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An inside perspective

by EN

At the beginning of the summer ESP Recruitment, in association with EN and sister publication Conference News, conducted extensive, industrywide research to understand how both employees and employers have responded to the pandemic.

What do employees think?

The employee survey has revealed that 59% of exhibition organiser employees would rather split their work time between home and the office when businesses start to reopen.

When asked if employees feel they are being paid what they think they are worth, around half agreed. When employers were asked the same question, over 70% said they were paying their staff the appropriate wage.

The survey has also revealed that 67% of organiser employees would like more flexible working hours, compared to 32% when the same survey was carried out in 2015. Results also show that 53% of venue and 41% of supplier employees would also prefer flexible working conditions.

Of the 929 respondents 11% of staff working for exhibition organisers reported that they have been furloughed, compared to 48% of supplier and 24% of venue employees.

Almost half of those working for organisers have reported a salary drop of up to 20% compared to just 28% of venue employees.

70% of employees are worried about their jobs in the exhibition industry while only 17% of staff feel secure in their current roles.

85% of businesses organising events overseas intend to run their events again over the next 12 months.

A large number of industry employees have been furloughed following the outbreak, going from 85% in full-time employment to 50%.

Liz Sinclair, ESP Recruitment’s director who collated the results, noted the shift in attitudes to work since lockdown.

She said: “From experience, the majority of staff didn’t enjoy working from home as they missed the office culture and social aspect of work, and not everyone can motivate themselves at home. This seems to have changed since having this situation forced on us by Covid-19.

“Now, people have found a way to efficiently work from home and with the use of technology, you can still have the social- and team-focused aspects of your day. As staff aren’t spending time travelling to work, employers might even get more hours out of their staff from home as they don’t have to rush off to catch a train or deal with childcare.

“It seems that staff will want this flexibility to continue after lockdown, which employers should consider, as happy staff are generally more productive.”

What do employers think?

The new study has revealed that 59% of venues have seen a sharp drop in revenue by between 61%-100%, compared to 45% of organisers due to Covid-19.

Event services or suppliers have also been affected the most by the outbreak, with 70% reporting a fall in revenue of between 61%-100%.

38% of employers reported that they would rather their staff continue to work from home after lockdown to avoid using public transport.

55% of organisers have turned to digital platforms to connect with their customers through virtual events, webinars and online networking, but alarmingly 45% of organisers have not created any digital events. Just 16% of organisers reported that they had specifically created online events to generate revenue for the business and a further 36% created these events to engage with their customers. 46% of organisers explored both options.

EN can also reveal that 75% of venue bosses are still being paid their full salaries compared to just 36% of senior organiser staff, and 34.5% of event services have cut their salaries by 60% or more.

Both organisers and venues agree that the exhibition industry will take a long time to recover at 33% and 30% respectively.

Despite almost two thirds of organiser staff being female, only one third of women have boardroom places.

Working in operations and sales is still the best way to reach the top jobs in exhibitions with 40% of senior roles coming from a sales background and 26% from operations.

38% of employers are happy for their staff to continue to work from home after lockdown showing a significant shift in attitude by employers.

37% of organisers said they will have to wait and see what the industry is like before they re-employ furloughed staff compared to 31% of venue staff and 41% of suppliers.

54% of employers said that the prospects for promotion within their businesses were either good or excellent before the outbreak compared to 23% post-pandemic. 35% of employers felt optimistic about a recovery in Q1/2 2021 but 34% felt that it was a long road back to recovery.

Liz Sinclair, director at ESP Recruitment, noted her shock at the figures. She said: “In 20 years of running ESP Recruitment and during the time I worked in events, I have never seen stats like these before, even during the recession. It is very hard to see a whole industry put on hold without a date to resume.

“There is always discussion about the hospitality industry by the government, but the events industry is never mentioned, when its revenue is around £70bn, according to the Business Visits and Events Partnership, and employs over half a million event professionals.”

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