Ramping up your post-COVID events recovery workforce in the face of a UK recruitment squeeze

By Nathan Miller, managing director in the UK and Europe at Humanforce, which seeks to aid businesses from across multiple industries to enhance their labour management operations.

Using workforce management technology to stand out from the crowd in a highly competitive jobs market

Music, theatre, sporting, festival and other large events returned in massive numbers and with much enthusiastic community support across the UK during the summer 2021 post-lockdown reopening period. Events platform FIXR said ticket sales for events in England had surged by 560% and more than 1,000% in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, in the month following the end of pandemic restrictions, compared to the same period in 2019.

However, at the same time, event organisers have faced the huge challenge of severe shortages of temporary workers to support transitioning from complete closure during lockdown to a sudden influx of new and postponed events post-lockdown.

This temp worker shortage can be attributed to three main pressures – the wider post-lockdown surge in the UK economy, as well as the impact of Brexit and a now low unemployment rate. Many workers, who may have sourced work outside of the events industry while it was shut down during lockdown, are now reluctant to make any switch in job roles because of ongoing concerns about the pandemic, while the availability of fewer European Union workers is also contributing to the shortages.

The latest UK Report on Jobs survey from KPMG and the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) showed that recruitment generally is under enormous strain. This is because permanent staff appointments hit a fresh high, while temp billings also rose sharply in August 2021 – after temp billings expanded in July at the fastest rate since June 1998. However, at the same time availability of candidates continued to decline rapidly. This ongoing competition for workers has led to a record increase in starting salaries for permanent staff and a steeper increase in pay for short-term roles (the highest rate increases seen in the survey’s 24-year history).

While some have noted that the expiry of the government’s furlough scheme at the end of September may help relieve the shortages when more people become available for work, KPMG UK’s head of education, skills and productivity, Claire Warnes warns, “This crisis isn’t going away, and the winding down of the furlough scheme at the end of September – while potentially bringing more job hunters to the market – could also add fuel to the labour shortage fire. Many businesses will have changed their business model during the pandemic, and so significant numbers of staff returning from furlough may need reskilling to re-join the workforce in the same or another sector.”

It’s forecast that this recruitment crisis is not going to be short-term and could continue for a number of years. So how can employers within the events sector, who are all recruiting from the same pool of talent and struggling to fill shifts, ensure they stand out from the crowd in such a highly competitive jobs market?

Stay connected with your employees

Staying connected with your temp employees is essential to keeping them engaged in the face of uncertain times. Those employers who maintained contact with employees during lockdown and kept them engaged with the company, management and their co-workers have likely stood a better chance of re-engaging these workers during re-opening, despite the recruitment squeeze.

If that’s not the case and you’re currently left with a dwindling number of temp workers that is not meeting event staffing demands, you need to try re-engaging your pre-lockdown workforce.

By making every effort possible to stay engaged with your valued temp workers, it can help to highlight their value to the organisation, communicate ongoing changes as the post-COVID recovery continues, outline current and future job opportunities and any other incentives that help to compete with other employers. This communication shouldn’t be sporadic but should instead be implemented as an effective and regular communications strategy to nurture engagement well into the future. This kind of communications strategy can be managed with ease using a workforce management app.  

Monitoring temp worker wellbeing

COVID-19 and the lockdowns associated with this have had a huge impact on people’s health – physically and mentally – and temp workers, with their irregular work patterns and lack of job security compared to permanent employees, have been especially vulnerable.

It is important that employers are able to keep connected with temporary workers and arrange regular check-ins on their wellbeing and providing support where possible. Simple ‘shift rating’ tools in a workforce management app can help staff flag issues and personal stresses to their managers in a digital and non-intrusive way.  

A good onboarding and training experience

Event organisers can also create a better employee experience for returning or potential new recruits by offering a simple and rewarding onboarding and training experience for temp workers. By using a workforce app you can create fast onboarding and training experiences that staff can complete in any location and at any time. This helps employers to reduce the chances of a recruit not completing onboarding and not arriving for their first shift, while at the same time increasing employee morale and satisfaction through efficient methods of onboarding and training.

Using technology to manage temp workers

Many events industry employers still rely on more basic and traditional methods of communication with temp workers – such as emails, phone calls or text messages – compared with the more advanced digital engagement tools available to permanent employees.

Using a mobile app for workforce management is the most useful tool for ensuring that your temp workers stay engaged with your company. It also makes life easier for workers, because they can simply while on the go use the app to complete onboarding and training, accept shifts, show the days and times they are available for shifts, swap shifts, manage any relevant leave and communicate with managers and co-workers.

It is also a much more efficient way for event organisers to manage their temp workforce, allowing them to quickly communicate with staff, ensure onboarding and training is completed, make rostering changes at the last minute, geofence where workers can clock on via the mobile app to ensure they are in the right location for their shift and analyse workforce data. This all saves the company time and money.

The future of the events industry

UK events industry operators need temporary workers to assist in their recovery from the long COVID-19 lockdowns that saw them unable to operate for 18 months. This need comes at a time when the temp workforce in the UK has shrunk, with those workers who remain in more demand than ever before. It will be those employers who worked hard to keep temp workers engaged and connected throughout who will find themselves best placed to benefit.  

Additionally, by improving the employee experience for temp workers – for example by using a mobile app to help workers easily manage their shifts, availability and leave, as well as effective communication, onboarding, training and a flexible timetable giving workers a level of autonomy – businesses will position themselves to stand out in an incredibly competitive jobs market.

For more information on how you can better manage your temporary workforce, please visit: www.humanforce.com