To find out which topics will be the foundation for discussion and insight at the next event, gathering views from delegates, other staff and apprentices will help prepare its next programme.
Partnering with market research specialists Research Engine, plans are developing for new research. This involves putting together a survey with questions formed from data collected from the last two events and asking about lifestyle and job challenges. Hundreds of groundsmen, turf managers and other staff will be asked. There will also be some Twitter polls going out to people, which were hugely successful last year.
Research at the start Research Engine director, Chris Horne and his team, have been involved with the market research on and the Summit from its concept, putting together a research strategy to find out what’s been happening in the industry and learn what the key issues are. To keep topics fresh and current, this market research is carried out every year to find out what industry professionals see as the burning topics are. The ‘State of the Nation’ survey gleaned information from more than 200 staff about their lifestyles, their work and the surfaces they look after.
As well as surveying groundsman, apprentices studying at Myerscough college were asked their perspectives of the industry and how they viewed their careers going forward. Research is a year-long activity that involves not only surveys, but a series of mini-events happening in the months leading up to the Summit as well.
In addition, Chris’ team created various Twitter polls, asking specific questions related to the nature of the work. From these polls, they could get many more responses and further industry insight. The mix of research, discussion and group initiatives being formed were a useful way of developing the content for the second event. Information and the development of solutions at the 2018 Summit fed into the planning and development for the next Summit. The same will follow for this year, with some exciting initiatives brewing away behind the scenes.
Data planting the Summit seeds
The top topic that resonated among many staff taking part in the survey was around finding and retaining good quality staff. This topic has been a key part of both the first and second Summit discussed from different aspects. Both newcomers into the industry and experienced staff were asked their views in more detail as part of the events programme. The reasons behind this were explored, looking at how numbers of new staff have changed over time and what can be done to bring more people into the industry. Other topics that came out of the surveys were around managers’ budgets, sustainability and how to develop existing talent and education.
Once key themes were identified from the survey results, these were taken forward for both events for delegates to discuss. It was thought that the conference could be run by bringing up each of the chosen themes among a table of 10 delegates with the idea of coming up with practical and actionable solutions to help overcome them. This could vary from the simple to the more deep-rooted and longer-term solutions and initiatives, organised by staff working from the ground up. 2018 saw the launch of the first Summit, with head groundsmen and managers coming together to share common problems and tackle some of its biggest challenges.
Events scattered throughout the year
The Summit isn’t the only event that happens throughout the year, either. All year round, mini workshops and round table discussions are planned and run by Turf Business to talk about some of the challenges that come up from the survey results. This provides a stepping stone from the initial part of the research to other data being gathered.
Last year, there were three mini workshops and round table discussions, where staff were invited to take part in each one, exploring some of the topics, how they feel and possible solutions. Both Chris and Martin have worked together to help facilitate these discussions. From the top topic, staff was asked about the reasons they felt it was hard to get new people into the industry. Responses included asking for an alternative gateway into the industry in addition to the apprentice route, encouraging more diversity and keeping staff on a living wage while offering training.
Nurturing the Summit Ideas and solutions are steadily growing from the research and Summit so far. Following on from the 2018 and 2919 Summits, the ideas generated from these event are integrated into the next round of research. Seen as highly effective at bringing results, The State of the Nation survey will be carried out again with adapted questions based on what has developed so far. Some exciting initiatives have been created from delegate discussions.
This has included an initiative to develop existing talent and skilled staff within the industry, as how to shape up the industry’s image. Staff identified some ways of attracting young people and how to bring more diversity into the industry. Delegates have had opportunities to connect across different sports. They’ve maintained contact since and formed steering groups outside of the event, building plans on how to get some initiatives going
Keeping the balls spinning
Staff is longing for changes to improve the industry’s future. To achieve this, it’s important that momentum is kept up through the year and for staff to continue developing their ideas created. The way to do this is to keep plans going all year long – and this comes from the people in the industry because they understand the challenges and can get to the heart of each issue. Chris highlighted how the backbone of the research is running from views from those in the industry, who work on the ground and experience their challenges every day. Research Engine has added to this by providing reports based on the research, from an independent and neutral viewpoint
So, what does 2020 have in store?
The next batch of research is in place, which will include some special questions related to the new initiatives formed by head groundsmen. One such initiative is a talent development programme, STIP, to give existing staff new skills and experiences across different sites and sports. Other topics for the next set of events will be revealed once the research has been gathered. Delegates will be invited to the workshops and Summit in due course. The surveys and Twitter polls are coming to gear up for 2020 – so get ready!