An Interview with Alex Hewitt – A career with a Great Place to Work

6 July 2022


WHAT’S CHANGED SINCE OFFICES FULLY REOPENED?

The advent of hybrid work routines means that workers, in most sectors, are no longer beholden to the desk. The rules for employee and client engagement have changed.

What’s very clear is there’s been a reversal in mindset and organisations now appreciate that work and tasks are achieved at home in the quiet. The workplace is a hub for conversation, collaboration and inevitably ideas that lead to innovation.

For AOK Events and the majority of our clients, a fluid working environment is key. And we are seeing the client events that we are helping to organise reflect this too with networking, reward, and recognition some of the key objectives being set.

The value of face-to-face communication has never been higher on the agenda – whether that’s getting teams of people together or re-building client relationships in person. It bodes well for the live event sector!

MANY PEOPLE LEFT THE INDUSTRY, HOW ARE YOU ATTRACTING PEOPLE BACK?

We – AOK Events – have history; two decades of it. It really is an advantage as employees want to know the company they are working for is financially stable. ‘Coronapause’ caused a massive shake up in the events sector.

We are now seeing new organisations being formed which is exciting, however, employees are also highly aware of rising costs and global economics and the potential risk of working for a start-up. Working for the young buck has masses of appeal, while working for an organisation with a longstanding track record presents different opportunities.

The people who helped us find a way to flourish over the last couple of years are being rewarded by now filling our most senior positions. Our new starters are first and second jobbers which means we can train, develop and shape them in to the employees we want them to be.

We try hard to underline AOK Events’ experience with our forward thinking, challenger mentality. We are taking the important and core components that potential talent wants and amping them up the AOK Events way where every voice is heard and acknowledged.

ISN’T IT ALL ABOUT THE MONEY?

The events sector is very much a calling and salary is important, but it’s not the only ask.

Potential employees want to know which clients they will be working with, what they can expect in terms of career progression and what benefits we offer. Where the role is based from is important too and we have made massive advances in alleviating office presenteeism by giving people flexible hours and the choice of where they work.

Another defining factor in choosing an employer is their stance on the environment and what purpose the company has. As such we’re implementing the phrase ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ and seek to work with likeminded brands. Certainly, when we present options to clients ESG is an important part in deciding upon a destination or venue and we are seeing more venues implement changes to modernise their facilities accordingly.

We’ve also put a huge onus on our employee wellbeing and wellness as we understand that if our people are well and mentally and physically healthy then they will perform at their highest capacity.

And if they are healthy and happy based from home then it’s win-win!


WHO CALLS THE SHOTS WHEN IT COMES TO OFFERING A NEW ROLE? EMPLOYEE OR EMPLOYER?

There has been a massive democratisation of roles; location is now limitless and if you want the best talent in your organisation then you will find they come to you with their own parameters and expectations. They are considerations that go beyond salary, holiday allowance and bonuses.

It’s definitely a case of being flexible and recognising that if you don’t create bespoke employment packages you won’t attract and maintain the best individuals. We are 100% confident that new recruits will be happy, engaged and have outstanding career development opportunities and that trumps everything else really.

HOW CAN WE ATTRACT FRESH, GRADUATE TALENT?

Tomorrow’s talent is highly attuned to purpose, and this is reflected in the companies that they chose to work for; it’s all about giving back, doing better, or having a cause.

It’s a step change in recruitment strategy and does mean there is a different sell to a graduate versus a senior role. Graduates are interested in money, after all there’s a big loan to pay off, they want fast progression, and most significantly they want to know the company has a purpose.

HOW DO YOU INSTIL YOUR BRAND CULTURE IF YOU AREN’T FULL-TIME IN THE WORKPLACE?

This is our premise and why AOK Events is thriving! The value placed on person-to-person contact has skyrocketed not just with us but with our clients. Quality face-to-face events that have resonance and that are a draw ensure that people do come together. It’s ok to have fun whilst you work.

We’ve all come to realise that many events that are educational and more transactional are in some cases better to remain as online training and development sessions. However, the value of interaction and engagement cannot be replicated online.

For our own employees we’ve created a programme of events that draws our team together by giving great content and a standout experience that underlines our values and unique differentiators. We have a future leaders programme; we hold regular training events; we host regular informal get togethers as well as more structured commercially focussed events.

We have a future leaders programme; we hold regular training events; we host regular informal get togethers as well as more structured commercially focussed events.

WHAT ARE THE NEW SKILLS YOU NOW LOOK FOR AND EXPECT FROM PEOPLE?

As we are now often communicating with our clients via a video call, we go beyond just articulating to illustrating and bringing to life concepts and proposals. The digital transformation of our former office means we’ve sharpened the quality of our work by using a raft of new tech and project management software programmes that go beyond Word and PowerPoint.

Leadership is having to be re-learned too, those critical conversation that were held face-to-face are vastly different when lived out online. We make sure to extend our great team culture online by hav- ing regular team video calls and a continuous slack channel that keeps everyone updated and where we can share occasional laughs and memes throughout the day.

WHERE ARE WE HEADED?

Standardised and standard have been deleted from the AOK Events narrative!

Our people practices are as individual as the people
we employ, we need to flex and fit in with each person’s needs as much as we can.

In every business sector there is a talent crunch, and we need to look less at formulative career paths and more at skillsets and aptitude.

With events being a very accepted part of the marketing mix we should be looking to attract brand managers, advertising planners, market researchers and media buyers to join the event sector. Just as hybrid has brought about a whole new outlook to event marketing so too can the actual brand and agency marketeers.

It is an exciting moment in the live event sector. For some time, event organisers have strived to give clients amazing event experiences that live long in the memory of attendees. Employee experience is now equally business critical as we look to attract, train, and maintain the absolute best talent.

Keep an eye on our careers page for job opportunities or alternatively get in touch!

hello@aokevents.com | 020 8222 8420