The operational focus naturally is on our next event but there is a need to also focus on event outcomes to create long-term benefits. Many of us fall into the trap of focusing on outputs rather than outcomes, not because we don’t know any better but because it’s so easy to. Hence there are literally thousands of articles written on the topic. So it’s not a new concept at all. However, let’s be honest we all are creatures of habit and we are looking for the best way to prove what we are doing is worthwhile or of value and usually the easiest and most tangible way is to show outputs.
Let’s have a closer look at the difference. Outputs are controlled and immediate results of a product or service and therefore can be measured very easily. Outcomes on the other hand cannot be fully controlled and are a longer term and less tangible result. While outputs are necessary to achieve outcomes, it’s not always a straight path.
For example, recruiting 500 volunteers for an event is an output, but it doesn’t mean the event outcomes are achieved simply by having 500 volunteers on site. In fact, it is still possible to have negative outcomes such as poor customer service due to lack of engagement or lack of training.
I believe there is a need in the event industry and particularly in volunteer management to focus more on outcomes. We see measurements such as ‘this many people attended’, ‘this many volunteers came’, ‘this many programs were handed out’, ‘this many surveys were filled in’ etc. Usually these are impressive figures, however they don’t say much about the quality aspect of the event experience. The experience is what determines the event outcome and more importantly determines if people return to the event, the image of the event in the public arena. These are important aspects for events with a long-term impact on time, money and operations.
We all know that the customer experience is more than watching a show, installation or fireworks. It goes far beyond the “show” and it will in fact influence the experience of the show. If you go to a large outdoor event, the show may be great, but you have been pushed around by event staff to make room for more people and keep certain areas free, been told they can’t help you when asking volunteers a question and were sent the wrong way when looking for the toilets. A simple example, but it is highly likely that your experience of the show will be greatly diminished by your experience as a customer at the event.
Similarly sporting events need to look after the participant’s experience all the way. It is not enough to take the entry money and leave participants on their own. We need to look after people for their entire experience from start to finish and even beyond.
The experience with an event is essential to bring participants and customers back and influences the public image of the event. We all know that, but often there seems to be a disconnect between the vision and the operations of events. The operational focus naturally is on the next event but I believe there is a need to keep an eye on the long-term vision and involve the team in it to make better decisions for long-term benefits.
Why is it relevant for managing your team?
We ourselves were guilty on focusing too much on outputs. Our volunteer program reports showed how many volunteers were recruited, what tasks were performed, what was trained, how many newsletters were sent and what policies and management structures were created. All of this just shows that we successfully implemented the volunteer program.
But what did this achieve? While we were telling clients that the number of volunteers is secondary to the quality of service, our reports still consistently showed outputs we produced and not outcomes we achieved.
The volunteer program is not a supporting function of an event but integral to achieving the event outcomes. Therefore we shifted our reporting to show the impact on the outcomes rather than how many volunteers were recruited.
We clearly didn’t ask the right questions and were surprised we kept getting the same answers. We believe that real change can be achieved by focusing on outcomes rather than outputs. Event organisers who take responsibility to drive their teams towards achieving outcomes will produce more successful events. The outputs produced are part of the equation but by shifting our focus to the outcomes, we may even create better outputs. Ultimately, we will create better event experiences.
For us this means bringing the volunteers on board to be part of achieving the event outcomes. The focus on the outcomes also creates a better volunteer experience and ensures a higher engagement. The result is volunteer retention, saving time and money in recruitment, training and advertising. Most importantly, engaged teams that are focused on the event outcomes will keep creating quality experiences for patrons and participants and as a consequence create more successful events.
What are your thoughts on this? Are your teams involved in the vision and outcome focuses? Are your reports focused on outputs or do they include outcomes?