With experiential and event budgets doubling year-on-year*, attracting high calibre field staff has become critical, making ‘employee engagement’ one of the biggest challenges faced by the industry. Brand experience agency, Purity, began work earlier this year on a continuing white paper with the University of Manchester, looking at the levels of engagement between staff and agencies and how this relationship is impacting on the sector.
Why It Matters:
70% of business leaders now believe that employee engagement is critical for their business. Nowhere is this more true than in the people-led experiential and event marketing industry where interaction between staff and the end user, be they customers, consumers or delegates, is the keystone to success.
‘Transactional engagement’ (concern to earn a living) is straightforward but ‘employee engagement’ is more psychological and complex. It requires a framework and investment to create the feeling of engagement with a company that will lead to happier staff and engaged employees. When achieved this creates a greater level of emotional awareness and therefore staff provide a better level of customer service. Studies show that as levels of employee engagement rise so do levels of customer satisfaction** and companies with highly engaged employees can significantly improve operating income.***
The Industry Now
Strong industry growth has led to an increase in demand for field staff with the right level of skills and experience and agencies are faced with the challenge of not only attracting high calibre staff but also retaining and developing them.
Traditionally staffing has been secured with a transient workforce with varying degrees of passion and commitment and low levels of loyalty within the sector. Staff are often employed on zero hours contacts and levels of work can fluctuate dramatically. Agencies, although highly adept at providing stimulating and motivational environments for their creative teams, often fail to address the emotional side of the relationship with their field staff.
The question then, according to Purity MD, Rob Quinn, is “How do we, as agencies, working within the experiential marketing industry engender the commitment and engagement from the individuals that work for us?”
Field Staff Survey
To help answer this, Purity conducted a survey of 750 members of their current 1700+ registered staff and held a number of face-to-face interviews that revealed five key things that staff are looking for from their agency: 1. Involvement – being included in as many processes as possible. 2. Communication – understanding the vision and mission of the company. 3. Nurturing – finding the best Event Managers and supporting them. 4. Training – being prepared to develop someone’s potential. 5. Recognition – praising and rewarding good work.
The findings closely mirrored those of the white paper, with the need to nurture and praise staff being one of the key drivers.
Effective employee engagement strategies will need to become an integral part of experiential and event based agencies business structures. Organisations with experiential/event marketing, who are looking to increase engagement, will need to establish frameworks in which staff can perform. Good people management will be vital and these practices will need to be understood and delivered by leaders and managers.
“The paper provides an insight into a sector of the industry that is changing very quickly.” Says Quinn. “At Purity we take great pride in our key assets, the field staff who represent us, recognising their engagement is vital in the successful delivery of projects and campaigns and we have already invested heavily in employee engagement strategies. For us the investment is paying dividends as the survey also found that 72% of our brand ambassadors were very engaged.”
“However, we realise that this is a constantly changing arena and that employee engagement strategies will need to adapt further and evolve as the industry grows.”
Quinn summed up, “The white paper highlights that an employee engagement strategy should be a priority for any business if they wish to improve performance. There needs to be a focus on the individual, their wellbeing and job satisfaction. But above all, as the sector continues to grow, agencies have a responsibility to ensure that the changes are managed professionally and with integrity.”
“Employee Engagement – Why It Matters To The Experiential Marketing Industry” Full copy available on request.
Source: *EventTrack study in 2012 found that brands were expecting their event and experiential marketing budgets to grow by nearly 8%, more than double that of the previous year. **Powers Watson (cited in Clear Action 2010) ***Tower Perrin ISR Employee Engagement Report (2006). Companies with highly engaged employees improved operating income by 19.2% over a 12 month period.
Additional Notes: The white paper research was completed in fulfilment of a dissertation on Employee Engagement by Rebecca Hobbs whilst completing a degree in BA(hons) Management and Leisure at The University of Manchester”