Julia Rutherford Silvers, CSEP

Certified Special Events Professional

Event Management Authority

Like angels and elephants dancing on the head of a pin, our dreams and responsibilities may have no limits, but must be balanced according to the music of the moment.









Human Resource Management

27 November 2013

The formulation of the appropriate organizational structure, policies and procedures for the recruitment, orientation, motivation, training, compensation, supervision and discipline of employees, contracted workers and volunteers according to applicable employment and labor legalities to provide a suitable and diverse workforce to meet the needs of the event project.


After reading this article you will understand how to

  • create an effective organizational structure based on the human resource needs of the event project

  • devise strategies to recruit and prepare event personnel for the work to be accomplished

  • establish methods for monitoring and motivating event personnel

  • develop fair and reasonable procedures for communicating workforce expectations

  • implement equitable policies that ensure personnel practices are in compliance with legal and ethical standards

Major Functions

Performance Elements

Organizational Structure

Conduct workforce planning

Determine roles and responsibilities

Establish structure of authority and responsibility

Develop job descriptions and selection criteria


Recruit staff and volunteers

Establish induction and orientation process

Provide training and development

Allocate and assign staff and volunteers

Performance Management

Establish reward and recognition programs

Supervise and guide staff and volunteers

Provide leadership and promote teamwork

Conduct performance evaluations

Workforce Relations

Specify conflict and dispute resolution procedures

Establish equitable disciplinary and discharge procedures

Create a manual outlining all rules and regulations

Understand and abide by labor union requirements


Develop legal and ethical personnel policies

Comply with applicable legislation

Maintain accurate and confidential personnel records


It takes people to make an event come to life; sometimes only a few and sometimes a veritable army of hundreds or thousands. Human resource management deals with the acquisition, allocation, and treatment of the people working within an event organization or event project. These people the workforce could be paid staff, volunteers, or contracted workers. The event organization might be a long-standing association producing an event year after year, an event company that produces a variety of events, or a group established to produce a one-time event project.


The purpose of human resource management is to establish the structure and operational functions of an organization and its workforce. Guidance on human resource management can be found in countless books and online, but it all boils down to finding the right people for the tasks to be done and the right fit for both the worker and the organization.


Managing the personnel needed for an event requires establishing the structure within which these people will operate, interact with each other, and accomplish the work needed to deliver the event to its audience. This system must clearly establish expectations, properly prepare workers for their duties, offer supportive supervision, and provide beneficial performance evaluation and recognition. The system must also anticipate potential problems and conflict, as well as legal or jurisdictional constraints.


The organization will also have a culture one that is influenced by the event’s purpose and vision, its scope and complexity, its longevity, and its leadership. Some events value camaraderie more than capability while others focus on profits rather than precision, both of which can be valid perspectives. The larger and more complex an event is, the more likely it will have a formal and hierarchical culture and structure. The longer an event has been occurring and the event organization has been together, the more likely it could be entrenched in insularity, yet it’s more likely to have a well-defined structure. First- or one-time events often have an informal culture, often relying on driven and charismatic leaders.


An organizational culture is the compilation of all the people within the event organization and the ways in which they are treated, act and interact with each other, as well as those they come in contact with at the event. It is, however, greatly influenced by the core values of the organization’s leadership. When the leadership demonstrates a commitment in word and deed to empowerment, diversity, stability, goodwill, and respect, these infiltrate the organization with a service-oriented way of thinking.


Organizational Structure

An organization is a collection of people striving to achieve the purpose for its existence. It needs an organized structure in order to be effective; otherwise chaos will likely ensue. How an organization should be structured depends on its aims, size, scope, needs, and complexity, as well as the capabilities of the people within it. This structure should facilitate cooperation, communication, and clarity of expected outcomes.


Devising the organizational structure for an event project, or the larger association or business that produces events, begins with understanding the nature and extent of the workforce needed to achieve the organization’s mission, goals, and objectives. Small, individual events typically require far fewer people, but often those people have a broader scope of responsibilities and need a wider scope of capabilities. Larger events and event organizations, by necessity, have a much larger team and typically require a far more structured arrangement.


Defining the workforce needs leads to creating not only the structure of responsibilities, authority, and communications; it also compels you to analyze the jobs to be done, which allows you to develop accurate job descriptions and suitable criteria for selection and performance evaluation. Workforce planning is unquestionably linked with the event plans, including the critical path and all the features and details of the event experience. It is the organizational structure, however, that ensures your human resources are engaged and recognized as the human assets they are.


Conduct workforce planning

Workforce planning includes defining what work needs to be done, how many workers will be needed, and what workers need to be able to do it. It is, in essence, a needs assessment.

  • Who: the number and types of workers needed, e.g. paid, volunteer, or outsourced

  • What: the tasks that need to be accomplished, and the skills and tools needed to accomplish them

  • Where: the location(s) that these tasks need to take place

  • When: the date, time, and sequence in which these tasks need to be done

  • Why: the reason why these tasks are necessary and the consequences if not done or not done properly

Develop a work breakdown structure that lists the activities, tasks, or work packages required to accomplish the event project. Merge this with the event timeline to determine the number of workers needed, which typically increases exponentially as the event date nears. Determine which tasks will be assigned to paid staff, volunteers, or contracted workers, as well as which tasks or work will or must be outsourced. For example, volunteers might be used for registering participants for a walk-a-thon, but only certified medical providers should be procured for medical services at the event.


Examine the tasks to be accomplished to determine what knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics the worker will need. This will often indicate when certain tasks or work packages should be outsourced, but will also help define training needs that will be supplied by the event organization. Also consider how the tasks are accomplished to determine if any special equipment or tools will be necessary given the nature of the task and where and when it is to be done. These details will be critical in terms of costs, timing, site planning, and interdependencies.


Another factor in determining who and how many workers will be needed is workforce turnover, often inevitable particularly in terms of volunteers. People volunteer for a variety of reasons, and they leave the event organization or project for a variety of reasons. Long-standing events should be able to estimate the staff turnover ratio by examining the records of previous events, but any event should plan to recruit more people than they actually need so any shortfalls can be overcome.


It is wise to conduct a risk assessment in conjunction with your workforce planning to reveal any other conditions or constraints that might affect your event plan, critical path, or even the feasibility of the event. Knowing why tasks are necessary and what the consequences could be if not done or done properly help you develop job descriptions, orientation and training programs, and monitoring tactics. It also lets you devise prevention strategies and contingency plans. Establish a workforce plan in which people’s actions or inactions will not cause problems, or if any such problems arise, they can be quickly resolved.


Determine roles and responsibilities

The work breakdown structure should be followed by a detailed job analysis to determine the roles and responsibilities that will be assigned to various personnel. Roles represent the function and position of the job. The responsibilities represent the duties associated with each job, which will include the scope and hierarchy of supervisory and decision making authority. These will be eventually incorporated into the job description, but initially the results of the job analysis will inform how roles and responsibilities will be delegated. In general, a job analysis identifies the purpose, requirements, restrictions, and expectations of the job.


Roles are often expressed in categories, such as those shown in the EMBOK domains or committee titles. These categories will then be incorporated into job titles, such as registrar, grounds control team, food and beverage manager, entertainment director, and so forth. The organizational structure might change from an administrative perspective during planning phase to an operational perspective at the time of the event, with categories separated according to zones, venues, or event components. The larger and more complex the event project, event organization, and event site, the more important it is to have these distinct categories to foster team building and communication, and to eliminate confusion.


The responsibilities associated with each role encompass the scope and nature of the tasks to be performed and the job holder’s accountability for their completion. These duties are typically categorized according to type of work (physical, technical, clerical, or specialized); relationship to data, people, and things; and level of authority, criticality, and frequency. The broader the scope of responsibilities, the more likely the job will involve more supervisory activities than specific tasks.


Establish structure of authority and interaction

An organization needs a clear definition of who is responsible for what and who reports to whom. This structure is often displayed using a graphical chart, known as the organizational chart. It illustrates the decision making hierarchy, reporting relationships, and communication channels for the various functional aspects of the event organization or event project. The standard formats include hierarchical, flat, matrix, and organic.


Larger and more complex events typically use a formal hierarchical format that segregates roles in great detail according to the chain of decision making authority. This type of organizational structure is necessary because of the vast scope of decision making and supervision required. Smaller or less complex event projects often use a flat format because there are fewer people to be managed and decisions to be made. When decision making is more collaborative and reporting structures require more consultation, a matrix format might be used. The organic format might be used for organizations that have a more decentralized decision making process. Some event organizations prefer to depict this structure in a manner that appears less authoritarian than a “drop down” hierarchy, such as a bubble or circular format.

Whatever structure format is used, however, it must clearly depict the individuals or positions with the authority to make decisions and from whom a team member can get (or give) information or direction. This will be critical in an emergency situation.

Organizational chart formats









Develop job descriptions and selection criteria

The job analysis identifies the purpose, requirements, restrictions, and expectations of the job; and these form the basis for the job description and subsequent criteria for selecting the people to fill these jobs. The job description describes the role, responsibilities, working conditions, and compensation the worker will receive, which will be used internally to classify jobs and externally to recruit candidates for the job. Selection criteria, also known as the job or person specifications, describe the “perfect” person for that job in terms of experience, knowledge, skills, and other attributes.


Job descriptions must be accurate, realistic, informative, and neutral (i.e., selection criteria must be in compliance with anti-discrimination legislation). They should be written in a way that tells job seekers what to expect and what will be expected of them. Base the job description on the essential competencies needed to perform effectively rather than based on a specific person or current job holder. They should describe the specific and necessary duties and responsibilities, not a wish list or laundry list of activities.

Perspectives of creating a job description

Job Seeker’s Questions

Job Description Design

What is the job?

Job title

Job classification: grade/status (if applicable)

Job summary: purpose, role, goals

What will I be doing?

Principal duties and responsibilities

Deliverables or expected outcomes

Who will I be working with?

Position within the organization

Reporting relationship

Level of accountability

Where will I be working?

Location(s) or venue(s) where work will be performed (travel requirements)

Working conditions: indoor, outdoor; environment (hot, cold, wet, dry, noisy, dirty, etc.); health or safety hazards; special equipment and/or training needed

When will I be working?

Full time/part time/temporary

Days/hours of work (time commitment)

What will I be getting?

Employee: wages (pay rates) and benefits

Volunteer: benefits (tickets, meals, T-shirt, certificate, etc.)

What qualifications will I need?

Level of education and/or experience

Mental, physical, or dexterity requirements

Credentials: certifications, licenses, etc.

Required knowledge, skills, and abilities

How do I apply?

(Included during recruitment)

Format: fill-in application form, submit resume, etc.

Method: electronic, in person, deadlines, etc.


Selection criteria must be equitable, unbiased, and uniformly applied. Do not include race, religion, gender, disability, or age (except a minimum age) when establishing selection criteria. Equal employment opportunity laws specify that you are also not allowed to discriminate based on physical attributes such as height, weight, or attractiveness; only those factors that are relevant to applicable abilities such as strength, endurance, hand-eye coordination, etc. are allowed. If the applicant has the qualifications and can do the job, you may not disqualify them from consideration. This applies to selecting volunteers as well; do not think your event organization will not be held accountable if you specify that volunteers using wheel chairs need not apply.



You have determined how many people you will need to do what you need done, and you have developed job descriptions and selection criteria for the workforce. Now you must find the right people, and enough of them, to staff your event organization or specific event project, and prepare them for working as part of your team. That team your event organization becomes a community of individuals striving to achieve a specific purpose. These individuals each have abilities, attitudes, expectations, and value that they bring to the work to be done.


It doesn’t matter whether your event personnel are paid employees or volunteers; they must all be treated with respect throughout their involvement with your organization. This begins with the recruitment activities conducted, ensuring that access and expectations are clear. Make certain the selection process is equitable, consistent, and objective. Inform both those selected and not selected in a timely and respectful manner.


Bring personnel into the organization in a way that communicates their value to the team and your expectations regarding the role they will play in the success of the event. Introduce them to the work environment and the people they will be working with. Prepare them for the tasks they will undertake, and encourage their personal and professional development.


Assign personnel according to the needs of the organization or event project, ensuring there are sufficient people to accomplish the required tasks within the time allotted. This is often when and why recruitment strategies must consider paid staff versus volunteers and the amounts needed. Potential attrition or shortfalls in team member participation is also the reason that selecting personnel with cross-functional capabilities or providing cross training can be a valuable strategy. 


Recruit staff and volunteers

Recruitment is a three-part process consisting of attracting a pool of candidates, sorting and evaluating those candidates, and selecting the best candidates for the available jobs. These three functions finding, interviewing, and selecting are all based on the job descriptions and selection criteria you have devised. These descriptions and criteria will help you determine the most efficient methods for sourcing personnel, the most effective tactics for interviewing candidates, and the most objective techniques for selecting the best candidates.


Understand and seek diversity in your recruitment process, including generational, cultural, social, and experiential diversity. This is not only an anti-discrimination issue; it will result in a well-rounded organizational community. You might need to expand the methods and modes for attracting job candidates or volunteers, but seeking unusual or untapped sources often delivers a workforce rich in diverse perspectives, talents, and contributions to the success of the event project.


That young or elderly person might provide useful marketing tactics. That Asian or Hispanic volunteer might suggest cultural traditions that could enhance the event experience. Giving that underprivileged individual a chance to interact with suppliers might result in meaningful long-term employment. And that volunteer who uses a wheel chair might be the best customer service representative on the entire event team.


Finding potential employees and volunteers

Locating the sources for recruiting personnel relies, in part, on whether you are looking for paid staff or volunteers, as well as the tasks they are to perform. The more highly paid or technically complex the position, the more like it is that you would limit your search to referrals from comparable colleagues or professional recruitment agencies or consultants. For less technically complex and volunteer positions, your potential sources and tactics might include those shown below.

Typical sources for finding job candidates

Advertisements in newspapers

Announcements on local broadcast media

Applications on organization’s website

Bulletins in recreation centers

Contacting constituent groups

Internship offerings to education programs

Invitations to community service groups

Job fairs or special events

Listings on job search websites

Messages on social networking sites

Notices on community message boards

Referrals from current staff or volunteers

Requests to sponsors or donors

Speaking to affinity groups or clubs


Larger and well-known events often use their website as the recruitment portal that allows job seekers and volunteers to submit an application by filling in sort fields and clicking a button. Long-standing events often recruit volunteers on-site at the current event or by holding a special event, such as a “Kick Off” celebration or “Thank You” party (encouraging current volunteers to bring a friend). Small or first-time events often start by contacting local community or constituent groups, such as fan clubs or service organizations, or promoting word-of-mouth or “word-of-mouse” campaigns via social media.


When publicizing via any method, the job descriptions and selection criteria should be clearly displayed. This allows potential candidates to determine whether or not they are right for the job, as well as let the job seeker know how they will be evaluated as a potential employee (or volunteer). Including the selection criteria or qualification requirements also narrows the number and improves the relevance of applications submitted.


Volunteer applications often simply include a list of general areas applicants might be interested in rather than specific jobs and they are asked to include their first, second, and third choices for the areas or tasks they are interested in. These are then reviewed by the team leader or supervisor to determine if, where, and when they will be assigned.


Applications or resumes for paid jobs are screened for relevant requirements and job-specific criteria, which should result in a pool of suitable candidates to be interviewed for the job. You might need to conduct security, immigration status, or police record checks depending on the local employment requirements, or for certain positions such as those who handle money or will work with children. Both those accepted and rejected as volunteers and job candidates should be notified in a timely manner, making sure that rejections are communicated in non-discriminatory language. Consider keeping all applicants and applications in a database for future event projects.


Interviewing candidates

Interviewing candidates is when you explore and confirm the job criteria and qualifications to find the best fit for the job and the organization. The objective is to give and get sufficient information to determine suitability for the applicant and the job. Depending on the complexity or criticality of the job, the interview process could range from a telephone interview to meeting with a panel of interviewers or series of interviews with various department heads or skill-specific experts.


Prepare for the interview by sorting applications according the most critical selection criteria, the “must haves.” Develop a set of open-ended questions, based on the stated objective criteria, which focus on behaviors and experience. Make certain all questions are unbiased and legally permissible (check with your local employment authority for these specifications). Select a quiet, private, and comfortable place in which to hold interviews to minimize distractions and put the candidate at ease.


Welcome the candidate, introduce yourself and others on the interview team, and model the behavior you would expect from the successful candidate, such as courtesy, clarity, and communication skills. Review the key information on the candidate’s resume or application to resolve any gaps or unanswered questions. Provide the candidate with an overview of the event organization and position to be filled. The interviewer should encourage the candidate to ask questions, but the interviewer should focus on observing and listening rather than talking.


At the close of the interview, be courteous even if you’re not interested in this candidate, explain when decisions will be made, and thank the candidate for his or her interest in the event organization. Make certain you do not make any statements that could be construed as an offer of employment. In addition, ensure that the interview process is consistent for all candidates.


Selecting personnel

Recognize that there are rarely two or more candidates with exactly the same qualifications, therefore selecting the best candidate for the job might not be obvious. Create an evaluation checklist that rates the selection criteria in order of importance so you can equitably rank the various candidates according to their strengths and weaknesses identified in the comments and ratings from the interviews.


Weaknesses might be overcome by certain strengths, and vice versa. For example, a lack of experience in a particular area might be overcome by an obvious ability to take direction and learn. On the other hand, exceptional competence in a particular technical skill might be overpowered by a lack of communication or customer service skills. Knowing these qualities can also help identify people who could be cross-trained for a variety of positions, making them more valuable to the entire event team.


Check references and previous employers to confirm past employment and performance if applicable, and confirm any academic, legal, or professional credentials the candidate has listed. Yes, people sometimes exaggerate their qualifications, even for volunteer positions, depending on the desirability of the event. This is part of the due diligence event organizations and organizers are expected and often required to perform.


Choose the most suitable candidates, contact them to offer the position and confirm all pertinent details, follow up with a written offer of employment or volunteer position, and give them sufficient time to respond. Choose alternates in case the first candidate turns down the offer. Once the offer has been accepted, process the necessary documentation for bringing these new people into the organization.


Also notify candidates in writing that were not selected according to the decision timeline you specified. Decline carefully; you are not required to give a reason why you selected one candidate over another. Rejection is uncomfortable for both the receiver and the giver. Do not be tempted to reduce this discomfort by discussing how the decisions were made, describing the unsuccessful candidate’s flaws or the successful candidate’s merits, or assuring the person that they would be an asset to any organization. That is a recipe for a discrimination charge.


Establishing, communicating, and basing evaluations on objective and job-specific selection criteria, and documenting the entire recruitment and selection process, will help you avoid the pitfalls that can come with recruiting and selecting staff and volunteers. Save copies of all your physical and digital recruitment tactics, the applications you received, the evaluation forms and interview notes, and the correspondence sent and received. It might become evidence, but it will certainly become a valuable resource for future endeavors. 


Keep this evidence aspect in mind when designing these materials and conducting interviews. Make certain everyone involved in the recruitment process practices exemplary professionalism when taking notes, filling out forms, or writing correspondence. Develop checklists and fill-in rating charts if necessary.


Establish induction and orientation process

New employees and volunteers need to be welcomed into the organization both administratively and socially. Create a file or employee record that includes all the individual’s pertinent contact information (including “in case of emergency” contacts), job title or assignment, and any special conditions or needs, such as accessibility accommodations if pertinent. These records contain personal and private information, and therefore must be kept confidential.


Employees should complete applicable employment forms such as tax, immigration status, or insurance forms. Volunteers should complete any necessary liability waivers, confidentiality agreements, or other participant contracts. Provide all new workers with a copy of all pertinent organizational rosters, schedules, policies, procedures, rules, and regulations; which are often compiled into a handbook or manual.


Plan an orientation procedure such as a group meeting or individual sessions, in which new workers are informed about the organization’s structure and policies, introduced to others in the organization, given a preview or tour of the work site, and given the opportunity to ask questions. Orientation sessions are your opportunity to build anticipation and excitement about the event, encourage customer service attitudes, and foster team building dynamics.


Orientation also includes functional aspects such as confirming responsibilities and levels of authority, determining briefing and training requirements, and clarifying policies and procedures. Infuse the organization’s mission and core values throughout the orientation process. Model the behavior you want them to exhibit. Strive to give the individual the sense of being a stakeholder in the success of the event rather than simply a worker.


Provide training and development

Nearly everyone joining an event organization will need some level of training or development, ranging from learning new skills or procedures to transitioning existing skills and experience into a new context (your event). Assess the training needs of your new workforce, including technical procedures, administrative practices, legislative regulations, and other topics.

Typical training requirements

Accreditation/credentialing system

Cash handling procedures

Communication protocols

Cultural and accessibility awareness

Customer service standards

Documentation procedures

Emergency response procedures

Equipment operation

Expense reporting

Food safety procedures

Regulatory requirements

Safe work practices


Establish the type, time, location, and method for your training and development activities. Some topics can be covered in your orientation session; others might need a hands-on demonstration with an opportunity to practice procedures or techniques. In some cases, volunteers arrive shortly before their first shift begins and the training is delivered on-site and focused on job-specific tasks, and other issues are dealt with through close supervision. In others, a series of training sessions is delivered in the weeks (or months) before the event.


Depending on the scope, scale, and complexity of the event, numerous training sessions on a variety of organizational, venue, and job-specific topics might be required. Based on the criticality of the topics to be covered, attendance might be mandatory and you will need to document attendance and test proficiency outcomes. Training requirements need to be included in your job descriptions so applicants are aware of the time and effort commitment.


Training programs can be delivered in person or online depending on the topic and the need for hands-on practice. In person training sessions are another opportunity to foster team building while delivering content. Online or web-based training programs can serve a large workforce, delivering instruction and testing at a time convenient for the individual. Both strategies have costs, strengths, and weaknesses that you must consider when developing your training program. Consult with instruction designers regarding the appropriate methods, materials, content, and learning styles to determine the best options for your training needs.


Allocate and assign personnel

You have identified your staffing needs, developed your organizational plan, and recruited your workforce; now it is time to assign your personnel accordingly. Simple, right? Maybe but perhaps not. Given the fact that events are temporary occurrences with only one chance to get it right, there are numerous vulnerabilities that you need to consider.

  • Volunteers arrive late or don’t show up

  • Workers abandon their posts to watch the event

  • Staff members become ill or are injured

  • Volunteers decide they would rather work in another area

  • Service demand overwhelms the staff

  • Workers are left stranded at their post and decide to leave

  • Volunteers have nothing to do and decide not to come back

No strategy will guarantee that these things won’t happen, so you must be prepared for them. One approach is to recruit more volunteers than you actually need according to your staffing plan. These workers can serve as back-up if a shortage occurs for a variety of reasons. Consider recruiting sufficient people to have “reserves” available, perhaps creating a job-sharing situation where one works part of a shift while the other is allowed to enjoy the event, but always using these reserves in some capacity every couple of hours even if it is only for a simple task.


Creating a team or zone structure allows you to utilize staff and volunteers for a variety of tasks that fall within a familiar or comparable scope of duties. This also promotes the commitment to show up (not letting the others down) and the willingness to come to aid of the group and its members should extra efforts become necessary. Team or zone leaders might be appointed within your organizational plan; however, be cognizant of leaders that emerge naturally because they will influence individual allegiance.


Develop adequate and reasonable schedules and work shifts. Employment or labor union regulations often stipulate the number of hours that a worker can be assigned and how many rest and meal breaks must be allotted and when. These can inform your scheduling plans for volunteers as well, but keep in mind that paid staff is paid to be there and volunteers are not, so you might consider fewer hours per shift for them. Make certain that critical positions or tasks are fully staffed at all times. And never leave a person stranded at their post without the ability to get back-up if needed.


Performance Management

Performance management includes motivating and monitoring workers throughout their tenure with your event project or event organization. It relies on effective and meaningful reward systems, respectful and supportive supervision, enthusiastic and responsive leadership, and mutually-worthwhile evaluation activities. There is no question that producing an event is hard work; but working on an event should be an enriching experience.


Motivation is based on motives. In Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, once a person has his fundamental needs met (such as food, shelter, and safety), he strives for belonging, self-esteem and respect, and personal growth. Although employment by an event organization is certainly motivated, in part, by the income that will support the physical needs, the entire workforce will be seeking the emotional and experiential aspects.


The event organization should make every effort to ensure all its workers feel that they belong within the group, that they have given and gained something important, and that their talents and contributions have been recognized. This is achieved by creating a sense of community, delegating responsibility appropriately, clearly communicating expectations, and giving people the opportunity to be the best they can be.


Establish reward and recognition programs

Employers and volunteer programs must determine a reward system that defines the compensation and benefits employees or volunteers will receive in return for performing the duties they are to perform. This system takes into account the organization’s workforce requirements and budget restrictions, the financial and other incentives it has to offer and their desirability, and the external competition for its available workforce.


Minimum wages or pay rates and benefits for employees might be established by governments or labor unions, and will likely be influenced by market conditions, and you should confirm these issues with your employment advisors. Volunteers, on the other hand, are not working for money so determine what benefits will be attractive or important to them, based on their reasons for volunteering. These reasons can range from connecting with other people (social), to learning new skills (instructive), to supporting a cause (altruistic).


Keep in mind that, for both employees and volunteers, money isn’t everything – but respect and appreciation is. Understand that motivation is inherently internal, generated within an individual, and one of the most effective ways to facilitate it is giving that individual a sense of ownership in the event project and its outcomes. The reward system should clearly demonstrate that these workers are valued for their abilities and contributions.


Develop recognition programs and tactics that link actions with acknowledgment and outcomes with gratitude. Such programs can range from organized celebrations (employee or volunteer of the year) to impromptu gestures (spontaneous standing ovation). It is advisable to link tangible rewards with actual performance, such as giving free passes or mementos to event volunteers at the end of their shift. Intangible rewards (recognition) should be given liberally and whenever suitable.


Supervise and guide staff and volunteers

Supervision is a necessary component of performance management, but guidance should be its main objective. There might be some tasks that require close supervision, but micromanagement (directing or controlling each step or action) will cause frustration and resentment within the workforce. It will also reduce the supervisor’s effectiveness because, instead of delegating the work, he or she is doing it.


Your orientation and training activities should prepare workers for their duties. After that, provide oversight as called for, then coach or mentor staff and volunteers when needed. Give workers as much flexibility within required tasks or procedures as appropriate. Exhibit and promote trust and make certain that workers are empowered and encouraged to ask for help, ask questions, and point out problems.


Worker requests, questions, and problems help you identify weaknesses in your planning, orientation, and training activities. For example, if a volunteer working at the registration table at your charity auction can not keep up with the number of people wishing to sign up, you might be understaffed, you might not have explained how to process registrants well enough, or you might not have established the job priorities clearly. Or that person does not have the skills needed for or interest in performing those duties.


Provide leadership and promote teamwork

Leadership has been defined and discussed for ages in books and articles about business, sociology, psychology, and virtually any milieu that involves organizing people to achieve a particular goal. However, they almost all boil down to the ability to influence others in a way that serves the purpose and needs of the ends and the individuals. In the context of events, leadership typically focuses on creating a shared vision and promoting teamwork.


An event project or organization relies upon a large number of people doing a broad variety of tasks, which is depicted in the workforce plan and organizational structure. The creation of teams to accomplish these tasks is practically mandatory because, for most events, one or two people can not do all the work needed to be done. Leaders are needed at every level of the organization, from the event manager down to the shift supervisor. The functions of a leader (at any level) include:

  • Set the stage for the work to be done

  • Set the tone for the experience to be had

  • Set the example for the expected attitudes and interactions

  • Rally and respect the team members

  • Provide guidance and encouragement

  • Be accessible (e.g., management by walking around)

Defining who the leader of a team is centers on decision making authority, which should be clearly stipulated in the organizational structure. However, cooperative or participative decision making is often permitted in which team members are encouraged to provide suggestions toward solving problems depending on the tasks or situation. However, emergency situations clearly require a single, authorized decision maker.


Event teams are usually formed according to function or functional zones, and must be given sufficient time and interpersonal contact to establish a unity of purpose, agreement on norms for working together, and the collective investment in achieving success. There might be some challenges associated with this when recruiting and assigning volunteers who only wish to work alongside their friends the pre-exiting relationship might skew the team dynamics but this can often be overcome with strong leadership.  


Conduct performance evaluations

Performance evaluation is a necessary and valuable component of managing a workforce. If done properly, it can prevent costly problems, identify innovative solutions, and improve the work experience for all involved. If done poorly, it could weaken worker performance and alienate workers. Performance evaluation is a two-way activity involving giving and getting feedback about performance levels and challenges, which facilitates learning on both sides of the interaction.


Performance evaluation is not carried out just at the end of an event; it is an ongoing activity conducted throughout the lifecycle of the event. It should be linked with critical performance indicators such as deadlines, outputs, accuracy, safety, and outcomes. Give positive reinforcement when performance levels are good and constructive feedback when inadequate. When performance problems occur, the focus should be on improvement rather than assigning fault.


Post-event evaluations and pre-determined employee evaluations should be based on the job requirements and selection criteria established for the position. Post-event evaluations often take on a “debriefing” character in which workers are asked to review what occurred (or did not occur), how well things went, and what improvements they think could be made. For volunteers, this is often done using a survey form with close-ended and open-ended questions.


Strive to identify the strengths and weaknesses of both the individual and the organization in an atmosphere of open communication and mutual respect. Valuing the differences in an individual’s style, approaches, and opinions can add diversity to the organization as well as new methods to the organization’s toolbox.


Workforce Relations

Workforce relations encompass the interaction and transactions between the workers and the organization that shape their relationship. The event organization communicates its expectations, policies, and the agreement to provide rewards for performance and comply with the applicable labor regulations; and the worker communicates his or her expectations, requirements, and the agreement to provide performance for rewards and comply with the organization’s policies. The quality of the relationship is significantly enhanced when these responsibilities and expectations are clearly established.


Large event organizations with a considerable number of employees or unionized workers are advised to consult with employment authorities to determine their legal responsibilities and requirements. However, all event organizations should develop explicit policies and procedures surrounding the expectations of both worker and management, particularly with regard to issues such as behavior, conflict, discipline, and dismissal. Such rules or procedures should be incorporated in a written employee or volunteer document or manual that is made available or given directly to each worker, and reviewed upon induction and/or during orientation.


Many events contract professional or temporary workers for specific tasks and in some places the use of unionized workers is mandatory. In such cases you will find you are dealing with an organization that has already established work rules concerning pay rates, working conditions, and dispute resolution protocols. Although certain concessions might be possible, for the most part you must abide by these rules.


Specify conflict and dispute resolution procedures

Accept that conflict is a fact of life; conflict, disputes, and grievances occur at events and within event organizations. These might be caused by differences of opinion, real or perceived insults, fears or anxieties, or heightened excitement or emotions. Be prepared for it by devising and implementing resolution procedures for dealing with it. Reduce its likelihood by clearly communicating expectations, instructions, and what is unacceptable behavior.


The first aspect of dealing with conflicts is the individuals’ need to be heard. The second aspect is that conflicts need to be removed from the immediate heat of the situation to a calm and neutral setting wherein reason rather than emotion can prevail and so it will not disrupt the event. Do not tolerate physical violence under any circumstances.


Institute a grievance procedure that gives the individuals the mechanism for stating and explaining their complaint and responding to a complaint. This might involve strategies ranging from submitting grievances verbally or in writing to supervisors (or upper management if necessary), to an arbitration setting wherein a neutral third party hears both sides and seeks a mutual agreement on a resolution. Make certain that, with any procedure selected, the process is documented and retaliation is prohibited.


Establish equitable disciplinary and discharge procedures

An event organization that has employees must establish disciplinary procedures to address infractions, and it is a good idea to create one for volunteers as well. Most human resource managers recommend disciplinary measures that include a succession of warnings coupled with consequences. An investigation of the infraction to determine the individual’s awareness of the infraction and the circumstances surrounding it is important.


Consider a sequential process of verbal warning, written warning, intervention (creating an improvement plan in consultation with the employee), and finally, if necessary, termination. Documenting this process is important should termination become necessary so you can illustrate this measured and fair process.


Employees and volunteers leave an event organization for numerous reasons; some by choice (resignation) and others by dismissal. Develop discharge procedures for these eventualities. If leaving involves a resignation, conduct an exit interview to determine the reasons, which will help you manage future turnover problems. If dismissed because the event project is complete, thank the individual (and inquire about future availability if applicable). If the dismissal was due to termination, provide the reasons and appropriate documentation.


Determine what actions are necessary for the exit of an individual, such as returning equipment, keys, or other organizational property. If the individual was terminated, you might need to have security personnel watch them pack up their belongings and escort them off the premises. Consider the need to change access codes to computer and other systems when an employee leaves the event organization. Also notify those (and only those) who might be affected by their departure, such as direct supervisors, the payroll department, or suppliers with whom they were working.


Create a manual outlining all rules and regulations

Communicating expectations is the core of good relationships between the event organization and its workforce. These communications are almost always given orally, but there should be a written form for both reinforcement and reference. Creating an employee or volunteer manual or handbook that clearly outlines the rules and regulations the workforce (and the event organization) must abide by can prevent numerous possible problems.


For small event organizations or projects this might be a page or two of instructions, answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs), critical safety and emergency procedures, and other pertinent information. The larger the scope and complexity of the event and event organization, the more detailed the scope and contents of this written document must be, particularly for employment situations. The manual or handbook can be either or both a printed and electronic document available online, but the organization should get a written signature from the worker acknowledging receipt and understanding. Always have your legal advisors review your employee manual or handbook to ensure it complies with applicable employment laws and does not limit your ability to terminate an employee (or volunteer) if needed.


Understand and abide by labor union requirements

There are times when you might be required, or it would be desirable to use temporary workers that belong to a labor union, at which time you must abide by the union’s requirements. Certain locations or venues require users to employ union workers; at other locations the event organization might use union workers because they have the best skills for a particular task. Some services might only be available through a union, such as professional musicians or an electrician.


Labor unions are established by workers for the purpose of collective bargaining with employers regarding issues such as worker rights, working conditions, and direct (wages) and indirect (benefits) compensation within a specific union jurisdiction (area or scope of  representation authority). When using temporary workers from a labor union, the requirements will include pay rates based on the hours assigned, the number of rest and meal breaks that must be allotted, the types or scope of work other personnel are prohibited from doing, and the hierarchy for resolving disputes.


It is advisable to determine when union contracts with specific venues or employers are scheduled to be renegotiated so that your event is less likely to be affected (or contingency plans can be made) if negotiations become contentious. Add this to your site selection and contract checklist.



Event organizations and event projects are required to comply with numerous legal and regulatory obligations, many of which are applicable to human resource management. Although most apply to employment situations, some pertain to any workforce or workplace whether workers are paid or volunteer, or the workplace is permanent or temporary.


Keep in mind that these legal and regulatory obligations center primarily on protection of the worker as well as the employer. Codes and statutes developed by national and local governments are created to protect their citizenry (and visitors) from harm. Venue or organizational regulations are created to prevent damage to persons or property. Contractual requirements are established to assign responsibilities. None are capricious, nor are they meant to be groundlessly punitive. Virtually all were created based on actual incidents and the lessons learned from them.


Compliance with your human resource obligations includes determining the applicable legal and regulatory responsibilities pertinent to your event organization or project, which often involves consulting with your legal advisors. Once identified and understood, use these to establish policies and procedures that conform to requirements and guide and guard personnel. Ensure worker’s rights are protected and working conditions are safe, and make certain your personnel records are properly prepared and secure.


Develop legal and ethical personnel policies

There are countless policies and procedures that you might need to develop for your event organization’s personnel. These can range from attendance requirements to zero tolerance of violence. The scope of personnel policies you need depends on the unique characteristics of your particular event organization or project. In addition, as noted above, you will likely need to develop new policies for future events based on incidents or conditions you had not anticipated.


Always check with your legal advisors when developing policies and procedures to ensure they are legally permissible and enforceable. For example, you might have a uniform for staff and volunteers that clearly identifies them as part of the event team to event-goers. This is fine as long as you do not prohibit workers from altering it to conform to their religious beliefs, such as adding a head scarf or wearing a long-sleeve shirt underneath it to align with female Muslim practices.


Your policies must also be ethical in nature and application. Do not ask personnel to do anything that could be construed as deceiving, cheating, unfair, or putting someone else in harm’s way. Your policies must also be applied and enforced equally across the entire organization, which is a safeguard for you as well as the worker. For example, if you had a volunteer who purchased an expensive coffee maker for the volunteer tent without authorization and now wants to be reimbursed, your procurement and reimbursement policies could protect you from having to pay for it.


Comply with applicable legislation

You must be aware of, understand, and comply with current and applicable employment, health and safety, and human rights legislation. Such laws typically include issues such as anti-discrimination, child labor, employee rights, healthy and safe working conditions, unfair dismissal, wage rates and benefits, and working time. You might be required to provide specific documentation or acquire various permits.


Do not assume that what is applicable where you live will be the same everywhere, especially if you produce events in varying cities or countries. There might be additional or different local codes or ordinances in specific locations or jurisdictions. For example, although most local governments in the U.S. (and elsewhere in the world) adopt the fire safety codes devised by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA 101, Life Safety Code), every jurisdiction has the authority to adopt them, revise them, or develop their own. This could affect whether or not you are allowed to have your personnel perform certain actions such as monitoring fireworks displays or making decisions about site evacuations. 


Maintain accurate and confidential personnel records

When bringing workers into your organization, you collect contact information and other personal data so that you can meet their needs as well as your own legal obligations such as taxation and other employment functions. You collect this personal data from volunteers as well. These personnel records must be accurate and updated as appropriate so that you have the most current information.


This personal data is, and must be recognized as, confidential; it must be protected from unauthorized access or distribution. Collect only the data you need and are legally allowed to collect, and only use that data for the purpose(s) for which it was collected. Establish and rigorously enforce privacy policies and procedures that limit access, prevent disclosure, and respect the rights of the person whose data has been collected.


For example, social security numbers, names of family members, date of birth, or medical conditions requiring special accommodations is private and personal information, which if revealed could cause harm or distress to an individual. For an organization, revealing or distributing it could be illegal. Whether collected and/or stored physically or digitally, must be secured.



To review, this article examined the methods for workforce planning and creating an organizational structure that facilitates clear expectations for all those involved in producing an event project. Human resource needs are identified in terms of numbers and roles to be filled, and accurate job descriptions and selection criteria for workers are established, which are then used to recruit and prepare event personnel. Meaningful reward systems and supportive leadership are used to provide staff and volunteers an enriching and enjoyable experience working as a team to achieve the goals of the event.


Ensuring this experience is possible requires careful attention to the development of policies and procedures that are equitable and define the methods and process for working together within the event organization. Communication, clarity, and cooperation are the cornerstones of good workforce relations. Compliance with legal and ethical obligations serves as the bedrock for it all.



  • organizational chart: a graphical chart illustrating levels of authority and channels of communication

  • micromanagement: directing or controlling each step or action of a task delegated to a worker

  • debriefing: a meeting to review what has occurred

  • union jurisdiction: area or scope of authority to represent workers in a labor union


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