How I met your mother (and other great reasons for an internal conference)

In these challenging times for recruitment agency
owners and managers, the issue of costs is one that tends to consume a
lot of attention. Nigel Harse’s Facts, Not Fiction   presentation
to RCSA audiences around Australia this past month has highlighted the
importance of managing costs effectively.

 

One of the most significant lump sums you may have
incurred (or are considering incurring) is for an internal conference.
The direct costs of flights, accommodation, food & beverages and (if
relevant) conference presenters together with the indirect costs of
employees being out of the operational business for a day or two, are
significant. Often just as significant is the internal time invested to
arrange, and prepare content for, the conference. Both of these types of
costs combine to make an internal conference a very significant
investment. And, as such, an investment that is easy not to make.

 

My experience, from all sides (ie organiser,
participant and presenter) of this investment, if done well, is that the
potential returns far outweigh the costs.

 

Here’s what Australia’s wealthiest recruitment
entrepreneurs, Andrew Banks and Geoff Morgan, have to say about this
topic:

 

One of the most important annual events was the
Morgan & Banks conference
 , (my
bold) where ‘Morgies’ were awarded for various achievements – it became
a tradition and our people loved them.

 

The Morgies were awarded at a black-tie dinner at
these annual conferences and it was fantastic to see the effect – some
people were in tears thanking their parents, their families, their
partners. It was wonderful to see the power and emotion that the
recognition of effort unleashed.

 

Source:
Flourish & Prosper  
by Geoff Morgan & Andrew Banks (Penguin, 2005), pages 57 & 58

 

Here’s why I believe an internal conference is an
invaluable component of your company’s learning & development program as
well as a critical plank in your employee recognition and retention
strategy:

 

  1. Initiates and powers internal networks  :
    My observation was that internal cooperation and inter-office lead
    generation accelerated significantly after every conference. No
    matter what you might do with your intranet, conference calls, Skype
    and webinars there’s nothing like working intensively beside a
    colleague from another team during a workshop or sharing a drink at
    the bar to build genuine cooperation. You have to know and like, or
    at least respect, a colleague before you actively seek opportunities
    to help them or collaborate with them.  
     
  2. Best practice sharing  :
    Rarely are all offices or business units across a company equally
    successful. Inevitably there will be a standout office or team.
    These teams and offices have an opportunity to share with the rest
    of the company the things that they are doing to make their team
    more successful. It’s highly likely that this success formula can be
    replicated by other offices or teams.  
     
  3. Review the scorecard, consider the future and
    re-set goals  : One of the things I
    always found very motivational was hearing how the company was going
    against the targets, both financial and non-financial, that had been
    set. When everybody hears the same message and understand the role
    that they play in the accomplishment of goals it creates a
    stimulating atmosphere within which to consider the future of the
    company, and its respective business units, and to set stretch
    goals.  
     
  4. Bring in, or clarify, company-wide processes
    or values/behaviours:  Company-wide
    consistency constantly eludes many recruitment agencies for the
    simple reason that many people hear the message differently, or
    maybe not at all, from different people at different times. When
    everybody is together the platform for the communication of an
    unambiguous standard or message is maximised.  
     
  5. Build skills:  
    The critical skill for the new economy is the capability of
    employees to learn faster and more effectively than your
    competition. This is your only genuine competitive advantage. An
    internal conference is a perfect opportunity to build these skills
    and accelerate that competitive advantage, whether through internal
    or external presenters.  
     
  6. Acknowledge and celebrate achievement  :
    Peer recognition (as highlighted in the above Morgan & Banks quote)
    is an incredibly powerful motivator for most people. In the very
    competitive world of recruitment, annual awards (whether they’re
    monetary or otherwise) are a sure-fire way to motivate the right
    people to become (or stay) high achievers. Stopping once a year to
    reflect on how far individuals, teams and/or the whole company has
    come, and/or how much further there is to go, creates a much-needed
    context for what every member of staff does each day.  
     
  7. The unexpected  :
    Who knows what might happen when you get a group of focused and
    motivated employees together for 24 to 48 hours?. One recruitment
    agency conference was in the same hotel as another company’s
    conference. That company was about to embark on a rapid expansion.
    An unplanned interaction between the two different companies’
    employees at the hotel bar lead to business discussions and,
    subsequently the recruitment agency billed $250k with that new
    client in the following twelve months. I met my (now) wife at an
    internal company conference! I am forever grateful that Aquent
    invited me to speak at their 2005 conference on the Gold Coast. Who
    knows what else great, may come from an internal company conference? 
As the new financial year looms barely seven weeks
away, now is a great time to carefully consider investing in an internal
conference.

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