It hasn’t gone unnoticed that COVID has had an enormous impact on meetings and events. One of the most significant impacts is the loss of amazing industry talent. Hotels, agencies, and event services companies endured redundancies where the furlough scheme couldn’t support them, and freelancers had to support themselves. Many of this lost generation of eventprofs have since found roles outside of the industry. The result is slowing the industry’s recovery time.
Joint Venture partners – Venues and Events International, iElive, Off Limits, Insight Presentation Systems and GOTO Events – have a collaborative message! The partners want to remind those who left the industry what they’re missing and what they’ll get back if they return to be a part of the magic.
Anita Lowe, CEO of Venues and Events International, commented: “We’ve seen a huge influx in enquiries since the easing of restrictions, which is increasing week-on-week. To manage the significant business increase, we’ve made several new appointments within our venue find and events team in recent months. But we’re not receiving the number of applications we would have received during pre-pandemic recruitment.”
Off Limits Corporate Director – Martin Stephens – supports these findings: “We’ve gone through recruitment, but there isn’t the same level of the talent pool from which to select the right people for our roles. Are we still finding amazing people to work with us? Absolutely, but the process to ensure it’s the right fit is much harder and longer.”
Ian Verge, Managing Director of Insight Presentation Systems; “Our business model relies heavily on skilled freelancers to deliver our events. We use a pool with a wide range of expertise to pull on, depending on the event type we’re delivering. During the pandemic, this pool has shrunk significantly, especially for the skills that lend themselves mostly to live audience events, such as set building. As the live events business is getting going again, we are now having to be very proactive in getting new people onto our database. We have been fortunate in being able to retain our entire in- house team which is now key.”
It’s not only agencies and event/production companies that are feeling the strain. Hotels and venues have also suffered and are still struggling with the resource in different departments. The staff shortages affect booking enquiries and the turnaround for agencies in responding to corporate clients.
Well, the time seems right: According to the HBAA, 32 per cent of 1,000 polled event professionals have begun the recruitment process (with another 40 per cent beginning the process this month), and 48 per cent will look to hire back people they made redundant throughout the pandemic, with 73 per cent offering flexible working arrangements to employees.
Mike Bracegirdle, Managing Director of Jarvis Training Management, says there are many opportunities for businesses within the meetings, events, and hospitality industry to either entice people back or encourage new people to join the industry.
“A combination of the pandemic and Brexit has resulted in unemployment and people claiming universal credit shooting up. In 2020, The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced the Kick Start scheme – an opportunity for businesses to take on employees for up to 26 weeks on 25 hours a week, fully funded by the UK government. This scheme allows people who meet a company’s minimum requirements to carry out the role and come off universal credit. It provides an opportunity to bring people back into the working environment.
“Businesses should consider this an elongated interview or intensive training programme. So, at the end of the scheme, it results in full-time employment or consideration for an apprenticeship programme. The second business grant the government is currently providing is for apprenticeships. Both schemes come with huge benefits and offer excellent opportunities to get people back into work.”
Bracegirdle continues: “These grants won’t last forever, so the race is on to start benefiting today and build your businesses back by funding from the government. Many big players are taking advantage, so I would encourage smaller agencies and hotels operating in the meetings and events industry to follow suit if they haven’t done so already. All these schemes have a shelf life, just like furlough, so companies need to take advantage now!”
The buzz in the industry is electric. Social newsfeeds are full of photos of people meeting in person once again. Managing Director of GOTO Events, Steve Perkins, is revelling in the joy of being back on site: “Team building enquiries have gone through the roof. It’s been a huge priority for clients wanting to bring their teams back together. Although some restrictions and guidelines are still in place to ensure delegates safety, it’s almost like we haven’t been away. The enthusiasm and thrill of getting people back together are invigorating us to do what we do best – deliver amazing and memorable experiences for our clients.”
Beattie Barrick, Account Manager at iElive, has loved the return of live events: “We’ve had some fantastic live events over the past few weeks, and it’s been so good being back on-site seeing the delegates’ enjoyment first-hand. Our busy calendar of events has enabled us to get some of our original freelancers in – who immediately got back into the swing of things and, as always, created a great team experience on site.”
Ian Verge, Managing Director of Insight Presentation Systems; “Whilst virtual events have been a great way to meet, in lieu of not meeting at all, they are far from a complete replacement for meeting in person. I do think people have missed the buzz of a traditional live event, especially certain types of event, like awards ceremonies. I don’t just mean the delegates when I say that. The satisfaction, excitement and rewarding feeling of producing and delivering a creative, impactful live event to a room full of people is hard to beat.“