A shortage of staff, worldwide
Unemployment in general is at record lows, so talent shortage is a problem for many companies… … but our industry is especially affected, since work has always been demanding (stress, hours) and many people have discovered an easier work environment in other industries and have left the MICE job market. David stresses that they “are working all over Europe and see this problem of shortage of staff everywhere”. Jorge explains this phenomenon also happens in the US and is both a result of inflation and the shortage of professionals since the pandemic, with people changing industry. It has been observed in dramatic ways in the airline industry, where lack of staff caused massive delays and flight cancelations.
The law of offer and demand always applies. As David says, the shortage of staff makes it necessary to increase salaries. He estimates an increase compared to pre-pandemic levels of 20-25%. Sara applied this principle: she has both permanent and temporary staff, and has increased salaries for both. “We see many are not ready to do the same things as before, without a rise in salary”, she points out.
Flexibility is in… sometimes in drastic ways
If talent is your scarce resource, better treat it well. As Sara says: “we have to take better care of the teams, be more flexible”. As she says, this is especially necessary since work now involves a lot of stress, with everything happening much more last minute. She decided to reduce the working day from 8 to 7 hours a day, and let the team take as much holidays as they want. The result? “They were extremely motivated by these changes”. It has been one year, and she is happy, the team uses the flexibility, and it works, the work gets done.
Generally, this desire for flexibility applies across the board, but Jorge observes that “millenials and Gen Z are not so attracted to money, and rather than be too worried about the future, they focus on the short term, the next holiday”. It also applies to some industries more than others. Tech is big on flexibility (the type of work makes home-working easier than in events). Jorge explains they also have an IT company (ticketing and registration), and the first thing tech people ask in interviews is if they can work from home.
How to treat people well in an industry which is very far from being a 9-to-5 one? Jorge says “the point is to get more and more flexible when the client does not require a special emergency. If we have an even on saturday, the team will be here of course, but we apply flexibility on the rest of the week.” The job must get done. Whatever else is secondary.
The value of saying no
Saying “no” to ridiculously short lead times looked like a sacrilege in an industry probably more flexible and client-oriented than many others, but it is necessary. David says they were already doing it before the pandemic, explaining “people are the company, and we need to take care of them”. And it could be a very healthy thing to do. Sara explains: “we chose the clients we wanted to keep. We must be selective and analyse if the client is profitable given the effort, they require from you. So, we said no to some clients and focused on more interesting and profitable ones”. And the result is an improvement in the profitability.
Looking beyond the hours worked… and improving productivity
Going beyond hours is the way to go. As David says, “it makes little sense to have people working many hours: it means people have too much work or are not efficient”. Sara turns this into a productivity effort: “we have spent the two years of pandemic defining better processes and tools, which make us more productive. We developed an app for the staff, which is connected to our planning system and manage all the information about their work with this app, saving massive time in interactions. We also reduce emails which were flooding and substitute them by short calls”.
Other ways to improve productivity? David also comments the growing opportunity to work with IA to facilitate some processes. And integrating ERP and apps makes it much easier to save time. Jorge uses salesforce and completes it with slack for short messages related to the project, shared with all participants in the project.
Careers and training
Finally, beyond flexibility and salaries, getting people to grow is extremely important, and has not always been well handled in our industry. David explains that they define for specific people the way they can rise, both in salary and responsibility. Jorge also stresses the importance of defining career plans. Sara says they have a number of mandatory hours of training every year. Jorge’s company provides language courses… and even a personal trainer!
Overall, these are challenging times talent-wise but as we saw in this debate, a lot of improvements have come out of this post-pandemic phase. Now let’s consolidate them and get ever better talent!