The General Services Administration came under fire last week for sponsoring a conference that included a mind reader and a comedian. The cost of the event was $823,000 and was described as “excessive and wasteful” by officials, including President Obama.
I don’t know all the details about this particular event but as someone who is part of the meetings industry, let me tell you that it is shortsighted to view all events like this as evil, excessive, or wasteful.
Training and development is a much needed benefit for all organizations. How else are employees going to improve or become more productive if their employers don’t invest in their skills? Unfortunately, in the non-profit industries that I serve (healthcare, government, and education), professional development is seen as an extra rather than a necessity.
I teach people how to become more successful by combining excellence with fun and humor. My programs are very entertaining but give people the tools to improve their skills. But if I was on the program at the GSA event in Las Vegas, they could be criticized for wasting tax payers money. But is it really a waste if those employees come back refreshed and armed with the skills they need to do a better job? Of course not.
But the general public is so quick to criticize without understanding the long-term benefit of personal and professional development.
Once, I spoke at a conference for the US District Court system. The conference planning committee wanted to hold the conference in an ocean resort location because the price for lodging and food was much cheaper. But, they chose to hold it in another city for fear that the taxpayers would criticize them for spending money in the resort location.
Now, that’s just crazy. They ultimately spent more money to avoid the public scrutiny.
So, let’s get this straight. I don’t want the government spending my money unnecessarily nor do I want them to waste money. But improving the skills of their employees is not wasting money. Giving employees, who by the way don’t get the big bucks or the benefits in the first place, a nice break from the work so that they can perform better is not a waste of money. And supporting the meetings industry and all the jobs that support hotels, airlines, and food vendors is not a waste of money.
Let’s not be so quick to criticize how organizations spend money on employees. Let’s instead be critical of those organizations who do nothing for their people.