Want better training results? Get everyone together.

Corporate housing in Toronto

Recently we were speaking with one of our clients, a senior Director of HR who regularly organizes training events for her Fortune 500 company, with offices across North America. She was talking about how training sessions are so often conducted remotely these days, and that it’s a false economy.

“Sure, Facetime is great if I need to talk to my mother,” she said. “But video conferencing just isn’t effective when I need to train a group of specialized senior managers from offices across the country and in different time zones. There are always technical difficulties, people don’t get an opportunity to ask detailed questions, and the ones that do get asked often aren’t answered as well as they could be. What’s more, I know that most of the participants are doing it from their desks, which means they get interrupted by co-workers every five minutes. We end up doing follow-up training, or extra sessions – ultimately I think we spend twice as much time on training senior people as we need to, with only mediocre results.”

Remote training: A false economy

Our client’s company – and many of the other ones we know – think that remote training is a good way to save money: It seems cheaper to get everyone in on a video conference than to bring them together at headquarters or in another city. And for some kinds of basic training or routine updates, it makes sense.

But for senior managers, or really in-depth specialized education, virtual training often ends up costing more than organizations realize. They end up paying training personnel for additional sessions; they pay for lost productivity when participants have to do additional or make-up sessions; and ultimately whatever change they were trying to implement as a result of the training doesn’t make it to the bottom line in the way it was intended.

Our client’s recommendation: “Getting all the senior execs in a room together, even for a single day, would improve results dramatically. Everyone would stay focused, there’d be no ‘technical difficulties’, and there would be more opportunity for questions and feedback,” she says. “And bringing senior leaders from different parts of the organization together is a great team-building and networking opportunity. So it can be valuable for the company in a whole lot of ways.”

These days, many companies avoid getting everyone together: Sure, Skype or GoToMeeting seems  more economical, and so much more cutting-edge and innovative. But when you need to train senior leaders, whose time is valuable and who need to understand the material well enough to take it back to their own employees, putting everyone in the same room at the same time may in fact be the most economical option. Especially when you consider the long-term productivity benefits of better relationships among your senior team.

This is where corporate housing can help: Bringing teams together, in person, for an extended period. Not only does it foster team-building and communication, especially across offices that may not know each other very well, but it can deliver a longer-term ROI that virtual meetings just can’t provide.