COVID-19: This Business Owner’s Story

As business owners, we like to think we’re in control. Then COVID-19 came along and changed the game. No longer in complete control, we were doing business in a constant state of catch-up.

The problem was, there were no ready-made answers to all the questions we had never been asked before. Yet the lives of people and the survival of our clients’ businesses hung in the balance.

The Norgay HR team was challenged as never before – this is the story of our white-knuckle ride to date!

Thinking on our feet

It’s hard to work out a plan when information changes weekly, daily, even hourly. But that’s what we had to do for our clients when the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in March this year.

It made us realise what agility really means. Plans we drew up one day were made redundant, or at least inadequate, by stimulus measures declared by authorities the next day. Decisions had to be re-thought each week, as new rules were introduced.

JobKeeper came as a welcome respite from financial stresses for our clients. It enabled redundancies to be rescinded and changes to working conditions to be reviewed.

Calling on team expertise

The COVID-19 crisis has also made us reassess the meaning of teamwork. Asked to provide answers to a whole suite of new and unprecedented business questions, we were acutely aware that the wrong answers could be harmful.

We decided multiple expert minds were better than one. Determined to seek out the most creative and relevant solutions in tough times, we ensured every decision was made by at least two senior HR managers. Some issues were so complex, we leveraged specialist skills and diverse experiences from across our team.

Never before had I been so aware of the power of a solid team who work so well together – I will be forever grateful to them.

It was tricky too; we were increasingly being asked questions better suited to financial advisors, accountants or employment lawyers. Advice we gave now could lead to negative consequences – and legal or HR claims down the track. So, to protect our reputation along with the fortunes of our clients, we set firm boundaries on the guidance we provided. Where necessary, we referred clients to experts within our own professional networks. It all served to strengthen our partnerships.

Disposing with ‘perfect’

Remember we talked about control? We were forced to accept that even our best efforts might not be perfect. The templates, checklists and Q&As we developed were often out of date within days. We had to put something out there – but each new set of legal guidelines released by authorities led to a constant series of adjustments to our webinars, advisory documents and collateral.

We got used to it, and we’re still refining our strategies. We learned that, sometimes, perfect is the enemy of good.

Peering into the future

Now, we are slowly emerging in a changed business landscape. With restrictions easing, we are planning for people to return to their offices. Despite the most stringent testing, tracking and tracing measures, the threat of COVID-19 is ever present. There are still significant risks of infection while travelling to and from the workplace. Symptoms can go unnoticed in hospitals, with trained staff. The average business, then, can’t be expected to protect their workers in every way, all the time.

We are now focused on this new phase, advising on the best measures to safeguard our clients and their workforces – helping to mitigate the risks and anxiety caused by the ongoing financial and business impact of COVID-19.

We’re still refining, still thinking, still targeting innovative client solutions. It’s a learning process, after all!