Leadership / 04.10.23
Workplace Happiness Is the Ticket to Staff Retention and Recruiting
Ticketing professionals play a significant role in shaping the overall experience for live events. These employees are often the first point of contact, greeting customers on the phone, via chat or in person, and their attitude can make all the difference. If they are happy, their positivity is contagious, creating a welcoming environment for everyone. But things have changed a lot in the industry since the pandemic hit, and people managers must focus on retaining and recruiting talented employees more than ever before. The Ontario Professional Ticketing Association (OPTA) recently held a webinar on this topic, and the presenter shared some fantastic tips that we are excited to tell you about today.
First, let us introduce Allison Arnott. She is an expert in workplace happiness and is the founder and "Chief Happiness Officer" of the Happiness Department. This consultancy uses research-backed methods to design employee experiences that promote and preserve well-being while creating fulfilling work environments. It is all about ensuring that employees feel happy in their jobs so they can be more productive and engaged, which optimizes an organization’s bottom line.
Arnott’s presentation focused more on staff attraction and retention than just wage increases or salary negotiations, recognizing that money is not always easy to come by, and organizations may not always have the resources for these conversations.
Her experience as a frontline worker, with years of experience in healthcare, has given Arnott a unique perspective that parallels the arts and entertainment industry. “You have been in ticketing, I have been in healthcare, but here is what we have in common: We are people leaders, and that is first and foremost. We all know that good people are the greatest asset in every organization. We want our people to be happy, reliable and customer-focused, and we want them to stay for a long time and do the best for the organization,” Arnott says. “We also want to spend our time doing things that matter and not dealing with employee problems and vacancies all the time.”
Arnott says, “The other thing that we have in common, unless you all have a secret that I don't have — none of us have a money tree in the backyard. Healthcare is not historically a super high-paying job, but the arts and entertainment can be less high paying, so I feel your pain there. We are all trying to get people to do difficult jobs, real customer-facing jobs, without money as leverage to make them do it or help them to be happy doing it.”
What is workplace happiness, and why does it matter?
“Workplace happiness sounds like a very fluffy term, and it feels like we are all going to hold hands and sing. Really, it's not that. It is a growing field that is more important all the time. It's always been important. Organizations have been allowed to get away with not paying much attention to it because … we think we can pay our way to getting the people we need. But times have changed, and the pendulum has shifted, especially since the pandemic,” Arnott says.
While working through an entire diploma on happiness to augment her already impressive academic credentials, Arnott has distilled happiness down to two words — purpose and enjoyment. Therefore, she says, a purposeful and enjoyable workplace contributes to overall employee happiness.
According to Arnott, workplace wellness programs like yoga or meditation classes are not enough to create happy work environments. “These are things where employees have to stop what they are doing to take part. They are aside from normal work, and the busiest people can't really take part in them, so they do not do much good. And they put the onus on the employee to feel better when we really need to design the workplace so that it doesn't erode your well-being in the first place.”
There are many statistics to back up the importance of workplace happiness. Among them, it costs 1.5 times an employee’s salary to replace them (Gallup 2019), 90% of people say they would take a pay cut for more meaning or autonomy (HBR 2018), and 42% of customers will pay more for positive and friendly customer service (PWC 2018).
Why does workplace happiness matter in ticketing?
The ticketing and live events industry was hit hard during the pandemic. We lost more people than almost any other sector, so attracting and retaining employees who love the work is crucial. And since most people are not doing this work for the money, creating a fulfilling and purposeful workplace is key.
“You did not get into this work and rise to the level that you did just to be replacing vacancies all the time and trying to cover shifts and deal with employee problems. Employees, and especially millennials … more than money need meaning, flexibility, autonomy and fulfillment in their work … Happy employees do a good job. They make your job easier; they make the customers happier and lead to a healthier bottom line,” Arnott says.
Of course, other young workers, including Gen Z, likely feel the same way as millennials who want meaning and other intangible benefits. And money matters, but not as much as you think. Recent research studies revealed that, of six work-life happiness factors, money and compensation ranked sixth out of six reasonably consistently. “Once people get to a basic threshold [of US$75,000], happiness depends more on the culture, the leadership, the manager, whether there are opportunities and whether there is the flexibility for work to fit into the rest of their lives,” Arnott says. “People are not living to work anymore; people are working to live.”
Arnott says, “People who make over US$105,000 start to get unhappier,” adding that it matters more to people that they are paid equally for equal work. “They have done some really neat research where people actually voted to lower the salaries of their peers rather than raise their own salary in some cases … The other thing we know is that pay is more important in recruitment than retention. You might be able to bring people on with more money. If you have a candidate trying to decide between two places … and they are trying to compare apples and apples, they might take the job with more money. A happy employee will not leave an organization solely for more money.”
What impacts workplace happiness?
In short, it is you, says Arnott.
“Workplace happiness thrives at the team level,” she says. “You have a lot of influence over whether or not your team feels happy, whether they will stay and whether they will continue to show up and cheerfully do a good job every day.”
Arnott refers to the team level as climate. “I always think of the immediate supervisor as the climate-keepers for the workplace … Half of the people who leave jobs say that there is something their supervisor could have done to make them stay. Half! And often supervisors do not even ask.”
There are five levels of workplace happiness. It looks like Maslow's hierarchy of needs, and Arnott says there is a good reason for that.
Source: The Happiness Department
“With necessity, you need to work for an organization that does what you think is a good thing for society. You are going to need to be safe. The schedule is going to need to fit with your job,” Arnott says. “You are going to have to feel like your job is contributing to the bigger picture [to have meaning]. You need to have friends at work. You need to feel empowered to be able to use your brain [and talents] a little bit … Your immediate supervisor notices and recognizes that you bring something a little special. You feel like it matters that you are there.”
She continues, “For growth, there is some research that [shows spending] 20% of our time … on things that we love doing [is important]. Your workplace happiness does not go up if it's 30%, 40% or 50%. Then [for] joy, and this is the part where there is fun, there are employee appreciation events and gestures and perks. I don't know about you, but I have worked in places where they did not get necessity right, they did not get meaning right, they did not get empowerment right, they did not get growth right, but every year there was a staff appreciation event, or we might get a cookie at the door, or they might get a T-shirt or something like that. They think that they are doing things that are going to make employees happy, but they are missing the biggest part of the iceberg.”
Here are some examples in each category for a ticketing employee:
Source: The Happiness Department
If you have an employee who is “able to say all of these things about working at your venue, then that is a person who is not going to leave. That is a person who is happy. That is a person who feels supported. That is a person who feels like they have friends at work, they feel connection, and they thrive getting out of bed in the morning and coming to work,” Arnott says, regarding the examples in the chart above. “On top of that if they said, ‘Oh my gosh, we laugh all the time. It is really fun. Everybody I work with is a ball. We have a great time. The organization occasionally does recognition events or they do little surprises, and there are great perks to working here. I get to see concerts. I get to see shows. I get to go to games. I get tickets to take my family places. There are amazing perks.’ Now, there you have a person who is going to be with you for the rest of their career.”
If you are not ticking all of these boxes, Arnott recommends thinking about how to begin doing that. Here are some specific actions and suggestions:
Source: The Happiness Department
The Money Conversation
When it comes to money and the workplace, first and foremost, be honest with your employees. If you can't offer more money, try to find other ways to make the job meaningful and enjoyable. You could offer more flexible scheduling, sometimes even around other part-time work, or offer tasks that they love.
Pay equity is also very important. Ensure you are not paying one person more than another for the same work. If you are doing that now, it is time to stop.
Advocate for your team where there is latitude. If someone deserves a raise, do what you can to make it happen. And if you can't, let them know you are trying. It can go a long way in building trust and a good working relationship.
“I had a situation before where I was trying to get someone a raise, and she deserved a raise. She was not making very much money, and she was not making the same as the other people in her department. I kept going back and back and back to human resources to try and get her a raise. In the end, she was just happy that I was trying so hard. She stayed and we had a trusting relationship after that because she knew I was trying my best, even though I was not super happy with the outcome of what I could get her for salary,” Arnott says.
Don't be afraid to ask your employees what they need to be happy at work. Stay interviews can be a great way to build trust and empower your team. Even if you can't give them everything they ask for, the fact that you asked will go a long way.
Finally, while everyone must pay their bills, remember that workplace happiness is more than just money, especially in live events. Highlight the other factors that make your workplace great. Whether it is a supportive culture or opportunities for professional growth, make sure your employees know what you have to offer. And by being honest, advocating for your team, and offering other forms of support, you can create a ticketing workplace environment that is both happy and successful.
You May Also Like
Want news like this delivered to your inbox weekly? Subscribe to the Access Weekly newsletter, your ticket to industry excellence.
Tags: Leadership , Workplace , Happiness