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Events companies should look further afield for talent, says RefTech MD

by EN

RefTech managing director Margaret Reeves discusses recruitment challenges and how the events industry must look further afield to attract the next generation of talent. RefTech, which currently has 21 employees, provides online and on-site registration and badging for conferences, exhibitions and events. It also provides all the tech behind IMEX.

What is the biggest recruitment challenge facing the industry now?

The biggest challenge that we currently have is finding staff. A lot of people have left the industry and retrained and there is a general shortage of talent so it’s very hard to find the right people for our positions. For example, we recently interviewed and found the perfect sales manager and she accepted the position. But she then contacted me the day before she was due to start to say that another position had come up that was too good to pass up. So, we are back to recruiting again.

Could you share any initiatives you have implemented to help recruitment?

We have increased salaries, and we offer homeworking too. Our benefits package has always been very generous – including private healthcare for everyone for example – so we haven’t as yet thought about adding more benefits to attract new starters. We have also been promoting the career paths that we can provide because we are keen to help our team members to progress.

How do you currently decide the salary for new starters?

We have always tried to be fair in the salaries we give – we pay all of our team above the real living wage and we have salary bands for every role dependent on experience and ability.

What do you think will happen to salaries in the next 12-18 months?

We will be increasing our team’s salaries next month and then reviewing them again next year too. It’s worrying times for a lot of people – and we need to look after our teams. We have put our prices up because so many of our costs have risen and so we want to be in a position to pass this money on to our staff too. We are still rebuilding our business post-pandemic, so we have to be cautious, but we also want to ensure that our staff are happy.   

What benefits are job seekers asking you for now and how do you think this may change over the next 12-18 months?

We aren’t seeing a difference in the benefits people are asking for. I believe we offer a generous package of benefits compared to other employers in the area and we often do nice treats and perks too.

What would you say to someone thinking of coming into the industry?

It’s hard work but very interesting and enjoyable. It’s not a nine-to-five job – especially for our onsite teams – but it is very rewarding to work on an event, see it come to fruition and feel part of what was achieved. The rewards are there for anyone who wants an interesting and varied career.

What do you think the industry can do to attract the next generation of talent?

The pandemic did help our industry to be seen and recognised, but I feel we have to be open to recruiting from outside of the industry if we want to get back up to pre-pandemic staffing numbers. We don’t necessarily look for industry experience – we look for attention to detail, admin and project management skills. I think for our industry to rebuild, we can’t be blinkered by only employing people with industry experience. The industry needs to look further afield, to attract people of every age and seniority level, and consider that many industries have transferable skills that will benefit.

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