I recently overheard a conversation about making something mandatory. Here’s the context: A person was complaining about attendance at an event. The reply? Make it mandatory.
I know it’s tempting to make an event mandatory. As a human resources pro, I’ve participated in my fair share of “Should we make this training, conference or event mandatory?” conversations. Over the years, I’ve realized that making something mandatory lets people off the hook.
In life, we have to establish priorities. We need to make decisions about the best way to spend our time. This is an important skill.
As an employee, I have multiple meetings to attend. I need to choose the right one. Honestly, I shouldn’t have to ask my boss. I should know the most important one that demands my time. (The only time this doesn’t apply is if the boss uses a divide and conquer strategy for attending events. Then you would strategically coordinate your schedules.)
As a manager, I need to know when to pitch going to that conference in Vegas that I really want to attend versus staying in the office to do the project that needs to get done. The boss shouldn’t be a bad guy or gal and have to tell me to stay.
As a consultant, it’s critical for my business to know the right events to attend so I meet decision makers and network with a good group of professionals. I can’t attend everything and must go to the right things. Years ago, I had a boss that always seemed to know the right events to attend. I remember that when I’m making decisions today. “Would he go? If so, why?”
While making events mandatory comes with some grousing, it also prevents people from learning how to make the critical decision of where to be and when. If people aren’t attending what should seem like an obvious “go-to” event, you need to find out why. This is or will be exceptionally important as more organizations explore the “unlimited” vacation time concept. It just won’t be successful if people don’t understand how to manage their commitments and make good decisions.
In my experience, I’ve found that mandatory events don’t get the same level of marketing as optional ones. For example: All employees need to attend XYZ training session. So the program description is dull. The materials are boring. And so forth… When nothing is mandatory, it must be marketed at a higher level.
This includes when events are free. Just because something is free, doesn’t mean it’s a “must-attend” event. I’ve been to plenty of free snoozefests and I’m sure you have too. Free must have value because people’s time is valuable.
Organizations should save the word mandatory for laws and safety. Focus on creating events that people want to attend because they sound interesting and provide value. Then coach employees to make good decisions.
Image courtesy of HR Bartender1