The announcement of Team Sky's deal with a new headline sponsor, which sees their budget rise to a staggering £40million a season for the next three years, has propelled cycling back into the international spotlight, way ahead of some of the season’s biggest races. The deal will see the riders morph into Team INEOS, strengthening its position as the most powerful team on the UCI World Tour.
And whilst the major events in 2019, such as the 2020 Tokyo Test races and Tour de France will be highlights, given investment from UK, special attention will be placed on its premier annual event: the UCI Road World Championships, which will take place in Yorkshire in September.
All eyes on UK Cycling and Yorkshire 2019
Behind the scenes, the event is already in full swing. The huge task of recruiting the Tour’s 2,000 volunteer workforce, which began in January and comes to an end in May, is one of the biggest challenges and opportunities facing the event. This year, its tie-in with the local community and sponsors is helping shape a newer, more sophisticated technology-led approach which it is hoped will lead the way to how volunteering and workforce management is run, both in driving efficiency and cost saving, but also in volunteer retention and legacy.
To understand the mechanism and scale of the task at hand, Jess Barrans, Volunteer Manager for Tour de Yorkshire & Yorkshire 2019 UCI Road World Championships shared her insights into modern recruitment and how working with federations and sponsors can and should positively impact volunteer programmes.
“Volunteer management is an event all on its own - it is a crucial element that a lot of people overlook”, said Jess. “One of the biggest tasks is how we efficiently recruit, train and deploy 2,000 volunteers we need to run the event. Whilst each phase is vital, it’s important to engage sponsors and the governing bodies and federations early in the process, especially in phases 3 and 4, for the overall success of the event.”
Breaking down the workload into four phases allows for better focus and success, as Jess outlines the challenges and opportunities ahead:
Phase 1: Recruitment
This is where working alongside federations early on is essential. Typically, recruitment schedules on this scale last for four months. For us, that means from January to May. This equates to effectively hiring 100 people a week. Imagine that in any other business? The numbers are huge. And so, if we lose two weeks because of miscommunication or waiting on elements such as marketing rights to be signed off, it puts the whole programme under real pressure. With a huge number of data points to process; from workforce education, available work dates, individual personnel needs, training, and accessibility, without smart, flexible, reliable and scalable technology that companies such as Rosterfy provide, that task would be almost impossible. There have been times having a better dialogue with our partners would help us more. Going forward, its essential all parties understand the pressures on local organising committees to ensure a successful event for all.
Phase 2: Retention
Probably the toughest phase is retaining that workforce you’ve worked so hard to build. How do you keep 2,000 people engaged when for some applicants, the event isn’t for another nine months? Here, again, technology is invaluable.
I mentioned Rosterfy earlier, and for us, there’s has been an immensely useful tool. Having everything in one place from surveys to databases and rosters to emails has saved so many hours. Because it is so advanced, the way you can tailor it to your event is amazing; quickly view a volunteer’s profile, who has read an email and at what time, how many people are waiting to approve a role, who is pending, everything is in one place. Technology has revolutionised the way retention works for both events organisers and volunteers.
Phase 3: Delivery
Yorkshire Tea has been a fantastic partner and speak to our values in recruitment end engagement. They have been involved throughout, but it is in delivery, where most people will see them. Engaging with sponsors is vital. The energy they bring allows us to do so much more and mean more to people across the whole event lifecycle. Yorkshire Tea will run dedicated volunteer areas to help our workforce to take proper breaks. Big activity areas, pub quizzes when shifts are over – they have gone the extra mile to not only engage our volunteers in the main host town of Harrogate but are looking at ways to engage people outside that, in other host locations and along the routes.
For us, utilising the volunteer workforce activations is where sponsors can see huge value and uplift in awareness. Yorkshire Tea’s Little Urn will, I believe, provide a blueprint for how recruitment and event workforce management, in general, is seen as part of overall sponsorship activations going forward.
Phase 4: Legacy
The pressure is on us. How do we continue to keep world-class events coming to Yorkshire? How do we maintain motivation and engagement after the event? How do we keep on encouraging people to keep coming to Yorkshire and how do we continue to showcase it as a cycling location? Technology in legacy is again vital. We have a legacy group that meets often and it’s really important for us, but utilising technology to maintain communication with the workforce and communities that events like Yorkshire 2019 establish is key.
Volunteer objectives are always very unique to sporting events and usually have really tight KPIs, i.e., recruiting, training, allocating and deploying 2,000 volunteers! Ensuring local events teams and the governing bodies are aligned on marketing rights, and that there is clear dialogue away from siloed conversations will remain invaluable to creating and sustaining a legacy.