How people, not businesses, overcome COVID-19
On March 21, 2020, we were sitting at our desks sifting through high volumes of jobs and applications when we watched our portfolio vanish with the announcement of Alert Level 4 lockdown. Emails began streaming in from clients, left with no choice but to put their recruitment activities on indefinite hold.
Each job wasn’t just a job. The jobs are attached to our people, real people. We had four or more candidates on a shortlist that we’d have to break the news to. The ripple effect was massive for us, for our clients and our candidates.
On that same day, someone else in our building had been let go, and she came straight to us. Brid recalls seeing her employer later on and found herself asking if they were alright or if she could offer a listening ear.
The economic impacts of COVID-19 are widely discussed, but for us at the Recruitment Studio, the most significant effect of the pandemic has been highlighting the importance of human connection and empathy.
There was a definite sense of panic. No one had the answer, no one knew what they could really do for themselves. So when we didn’t know what to do to help our situations, it became easier to try and help one another.
Fortunately, Recruitment Studio was entering its third year of business at the start of lockdown and, while we had to put plans of growth on hold, we were stable enough to make it through to the other side.
Lockdown was, of course, terrifying at the start, but it also allowed us to take a step back and reassess what’s important to us. We realised we could work remotely, we could be flexible.
Lockdown also helped us connect more with our staff and recognise the value people bring to our business. We would have our daily Zoom meetings through lockdown, where we’d get to see more of a glimpse into our team’s lives. We would show each other our pets or challenge to wear ridiculous hats to our team meetings. The time we did get to spend together became more personal.
The shared values we have as a team shone through too. Everyone knew they could pick up the phone and have a chat, and likewise, we’d take the time to reach out personally to everyone in our team. We got to explain to them that yes, lockdown was really tough, but we were committed to doing everything we could to keep everyone on board.
Without our team, getting through lockdown wouldn’t have been possible. Even with the hit to our business, everyone chipped in to support one another, and ultimately survive together. It’s shown us the importance of our people and human connection.
It was crucial for us to extend that human connection to our candidates and clients.
People would be in tears on the phone telling us how they needed work. One remote job received over 4,500 applications during lockdown. We made a point to call as many of our candidates as we could and ask if they were alright. We needed to show empathy only another human could when everyone was so isolated.
We also had to recognise what it meant to help people when we didn’t have any answers. We would have to be transparent and tell candidates that we didn’t know what was happening with a job, but that we would be in touch as soon as we did.
Lockdown was also an opportunity for Brid and Jo to work on the business, rather than in the business.
We had time to look at staff reviews, health and safety, marketing and our service offering. We had to think about how we could bring value to clients who were becoming increasingly tight. So we unbundled our services, which meant we could help more people.
At the time, we also started business coaching with Sharn Rayner from POD, which was incredible. Having a sounding board, especially another woman who understands your business but isn’t so close to it is just invaluable.
On reflection, we learnt more in the last year of business since the first lockdown than we did in the whole set-up period.
We’ve also reached out to other people in the recruitment business to ask their input, particularly through the RCSA. Networking lunches for women in businesses have since been popping up everywhere. It’s shown us how great women are at supporting other women.
Surviving through the ongoing pandemic has been all about one thing for the Recruitment Studio: People.
Yes, we’re a business, but recruitment is about helping people. And it’s people who make change, support each other and show compassion. It’s people who ask for help, and it’s people who provide it.
Through the strength of teamwork, Recruitment Studio is now once again confidently connecting candidates and clients every day.