CEOS HAVE TROUBLE COMMUNICATING THEIR VISION: MEETINGS CAN HELP While company presidents always have a vision for their companies, they don't always effectively communicate it to employees, according to the Hagburg Consulting Group of Foster City, Calif. "Often they've lived with these ideas for so long that they simply assume they've communicated their ideas to others," says Arthur Resnikoff, consulting psychologist for Hagburg. The company has spent the past 14 years studying more than 550 CEOs and presidents.
"Meetings are certainly a place where leaders have the chance to express their point of view," says Resnikoff, "but what often happens is that meetings are simply used to update and are viewed as a waste of time." Rather than just using meetings as a place to give status reports, Resnikoff recommends using meetings as a forum "for a discussion of where we're going, how will we get there, whose responsibility is it to take us there, and what kind of help will we need to get there."
"Meetings can be used for leaders to express their ideas and then to get a response to those ideas," he adds. "They should give people a chance to buy in to the concepts, but also to talk about their objections and questions."
Resnikoff recommends that company presidents not limit attendees to only the people who directly report to or work with them. "There are probably a number of times a year when it makes sense to have an 'all-hands' meeting--a place where they can really get the message out and their people behind them," he says.
He also cautions that the message in such cases needs to be crafted carefully. He encourages corporate leaders to tap into their own enthusiasm and excitement, so employees not only hear the content, but get excited about it. "It gives employees the chance to feel that they're more of the process," says Resnikoff, "rather than having information filtered down through several levels and losing its impact."
LESS THAN HALF OF COMPANIES MEASURE TRAINING RESULTS, SAYS STUDY Only 44 percent of companies attempt to measure the results of training--and even fewer measure their return on investment in financial terms, says a report by the New York City-based Conference Board. Despite the lack of hard numbers, 97 percent of the 315 executives surveyed "agree" or "strongly agree" that training at their companies will increase in the future.
Of those who do measure training, the primary reason given for doing so is "to be a strategic partner;" in other words, to prove the value of training by linking it to the bottom line. Other reasons given include: "to measure the result of rapid change," "cost control," and to "to build the image of the T&D [training and development] function."
"We're finding that every staff function today is being asked to measure its value to a company," says Brian Hackett, senior research assistant in the human resources/organizational effectiveness department of the Conference Board and author of the study "The question is: Are the measures valuable?"
A number of those surveyed believe they're not: Of those who do not measure the value of training, 23 percent said the problem was "too many variables," while another 20 percent said the value of training has different meanings to different parts of the company.
Said Richard Lidstad, vice president of human resources at 3M, "I'm not convinced the result is worth the effort. We know intuitively that development must be continuous: Employees recognize when learning is occurring. I think you can count the 'ahas' and get enough measurement of success."
The study also found that companies are not necessarily measuring what they believe is the most important, but simply what is easiest to measure. For example, 92 percent of those surveyed believe leadership development is most important, but only 18 attempt to measure the value of such training, while 27 percent of technical skills are measured even though only 80 percent believe that's the most important area of training. The reason is simple: Technical skills can be measured more easily than leadership skills.
"There are experiments with more holistic measures of all kinds of learning," says Hackett, "but most often they're linked back to customer satisfaction and sales from new products. Change is happening, but it has to be integrated with variables other than return on investment to make sense."
ELECTRONIC MEETINGS CAN AUGMENT BUT NOT REPLACE FACE-TO-FACE, SAYS STUDY Technology is changing the nature of meetings, but will the videoconference or Internet conference replace the face-to-face meeting?
Hardly. However, a new study commissioned by NetworkMCI Conferencing suggests that the use of technology to augment traditional meetings can result in substantial cost savings as well as happier employees.
Based on interviews with 1,336 business professionals who participate in at least six meetings per month--86 percent of whom said they are under pressure to reduce travel expenses--the "Meetings in America" study looked at the hard and soft costs for various types of meetings. The findings indicate that video conferencing is three times less expensive than a traditional meeting and audio conferencing is seven times less expensive. When asked about the stresses of traveling to meetings, respondents said they were most concerned about time away from home and work piling up at the office.
The high-tech meeting industry is on a roll. NetworkMCI Conferencing hosts more than 1,000 electronic meetings every hour of every business day, notes Jay Crookston, VP US Sales, and boasts a 50 percent annual growth-rate.
But Crookston also stresses that electronic meetings aren't always appropriate. He advises that they work best for presentations or other situations where information is exchanged primarily in a one-way fashion. Meetings that rely on lots of interaction among a group of participants work best face-to-face.
TOMORROW'S TRAVELER: WIRED FOR SPEED There will come a day when we all will fly supersonically, pay for our trips electronically, and use the Internet on the road like we do the phone. So says a forecast published recently in Runzheimer Reports on Travel Management. Here's their vision of the future of travel:
* People will be wired to the Internet wherever they travel, even in Antarctica, by a device that will be a combination of a personal digital assistant and a cellular telephone.
* All payments will be electronic, and people will be able to establish credit accounts for lodging, car rental, air, etc.
* All overseas travel will be supersonic. New gateways will be established at oceanfront airports near the end of capes, such as Cape Cod, Cape May, Cape Hatteras, and Key Largo.
* People will sleep while they drive as automated highways are introduced. Trains and buses will also feature sleeping accommodations.