Trainer's tip: Getting delegates to show up!

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It's that old chestnut again – just how do you tackle the thorny subject of no-shows? Various trainers offer their wisdom, tell of their experiences and give advice.

Sarah Leahey asked:
I am new to the company and they have never had an L&D department before so this is a new culture for them. The business and managers are crying out to develop the staff and people are very positive to learning, however a small percentage of people do not show up to training sessions on the day of the training, some do not even ring to say they can not show up. I understand that people cancel before hand due to business needs however how can I change this and stop this from happening again?

Steven Blake suggests enlisting the help of line managers:
I would suggest part of the enrolment process is that the candidates supervisor or manager is noted and that any notification of dates and times for attendance are copied in to them. Pre -course correspondence should include a need to notify if they wish to cancel. Non attendance should be followed up with correspondence to the candidate and copied to their manager. If necessary also copied into the MD. You could also have some sort of billing system for the department of the time wasters.

Mike Abbott thinks Outlook calendar might help:
You will not eliminate this entirely, however, a few suggestions that may help.
1. Check each delegates availability a couple of days before by ringing or speaking face to face with them
2. Use Outlook calendar to invite them to the training sessions so it appears in their calendar as well
3. If they do not show ask them why, and let their manager know they did not turn up
4. If you do not already, charge a fee for each place on the training course and do not refund this for non-attendance as all training companies do.

Rich Lucas advises writing terms & conditions:
Write some terms and conditions relating to the courses that you run and get top buy-in, I'm sure I could dig the ones that I've done to give you food for thought.
1. You will receive at least two week’s notice where possible of training taking place (This is a certainty in regards to strategic training such as the leadership program)
2. You will receive an invite which will notify you of the session date and session time which you will be required to accept via email
3. If there is a particular session that you wish to attend eg morning/afternoon sessions please notify us in the first instance and we will try to accommodate you. No guarantee will be made however
4. In the event of non attendance, we will require at least 48 hours notice
5. If there is an emergency eg sickness, we understand that this is sometimes inevitable. But it should be an isolated case rather than a regular occurrence. Too much work does not constitute an emergency
6. Failure to adhere to terms 4 & 5 may jeopardise future participation
Link the training into a talent management program too to give added incentive
Mail me on [email protected] if I can help any more

Jooli Atkins suggests a pre-course 'contract':
I agree with all of the comments below but we at Matrix FortyTwo find that getting buy in from the Manager helps with ensuring that the learner attends as well.
We always send a pre-course questionnaire with the usual 'what do you want to get out of it?', 'how do you plan to use your new skills?' type of questions and, at the bottom we ask the manager to complete the form with similar 'what do you want your staff member to be able to do following the event?', 'what outcome will make a difference to your team member?' questions.
We then ask each to sign the form. This encourages the manager to have the conversation (which is another thing that many do not do) and agree outcomes, thus providing a great motivation for attendance from both.
Of course, if all else fails, we reserve the right to charge them if they do not adhere to our terms and conditions. I believe that having the right is as much of a deterrent as actually carrying out the charge and allows us to be lenient where there is clearly a case and there has been no real cost to us.

Joanne Needs notes that buy-in from the top is working at her firm:
Having experienced this far too often, buy in from director and Vice Principal level has been gained with the result of a communication to all staff that it is not acceptable and will be followed up by each business unit director...seems to be working so far!

Ehsan Honary says excite them about the course:
I have seen many commenting on terms and conditions and how the regulations should be used which is of course necessary. But I also like to add that a great way to motivate people to the course is to get them care about it.
If they are excited about something, they will go the extra mile and cancel their other schedules and businesses and instead attend the course.
How to get them excited? Tell them what they are about to experience in the course and how they will 'benefit'. What part of their life is going to get better?
A questionnaire was suggested which I think is great. Giving extra material, puzzles to think about or open questions before the course can also help since it can make them curious about the course.

While Hannah George says a cancellation policy has worked in her company:
I agree with everyone's comments regarding getting as much buy-in as possible beforehand from the Manager.
I introduced a cancellation policy at my organisation at the beginning of this year which could have been controversial as they'd never had anything like that before. But there was a real problem with last minute drop-outs and no-shows and since the cancellation policy attendance rates have been consistently over 95% for all our in-house courses this year.

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Delegates not turning up to training sessions

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