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Trainer’s tip: Counting the cost of no-shows


How do you count the cost of no-shows to training? There seems little in the way of hard facts, but what we do know is they cost money - and lots of it. Graham O'Connell says a tough approach is what's needed to tackle non-attendance.

Graham O'ConnellFigures do vary significantly from one organisation to another. I have worked with many training operations to address this issue as it is often the single biggest efficiency factor.

One organisation I worked with costed the value of no shows and late cancellations to well over £100k per month. We were able to significantly reduce that sum. In that case most of the money was ploughed back into other L&D programmes that might not otherwise have been possible.

Hard benchmark data is hard to come by but I think the 20-30% figure shown below is not untypical for an organisation that is not properly addressing this issue. Perhaps 5-10% is probably a more realistic figure if you have good processes in place.

My top three tips are:

  1. Develop and publish a cancellation policy that is tailored to your situation. Look at commercial training organisations for inspiration on how to approach this. But remember the business still comes first. Don't impose a system that unduly penalises people who are reluctantly pulled off programmes for genuinely business critical reasons. Set out your policy clearly in publicity and at the point people book on to programmes.
  2. Consider charging a cancellation fee (even if you do not charge for the courses); make sure this covers the full cost and is charged to the line manager. Allow yourself the discretion to waive the charge if someone is genuinely ill, bereaved, etc. but otherwise enforce it strictly. (This may be some effort for a month or two but after a while as cancellations reduce so will the time you take to administer it).
  3. Publicise the costs and consequences of late cancellations and no shows. Provide a report to the Board quarterly showing which areas of the business have had the highest cancellations and what that has cost. Put a monthly report on the intranet on showing this months no show costs (with this, hopefully, reducing month on month).

Late cancellations and no shows is not just the corporate equivalent of discourtesy, it also costs organisations and the economy millions of pounds every year.

Once the training is delivering the right results - which has to be the number one priority - the next most important is to get it to the right people at the right time in the most cost effective way. Let's stop tolerating these 'I'll turn up if I feel like it' individual behaviours and corporate cultures.

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Attendance figures

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