You are not my HR rep but…
March 26, 2014 6:12 AM   Subscribe

I’ve been signed up for classroom style skills training, held in my city. It’s mandatory for people in my salaried position to take it. The course runs 3.5 days, 12 hrs/day and is quite expensive to attend (company paid). Participants are required to stay at a hotel, and are not allowed to commute to the sessions (as they would their regular job). Location: Canada

Overnight monthly travel is a feature of this role, however the notion of not being allowed to go home at the end of the day while staying in my own city seems ludicrous. I also question the rationale behind 12 hour training sessions for adult learners. Others who have taken the course suggest it is long, draining, and the info is hard to retain over time.

My questions: can attendance under these terms be required of me? Would it be reasonable to ask for time off in lieu of sacrificing my evenings / working late? How might I position such a request ? Do you know of any arguments backed by theory or research that support the notion that a course structured like this is or isn’t a good way for adults to learn and develop new skills?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts and suggestions
posted by walkinginsunshine to Work & Money (30 answers total)
You can ask for anything you want but generally if you're salaried, you're expected to work long hours, and occasionally to work in the evening.

There are lots of theories about how people learn but even if you were to find one that supported your contention that this is not a good way for you to learn (and it is a contention with which I agree) such arguments are likely to fall on deaf ears at your place of employment.
posted by dfriedman at 6:19 AM on March 26 [1 favorite]

Participants are required to stay at a hotel, and are not allowed to commute to the sessions (as they would their regular job).

Is this just a class, or some sort of boot camp / brainwashing experience?
posted by jon1270 at 6:19 AM on March 26 [5 favorites]

Required to stay at the hotel? What, someone's going to come around in the middle of the night and check to see if you're in your room? Sure, the company can pay for a hotel room for you, but they can't make you stay there.
posted by aimedwander at 6:22 AM on March 26 [13 favorites]

How are they going to know if you go home at the end of the day?
posted by grouse at 6:22 AM on March 26 [3 favorites]

Have you asked why you're required to stay at the hotel? It might be something as simple as late-night teambuilding exercises or early breakfasts, and they're trying to make it easier for you.

However, yes, there is no special exemption from "other duties as assigned" for staying in a hotel when you'd rather stay at home.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:30 AM on March 26 [1 favorite]

It might be a team building thing: you're all there, in it, together. Hang out and have fun. It might also be a way to ensure attendance because no one can get stuck in traffic or tied up at home.

But, okay, if you really really want to commute, and your firm pays for the hotel, they still won't know whether you sleep in that hotel or at home if you're ninja about it.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:30 AM on March 26 [1 favorite]

What is it, 8am to 8pm? 9am to 9pm? If you can go home after the training and be back in time for the morning start, I don't know what argument could be made to keep you there. I'd ask my boss for the rationale behind this position, and unless there was something quite convincing I'd tell my boss that I'd be sleeping in my own bed while committing to not missing a moment of the training or the peripheral activities.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 6:32 AM on March 26

But I don't think it would be wise to ask for time off, no. You'll just look like you aren't committed. And I would be shocked if they change their views on this just because you come to them with some theory about learning, even a published and well regarded one.
posted by J. Wilson at 6:32 AM on March 26 [1 favorite]

The point of staying in the hotel is to remove you from your day-to-day activities, allowing you to focus on the training program, plus team engagement and bonding. This is not uncommon, and is in fact a core part of many executive education and executive development programs.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 6:34 AM on March 26 [20 favorites]

Yeah I came in to say it sounds like they want to get you away from your day-to-day so you can really focus and absorb the experience without being distracted by your regular life.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:03 AM on March 26

This is completely common in an executive/sales role. I had to stay in a hotel that was 3 miles from my house for a Sales Kick-Off. I chalk it up to one of those things and I move on.

You seem really annoyed by this and put off. Do you believe that the training won't be useful to your job?

My advice to anyone who has been asked to do this kind of submersive training is not to express annoyance, exasperation or skepticism of any sort. You should be in your place with a smile on your face and fully ready to dive deeply into the pool.

Your company believes that this training is important and meaningful and if you come across as dismissive about it, it can actually negatively impact you going forth.

Be present, be active and do what's asked. I've found that there's frequently "homework" in a group setting after the class hours (hence the hotel room) so even if you opt to go home, you may be leaving the premisis very late at night.

Take the room, stay in it, and work with the folks in your class.

I was required to take a SEVEN WEEK data training class on-site, away from my home base. What I discovered was that this type of 'boot camp' atmosphere really engenders long lasting business networking and relationships.

If you don't want to do this, seriously re-think your career where you are, because if you're looking for labor laws to get you out of it, this can go nowhere good.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:11 AM on March 26 [4 favorites]

Also, I don't know how high up you are, but if the company is spending a lot of money to train you, then they value you and might have identified you as a 'high potential' ie you could go far. So personally I wouldn't jeopardize that opportunity by being chintzy about a few evenings away from home.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:11 AM on March 26 [2 favorites]

my one threadsit - I will be the only member of my team attending - multiple organizations attend each session -this is not a team bonding thing. Fair point on the 'how will they know if I stay' comments. And yes, this is in the same vein as executive training - my objection is largely that it will be inconvenient AND likely not a good learning experience given the format. I understand my obligation to attend, and will do so, but I would like to have some anecdotes around learning, to have in my back pocket should opportunities for subtle resistance and/or feedback crop up
posted by walkinginsunshine at 7:15 AM on March 26

Yeah, I would definitely speak to HR or something about the situation. It sounds like it's not going to do any good to go, and definitely not going to do you any good to stay in the hotel.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:17 AM on March 26

but I would like to have some anecdotes around learning, to have in my back pocket should opportunities for subtle resistance and/or feedback crop up

I'm really going to advise you NOT to do this. It won't matter and it will just piss people off.

Learn from my mistakes!!!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:25 AM on March 26 [12 favorites]

"Canada" is unfortunately too generic for a location, unless your employer is regulated under the Canada Labour Code instead of one of the Provincial Labour Codes. FWIW, salaried employees are not automatically exempt from overtime: they have to be in an exempt category, such as management, architects, agriculture, etc.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 7:29 AM on March 26 [3 favorites]

Given that you don't seem to be unionized, I would heed Ruthless Bunny's advice. If you're a member of a professional organization, they might have an interest in promoting better quality training for their members.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 7:35 AM on March 26

Your company clearly values this training, does it routinely with people of your level. They see it so worthwhile as to not just forgo your work for a few days, but to pay additionally for a hotel to keep you on task during training.

From your previous questions, I infer that this is a newish juniorish management-level role. That's the point expectations shift from the job being just a paycheque to being something more consuming of your time, even your social time. You need to come to a decision if this is a sacrifice you are willing to make for your career. I guarantee this will not be the last your company will ask of you.

If this is what you want, try to go into it with an open mind. IME, value can be found in even the most ridiculous workshops, if you're willing to put the effort it. Doing it half-hearted though wastes your time and the company's investment (if that matters to you).

If advancement in the ranks is what you are looking for this may be a necessary step. If so, why not try to get the most out of it. If, on the other hand, this is too much, you may want to think about what you want your balance between life and future career to be.
posted by bonehead at 7:41 AM on March 26 [4 favorites]

It's important to note, as Monday has, that the US experience of salaried workers is essentially useless here. Depending on your location, the Employment Standards Act or similar legislation will govern what is permissible on this point. If you are an exempt category of employee you should let us know that too.

Optics-wise, whether you make a fuss about something that, strictly speaking, is not permitted under the legislation, is a different story. You won't likely be fired without notice for enforcing your legal rights, but it can be uncomfortable to rock the boat. Only you know your company culture in that respect.
posted by HoteDoge at 7:59 AM on March 26 [2 favorites]

Yep, it's ludicrous for them to ask you to stay in a hotel in your own city. However, they are going to ask you to do ludicrous stuff sometimes, and they're going to give you money in exchange for doing it. That's work.

And always remember, throughout your career, that your definition of "ludicrous" is not the same as everyone else's, and there may be actual reasons that it's not ludicrous, to which you are not currently privy.

So ask your boss, "Boss, it seems kinda weird to put me in a hotel when I could just go home every night. Is there a reason for that?" And regardless of what he or she says ("For networking" or "Because sessions go late and start early" or just "Because we said so"), nod and do it. On the off chance that your boss says, "You know, that's a good point, screw it," then take the win.
posted by Etrigan at 8:14 AM on March 26 [2 favorites]

Would you be getting your own hotel room or having to share it with another attendant? If it's the former, I'm with most of the other posters here in thinking that they wouldn't be able to track where you actually sleep - if they insist on paying for the hotel, you could check in/check out as normal and then sleep wherever you want. If it's a pretty nice hotel, you could think of your room as just a lounge you get to use for the time of the conference - take a fancy bath (I always do this at hotels since my apartment bathtub is useless), store things you don't want to haul back and forth for the multiple conference days, use it as a quiet place for some nighttime reading, so forth.

I actually stayed at a hotel in my own town for a convention once, and it was surprisingly nice to have the room as a sort of retreat right there, rather than having to take the bus all the way home for any peace and quiet. I had thought it'd feel like a waste of money, but it was worth it to be able to escape the crowd when I wanted.

Of course, if this is a situation where they're pairing you with roommates, none of the above applies and I'd use Etrigan's suggestion to bring up the strangeness of making you stay somewhere less comfortable than your home when your home is right there.
posted by augustimagination at 8:28 AM on March 26

Corporate training involves a lot of long sessions where you get hit by an avalanche if information that you yourself will be responsible for restaining afterwards. It's not so much geared towards optimal retention as much as it is geared towards familiarizing you with the material so that you can ingest it and refer back to it in the future as you need it.

The "must stay at the hotel" thing is probably used as a thing to ensure that you have no reason to show up late or leave early over the course of the week.
posted by deanc at 8:30 AM on March 26 [2 favorites]

I would like to have some anecdotes around learning, to have in my back pocket should opportunities for subtle resistance and/or feedback crop up

Whatever you do, don't be that guy. Simmer with resentment all you want, but keep it to yourself.
posted by ook at 8:52 AM on March 26 [2 favorites]

Is this training really so vastly unpleasant that you can't think of it like being on a mini-vacation? Your company knows you're out of the office, and they won't be piling work on you because you're already doing what they told you to go do. The thing is, it's work - it's not like you're burning your vacation time to do this, and in fact you're earning "good employee points" by going, as well as getting paid like normal. It may not be how you'd choose to spend a week, it may not be your preferred way of getting information, and the information may not be your preferred topic of interest. But it's better than a sharp stick in the eye, as they say.

Sit in the conference sessions, soak up what you can, and maybe you'll pick up something interesting. Or just sit in the classrooms drawing sheep on your notebook! Make little lists of things you want to do this spring, plan a party, write letters on paper to your elderly relatives, whatever. Hang out at the hotel, sleep diagonally in a large bed, put a tasty dinner and/or a moderate bar tab on the company's dime. It could be a lot worse.
posted by aimedwander at 9:12 AM on March 26 [3 favorites]

It's only three days of your life, you'll be giving over a lot more than that in the future. This seems like just "one of those things" and I'm wondering whether you are just using this incident as proxy for underlying discomfort with future demands of the position?
posted by kaspen at 9:32 AM on March 26

Thanks for all the input everyone! A couple of last notes of clarification: I'm a seasoned, well regarded middle manager. I will of course attend with a positive attitude. I recognize that training such as this is not uncommon, I just question its effectiveness. I've had good success in this and previous positions carefully pointing out that we might not be getting the best bang for our buck with existing patterns/process whatever. I was hoping to have some legitimate arguments bring to the table contending the efficacy of this kind of intensive training format (which is quite dis-similar to our overall culture, which is focused on flexibility and employee satisfaction).
posted by walkinginsunshine at 10:50 AM on March 26

I was hoping to have some legitimate arguments bring to the table contending the efficacy of this kind of intensive training format (which is quite dis-similar to our overall culture, which is focused on flexibility and employee satisfaction).

As much as it sucks, your argument will be much stronger if you've actually gone through the training. You can at least decrease future pain.
posted by Etrigan at 11:38 AM on March 26 [4 favorites]

I also question the rationale behind 12 hour training sessions for adult learners. Others who have taken the course suggest it is long, draining, and the info is hard to retain over time.

I'm not familiar with your particular course, but training courses of that length and intensity are typically not 12 straight hours of information dumps. Good training design for adult learners will include multiple breaks and a variety of activities to help you integrate and apply the skills you are learning. Sure, it may be a long day, but that doesn't necessarily make it ineffective. In fact, immersive classes like this are often more effective than shorter, less in-depth approaches.

As far as others suggesting that the "info is hard to retain over time," long-term learning retention has very little to do with the initial delivery of the course and has far more to do with the learner's rate of practice and application after they leave the training. It's not something that happens automagically after walking out the classroom door. Retention is the ultimately learner's responsibility, not the trainer's.

If you are truly interested in maximizing the effectiveness of the course, attend the course with an open mind and willingness to learn, be engaged and participate fully throughout the 3.5 days, and actively support and apply the learning after you complete the training. And enjoy your free hotel room!
posted by platinum at 1:54 PM on March 26

your argument will be much stronger if you've actually gone through the training.
I agree with this.

You don't want to just bring complaints, questions, and/or arguments to the table. You want to bring solutions. The legitimacy of your solutions will be greatly strengthened by your first-hand experience.

Another thing, or at least this has been my experience, is that making requests to not attend or not stay overnight may make you seem like less of a team player to others in your company. I can't speak to your company culture, but it's something to consider especially if you are relatively new to your company/position.
posted by sm1tten at 4:18 PM on March 26 [1 favorite]

Yeah, you definitely need to decouple "this is ineffective" from "I don't want to."

Your objections would work well if you were sticking up for someone else, or if you had already been to the training and had negative feedback about it. You're not going to be able to avoid the bad optics of trying to weasel out of it now that you're the victim.

Another reason they do this is because they know you will most likely buddy up with someone, eat dinner together, have drinks, tell war stories and what-have-you. This is valuable not just for networking (which is itself a good reason) but because everyone can learn something from hanging around other people in their field. "Emergent two-way mentoring" you might call it.

On the bright side, even if the training itself is painful, it's fun to do something different once in a while, not have lawns to mow/laundry to do/etc. Just enjoy it for that reason alone and it will be over soon.

Get the program shot down afterwards.
posted by ctmf at 7:25 PM on March 26 [2 favorites]

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