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Training Course Attendance


I support the CIPD communities forum and am struck by the large number of questions that come in about training course attendance and training course drop out rates. This does seem to be the bane of an HR/trainers life. As I type this I am starting to have some more philosophical thoughts about this topic but I set off to write some practical guidance so will stick to this for now and come back to the other stuff at a later date.

Some thoughts about causes:
  • too easy to 'sign up' for training which results in low appreciation of the opportunity. In this area I sometimes catch myself worrying about employee portals which allow direct enrollment
  • training course based development planning rather than need based. By this I mean that people 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 charge 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 cancellation 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 day of the course which does not happen very often). The advantage of a waiting list is it also makes people think the course is worth going to! I operated this system with some of my prestige high cost courses which meant they never ran at less than 100%.
  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.
I read an article many years ago about an organisation that had turned its training function around and ceased to do any of what it called 'remedial' training and only trained established high performers to be even better. It was a while ago so I cannot recall it in detail but this was the gist. At the time I remember thinking that I did not quite agree with this and that developmental/remedial training has a role in an organisation. It does, however, support a very important point, which is that 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.

Published by: Lisette on 15/01/2009 - Add a comment

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