What constitutes Value?

Posted by on March 23, 2009 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

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Last week I had a very interesting conversation with a prospective client. We pitched for their business last year (80 delegate conference and “teambuild”). Admittedly I got the pitch wrong and we didn’t get the business, but I figured there would be no harm in trying to get the deal this year. The client’s response last week though was thought-provoking.

My conversation with Gareth* (the name has been changed to protect all of us), who is a senior manager at BetterLife* (see bracket above), which is one of South Africa’s larger Life Insurance companies, confirmed what I have believed for several years now. Lots of companies, both large and small, are becoming the victims of uncertainty – uncertainty created by the large number of “professional” service providers in the speaking, training and team building industry.

Gareth* said that BetterLife* had placed a moratorium on “teambuilding” and “conferencing” after they discovered that these terms were loosely used to disguise company-funded holidays to venues such as Mozambique, Okavango, and even some local resorts. They found that staff going on such “teambuilding” breakaways learnt nothing valuable, spent large amounts of the company’s money, and that there were no clear objectives and outcomes. The company now refuses to pay money for staff and conference delegates to go away with the purpose of “teambuilding” and simply having fun.

The company’s executive management has also created a “task team” to investigate guidelines to which company-funded breakaways will be required to conform. This tells me that companies looking to buy “teambuilding” are now looking to buy real skills development and tangible outcomes. These must be transferable to the workplace.

Here are my “10 Criteria For Valuable Breakaways” that might (or should) appear in that document. 1. The breakaway should take place no more than 11/2 hour’s travel (OK, maximum 2 hours if you must) from the group’s home office. Why should 30 people, 20 of whom work in the Sandton office go to the Western Cape for a business meeting?

2. Establish your date, time and budget. And stick to it! I know of a pharmaceutical company that budgeted R 15 000-00 per person and ended with R 25 000-0 per person. But this was the sales team, so who cares?

3. Determine the needs of your audience, as well as critical outcomes for the breakaway. Why are we going away? What skills / knowledge / value to the company will delegates be returning to the office with? These should be in line with the company’s strategic pathway, and contribute to the bottom-line.

4. Consider how much time you have to fill and where that time falls in your overall program. If your time slot is flexible, a professional speaker can often tell you the right amount of time needed for the job. Also, delegates generally appreciate some free time during a conference programme. Professionals will guard against over-filling the programme, and will be able to read the group and be flexible enough to adapt the programme.

5. Check Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA) accreditation, membership to Professional Bodies (PSA), or any industry-relevant accreditation.

6. Find out from any prospective supplier of emotional conference outcomes (teambuilding, training, speaking etc) how long the effects of their programme / event can be expected to last, and what, if any strategies / products / services they offer to enhance / prolong the training effects.

7. The words “to have fun” and “to get to know each other better” should not rank high in the outcomes or reasons for going. If these are your goals, play putt-putt or go tenpin bowling (R30 per person at The Zone in Rosebank).

8. Any venue that offers “free” or any other form of “teambuilding” as part of the package should be avoided. In the same way that professional trainers, speakers and team development consultants don’t run hotels on the side…. you know what I mean.

9. Ask the company / facilitator for some contactable references and phone numbers. Don’t just go on the “reference” delivered by “Julie*” in a magazine advert. Any one who pays the R 12 000-00 can advertise there. Then contact the people in the reference.

10. Be aware of the Jack-of-all-trades. They are seldom masters of one, if any. Planning and delivering a breakaway is a team effort. Get the best individuals together.

These 10 Criteria are by no means the only ones, they may not even be the “Top” 10, but they will certainly go along way to ease your justification of the money spent on a “conference” or “teambuilding” event to the board.

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