Trevor Foley levels with us on the question of talent in the industry:
Although the actions of governments around the world continue to be largely unpredictable, for now it is mostly ‘all systems go’ for the re-opening of exhibitions. As expected, this is seeing a need for event businesses to scale up again on resources in order to get events on the show floor. This re-recruitment is, for sure, a challenge on many levels. For those employers who think it can be the same as before: it simply can’t. Employees are thinking differently.
There is clearly friction and conflict between the needs of an events business and the new attitudes of employees coming to the fore in our post-pandemic world.
I do see businesses making sensible decisions, but this may still have the effect of reducing the talent pool in the short/medium term. This is simply because a significant percentage of employees do not feel the same way as employers about the need to be in the office. For sure, it will be a different solution by function, but the situation is unlikely to settle down until next year.
Regarding human resources, we are now in what I believe is the second of three phases of the industry recovery.
Earlier this year, phase one saw businesses needing to re-engage at a junior level – sales and marketing executives and managers - to start selling to and communicating with market communities. This phase was successful until we reached the point where not all of those who had lost their roles 18 months ago wanted to come back. At best estimate, 50% of more junior sales and marketing personnel have currently made the call not to return to our industry.
Many of those who had to go find employment in other sectors found that the grass was, in fact, greener. No trade show deadlines to stress about; no long days and weekends of working; often better pay and they were away from the uncertainty of the future that the events sector will face for the next year or two.
The intellectual debate is also growing. The industry has few defined training or qualifications and so it is difficult for prospective employees to the sector to understand the career path.
The industry has not, as many feared, been disrupted by digital media, however, to be sustainable, and to grow, it must develop a graduate/new entry development programme. For now, the shortage of available talent at the lower levels is more of a concern than it has ever been.
Phase 2 of the recovery now sees the call for the middle tier of industry talent – event and portfolio directors, sales directors, marketing directors and other roles at a similar level. There are two types of candidates for these roles: those who are talented but who lost their roles because they were often an overhead that their previous employers could not carry for the near 18 months of industry lockdown. There is also a group of people who are not happy with the manner in which their employer dealt with the pandemic issue within their companies. Of course, many were happy with the manner in which their employers handled the crisis. However, where this is not the case, people are looking elsewhere.
The good news for employers is that there are currently many very talented individuals available to fill these mid-level roles.
The third phase will be the leadership level. As the industry continues its recovery, many companies will be reviewing their senior management to assess whether there needs to be additions to the team to ensure that businesses are set fair for a post-pandemic world. Again, there is a good range of available talent for the industry’s top tables.
So, yes, there are skills shortages at the lower level but many an option at the mid and senior levels to make sure that event businesses can rebuild and thrive.
It’s mad out there right now but the future is bright!