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Today marks the start of Stage 3 lockdown restrictions for regional Victoria due to COVID-19. It was the outcome we were all hoping to avoid however it was not meant to be. The last few days have been spent organising our face masks, preparing once again for home schooling and reactivating our work from home plans for those who had partially started to transition back into the office. We have six weeks ahead of us to have another crack at trying to flatten the curve and get our number of Coronavirus cases under control. For many industries it is back into complete shutdown or pivoting to a new mode of operating and service delivery to at least be able to continue to open and do business. I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it is for those business owners and their employees.
This time it feels very different. With the announcement of the restrictions, I was expecting the work phone to start ringing like it did last time. Businesses pulling their recruitment, putting their recruitment activity on hold indefinitely, going in to bunker down mode, training and coaching postponed or cancelled all together; the focus back on survival mode. However, this time the phone didn’t start ringing. In talking to many businesses over the last few days about where to from here, what the stage 3 restrictions mean for them and what do they want to do about their recruitment and HR service delivery, the feedback has been positive. The message has been consistent. Let’s keep going, let’s continue with recruiting, let’s get those interviews booked in over video conferencing and let’s work on a plan for how they transition their new employees into their businesses while working remotely.
I think this is a really positive sign for Ballarat. While I am not necessarily seeing the creation of lots of new positions, I am seeing businesses proceeding with re-hiring when someone leaves their business or has been promoted. And those businesses are recruiting people into permanent ongoing positions. History has shown us that during and after previous recessions and downturns recruiting activity typical starts with businesses employing casuals or utilising labour hire – temporary recruitment services to test the market and see if they have the workload for the position. This approach has provided the business with the flexibility to scale the hours up and down dependent on workload and adjust accordingly as the economy rebuilds or bounces back. So far, we are not seeing this increased trend towards casual employment or labour hire recruitment. Engaging new employees on a permanent ongoing basis indicates that there is some degree of confidence in the market amongst businesses. This confidence we are finding is very dependent on the industry that the business operates in and for some businesses they are saying the impact of COVID-19 is going to hit over the coming months and they have not yet felt the brunt of the situation.
What we have already started to notice is the decline in people looking for work. Enquiries about vacancies and numbers of applications for positions currently advertised has started to slow. Talking to candidates about work opportunities, the response is that they are pausing their job search. It’s back to juggling home schooling, to riding out this period of lockdown and staying put in their current role where they have the job security and leave accruals up their sleeve.
For now, we have JobSeeker and JobKeeper to get us through however we know that changes are coming at the end of September and in my opinion that is going to be a game changer. Feedback is that there are still businesses that are being kept afloat because of JobKeeper and if their eligibility for this changes come September we will start to see more employees let go and unemployment continue to rise. Who knows what additional Government support may come for Victorians given the significant restrictions imposed on Melbourne and to a lesser extent, regionally.
Overall, this time our mindset seems to be different. While there is absolutely a feeling of disappointment, feeling flat and the fear of the unknown, this time there doesn’t seem to be the bunker down mentality. While I don’t hear anyone being excited about home schooling, this time it appears that parents are putting less pressure on themselves to be the best school teachers they thought they needed to be. I think mostly it’s because we have been here before, we know we survived last time as unpleasant and as challenging as it might have been but this time, we know it is do-able.
Let’s hope that the business confidence remains with as many industries and business across Ballarat so that we can keep our local economy ticking over as much as we possibly can. Don’t forget to support local wherever you can as this is what will help us get through and come out the other side.
Angela Connor is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource and career coaching companies. She understands the significance of having the right team of people in a business and is passionate about helping business to attract, recruit and engage the right people so those people can inject their talents into the business; creating an environment where they can do great work and love what they do. Find more useful information and advice at www.inspirehq.com.au or by following Angela on LinkedIn.
Disclaimer: The material contained in this publication is of a general nature only. It is not, nor is intended to be, legal advice. If you wish to act based on the content of this publication, we recommend that you seek professional advice.