How to use referrals to increase training attendance

How to use referrals to increase training attendance

In a previous post, I introduced the 3-Step model that you can use to improve training attendance. In this post I’m going to delve into one very specific part of the model that helps us to “leverage the NETWORK”: ‘Using referrals’.

Why you need to “leverage the NETWORK” for your courses

Its common for L&D and training managers to have a hard time making employees aware of available courses.

You might have an intranet site or notice board (online/offline) but few people visit it regularly. You might have an email distribution list, but worry about ‘spamming’ employees with information about courses they are not interested in.

If you want to increase training registration and attendance (without significantly increasing effort on your part), you need to take advantage of the network of channels that are available to you. These will enable you to get the word out to employees who are likely to be interested in attending.

One way to do this is to get referrals from people who have attended previous related courses, or have just registered in the course you are promoting.

Why you should use referrals

When someone registers for a training course, they have thought carefully about why they want to attend, the benefits they will get from attending, why the benefits outweigh the ‘costs’ (their time), and why they think this course is likely to deliver the benefit to them.

As a result, they have the potential to be your biggest advocate for the course you are providing:

  • They are likely to know people that would also benefit from the course
  • They know why others would benefit, based on their own decision process
  • They know how to tell others about the course (what to say, what methods to use e.g. Email / team meeting etc)

If you can encourage them to refer others to the course, you’ll find registrations increase significantly.

Not only this, but employees are more likely to attend a course when:

  • It was recommended by someone else
  • It is being attended by someone they know
  • They themselves recommended it to others

How to get referrals of your training course

When thinking about how to use referrals, we need to consider:

  1. How to encourage referrals
  2. When to encourage referrals

1. How to encourage referrals

Many successful training companies and world-class trainers (like Tony Robbins and Andy Harrington) incentivise referrals through prizes, discounts or added bonuses.

For some of these organizations, it is appropriate to give away iPads, holidays or even cash. However, this is unlikely to be appropriate for your L&D department.

Instead, think about rewards that are appropriate, based on your organization and the course being provided.

For example, if you are offering sales training, you could reward anyone who refers two other people onto the course with a 1-2-1 with a senior sales leader, where they can ask them questions and get their ‘tips and tricks’.

The great thing about a reward like this is that anyone can arrange a 1-2-1 with the sales leader – you are not giving benefits to some employees that are not available to others. However, by offering to arrange the 1-2-1, you are making it easier, which has value.

Other rewards that are likely to be attractive and appropriate are:

  • Extra course materials (e.g. Video resources)
  • Meetings / workshops to further discuss the course or provide Q&A
  • ‘Thank you’ email sent to the employee (cc their manager)
  • 1-2-1s with experts or senior managers
  • Invites to other events or courses
  • ‘Employee Award for supporting learning across the organization’

2. When to encourage referrals

Timing is crucial. You want to encourage an employee to refer the course to others at the time they are most likely to do so.

This might sound tricky.

It’s actually easy – it’s immediately after they register!

When they register they:

  • Have the time to register, so probably have time to refer others
  • Are excited about attending the course
  • Are knowledgable about what the course will do for them and others

So, find ways to ask for referrals (and mention the reward) that are immediately after the employee registers.

This might be:

  • On the ‘Thank you’ / ‘Confirmation page’ immediately after they register
  • Via email (immediately after they register)
  • Via a call / in-person (immediately after they register!)

You can then remind them a few days later – but make sure you initially ask for the referral as soon as possible.


So now you see that referrals are a powerful way to increase registrations and attendance, and are not just available as a mechanism for external training.

At a free webinar on the 25th June 2015, I’ll be covering the “3 Steps to Improve Training Attendance” in more detail, with examples and tips on how to make improvements in your organization. As you’d expect, when you register on the webinar you’ll see that I ask you for referrals, and offer a significant reward in exchange!

(Click here to find out more about the webinar, and register to attend)

About The Author

Alexis Kingsbury

Alexis is founder of the Parentpreneur Accelerator and Making Greatness Ltd. He is a serial entrepreneur, with experience creating start-ups in a variety of areas, particularly in SaaS and EdTech. He is also a lucky husband and proud dad, and now helps other 'parentpreneurs' like him to achieve their dreams of having successful businesses, making a difference in the world, and spending time with the people they love.

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