Last year was the first time I heard how pharmaceutical giant Novartis used incentives to get employees to use their centralized meeting department. Basically, they came up with a system in which accounting returns some of the savings that departments get from using meeting services to the departments' budgets to use as they choose.

How clever, I thought. But why do they have to go to so much trouble to get people to use their department? Isn't it a service that makes their jobs easier? Why wouldn't managers welcome the chance to give up those duties?

The answer is not so simple. As Dave Kovaleski, our senior writer, delved into this month's cover story, we began to see the scope — and the challenge — of creating compliance across a huge company like Novartis. There's no easy way to get the job done.

Often, the best solution reflects the company's culture. When Alticor established a companywide mandate to use meeting services, for example, it was during a time when the newly created company (parent of Amway and Quixtar) was struggling to stay in business, and everyone in every department was looking for ways to streamline operations and cut costs. Doug DeVos, president of the company, told employees that they had to register their meetings, and everyone pretty much got it.

In other scenarios, people — many of them administrative assistants who have been planning the same meetings for years and don't want to give up the reins — do better with a more consultative approach. In those cases, it makes more sense to go out there, meet with them over brown bag lunches, and assure them that you are there to help and support them.

Whatever the approach, all of the companies we spoke with found that, when it comes to getting employees to use meeting services, it's rarely a case of “Build it, and they will come,” but rather, “Build it — then find innovative ways to make them come.” Don't miss the story starting on page 10.

Barbara Scofidio
Editor

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