Oh. My. God!

I don’t know about you but my head has just been in a spin the past 2 weeks; helping my clients make necessary changes to their business operations while simultaneously wondering if I will even have a business in 6 months.

Watching webinars to see what other businesses were implementing so I could *hopefully* keep my clients just that one step ahead. Trying to preempt what might happen next while assisting with contingency planning based on what we know now.

It’s been a ride that’s for sure. Pivot is everyones new favourite word but every time I hear it I’m like

Last week I shared some clips to Facebook & Instagram with the aim to disseminate the most pertinent information, I want to make use of this post to be able to expand on that.

Unless your employees have just awoken from a coma they know something pretty unprecedented is happening in Australia right now. Early survey data is showing overwhelmingly Australians are feeling anxiety and fear. These feelings can make employees feel unmotivated, detached and less obligated to their employers. If management isn’t communicating with employees then you can expect these feelings on steroids.

Don’t hold your cards close to your chest, communication needs to be clear and such that it provides clarity and instils confidence. Be specific, what’s in scope and what’s not, if your strategy is to buy time and preserve cash then communicate that. You need to be open with your employees so you can gain their buy in if you need to need to look at changing rosters and pay reductions. Don’t make assumptions as to what your employees will or won’t do, or that they’ll only look out for themselves.

But, you need to be a role model. And that can mean taking the hardest hit yourself. All trust and respect will be lost if you start making cuts but continue to pay bonus’ to management or treat yourself.

From a people perspective where to from here?

Well it depends on your financial situation; if you fall under the WA or Federal Industrial Relations system; your employment contracts and your relevant Award ** side note Fair Work and the Unions have rushed a few changes through to amend Awards in light of the current crisis. It always pays to check the Award for any amendments before making decisions **

If you can make it through the next 6 months relatively intact after some adjustments you should be looking at purchased leave agreement; amendments to work hours; pay reviews and voluntary leave without pay. These strategies are designed to minimise immediate expenditure with little disruption to your operations and workforce.

If the next 6 months is a bit so / so now is the time to be looking at annual and long service leave liability and if you should be looking at clearing some of that now, rather than at a possible closedown; standing down non essential positions and as a last resort redundancies. The strategy here is to tighten up financially while keeping your workforce “on hold” so you can revert to normal operations as quickly as possible once the lockdowns are over and the economy starts to recover. The Job Keeper payment is payable for employees stood down as a result of COVID-19.

And if you’ve consulted with your accountant and it is likely your business won’t survive this period? Your options are going to depend on your business size because redundancies are treated differently for businesses with less than 15 employees.

What I can tell you with certainty is no matter your size, turnover or industry you should be focussing your attention to the following functions:

Paying for experts; if it’s not your area expertise now is not the time to wing it. At all.

Show strong, ethical leadership; your employees are looking to you for guidance right now, back yourself and lead by example

Plan; look at your cashflow and get business continuity plans in place. Look at your workforce planning. Plan that sh*t out to within an inch of its life

Nail down those processes; If the past 2 weeks has shown you that you need to get some structure to your operations now is the time to do it. From a HR perspective this isn’t just about actually having documents to minimise risk and strategies to add value to your operations, it’s about perception. A business with well presented and accessible information for their employees (and potential employees) looks 100 times more professional than one that has very little in place. And if you think that’s neither here nor there then how about this – employment law is complex and ignorance of your obligations isn’t going to save you from being slapped with a Fair Work penalty.

Pivot! Diversify, Innovate; Has the virus disrupted the way you normally conduct your business operations? Find a work around, get online, change your product. At least you can say you gave it a red hot crack.

Create loyalty; focus on your existing customers and cliental, create a sense of “stickiness” to keep them engaged with your business. Get out there and talk to them, see where they are at, ask how you can modify your operations to service their needs more effectively

Communicate, communicate, communicate; You might be doing something really great behind the scenes, but behind the scenes is just that – hidden from view. If you want people to know what you are up to you need to tell them. Pump those good news stories out. With social distancing and lockdowns people have only social media to keep in touch and this is where your voice needs to be. Still create content but save the hard sells for another time. Right now people just want support, a laugh and to know they aren’t alone.

and finally…………

Be a good corporate citizen; Please? Is it really that hard? Trust your employees to work from home, employ strategies to help with minimising the spread of infection, think about your employees financial and emotional wellbeing; not just profit, got something that would benefit someone worse off? How can you allow them to access it. I wrote this post a couple of months back, I honestly believe attitudes are changing and people are less willing to allow unconscionable behaviour slip on by. Don’t be on the wrong side of history (mic drop 🎀 rant over)

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It’s time for HR to move beyond policies, practices and processes, HR’s value proposition to business is to ensure HR professionals and their practices’ produce positive outcomes for key stakeholders, employees, line managers, customers and investors.

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