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This conference has no takers

This conference has no takers

Before packing off jaded employees to yet another company love fest, it would be a good idea to consider whether anything is being achieved - other than discord.

Each year in January, a national medical equipment company holds a conference for its sales representatives. A lot is packed into the three-day conference: results presentations, new product briefings, professional development workshops, a gala dinner where awards are given out and a rousing keynote address by a motivational speaker. The conference is held at a different venue every year, usually at some swish location such as a golf or beach resort, and spouses are invited to attend. The conference is compulsory and - except for the company diehards - most staff don't want to be there.

This may seem ungrateful, but the sales people, most of them seasoned hands who work hard in what is a tough, competitive industry, resent having to interrupt their holidays for no good reason. They resent being taught "skills" they don't need by windbag facilitators and trainers whose experience in the art of selling is confined to flogging their own dubious services to gullible clients. And the new product briefings are irrelevant because they usually relate to overseas products not yet available in Australia.

An aggrieved employee of the company reflects: "I know they mean well but I don't need a sales conference in January to tell me I've had a good year, I don't need some guru to tell me how to sell complex surgical devices to hospitals and I certainly don't need to be motivated by an overpaid, over-the-top motivational speaker."

Here is an example of how even a well-intentioned employer can alienate staff when it loses touch with them. As with many organisations that host workshops, love-ins and conferences for their employees, this company's annual sales meeting has become a pro-forma event lacking both a firm objective or any attempt to measure the event's effectiveness.

Even an apparent act of corporate generosity - such as this company's annual no-expenses-spared sales conference - can be counterproductive if the participants feel the exercise is an imposition and an unnecessary distraction.

Some companies are simply misguided in their zeal to reward or acknowledge employees by sending them on a retreat; others are just mindlessly ticking boxes. Whatever the motivation, before packing off jaded employees to yet another love fest, it would be a good idea to consider whether anything is being achieved - other than discord.

Contact Leo D'Angelo Fisher: ldangelofisher@brw.fairfax.com.au

Fairfax Business Media

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