All organizations compete for good people. If our government’s organizations can’t offer their employees a few live meetings with a little fun, how can they win the war for the trustworthy and talented?
I don’t want to look like a total joiner by encouraging the government to spend money on parties. But the government does need a reasonable budget to conduct educational and fun gatherings for their employees. For any organization, hosting live meetings–that enable employees to build relationships with peers and that ensure employees feel respected–is part of the big picture in terms of establishing a reputation that attracts and retains good employees.
No rational human wants to encourage the government to burn taxpayer dollars, but every time an article is published about government departmental boondoggle-spend, righteously exposing the waste of taxpayer dollars, with the assumption that readers will respond in an equally-righteous uproar, I think “pull your heads out of your popos, people.”
Recruiting and replacing employees is expensive
In the micro view, yes, spending is bad. But if you look at the bigger picture, at the costs of recruitment, the higher costs of paying “higher-than-market” salaries when in-demand skills can’t be found, forcing employers to up-bid to pull candidates away from higher-paying employers, or the alternate costs of recovering from emergencies and problems caused by poor work performed by unqualified employees that the government would be forced to hire if they can’t afford any better.
Yet the comparatively low per-head cost of throwing a three-day cross-department meeting in Vegas gets fried by sensational headlines like “Government wastes $5 Million on Party in Vegas.” The war for talent is real, and finding trustworthy American talent even real-er. Give our government a fighting chance to win some.
Good people are going to expect to be treated like you and me; like humans
Give the government a fighting chance to recruit good people, to attract candidates to choose a government job over the millions of more exciting, interesting, dynamic and perquisite-laden jobs available. If all the smart, collaborative people choose other employers instead of our government, our government will end up scraping the bottom of the barrel when seeking out candidates, and will end up hiring low-quality people, who either can’t be trusted to handle, or can’t accurately handle, your personal data, and all the other important data the government manages.
The government seeks smart, loyal individuals who will show up on-time day after day for forty or so years to ensure your tax dollars are spent on productivity, and not on absenteeism, turn-over or re-training of new employees every six months. Desirable candidates are going to crave the opportunity to meet peers from other locations from time to time.
Beyond avoidance of the costs of turn-over, live interaction drive productivity and engagement
Employees benefit from meeting the people they rely-upon to meet deadlines, the people they e-mail daily and with whom they hold regular conference calls. One live interaction can improve future productivity. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had challenges with someone when working virtually, but after having met them live, was much better able to ‘get’ them and their quirks. When you’ve met someone live, you naturally start making more productive problem-solving assumptions vs. accusatory (non-productive and inflammatory) assumptions. You think “I know Jim wouldn’t intentionally miss a deadline, so I’ll just call him to see what his understanding is and work with him toward a solution, vs. sending a spam e-mail to the Project Management Organization accusing him of sabotaging the project.”
In addition to productivity that benefits the organization, individual engagement–the commitment to stay and strive to exceed expectations–may increase. Imagine if you worked alone in a box and just put your work into a hole in the wall. You receive a paycheck that pays your bills, but that paycheck could easily be replaced by another employer. But if you do work by collaborating with people you enjoy, that you find interesting, and that you feel value you and your work, you have a much greater commitment to stay. The paycheck comes once every two weeks, but an e-motional payload arrives every day if you value the people you work with.
Every organization needs a few live interactions to succeed. We can certainly call on government entities to maintain transparency by reporting these expenses, but let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater by expecting them not to party, not to feel or not to eat. Our government is made of humans like you and me. Wouldn’t you expect your employer to thank you once a year?