Let’s talk about agency staff; the team that welcome your guests as they arrive and hand your guests their coat as they leave. Agency workers can often face a negative stigma within the workplace. In three years in the industry, I’ve heard agency staff being described as anything from ‘warm bodies’ to ‘pairs of hands’ to ‘pond scum’; interesting terminology to describe a team who could be fundamental to the success or failure of your event. Staffing agencies are enjoying record high demands for their teams as the events industry grows; but how good really are the people that they are providing, are they the event industry’s best or worst?
Why They’re The Worst?
1. Less Committed – Agency staff are often less committed to a brand or a client. The fact that agency staff will often find themselves working for five or six different companies in one single week means that their commitment to one company in particular may not be the same level as that that would be expected from full time staff. Huiyan Fu describes how this lack of commitment to a brand can have a negative impact on the standard and service quality that agency staff provide.
2. Less Firm Specific Training – Agency staff will have more often than not, received far less specific training for a role or a company than staff the company employs directly. Many agencies do provide training for their staff, however this training has to cover a wide range of roles and clients and can often vary dramatically from what one specific client expects when on site. This is sometimes overcome however by clients that offer training to their agency staff or clients that build a long term relationship with their agency staff.
3. The Agency – The staffing industry is, and always will be, a client focused industry. The clients pay for the staff therefore their needs and requirements will always take priority over their employee’s needs and preferences. This can often lead to staff doing a job they don’t enjoy or don’t particularly want to do which can in turn lead them feeling undervalued as employees. An employee feeling undervalued often leads to an employee being demotivated, and a demotivated employee certainly isn’t what you’d want talking to your guests at an event.
Why They’re The Best?
1. Versatility – Take a moment to think about the last time you started a new job; how long did it take you to settle in that job, learn the company’s ways of working, find your way around the office and get to know the team you were working with? Now imagine doing that every day of the week at a new venue with a new client. This versatility and ability to learn new ways of working in a very short space of time is not only expected of agency staff, but is a defining feature of the work they undertake.
2. Multi-skilled – The varied nature of agency work means that agency staff are constantly learning and upgrading their skill set. That guy working as a waiter for your event last night could have potentially spent the night before selling programmes. Or that girl who’s offering canapés to your guests, she may have spent the previous day working as a hostess in high end hospitality. The key for event managers to really making the most of their agency staff, is to realise the wide ranging skill set their staff come with and using that to transform their event.
3. Reliability – Perhaps a surprise inclusion for event managers who’ve had sleepless nights over staff shortages due to no-shows on site. It is common practice for agency staff to be replaced by their agencies when they arrive at work. The staffing industry is also the only industry in the United Kingdom that reserves the right to sack workers without notice or good cause. A study by Stanworth and Druker revealed that the fact agency staff are instantly disposable actually make them a very reliable team.
A key part making the most out of your agency staff is making them feel a part of your team and giving them a clear understanding of how you work. So next time your waiter or waitress comes over to ask a question about what they should be doing, don’t just give them an answer, give them a part to play in your team that makes them feel valued and you never know, they could turn out to be the best staff at your event!