Q&A: ASM Global on staffing up for the post-Covid era

ASM Global is the world’s leading venue management company, so a pandemic that causes venues to be closed, bans on groups assembling, restricts international travel and mandates working from home is going to present a colossal challenge.

ASM employs tens of thousands of people worldwide, and all those individuals have been impacted to varying degrees by the pandemic. Between 2020 and 2022, ASM employees – just like those from almost all sectors – faced furlough or redundancy or chose to reassess their career plans.

For a variety of reasons, ASM found itself at the start of 2022 with a headcount around a third less than pre-pandemic levels. To ensure it had the right people to guide the business beyond the Covid era, ASM earlier this month announced plans for a three-day international “collaborative job fair” encompassing four continents. Taking place from February 15-17 in North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific, these job fairs would enable venues to fill a wide range of roles encompassing everything from operations to human resources, from sales and security to catering.

We spoke to Ron Bension, ASM Global’s CEO and President, and Shauna Elvin, Executive Vice President Global Human Resources, about the sector’s particular employment challenges of the pandemic period and how the group is ensuring it has the right people to continue its success as the sector recovers in 2022 and beyond…



What kind of factors have impacted the global staffing shortage in the sector? 

Ron Bension: “Many people throughout the world have re-evaluated career and  family choices. Some have decided that the hospitality industry may no longer fit their chosen lifestyle because many events require employees to work nights and weekends. During the pandemic when our industry was shuttered, many people opted for other career paths.

“However, what we see happening now on a very positive side is the fact our business is returning in a very robust way and as such our staffing ramp up needs are immediate and greater than normal.”

How has ASM’s headcount been impacted since the start of 2020?

Shauna Elvin: “At the beginning of the pandemic, ASM Global had 61,000 employees both full-time and part-time around the globe. At the height of the pandemic, those numbers stabilised at 40,000 employees, but those numbers are on the rise again as we gradually open for business.

“There are no areas of particular concern because of the nature of the entertainment industry, and in our case the ‘live experience’ which is communal by nature and as a result, workers at all levels want to be part of it.”

Could you tell us about the steps ASM Global has taken in the last couple of years to ensure that it would be best placed to be in good shape when venues and entertainment return at 2019 levels?

Ron Bension: “ASM took every possible measure to navigate employees through the dark days of the pandemic and even though we had to lay off and furlough many employees, we made sure we kept in communication with employees.

“Where possible, we continued benefits and made every effort to bring employees back as quickly and thoughtfully as possible. During the pandemic, ASM Global built training programs and developed diversity, equity and inclusion programs that would benefit employees upon return.”

ASM Global-Bahrain convention centre

Tell us about how the job fairs idea has developed and who has been involved in making it a reality.

Ron Bension: “It was actually our entire senior leadership team from around the world that conceived the concept. The need was universal in its scope and ultimately everyone at virtually all of our venues had the passion and determination to make some history with a worldwide job fair that would make not only a difference in our business but in the lives of those excited to join ASM.”

Tell us what ASM and its partners are looking to achieve from the job fairs. What would be deemed success? 

Shauna Elvin: “Three benchmarks of equal importance are ASM’s desire to have the person-power in our employee base to serve as the foundational strength, supporting our position as the largest producer of the live entertainment experience around the world;  bring the talent to ASM that will  continue to provide our clients the best value proposition of scale, technology, marketing, content and programming in the industry; and third, succeed in providing large numbers of new employees that are excited to work in a business unlike most opportunities available — the live entertainment business.

“It’s exciting, engaging and exhilarating.  Not many other work opportunities can offer that. It’s a wonderful prospect for people around the world.”

It’s been a tough two years for the sector, what is ASM’s mindset for 2022 and beyond?

Ron Bension: “ASM Global is emerging from the pandemic a stronger, better, and more focused company. We are not only concentrating on ensuring our clients and partners see our value proposition through our value added programs, but our employees feel the shift toward a culture that is more inclusive and dedicated to their future with ASM.”