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Priorities, people and leadership during a crisis

By Simon Winfield, Managing Director, Hays UK & Ireland

3 weeks into lockdown, and we’re approaching a very different Easter holiday this year.

Typically, children would be finishing school, airports and roads would be busy with holidaymakers, and, as the sun begins to emerge, the parks (and, most likely the pubs) would be full of people excited for the break ahead.

However, like everything else during the last few weeks and months, the change we’ll see this Easter will be unprecedented. Like millions of others around the world, we’ll be in lockdown, adhering to the government’s advice and staying home to keep myself and others safe, and support our health workers.

It will also give me the chance to regroup, spend proper time with my family and take stock of the situation. Here at Hays, just like so many of your organisations, we’ve been working around the clock to ensure we are available to support our staff and valued customers through these difficult times.

2 years of change distilled into weeks
Since the country went into lockdown, we have ensured our consultants are continuing to work as normal – albeit remotely. That’s been a huge tech shift for us and I couldn’t be prouder of our IT team who worked relentlessly to make sure the switch to remote working happened so seamlessly.

We’ve also been working to make sure we are helping our customers through these difficult times. Whether that’s supplying frontline workers in healthcare and social care, supplying IT professionals for businesses adapting to new technology and systems, finding communications professionals, or securing people new roles to support the life sciences industry.

We’ve also created two dedicated Inspire Me in the New Era of Work hubs for employers and candidates filled with guides, insights and articles that offer truly practical, actionable advice for all aspects of the current situation. Plus, we’ve launched a free online training portal, Hays Thrive, designed to help your staff access wellbeing, remote working and health and safety courses. It also includes a learning management system to create your own custom training programmes. We know what a difficult time this is for many of you and we’re doing all we can to provide extra support.

It seems that we have squeezed two years of change – from how we work to our expanded service offering – into mere weeks. With that said, here are just a few of the business leadership lessons I have learned during this challenging time:

1. People first, always
Of course, it’s during times like these that we release where our true priorities lie – our health and our people – whether that’s our friends, families or colleagues.

Whilst the lockdown has undoubtably impacted people and businesses everywhere, by keeping perspective about what really matters, and focusing on making sure we’re doing the right thing at all times, we are making sure our people remain first in all the decisions we make.  

2. Stronger together
What I’ve learned in the past few weeks, is that collective effort is always required to overcome great obstacles. As we look outside and consider that this global pandemic will only be beaten if all of us stay home and practice social distancing, so too must the workforce be united in their understanding of what needs to be done for their organisation to weather this storm. We’ve got to come together to have any material impact.

3. Communication is key
The secret to securing a sense of shared interest is, of course, effective and authentic communication. Whether you work in a small enterprise or a large global corporate, regular and consistent communication with your colleagues at all levels is vital during a time of crisis to acknowledge immediate concerns, address these with the right solutions and show a roadmap for both the immediate and long-term future. Being transparent will help maintain trust within your team and make sure you’re still as visible as ever – video messages and video calls have never been more important.

4. Lean on other leaders
Being in any kind of leadership position is of course a great privilege, but the responsibility can weigh heavy during these challenging times when you might have to take some tough decisions. Lean on your leadership team to help you to maintain an effective and engaging company culture, keep a positive team morale and drive the decisions that will make a difference. 

Remember, we’re working remotely as normal and remain committed to supporting you as your lifelong career partner. Please contact your Hays consultant to discuss how we can provide further support to your team.

About this author

Simon joined Hays in 2006, having commenced his recruitment career in 1993. Initially responsible for our businesses in Western Australia and Northern Territory, Simon relocated to the UK in 2014 where he was responsible for our operations in the West & Wales and Ireland, before being appointed Managing Director of the UK & Ireland business in 2018.

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