The event industry is fully on the road to recovery with a rise in bookings and a surge in demand for events. But the significant loss of people to other industries during the pandemic means facing a new set of challenges.
Event management companies are struggling to find qualified and experienced individuals, which can negatively impact the quality and success of events. Planners today need to be mindful of increased costs and possible service offering disruptions. They will need to remain flexible and adaptive to each situation as it evolves.
So how are event planners coping with all of this? Several professionals share what they’re experiencing and what strategies are key to addressing the labour shortage.
Lack of Qualified People
Redstone Agency president and owner Bailey Roth is finding that while there are many eager to work in the industry, there are not enough qualified candidates to meet client expectations.
“The timeline to hire a great candidate is longer than it was a year ago. If we have an available opportunity, it could take up to two to three months to fill it with a candidate that has the necessary experience and fit for our team, which means the current team may have to pick up extra slack in the short-term, which is very hard to do when in deadline-driven world of events,” says Roth.
There are also less people interested in long term positions, says Eryne Sarabin, principal of Tycoon Events. “And more training is involved when hiring, making it more challenging to hire inexperienced staff.”
Similar labour strains are being experienced in venues, hospitality and with suppliers. The situation is compounded by the fact that hotels/venues are reluctant to contract business more than a couple years in advance. Shorter timelines combined with industry staff shortages mean that experienced, hardworking event planners are in high demand.
“We’re doing our best to build in longer lead times for our client events. We understand that venues and suppliers need more time to prepare estimates and get back to us so we are doing our best to give them more time while also preparing ourselves to action things quickly so that we are never the reason for a delay. We’re also spending time educating our clients on the changes to the industry and helping to manage their expectations,” says Lyndsay Munholland, event strategist and team lead at Managing Matters.
Even before the pandemic event planners were facing short lead times and that trend continues.
“We have definitely seen a strain on venues and hospitality staffing. We have been lucky with the venues that we work with, that they have been upfront about labour well in advance, and very clear on what services they can and cannot offer,” says Alex Bickers, president of Reveal Events Group.
Employer of Choice
Staffing challenges means companies have to become an employer of choice to attract and retain the talent needed.
“Adapting to shortages means you need to be an employer people want to, and seek to, work with. Fostering an environment of inspiration is key to collaboration. We also train and educate, and make sure the right people are working on the projects they are passionate about,” says Bickers.
Munholland believes if employers want to attract and retain great talent, they need to invest the time to understand what motivates each individual.
“Unlike 10 years ago, potential candidates are now the ones interviewing employers to decide if they want to work for them or not. At Managing Matters we are regularly checking in with our team and considering what changes we can make to give our staff new opportunities to do more of the work they enjoy. We also reward staff differently based on their personal motivations,” she says.
Investing in training and professional development for the team is a key strategy to manage any potential staff shortages. Those are priorities at Redstone, says Roth.
“We’ve also invested in more people and operations support roles, ensuring the team has backup where and when they need it. Finally, we’ve invested in more health and wellness benefits and initiatives for the team because taking care of your physical, mental, and emotional well-being is not only a priority at Redstone but also necessary to adapt to the changing landscape of the workforce,” she says. “Ensuring you have a people-focused approach and strong company culture will be key. The deadline-driven nature of our work is stressful and those who hire planners don’t often understand everything that goes into it. Employers must make sure their people are taken care of.”
Long Term Impact
How will the labour shortage impact event planning in the long term?
Roth anticipates the labour shortage will get worse in the years to come. “I was at an event for HR and business leaders and we were told that 20 per cent of the workforce was expected to retire in the next five years. It’s something we need to prepare for. Technology will play a more important role as we look for ways to reduce the number of people needed to plan events. Mentorship will also be key to ensure knowledge is being passed down effectively, and quickly!”
The industry will need to innovate and adapt to the changing needs of the available workforce to remain competitive. Otherwise, it will mean increased workloads, higher stress and inevitable burn out.
“Since event planning is consistently one of the top five stressful jobs in the world, a continued staffing shortage will only further that statistic and lead to less and less people joining our industry,” says Sarabin.