2020 has hit businesses hard – and it has hit the people in these businesses harder. With so many changes, the federal Government budget stimulus has assisted but there are still many challenges. Many organisations have found it hard to stay afloat and support their employees simultaneously.

HR professionals are responsible for balancing both sides of the coin – managing what’s best for the business, but also what’s best for its people. While staff have never needed support more than they do now, actually delivering this support hasn’t been easy. These months of disruption have challenged everyone in terms of the actions to take to maintain the organisation and the support for the employees.

This begs the question, can the approach we take to supporting staff make a difference to overall business performance and the organisation’s resilience?

It’s a question that took centre stage out our latest Disruption Circle event. Rebecca Supierz, HR Director for ANZ at Seek, discussed the approach they took in the face of major disruption and uncertainty – an approach that was significantly different from that of many other organisations. She made a great example of how a change of attitude and looking closely at what’s really important helped with a successful operational pivot.

When leadership counts

Seek is a large and successful organisation with more resources than a lot of smaller businesses. But that hardly seemed to matter when COVID hit. Their entire business was built on the job market – which disappeared almost instantly.

It’s a situation many would be familiar with in 2020, and one that most commonly incites panic. It is easy (and natural) to look at the negatives, the changes, and the possible repercussions an impact of this size will have on business. It is in these moments leadership matters. Having a plan, having the confidence and trust in the team and then being able to effectively communicate to the organisation on the way forward.

The employees of the organisation are integral to making the business plan successful. They need to understand the way forward. They need to be a key part of the planning process. When a business faces this form of disruption the employees will immediately become concerned about the effect the disruption will have on them: Their job security and what that means for their personal finances, changes to their role and the way they work, the overall shift in organisations environment and what it means to work there.

By considering these people-focused problems, rather than the obvious operational ones, the ‘action plan’ suddenly takes on a more positive spin; one that accepts change rather than fights against it. By focusing on what needs to be done to support employees through change, the steps taken to protect the entire business look very different.

Change management can’t work without teamwork

This might sound like a best-case scenario, one where the finances and resources are available to keep employees happy and in work. But that isn’t necessarily the case. Remember, while there are no employees without a functioning business, there is also no business without employees.

If you’re going to get through something like a restructure (or a pandemic), you want to know you have a team behind you that is willing to help you do it – and isn’t distracted by the concern they could lose their role at any moment.

Taking a ‘people first’ approach is in no way easy. In fact, it goes against most crisis survival instincts. In order to pursue this approach and make it successful in your organisation, leaders need to take a top-down approach and empower everyone to get onboard.

For Seek, the ‘people-first’ approach meant building:

  • A strong team: This is something that can be prepared for well before you even see a hint of disruption on the horizon. Ensure there are people in the business who are strong leaders, and able to help lift the company through tough times.
  • Focusing on the business essentials rather than the ‘nice to haves’
  • A feeling of trust across the organisation: This is vital – employees need to feel valued and trust their leaders to consider their best interests in order to offer their best foot forward in times of need.
  • Leaders who are thoughtful and able to identify team needs (and recognise the importance of team wellbeing): Basically, leaders who can get on board with the idea of people before panic. It’s not enough to follow instructions – they need to really believe in the approach, put the work in to learn how to support their teams, and recognise what support looks like for their team members.

Embrace change now, imagine a better future

Overall, Rebecca shared that Seek felt they were successful in their approach, and their ability to pivot their business while simultaneously supporting their employees. By embracing change and putting people first, their entire organisation was able to weather the disruption more effectively.

Not only have they learnt how to work and operate during a major disruption, but they’ve also learnt a lot about what they want their future of work to look like. What has worked for them will guide long-term changes they can make to ensure the environment is one that is both more effective and more enjoyable for the entire organisation.

Rebecca’s tips for businesses still going through disruption, or those looking at how to improve their operations in the new normal, include:

  • Focus on what is essential. When you have to strip down to the minimum, it shows you what is really needed for everyday operations and was it just ‘nice to have’.
  • Slow down. Take the time to really focus on tasks. When staff become more thoughtful about what they are doing and how they are working, the outcomes improve.
  • Practice conscious collaboration. The way we collaborate has changed, so it’s important to ensure that it is done in a way that is inclusive, valuable and effective on both face-to-face and online forums.
  • Rethink the office. The future office may serve a different purpose to the traditional office. What and how will it be used to provide the most value?

While a sunny disposition alone can’t change an outcome, a change of attitude and approach, paired with the work needed to make it happen, can affect the change management outcomes for your business.

Staff don’t need to be collateral for something out of their control. Even if you do need to restructure or downsize, there are ways you can support staff through it by putting people before panic.

While Seek was well equipped to support their people through these major changes, smaller businesses can benefit from external expertise to help them get the same results. Choice Career Services offer change management and outplacement services that empower both business and employees to reach the most beneficial outcome. Click here to see how we can help your business, or click here to get in touch.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]