As the COVID-19 pandemic began to accelerate in late spring 2020, the Orange County Convention Center
(OCCC), like every organisation in the event industry, was faced with mounting cancellations and declining revenues, requiring difficult financial decisions to be made. Rather than immediately furloughing or laying off employees to save costs, OCCC collaborated with county departments to help the community, keep staff off the unemployment rolls, and ultimately save millions of dollars at the same time.
By February 1, 2021, OCCC aimed to have 190 employees temporarily reassigned, either assisting COVID-19 relief or providing services in other county departments. When the temporary reassignments are combined with the more than 60 vacant positions that the OCCC is leaving unfilled, approximately 55% of the OCCC's authorised workforce will be off its payroll.
"When options for where to get this additional staff were being discussed, we knew that our Convention Center employees could jump in and be mobilised immediately with minimal training and without having to worry about teaching them the county's culture or how it operates," said OCCC Executive Director Mark Tester.
„We knew that our employees could jump in and be mobilised immediately “
OCCC has determined its minimum staffing levels based on current event activity and matching employees to job vacancies throughout the county with similar responsibilities and pay. Dozens of OCCC employees were matched to COVID-19 relief jobs that fit their skill sets and they immediately went to work assisting the community. The result was the temporary reassignment of dozens of Convention Center employees to various county departments. Rather than go through a lengthy hiring process, departments such as Orange County Utilities have been able to get immediate help from Convention Center staff and defer those hiring efforts until the reassigned employees need to return to the Center permanently.