LIVE Q & A
The human response to COVID-19 Session 1.
Ben is a seasoned business owner and Alex has a wealth of HR experience. Together they’ll be chatting about:
- How to best support your leaders and employees through this time
- Moving to a WFH environment
- How to navigate stand-down and redundancy conversations and the recent JobKeeper announcement
- A live Q&A
To watch the live session, please provide a few short details:
Meet the Masters
Ben Thompson is the CEO and founder of Employment Hero. He is an employment laywer, a businesses owner and has well over 20 years experience in the Australian employment landscape. A self confessed geek, Ben has boundless curiosity, enthusiasm and ambition. He thrives on creating innovative solutions, industry firsts and disruptive offerings that redefine markets.
Alex Hattingh is the Chief People Officer at Employment Hero and has over 15 years experience in people management and leadership development. Alex derives energy and passion from helping both companies and their employees succeed. Alex’s roles have covered large Fortune 500 companies through to start-ups including Google, Yahoo!, Lendlease and Ivy College.
Good morning again everyone. Thank you for joining us it’s a pleasure to be here to answer your questions and and work with you through these times I’m joined by Employment Hero’s Head of People and Culture Alex Hatingh who has a wealth of knowledge and experience in dealing with with all of the things that it takes to be a great people in culture or HR manager. Over her over her years of working at companies like Google and Yahoo and and Ivy College she has experienced pretty much, I won’t say everything we’re going through but a hell of a lot and we just wanted to take the time today to talk through many of the issues that we’re facing in real time and the issues that you’re facing in real time and make this as interactive as possible. Welcome Alex
Thanks. Hi guys.
Thanks for joining us. So yeah we’ll be wanting to focus today on keeping this interactive
answering as many of your questions as we can and trying to add as much value to you as we can. As I’ve said we’ve had three webinars previously we’ve had thousands of attendees and thousands of questions as well you can find the materials including those previous webinars in our COVID-19 resources centre, so there’s a lot of resources there already and we’ll be adding to that from today’s webinar and trying to consolidate the Q&A s into a document that that will help if we don’t get to your questions. We’ll try and get to them in a consolidated way through following the webinar. So just before we get into it the topics we want to work through, what have we done to respond. We’re somewhat lucky in that we’re a tech company and so I want to acknowledge that up front and we had the ability to move early and move fast. But we can talk about what we’ve done as sort of digital natives to work from home and how we can be effective at that and hopefully pass on some tips there. Secondly, we’re moving to an online first culture – how do you do that? What are the tips to make people as comfortable and productive as possible in its shorter period as possible? Thirdly how best to support your leaders and your employees through this time then navigating stand-down and redundancy conversations how do you manage those conversations – very difficult ones and I’m sure many of you have already had many of those conversations and lastly we’ll just open up this session for Q&A and try and get through as many as we can. Alex anything else you’d like to add there before we jump in?
Thanks Ben. You know we’ve had some great webinars on the legalities and the financial stimulus packages that have come through and so today we really wanted to focus on the human element and how we can help you as small business owners or heads of HR and people in culture to navigate your way through this really uncertain time.
Yeah I just want to say up front some of the things we’ll talk about in particular in the first section and the second section will be referring to Employment Hero and how we use Employment Hero. I don’t want that to come across as selling the platform – it is the platform that we used to do to use to manage a lot of these things and I just don’t want people to think that we’re here to be pushing it. We’re here to help the community and it just happens to be the solution that we are using. The second thing is that whilst Alex can speak as a very experienced and extraordinarily capable people in culture leader, I have a portfolio of companies that own and operate and we’ve had to across that portfolio we’ve had to stand people down in some companies which we’ve managed to bring some people back in other companies are performing really well but they’ve all got a lot of things going on so I can talk from managing across that portfolio. Also I’ve have been an employment lawyer for 20 years and so we’ll try and sort of address questions from a technical perspective but just want to say I can’t provide legal advice to a general audience so if I am holding back that’s that’s why because it’s just impossible to address questions like that so anyway with all that said let’s get into the first discussion item. Alex maybe you can just talk us through how we transitioned and some of the things with we’ve done over the last four weeks nearly that we’ve been working for.
Yeah great thanks Ben. So as Ben mentioned we’re really fortunate and that we are a technology company and so through our own platform Employment Hero being on the cloud,
combined with communication tools such as Slack and project management tools such as Trello – we also already used a Zoom for video conferencing so literally within an hour the
communication went out that we were transitioning to work from home. We’d also been supporting flexible work so the initial transition to physically work from home was pretty seamless and as Ben mentioned we kind of triggered that off a week before the government really asked people to work from home so this Friday will in fact mark one month for us as a company working from home to go through a few of the key challenges that we came across that first week was pretty seamless however establishing a cadence for operating your team’s remotely became really vital to us up front and it really helped our team leaders. It also helps the larger teams to know that everyone else is following the same cadence so a really good example of that is the bigger teams having 8:30 stand-ups and then the leadership team getting together at 9am to address any issues or problems and to see how we can support our team leaders as best we can we also in week two came across the challenge of the physical home setup for the best health and safety for our people.
We had people at home only with laptops so we opened the office for the weekend and encouraged people to drive-in pickup monitors keyboards standing desks even some people took their office chairs home because they were feeling the physical effects of back pain and not being set up correctly another challenge that you find you’ll come across is that whole connection piece and that’s about making sure people turn their videos on whether you’re using Google Hangouts, whether you’re using teams through Microsoft or you have the fortune of having a zoom account. Please try and have people turn their videos on. This can be a bit challenging for some shy people to get used to but it’s really vital to get that human connection going and if you’re a manager, you get some signs through people’s facial expressions where you might see that they’re not doing so well so after a team meeting that might ping you to ping out you know reach out to them separately on a one-on-one just to say “hey Alex, I noticed you’re a bit quiet during that team meeting stand-up this morning is there anything you want to talk about?”.
The other challenge that we’ve found is we have a lot of expats are also a lot of young people in our organization who have found themselves working from home with all of their roommates also working from home so making sure they stick to their morning routine and making sure we encourage them to go out at lunchtime and grab a walk get some air and some sun so that they’re getting out of their apartment. We also discovered that our employees were genuinely missing each other they were missing that in kitchen interaction that we had playing ping pong we used to do yoga once a week personal trainings so we set up some virtual chit chats 10 a.m. every morning and 5 p.m. every afternoon. Now everyone certainly does not join,however people just drop in and out as they need to it doesn’t last for more than 20 minutes, but it just gives you a chance to really connect with your teammates and have a bit of a laugh and then get back to work. Another thing we introduced to create a little bit of fun we had our weekly All Hands, to add some fun and a bit of a competitive nature and give everyone a laugh we had wear your favorite sports team and we winner for that and everyone got really involved then we did your favorite headwear last week and this week we’re going to do bring your favorite cocktail or drink and we’ll have a winner for that and that just adds a little bit of flavor when you’re all on video together and a bit of laughs.
Another recommendation is reward and recognition. Now this is something that’s so easily lost when we’re now transitioning to this entire work from home new world you can no longer just turn around and say thank you to a team member or someone outside your team as a manager you’re losing that ability at the very end of the day to say thank you for whatever you may have done today. So through our system and Employment Hero we can thank and we can also recognize people based on our values and we’ve found that really vital to engagement now if you don’t have employment hero you can use things such as Slack or your all hands where you might have a section at the end of your all hands where you open it up to the entire floor to call out someone during that week who’s gone out of their way to help someone who has lived up to your company values and try and have your leaders really lead the charge for this. So if people are being quiet, then have them make sure they’ve got some people in their back pocket to be thanking on those zoom or hangouts.
Also communication is vital – you can’t over communicate. So even though we had the regular cadence of an all-hands. Ben’s been fantastic in doing a video each Wednesday and the level of appreciation from our employees of having that reach out and during these really uncertain times having been reiterating what the government comes out with each day and thanking everyone for really putting in their efforts really really made a difference to the engagement of our employees. So as much as I can encourage your CEO, you know your managing director or whoever it might be to send out something on a Wednesday you can do it on QuickTime or your iPhone it really makes a massive difference. if I was to look at what we’re looking at going forward, we’ve actually increased our happiness survey cadence we used to do it once a month and we’re now going to do that on a weekly basis we’re also going to be working on a mental wellness survey which is going to specifically be asking employees if they’re doing okay. Now that’s not going to be an anonymous survey which is going to be very important for us to have the psychological safety out there for our employees to know that we’re doing this on their behalf because we want to be able to work with them and support them.
We’ll be having a webinar next week with a doctor from who set up the sydney anxiety clinics so I encourage everyone to also join in for that for that professional advice around supporting your employees who might not be doing so well from a stress perspective a mental wellness perspective who might be feeling anxious because we all know as managers ourselves we’re not equipped. We’re not medical professionals and so we need that extra help and just going back to again what we might be doing in the future really encourages your employees to get out during the day and get some sun, some air and a walk as well as reaching out to their family and friends. There are so many great free apps out there that you can use whether it’s FaceTime or whether you might use Whatsapp or set up your own free zoom account which can last for 40 minutes it just means you’re getting that social connection rather than feeling isolated. Especially if you’ve got elderly parents in your family. I’ve found that that’s worked really well for myself and my family. So I think over to you Ben for the first poll question.
Yeah great. Thank you Alex. Yes I launched the first poll how does your business found it
difficult to transition to working from home. So the calls in seven percent people found it difficult forty five percent of people didn’t find it too difficult. I’ll just share that 37 percent kind of somewhat hard and at eleven percent aren’t working from home so I mean that’s fantastic to see that it wasn’t as hard for people as I might have expected though to say that was a group of attendees on this webinar. I’ll come back now to some of these questions that are online before we move to the next section Alex.
Some of them are quite specific but answering them might just be helpful for everybody, so if an employee’s stood down are they entitled to use their annual leave entitlements? The answer to that is it depends, Jenny. It’s up to the employer – the typical intention of standing down to business is if there isn’t enough something outside of the business’s control that means that they can’t operate effectively, then it’s a it’s a basically a pause button you’re allowed to stand employees down and technically not pay them be given the circumstances of the coronavirus stand downs, a lot of businesses are choosing to allow employees to use
annual leave whilst they’re being stood down – other companies aren’t. Employees prior to the introduction of the jobkeeper announcement we’re not being paid so it really is a decision
further for the business, but legally you don’t have to pay or allow them to access their annual leave during that period. They are entitled to the public holidays which is I think a strange one but if there are public holidays such as Easter coming up then they are entitled to pay for that day that’s the way I understand it anything to add there Alex?
No, I know that’s great there was a question earlier I think from Beth about an employee who had a heart condition but was still being required not allowed to work from home I just responded to that previously and said you know the employee needs to be aware of the duty of care they have to provide employees with a safe working environment and if they’re aware of an employee who has a particular is particularly threatened coronavirus and they are going to be in a situation where they may be exposed to it if they were dealing with the public for example, then I think the employer really needs to consider their duty of care to the employee whether or not yes if if the business isn’t performing an essential service is actually living up to that requirement.
Okay just one more before we move to the next section how to maintain productivity during the during COVID-19 and I think that’s an excellent next question to look at because it’s kind of where we’re what we are I think feel that over the first couple of weeks we’re all just getting settled in now it this is the new normal you know waking up every day and working from home is now feeling pretty normal and as the CEO of the company I’m sort of getting time back to go and look at you know what are the company objectives how do we maintain productivity how do we keep people focused on on what we could do as a business looking after our customers improving a product and and that comes back to and in performance that that’s the next sort of area that we that we as a business are going to be looking at.
In terms of how we do that we wearing a fortunate position again in that for 17 years we’ve been following a thing called the Rockefeller habits – setting a quarterly theme which we
believe is the most important thing that the company can achieve in the next 90 days
and then seeing objectives around that theme and and and focusing everybody’s attention on and the businesses you know collective energy towards achieving the most important thing we can. Our theme for this quarter is to survive and then and then try it so we have to get through it but we have to come through it in a form that allows us to thrive going forward so that’s that’s to be launched on Friday and then how do we actually know that people are productive. How do we keep them focused on that theme by using goals. So we use OKRs or objectives and key results and every employee either has an objective personally or they’re part of a team that has a team objective and they contribute towards the team’s objectives and all of those objectives line up with one of the company’s top objectives and that we only have two company objectives for this quarter. So everybody is focused on achieving one of those two objectives. Alex did you want to go into that a little more from your side?
Yeah. So objectives and key results is what we use and as Ben mentioned everyone has one or a team has one and then they’re aligned to our 2020 company objectives which means that each individual has an absolute transparent understanding of how they contribute on a daily basis through their role to what our company is wanting to attribute for example our 2020 goal one is win in Australia, so everyone’s goals are aligned to that. A really good way we check in weekly on OKRs through one-on-ones with managers and that’s a really good way to make sure your productivity is remaining focus which i think will be the next phase of challenges that we will come across along with isolation and it’s a really
great idea if you can reward and recognize at all hands or if you do them fortnightly whenever you do them achievements that teams are making within their OKRs. We’ve found our OKRs are transparent across the organisation so anyone can look up anyone elses OKRs which we’ve also found really helpful in ensuring that accountability and people checking in on them all the time and updating them with measurable results and that way anyone can look up what anyone else might be working on you need to be agile in a time like this. Though we’ve certainly ourselves shifted our OKRs in the last quarter in terms of what we’re working on from a product perspective to make sure we’re supporting all of our clients out there into how they can work from home than most effectively that they can great.
I think there’s another question here that sort of comes into that which is from Bernadette Jones – how many how many staff would communicate together on your All Hands? We have up to a hundred and seventy employees on our All Hands. It does require like zoom can manage it really well but you have to pay for the zoom account to have that many people on it but it’s actually really effective to have you know on your screen you can see everybody you can see their facial expressions you know when your jokes aren’t working and I’m really surprised at just how well we can run a company-wide meeting using nothing but zoom with it Australia, Vietnam and the Philippines – It works really well.
Okay, another question before we move into the next part of the session. Actually can you say any questions there that you want to address. Oh yeah you go we’re likely to be working from home for many more weeks how do we keep momentum going people are feeling that we’re now over meeting and can’t get work done how would you address that one is try and limit your meetings so maybe have a check in at the beginning of the day and the end of the day or just at the beginning of the day and then a weekly one that’s a bit more extensive and ask for feedback continuously ask for feedback even if you’re using Survey Monkey or Google sheets just be asking for feedback are we having too many meetings? Why do you feel that is? It might be a need to have that social connection where some people are feeling the need to do that so they’re creating meetings to try and counteract that and try to do some virtual chitchat drop-ins. They’re not mandatory – people can just drop in when they want to and then they’re feeling less isolated they’re seeing the people that they might normally run into the kitchen at lunchtime when they’re making lunch and and you’re able to get that done there’s also been along that line a lot of feedback around over Alliance on email so if your Microsoft get your team’s on to what is called Teams so that you’re taking internal communication away from email and if you have Slack which is what we have again try and keep all internal comms on that platform so that you’re limiting your inbox of emails to external as much as possible.
Thank you look there’s a couple of questions here I just want to touch on them because I know that the open mind for me as much as and obviously a lot of other people it’s all to do with the jobkeeper allowance and and whether or not people are entitled to it if they’ve been stood down and they’re earning and you’ll leave or their things too down and they’re still getting paid. We’re going to release a Q&A document this afternoon I’ve been working on it this morning that describes how we understand the jobkeeper allowance working and the reason it wasn’t out yesterday is because it’s so there’s so much grey area and so much confusion and I don’t think we’re really going to have perfect answers until until we see the legislation. But a key point and I think it’s the same question Kate’s coming back up but I think you just have to understand that the jobkeeper allowance goes to the employer so a lot of people it comes across as being an entitlement for each employee and it is in a way but it actually gets paid to the business so if an employee is earning less than $1,500 a fortnight then they have to be paid they have to be paid the $1500 jobkeeper allowance they can’t be paid less than the 1500 but if they’re earning more than that or they’re still on their salary the legislation doesn’t dictate that the jo keeper allowance has to actually go increase somebody’s salary from fifty two thousand dollars to two you know whatever sorry convert that into a thousand dollars a week to one thousand seven hundred and fifty dollars a week it actually means that the business will be getting an extra $1,500 per fortnight and and they have to use that to keep the business running and to keep employees on their books and they have to pay each employee at least $1,500.
But beyond that there are a lot of other ways that they can use that money and in many ways it might just be keeping the businesses you know keep the business from becoming insolvent. So there’s a lot of flexibility around the jobkeeper allowance and what you do with it. I think at the moment many people are just a little bit confused about it having to be directly directed to each employee and that would be ideal but there’ll be cases where that isn’t what’s going to happen so specifically that that question was if somebody taking annual leave and any than the $1500 do they have to get the $1500 on top. The answer specifically to that one is no they have to earn at least $1,500 if the annual leave isn’t giving them that much it doesn’t have to say top of the annual leave payment so long as they’re getting a minimum of $1,500 per fortnight I choose to top it up over and above that but that’s not what it appears that the jobkeeper allowance is doing it’s not a requirement of the jobkeeper allowance so it makes sense to you, Alex.
Yeah absolutely okay just keep your eyes peeled for this Q&A.
So how do you support your leaders at a time like this can you talk about the role of HR professionals to support their leaders yeah absolutely and if you’re a small business where you don’t have dedicated HR or people and culture person this applies to you as well. I think you know we unnecessarily are putting a lot of pressure on our leaders and our people managers and team leaders and we take that a little bit for granted. We’re asking them to step up and they are in all cases doing so and doing amazing in their jobs it’s really
important that as HR we reach out to them during the day even if it’s a slack message or a message through teams and Microsoft just to say “hey Megan how you doing? How is the team doing? Is there any way I can help you? Can I jump in on one of your stand ups or can I jump in on one of your team meetings to help you out?
A really good example well yesterday was the first day of the quarter and I jumped in on a couple of team meetings and ran some sessions around OKRs and how to think about moving forward in this time of uncertainty and redoing ok ours for q2 of this year if you have an Employee Assistance Program it’s really important that you do remind all of your employees and your people managers that is there for them to use. It’s confidential and it’s professional counseling. Remind your managers too that they’re not expected to be medical professional psychologists or counselors they can refer people to the Employee Assistance Program or they can also have them reach out to your head of HR our people and culture the government also announced today a subsidized mental health program that you can just google and you can offer that to your employees it offers them ten sessions with a psychologist or a counselor that is covered by Medicare. That’s another really great thing that the government has brought out. I think we’re over to our next survey question Ben.
Yeh which I actually launched while you were talking so I will now share those results. Well there’s a few few more coming in so actually they’re coming in thick and fast I think people were paying attention to what you said so sorry for dropping that in front of you while you were talking just while we’re waiting for the results to come in I’ll call them out as they are now and then and then share the survey the question is are you regularly checking in with leaders and teams on their mental and physical well-being and the answer the answers are
57% of people saying yes
14% of people no
29% of people somewhat
But again great to see that the majority of people are checking in on the team’s mental wellness now just on that I know as again a CEO and looking at the companies that I’m involved with my my fear and my concern right now is we’re moving into another stage of this Rona-atrocity and it where we’re starting to see the death toll climb you know around the world and you can’t you can’t hide from you now can’t hide from the reality of the crisis that the actual death all of the crisis but for there was a lot of activity you know moving home getting set up understanding how to work and connect with people from a work from home environment and we’re now all sort of in that that is the new norm and our teams are just going to be faced with the severity andthe you know the the the ugliest part of this coronavirus the next four weeks and I think we really need to start to step up the way that we that we manage the health mental health and the anxiety that is inevitable when people are effectively on living through a war type scenario.
So we really have to figure out how we can support our teams and every individual to deal with that reality we’re trying we’re trying internally to do that by watching a mental wellness survey that we’re putting together with the the anxiety doctor that Alex mentioned before and that’ll be launched across the board to all of our all of our customers will have access to that mental wellness survey so they can check in through that and I hope we’re sort of still formulating it but I really hope that it does call out people who need special attention even internally. We’ve said what happens then you know what what is our obligation if somebody you know really calls out and says that that they are struggling you know what is the responsibility of an employer in that situation so maybe Alex if you can talk to us about about some of those things and how you think we can help everybody. Do you agree that that is the new scenario?
Yeah I absolutely agree it’s the new scenario and I think again a next challenging piece will not just be that anxiety of seeing all of these terrible things around the world we’re exposed to news 24/7. I do think that isolation is going to really play in two coming weeks so I’m making sure you’re over communicating that your leaders are really taking the charge that example have been sending out a Wednesday video to the team thanking them for hanging in there and understanding and giving them the psychological safety to put their hand up and say I’m not doing so well I need to chat to someone and then giving them those external professional resources to talk to or taking advantage of that new government subsidized Medicare help that they’ve put out there today you can’t over communicate enough that
you understand people are feeling what they’re feeling. Ben was very vulnerable just then saying that he’s an owner of many businesses and you know it’s a very uncertain time for him. I think also to reiterate that we are in a really great place in Australia and to make sure remind your employees to practice what the government are asking us to do so that we do slow the spread and try and flatten our own curve and a small reminder that as a country we are in fact in a really great position compared to other countries.
We will be working from home for a while to make sure that we don’t have another spike and that you know that trend does keep going but the more that you can reassure employees that Australia is doing well and back the government up in terms of yes the rules are changing every day but we have to follow them because they are the professionals and they’re giving us the best advice and it’s all in the name of our own health and safety that’s that’s great.
Thank you. Alex. I’ll just say just just as a point of reflection when putting those little
video updates together I end up recording them about ten times and the first time the first time I record it and I realized that I kind of a talking as a CEO as a business like as an aggressive entrepreneur and asking how productive people are and and thanking them for getting through the work and when I watch it back I realized like I’m completely missing the ball you know you don’t need to work. I think our team I can say from Employment Hero. Oh anyway our team has never been more productive more focused and more to deliver for our customers without ever being asked to do it what they want to know from me is the CEO is that I care about how they’re feeling and that we’re here to support them and that they’ve got a support network through the business behind them and they need to know that they know that that we were just there so I have to actually catch myself when speaking to the team to make sure that I’m not just being you know that CEO focused on business and really just focus on the people. I’m not sure that’s common but that’s something I’ve certainly discovered and Alex has been just so helpful in pointing out some of those subtle differences between how we’re addressing people’s concerns.
The next one is dealing with these difficult conversations. You know with there’s a great actually shared it with my board it was that it was a it was like a question there you know who led the who led the digitization of your workplace the CEO this the the CTO or
COVID-19 and you know COVID-19 was the one that was circled. It’s you know that is the reality of this situation for every business out there is that COVID-19 has forced them
to go through a digitization experience that may have taken a decade and and now a restructuring that may have taken months it took plan but it’s being done within hours or minutes or you know potentially days and it’s not over like because every Monday we wake up and something’s changed again.
You know so maybe talk us through Alex some of the conversations that you’ve been having and how to have those difficult conversations when it’s standing down somebody when you’re structuring a team there’s been some questions already through the chart around you know moving to a four-day workweek or an 80 percent salary there’s so many scenarios here that I know you’ve experienced already so maybe you can talk us through some of those.
Yeah, great. Thanks Ben. So I think to take a step back before we get to the tough conversations it’s about having the conversation with your leadership team about are there other options besides redundancy which are to stand down an employee. Could you as Ben mentioned to a four-day work week and that’s really cutting your entire payroll expenditure
by 20% in one hit by doing that can you have your employees take leave and also can you repurpose any of your roles within the business to other areas of the business that might be experiencing higher demand for example customer support do you have people elsewhere in the business that can move over and in that vein giving people the psychological safety to put their hand up and say hey did you know I’ve been I have some extra bandwidth what else can I do with the business so having that honest conversation with their boss. Also emphasizing to your leadership team that there is a massive cost when we get through this and we all hit the ground running again. We’re going to need to hire recruit ramp up and get new people back on board into the business that is expensive and that takes time so the more we can stand people down and have them ready to get started again the better we’ll all be as businesses and as an economy as the whole now the tough conversations part is far from easy and a lot of us will find ourselves in this position for the first time ever you’ll also find that you will have managers who have never had to have these types of conversations before, so as the head of HR or a small business owner you need to be there to really support people if you’re in the unfortunate position of having to make decisions on making people redundant.
Know that it’s human to feel absolutely crap about having to make those decisions you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t feel absolutely terrible about having to make someone
redundant in any time, let alone the uncertain time that we’re going through now. That’s now likely going to be followed by a recession, so just be human treat everyone with respect and dignity know that people will remember how they were treated during these conversations be mindful that people will talk and also keep in mind that hopefully when all of this is over someone that you do have to stand down on make redundant you want them to come back to the business with a really great frame of mind loving your business your brand and your people which they will and to support your managers through the conversations help them to script the conversation but allow them to be really authentic I remember getting terrible advice early in my career around redundancy conversations and to never show your emotion – it’s absolutely fine to show your emotion if you are having to tell someone that they’re impacted and that they’re losing their job. It makes you more real it makes you more vulnerable and it makes them understand that you’re not wanting to have that conversation and that’s probably the best advice I can give you on that. If you have an Employee Assistance Program please make sure you offer that up give them references to the jobseeker line that the government has put out there but again just be as authentic and as supportive and offering them references and everything you can.
If you can create an alumni community of those people if you are making redundancies that can be really good because they can support one another as a team that used to work for your company and again they will hopefully come back and potentially work for you again when we all get through this.
Thanks Alex there’s a couple of questions here I just wanted to touch on in the we’re now up to over a hundred questions so bear with me while I try and sort of sort them out
one that’s instantly coming up is there’s a lot of now with the job seeker sorry the jobkeeper allowance I think a lot of businesses have moved to standing more people down and having them on the jobkeeper allowance which is enough to say just such a epic decision for our government and it just makes me so proud proud to be an Australian that we’re that we we made that choice to support to support businesses enter in place through this time I think it was a great decision but now businesses are faced with the prospect of having a large number of employees who don’t have work to do and they’re being paid to sit at home and they’re doing that that morbid scroll through their Facebook feed and and turning on the news and and just being inundated with with that negative news cycle what’s a good way to support those people who have been stood down who was sitting there with you know not allowed outside other than for a quick bit of exercise hey let’s come up with some ideas on how we can deal with those people and keep them motivated and focused on their wellness I think the first thing is to acknowledge that you know you understand that it is really challenging for them. Give them the advice to stay away from constantly looking at social media or even turning the TV on during during the workday and have a bit of a brainstorm with your leadership team or management team – are there things that they could be working on could you redirect your business to be doing something else or working on something else?
The New South Wales government reached out yesterday and asked for businesses to log on and offer their help if they could help to manufacture or make medical goods and suppliers they had over 500 businesses register yesterday which was just amazing so putting your brains together other policies that they could be working on. If you’re in retail are there things within the store that they could be working on or could you be brainstorming about how to get your business online and more social marketing to get the brand out there?
What could you be doing around the brand so you know everyone has a brain and everyone has resources. It’s about giving them the direction as well as really highlighting to them that it’s not healthy for their mental wellness to be turning on the news during the day or constantly checking social media.
Yes, you do need a break to get out and get some air but try and think about how you can redirect your business into doing something different in this agile world and it could turn into something really really profitable yeah and you look there’s plenty of social activities as well like how many of us have seen things where you can help out around the community making phone calls to people who are in isolation today elderly who just need you know who aren’t technologically savvy but would love to talk to anyone. There’s a bunch of ways and maybe as a community we can put together. I’d love everybody’s input.
We’ve got a Facebook community and a Slack community set up we’re getting dozens of questions throughout the day there but maybe we could turn that community towards putting together a list of things that people can get their stood down employees to help with mean they are getting paid a small you know a small amount and they need to fill their time productively. So let’s um let’s get our heads together and figure out how we can keep them working on positive things rather than getting into that spiral okay so again around and you for putting up with that I think we’ve covered all of the difficult conversations.
We might move Alex into just some quickfire questions. Do you have the questions up there as well yeah okay maybe you just choose one then I’ll do do one and we’ll get through as many as we can in the last ten minutes and if people if they want to throw any more questions in there we’ll sort of keep going through them.
I’d like to kick off with which was a question about I can’t find it now but it was basically saying that there are some problems with the jobkeeper allowance it’s inequitable it misses out on people who weren’t employed on the 1st of March and I’ll agree there’s you know this is a baseball bat of a solution it’s not it’s not finesse its it’s figuring out I mean I sort of look at it this way I as an economy and I’ve been sort of looking at the size of the economy in the period of the shutdown and figuring out the effectively the government needs to inject into the economy the same amount of money that’s going to be lost during a shutdown period and they need to get it to the people who need it most and we saw the queues on on the streets of people lining up to send a link before they announced the jobkeeper allowance and those queues would have been in probably long had they not introduced this and it’s I guess it’s just the most effective way to get money to the people who need it by leveraging employers to do that for them. It’s certainly not perfect but it’s it’s a very in my view it’s a very effective way to support businesses and their employees quickly almost immediately it’s still going to take four weeks to get the cash through the door but I do agree there are a lot of a lot of issues but we shouldn’t overlook the fact that it’s it’s kind of the it’s just thekind of support that we need into the community. Alex did you find another one?
Yes so how do we performance manage employees during COVID-19 and I assume that question is around performance improvement plan or putting someone on a PIP. It’s an unfortunate thing to have to do but you really just need to operate as though we’re not going through COVID-19. That it is business as usual so go through the process of making sure you have a verbal conversation with the employee to make sure they understand their goals and where the gap is in their performance and then follow the due process of doing a formal written performance improvement plan where you’re doing at least weekly check-ins and you’ve got a date where you check in to them if you are going to have to performance manage them out that they’re fully understood the real rule find performance managing someone out is that it should never ever be a surprise to the employee.
There’s two questions here that I’ve almost identical both so Kelly and Sandy both dealing with employees who are over the age of 70 who want to continue work but they’re working in a reasonably high risk environment. What do you do? I mean firstly it’s great that you’ve got employees who are in that age bracket think we’ll all sort of think differently now about who we have there and how to support people better in the community but I just think as an employer I wouldn’t want to be I just wouldn’t want to be responsible if one of my employees in that age bracket contracted coronavirus at work. The consequences of it you know life-threatening and we know how easily it’s in an environment like an office or a workshop in in this case and so just as an employer I wouldn’t want to have them in there I would I would actually just tell them and allowed to come in and they’d have to go home and they hopefully if your business is eligible would be able to receive the jobkeeper allowance at least but otherwise and you access to annual leave all of those things is available if you if you can afford it so yeah that would be my position.
I’ve seen that question come through our select community a few times – obviously it’s pretty common. Alex a quick one – did you say the mental wellness survey was anonymous? It’s going to be not anonymous so that we can identify individuals but that will be made very clear within the survey itself when it comes out next week.
Do you use for remote access so we actually have remote we don’t need a VPN for a of
them of our business is cloud-based so we’re lucky in that way so if that’s what you meant we don’t use any software to provide remote access that’s all just through a web browser.
I’ve got one here a lot of our departments can’t work from home at all here in manufacturing and this is creating interdepartmental angst how do you best mitigate this so I have a couple of suggestions on that one would be you could divide your workforce into workforce A and workforce B and you never have those two workforces crossover. That’s why if one set of people get infected you’ve still got a healthy workforce. Another way is to make sure that you absolutely implement your social distancing so make sure that you literally measure out and put tape on the floor if possible for that 1.5 meters try to issue masks if you can an encourage the use of gloves make sure you’re providing sanitization for your employees and if you can put some posters up around the wall and we certainly have some within our COVID-19 pack that’s online. Use as many of those posters as you can put around to remind people of Hygiene the better and try and talk openly about it to your employees to try and get that angst down and acknowledge that they’re feeling the angst. Let them know that you are going to divide them into two shifts and you’re going to social distance while they’re in that workshop or that manufacturing environment. The bottom line is two people pay so they are not paid as a jobkeeper until the legislation is passed.
The next issue is that the first payment won’t be received by the company if you’re eligible until the first week of May so you’re basically if you start paying it now you’re carrying the can on that from a cash flow perspective you know at least four weeks presuming everything goes well and if that puts your business into serious financial stress or increases the likelihood that you’re going to voluntary administration. I think you have to be really careful about doing that but if your business can afford it and if your business is confident that
it’s eligible don’t you know I wouldn’t be taking any risks around eligibility if you’re down 20% and you think you’re going to take a risk I think you’re exposing yourself there but otherwise
yeah I don’t think you need to worry about the legislation being approved or not I think it’s pretty certain that’s going to come through it’s more just a cash flow issue can you afford to pay people now or do you have to wait until you get at the payment from the government.
You work for a manufacturing company and how do you help your employees to understand why you yourself are not on-site. That one you explain to your employees that their safety and their health is utmost or upmost importance to you as well as to the economy. They are essential workers you’re not going into the office because you do not want to infect them make sure you communicate that to them and over communicate it to them it’s the best way to make sure you don’t get extra office workers and people who may have to come into the workplace such as childcare workers for example who might be feeling anxiety
because they’re going into the workplace each day their services are essential and Scott Morrison’s made it really clear that any essential worker out there wants working because it’s going to be what is going to keep our economy going and keep it strong. So just remind them how vital they are to Australia.
There’s uncertainty around that you point out in his question he asked if somebody hasn’t seen a 30% reduction in turnover but they anticipate that they will because that’s what the the the fact sheet sort of says is you don’t necessarily have to have already experienced that 30 percent decline in turnover – you anticipate it. I think the question there is does it kick in once you hit the thirty percent reduction in turnover and are you taking a risk in paying before then I think I think the way that they are going dealing it’s a very blunt approach I think if you get there and you can prove that you did experience a thirty percent turnover then you’re eligible and the eligibility starts from the 31st of March and yeah and I think that’s it we’ve been on calls with the ATO and we do have some a little more information a little more clarity that will include you know information document that will release this afternoon
So another question – If we move to a four-day week and offer annually long service leave or unpaid to offset the reduction, do we need to provide a written amendment to their employment contract or is the employee entering annual leave into the Employment Hero sufficient acceptance? I’ll let you answer that, but I think we probably need to use the letter that template that we’ve put into the system.
So I was looking for my next question so if we move to a four-day work week is it sufficient for people just to be entering their annual leave into the employment hero system or do we need to issue them that template letter where they’re agreeing to a four-day work week? I probably do both just for the you know there have been questions in there about moving to a eighty percent salary or a four-day work week and and and and dealing with that first thing is if you are going to make that change it has to be mutually agreed and it’s employee I’m
sure in certain circumstances you could do it orally just a verbal agreement but if you can get it in writing I think it’s going to be very important if this lasts for you know six months. At the end of that we need to be all understanding what we agreed back in March it’s going to be very important to have that in writing and then in terms of how you maintain the annual leave if you’ve got a system that makes it easy to submit your leave days electronically. It takes seconds I would I would use so you know if it’s more difficult than then don’t I know internally and across our companies we’ve had discussions about and actually more broadly we’ve had discussions around whether it’s better or worse to be moving to a four-day workweek for 80% salary or whether people are just prepared to take an eight eighty percent of their salary and continue working or putting in the same amount of effort I think there’s the two similar approaches and I would probably go for the latter one I think.
The more people have work to focus on and stay positive unless they’ve got children and other commitments then I mean obviously be really flexible but I think for our senior team if we take a 20% pay cut we’re going to just continue working just as hard as ever there’s one last question though this one last survey here which I will launch before handing back to Alex it is has your own mental health suffered since since COVID-19 started so be interested to see that and as you’re answering that I’ll remind you that this is anonymous that you’re not I’m exposing your answer to all your name to anyone here. We are also running this webinar on Tuesday morning next week at 11:00 a.m with incredible psychologist who specializes in managing anxiety and and turning your mindset back to a more positive frame and so I would just encourage everyone to invite as many of their team as they can I think we’ve got a limit of 3,000 people can attend that webinar and if you or anyone you know would benefit from listening to one of Australia’s top doctors of psychology talk about and managing anxiety during these times then we’re putting that on to help you so please get involved in that.
I think that Julia mentioned in the chat that we’ll get to a lot of the questions and we’ll group them together in themes there’s a couple of questions around some survey questions we’ll get those out to you some questions around how to keep people engaged so some fun
activities which we will definitely be able to get out to you and please do join our new slack community we’re finding some really good interactions on that and as Ben mentioned we will be sending out more details on the job keeper stimulus package that has come out because there are a lot of questions around that so finally I just wanted to give you all some advice on how to make sure you’re looking after yourselves because we all busy and our concern is our employees and our people so please make sure that you are connecting socially with not just your co-workers but also your family and friends. There are lots of free apps out there such as houseparty, Facebook you can just FaceTime someone. You can use hangouts and having a structured day is really important to get ready in the morning as you normally would however don’t start your day too early.
Medical professional advice has come out as recently as this week to start your day at your normal time not earlier because your day could drag on and you could find yourself as I did in my first few days kind of only having a 10 minute break for food and just popping my head out onto the balcony and not even getting up before the Sun went down so please make sure you are taking care of yourselves as well because we want everyone to stay healthy and when you do go outside make sure you’re following all of the distancing regulations when you’re doing it so going out in no more than pairs or family household units and finally thank you everyone for joining us please keep your eye out for all of the tools answers and templates that will be coming your way.
Thanks Alex and yeah I just finish up by just reminding people that that COVID-19 resource hub that we’ve put together has dozens and dozens of resources in there but you’ll find very practical and very useful there’s also an offer for people for a three-month free period using Employment Huro for companies with less than 20.
I’d also encourage you if you do have more than 20 employees but you see some benefits in Employment Heroes just register that through that and we’ll deal with your circumstances on a case-by-case basis. Our number one priority right now is to instant be here to support the Australian SMe community we’re not really worried about you know whether or not you get a free trial or not we if you think that there’s value in what we’re doing then we want to help you and we’ll figure out the details later on so with that I think we’re we’re done.
Next Tuesday’s webinar is going to be incredibly important to a lot of people so thank you all for attending we’re all in this together and the Employment Hero and our other companies will do everything that we possibly can to continue supporting you.
Thank you everyone. Have a great day