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Returning to Work in Festival Operations after an Extended Break.

Andy Robertson

Experienced festival operational workers regularly leave the industry for a variety of reasons, however, the passion they have for festival work often brings them back to the sector at a later date. Whether it's an absence of one or five years what actions should organisers and those considering returning to the industry take to ensure a smooth transition back to festival operations.

Despite working in festival operations being incredibly rewarding it can be stressful and tiring sometimes leading to burn out. This can lead to staff quitting the industry for less stressful more regular work. Other reasons for leaving can range from maternity/paternity leave or parental responsibilities and those who may be pursuing more career progression. Whatever the reason for their extended absence many festivals are keen to get experienced operational staff to join them. What are the key actions required to onboard these individuals successfully. 

Induction Programme. 
Every festival organiser should have an induction programme in place for new starters which should cover every aspect of the event's operations. For someone returning after an absence this programme should be customised to focus on anything they will need to get up to speed quickly with any changes. Prior to starting the returning staff should research the latest festival operations trends in the industry. Organisers must put an induction programme together that highlights significant recent changes including the organisation structure and external relationships. The induction process is a two-way process where returning staff can provide feedback to organisers to improve the process for future new starters. 

Processes and Procedures. 
Most festival organisers run continuous improvement programmes which means that they constantly change processes and procedures to provide better customer service and improve profitability. The returning staff will need to understand how any processes and procedures have changed since they last worked for a festival entity. This will probably include familiarisation with new operational procedures and manuals the organisers use. 

The technology used by festival organisers moves at a rapid pace and the tech used will likely have changed significantly since they last worked in a festival environment. Understanding the use of payment gateways, ticket scanning and onsite cashless systems with RFID wristbands is key as they continue to be used at most festivals. Event management software has also been introduced by many festivals negating the need for use of spreadsheets and online document sharing. Vendors of any new technology and software being used should arrange training for the returning staff to get the up to speed on how these tools work. 

Once the returning staff have been through their induction programme and are up to speed with current operational processes it would be good for them to re-connect with key people in their industry network. Re-establishing connections with team members and key stakeholders can help to raise their profile in the organisation. There are new people entering the industry all the time, so it is also important to connect with new contacts to widen their network. 

Health & Safety and Legal. 
Working in festival operations requires a comprehensive understanding of current health and safety protocols. It will be beneficial for the returning staff to undertake refresher training on current health and safety guidelines that specifically impact the operations of a festival. In addition to health and safety the returning staff should get up to speed on current legislation that relates to festivals, particularly when it comes to compliance with regulations governing the operation of festival sites. 

With a good induction programme and appropriate refresher training a returning operational staff member should be able to get up to speed quickly and become and effective contributory member of the team much faster than a new starter with no previous experience. 

For festival organisers planning their events using a software management platform like Festival Pro gives them all the functionality they need manage every aspect of their event logistics. The guys who are responsible for this software have been in the front line of event management for many years and the features are built from that experience and are performance artists themselves. The Festival Pro platform is easy to use and has comprehensive features with specific modules for managing artists, contractors, venues/stages, vendors, volunteers, sponsors, guestlists, ticketing, cashless payments and contactless ordering.

Image by Alexander Suhorucov via Pexels

Andy Robertson
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