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Training Officer Tip Archive

April 10, 2007 - How to Handle Enrollees Who Bail at the Last Minute

You work hard to administer needs assessments, poll management, conduct employee focus groups, compile a library of vendor resources, schedule classes, compete training opportunities, market your programs internally, and perform the logistics required to run successful training programs. So where's the love?

At it's best, your job as a training manager is very rewarding. You have responsibility for improving people's skills, accelerating their performance, and maybe even helping them get promoted. When you're helping others to become better, it can be extremely satisfying. However, sometimes the employees whom you are charged with making better do not respect themselves as much as you do when they fail to fulfill the commitment they make by signing up for classes they don't end up attending. This puts you in a bad spot, lessens the rewards you deserve, and might make you look bad.

What can you do?

Preventative Measures
Like someone seeking good health, prevention is the best medicine. If you can nip the problem in the bud before it gets out of control, you can keep your sanity intact. Here are a few ideas for preventing employees from bailing at the last minute:

1) Send them a reminder three days prior to the start of the training program, and ask them to reply to you by email or phone to confirm their attendance. Some people will reply to you and still bail. For insurance against this, make sure you make it clear in your message (preferably by phone or in-person, but email is okay too) to them how excited you are that they will be included in the class, and that you wished others were as proactive about their careers as they are. Convey to them the notion that they are acting like model employees by taking advantage of the professional development programs you're offering. In essence, make them feel good about their choice.

2) This may sound a bit draconian, but try sending a message to their supervisors about how glad you are that the employee will be attending the session. Lay out the benefits of the training for the supervisor so they are aware of what the employee will experience in the program. Undoubtedly, this message will remind the supervisor to talk to the employee before the session about what he or she expects to get out of the training. This will increase your chances of getting the employee to follow through on the commitment.

3) Post the names of those who have signed up to the class in an organization-wide email three days before the program. In the posting, talk up the benefits of the class, and be sure to emphasize how great it is that your list of enrollees has made a commitment to better themselves. Peer pressure works. Few enrollees will bail after seeing their "name in lights" in front of their co-workers, bosses, and reports.

Remedial Measures
You should never expect 100% follow-through for those who sign up for all of the classes you schedule. Sometimes, people have very legitimate reasons for skipping out at the last minute. But if they do bail, and nothing life-altering has kept them from honoring their commitment, you can follow up with them to ensure it doesn't happen the next time. Here are some ideas:

1) Contact them after the training is complete and tell them that their contributions were really missed. Make them feel left out without coming down too hard.

2) Do the same at #1, but this time with the supervisor. Unless the supervisor told them they couldn't attend, this will be very effective. And if the supervisor was responsible for their absence, at a minimum you will gain the supervisor's respect by following up and demonstrating how serious you are about seeing that everyone takes advantage of good learning opportunities. You will be remembered for this, and the supervisor will think twice about pulling his or her employee out of future trainings.

3) Send the employees who bailed a note about the class, how well it was received by the participants, and how much fun they had. Good training is always better than work, and reminding the absent ones of this never hurts. Be sure you avail them of other upcoming training opportunities and encourage them to sign up. Again, they will respect you for sticking with them even after they let you down.

You can try other methods like attaching their attendance or non-attendance to their performance reviews, but few would appreciate this, especially if the training was voluntary in the first place. You could also mention how it cost your organization X number of dollars for them to be absent, but this can create bitterness. Rather, smother them with kindness and encouragement, and your infectious attitude and persistent effort will be rewarded by more full classes than you've ever had before.

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