‘We Want The Best And The Brightest’: Q’s With ASM Global’s Ron Bension & Shauna Elvin

A tiny selection of ASM Global's venue portfolio.
– A tiny selection of ASM Global’s venue portfolio.
100 of them just took part in a global job fair.

ASM Global just completed a global job fair, during which 100 participating venues from ASM’s global portfolio interviewed some 1,500 candidates looking for immediate or future jobs in live. 

The job fair ran online, Feb. 15-17, across four continents. Advertised Jobs included almost every aspect of the live entertainment value chain, including operations, business development, finance, food and beverage, human resources, sales, marketing, booking, security, guest services, audio visual tech, catering, and more.
Pollstar spoke with ASM Global’s CEO and president Ron Bension, as well as Shauna Elvin, executive vice president global human resources, who coordinated this unprecedented initiative. 

Ron Bension.
– Ron Bension.
CEO and president at ASM Global.

Pollstar: When did you have the idea for a job fair and how long has it been in the making?

Ron Bension: The idea in general for us at ASM Global is to figure out, how to use this 325-venue portfolio to do better for our clients? ASM global is number one in global scale with incredible execution at the local level. When you start thinking about that not just from an operations or content procurement [standpoint], you begin to ask, how else can we bring some leverage to our clients that will allow them to get more exposure for what they need? That energy, that ability to have global scale but think locally, really dovetails with what ultimately came out of a global job fair. 
Shauna Elvin: Initiatives, where we can be engaged as that global company and all work collaboratively, really bring the team together. Everybody is struggling as we come back from the pandemic, venues are coming back and need to bring back staff. We’re looking to reengage, look for and hire additional talent, and we really wanted to focus on diversity. 
Of course, you could do the same old same old and just run some ads, but we wanted that collaborative effort. We thought, ‘well, we can’t really do this in person, but we could certainly do something global.’ We worked with all our HR partners around the globe. We found a terrific platform that helped us host this and it took off: over 100 venues participated, and it’s just been a real success.
How did you coordinate such a massive undertaking?
Shauna Elvin: ASM is a great team, we just have so many great people around the globe, we have a lot of calls, a lot of meetings, on a regular basis. When we started putting this together, we communicated this to our general managers and other folks to see what kind of excitement there would be around it, and it was an immediate hit. 
Then we started coordinating. For this to be a global job fair, we had to think about time zones and different things like that. We found a terrific platform called eCareerFairs to host this for us. When it comes to technology, you’re always panicked that you’ll have some sort of glitch, but there wasn’t one. [The team at eCareerFairs] were terrific, they connected with all our folks to make sure we had the technology right, we did a lot of training around how to work on the platform.
We wanted to really touch a broad spectrum of people, so we took a progressive approach. The eCareer platform enabled us to set up different ways that people could engage with us, whether it be online, whether it be through text messaging, through video chats, a phone call back, whatever it was. 

Shauna Elvin.
– Shauna Elvin.
Executive vice president global human resources at ASM Global.

Any surprises when it comes to the ways candidates got in touch?

Shauna Elvin: We had more than 1,500 folks apply and participate in the job fair. Interestingly, 60% of our applicants liked the text messaging option. That really does tell you what future job seekers are looking for. They liked that ability to text and chat with a hiring manager before they engaged in a face-to-face interview even if it was virtual. Many of them said, ‘finding out about the company, and having that text option just really took the pressure off when I actually did have that one-on-one interview.’ So, that was a real success as well.
Why not have each venue do its own thing? Why the coordinated, global effort?
Ron Bension: It would have been easy to have 100 individual job fairs, but by creating this umbrella, and getting that message out there in a bigger way – ‘this is a global job fair’ – it really expanded the voice and let us reach a more diverse community, people we would have otherwise not reached. Venues that don’t really have openings yet, but are looking at the second quarter to open, were saying, ‘I want some of that.’
Nobody else can do this, nobody has the kind of footprint that we do, to be able to expand the voice of what the job fair is and reach into corners of the market that we would probably not have been able to reach, if we would have done it rogue, individually, by venue. That’s the win here, it’s like a one plus one equals nine. It really does create an expanded awareness of the fair in general and gets us to places we would have never reached before, with people realizing, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s a place I want to work at,’ or at least think about working at. 
Will all the advertized roles be filled immediately, now that the job fair’s over?
Ron Bension: It’s 100 venues, it’s 1,500 candidates, but we don’t have 1,500 job openings today. The industry is gearing up, we’re going to be hitting the ground running in the U.S. pretty quick, probably second quarter. In Europe probably early second quarter, APAC probably not until third quarter. And so, we’re looking at prospective candidates as well, filling the gaps that we have now, but also filling the future gaps we see as the world starts to pick up speed on coming back to live. 
It’s important to note our ability to project what the future looks like and get those candidates to see there’s an opportunity. We know when the next convention is coming, we know when the next series of concerts is coming, we know when our sports teams are coming around the globe. We’re able to project that, plan that. Our global perspective allowed us to really pinpoint where we had had opportunities, and to put people in touch with potential jobs down the road.
Shauna Elvin: One of the things that is terrific about the way we did this, and the platform that we use, is that all our venues have access to all candidates for the next three months. It isn’t just ending with the fair itself. We will have engagement for the next 90 days with these candidates. 
What was interesting about that was, we had a lot of folks who sent their resumes with a note saying, ‘Can’t really join the job fair, I’m not available right now. But I’d like you to reach out to me in the future.’ It created this big pipeline for us. And that platform will really remain open for the next 90 days, so, if folks still want to input their information, they can still click on the links.
Ron Bension: Word of mouth, friends of friends, there’s all sorts of opportunities that continue to let this grow.

London's famous Wembley Arena will be known as the OVO Arena Wembley going forward.
– London’s famous Wembley Arena will be known as the OVO Arena Wembley going forward.
The iconic building is one of 325 buildings in ASM Global’s portfolio.

Can you elaborate a bit more on the practicalities? Did all applicants get video interviews, for instance?

Shauna Elvin: People could interview for anything, even if it wasn’t an open role, because we were forward thinking much like Ron just mentioned a moment ago. Just because a role isn’t open today doesn’t mean it won’t be open sometime down the road. 
We had three hiring managers, if you will, in each booth. We had about 100 booths, and three managers in each booth that were taking all the calls, text messages, whatever it was. There was a whole landing page for people registering, so they knew exactly what the process was. Even if you didn’t have a resume, you could just enter your information and send a resume later, so that no one felt that they couldn’t participate because they weren’t prepared. 
Each hiring manager spent about 10 minutes with each candidate, just getting a quick overview of the applicant, some information about what area or areas they were interested in. We’ve committed to getting back with every single one of these candidates within the next 48 to 72 hours and have more of a deep-dive discussion, more of a formal interview process. We did it that way to maximize the number of people that we could talk to in a short amount of time. We created a tool kit for each venue. Every applicant will receive a response informing them of the next steps via email.

Exterior view of Barclays Center during Game Two of the First Round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs, May 25, 2021 in New York City.
Steven Ryan/Getty Images
– Exterior view of Barclays Center during Game Two of the First Round of the 2021 NBA Playoffs, May 25, 2021 in New York City.
Barclays Center is one of more than 100 venues that take part in the largest job fair in live entertainment history.

I guess the reason not all of ASM Global’s 325 venues participated is owed to the simple fact that not everybody is looking for staff.

Ron Bension: We’re not desperate. Most of our venues are filled with staff. [Participants in the job fair] either saw a need soon, saw a need midterm or had some immediate needs. I won’t mislead you to think that we have 100%, full jobs right now, on the hourly side we have some gaps. I would say, we’re much better off than most industries. Just because of the kind of job it is.
That being said, almost 50% [of advertised jobs] were management roles, so it was more than just hourly staff, there were a lot of management opportunities. We’re really happy about that – to be able to reach a diverse workforce for some of those full-time management positions that are either available today or coming on board.
Shauna Elvin: Some venues participated, even though they didn’t have a big staff need, because they wanted to build their future pipeline and just be a part of this. By advertising and really getting the word out on this – we did a big social media push and focused on this on all of the venues’ websites – a lot of folks who might not ever even think about a career in our industry or an opportunity to work with us got the word and thought, ‘well, this is kind of interesting.’
We had a virtual booth that was set up for folks who just wanted a little information about the company, and just wanted to hear about what we were doing. And, frankly, that was one of our most popular booths, because a lot of people were like, ‘I have a full-time job, but could I do something like this, too.’ We used that as a sort of gatekeeper to direct them to other opportunities, and then they went and joined other booths. It generally created a lot of interest in our industry, which brings us a much broader and diverse group of folks.
What has the feedback from participating venues been like?
Shauna Elvin: The venues are thrilled, I don’t mean to overstate this. I know it sounds like nothing went wrong, but, frankly, nothing did. We put in an incredible amount of time and planning into this to make sure it was right. And it paid off. 
If anything, there might have been pockets of the country, where they wished they would have had more applicants. But that’s just indicative of that particular area or particular locale. That was about the only thing that we heard, a couple of venues saying, ‘gosh, I wish I would have had a few more candidates.’ But aside from that, people were thrilled about it, and in fact saying, ‘when are we going to do this again?’ 
Ron Bension: We’ve all had or seen or known people who have done individual job fairs. In today’s market, that just doesn’t work anymore. There’s so many different routes to employment.  By getting the word out about what a job at ASM looks like, [people realized that] it’s not just about becoming an usher in a building. There’s finance jobs, there’s booking jobs, there’s marketing jobs, there’s all sorts of disciplines that we hire for. 
I don’t know if you typically reach that managerial or that particularly skilled level of employee in a job fair. What was brilliant about what Shauna and her team did was get that message out early and be able to broadcast it widely. The global overlay allowed us to do that. I think we attracted a much larger as well as diverse force, and, more importantly, people who would normally not answer a job fair. That’s the key to success here. I don’t know of any other company that’s ever done something like this. I’m really proud of the team.

Avicii Arena in Stockholm, Sweden.
– Avicii Arena in Stockholm, Sweden.
The 16,000-capacity building took part in ASM Global’s job fair.

We talked about new roles a lot. How about the old ones? How did ASM Global communicate with its existing staff during the pandemic?

Ron Bension: We stayed in very close contact with our employees during the pandemic. I thought this company took an incredibly liberal approach to reduction of force. In fact, most of our full-time people were kept on. Now, there were salary mitigations, everyone sacrificed, and I can’t tell you, how appreciative the company was of that sacrifice. 
From the company’s perspective, it also didn’t just slash and burn and lose some really good talent, which so many companies did. ASM Global was one of the few people in the entertainment business, who stepped up and said, ‘we’re committed to our full-time staff. We’re going to hold our positions.’ Yes, there’ll be mitigation, but this company did an incredible job of keeping full time staff, and keeping people working, and so we suffered much less than most entertainment companies.
Shauna Elvin: If I had to say what I’m most proud of during this time, it would be the team. They wanted to stay with the company, they weathered the storm, they took salary cuts, whatever it took, and still continued to work. We still had venues that we had to take care of, we still had responsibilities even though perhaps we didn’t have events, and the team was incredible. So, when we started to reactivate, we very much focused on bringing those people back, whether it’s back to full salaries or back into old roles, or whatever it was. Our team came first, before we went outside [with the job fair].
What has your mindset been during these past two years?
Ron Bension: ASM didn’t freak out about the pandemic while it was ongoing. ASM really focused on, ‘what are we going to be when we get out of the pandemic.’ And when you have that different philosophy of ‘how do we become a better company, how do we shore up our value proposition,’ you don’t take dumb moves, you don’t make bad decisions about personnel. You realize that when you come out of this, and we are going to come out of it, you need that personnel, we need Shauna, we need her team. 
Rather than worry about the situation we really took advantage of the time to be a better company coming out. And I think we’ve achieved that. It’s been an incredible result, not just with this job fair, not just in terms of the lack of any huge shortage of managerial positions, but just in general, from an operations point of view and some of the products we’ve rolled out during the pandemic, that have allowed our clients to be better venues, to be better arenas, convention centers. It’s a different philosophy. It may seem a nuance, but it really isn’t.
You even hired during the pandemic.
Ron Bension: We signed 27 new venues; we were very vibrant during the pandemic. And we’ve hired all sorts of new talented people, put in place a lot of technology and marketing programs. We’re really excited about the future. And we’re prepared when the world opens up. And, obviously, it’s opening up much faster, at least right now, than anybody had thought.
ASM Global just partnered with ILMC on the London conference’s bursary scheme, which promotes and encourages the next generation of young executive talent. Was that launched in a similar spirit to the job fair?
Ron Bension: Look, we’re a great company, we want to find great people, and we want to find a diverse group of great people. And the more we can reach out, the more we can be innovative, the more we’re going to attract better candidates. We’re very active in that regard. We’ve got an initiative called ASM Global Acts that’s focused on community, it’s focused on internships, apprenticeships, really getting deep into the community to draw from that community and hire from that community.
Shauna and her team, our international teams, are looking for the best partners to do that. Whether it’s at the ground floor, where our Savor food service group aligns with minority chefs around the country, creates apprenticeships, and brings them into our f&b business, or on the executive side. We’re very active in trying to find the best candidates for the roles that we have and aligning ourselves with partners who can introduce them to us, or expose us to candidates we would otherwise not see. It is part of who we are as a company. It’s part of what we’re trying to do. It’s another leg and there’ll be more as we move on down the road.
You mentioned earlier that the application links of the job fair remain active. Do you encourage people to continue applying, even if the job fair’s officially over?
Shauna Elvin: Absolutely we do. We are very excited about talking with anyone who’s interested in joining our company. I think you can hear from both Ron and me how excited we are about where we’re headed and how proud we are of what ASM Global is doing. We absolutely want the best and the brightest folks to come and join us to share in all this excitement.
Ron Bension: We’re not a bank, we’re not Walmart. We’re an entertainment company. We’re paying really good wages, it’s a great job, it’s a great company, it’s been around, and you’re going to be in the entertainment business. You’re going to see Chris Stapleton play as you’re working. I’d rather try to find candidates doing that, than I would working in some other business.
Interested applicants can still access ASM Global’s job fair through the following links: