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Pay and work-life balance are among the key factors affecting recruitment and retention in technical theatre roles, a survey has shown.

Visitor to the ABBT Theatre Show in Alexandra Palace
Visitors to this year's ABTT Theatre Show held at Alexandra Palace, London

Ruth Hogarth

A new recruitment and retention report conducted by the Association of British Theatre Technicians (ABTT) has shared key findings about the ongoing sector-wide challenges of theatre technicians leaving the industry and job roles going unfilled.
Released as part of ABTT's MAKE A DiFFERENCE day, an annual conference tackling current industry issues, 437 individuals highlighted that pay and work-life balance were the two key issues impacting recruitment and retention. 
Those who responded identified as a mixture of employees (33.58%, 138 individuals) and employers (32.36%, 133 individuals), freelance and full-time positions and across various roles including lighting, sound and video, and stage management.


The survey asked: "What do you think is the main barrier to recruitment at this present time?"
46.87% (187 people) said that pay was the most significant barrier to recruitment, with work-life balance 29.82% (119 people) coming in second.
Of those, 34% identified as an employer (65 people) and 38% identified as an employee (71 people). 16% (30 people) were freelancers.
The split was equal for employers and employees at 31% when selecting work-life balance as a cause. 
The respondents were asked a follow-up question: "What one thing would you like to see your place of work/or the industry do to help improve its ability to recruit?"
The two highest results for this question came in again with pay at 47.04% (183 individuals) and work-life balance at 22.62% (88 individuals).
The survey also asked: "What do you think is the main barrier to retaining staff in roles at this present time?"
Similarly, the two highest responses were pay, with 33.77% (128 individuals), and work-life balance, at 29.82% (113 individuals). The third highest outcome was over 10% lower at 18% (67 individuals), which was staff feeling valued.

The survey linked wellbeing-related issues of feeling valued, support in the workplace and work-life balance in a single question to obtain a staff wellbeing percentage calculation of 56% (211 individuals) and, for pay, of 34% (128 individuals). 

A follow-up question was: "What one thing would you like to see your place of work/industry do to help improve staff retention?"
The results again put pay top at 35.22% (131 individuals) and work-life balance next at 27.15% (101 individuals).

'Production and profit over people'

The ABTT survey was launched in February this year and ran for three and a half weeks, with the findings shared at the MAKE A DiFFERENCE conference at the end of April.
Along with money and time, the report also highlighted challenges around communication. The report summary on barriers reads: "People don't feel like they are being listened to or given the chance to voice concerns. On more than one occasion, across multiple topics, people talked of 'production and profit over people'. 
"There seems to be a general opinion that people and staff are not being prioritised on the business agenda. This links well with the money and time barrier; if people are not a priority, then finding time and money to develop plans to tackle these issues will also not be a priority."
Other barriers flagged included workload, accommodation and expenses on tour, high expectations, over-ambitious productions and schedules, education and outreach and lack of flexibility.