Industry leaders discuss how to retain staff during coronavirus

Retaining staff and managing other internal challenges caused by the coronavirus outbreak were among the key areas discussed at Micebook’s emergency event industry leaders’ summit on the coronavirus crisis.

Micebook hosted the emergency meeting of more than 30 event industry leaders at The Biltmore Mayfair on Wednesday 11 March to discuss the impact of the crisis.

Chetan Shah, Micebook CEO and founder said: “While communicating with clients and offering help and advice regarding events postponements and cancellations due is a key focus for most event agencies and suppliers during the coronavirus outbreak, it is crucial to make sure you are preparing your own business to get through this crisis and keeping staff informed.”

He shared some of the key take-aways:

*One simple thing that every business can do now is to do a trial work from home day of all staff to make sure your systems are up to handling remote working for everyone. That way you can make sure you are prepared for the worst-case scenarios such as if government does enforce office closures and make everyone to work at home, or if someone in your office is diagnosed and people need to self-isolate.

Agency leaders discussed responses to the coronavirus crisis

Agency leaders discussed responses to the coronavirus crisis

*Businesses also need to test that their systems are really robust to make sure they are protected with people working from home as there will be an increase in cyber-crime. As we encourage our teams to work from home – we need to ensure our IT security is strong so that needs to be in the business contingency planning.

*The biggest challenge is going to be retaining staff over the next few months. Some redundancies may, unfortunately, be inevitable, but here are some of the things that agencies can do and are doing to reduce overheads and protect staff:

-Reduce staff to a four-day week
-Ask employees to take a salary sacrifice
-Pay freeze
-Cancel bonuses until business picks up again
-Delay or freeze recruitment plans
-Not take on a new recruit to save current team members
-Get people in the events team to upskill in digital rather than taking on a new digital person
-Get staff to take their annual holiday allowance before the end of August as you’ll need everyone available for the last few months of the year to deliver all the events that have been postponed if things are back to normal by then.
-Get staff to catch up on admin and all the jobs that never get done while events are being cancelled

*Most importantly – during these challenging times, make sure you are open and honest with your teams and keep them in the loop on how the business is doing and what steps are being made to protect the business and why.

*Freelancers – they will be much needed in busier times ahead, but how do we manage freelancers in the meantime? There is no right or wrong answer in terms of doing the right thing according to one agency head – be open and honest and try to help them through it as best you can. If work is postponed, try and commit to giving them the project when it does happen. Can you move them onto different projects in the meantime?

*How much this crisis affects your business will depend on when your financial year-end is. One agency said they had extended their year-end from March to June because they have had a really strong year, it means they can afford to take the hit in this current financial year and start again in July when hopefully things will begin to improve.

*Look at the budget announcement and see what benefits the government is putting in place to help protect businesses in the travel and tourism sector.

*Duty of care to staff – what can we ask of staff in terms of travelling? Monitor the latest FCO advice on where the main risk areas are. Most agencies still have staff travelling out on events currently. If staff are concerned about travelling, you can’t force them to travel and need to be flexible and find someone else to go or if necessary, go yourself.

*It’s all very well to say that the show must go on, but all of us in the events industry live with people who are not. People could live with someone elderly or with underlying health issues, so we need to be mindful of that.

*Agency leaders need to be more hands-on and get more involved at an operational level, so they are prepared to step in to deliver projects if needed.