5 Proven Ways to Boost Training Program Attendance

— February 28, 2017

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It’s one of the biggest gripes we hear from HR professionals: A lot of employees who register for our leadership training programs drop out at the last minute.

It’s disheartening to say the least, considering the extensive planning and preparation that goes into each session. Worse, it reflects poorly on those responsible for training and development and can make it more difficult to justify future funding.

Fortunately, a few proactive steps and a little creativity can boost training program attendance. These five strategies have worked well for our clients.

Analyze Your Training and Development Needs

Not surprisingly, employees are more likely to attend and be engaged in training they perceive as valuable. Before beginning any type of training program, take the time to review your current plans for training and development and assess your organization’s needs. This may include asking supervisors for feedback, conducting skills assessments or surveying employees about what skills they most want to improve upon.

Build Excitement

Think about all the ways your company promoted its last big event or product launch. In addition to the usual advertising efforts, your marketing team likely sent out a series of internal emails and encouraged the entire staff to share updates on social media. You can use a similar approach to promote your upcoming training program. Start by teasing it with “Coming Soon” emails or posters, then make a big deal out of the announcement.

If the group is small enough, you may even be able to invite each potential participant personally with a handwritten note or in-person conversation.

Tell Participants What’s In It For Them

One of the biggest reasons training and development programs get a lower turnout is a failure to clearly communicate the value to participants. While it’s important to explain what participants will learn, you should go a step further and emphasize how it can help them succeed in their current role while preparing them for future leadership positions.

For instance, Guardian implemented a workplace policy that allowed employees to work at home and from alternate locations. The company partnered with OnPoint to develop a customized program that would provide managers with the skills they needed to succeed in this new environment, including coaching and managing accountability remotely.

Involve the Employees’ Supervisors

While employees may initially express interest in a training and development program, they are far more likely to attend if they know their supervisor sees it as a priority. If they know their boss sees it as important to their development and understand it will be tied to their performance, they’ll take it seriously. Without the blessing of their boss, training will quickly fall to the back burner. Asking supervisors to weigh in on training objectives, support employees as the complete training and evaluating the employees’ progress after training will ensure they have a stake in the success of your programs as well.

Communicate the Consequences of Failing to Attend

Employees often sign up for training and bail later believing no one will miss them or their absence won’t impact anyone. Anyone involved in hosting these programs knows they aren’t free, but employees won’t appreciate the costs unless you tell them. Better yet, make it clear those costs will be charged back to their department if they sign up and fail to attend. This approach worked well for Toni Freeland, Director of Learning and Organizational Development at Wolverine Worldwide, who saw an increase in attendance rates in her programs after imposing the charge backs for attendance failures.

Send Reminders

Even employees who understand the importance of the training and want to attend need reminders from time to time. Have a plan for reminding them one week prior, a few days prior and even the day of training.

What Works Best For Your Organization?

While we’re confident these steps will boost attendance at your next program, we want to hear from you. Share your best tips with us in the comments below, and let’s keep the conversation going.


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Author: Darleen DeRosa

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