COVID-19 has undoubtedly presented most businesses with challenges and in some instances, opportunities. From discussions we have had with a range of clients and stakeholders, it seems all organisations and staff have been impacted in some way. I know this may be stating the obvious, but as we turn to the 6, 12 or 18 months ahead, we need to consider how we will change or alter the way we work and prepare for longer-term impacts.

The Government Job Keeper subsidy has been a boost for many, including us. Certain industries such as Universities and the Arts have not gained as much support and this has impacted some of our clients. One client was generating 30-35% of their revenue from Universities alone and this income has totally ceased for the time being. Many are still exploring how they will bridge this gap to survive the current challenges.

The question I hear from most people I interact with is how is the market?

Recruitment activity certainly took a big hit when restrictions cascaded across the economy. Most organisations we were dealing with asked for assignments to be put on hold while they evaluated what lay ahead. Months later, roles are beginning to be reactivated as owners and leaders have greater visibility of what their organisations will look like over the following 3 to 6 months and the path ahead. We have also had some organisations come to us with new assignments to work on either as new roles or replacements. The big unknown is what will happen when the government subsidy is wound back. We will all be watching this space

Silver linings?

It’s no secret most businesses are doing it tough and this will continue for at least the remainder of the year. However, despite this reality, there are many examples of positive changes being experienced by the organisations we work with.

  • Less travel. One of the CEOs we recently had on a Teams meeting previously struggled with engaging with his APAC peers. Meetings were only held once every 6 months and often required a lot of travel to get to the chosen location. Now they are catching up fortnightly on Zoom and are collaborating well together on new projects. Others have admitted they expect frequent video catch-ups to continue when they come out of COVID-19, and while they will still get together face-to-face for important strategy sessions, they generally won’t need to travel as much.
  • Improved pandemic planning. This was an interesting point. One CEO mentioned “instead of the cursory tick and flick for compliance” planning for these sorts of events and situations has taken on a whole new meaning. Living through the COVID-19 situation has made her realise how important it is to have well thought out plans.
  • Better hygiene. In a manufacturing environment, one CEO was hopeful high standards of hygiene could be maintained, indicating this would reduce the cold and flu transmission on the production floor ideally reducing absenteeism during Winter.
  • Increased local supply. This has obviously been an important issue that struck home before the pandemic hit Australian shores with the disruption to supply lines from China and Northern Italy with some of the organisations we deal with. Most agreed they wanted to understand and build relationships with alternative suppliers. The key will be if the customer is prepared to incur the increased cost.
  • Open to remote workers. More common overseas and particularly in the US, hiring remote workers hasn’t necessarily been done as much in Australia. From Carroll Consulting’s point of view, remote screening and interviewing is ok if you just want to hire a technical skill set. However, if you are wanting someone to be an integral part of your commercial family and a good culture-fit then face-to-face is ultimately a better way to assess.
  • Where possible, working remotely: This is something that some companies adopted and some didn’t. The leadership in some manufacturing clients said that perception was an issue – just because those with the “flasher cars and fancier clothes” were able to work remotely, should they? One CEO felt it supported a greater inequality gap and did not do it. Although they adopted social distancing internally and undertook a split shift arrangement. This is certainly the case with physical labour-intensive organisations or manufacturing settings where most people cannot complete their jobs remotely.
  • Changes to industrial relations legislation: Many senior people indicated they wanted greater flexibility to direct staff when it came to annual leave. They found this of great benefit in managing the balance sheet over the past several months. We will have to wait and see if this is one of the reforms that becomes permanent.

As for us, Carroll Consulting is intending to maintain more flexibility around working remotely and being in the office when required, particularly for interviews and client meetings, with the appropriate hygiene safeguards and social distancing in place. We are also always available on the phone or are happy to hold a video conference if you ever need to touch base.

What are you doing to make changes to the way you operate in the path back to your new normal? I’d love to hear from you and find out more about the changes you are making to adjust to our new ways of working post COVID-19.

In the meantime, stay safe and happy recruiting.

Ian Hamilton

Photo by Arlington Research on Unsplash