Look me in the eye and say that
In recent news certain organisations within the public sector have been highlighted as financially irresponsible, by spending money on train tickets to other locations (as much as £10,000 a week on senior level staff members) for meetings that have been as short as a couple of hours. Now don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of public transport and saving the environment, and will use it whenever possible but in a modern era where technology is so advanced; are face to face meetings essential?
As with all debates, the answer to this question really depends on perspective. As a supplier to the CCS-NMNC Framework, we meet our candidates face to face to conduct a registration and interview but we don’t just do this because it is suggested by the framework we work to, we do it because each candidate we put forward for a role is a direct representation of us as an agency and the quality of candidates we provide. If we were a different kind of organisation, would we spend as much man time and cost on face to face meetings as we do? In a world where Skype, WebEx and Facetime are in everyday use, do we really need to sit around a table in the same room together to get the results we need?
In a previous career I worked at a company that held regular meetings with stakeholders across the country and internationally. There was no way we could expect our colleagues abroad to jump on a plane for an hour meeting so we would use Webex for training consultations and facetime for meetings that required quick results. Only twice was I expected to travel to London and on both occasions the meetings were full day exercises from early in the morning to late in the evening.
On the other hand, I can completely understand why managers would want face to face meetings within teams. A strong and efficient team doesn’t have to sit next to each other but they do need to trust each other. I know, having met my colleagues from the London, Birmingham, Milton Keynes, Reading, Bristol and Manchester offices, that if I needed advice or recommendations, I can pick up the phone to any of them and get a truthful and helpful response. That has come from multiple training sessions with other teams, collaborative working with national clients and social events where I have had the opportunity to get to know my colleagues.
A candidate recently told me she had applied for a temporary position based in York, she was really excited about the position and had been invited to interview with their Head of Service in London. Now a train from York to London, depending when you book it can cost up to £200. Bear in mind that this was a first interview and she had been made aware that there were seven other candidates interviewing for the role. Realistically she was looking at a huge financial loss with no guarantee of a second interview or a job at the end of the process. So, she didn’t go for the interview and the client missed the opportunity to see potentially the best candidate in the market. Whereas an interview could easily have been done for free via Skype or video call and cost both parties nothing for the same result.
I believe meeting face to face can be invaluable, but in the right context. What do you think?