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Attracting and retaining the best talent in the events industry: what’s the secret?

In recent years, the events industry has observed the 'Great Resignation' - a migration of event professionals either to different roles or different industries altogether. This is partly due to employees having higher expectations within their roles, i.e looking for more flexibility in how they work and no longer solely valuing salary - happiness within their roles is of much more importance post-pandemic. This, in turn, puts pressure on employers to improve their organisations in order to retain talent.

When it comes to curating excellent events teams, no one is more knowledgeable than Robert Kenward, Fitability Recruiter at You Search & Select and Co-Founder at You Exclusive, a specialist events industry recruitment service. We sat down with Robert to discuss how employers should go about attracting and retaining the best talent in the events industry to form the best possible teams that also put the employee first. Read his insights below!

What is the most important thing hiring teams need to focus on when recruiting?

The most important thing is not focusing on filling the gap or 'putting the bum on the seat'.  It's likely that 60% of any role is exactly the same as the role in other organisations, so I would advise hiring teams to focus on the 40% that is different. That may be the candidate’s personality, the client portfolio they’ll be working on, the team they’ll be working with, or the relationships they have to foster.

Don’t focus on the 'here and now', recruit for the future and recruit to promote that person. I don’t mean that you should ask ‘where do you want to be in 5 years?’ (neither party really knows the answer to that one…) but to see if there is a cultural/personality fit and the potential for a long-term working relationship.

woman on the phone at work

How can hiring managers ensure they’re hiring the right people for the job?

Understand your company's objectives

Before recruiting, the hiring manager should understand the company’s business goals. Are the core goals commercial, or perhaps focused on breaking into another sector? Only once you understand the business goals can you recruit a person for the future.

For example, if a company wants to break into the automotive sector, hiring someone with that experience could be a great move. If you are looking to grow a team, then recruiting someone with management experience may be ideal.

Optimise your job adverts

Don’t just dust off the job description and put it out there. Every job should have a job description AND a role profile – they are two very distinct and different things. The job description is the list of what the person needs to do, whilst the role profile is focused on the type of person they need to be. The job advert should be written with your ideal candidate in mind and not just be about your company, or a list of demands!

Ensure your business goals are written in the job description and profile, and when interviewing people, ensure that you are asking relevant questions and not just asking ‘typical interview questions’ for the sake of it. Ask relevant questions, ask questions that are pertinent to your business goals, and be ready with a follow-up to explain why you're asking what you're asking. For example, “The reason I’m asking you about technology is that although we don’t do technology at the moment, it’s an area we’re looking to grow into. How could you help us with that?”

How can employers make sure employees are supported to bring their best to a team?

This is really simple; just ask them. At reviews, instead of asking employees what they’ve done, ask them what support they need. Ask "how can I make your life easier? What are your professional goals and what do you need from me to get you there?" If you focus on supporting them, then making them better at their jobs is an obvious result. Don’t focus on output, this should be a byproduct of supporting them.

Secondly, don’t make blanket decisions based on what you think; for example, if England is playing in the World Cup, don’t just assume everyone would like the afternoon off to watch the game. Don’t force teams to do things you think they want - give them options. For example, they may value extra mental wellbeing support more than the odd day off. For some useful and actionable insights into how to improve your recruitment processes, you could also listen to YOU's Side of The Desk podcast.

Team in the kitchen chatting at work

How has recruitment in the events industry changed post-pandemic?

  1. The whole scope of recruitment has changed; recruitment used to mean simply passing the word around, getting introduced to friends of friends, and then filling the role that way. But now it’s a lot less about who you know, and more about being able to branch out into other circles.
  2. Companies are now looking more for managers than leaders; people who can manage from behind rather than lead from the front. Companies are also taking longer to recruit because they are nervous about the current economic landscape, but then they might confirm a big piece of work and they are then in a panic to fill the role.
  3. The industry has lost so many people, and companies are trying to recruit new people into the industry, so there is a massive learning curve and education piece that’s needed. Because of this, we are seeing lots of people bringing transferable skills into the industry, and also candidates that don’t have the years of experience that were once required.
  4. It’s great that many companies are encouraging a diverse workforce, but we all have to accept that real change is slow and it will take years to create a truly diverse industry. Age, sex, and ethnicity all contribute to a diverse working environment, but if a candidate looks at a company’s staff page and sees all white/male/young faces then they may not feel comfortable applying for a role. For more insights around diversity and inclusion in the workplace, check out our piece on women in the tech industry that we've written for International Women's Day 2023.

 

Companies need to lose their hang-up about needing years of service. Some people have achieved more in the last two years than others have in ten, so the focus needs to be on output rather than time served.
Robert Kenward

Do employees have more power now than they did before the pandemic?

There is no such thing as an employer or a candidate-driven market. It’s not about one side having the ‘power’ – that word shouldn’t be used in recruitment; recruiting should be seen as building a balanced relationship.

If an employer is asking for the moon on a stick but paying peanuts, then candidates will not apply. This doesn’t mean that it is a ‘candidate-led market’ it means that the employer is being unrealistic. Recruitment should be a people-led strategy; this way, everybody wins.

How can recruiters ensure they’re being inclusive in the hiring process?

Hiring teams need to be conscious of the terminology they are using and where they are posting their job adverts. If you don’t have a diverse social network, then it stands to reason that a job advert posted on LinkedIn will only be seen by your non-diverse network.

The first and most important step is to ensure that you actually have a diversity policy in place, and then follow the steps it suggests.

It’s illegal to ‘ensure’ diversity, as positive discrimination is not allowed in the UK, but what a company can do is reach out and tap into existing diverse networks and ensure that the job advert is shared by people already focused on diversity. Some examples are Gabby Austen-Browne of Diversity Alliance, Black in Events, and Events 101.

Another great industry initiative is the REACH Events Scholarship; it provides a fund for Black, Asian, or Minority Ethnic students to study events management, providing a £5,000 a year scholarship to support with living expenses. The funds are donated by agencies, venues, and suppliers who each pledge £5,000 a year for three years. If a company really wants to create a diverse environment, then a pledge to REACH would really help.

Man and woman in meeting

Do you think there is a talent drain in the industry?

Yes and no. Around 350,000 people left the industry during the pandemic and 100,000 aren’t coming back, so that has left a gap. However it’s not a talent drain so to speak, it’s just that employers now have unrealistic expectations of talent. Talent hasn’t just disappeared, it’s just that job seekers have different skills and experience now, especially post-pandemic with skills in organising hybrid and virtual events. Employers need to reframe their demands and start to think differently and not be hung up on years of experience.

Need to draft in the experts?

If you're recruiting for your dream team and need some help in the meantime, our expert team can help fill any gaps for your events. Get in touch with our experts at Hire Space 360 for more information.

Are there any red flags employees should avoid when looking for a role?

Lots! To name a few:

  1. A job advert that heavily focuses on what the candidate has to do, rather than how the company/role can benefit them.
  2. An advert with no salary bracket listed.
  3. A recruitment process that drags and takes a long time.
  4. A lack of flexibility in the recruitment process (when the hiring team is only available to interview on one day per week for example).
  5. Companies referring to themselves as families!

Are there any useful resources you can recommend to people searching for jobs?


It's crucial that companies put their employees first, so it's super important to bear all of Robert's expert insights in mind when recruiting or searching for a new role. Get in touch with Robert at You Search & Select for more guidance.

If you're currently recruiting for your perfect team and need a helping hand with your events in the meantime, get in touch to see how we can help.

 

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About Robert

Robert Kenward, is a Fitability Recruiter at You Search & Select and Co-Founder at You Exclusive, as well as the REACH Events Scholarship.

You Search and Select is an independent recruitment consultancy, specialising in senior-level roles above £60k within the live event, experiential, and integrated communications sector and providing an industry-first, 6-month 100% rebate.

You Exclusive is a recruitment agency dedicated to the event sector and the incredible eventprofs in it.


Authors

Author Izzie Lachecki profile image

Izzie Lachecki

Izzie brings a deep understanding of the events world to Hire Space, and keeps busy by writing lots of Hire Space and EventLAB content and managing the Hire Space social media presence.

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Author Robert Kenward profile image

Robert Kenward

Robert has been working in the recruitment, Live Events, Brand Experience, and Experiential sectors for over two decades and strives to match the best talent with the most exciting event companies.

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