How to handle labor shortages that are impacting meeting planning and execution?

Planners, are you sure your next in-person meeting will have enough staff to deliver the quality experience your audience expects? Hotels, restaurants, convention centers, airlines, airports, virtual events companies, and third-party vendors are dealing with the same issue – staffing shortages. And this is not just a U.S. issue, as event and hospitality businesses worldwide face similar challenges. Recent research results collected this summer from 700 U.S. respondents (planners and suppliers) show that 93% of planners are highly concerned with staffing and service shortages and for good reasons. 49% of responding hotels say they have returned to pre-pandemic staffing numbers, while only 29% of convention and visitor bureaus reached pre-pandemic level. Staffing shortages and other issues are creating major headaches for event planners, and it’s time to find opportunities to rethink how to plan events and employ innovative new strategies. There is also a need for new approaches to recruitment. 

Now the $1 Million question is, how do we, as an industry, handle it? These are ideas from planners and industry professionals that were found successful. 

Recruitment:

  • Hotels offer various incentives for potential hires to meet the demand: increased wages, flexible schedules, and expanded benefits packages. 
  • Laid-off employees from virtual platforms are sought by Meeting departments. 
  • Other vendors are looking into recent retirees to fill-up positions.

Virtual events:

  • Planners, vet your potential virtual-event platform providers carefully. The established in-person event-management companies that expanded their virtual and hybrid offerings will be your safest choices. 
  • Ask how many similar events a provider ran in the past six months. 
  • Get references from companies that held meetings similar to yours. Include early dry runs to ensure that the number of staff the firm provides is sufficient for the proper execution of the event. 

Transportation:

  • Try to avoid traveling by air during peak leisure season. Look for second or third-tier cities that may not have been affected as much by the labor shortage. 
  • When planning your event, look for locations and venues within walking distance of your central hotel. 

Planning and Communication:

  • When writing a contingency plan, start including staffing shortages.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate your expectation. If a supplier cannot perform a service, inform people beforehand. 
  • Advise participants well in advance that there will only be a restricted type of food available or that they should not expect housekeeping services daily.
  • Be creative with your resources and space set-up. 
  • Planners, ask more questions. If a venue cannot do room turns in the amount allotted in your meeting schedule, ask them if you can tweak the set-up to make it easier for them. 
  • Embrace sustainability messages and make them part of your program—an excellent go-around for not providing housekeeping services daily. 

Food and Beverage: 

  • Create thoughtfully designed programs with the venue and experience in mind. 
  • Look for various F&B options – restaurant dine-around and credit on your participants’ guestrooms to eat at their leisure are great alternatives. 
  • Ask the chef to be creative rather than overly prescriptive in the specifics of each element of each meal. 
  • Build a grab-and-go for your group if a restaurant is closed for breakfast.
  • Food trucks are an excellent substitute. Bring several food trucks to an area adjacent to the meeting space to support a reception or a meal function.

The meeting industry is in a tough place right now, and we need to openly discuss staffing, service changes, and how planners will handle these issues. Ultimately, as an industry, we need to value the person doing the job just as much as they are doing. It is not hard to make an effort to appreciate the people supporting your event. By valuing them, and the job they do, we create a better industry and will attract the right kind of recruits. 

Marilyne

Marilyne Bouteiller, a Sales and Marketing Professional and French native, has written short stories for various publications since 2011. As a child, she traveled much of Europe and got into the hospitality industry to follow her love for food and travel. She was exposed to different cultures at an early age, and now enjoys writing about her experiences for i-Meet, the Worldwide Business Community for people who plan meetings and events. Follow her on Instagram @thefrenchinme.

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