Back in June, The Stage had an article about the dire need for changes in the theatre industry in the UK. The article summarized a report that mentioned a lot of familiar issues: low pay, overwork, dependence on unpaid interns, lack of staff from low income and minority backgrounds, and closed recruitment practices. I recently finished reading the report which expounds upon these issues.
However, since I have spent the week talking about inequities in the arts, I didn’t want to continue the week highlighting more problems. Instead, I wanted offer some encouragement and solution to some of these issues by drawing attention to a piece written by Aubrey Bergauer, Executive Director of the California Symphony.
If you are an ArtsHacker reader, you might remember Aubrey was cited as one of the Most Creative People In Arts Administration for her leadership of the California Symphony.
Back in May, Aubrey wrote about how the symphony decided to invest in talent development for the staff. She acknowledges it isn’t necessarily an inexpensive undertaking and offers tips to leverage conference and training opportunities to their fullest. Part of that process seems to include the mandate that as a staff member, your purpose in going is to learn and when you return you need to share that information as well as a plan of action for implementation.
What’s not acceptable at the California Symphony is to attend a conference/seminar/workshop and feel inspired and warm and fuzzy for about a week. I want action from the investment, so employees are required to report back at a future staff meeting what they learned, their key takeaways, and what they plan to implement in their work here based on all that….
1. This holds everyone accountable, so their performance can be evaluated against the goals and ideas they set for themselves.
2. They’ve just passed on the inspiration, ideas, and takeaways from conference in a personal way to the rest of the staff. #win
Aubrey attributes their growth in revenue over the last few years to the benefits of investing in talent development.
She suggests new hire boot camps for everyone. The California Symphony uses this orient people to their audience development plan and intends to expand it to a messaging overview.
(i.e. brand personality, how we talk about ourselves, key words or messages to use in our public communications…because every single role is public-facing to some degree, not just the marketing personnel).
She also talks about providing staff with a professional development stipend they can use at their discretion and advocates for mentoring.
What she proposes won’t solve all the problems outlined in report featured in The Stage, but these steps can significantly change the general tenor of the work environment in a positive direction.
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