A Slacker's Guide to Kicking Mandatory Training Deadlines in the Face

This week in Pedersen's POV, our senior editor shares slacker-inspired tips for conquering mandatory training procrastination with a little help from a LinkedIn friend and SpongeBob.

Amanda Pedersen

May 6, 2024

3 Min Read
Pedersen's POV graphic featuring MD+DI senior editor Amanda Pedersen's headshot for her weekly medtech column.

I don’t always groan when I receive corporate emails, but when I do it’s almost always about a mandatory training module.

Regardless of what your job function is or what industry you’re in, most companies have a certain number of training modules that must be completed every year to ensure that employees are updated on standard operating procedures (SOPs). 

For chronic procrastinators like myself, these are the tasks that we kick to the bottom of our to-do lists because they often feel redundant or irrelevant to our specific job. Meanwhile, our inbox fills up with increasingly menacing reminders about the approaching deadline. And whoever is behind these messages wants to make sure you know Big Brother is watching and does not appreciate your lackadaisical ways. So they start sending you weekly notices reading, "They know ... you have not completed your XYZ training yet,” three months before the due date. And honestly, that just makes me want to dig my heels in and put it off another week. I mean, if they wanted it done three months early, why not set the deadline accordingly?

Yes, I know it would be far less stressful to just get these pesky tasks out of the way after the first notice, but that’s just not how my brain works. Instead, I tend to let it hang over my head like an ominous rain cloud that grows thicker and uglier with each passing week.

But in medtech, there are some SOPs that are too important to ignore, like those relating to quality assurance and regulatory compliance. And yet, as Etienne Nichols of Greenlight Guru pointed out in a LinkedIn post on Friday, there’s always that one person who can never seem to get their training done on time.

So, accompanied by a meme in which SpongeBob tosses an "urgent training notice" in a fire pit on the ocean floor (you really have to suspend disbelief for that one), Nichols shares a few tips to motivate the slackers on your team to complete their training on time.

My favorite of his suggestions is to spark a friendly competition by providing the completion numbers per department. I personally am always game for a good interdepartmental competition and would be easily persuaded to complete training in a more timely fashion if a pizza party or similar reward was on the line. And yes, I'm aware of how childish that sounds.

On a more serious note, I do question the disconnect between stated deadlines and the unspoken expectation for these things. And it seems I’m not alone.

“Just-in-time manufacturing seems to work pretty well, I’m actually a believer in just-in-time training, too,” Nichols wrote in response to my comment on his post. “Maybe the bigger problem is that we’re not always sure when 'just in time' is?"

The most common complaint among the commenters on his post is that training modules all too often feel irrelevant to the individual employee and seem to serve little purpose other than to satisfy someone else’s key performance indicator.

"Maybe if the training wasn't so unpleasant and somewhat irrelevent feeling (because someone forgot the whole 'why' and 'how this is relevant to you' bit of the puzzle) then SpongeBob might not be so lackadaisical about it. Just sayin'," wrote Lesley Worthingtin, a communication coach for quality assurance professionals.

So, if you're tasked with motivating one or more "troublemakers" to complete mandatory training by a specified date, consider ways to communicate why it matters for their job function, and be crystal clear about when it is expected to be complete. Don't say it's due at the end of May if you really want it done by the second week in March. I personally tend to be more prompt when given less time rather than more time and a gazillion obnoxious reminders.

I also encourage you to follow Nichols on LinkedIn if you're not doing so already. His relatable medtech content like Friday's post earned him a spot on MD+DI's list of 24 Medtech Voices to Follow in 2024.

About the Author(s)

Amanda Pedersen

Amanda Pedersen is a veteran journalist and award-winning columnist with a passion for helping medical device professionals connect the dots between the medtech news of the day and the bigger picture. She has been covering the medtech industry since 2006.

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