Human Resource Management for Tourism, Sports and Creative Industries

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Local and international events have significant impacts on the host country. We categorise these events into three main areas namely business, sporting, and cultural. These events have experienced exponential growth over the last few decades.

Events have become difficult to manage due to their sizes, timeline, and scope. Consequently, human resource management (HRM) plays a significant role in ensuring that events are successful. This must ensure that the main purpose of events remains. Events management is quite different from managing an everyday business. This is because events are unique, intangible, and mostly only present a single opportunity in getting them right. Events management is high-risk undertaking to all stakeholders. This explains why studies in management of people who manage events have increasingly become popular. Scholars in HRM have attempted to develop different approaches in managing events. We shall focus on human resource management in sports.

Causes of event failures

Before we look at HRM in events, we should establish why some events may fail. Getz has noted that most studies tend to focus on economic advantages and other positive outcomes, but they fail to establish why some events may failure. Getz notes that the key reason why event may fail is due to human resources problems. He points out that human resources factors may include incompetent management staff, burnout of volunteers, corrupt individuals or theft, and high turnover of staff. In addition, he highlights that events may fail due to an organisational culture (Getz, 2002). Organisational culture may include lack of strong leadership, internal conflicts, lack of permission to effect necessary changes, or rigid structure to allow any changes. He also notes that events may fail due to lack of strategic planning or appropriate organisational culture.

HRM and Events

Significant challenge exists in managing workforce who design and stage events. Event management is different from managing an ordinary business where employee may take time to learn new skills and knowledge. Event management team consists of only few permanent employees, and majorities are mainly contractors and volunteers who may be working for a few hours or days on a temporary event location. For effective management, HR manager must ensure that the event has a vision or purpose, detailed job analysis, constant response to changes, and effective communication among all the team members.

Lynn Wagen notes that most events do not have HR manager. Instead, it is the senior staff or the team leaders who act as HR manager. Thus, people acting in as HR must understand the unique roles of managing people in a temporary working environment. Such work environments are challenging and need different HRM strategies. Conflicts may arise, particularly in formulating a budget, different opinions, diverse interest of sponsors and event committee. HRM must have adequate skills and policies to ensure that such issues do not lead to failure of the event.

Drummond and Anderson write ‘quality in the operational environment of events and festivals is directly related to the people delivering the service’ (Drummond and Anderson, 2004). They observe that stakeholders may interact with different people who directly deliver services to them. However, these people may be from a contracting organisation. This implies that such employees are not under the direct control of the event management team. Therefore, managing such interactions is imperative to the success of an event. These people who serve customers must possess both professional and communication skills so as to reflect a positive approach to event management in the minds of customers.

Sporting events Workforce

The role of the event committee entails identification of the main purpose and goals of the event and monitor progress towards those goals. The committee members take on responsibilities for production, marketing, staffing, operations and finance.

Event staff of an event organization share responsibility for designing and staging the event. They consist mainly of experienced and qualified staff in the field of events or related areas. This group may be quite small until close to the event. In some cases, the paid workforce includes staff on secondment from, for example, government agencies.

Many stakeholders from diverse areas have an impact on event planning. Stakeholders may include local government, emergency services, roads and transport, environment protection authority, police and sponsors. The owner or management of the venue is one of the key stakeholders.

Sporting events cannot run without an elaborate use of contracting firms to offer goods and services. These include suppliers of temporary fencing and facilities, lighting, sound, stage management, entertainment, and waste management.

Most sporting events involve volunteers, sometimes from the committee down. The number of volunteers varies depending on the type and scale of the sporting event. For many sporting events, the volunteers are specialists in their areas of work.

Performance management

Unlike most organisations, which have formal performance appraisal systems, event organisations have different approaches to performance management. This is because many employees work on temporary bases or from contracting organisations. The nature of events also depends on timelines. Thus, carrying out an annual, performance appraisal may be impossible to the HR manager.

Management practices of HR managers involve incorporating elements of performance management right before contracting an employee. Therefore, performance management starts in the processes of job analysis, selection, induction and training. For effective performance management, organisations should set standards of performance, set deadlines and outcomes, monitor and facilitate performance, and provide feedback. The industry environment provides an organisation with an opportunity of developing and implementing remedial actions plans.

Kramer and fellow authors have identified five criteria for evaluation of performance management systems in events industry. These include strategic congruence, validity, reliability, acceptability, and specificity.

Strategic congruence is the most important aspect in performance management. They note that it refers to ‘the extent to which performance appraisals encourage job performance that supports the organisation’s strategy, goals and culture’ (Kramer, O’Connor and Davis, 2002). Therefore, in the event organization, any performance management system should aim at serving the needs of the event, whether the approach is project-based or formal performance appraisal in the traditional sense. These authors recommend linking strategic objectives to a set of financial and operational measures. This would sit very comfortably with most event organizations.

Strategic human resource planning

Human resource management in the event industry also applies to planning. It covers several activities of long-term and wide-ranging activities. Thus, it calls for a long-term strategic development in the event organisation. Human resource planning should result into a positive culture of commitment and co-operation between the organisation and the workforce. The event industry is complex. Therefore, HRM requires integration of the workforce to enable them work towards achieving a common goal and purpose.

Human resource planning ensures that the management team conducts a detailed labour force analysis, so as to establish that there are sufficient numbers of skilled individuals available for short-term employment with the event firm. Most large events like the World Cup and Olympic Games require senior management teams to meet the temporary labour force in order to establish that the organising firms are meeting the labour force requirements. Such events also need abundant supply of temporary and unskilled labour force. Therefore, the organising firm must adequately prepare to meet such requirements. This is only one of many considerations, which may include competitive forces complicating planning of an event especially where labour supply is low.

In the event planning, another challenge is the logistics of employee planning, which may involve organizing uniforms, accreditation, transportation and meals. This is not unique to events such as World Cup Soccer and Olympic Games as other events may also need such arrangements. Transportation and meals costs may present challenges especially during odd working hours. Thus, strategic planning must take them into account during planning stages.

Therefore, the logistics of workforce planning is an additional element of human resource management that management must stress during the event organisation processes. These issues lie within the scope of leadership and logistics arrangement for the human resource manager. A strategic approach to human resource management implies playing a leadership function in the development of the event organization and analysis of the workforce availability. For instance, during the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996, there were gross staff shortages in main organisations that support events. This means that it is necessary to assess the labour market in order to avoid poaching of volunteers and a last minute rush. This makes volunteers an essential part of the staff in the planning processes. For a large-scale sporting event, analyses of the skill requirements are fundamental parts of planning. Event planners can remedy shortages of skilled workers such as contractors’ innovative approaches to planning and building. For instance, contractors may use materials which are not difficult to fix and do not require a lot of time to be fit for use. We must understand the consequences of the event’s staffing needs and analyse them in detail across the entire organisation, including the size of the labour pool, the knowledge and competence of those in the labour pool, the size and skill of a potential volunteer workforce, and the availability of contractor organizations to meet the short-term demands of providing event services.

The most essential role for human resource managers in the event planning is that of integration. The main event consists of many projects with different time schedules. Each of these has human resource components, such as staffing, development of policies and procedures, training, performance management and recognition. In most instances, they are the same for all projects. On the other hand, other projects have specific human resource requirements. The HR manager must recognise that these diverse qualities need integration so as to build a cohesive workforce while acknowledging the unique problems that occur in different areas. This needs taking an initiative by the human resources team to show leadership. For instance, the different teams may start operations much earlier than other teams, but all groups need induction training on start of the project. These diversities in training and commencement schedules show some of the challenges in sporting events management. Thus, HRM must address these challenges through prior planning, which may require induction outside the schedule.

The main strategic aim in the event management is organizational design and effectiveness. The unique nature of an event gives an utterly different work environment for the old approaches to human resource management. However, there are only similarities the areas of recruitment and staffing, training and development, employee relations, productivity management, and reward and recognition. Still, the event employees go through many processes. These include an extended planning period with a considerable small numbers of the workforce, a short functional delivery time, and potentially several people join the workforce. In this regard, human resource experts cannot afford to play service and support roles, but must instead act in leadership and consultative role as Rothwell and other scholars note (Rothwell, Prescott and Taylor, 1998). For maximum human performance in this changing and unpredictable project-oriented environment, human resource management must possess a strategic focus. This is not only the case for large sporting events, but all events. A strategic focus needs an innovative and flexible approach to human resource planning.

Workforce training in sporting events

Sporting events are unique in their ways. Consequently, they can pose quite specific problems to the event management organisation. This calls for a thorough training of the workforce in order to ensure successful events. However, job-specific training is necessary for every event regardless of size. Every employee on the job site must learn what to do. Most sporting events involve many workforces in management and running of events. There are those who support customer while others ensure backstage management. At the same time, some will run the site.

Some scholars have proposed the four steps as the basic elements of small group and individual training for specific skills and knowledge. These are plan, deliver, assess and evaluate training. Crowd safety and security trainings can demonstrate the job-specific training. Security and safety are rare events that do not offer noticeable importance to the crowd experience. In each case, crowd safety planning and security training still must occur to ensure that any possible threat does not turn into a disaster. The starting point for developing job-specific training is the job description and, if available, the pertinent parts of the project plan. These enable the trainer adequately prepare for specific safety and security needs.

In sporting events constantly faced with challenges, job-specific training becomes a fundamental part of preparing the workforce in event management. The workforce must learn different skills so as to serve different customers. Customer management is crucial as there are VIPs among the attendees.

Customers may also need certain information from the workforce. This implies that teams should have the ability to handle different demands from customers. The workforce must ensure that customers have positive experiences of the event. This is where the strategic HRM provides leadership by selecting the best workforce to handle different personalities.

For successful events and workforce management, the management must break down duties into tasks and basic knowledge to form a basis of training. Trainers can use the available wide ranges of training methods, such as demonstrations, case studies and brainstorming. These training approaches should result into competent staff who are ready to undertake their given event duties. Evaluating the success of the training project is helpful and informative for subsequent events. Scholars have linked workforce morale to the level of confidence employees, and volunteers have in their ability to put on a good event. All in all, the management must take into account, sporting equipment, infrastructure, planning of the site, and venues.

Event communication

Studies by Goldblatt indicate that event management is a job where success or failure relies on communication. He also emphasises that there are often barriers to communication, such as noise and visual distractions in the event environment. Regardless of the communication channel chosen and the barriers to communication, it is necessary that messages are clear action oriented and recorded for future reference. This is particularly the case if there is a contract variation, where customers’ demands are ever increasing. While a good customer service orientation is essential, it is also necessary to recognize when additional services have cost implications (Goldblatt, 2005).


The events industry, such as festivals, meetings, conferences, exhibitions, incentives, sports and a range of other events, is rapidly growing and makes a valuable contribution to business and leisure related tourism. With increased regulation and the growth of government and corporate involvement in events, the condition has become much more complex. The industry growth has put pressure on event managers to identify and service a wide range of stakeholders, and to balance their needs and objectives.

Thus, the roles of managing people who manage events have put the function of HRM on to spot focus. We have noted that managing human resources in the event industry is different from managing people in established businesses. HR manager must handle a large number of temporary staff within a short period of time.

Reference List

Drummond, S and Anderson, H 2004, Service quality and managing your people, Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann, London.

Getz, D 2002, ‘Why festivals fail’, Event Management, vol. 7 no. 4, pp. 209–19.

Goldblatt, J 2005, ‘Special Events: Event Leadership for a New World, 4th ed, John Wiley & Sons, New York.

Kramer, R, O’Connor, M and Davis, E 2002, ‘Appraising and managing performance’, Australian Master Human Resources Guide, vol. 1, pp. 301–22.

Rothwell, W, Prescott, R and Taylor, M 1998, Strategic Human Resource Leader, Davies-Black Publishing, Mountain View, CA.

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