I vividly remember it was 8.30am on Monday 16th March 2020. First on the agenda for our team meeting was “Our working methods”. We had deep discussions around using Zoom, Google Meet, working from home some days so to avoid busy commute times on public transport. By 2pm that very same day, I sent everyone home with their laptops and we shut down the office.
As the world went into meltdown, we did our best to focus on the things that we could control and support one another and our community. I was shocked at the quantum of people that were seeking our advice and guidance. Our WIP collapsed in weeks, our contractors finished up and our Q2 CY20 revenue plummeted a massive 78% on the prior year. (As a small business owner I had a couple of oh-shit moments.)
However, we are the lucky one’s (here in Australia). We should always remember this when we have a little whinge. I believe 2020 was a year of gratitude. Thanks to our healthcare systems, government, the community spirit and for the vast majority of the white-collar workforce (empathy to those in certain sectors). We saw our working methods advance lightyears in just a matter of weeks. Many of us now are embracing and loving flexible working, and productivity hasn’t been impacted – we did it, we’ve done a bloody good job.
I have shared these words previously: I feel very fortunate to be able to lift the bonnet on 1,000’s of businesses / people every year. I’m privileged to gain insights and learnings from each and every interaction. This affords me to have firsthand experience of those who have accelerated growth; be that revenues or careers.
The past year has been testing like no other. We had to make some tough financial sacrifices within our business (I wholeheartedly thank my entire team and their chosen others). Unlike the vast majority of the recruitment sector, we were able to keep the entire team together during those tough times. As a result, we are now stronger as a team and delivering results back to pre-pandemic levels. The festive break provided a window for me to reflect on what we can take away from the roller-coaster of the last year, decide what is important for our people and what that future may bring for our community.
How We Work – I say this with conviction. My team are my most important relationship. If we look after our people, they will look after our customers who will determine our results. After a few financial sacrifices we moved back to “normal” pay conditions. However, we all now try and have a three day weekend. Rest assured we won’t let our community down. However if the team are able to close their laptops on a Thursday evening and have three days for themselves then why not? I can guarantee we won’t see revenue drop by 20% by working a 4-day work week. We have a more energised and happier workforce who deliver beyond expectations.
A learn for many leaders last year was around flexibility. I state that for the record that “working from home” is not my preferred MO. I miss the energy of an office and the water cooler conversations. Many people love it and some firms have embraced 100% remote working. For us, a hybrid model works – ensuring connectivity. which many businesses and employees crave. A controversial topic within our industry is “thresholds” (minimal sales targets before commissions). We decided to scrap these. In 20+ years in the industry no recruiter has ever proactively requested introducing one. Another reflection I had was around the value of time itself. In an industry that tends to focus recognition and reward around revenue, I wanted to implement extended leave based on tenure and I’m pleased to see a number of the team members now on 6 weeks paid leave.
I love being connected to my community. The more time I have to spend with clients and candidates the better. We were delighted to welcome Daniel O’Brien back to Acquire after his genius stroke of taking a year out of the market. This partnership allows me to focus on building our community and offerings. Coupled with a greater focus on Interim and Contracting services led by Jane Hughes, which positions us well for an exciting year ahead.
Most markets have bounced back well, having the right skills, knowledge and networks in talent management has never been so important. I look forward to partnering with my community in the year ahead.