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New industry data highlights the critical need to invest in skills development

As I read through the absorbing detail and data set out in the recent Spektrix Insights Report, a clear and pretty compelling story stood out for me.
If our industry is going to make the most of opportunities to increase revenue and donations, and develop a long-term relationship with loyal and engaged audiences, we’re going to need to invest in our people. 

Whether it’s understanding audience loyalty, asking for donations, tailoring effective communications or making the most of the online experience, our people, and how we support them to be and do their best, were at the heart of the insights.

At the Octagon in Bolton fundraising is now in every member of staff’s job description. At the New Wolsey in Suffolk every team member has been trained on ways to upgrade and re-engage people. At the Octagon in Somerset staff are encouraging loyal customers – not least by recognising them and using their first names. These are new skills, learnt and adopted to help each venue thrive.
UK Theatre and SOLT (Society of London Theatre) have been looking closely at how, as an industry, we can develop our future workforce. Our theatre workforce review showed that our industry has gaps in our skills base – including the areas that the Spektrix Insight report shows are vital. 

Employers told us that they’re in need of specialists in ticketing, data and sales, and in marketing and communications. And we need the future leaders who can prioritise and put in place these strategies for resilient organisations. So we need to focus on developing these skills if we’re going to take advantage of the opportunities presented, and soon.

It’s been clear from the response to UK Theatre and SOLT’s work in this area – from Inspiring the Future of Theatre and Stage Sight, to the bookings on courses on our training programme - that our industry wants to support the change that will see it continue to thrive. 

Together we have the commitment and resources to make sure that we are bringing a more diverse range of people, skills and talent to our industry to drive our future success.

Cassie Chadderton, Head of UK Theatre

Cassie is Head of UK Theatre, the leading professional membership organisation for theatre and the performing arts. Cassie’s role is to promote excellence, professional development and campaign to improve the resilience of the sector. She is also on the Board of the National Campaign for the Arts and is a Fellow of the RSA.

Leadership Lessons from other Industries

In my experience, all organisations, no matter their size or their industry, need to have clear strategic priorities to ensure their teams understand how they can contribute to the organisation’s growth and development. Cassie’s response to the Insights Report demonstrates that this is particularly true across the theatre sector. The success stories in the report all have a commonality:  organisations who have determined their strategic priorities and then trained their teams to be able to deliver against these clear objectives, with the Octagon in Bolton being one of the prime examples.

In the Tech sector there’s a lot of talk about agile delivery, and agile methodology as the best way to get things done. This speaks to an iterative approach, learning from successes and failures, testing assumptions and collaborating constantly. You don’t know what the end result will look like, but if you’re clear on the outcomes you want to achieve, you can then empower your teams to figure out the best way to get there. This means the people who share your vision have autonomy, they have a clear purpose and they learn by doing, which is the best way for skills to develop and ‘stick’. This approach is as relevant in the theatre industry as it is in software development as illustrated by the Lone Tree Arts Centre’s email marketing campaign case study, and the insight provided into Cleveland Public Theatre’s website development project.

Competition for talent across the creative industries (encompassing tech, theatre and everything in between) is huge. The best way to attract and retain talented people, and have them do their best work, is for them to learn, develop their skillset and consequently build their careers. Aligning this growth with the needs of the organisation builds huge efficiencies – your organisation achieves more by people becoming more skilled, team members enjoy their roles and are more productive because they are engaged and learning, and you don’t lose time to recruitment and onboarding because you’re holding onto the great people you already have.

Katherine FitzGerald, People Director at Spektrix

Katherine has a background in organisational development and change in high growth businesses across tech, financial services and travel. She has an MBA from IESE business school in Barcelona.