Four Benefits of Companies Sending Employees to Conferences

The way most companies budget money, is through a bucketing system, which makes sense from an accounting perspective. However, most companies put conferences in a training or learning bucket from a budgeting stand point, which I believe is the wrong way to think of conferences.

Attending a conference shouldn’t be looked at as a way to receive training or as a tool for career development. This is very short sited and it greatly skews how we, as employees, should approach a conference in general. If we attend a conference that ends up not actually “training” us, we believe that conference to be a failure and a waste of time and money.

The problem is that we aren’t actually looking at the actual benefits of attending a conference. If we base the argument of attending a conference on things like career development, skill development, training or learning, then we will always struggle to justify the cost, because we can find ways to learn and develop skills without having to travel and often times, at a very low cost. Heck, we can learn a great deal of things for free on the infinite abyss of the interwebs these days.

Learning or training is one of the last things on my list of benefits to allowing employees to attend a conference outside of the area they live and work.

  1. TEAM/FAMILY/BROTHERHOOD: If multiple people on a team attend a conference out of state together, it provides an atmosphere to strengthen relationships and build bonds amongst those people. The shared experience brings people together. We see this happen in the military with a squad or a unit. We see this happening during a high adventure scout camp. The employees traveling together, are away from their families and they are often times, in a new environment, which has some level of vulnerability, which allows us to lean and depend on one another to a certain degree. We are also spending more time together outside of “work” type encounters. This more casual setting allows the people to get to know each other on a much more intimate level. The more this happens, the better of a relationship is created, which greatly improves how well they work together and the enjoyment of working together. We become more of a team/family at this point. These types of experiences produce a more trusting environment where people can share ideas in a very candid way.
  2. APPRECIATION: Allowing employees to travel outside of their state, where they live, to attend a conference is a way to show the employee that the company is grateful for them and that the company appreciates them. It is more of a reward system. It allows the employee to be able to see and experience new cultures and cities. Eat food that they don’t normally get to eat. The psychology behind eating together in communities and families is also a very rich and rewarding experience, but I’m not really going to go in depth on that subject right now, but it’s definitely worth noting. Traveling can be a very fun & enjoyable experience.
  3. ENERGIZING: Attending a conference allows a break from the day to day grind that we find ourselves in our work/family lives. This break from that routine allows the employee’s mind to be rejuvenated and energized. This helps alleviate and lesson the likelihood of employee burnout. Employee burnout is a pretty big problem. In an article from April 6, 2017 by the Harvard Business Review titled, Employee Burnout Is a Problem with the Company, Not the Person, they said that, “The psychological and physical problems of burned-out employees, which cost an estimated $125 billion to $190 billion a year in healthcare spending in the U.S., are just the most obvious impacts. The true cost to business can be far greater, thanks to low productivity across organizations, high turnover, and the loss of the most capable talent.” Sending employees to conferences, where the expectation to “learn” is removed, can be a big component in minimizing the impact of employee burnout.
  4. INSPIRATIONAL: Depending on the conference it opens the employee up to being inspired. Attending a conference where we live doesn’t always necessarily provide the same environment to maximize on this, because we are still mostly in our normal grind of daily life. Often times there are many inspirational aspects just in the environment alone. The conference itself creates this microcosm itself, that can be inspiring just by being apart of it. Speakers can be inspiring. There can be other attendees that we meet that can be inspiring. The great thing about inspiration, is that we can be inspired without actually learning something new.

When we attend a conference locally, we can get a lot of these same benefits but not to the same degree and not at the same level of quality. There is something about being removed from our normal living environment that allows this environment for magical things to happen. As humans we are very vulnerable creatures. In fact, if we leave a human stripped of resources almost anywhere on this amazing planet, we would die just through the natural elements of this planet. That vulnerability opens us up as humans to a great deal of personal benefits to learn and grow and develop as people.

Traveling to a conference also allows a great opportunity to experience different cultures, communities, and societies, which opens up the opportunity to build up a more deeper degree of empathy for humans in general. When we are building a product used by a global population, this allows us to learn about the people using our product in an adjacent sense, which is still very useful and beneficial in the long term.