206-747-4544

guest services employees back to work during pandemic

The number of key people interested and available to manage the frontline safety and guest experience in our venues has significantly diminished and we have solutions to get them back!

Few situations have evolved in the entertainment, sport, and venue management industry with greater impact on our ability to open and effectively manage our buildings than the low numbers of staff willing to return to their previous frontline service roles.

With our VSG clients, we are seeing event staffing levels falling into
the 40-60% range of pre-COVID numbers. What’s equally challenging is finding new event team members. While in the past there seemed to be almost a limitless supply of new staffing prospects ready to join the team, today that luxury doesn’t exist.

With our VSG clients, we are seeing event staffing levels falling in the 40-60% range of pre-COVID numbers. What’s equally challenging is finding new event team members. While in the past there seemed to be almost a limitless supply of new staffing prospects ready to join the team, today that luxury doesn’t exist.

The question is… how can you fill those guest services roles?

It starts with a change in mindset. Our old way of thinking “build it and they will come” will not work in today’s evolving environment. We recommend this 3-step process to fill your staffing service positions now.

Be aware that this approach may sound more costly and time-consuming than your past approach (it likely is), but if you start now, it will be far less costly and operationally impacting than if you continue to try to recruit and retain event staff “the old way.”

1. Listen carefully

Event staff are not commodities

The cost-value relationship of working in our venues has changed

In today’s world people are going to be less motivated to come to work if they have to pay for things like parking, meals, and uniforms. They want to be properly compensated (both in rate of pay and potential perks). Further, they want to know they are safe and looked after which means ultimately rethinking their role and your support of it.

Listening carefully entails asking them what matters to them

Both existing employees and those who have left want to be heard. Seek to understand what would make them feel more valued and appreciated. Ideally, contact your staff directly by phone or in person. Ask them key questions around what they need. Demonstrate true empathy and appreciation for their challenges in their past or current service. Written surveys can be used however they are far less impactful for the event staffer vs. hearing the tone in your organization’s voice. Some organizations have taken this approach on as a group project (cross-departmentally) asking fulltime staff member to call a certain number of event staff (say 10 or 15).

I cannot overemphasize the positive potential of this approach in terms of long-term organizational culture impact and community brand enhancement.

Get this idea in front of your Senior leaders or CEO and I suspect they will want to undertake this work. “Many hands make light work” so there is minimal time invested, great team building and terrific opportunity to grow your numbers of motivated frontline staff members.

2. Design your new program

Now that you have the information, build a customized program addressing the expressed desires

Show them that “We heard you”

Tell them you’re prepared to deliver on relevant needs such as parking areas, special parking rates, free or discounted meals, increased pay rates, signing bonus, training, uniform cleaning or allowance, etc.

Employee safety often comes up as a frontline staffing concern

Your staff don’t want to be the “mask police.” A program addressing how you will deliver a COVID safe venue is critical to recruitment and retention success.

Follow through and follow up

Your key focus must be on making sure employees can clearly connect what they told you with the follow-up actions you take. It’s important they own the new direction (see it as their idea). Your team needs to hear and understand your commitment: you are telling them, “These are your ideas – we are making it happen.”

3. Implement your plan

You’ve planned your work, now work the plan

Effectively communicate your new programs and stay regularly engaged with your event staff team members

There is an old adage that if you want someone to remember something, tell them five times, five different ways. Connect the dots between desires and outcomes. Present your information in a live full event staff meeting, smaller team group meetings, via video or virtual presentation or personalized email. Issue a media release outlining what you are doing to make your venue a “best place to work” environment. Access your social media outlets, post information in employee work areas and reinforce event briefings, in multiple languages.
You and your team need to also walk your building aggressively during events and genuinely connect, stopping and talking to frontline services staff at all levels. Make an effort to know them, address them by name, ask how things are going and say thank you.

You and your team need to also walk your building aggressively during events and genuinely connect, stopping and talking to frontline services staff at all levels. Make an effort to know them, address them by name, ask how things are going and say thank you.

Remember, none of us is as smart as all of us

When your staff feel you value them and their contributions, your organizational culture and “sense of family” will flourish and, as a result, people will want to come and work for you… with enthusiasm.

Richard Andersen, VSG Advantage TrainingRichard Andersen of VSG Advantage Training is a respected authority in the sports and entertainment venue management industry with a passion for making a difference in people’s lives. Venue Solutions Group’s accomplished CEOs learned through their own successes and failures the need to develop people at all levels. We know that satisfied employees from frontline event staff to senior executives lead to a better work environment and ultimately a memorable guest experience. Through our ongoing work with sports and entertainment venues and professional sports teams, we constantly modify our training programs to meet your current challenges in safety, service, teamwork, and retention. Contact us at 206-747-4544 or or learn more about our employee development solutions on our trainings page.