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Learnings From The Last Month: A Letter From Our Leaders

Learnings From The Last Month: A Letter From Our Leaders

Nikki Beaumont

11 months ago by Nikki Beaumont

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Our Head of Marketing and Communications, Rebecca Rynehart spoke to our Founder and CEO, Nikki Beaumont and Managing Director, Nina Mapson Bone, about their hurdles, learnings and triumphs as they look back on the past month.


Nikki Beaumont

How does this situation compare to the GFC in the way that you are leading the business?

This has all happened so quickly, whereas the GFC slid in over a longer 

period of time. Now we've got some businesses that have had to completely close immediately such as restaurants, hotels and cafes. Then there are companies that are booming in this situation.  What we didn't have in the GFC was this difference between companies that were flat out needing people and companies that are on the floor and can’t even hire a person for a day.

There are also many more considerations now than with the GFC and it's not just that the revenue has dropped and the business opportunities are less. There are added complications that come with isolation such as working remotely, new technology, health and wellbeing and keeping people motivated whilst working in isolation.

Another key difference is the technology and the amount of information that is available for us to process how we handle this situation. We've now got information readily available at our fingertips, explaining how it's affecting everybody globally that we can learn from.  There are upsides and downsides to this volume of information which whilst useful can be overwhelming and time-consuming. We have seen a sharp increase in emails and the volume of information through the business.


What have been your biggest leadership challenges over the last month and what have you done to tackle them?

There's been a clear transition from that immediate stage of looking at the budgets and the cost-cutting measures that we can put in place to get us through this. That was the first couple of weeks. We've now got to the stage where it's more of a ‘let's look forward.’ Let's look at what the future is going to be like. It's a definite swing that takes place and many businesses have pivoted successfully having been forced to innovate, such as your local restaurant down the road that is now a take-away.

I think one of the challenges for leaders such as Nina and I, include the need to keep positive in front of the team, but at the same time be authentic and real and communicate ‘this is what the business is going to do and this is where you can help.’ One of the tests as a leader is keeping people energized and motivated in such a totally different environment to what people usually work in. However it doesn't always have to come from the leaders, the team also comes up with ways of motivating each other with fun initiatives. This is great and helps to give them more purpose, which is something we all need.

On that subject, I think another area of importance for leaders is to keep connected to our business purpose during these uncertain times. Reminding ourselves ‘Where is our purpose in this action? What are we here for?’ Lately, we have been looking at how we can make sure that we keep connected to our business purpose and not lose sight of our values. For example, we are supporting our candidates and clients with plenty of educational tools and content which are all complimentary and are firmly anchored in our Placing People First philosophy.


What have been the biggest learnings so far?

For me it’s that actually, we can all work perfectly successfully from home.  The business is still going. Yes it's different, there are fewer jobs and we are all working in our own homes, but it's working. And it's working really well.  We've managed to recruit hundreds of roles, so far, working from home and we have not met one candidate face-to-face. We've met them all virtually. We've made some fantastic placements and clients are saying to us the quality of our people is exceptional. We had a wonderful flexible work from home policy previously, but it didn’t really stretch to working from home 100% of the time, we really valued and encouraged meeting every candidate face to face, clients too, moving forward I am sure we will see more of a mix.


Has this situation changed the way in which you lead and work that has surprised you and if so how?

It does make me think, in the future do we need to go to the office every day? Do we need to have candidates come into the office? Do we need an office? It's certainly nice meeting people face-to-face as you feel like you get to know people a bit better that way, but we don't have to. Maybe we don't need to ask people who live further away to come into the city to meet us for 45 minutes and head back home again. It’s not only more efficient for them but it’s better for the environment.

It's also quite different to lead a team when you can’t see them working away, you can’t see the smiles and hear the laughter and the banter around the office. That’s something I certainly miss, sure we get that on regular Zoom meetings, but it’s not the same.


Is there anything that you have adopted that you will continue to do moving forward?

I used to travel a great deal, however, I will probably work from home more and make greater use of the technology we have quickly adopted. I see my family more now and this way of working is better for the environment.  I think a lot of people will feel that way. At Beaumont People, we are using many online tools to keep our offices well connected and everybody has embraced this new way of working. The team just got on with it and have done their best to keep engaged, motivated and productive through a very challenging time. And in many cases working harder than ever.


What has brought you the most joy?

For me, it’s finding gratitude in the small things. I've noticed that now when we place one person, it feels like we have placed a hundred. People are now much more appreciative of the impact that they're making when we place a candidate in a job. For example ‘this person cried with joy when we told them that we've got them a job’, it's just been so rewarding for us. What a privilege we have to sit between the candidates that are looking for work and the companies that need our help to find people. What an honour to match those two together and make such a difference in people's lives.


Any advice for CEOs?

We will all be changed in some way forever, but there will be a way to the other side. It's up to us as to how we lead ourselves and our team through this. I was having this conversation with a CEO the other day. She was struggling with trying to make the right decisions and I was talking about legacy saying ‘how do you want to be remembered as to how you navigated through this time as a leader?’ If you are doing the right things from the heart people will remember. Also, look outwards as well as looking inwards.  The small things that we can do to add value to each other in our leadership group have been just beautiful and make a real difference. There’s a danger that we are all so inward-looking at the moment in our own little space, but try to look outwards because there are an awful lot of people out there who appreciate that little message, that quick call, that email just to check-in. These small gestures are really important at the best of times, but even more so now.


Nina Mapson Bone

How does this situation compare to the GFC in the way that you are leading the business?

Completely different. Strategically, with the GFC we had every other recession to refer to in terms of how we respond. There were also a number of sectors that were not impacted, so there were still many opportunities to pivot well. This time around there are no previous lessons to learn and every sector has been affected, albeit some more than others.

The other big change for me personally is that during the GFC I worked for a different organisation, one that was listed and so had different pressures and stakeholders in terms of how it needed to respond. This time, with Beaumont People being privately owned, Nikki and I are able to make decisions solely with our purpose of placing people first in mind. We don’t have to be concerned about shareholders which gives more freedom. 


What have been your biggest leadership challenges over the last month and what have you done to tackle them?

So many!

  1. The biggest one has been managing my own personal emotions, and that of my family whilst being a positive and pragmatic leader for our team.

  2. The second is getting the right balance between work/life balance. I can’t quite believe how much work there is to do, even with how our client needs have dropped. Without much else to do outside of work, it’s tempting to keep working many more hours than is productive or healthy. I know this intellectually, but it doesn’t make it easier to always have the discipline to stop working.

  3. The third is trying to make the right decisions that will support the long-term sustainability of our business, and protect our people as best as possible. These are big decisions and the impacts are far-reaching for a lot of people’s lives, so they weigh a little heavy sometimes.

In terms of tackling them, it’s all the advice we all know works, but trying to remember and practice it well – things like eating well, getting good sleep, fresh air and exercise all of which help keep a stable emotional state. Having a clear mind to be able to make decisions and ensure communications are calm is crucial – and not always achievable. So when we are not feeling calm, be honest about that so that the people you are connecting with will understand. I always try and use facts to provide me with the choices of decisions I have, then the impacts on various stakeholders to assess which of those choices is the best one.


What have been the biggest learnings so far?

The biggest learning is the need to (over) communicate. This is true at the best of times but even more so now. It’s easy for people to take their own spin on a situation. When we can’t check in on them in the same way and we don’t have the same access to the channels of communications that used to keep us informed as leaders, we don’t know what people are thinking. So we have to ensure that we keep getting the messages out in many different ways and on many occasions. We now have three all-staff virtual meetings a week for that reason.

The other has been the absolute joy that is the strength of our relationships, with each other and with our clients, candidates and suppliers. Every single person we speak with has contributed to helping us in this situation and in turn, we’re doing all we can to help them. Cheesy I know, but it does remind you that humanity at its best can be a beautiful thing.


Has this situation changed the way in which you lead and work that has surprised you and if so how?

We’ve necessarily had to become more reactive in some ways, but more proactive in others.

For example, in terms of reactivity, we use to run a structured formal CPD training programme that had various sessions throughout the year and we’ve had to scrap that entirely in favour of an all-staff weekly ‘share and learn’ where we pick the topic based on what we’ve seen come up in the last week and all discuss the best way to tackle those things. We’ve covered all manner of things.

In terms of proactivity, we had been talking about trialling webinars for about a year but never quite found the time. Now suddenly I’m presenting 2-3 webinars a week on a whole variety of topics related to people in the workplace.


Is there anything that you have adopted that you will continue to do moving forward?

Walking and playing the piano daily. I’ve been doing these things during what would have been my commute time. I know I’ll be tempted to think I don’t have time at a point in time in the future…BUT I think they are a crucial part of work. For me, they are the only time I am truly alone (aside from my dogs!). It’s when I process thoughts and come up with new ideas, and it’s hugely rejuvenating.


What has brought you the most joy?

  • Having my dog at my feet every minute of the day.

  • Seeing the smile on the faces of our team when I video-bomb them and they realise I’m calling just to say hi

  • Not having to wear makeup. I hate wearing makeup!


Any advice for CEOs?

Reach out. The more we talk and help each other the better we can all learn and get through this together. I’m more than happy for any CEO to call me if they want to at any point for that reason.

And don’t drink too much wine!


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