Foreign trip or company-paid holiday?
While having lunch with his colleagues, Jamal announced he was going to Singapore to attend a training workshop. Cheers followed, but some were struggling to conceal their resentment with "But you came back from Bangalore last month" and the like.
The corporate world is rife with sour grape symptoms. Every organisation seems to have a handful of people getting opportunities to attend meetings or courses abroad that others hanker for.
The resentment against the so-called company-paid holiday runs deep among colleagues and is often undermined or overlooked by superiors. It is a complex and controversial issue that involves various perspectives and factors.
Research shows that organisations spent $359 billion globally on training in 2016. Was it worth it? Not when you consider the following: 75 percent of 1,500 managers surveyed across 50 organisations were dissatisfied with their company's learning and development (L&D) function. Only 12 percent of employees apply the new skills learned in L&D programmes to their jobs.
According to a recent McKinsey survey, only 25 percent of respondents believe that training measurably improved their performance. Now imagine how much I had to sweat when an ex-boss of mine would always ask me to calculate, as a standard guideline, the ROI (return on investment) for each travel.
I once attended a three-day conference in Mumbai along with 12 others. I was surprised when some of them failed to turn up at the venue for the entire conference duration.
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a programme of the South Asia Federation of Accountants in the Maldives, where I enjoyed being a flag bearer in an international forum.
While in conversation with a senior diplomat, I expressed how we, as a nation, sometimes miss opportunities to bring matters to our favour despite having strong evidence in our support. However, I was immediately reminded that little can be achieved in bilateral negotiations if the officials are more preoccupied with shopping and sightseeing.
I pondered how we could improve when I had the opportunity to spend time with foreign ambassadors and was amazed at their level of clarity on the job at hand and their focus on their countries' interests.
There are immense professional benefits to foreign work trips.
On the one hand, they can offer opportunities for learning, networking, and exposure to different cultures and markets, enhancing employee motivation, satisfaction, and loyalty.
On the other hand, they can also pose a challenge regarding costs, logistics, language barriers, family obligations (particularly for young mothers) and cultural clashes. They can also create resentment among employees who do not get similar opportunities or work extra hours for their absent colleagues.
Companies that provide opportunities for their employees to travel abroad for training or conferences have better global branding and a more glamorous image in the local job market, attracting greater talents and retaining them better than their counterparts.
Foreign trips also demonstrate a company's commitment to innovation and learning. However, they can also raise ethical and social questions about the company's environmental footprint, social responsibility and accountability. They can also be seen as a waste of resources or a sign of privilege or extravagance.
There is no doubt that travel widens the mental horizon, offers professional exposure, and does wonders for self-confidence and motivation. But it is equally important to focus on the takeaways from a professional trip and how to put them to good use in the future.
The author is founder and managing director of BuildCon Consultancies Ltd