As an Australian, but particularly if you live in Victoria, it’s quite likely you’ve heard the C-word enough to last you a lifetime. Unfortunately, what we thought was a small blip on the radar in January 2020 has now been reframed so that large corporations, SMEs and the general public alike have all been forced to consider what ‘COVID normal’ will look like—and that will probably involve reduced employment, low staff morale and ongoing restrictions for businesses and private life.
For those with business and industry ties to Melbourne, prospects are grim. Even months before Victoria’s second lockdown, business owners were expecting the economic situation to worsen: In the two weeks leading up to 12 June, only 1% of Victorian business owners indicated they were expecting to lay off staff in the coming months. Within one month (that is, in the two weeks to 12 July), expectations had changed considerably with 8% of businesses thinking they would need to decrease staff numbers. Compared with the rest of Australia, which jumped from 2% to 4% in the same period, it’s clear that Victorian businesses have a long road ahead of them.
Focus on Melbourne: what to consider as part of your action plan
What are the actions that will help you and the senior and HR managers in your business right now? Consider the options that will assist to reduce the immediate stress within your business and may even allow you to protect your reputation and staff culture. The old adage that ‘the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time’ should be applied here: break down the big issue into bite-sized morsels. This will allow you to devour each piece separately and not become overwhelmed with what’s on your plate. The main concerns can probably be split into: staffing and employment issues; morale and staff culture; and financial or economic matters. Let’s consider the support options that are available for each of these categories.
Staffing and employment
Letting go. Downsizing. Standing down. Laying off. Redundancy. No matter what term you choose to describe it, needing to reduce the size of your workforce can have serious implications. Industrial relations and employment law are key elements of human resource management, with specialist HR professionals employed both in-house and as consultants to ensure compliance with regulations. It is more important than ever to ensure you know the rules and observe them to avoid prosecution or hefty fines.
The Victorian state government, understanding that ambiguity or a lack of knowledge can be damaging, has its own policy on redundancy, redeployment and retrenchment accessible for general viewing. But this is not always the case. Although the Fair Work Commission is keeping Australians updated on items related to most changes, it can be difficult to keep abreast of current legislation – particularly for smaller businesses. By investing a small sum in obtaining expert advice, you will save time and money, and, ultimately, remain compliant with legislation in a time of upheaval.
Morale and staff culture
Research has shown that redundancies and dismissals in times of economic hardship or organisational restructure can result in long-term effects on staff morale and culture. Along with the obvious heartache at watching a business you have built dwindle before your eyes, dismissing employees without compassion can have a lasting impact on the staff members ‘left behind’; repercussions can include reductions in morale and productivity or increases in absenteeism and turnover. At a time when fatigue and mental health are already high on the ‘watch list’, businesses need to do their best to ensure team morale and staff culture are not jeopardised any further through workplace survivor syndrome. Outplacement services provide your business with a way to support exiting staff members while also demonstrating appreciation, care and concern to those who are left behind. Outplacement services in Melbourne can also provide support to your HR and management teams who are managing workplace responsibilities while at the same time undergoing the emotions and physical experiences related to their own employment and personal circumstances.
While outplacement services in Melbourne can assist you to maintain a positive culture, there will undoubtedly be employees who never return to their former industry. Federal and state websites, services and initiatives are available to aid those who have lost their job as well as to educate job seekers on how to demonstrate transferable skills – skills learnt in one job or particular industry that can be successfully applied elsewhere. Providing exiting and existing employees with access to these career transition services in Melbourne will further protect your reputation and maintain morale.
It’s difficult to think of Melbourne without immediately imagining the delicacies you would eat along Lygon, Brunswick or Chapel streets. For those in the industry, it can be heartbreaking to see a thriving city reduced to a curfewed take-away culture that is limited to a five-kilometre radius. And while the government’s roadmap to recovery indicates what can be expected within the coming months in a COVID-normal state, economic revival might seem beyond reach for businesses that have spent months without customers or clients. Lord Mayor Sally Capp is already focusing on Melbourne’s world-class food, café and retail culture and there are many avenues of support for businesses facing financial problems.
The Victorian Government has committed $3 billion to alleviate financial burden on the state’s businesses. Grants, tax relief and cashflow support is all part of the Business Resilience Package, which involves a focus on small and medium sized business.
The Victorian Chamber of Commerce has been supporting businesses for over 160 years and has not baulked at its current responsibilities. The Chamber has many resources available for businesses and has up to date information and data, with a webpage dedicated to reopen, restart and recovery in Victoria. Split into metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria, the details are tailored to provide clear information for each industry.
Focus on the future
Forecasts suggest around 400 000 jobs could be lost in Victoria every year for the next five years, with around one fifth of those jobs projected to be lost in Melbourne. We’ve already seen the various support options available to businesses, but sometimes you really need advice, assistance and the empathetic ear of someone who has travelled the same road as you. Let’s Talk Career provides outplacement support, executive coaching and career management in five Australian locations as well as New Zealand, but it is the dedicated and experienced staff members in the Melbourne Let’s Talk Career office who are best-placed to deliver advice that is customised to Melbourne and regional Victorian businesses.
By engaging professionals who understand the importance of providing employer redundancy support, and have the track record to deliver outplacement services Melbourne businesses require right now, you can focus on the future of those you no longer employ as well as maintain a positive outlook for the future of your business – something that will be vital for Victoria and Melbourne in the coming months.