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People - Best Practice

How do we offer the best event experience for our customers? We need to find the best people, provide them with a purpose and then the tools they need to succeed. To do this we need effective leadership and management.

Outstanding leaders give their people a purpose not a job, and outstanding managers put effective processes in place to ensure people succeed.

As leaders in the events industry we are all in the experience business. Every day at our venues and events we have the opportunity to impact our customer's experience real time; either in a positive way by building strong relationships with our customers or in a negative way which results in the customer being alienated. Everyone in the organisation has a chance to influence these experiences and therefore the desire of the customer to repeat this experience at some point in the future. Often these experiences are outsourced via our catering, ticketing, cleaning and security contracts therefore these people/organisations also play a pivotal role in providing a great customer experience and their people also need to be managed accordingly for the best outcome for the venue/event and the customer. In terms of processes there are a variety of management activities that should be addressed when making staffing decisions for the venue. Firstly the level of staffing required for each event may be subject to the hiring agreement as to whether labour is included with the venue hire or an additional cost. Either way cost containment needs to be balanced against hirer expectations, customer service quality, safety and security. Venue staffing is resource hungry and whilst technology may expedite some venue services such as entry human intervention is still required to check concession tickets or other special entry conditions for example, those which can only be checked and verified by a person.

After staffing requirements have been established attention must be given to finding the right staff. It may appear that to work as an event staff member at a venue is not that difficult, however when you consider some of the situations our event staff find themselves it does take a unique personality type to be able to excel in this part of the business. Event staff are often entering into potential conflict situations based on the policies and procedures of our venues, they tell people where they can and can’t move within the stadium, they may be asking people not to bring certain items into the venue or requesting them to leave should they not be following venue rules. In theatres they may not admit patrons until a suitable break in the performance. These can be potentially stressful situations that if not handled in the correct manner may collectively damage the brand of your building and ruin the customer experience.

Skills can be taught but finding people with the right attitude towards customer service and exceptional people skills can be a challenge. How venues recruit can vary widely, within my own experience I have found the most successful recruitments have occurred using assessment centres where people can be observed in the act of interacting with other people. Anyone can make a good impression at an interview but to observe recruits engaging with other people is so valuable because that is exactly what we want them to do when on the job.

Induction and training are essential in preparing staff to succeed. Ensuring they understand expectations in terms of their own behaviour and how to deliver venue related services. I have a personal ongoing commitment to training and believe this is also essential for event staff. A commitment to development of event staff in their skills, knowledge and experience also provides positive reinforcement to staff that they are important to the organisation and worthy of significant expenditure on behalf of the business.

Understanding that everyone has a different learning style and pace is integral when determining a training program for event staff. Many different training or development options are available and can be used interchangeably as a comprehensive learning experience. The availability of online training is a great step forward in expanding training opportunities and at relatively low cost to the organisation in comparison to face to face training. However you need to either develop this training in-house or partner with a provider who shares similar organisational values or genuinely understands what you are trying to achieve with your people. Pre and post training assessment tools should be used to identify gaps but also provide the learner with tangible evidence of their development.

Managing performance and behaviour is a key aspect of managing people. It is essential people managers manage performance and behaviour appropriately and consistently. If not, the potential negative impacts are great if issues are not addressed at an early stage.

Ideally, the performance and behaviour of our staff meets business expectations. However, from time to time, this will not be the case. The key is to ensure staff understand performance expectations, if then their performance does not match expectations they have an opportunity to improve their performance and behaviour. The process of managing performance and behaviour should be conducted appropriately and accurate records retained, issues identified and resolved as quickly as possible. Employees must be treated with respect and understand the process and the consequences if their performance does not improve.

Where performance standards are being met it is equally important to provide positive feedback to reinforce desired behaviours. It may be difficult for venues to formally provide feedback where many event staff are variable time employees who may or may not have a regular supervisor. Ensuring supervisors are trained and skilled in the delivery of immediate performance feedback can help improve the overall customer service delivery and efficiencies.

All of the above is underpinned by the social and legal responsibilities of the organisation to comply with relevant legislation. The way the organisation interacts with event staff will also be impacted by union or collective agreements under which work arrangements are negotiated and organised, it's your responsibility to fully understand the legal framework around employee relations, ignorance will be no defense should any legislation or regulations be overlooked.

People are inseparable from the event experience and therefore are pivotal in the success of your venue or event. Find the right people with the right attitude, make sure they understand how they make a difference to your organisation and the customer experience, this gives them a purpose, and finally give them the tools to succeed and this will make every customer interaction a great one!