How one agency is navigating the COVID-19 outbreak

With more than 18 years’ experience in recruitment across Newcastle and the Hunter region, I have navigated many challenging markets, including the GFC and multiple mining downturns.

The COVID-19 outbreak has presented another hurdle for me and my team, so today I wanted to provide an insight into how we have managed to innovate in a competitive and unprecedented environment.

My business has been impacted in several ways by the pandemic. Members of the peoplefusion team are all working from home and meeting up twice daily online to remain visually connected and to help each other stay motivated.

As recruiters, we enjoy being around people, so it’s important to keep up what motivates team members best.

When it comes to working with clients on recruitment projects, we have been assisting with onboarding new hires through platforms like Microsoft Teams, Zoom and FaceTime. In many scenarios this has been positive for productivity, as it is driving businesses to extract information out of employees’ heads and onto paper in order to be accessed by new employees and existing employees working-from-home.

Another area of change is that many temporary employees are working from home for their host employer. We are conducting regular check-ins to maintain motivation and to check on their wellbeing, particularly for those temps who live alone.

These check-ins are being done via platforms such as Zoom and Facetime, so the team is a face and not just a voice.

The biggest lesson or realisation I have had to date is that COVID-19 has been an equaliser, and finally people are realising that it is okay to show vulnerability in business.

Personally, I’ve been banging on about vulnerability for a long time, and I feel that we could learn so much from each other and support each other a whole lot more if we let our guards down more often.

I feel COVID-19 has helped people to see that it’s okay to say when you’re not okay, and that you definitely do need to “shoot the breeze” with like-minded peers in order to find solutions. To me, that is both on a business and personal front.

I have also been finding myself stopping and reading resources like never before. In the rush of normal business, these things are often parked and there is not always time to get around to reading them.

RCSA has been excellent with its distribution of resource material for recruiters, and I have certainly let them know this.

Friends in business have also been an exceptional support network for me, checking in on each other and sharing ideas regularly. We are all going through different emotional and business cycles as they manoeuvre through the pandemic.

Rather than wallowing in the negatives, which is so easy to do, there are days where one is the positive for me, and days where I am for them.

Productivity can go out the window for some, with business leaders often working from home until all hours of the night. Some great strategies I have been using to effectively work from home include:

  • Plan out your week with time allocated to meetings and projects as you would from the office

  • Have a routine – wake up at the same time, take time for lunch, leave the home office and switch off at the same time each day

  • Stay in contact with colleagues via online meeting platforms and on the phone

  • Make sure you go outside for some fresh air every day – take a walk in the sun.

In terms of service delivery, my team and I are still working with clients by providing core services of end-to-end recruitment projects and placing temporary workers.

As the volume of this has differed, we are working with clients in other ways, including helping them manage their large volumes of applications to job vacancies.

Some clients have unfortunately had to make a number of employees redundant, so our team is assisting with career transition programs. So I guess what I’m saying is that rather than trying to maintain one big piece of the pie, look for the little pieces of the pie that can add up.

Another important piece of advice is to spend this time wisely by improving or working on all of those projects that we never get around to when we are running a million miles an hour.

It might be fine-tuning business strategies, cleaning up databases, planning marketing campaigns. Write a list of these things you wish you could make better, prioritise them, and work your way through ticking them off.

Put them in the diary as a non-negotiable so you are time scheduled to complete each task. This has certainly assisted me over the past few weeks.

As challenging as this time is, there is a silver lining for getting on top of those things that we never get to – as a business owner, at home and personally.

In business I have a high tendency for saying “yes” to too many things and the past few weeks I have reflected on how much I haven’t been in control of my own life, I’ve allowed many other things to control it.

Now is the time to take a step back. Make time for family, friends and clients to check in, and listen to what is going on for other people rather than rushing from one thing to the next.

About Ali and peoplefusion: The Director and Co-founder of Newcastle-based specialised recruitment agency peoplefusion, Ali has decades of experience across a range of sectors and has worked closely with a number of clients to build entire divisional teams and appointing several management positions in specialist roles. She has worked with the likes of Wests Group/Newcastle Knights, Port Stephens Council, Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group, Pacific National, and Mingara Leisure Group.

She co-founded peoplefusion with Sally Bartley in 2014 and the company provides Executive Search, temporary/contract recruitment, permanent recruitment and HR services to clients across Newcastle and the Hunter.

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