A CIPD survey showed that in 2014, 36% of companies used casual workers. The events industry relies heavily on casual staff to fulfill the roles of stewards, bar staff, waiting staff, parking marshalls etc. Some events attract volunteers who are happy to do a bit of work in exchange for a free place at the event, e.g. big music festivals, sci-fi conventions, sports events like the London Olympics, and charity events which simply couldn’t be held without the aid of volunteers.
Casual staff at your event will have an enormous range of experience and come from all walks of life; the likelihood is that they’ll be younger people who don’t mind doing sometimes physically demanding work.
The casual or voluntary nature of the work tends to attract young people, a lot of whom will be students using this kind of work to help fund their way through college or university. They will probably not have a great deal of experience in catering and will therefore need a little more supervision whilst they learn the ropes. The good news being that students tend to be quick learners.
There are a number of measures you can take to maximise your chances of getting the best from your event staff and volunteers.
Everyone likes being part of a team, so make sure they feel like they’re a part of yours. Communicate with them – send them a welcoming message along with details about you and the job you want them to do. Make sure they have not only your contact details, but also the details of the person they’ll need to report to on the day, including a phone number to ring if they get delayed on the way to the event.
Also let them know a few more details about their role at the event, and tell them what you will be providing (e.g. uniforms, refreshments etc) and what they’ll need to bring (e.g. their own lunch/snacks, specific clothing, suncream if it’s an outdoor event). Give them any more information about breaks, staff parking, use of mobile phones at the event, and anything else that would be useful to tell them about. The more they know about the event, the more they’ll feel they’re a valued member of the team.
A couple of days before the event, send out a friendly email reminding them of the event and letting them know you’re looking forward to working with them. Occasionally, you will find that some workers feel the casual nature of the job gives them the right to turn up late, cancel at short notice, or not turn up at all. Whilst this presents a huge problem on the day, if you encourage a culture of communication by keeping in touch and making them feel like a part of the team, you’ll encourage them to get in touch with you.
When they arrive onsite, introduce them to other members of the team and make sure they’re comfortable with what they’re doing, and know who to turn to if they have any questions or problems. Keep checking in on them during the event to make sure they’re doing a good job, are getting on well with guests and each other, and if there are any problems, take them aside and have a quiet word in private.
If you regularly need to employ casual staff with excellent customer service skills, it’s vital to build up a loyal team who want to work for you. Keep them on your side by sending them a letter or email thanking them for their contribution. And make sure you pay them as soon as possible after the event.
Organising an event takes a huge amount of administration and if you need a lot of casual staff, you won’t have time to interview them all in the run up to the event. Going through a recruitment agency will take all that time, effort and responsibility off your shoulders. They’ll already have met and assessed all the people on their books. And if someone lets you down at the last minute, the agency will responsible for finding a replacement.
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