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How to encourage employees to attend training

In-company training – delivered to a group of employees from a single organisation (as opposed to run on set dates and booked individually) has many benefits.

First off, in-company training is convenient and flexible, you decide when and where to run the course/s at intervals that work for you. Another advantage is you can customise the content, for example, by linking to your company values, behaviours, or procedures. Company or industry-specific examples bring the subject to life. And, by undertaking the learning together, participants can support and encourage each other to practice their new skills.

Learning and development teams need to do the groundwork and think like marketers to ensure employees attend in-company training. Repeat cancellations and low attendance mean that the change in behaviour you are looking for is unlikely to happen, while time and money have been spent. 

Here are our top tips to encourage participants to attend and engage with in-house training courses. 

Relevance

The need for training usually arises due to an organisational problem requiring a change in behaviour or new standards. It’s advisable to do a training needs analysis to identify the gap between the actual and desired knowledge, skills, and attitudes.  

Do your research to make sure the training you are planning is relevant to employees’ roles and context. It needs to deliver tangible benefits to performance in their jobs. You should be able to answer from the employees’ perspective: “why is this training for me and what’s in it for me?”    

Micro learning provides employees with easy-to-digest, bite-sized learning opportunities, in 90-120-minute chunks on topics relevant to an employee’s immediate challenges or opportunities. Skills-focused, fast-moving, and interactive courses are good at engaging participants and making learning stick.  You could also consider interventions like coaching, shadowing, or directed reading. 

Target audience and positioning  

A key factor is who are you targeting with a course in the first place? Sometimes it’s appropriate to restrict attendance whereas on other occasions a course may be open to all employees.  If attendees have been selected they may be reluctant learners and engagement in advance will be critical. Whereas if a course is open it can be a challenge to highlight relevance. 

Think about how you can create a buzz about the course and how to position it. Would it fit into an organisational event or work well alongside other training?  

Managers as sponsors    

A key stakeholder group you need to influence is the managers of attendees. Paul Hodder, BiteSize Learning Director says “We’re often asked about mitigating the risks of running training. We advise setting a clear expectation of change and managers play a valuable role as sponsors supporting their reports and considering in advance the application of learning and following up.”  Get the managers of attendees on board beforehand by helping them to see the goals and benefits.  They should ask their reports “how can I support you?” and think about the changes they are hoping training will bring about. If the learner can see that their manager values the training they are more likely to attend and set goals.  

Market your courses 

Learning and Development teams need to think like marketers. Appeal to the peoples’ core intrinsic motivators: performance, growth and enjoyment by answering the questions: How will this change my performance? What will I learn? Will it be enjoyable?   

Let people know how the course can solve their problems: 

“Do you have to deal with difficult, unreasonable people?” 

“Have you ever thought of the perfect thing to say, five minutes after the meeting is over?” 

Think about the course title, does it resonate with the audience you wish to attract?  Use striking images and compelling headlines. Promote courses by sharing short reviews collected in your evaluation or from your training partner.  

When putting on knowledge sharing events and “lunch and learns” use the expert speaker to promote the event, rather than the L&D or HR department. 

If you have one, call in the expertise of your marketing, or communications team. 

Language  

Use the language that your audience uses to make it relevant to them. Use pronouns to speak directly to your reader and use powerful words like “new” and “success”. Naming a session “new thinking on x subject” will draw your audience in.  

Marketers often use Robert Cialdini’s principle of scarcity to motivate customers. Drive action with language like “only x spaces” and “sign up early to avoid disappointment “and create a waiting list. Resist marketing too many courses in advance to avoid employees leaving it to another course to sign up.  

Cultivate Champions 

Seek out and enthuse people who can act as “development champions” to identify training needs, commission development activities, and bid for places on courses. They’ll help identify suitable participants, promote events, and increase attendance. Make sure you recognise their help. 

Recruit your CEO or another leader to send the training invitation. Choose your advocate carefully and use a range of messaging methods – a short video clip (get the trainer to record a pre-course intro), use internal channels such as email, the intranet, and Teams, and announcements at briefings or stand-up meetings. Contact stakeholders (managers, training champions, participants) by email, phone, or face-to-face and cultivate your internal network. 

See and be seen 

Invite your CEO to attend kick-off sessions to position the training. If they can’t attend think who else might – another senior member of staff or a past attendee? Make time yourself to attend courses. Participants are more likely to attend (on time) and commit to the training when they see that it is valued by senior leaders and the learning and development team. 

Evaluate  

Evaluating courses and asking for feedback have many benefits. As well as fine-tune training for the future, by asking the right questions attendees reflect on their learning and you signal the organisation’s expectation of change. Importantly evaluation provides stories of the application of learning from co-workers that attendees can identify with.   

Consequences of not attending  

While ultimately you want employees to focus on the value gained from attending the training you should consider the consequences of nonattendance. To manage the budget and schedule these consequences need to be less than neutral. For example, hard financial consequences like charging an employee for non-attendance need to be implemented very carefully but highlighting the cost of an empty training seat is relatively easy to do. The NHS has reduced costs with reminder texts that flag the cost of a missed appointment.  

Softer consequences include fear of missing out (FOMO). Structure your course offer around a set of skills to be gained. When you market the courses make sure to signpost to the others in the set. People are motivated by FOMO to collect a full set of skills.  

Partnership working  

Lastly, talk to your training partner and get them involved in helping you market courses. They may be able to provide you with course descriptions, course testimonials, and evaluation. People buy people so make use of trainer profiles or send an introductory email or video from the trainer asking a question to get participants thinking – they will be less likely to skip the session if they’ve already connected with the trainer.  

We’d love to have a chat with you about how we can help with your training needs. Please get in touch with Abby at [email protected]  

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