Why Butts-in-seats is Still an Important Measurement


“80% percent of life is just showing up” – Woody Allen

We love to make jokes about why taking attendance is so useless. But showing up is important. If you are still creating courses, then it just makes sense to know who showed up. And showing up applies to courses delivered in a classroom as well as those delivered online.

Sitting in a classroom does not mean learning has occurred.  And even if learning occurs, a butts-in-seats metric cannot prove that the knowledge or skill was applied on the job. So let’s agree on one thing: Measuring butts-in-seats is not about learning.

If it’s not about learning then why do it? It’s about training. Measuring attendance is about being a smart training professional. It’s a metric that creates a baseline of business value. And having that metric is important for several business reasons.

Compliance Training is Not Going Away

Compliance training will always be necessary. As long as we have laws demanding that training be administered like a pill, then businesses will always be held accountable to that law. Businesses need the quickest and easiest way to track who’s compliant and who is not. The laws don’t require that each individual prove their knowledge. They only require that training has been delivered and the business can prove that all employees received that training. So tracking who attendance, in this case, is still necessary and important to every business.

If Nobody Attends/Views Your Course Why Build it?

It may not be a measurement of learning, but it can certainly be an important value metric. For all of your courses that are NOT mandatory, the butts-in-seats metric is a good place to start if it’s all that you have. As training professionals we often forget to market our new courses. If you’ve used equal marketing for multiple courses and some have outstanding attendance while others flop, it’s the butts-in-seats metric that tells you so. Knowing this information gives you the opportunity to ask important questions like…why? Was the content bad? Is there just not a need for it within the org?

Joining a Community of Professionals with Similar Interests

When you take a course online or in a classroom you are networking. The communities that form around content start with those who show up. You may have an interest in a particular topic, but being a part of a community that is experiencing the learning process together is priceless. There needs to be record of who showed up so that others can connect and learn from each other. Some communities built around a topic continue the learning beyond the classroom on their own. And we all know that’s an important part of the long term learning process.

But also, as a training professional, knowing who has taken your courses, also gives you a mailing list to target for future training. The list of attendees makes for the perfect test group when designing the followup course.


Recording attendance is important. Your learning management system can do that for you. That data is as useful to you as website views is to a web developer. It’s not perfect. It doesn’t tell the whole story. But it’s useful.

Agree or disagree? Tell me about it! #TellLitmos @Litmos