Mavence: “Employers are the demand, candidates are the offer. Is that still true?”

22nd Jan, 2024
The talent market is currently a very sensitive issue for both associations and event planners. We know today that many associations imploded due to the pandemic disruption; others emerged with a new identity, but certainly, most of them have very different teams, from the secretariat to management. However, not all employees have the same perspectives: while many qualified newcomers get into this market due to sector-based commitment and governance aspects, seniors, on the other hand, yearn for salary progression and natural career advancement. And if we move on to event planners, we see that the position is among the most stressful jobs in the world.
Jason DescampsMavence is an international recruiting firm that connects employers with talent and people with opportunities in public affairs and institutions such as associations. Flexible work arrangements and work-life balance? More specialisation or greater breadth of knowledge? A more regional or global positioning? CEO and Managing Director, Jason Descamps, discussed all this with us in this conversation.
If we’re strictly talking about the associations you work with, what are they asking for at the moment? 
Associations are not asking for more than before. But, unlike large corporates, they  probably can’t afford to follow the current trends of people (their staff) working from abroad, either fully remotely or by agreeing to travel to the office once or twice a week. Associations tend to have only one location and, for those that have multiple offices around the world, the challenge remains the same: to create synergies and team dynamics without everyone becoming a free electron. That’s why, when they recruit people, they ask them to maintain a certain level of connection to reality, to their local teams and to their stakeholders, which, in my opinion, is only fair in the representation game. This is all about influence, communication, sharing good practices, aligning points of view, creating consensus, and it’s not always possible to achieve the expected level if you or your teams aren’t there.
Is an organisation’s value structure now more important to attract the best in class at the associative level?
Yes, it’s a generational issue. I don’t really like previous generations calling me a ‘millennial’ because I was born in 1986, but the latest generations see things differently from us. The typical requirements of newcomers to the market range from work culture and on-site presence needs, to the values and purpose of the organisation, through the ability to reach consensus among members, their reputation and their working style in their own organisations. They distinguish between different types of flexibility, whether it’s working from home or leaving the office early if they need to solve an urgent problem and then working from home, which obviously clashes with a certain generation of managers who find it difficult to adapt to these new needs, and who therefore see talent leave in a very short period of time. Working in this new style requires more trust more quickly, and control freaks are finding it harder than ever.
How can associations stand out and be competitive in the talent pools? What can a mission-based association offer a candidate that a listed company can’t?
This is a tough one, since people in Brussels generally dream of two golden cages: in-house jobs or the Commission. So, indeed, competition is tough. The working culture is probably less aggressive in associations than in companies or consultancies. I remember headhunting a very competent lawyer from a top law firm for an association, just because she had recently become a mum and could no longer afford to spend evenings and part of her nights on the computer. However, one aspect that is probably often overlooked in the associations’ elevator pitch is the horizontal, 360° view they offer of their sector or niche. Most associations are sector-specific, which is very interesting for those who are curious to get a full perspective on what is happening, for example, in the world of financial services, renewable energies or medical technology. They will be part of a platform that centralises data on who is doing what and who are the movers and shakers of a category, which I find very interesting if you are passionate about something. However, that won’t apply to certain people in Brussels whose passion is... politics, not the sector.
Do you struggle to find professionals in the events field? Do you think that the event planner role is a red flag when it comes to finding talent?
Not really, but we are probably biased by the fact that when we need to find such talent, we only look into a pool of very experienced people who already know the troubles of this profession. I’ve attended events organised by people who weren’t based in Brussels, for example, and you could really tell by their choice of venue and speakers that they didn’t come from the EU policy world, nor had they taken the time to study how the bubble thinks and who the best speakers to invite are. Therefore, to be successful in planning events when you are not a native of the place where the event is to be held, you need to compensate with a quick understanding of that market.
How can the event industry create a strong sense of belonging among its human resources?
I am not sure there is category-specific solution for events people. There are certain links actually between events and recruitment: on both sides, we look for the most skilled people to join it. I think it depends on what drives your people. What is it in the event industry? The magnitude of an event in number of attendees, budget size, the prestige of the event measured by the calibre of people who participate, or the feedback from people who attend? You don’t really grow into big titles, but you acquire a large network, and you may well become a middleman in some fields. This is often a great position to be in, as people come to you for all sorts of requests, and, at some point, you can monetise that.
What message would you like to leave our readers on how to strengthen their association in 2024? 
I think the world is adapting to this new reality. I used to say, “Employers are the demand, candidates are the offer.” Because in the world where we lived, the client was the employer who is the demand, and the offer (the candidate) was supposed to do “anything” to meet the demand. The battle for talent may have dealt some cards, but now who has to meet whose demands? Talent performance is not always a matter of on-site presence or availability – top performers will remain, even with an evolving list of demands, as they set their own limits to achieve their goals before the employer has to. Employers should look for people who have this mindset, and accept that the need to control what employees do is diminishing. Employees should look for employers who can trust them even in times of disconnection, also accepting the reality of their profession – i.e. if they are paid to represent, they must also be present.

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