Help wanted: How can I hire the right help?

We’re a small company, with the typical peaks and valleys in staffing needs, depending on the kind of events we are involved in at the moment. What can I do to make sure I get the right help? I’m often disappointed in the people temp agencies provide. Is there a better way?
— Event Planner, Chicago
Find people with passion
It’s tempting to buy into the old saying, “You just can’t find good help these days,” but that’s not necessarily the case. You just have to know where to look. Several readers offer alternatives to taking your chances with a temp agency. They suggest three ways to bolster your staff:

  • Hunt for help at colleges and universities.
  • Tap local Meeting Planners International (MPI) chapters or other organizations.
  • Build your own “mini” temp agency.

Hunt for help at colleges and universities
Nearby colleges, universities and community colleges can be valuable resources. The logical place to start, says Soheyla Richter, president of Arlequin International Events Inc., is with colleges that offer majors in the event planning or hospitality field. “These people have the passion for our event planning and production business and want to succeed. You can help graduates get the experience they need through training with your special events company. I have found that they will go the extra mile for you.”
Shermaine A. Cooke-Edmonds, owner/lead consultant at S.A.C. Events Planning Services, LLC, seconds that. “I use interns/college students. When they approach me or I approach them, I always make sure I train them the way I want them to work. Most of them do not have experience in behind-the-scenes event preparations but are very excited to learn how things come together.”
Tap local MPI chapters or other organizations
Susan E. Kennedy, CMP, director global services for MVI, says, “To fill a planner position, I’ve had great luck with the local MPI job site. I hired someone as a junior planner a few years ago, and she has been the best employee I’ve ever hired. I actually got my job through an MPI reference as well. Someone called the MPI management company and asked if anyone was looking for a job!”
An anonymous event planner from Valley Forge, Pa., shares this idea: “Real world experience is always a plus. I’ve had good luck advertising for women returning to the workforce or looking for flexible, part-time situations that mesh with motherhood. One advantage is the maturity they bring to the party. The best place to find them is networking with local child-care centers. Caterers are another resource that works for me.”
Build your own mini temp agency
Cooke-Edmonds likes the idea of building your very own temp agency. “You can’t go wrong if you train them yourself,” she says. “If you have persons on staff that you can depend on for training, have them supervise/train the temporary help, to free your time.” The payoff: Once you find, train and pay your own temporary help, you have acquired a database of workers who know how you operate and understand their job duties. “That’s a great resource you can always fall back on,” she says.

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