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20 Mar 2018

Recruit or retain, that’s the question!

Recruit or retain, that’s the question!

Recruit or retain, that’s the question!

The arrival of spring is all about growth, renewal and development so, as Chair of the AEO Talent Working Group, I think this is a perfect opportunity to reveal what we’ve been up to and what we’re planning for the rest of the year ahead.

There’s been a lot of discussion in the Group about whether we should focus on recruitment or retention. As an association with a varied member base covering both very large and very small businesses, the AEO has to consider the needs of all members. The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) Resourcing and Talent Planning study in 2017 found that 84% of UK organisations are having difficulty in retaining staff and 82% are experiencing increased competition for attracting new quality talent. It’s reassuring to know that as an industry we’re not unusual but it does highlight that we can’t hang back, we have to do something about it.

Luckily, drawing from the experience and talent within the working group, we’ve made a great start and it would appear, from the findings of the CIPD study, that we are going in absolutely the right direction. To be in with a chance of attracting the best quality candidates, the research findings highlight the importance of building an attractive employer brand, or in our case industry brand, and demonstrating great career development opportunities. This is exactly what the AEO has been focussing on with the resources that are available in the Talent Hub on the AEO website. These include the videos, fast paced visual content giving an overall feel for the industry and the different roles involved in organising an event, plus the stories behind some of the successful individuals that work in the industry and an idea of the type of career progression a candidate could realistically expect.

Our next priority is to understand where to focus these resources to promote and raise the profile of the events industry as the fantastic career choice it is. To help with this we’re conducting some member research to find out what the recruitment needs are as well as the entry route our members’ star employees took to get to their current position. We’re hoping this will provide insight into who we need to target and ultimately how we engage them – whether that’s through raising awareness with educational establishments, via apprenticeships or a campaign to target industry and career switchers. Our long-term objective is for events professionals to state that they made a specific career choice to work in the industry rather than it being a happy accident.

We’re not forgetting retention of course. The CIPD study shows that over half of CEOs are prioritising talent management and the most popular method for improving staff retention is to invest in learning and development opportunities.  Between 2016 and 2017 a focus on retention over recruitment increased from 40% to 63% and developing talent in-house from 50% to 78%.

Following the success of the AEO Forums that took place at the end of January and the Sales Conference that was held at International Confex, the Talent Working Group is also looking at how we can further expand on the learning and development opportunities that the AEO provides for junior and middle managers. The decisions on what, when and how these opportunities will be delivered to members will be based on insight provided by those individuals. AEO members will be kept informed as further information becomes available.

In addition, we will be working with members to identify success stories and best practice in terms of company culture. The O.C. Tanner Institute has conducted an interesting study called Talent Magnets which demonstrates how an irresistible culture, attractive to employees, can deliver business success.

This starts with great leadership and making sure you have the right ingredients to provide an excellent employee experience, including showing appreciation and improving wellbeing to make people want to stay at your organisation, as we covered at the AEO Conference in September. Then by giving a sense of purpose and opportunity, as our keynote speaker at the AEO Forums highlighted when he discussed the experience of the mechanics in the factory compared to those in the pit lane, you can massively improve engagement. This in turn leads to tangible and visible success that acts as a magnet to new talent.

That’s the theory. The Talent Working Group is now working on what we put into practice to build awareness, understanding and appreciation of the opportunities the events industry can offer as a career choice.

Check out the current resources on the Talent Hub of the AEO website 

Alison Willis

Chair of Talent Working Group