What the COVID-19 pandemic has taught event industry professionals, is that time may no longer be our number one resource. Prior to the pandemic, most would argue that without enough time a successful event could not be researched, planned, executed and its success and return on investment adequately evaluated.
However, the current labour shortage that was left in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, has given us a rude awakening that recovery for many hospitality and tourism businesses is hinging on having people. Great people to deliver the highly anticipated guest experience so called post-pandemic revenge travelers or conference goers are expecting.
Like many industries, event organizers and suppliers alike, have learned to roll with event dates being a moving target, evolving health orders and restrictions on gatherings, and adapting how we present our services, with a new-found flexibility that most event professionals never dreamed possible.
Event related businesses are having to find creative ways to cope with staffing shortages without impacting the level of service being offered by exploring everything from artificial intelligent (AI) to automate guest services, to offering optional housekeeping services.
It’s not news that the pandemic exposed the vulnerability of the hospitality workers in a way that prompted not only a mass exodus of experienced and seasoned employees but created a strong disinterest in the next workforce generation to follow a career in this sector.
So the question remains – how do we re-build our hospitality workforce? How do we sell our industry back to those we lost to sectors considered more stable, offering hybrid or remote work and that potentially pay better? Marketing. HR Marketing to be exact.
It’s time to overhaul the hospitality brand. Out with the long hours and the “work hard, play harder” reputation, and let’s start selling the perks and amazing experiences we know are part and parcel of the rewarding work we do in the meeting, event and conference industry.
Each and every day we sell our clients on the guest experience our services promise, let’s do the same for our workforce and people. Let’s stop telling them what they have to bring to the table to work for our organization and promote what we have to offer them if they choose to work with us.
Now more than ever it is important to start wooing secondary school students earlier so that that the hospitality and tourism sector is top of mind, and a viable choice that even their parents, school career counselors and other trusted individuals support.
Our industry needs the next level innovation in technology, entrepreneurship and leadership that the next generation of our workforce can provide that will help us grow and evolve. Current industry leaders need to start demonstrating that we acknowledge this fact. Invite them to your career fairs, visit their schools and teachers, and help them visualize an exciting and prosperous career path in the world of meetings, events and conferences.
There may still be a difficult road ahead as we still face uncertainties and challenges such as pricing elasticity, higher fixed and variable expenses due global issues and the fear of renewed lockdowns but meeting and event professionals have been trained to weather the storm.
Let’s put our creativity to work and stomp out stigmas by showing our strength and resiliency as we recover and rebound from this historic event.
Heidi Hughes is director sales and marketing, Anvil Centre in New Westminster, B.C. She is a former instructor at both the British Columbia Institute of Technology and the Art Institute of Vancouver and is highly active with Meeting Professionals International on both a local chapter and International Level. She is past president of MPI BC Chapter.