Developing an effective event services team is critical to the successful operation of any sports event venue. An amazing building cannot perform to its expectations without a capable crew; an aging or challenged facility absolutely depends on the skills and creativity of its people to remain relevant. Though rarely discussed, creating a flexible work environment and a developed succession plan is essential to building a powerful event operations team.
We recently published a 4- part series on guest services. In that series we discussed:
- Establishing a clear vision for your service expectations
- Defining desired staff characteristics
- Developing a clear decision matrix
- Articulating specific guidelines for guest interactions
This discussion is almost like a prequel to that guest services series. The staffing infrastructure and team culture needs to be in place before the service promise can be realized.
With the Chargers recent departure and with two stadium initiatives on the November ballot, folks in San Diego have heard a lot about stadium financing and operations. Financial impact reports are always central to these discussions as they address the number of jobs a sports facility or professional franchise might deliver to a community. It is important to recognize that the vast majority of jobs connected to a major sports event venue are part time or seasonal. People working in these part- time positions are often there for a few reasons:
- They are looking to gain experience in hopes of eventually moving into a full time position.
- They are passionate about the work (team, community, people and/ or job itself) and choose employment for enjoyment.
- There are certain limitations in their personal situation (time, skill set, education, etc) that restrict their ability to secure full time employment.
Regardless of the individual situation, event venue operators must recognize that the needs of their part- time labor pool are different than those of full time employees. Because of this, expectations must be set, so that they are appropriate to the team.
Managing a labor pool requires flexibility. This is to have an understanding that employee commitments may vary and the position is structured so that it is not dependent on a single person. The part- time job may not always be that employee’s first priority so management must account for this. In order to maintain a flexible environment, management must:
- Thoroughly understand availability and time constraints of their team members (ideally this is discussed as part of the hiring process).
- Build a pool large enough to cover staffing needs (including expected and unanticipated surges in staffing need).
- Communicate scheduling process and expectations clearly.
- Emphasize the concept of “accountability.” Even in a flexible work environment, staff must accept that they are “solely responsible for their actions and assignments.” Create reward and disciplinary programs to reinforce expected behaviors.
- Understand the skill set, motivation and wants of the individual staff member to put him in the best position to succeed and remain fulfilled. This will require ongoing dialogue and personal interaction.
- Clearly articulate expectations, give clear instruction and provide support when needed.
- Allow for open (two- way) communication. Encourage staff to speak up.
Flexible is not happenstance or optional. Flexibility should not be misinterpreted as unaccountable. In fact, it is the opposite. Flexibility requires staff to be more accountable and more communicative to ensure staffing needs are met. This is a staffing strategy employed to satisfy the needs of the best staff (recognize that talented people are in demand and flexibility creates an environment where the best people are able to meet multiple priorities) and to minimize event staff turnover. If management has the burden of creating a flexible work environment, the staffing pool has the responsibility to perform appropriately in that situation. This means that staff should:
- Plan ahead- Employees must understand their personal time constraints and communicate them to management appropriately (both when and how to share availability).
- Be available- Flexible does not mean unavailable. It costs employers a lot in terms of time and money to hire someone. Staff must be respectful of this and maintain availability that is appropriate for the position. The more available an employee is, the more work he will get.
- Follow the rules- Sports event venues typically use a staffing tool like www.whentowork.com or ABI Mastermind to manage staff rosters and to assign shift. Employees need to use these tools as prescribed by management. Staffing is often automated through these programs, so failure to adopt proper usage will result in lack of work.
- Don’t be shy- I always tell my staff that “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” If I know you are available, that you want to work and that you are a solid performer, I am going to give you work. This is because I am more likely to get better performance from an employee who wants to be there and I am going to save myself time in building staffing rosters.
- Do what you say you are going to do- The best way to get more work is to perform. Employees who do their job well will continue to get work opportunities. It is amazing that so many people forget this simple premise. Work is conditional… always remember that!
No matter how flexible an environment we create, there is going to be turnover with part- time labor pools. It is just the nature of the employment condition. To minimize the disruption caused by staff turnover, we must:
- Recognize the skills and motivations of the team. Put people in positions that most align with their personal ambition and that take advantage of their individual skill sets. This should help motivate staff to take on more responsibility. It may also lead some individuals to master certain work elements and may leads others to cross- training opportunities.
- Implement strategy to motivate employees to take on additional responsibilities. If a staffing pool is comprised of employees working for personal enjoyment, what will motivate them to take on additional responsibilities? There isn’t a hard answer on this, so it is important for management to understand the wants of their team to encourage higher level participation.
- Invest in continuing education and training opportunities. This may be as simple as scheduling promising staff members in shadowing positions so they can gain exposure to advanced opportunities. This will both motivate the employee and allow for a smooth transition when turnover occurs.
- Learn from the past. Sports are seasonal. Review staff data from past seasons to understand turnover rates and specific periods of staff shortages. Factor in these rates when building the labor pool.
Managing a sports event venue is a multidisciplinary profession. It is fulfilling work because there are so many angles to cover. Regardless of the discipline, human interaction is at its core. Really… it is the reason these facilities exist to begin with. People are gathering en masse to share a common experience and to engage with each other. Effectively managing our team allows for the successful delivery of our service promise thereby meeting the big picture wants of our guests.
Stylehawk Event Services is experienced in managing sports event venues, sports complexes and public assembly facilities. We have an exceptional track record in team building and would love to talk to you about supporting your venue operations. Please contact us today to get to work!