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Refilling the Candidate Pool

For the first time in more than a year there are many more jobs available than candidates to fill them. Business in our industry is booming. So, what’s the problem? Why are we having any challenges at all in filling our open positions and getting back to whatever used to pass as normal? The reasons are many and complex. Let’s explore them together:

Depending upon the scope or rationale for your meetings, one of three types of events will be most suitable. Planners will need proficiency in presenting virtual meetings with no one being in the same room at the same time, virtual/on-site hybrid events, and traditional face-to-face, in-house meetings. Neither, virtual nor hybrid meetings are going to disappear so the planners will need to be more versatile than before. The skill sets necessary to successfully create and implement each type of meeting are different. Traditional on-site meetings needed planners proficient in such areas as, strategic planning, mastery of meeting logistics, AV considerations, budget preparation and reconciliation, F&B planning and implementation, travel coordination, risk management, contingency planning, contract negotiation, and many more areas.

Virtual and hybrid meeting planners need proficiency in the use of ZOOM, Bluejeans or any of the myriad virtual meeting platforms available. They need to know the best lighting products and techniques available. How to best utilize eye contact and voice modulation techniques. Knowledge of recording and distribution solutions. Best marketing practices to various audiences, and more.

As you ramp up your team there are other variables to consider. Where are you on the “What if?” scale? With masking policies and uneven distribution of vaccinations in arms, will there be another surge of the pandemic? If so, where? How will this affect your meetings? Is there a potential for another economic downturn? If so, how will you respond? If you plan an on-site meeting, will your attendees feel comfortable attending? Will the venue have sufficient staff to provide the levels of service you require? Each of these questions relates to actual meeting management and the skills required of your planners.

On the hiring side of the equation as you attempt to bring on new staff is that many candidates appreciate the flexibility and convenience of working from a home office setting. They may still have childcare, or elder care availability issues to consider. They may enjoy not fighting traffic or spending money for restaurant lunches. On the flip side, what are your expectations? Do you expect employees to work from the office? Will your organization opt for remote workers? Will you offer more flexibility than before with a certain number of days in the office and the rest from home? How you answer these questions will affect whom and from where you will recruit new hires.

Yet another factor to consider is that in the same way the real estate market has become super charged with houses selling for above asking price, often with buyers often never seeing the home prior to the sale. The hiring process has become compressed. Often an offer is being made to attractive candidates within 48 hours of the initial interview. With so many jobs available a good candidate will not be on the shelf for very long. Are you able to decide on a candidate in a shorter amount of time and with less contact than in pre-pandemic days?

“Gig” workers, aka independent contractors, will be a larger part of the work force than before the pandemic. This gives both the hiring organization and the candidates more flexibility. These candidates may be interchangeable parts hired on an as-needed basis. Is this a route to consider?

Finally, you need to take a long and very honest look at your organization. What is the culture?  Many Millennial or Gen Z candidates may have a different set of expectations and mind set regarding work than Baby Boomers or other older candidates.

They may have a different take on social responsibility. The work environment and company mission statement carry more weight. The traditional motivators of pay rate, office location, and hours worked each week may not be sufficient to attract the best talent.

A partial list of “perks” appealing to Millennials and Gen Z’ers include:

  • Health insurance
  • Dental insurance
  • Vision insurance
  • Tuition reimbursement or payback programs
  • Childcare benefits
  • Gym memberships or discounts
  • Wellness programs
  • Employee recognition programs
  • Pet insurance
  • Commuting/travel assistance
  • Retirement benefits or accounts
  • Healthcare spending or reimbursement accounts, such as HSAs, FSAs, and HRAs
  • Long term disability insurance
  • Short term disability insurance
  • Workplace perks such as bonding activities, food and coffee, and flexible work schedule
  • Paid time off (mental health days, sick days, and vacation days)

Consider what is best for your organization. Will you thrive with a remote work force? Will you require your staff to work within the office setting you provide? Will there be something in between? Decide what is best for you but, know that zero flexibility may truly limit the applicant pool available to you.

As our industry re-engages, be prepared for changes in the hiring, on-boarding and retention of employees.  So much has changed. With honest expectations of what you need from candidates, and knowledge of how to best motivate and retain talent you should do just fine. Enjoy the ride, it will be exhilarating!


About Dawn Penfold

Dawn Penfold, a former meeting professional, started Meetingjobs in 1990 to fill a need for a professional recruitment company serving meeting professionals for associations and corporations. Meetingjobs recently merged with Cadre providing a full complement of labor resources across the hiring spectrum, from full-time planners, to project-based contract planners, to on-site event staff .