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In-House Training - Getting to 99 Percent Attendance

In-House Training - Getting to 99% attendance

Drop out rates and overall attendance rates is the bane of the in-house trainer.  It is a constant theme amongst HR professionals.  Yet it can be done - indeed I have done it.

The following are some of the main reasons behind poor attendance:

  • too easy to 'sign up' for training which results in low appreciation of the opportunity.  Where there are employee portals which allow direct enrolment time and effort needs to be given to getting this right and improving personal responsibility.
  • training course based development planning rather than need based. This happens when individuals and their managers, when doing the annual performance review and Training Needs Analysis, use a list of courses and look up some that sound suitable. A better approach is to identify the need and try to find other, non course, approaches, with the course coming as a second stage (if at all)
  • low management traction/commitment to the training
  • no incentives for attending (no penalties for pulling out)
  • everyone is always busy and time blocked out for training can be tempting

Assuming the courses are of the right quality and the organisation and its leadership want to invest in people's development in these areas here are some possible practical solutions

  1. Increase the sign-up hurdle. For example, introduce the idea that all nominations for courses need to have a 'formal application' which takes time and requires input from the manager - having made this up front investment people are more likely to attend. This can be further strengthened by requiring people to do some e-learning, reading etc prior to application which also reinforces how important. This is no more than would be expected with a high quality external course - and covers such things as reason for attending, development needs hoping to address, etc. This is what happens if you go to an external course and internally run courses should have equal status.
  2. Create a disincentive: For example, consider the use of a penalty system - if internal courses are free, have a charging system that kicks in if someone fails to turn up - make the charge hefty. It forces the individual and manager to carefully consider pulling someone off at the last minute. I operated this system for years when I managed a large HR function and a few last minute cancelations paid for the training for everyone else in on that course. If you already charge departments for training you clearly should charge if they do not turn up (external organisations do this) and you can also operate a 3 strikes and you are out - i.e. not allowing someone who has a cancelation record to attend any training courses for a period of say, one year, 18 months.
  3. Increase demand. For example, keep a waiting list for courses - with people who are keen to attend but cannot get on - and use them to fill spaces - this way you never run a course at less than 100% (unless someone falls ill on the actual  day of the course which does not happen very often - but does explain why the title is 99%). The other advantage of a waiting list is it also makes people think the course is worth going to!  For high profile and costly courses you can require your ‘substitute' to hold the dates as well and if this is someone who gets on the course 12 months early chances are that they will. 
  4. Position training more as a reward. This will require support from managers but this is about moving the organisation to a mindset where people are given development opportunities as a reward for contribution - rather than training being seen as only available for remedial purposes. This increases the attractiveness of training - people are less likely to not turn up when the opportunity to turn up was a reward by their manager. Training is a benefit and not a right and needs to be positioned within the organisation in this way.  Indeed with the move to 'total compensation' (which is pretty much telling people about their whole benefits package - so that they get to appreciate it more), access to training is an important feature and should be positioned as such.



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