BULA! Fiji!

Bula! Can you imagine, less than an hour into a five night Fiji trip as the +1 to my partner (work trip) and I encounter an HR conference! “Make a Difference” was the theme of the FHRI 2015 Convention, now I confess I didn’t receive anything new from what I did glean from the snippets of conference I saw, but what I learnt helping to host 70 clients and watching the staff interact with them one on one was invaluable.

I’m in a role where I believe I really partner with the business. I work within the Commercial team in a major media company in NZ. I have a background in sales, marketing and advertising allowing me to get involved and really understand the nature of the business and the people I work with/for. But here’s my questions – how often does HR:

  • Actually get to see staff in action in front of the client?
  • Have one on ones with staff away from the office environment whereby they’re relaxed and brutally honest with you?
  • Get direct access to clients who are more than willing to discuss the finer details of staff performance with you?

My answer?  Never – but all this information is gold from an HR perspective. What I learnt about the staff and the business in five nights in Fiji far outweighs any performance and development review or employee engagement survey information I could gather. And the best part is it’s useful and could directly affect positive change as a result. And I can’t help but thinking I got a much better lesson in L&D and more personal development from my time than those sitting in the conference I stumbled across.

Seven staff and seventy clients. It was a busy trip. Staff were able to bring their partners, but were expected to work, and partners were expected to help in the hosting of the clients. Activities planned for each day were optional for clients, and every evening the group came together for dinner and socialising in a range of venues, scenes and scenarios. The organisation was exceptional and detailed, and thankfully two travel agents were on board to manage the finer details leaving the staff to really focus on their clients – a fantastic lesson in customer service in itself.

But watching the staff in action with their different styles, personalities and ways of going about their job of hosting was such an eye opener. In some cases clients were better aligned to work with staff other than their account manager, in others there was a clear disconnect in the relationship, and thankfully the vast majority handled the situation and clients with aplomb. Any creases will be ironed out and managed appropriately going forward. The client feedback I received was exceptionally detailed – it’s amazing how people will open up on a small pacific island post a couple of cocktails! And invaluable to the managers and staff alike in terms of feedback. The staff too were equally open and candid about their current roles, managers, fellow employees and aspirations for the future – again, all valuable information.

I’m not suggesting you all send your staff and clients on an island getaway (though I’m sure they’d both appreciate it!), but do think about creating the sorts of circumstances and environments on a regular basis whereby you are able to achieve the same level of open communication and feedback, you’ll find it goes a long way.

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