This post was inspired by comments made by Marie Hunter on Tuesday, March 10, 2009, in her blog. It is a response to her questions:
Meetings, Events, Travel and Hospitality Industry: Leaders Needed, Marie Hunter wrote:
What questions should we be asking?
Marie, I decided to take a stab at answering your questions and accept your challenge but my response became too long for the comments section.
Before we begin, here is the White House’s position on business travel and meetings:
Gibbs said Thursday that the president was referring specifically to companies “that are getting large amounts of public funding.”
“The President does have great concern with public money being used for that,” he said. Gibbs added that the president’s comment was “very clear,” and passed on a chance to express regret.
So, here is my take on your questions. I encourage other management consultants, meeting and business travel professionals to respond to your challenge and answer your questions in their blogs. Since I am based in Toronto, I’ll be giving some Toronto examples but they can be applied at other locations.
How to Reward Your Team Even During Turbulent Times
What meetings and events do you feel should be green-lighted immediately and why?
When companies are in trouble, they should be spending THOUSANDS of dollars to bring in management and business team building consultants to help them resolve their problems instead of HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of dollars on junkets and luxury events. Either through on-site meetings or off-site retreats at AFFORDABLE local venues such as community centres and conservation areas, consultants can steer organizations through a structured brainstorming process to identify:
- cost saving measures and strategies
- new target markets
- new sources of revenue
- strategies for improving efficiency
Depending on your location, here are a couple of ideas. These sessions can be offered at luxury resorts when the good times roll and conservation areas when times are tough. The content remains the same, the recreational components are the only things that change:
- Wilderness Survival
- Desert Survival
- Arctic Survival
- Visexecutaries - loosely based on the Apprentice, this session can be delivered at a luxury resort or a local community centre. When times are tough, the “task” can consist of developing a strategy to address some specific business challenge your organization is facing
Save the lavish celebrations for when your company is back on track. In North America, we seem to want to party all the time. Unfortunately, all too, often the emphasis seems to be on strictly recreational events that organizations try to pass off as team building. Definitely we get far more calls for recreation and entertainment than consulting. This is quite surprising during a recession. People seem to forget that they are running businesses not social or country clubs. This band-aid approach is merely offering placebos instead of getting to the root of organizational problems and generating solutions.
What gender-related entertainment practices should be discontinued?
Strip clubs, male only golf clubs, etc. are highly inappropriate and they have NEVER had a place in a corporate setting PERIOD!! Ditto for bringing porno movies to corporate retreats and skinny dipping on the corporate dime. Grow up. You’re running a business not a fraternity house.
While we’re at it, it’s time to cut back on alcohol consumption and the open bars at corporate events for a while. This will save a bundle.
What constitutes lavish entertaining?
When companies are in trouble, they should postpone expensive events and partying until performance has improved. Focus instead on resolving business problems.
If everyone has worked hard and you’ve had a successful year, pull out all the stops. Lavish entertainment to reward employees and express appreciation to clients is perfectly in order when you’ve earned it. Depending on your location, some ideas might include:
- luxury desert safari in Dubai
- drilling for oil simulation in Abu Dhabi, Germany or Spain
- mountain adventure in Oman
- dog sledding getaway by helicopter in Ontario or Quebec
- equestrian getaway by helicopter or private plane
- whisking your team to a secret location by limousine or private plane for a gourmet cooking event
- hot air ballooning
- corporate retreat at a luxury resort
- Ferrari World Packages (Abu Dhabi)
- BMW Advanced Driver Training (Toronto, Montreal, Germany)
When is it okay to spend money on Employees?
Even when a company is facing a challenging year, it’s important to reward top performers, build skills and boost morale. The key is to gear the spending to organizational performance.
Hint: When a company is in trouble, more money should be spent on resolving business issues than on entertainment and recreation. Far too often, it’s the reverse.
How should recruits be entertained?
Again it depend on whether or not the company is performing well. If the company is facing challenges, you can still entertain recruits but choose a cost effective strategy such as:
- an on-site barbeque and get executives to flip the burgers
- a reasonably priced catered lunch as part of your orientation
- use board games to teach career, financial and business success principles in a fun and upbeat way
- a picnic at a local park or conservation area
- a treasure hunt
- a scavenger hunt
- an urban safari
- take them bowling
- take the recruits for a couple of hours of laser golf, or laser tag and then serve pizza
If a company is doing, well consider some of the options I’ve already listed and other luxury options like:
- boat cruises,
- amazing race events
- cooking team building
- welcome banquets at a nice banquet hall
- a corporate tent or paddock at Polo for Heart or a local charity polo tournament
These are perfectly in order when a company is doing well.
If you’re located in the Middle East, a desert safari would be perfect. If you’re in the Caribbean perhaps a beach barbeque would work.
What other questions should we be asking?
I posted these suggestions on Marie Hunter’s blog. I’ll take a stab at anwering them now.
What can companies that are having financial difficulties difficulty do to reward their people?
Companies can reward top performers and top performing teams and still provide a meaningful experience for hundreds of dollars instead of thousands of dollars. There is no need for gift cerfiticates starting at $1,000 per employee. People seem to be lacking imagination.
Under $250 per person
- Give top performers gift certificates for spa TREATMENTS or a local Day at the Spa rather than spending a weekend away for a spa retreat.
- An overnight stay at a nice local inn with dinner and breakfast for top performers and their spouses.
- Get a corporate table at Polo for Heart or a similar event and invite top performers and their spouses.
- Dog sledding afternoon and lunch at a local inn or resort.
- Morning of horse riding and lunch at a local inn or resort.
- A day at Canada’s Wonderland for top performers and their families.
- Seasons passes to Canada’s Wonderland for a family of 4.
- A day at the zoo for the top performers and their families.
Under $100 Per Person
- Dinner at a nice restaurant
- Afternoon Tea
- Movie passes for teams that have gone above and beyond the call.
- Theatre tickets.
- Concert tickets.
- Take a group of top performers and their spouses to the Royal Winter Fair including the horse show and dinner at the upscale restaurant that is on site every year.
- Get a table at the gala for tournament of champions.
- Tickets to local hockey, baseball or basketball games.
How should companies that are experiencing financial difficulty entertain their staff?
- Picnics at a local conservation area
- Christmas party – for heaven’s sake, don’t cancel the Christmas party. Insted, do it at a venue in the suburbs instead of a costly downtown venue. Consider using a community centre with an ice rink to save money and keep everyone entertained.
- An evening at a comedy or improv club.
Anne Thornley-Brown is the President of Executive Oasis International, a Toronto based firm that regularly organizes incentive travel and executive retreats in Dubai, Oman, Jamaica, Malaysia, Singapore, and Canada. They provide one stop shopping service with a personalized approach to incentive travel for corporate groups of up to 40. Customized itineraries include travel, transfers, hotel, tours, team activities, and special events.