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‘Do I have to?’ How to encourage attendance at workshop offerings without making them mandatory

We often hear from our Learning and Development clients that a common challenge is encouraging staff to attend workshops without making them mandatory. There appears to be no easy way to engage with people around the importance of investing time in their personal development and workshops and training sessions often get viewed as a nuisance, getting in the way of ‘real’ work. Here’s where we have to learn the power of influence.

Robert Cialdini’s book on the subject provides us with six key principles that motivate our decision-making. These are:

1. Reciprocity: doing something good for someone because they have done something good for you…This is the principle of reciprocity at play. Perhaps, suggesting that in return for all the good work people do in the organisation a course has been developed especially to help them get even better/stand out from their competition (internally and externally).

2. Scarcity: a classic motivator. The phrases one-time only, restricted to X attendees, last chance before the end of 2014 etc. come to mind here.

3. Authority: people will follow the lead of credible and knowledgeable experts. Pitch sessions in a way that draws out the thought leadership of respected players in the field/subject in hand and make sure that reference and activity is included in the to get participants actively thinking more deeply in relation to their everyday world.

4. Consistency: ask for small initial commitments (e.g. filling in an online survey around the importance of leadership skills) before asking for a bigger commitment that is consistent with the initial one (e.g. attending a workshop on leadership skills)

5. Liking: we are more likely to say yes to people we like. To harness this principle, look for areas of similarity that you share with your people before engaging in any conversations about workshop attendance. Perhaps invest time in getting to know your audience as closely and as personally as possible.

6. Consensus: people often look to the actions of others to determine what they will do themselves. How can you use this principle to influence workshop attendance? Perhaps using positive feedback from others in the organisations as quotes in your internal advertising?

Robert Cialdini's book ‘Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion’ is a must for any marketeer. It is not just marketeers who are in the business of influence however. Influence plays a key part in the role of leaders too.

Have you consciously used any of the above principles in your work? We would love to hear from you! Please share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Posted on Thu, September 25, 2014 in General Leadership
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