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Are we stagnating from uncertainty?

We won’t deny it; JobKeeper has been a lifeline for so many businesses and their employees. The announcement of its extension, even reduced, comes as a welcome relief for those who have been wondering how they could keep their business running past September. However, there have been some significant unintended outcomes that we have noticed in our position as recruiters and advisors to so many small businesses in Perth.


Some of the most damaging behaviour we have seen includes:

  • Holding on to employees who are not performing, just because they are cheap (or free)

  • Avoiding restructuring of the company (in a time where it’s critical to change and adapt), because hiring new people means paying the full wages.

  • Not replacing someone who leaves, even if they play a critical role in the business.

While it’s amazing that people get to keep jobs through an uncertain economic time, this comes at the cost of beneficial turnover. Some people have outgrown their job, some people were never suited to it in the first place, and some have found themselves in a job they never signed up for. In normal economic times, they would naturally look elsewhere, but now they sit in the job and stagnate, and business leaders allow them to disengage and underperform because the alternative is paying a full wage, and knowing that you are sending someone to the back of a very long unemployment queue. This is destructive to company culture, to employee mental health, and ultimately to the profitability of businesses.


Of course, there have been some positive outcomes to ‘sticking with what you’ve got’ as well. We know people who have absolutely shone in this environment – they have demonstrated their ability to innovate, they have uncovered the breadth of unutilised talent, and built stronger brands or career paths as a result.


The issue is that the business landscape in Australia (and the world) has changed dramatically, and some people missed the bus. Whether they were unwilling to pivot, unable to change, or completely paralysed by fear like a rabbit in the headlights, the outcome is the same; a stagnant workforce and (the potential for) dwindling profits.


The fear is real, and it is not unwarranted either; we are not debating that at all, but there are multiple ways to respond to fear – you can face them, or you can run from them. Companies and employees who are recognising this and facing uncertainty head-on are the ones who will succeed. Now is not a time to sit back and wait for the economy to magically recover, now is a time for action. From our perspective, action looks like this:

  1. Assess your position in the market – do people still want to buy what you are selling?

  2. Identify what could you be doing differently – add or remove services, automate, enter new markets, change your pricing models – update your strategies.

  3. Take a good hard look at your team and decide if they have the skills you need to move in a new direction.

  4. Have the tough conversations – tell people when they aren’t performing, tell them what you need from them, ask them what they can contribute that you didn’t know about before – drive engagement, commitment and excitement for where the business is headed.

  5. Let go of the people who don’t fit your new strategies, but please do it with compassion, care and support (and remember that how you act through this process reflects your brand.)

  6. Don’t be afraid to hire new people to transform your business – face the fear – we know that we have made some ballsy hiring decisions in the past when we didn’t know if we could afford someone, and it paid off exponentially. There are currently 13 unemployed people for every 1 job – it is an employer’s market right now. As long as you are making informed, strategic recruitment decisions, now is the time to find someone who might change your business forever.

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