Leadership / 07.07.21
Advice from the Pros: 5 Staffing Tips After the Pandemic
No matter how we look at it, this has been a long pandemic. Finally, the show is going on again in the U.S. and in some other countries around the world. In other areas, it must and will go on once government public health measures are relaxed and lifted. Yet as athletes take the field, musicians reclaim the spotlight and actors step back on stage, we are beginning to see staffing gaps in ticketing circles.
Some venues are reporting that furloughed staff have moved on to other industries and opportunities, while others believe they are having issues attracting applicants because unemployment pays better.
This was a hot topic on a recent INTIX Wednesday Wisdom call, as ticketing professionals shared solutions for restaffing and retraining after the extended pause. Here are five tips to help your organization staff up successfully as it reopens and recovers:
1. Increase your starting rate. Competitive wages and benefits are a great way to attract top talent. Try not to make the mistake of basing your base pay on your budget versus the realities of today’s economy. “We upped our starting rate, and that has definitely helped with our applicant pool,” says Ashley Voorhees, Associate Vice President of Administrative Services for Omaha Performing Arts in Nebraska. “We had three full-time positions that I was able to fill; we got great candidates, and all three have started. They are all fantastic.”
2. Be positive and patient as workers get up to speed. During the entertainment industry shutdown, the Los Angeles Philharmonic rebuilt venues in its ticketing system and implemented other changes to make good use of staff time. As furloughed employees return, they will learn how the organization has evolved in a supportive environment that is delighted to have them back. “We will get them back on the phones, and it will be really easy to do basic sales,” says Joe Carter, Director of Sales and Customer Experience for the LA Phil. “There are other things that we need to make sure they know; for example, we have changed our exchange policies. As to being rusty, that is a phrase I have been using a lot: ‘We are a little rusty, but we are doing really well’. It is just reworking muscles that you have not worked in a long time.”
3. Train staff during off hours. The Segerstrom Center for the Arts has also implemented new technology, and the phone system was changed, too, so there is a lot for its team to learn. “We made the decision that we will bring back newer staff during off hours so that we can dedicate time to training them and getting them comfortable with new technology,” says Kay Burnham, Vice President of Guest Services at the Segerstrom Center. “This means our limited management staff is not trying to split their attention between training new staff and supporting the staff that are actually working on the phones to serve our patrons.”
4. Consider remote/hybrid arrangements. Sometimes the best person for the job does not live in your area. Perhaps someone on your team has moved away, students are not returning to campus, or the travel time to and from your venue is just too much for people you would like to rehire or retain. Now that we have proven working from home can work, are organizations open to adding (or increasing) permanent remote work opportunities?
“One [of our call center reps] is in California and one is in Florida, so the answer for us is absolutely, yes,” says Dave Winn, Box Office Manager at the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
“I would say the answer is yes for us too because we have been operating that way with my current student-staff because many of them did not come back to Berkeley, so they are all over the place, and we have figured out how to do it,” says Liz Baqir, Ticket Services Manager for Cal Performances.
“I am hoping to move to a hybrid model,” Burnham says. “Over the years, I have lost a number of really good part-time staff simply because their commute was too much to bear. In California, it does not take much distance for a commute to be really long, so it would open our applicant pool to a much larger base that I think would elevate our customer service by allowing them to work from home, and we have proven they can do it.”
“Working at home is good for the environment,” says Cary Clark, Box Office Manager for Orlando Venues. “Why commute if you do not have to commute? It is also an incentive that can be advertised. ‘You can just roll out of bed, have your cup of coffee and start your shift; you do not have to spend an hour washing your hair and then getting in the car.’”
5. Try something new. Change can be unsettling for everyone, especially when there has been so much of it over the past 15 months. However, “We’ve always done it that way” is one of the most dangerous phrases in business. There is no better time than the present to be open to change and improvement.
“We are doing things a bit differently than we did before, and we are just going to keep rolling, changing and adapting as we bring staff back and see what works and what does not,” Burnham says. “We are also being really upfront with the staff we are bringing back, that bringing them back is new to us, too, so we are all learning, we are all working, and we need to be open with each other about what is working and what is not.”
INTIX is here to help if you are looking for a new opportunity in ticketing or need to hire great staff. Job seekers and employers can visit the INTIX Career Center to learn more.
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Tags: Venues , Leadership , Workplace