people who are asking to attend! (Bully of course in the nicest sense.)

    It could be that your people are busy with deadlines (and it will be those who need the most training probably) – make your courses bites of information – I use the workshop approach of 1.5 or 2 hours only – many should commit to that length rather than whole days???

    Good luck!
    Lynn Wood

    All the comments are valid and have merit. Here’s an extra “incentive” should you have a central training budget. If people fail to pitch or fail to cancel within a pre-determined period (say 1 week) – charge their manager’s cost centre for the wasted seat! Obviously there would need to be management buy-in for this practice.

    There are loads of ideas for encouraging a culture of learning but what will work is determined by your company’s learning strategy (do you have one?) and how does this fit into the overall business strategy. Because if your learning strategy is not supporting your business to thrive and achieve strategic objectives it’s not going to work. The days of giving unstructured, unfocused training are gone.

  9. Use of disciplinary methods for improving attendance
    We recommend to our clients they institute attendance policies and hold manditory training meetings. If the employee does not show for the meeting they recieve a written warning for an unexcused absence. We use a 3 strikes and you are out. If they miss another meeting they recieve a Final warning for unexcused absence, then if they miss a third they are terminated. This may sound harsh but it will illiminate those that don’t have respect for you as a company nor their job. If they aren’t interested in improving their skills they aren’t doing a good for you anyway.
    The message will spread rapidly through out your company you are serious about training. Good luck

  10. Buy in
    Firstly as there is no training culture in the business, there is bound to be some scepticism from a section of the personnel. The key here I believe is that the senior management in the business address the staff via small group workshops, explain why training is important and how it will help both the business and individuals.
    Secondly – the group of people who don’t attend but need training, probably don’t know they need training and assume that they are above it. they’ll need their line manager to assit in getting them onto training. All in all this new culture should be fed down from the top, in my opinion.

  11. Ideas to encourage participation
    Try one to one assessment or team level assessment with those that frequently don’t go – why are they demotivated, what are the barriers to participating on learning and development both at a personal level and team/group level. Try meeting with staff & managers informally S.W.O.T analysis could help – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Look at the times and length of training – offer something that appeals to individual learning styles. What are their learning styles – do they know themselves – is that why they do not engage in your programmes….

    Hope this helps

  12. Is training attendance becoming a bigger problem?

    Speaking to a lot of L&D colleagues, I've seen that training attendance is become an increasing frustration, often due to 'busy-ness'.

    A lot of the replies to this thread provide some great suggestions. 

    I've written some articles that aim to help L&D professionals reverse the trend. I hope you find them useful:

    3 Steps to Improve Training Attendance

    How to sell the end benefit of a course to increase attendance

    Should you charge employees for not attending training?

    All the best,



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