EVENT CONCEPT COO, JO HIGGS
The old-adage has never been truer for Event Concept: as a service business, without our brilliant people we wouldn’t be able to deliver the extraordinary experiences our clients have come to expect.
I’ve spent most of my professional life working in the HR field, trying to make people’s working lives as enjoyable, rewarding and challenging as I possibly can.
In 2017, with its workforce expanding to over 80 full-time staff, Event Concept made the decision to invest more heavily in its people and I was hired to drive this initiative as Head of People and Culture. That role was, of course, not without its challenges, but after 12 months of tackling various legacy processes and mindsets we began to see a shift in behaviour – one that is having a positive effect on overall service and delivery.
After a little over a year with the company I was asked to step up to the role of Chief Operating Officer. That was a big move for me but one that cemented my belief that this company has the wellbeing and development of its people at its heart.
'without our brilliant people we wouldn’t be able to deliver the extraordinary experiences our clients have come to expect.'
From the day I started at Event Concept, I have been blown away by the passion and dedication of the team here: the way they come up with creative solutions for even the most challenging brief, how every person plays a vital role – from planning, design and production, right the way through to dismantling sets and managing our stock inventory – and pull in the same direction to get the job done as brilliantly as possible.
It’s this commitment and experience that has led us to recently introduce a new company motto: ‘For the love of the show’. Simply put, this is what gets us out of bed in the morning and keeps us going late into the night.
That’s one of the challenges that I’m planning to get to grips with as a people-focused COO. It’s no secret that it’s hard to strike the right work-life balance as an event professional, especially during the hectic summer and autumn seasons. Stress and burnout are real challenges; ones that we as an industry need to tackle together. If left unchecked, we’ll soon have a significant retention challenge on our hands; YouGov research puts the UK hospitality industry’s annual staff retention rate at 70%, well below the UK average of 85%, with the most common reasons for leaving including unsociable working hours. Data from LinkedIn puts the media and entertainment industry's turnover at 11.4% – the third highest in its rankings.
Mental health is another growing national concern that we need to focus on: Mind estimates that one in four UK people experience a mental health issue – such as anxiety and depression – each year. More than half (59%) of respondents to a 2018 survey by The Caterer said they consider themselves to have a mental health problem at the moment, yet 56% of those with a mental health problem said they hadn’t told their employer about it. To help combat this, we’ll soon embark on a programme of training mental health first aiders. Much in the same way as physical first aiders offer help in the case of an accident or injury, mental health first aiders will be trained to offer people real emergency support in a crisis, as well as to spot the warning signs of declining mental health.
'It’s this commitment and experience that has led us to recently introduce a new company motto: For the love of the show’
In fact, learning and development remains an ongoing focus area for us. We are putting a range of initiatives in place so our people have access to learning opportunities that will serve as the foundation for their future success.
These programmes include introducing apprenticeships at every level of the business, for everyone from warehouse operatives to the managers who will be our leaders of the future. We’ve also recently invested in and launched a two-year training programme for our account managers and, as you’d expect from an events company, we’re very big on health and safety training, too. In fact, we achieved ISO 45001 occupational health and safety accreditation last year – just a short time after the new standard was launched in March 2018.
Event Concept has come a long way in its 25-year history: we’ve grown from small beginnings to become one of London’s most ambitious and creative event-production agencies, with more than 100 permanent staff. The secret to our success is simple: it’s thanks to our passion and our unique culture that we are able to be creative, develop ingenious ideas, to surprise and delight our clients, and continually ask ourselves: ‘what’s next?’ Without our people, this company wouldn’t be what it is today – nor what it will be in the future.