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Large Event Staffing & Volunteer Management: Alltech FEI 2012 World Equestrian Games

The FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) is the world’s premier equestrian competition, crowning world champions in eight individual equestrian fields. The Games are held every four years, two years prior to the Olympics, and are notoriously rough-and-tumble – a concoction of sweat, blood and pure competition. In 2010 WEG left Europe for the first time, taking place in the United States at the Kentucky Horse Park from September 25 to October 10. It was the largest equestrian event ever held in North America, drawing hundreds of thousands of viewers, volunteers and staff to the United States for the American debut.

The Challenge

Rivaled only by the Olympics in terms of breadth, scale, and duration, the World Equestrian Games took place over a rigorous 11-day period in which volunteers coordinated much of the organization of the event. The staffing, scheduling, and event management requirements presented a challenge even for the most experienced planner. With over 10,000 volunteers and staff, it became obvious that a system for generating schedules, qualifying candidates, and tracking hours would be needed.

“At the core, we needed a tool we could use for scheduling, however the most important feature was the ability to put volunteers through what we call a ‘delivery process’ – recruitment, registration, selection, training, uniform and credential distribution,” stated Erin Faherty, Director of Volunteer Services for WEG. “When the entire process was scaled to 10,000 volunteer applicants, it became clear that finding an integrated system that could handle all scheduling and communication was a necessity.”

Shiftboard provides its software platform as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution, meaning that the system was available to WEG almost immediately. Accessible at any point, day or night from any mobile or web browser, the platform was easily installed without any hardware or IT support requirements.

Large-Scale Events Staffing & Management

To effectively complete the recruitment process, Shiftboard event scheduling software provided a customized web registration form, branded with WEG’s look and feel, and completely integrated with the online worker database. Web registration kicked off the process, which was followed by a required interview for selection. Once a volunteer made it past the interview, they would have the ability to self-schedule for training, credentialing, and uniform distribution before being able to volunteer at the Games. Shiftboard effortless Bottoms-Up Scheduling™ method allowed workers to select optimal time slots to fit their own personal schedule and took the strain of scheduling off the backs of the event managers.

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“The volunteers selected their own shifts, training, and uniform distribution according to their schedule. Try to imagine the nightmare of saying ‘uniform distribution is open’ and having 3,000 people show up,” Faherty said. The volunteers also expressed their approval of the new system – having a confirmed time slot meant no waiting in massive lines to pick up their new volunteer packets and no uncertainty about their upcoming schedule.

In addition to a seamless scheduling registration process, Shiftboard coordinated badge photo sessions for all volunteers and uploaded the picture files to WEG’s badge-making system. All badges were ready and waiting during uniform pickup, eliminating the tedious traditional method of credentialing workers.

“By using Shiftboard we were able to not only coordinate badge photos, but also upload contact information, security level clearance and have the badges ready for picking at the uniform distribution,” Faherty explained. “There are other software packages used by comparable large events that are very expensive, usually at least a million dollar IT investment. I think Shiftboard can compete well with those at very reasonable cost and without the complex IT infrastructure.”

“Scheduling is never easy, but the ability to have a simple but powerful tool which also integrates so many other processes was great for our event management challenge.” Faherty reported. “I would recommend Shiftboard as a superior solution for any large-scale event.”