How do we attract and retain event staff? What can we do to improve the service delivery, job prospects, retention, quality and respect of event staff; both new to the industry and those established within it?
Fuller and Ramen in their Harvard Business Review article “The High Cost of Neglecting Low Paid Workers.” state…
“In 2021 companies convinced themselves that the labour shortages that they were experiencing were a passing phenomenon, and in response they trotted out the standard short-term fixes: raising wages by a few dollars an hour, awarding signing and referral bonuses, and even offering more flexibility in working shifts. But none of those measures were particularly effective.”Fuller, J and Ramen, M. (2023). Harvard Business Review. May- June. Hbr.org. p40-49
Venues, theatres, festivals and events across the UK are experiencing the same challenges…
- Hiring quality staff for poorly paid positions and affording to train them. One concern is that they will just take their training and move on immediately.
- Maintenance of a service culture in all areas and especially in front line services; the first point of guest contact.
At a recent event, we asked a team what they did in their positions and over half of them had forgotten what they had been told to do minutes before. This lack of experience points to the failings of short term, low paid contracts and suggests the need for a more sustainable workforce.
In order to achieve sustainability, we believe that the industry needs:
- immediate, quality training
- the creation of pay scales above the living wage
- a clear career progression structure
Unfortunately, until some form of agreement is reached – one that provides a fair wage (at each level and in each area of the industry) and one that stops the practice of undercutting – we won’t eradicate the problem. But who is brave enough to take a stand?
Pragmatically, if the current practice wasn’t taking place now, the industries involved with mass participation (music, theatre, sporting and public events) would not be able to sustain the growing numbers that are emerging, and the systems would come to a standstill. The arm’s length principle has to be applied to stop micromanagement and this means maintaining trust, for without this, these essential industries will fail.
So what is the answer? The article in the Harvard Business Review is compelling as it provides a brief, pushing ‘The Myth, The Reality and the Way Forward‘. OK, it is not a panacea for all ills, but it gives some sharp pointers well worth taking notice of.
The Myth states,
“Companies have long treated frontline workers as commodities that can easily be replaced and assumed that high turnover and low morale are inevitable in the low-wage workforce.”
The Reality states
“Most low-wage workers want to stay and grow with the organisations that employ them. By underinvesting in them, companies harm not only the workers but their own strategic interests.”
The Way Forward states,
“Many companies already have a well-developed playbook for attracting and retaining high-level talent. It is time that they used the same playbook to boost the prospects of those at the bottom of the organisational pyramid.”Fuller, J and Ramen, M. (2023). Harvard Business Review. May- June. Hbr.org. p42.
We would urge everyone eager to look with fresh eyes at the challenges of this area to read this, and other articles in the May-June 2023 Harvard Business Review, in its focus on “How to Hang onto Your Frontline Workers”…https://hbr.org/2023/05/the-high-cost-of-neglecting-low-wage-workers
Subscription to the magazine is only a few pounds. A small price to pay for insight that could help halt a problem that has been growing across the industry.
With so many back-to-back shows, and without the time to stop and take stock after the ravages of Covid, it could be a long time until a full renaissance is realised. We need time to identify the risks and to mitigate them.
Mind Over Matter Consultancy
Mind Over Matter Consultancy Ltd (MOM) is a company that delivers cutting edge crowd consultancy and quality training provision.