I heard on Thursday a couple weeks ago that someone who had received a free admission to the PASS conference had cancelled and wasn't able to attend. It was last minute and that pretty much ruled out any chance to have a contest, so I called a friend in Denver who's a DBA and doesn't get much of a budget for training. I offered him the admission and he said he'd let me know Friday.
So Friday he told me his boss wouldn't give him the time off.
A short pause here as I'm still as stunned today as I was last week.
He has not big projects, he's not the only IT guy, he's a talented BI/Proclarity DBA and would probably add to the conference in addition to taking something back to work. He was the most surprising, but I pinged 4 or 5 other DBA friends that couldn't go either. A few of them had projects they needed to work on, but a few others still couldn't go because their boss didn't want to give them training time.
Now I know that some managers are skeptical about the time spent at a conference. They think the employee is just getting some vacation and blowing things off, and I'm sure that happens. But that's an employee thing, not a conference thing. If someone blows off a conference, chances are they blow off work as well.
Most of the people I know race from session to session, trying to absorb as much as possible. Even the people I've taken on free passes get their money's worth in various seminars and talks. And of those that don't, they make contacts, talk to people about their problems and projects, and get ideas for things to try.
It's rare that I use a conference as a vacation. Even though I don't attend a lot of sessions, I talk to a lot of people, get ideas, hear what they're up to, and it helps keep my perspective on the DBA world. That's invaluable and I would think that any employee should see that as beneficial.
Heck, even if your employee did blow it off and take a vacation, isn't that a good thing? Having them recharge away from the office is valuable.
Giving an employee some perks, like attending a conference, builds a lot of goodwill and helps retain those valuable employees. And if you don't think those highly paid DBAs and developers are valuable, then you deserve that you get.