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How-To: Retain Event Staff

When a salaried employee leaves, it tends to cost about 6-9 months of their salary to identify and onboard their replacement.


An event staff member writes a resignation notice

If you run an event-planning team, you’ve likely lost employees in the past and don’t want to lose more of them to The Great Resignation – one of the biggest event trends of this year, according to Hello Endless.


Due to how badly COVID-19 affected the events industry, many event workers were laid off, or tried to find work elsewhere. Hence, there was a very recent labour shortage as many event professionals moved to the event technology industry.


You need to make sure that you run your team in a way that encourages your workers to stay, so they don’t also resign with the big chunk of the industry that already has. The key is to look at some of the root causes for high event staff turnover, before working on solving these root problems.


Below, we’ve listed 6 ways to retain your event staff.


An event manager sits at a table with an employee to discuss their wellbeing

1. Check In On Your Staff


One of the biggest reasons for event or hospitality workers leaving their roles is the stressful working environment.


You have to be aware of how your staff are doing, and not just expect them to roll with all the punches that stressful event jobs come with.


This includes their physical and mental conditions – someone emotionally intelligent should check for signs of burnout and any other changes in behaviour.


If they do seem to be struggling, they must know that you support them. But the best thing to do is prevent such stress from happening in the first place, by briefing your team calmly before each event and helping everyone feel prepared. Smart Meetings says that Becki Cross, managing director of Events Northern Ltd, states that before each event day, you should have a conference class with your staff or send a document that includes practical and logistical information such as what to wear, directions, public transport information, who to contact about issues, a timeline of tasks and responsibilities, the company ethos, etc.


This is because if staff find it difficult to coordinate with each other, or don’t know who to ask when they run into issues, this’ll add to their stress and increase their likelihood of resigning.


Event managers stand next to an employee and admire her work at a laptop

2. Show Gratitude to Your Event Staff


To prevent event staff from feeling like their job isn’t worth the stress they may go through, and that they may as well leave, you should compensate them for how hard they work, and show them that you recognise their efforts. This could come in the form of a higher pay per hour, or benefits/perks. Make sure these are relevant to their actual interests and needs. For instance, don’t just offer free fitness classes if your employees aren’t interested. Ask your staff which rewards and perks they’d like to get.


If you’re struggling to compensate your event staff, e.g. not paying them on-time or in full, Smart Meetings suggests that you could use a payroll checklist.


Another, simple way to show gratitude, is suggested by the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA): listen to your people and their ideas. Even though you may have more experience than them, they do see things differently from you and will probably have great ideas that you haven’t thought of. And if you are inspired by their ideas, you must always give them credit, so they and the rest of your team know that you listen to them and their ideas matter.


You should also celebrate them on significant days. For instance, celebrate their 1 year anniversary of working at your company. Let them know that they’re valued.


Event staff sit around a table and give input to their manager

3. Ask For Your Event Staff’s Input


Above, we’ve mentioned that you need to listen to your event staff to retain them. A key component of this is asking them how they feel about their working life. Unsociable working hours, e.g. on evenings and weekends, are a common reason for event staff leaving their posts. Therefore, ask staff about how they feel about their working patterns, and if you can do anything to better support their work-life balance. It’d be a good idea to ask them if their work-life balance is their biggest concern with the job, or if they actually don’t mind the long hours because the pay or the work is satisfactory.


Similarly, you should ask if there’s anything you can do to make their role less stressful. Their input will probably help you implement the next step:


4. Allow More Flexibility


After understanding what your staff needs, you can adapt their work to better suit their needs. For instance, the PCMA states that as long as a job’s getting done, it shouldn’t matter when, where, or how. Therefore, we recommend that you allow people to leave work early if they’ve carried out all their tasks, and/or let people have longer breaks if they’ve got nothing to do for a while.


Hospitality roles are notorious for being harsh on workers for standing around and not looking busy enough. Don’t be that kind of event manager – cut your workers some slack if they’re carrying out the work effectively, instead of being too authoritarian for the sake of it.


5. Keep an Eye on Temporary or Entry-Level Staff


Event staff tend to have a large proportion of part-time and seasonal workers. These staff may feel unprepared for strenuous events, and your permanent and full-time workers may worry that they can’t trust them, stressing them out too.


Hence, Smart Meetings emphasises the importance of including your casual staff and volunteers. Introduce them to key members of the team in advance, and make sure that they’re fully aware of what to expect on the day, what their duties will be, and who they should contact (and how) if they have problems.


This way, they won’t get anxious about what happens if they make a mistake or the event goes wrong, as they’ll know exactly who to go through to solve problems. If anything will make temporary workers or volunteers more likely to stay with your company, it’s keeping them comfortable, relaxed, and seen. For instance, Kathryn Dinsmore from Flock Events told Smart Meetings that volunteer roles can feel incredibly tough when workers don’t feel appreciated, and “Making volunteers feel engaged and excited to learn new skills is a fantastic way of keeping them around, and motivating them to go the extra mile for you.”


6. Create a Great Company Culture


Our final piece of advice to stop event employees resigning, is a broader one. Overall, you need to ensure that your team has a great culture whereby everyone looks out for each other. Corporate team-building activities can make staff cringe, but informal networking events can do wonders for helping your team form relationships.


Conclusion


If you’ve been hit by The Great Resignation, it’s up to you to make your company more attractive for event staff to stay at. Don’t just stop at the above points or see them as a prescriptive list; keep talking to your team on a regular basis to investigate more ways in which you can retain your event staff.

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