Deep into the Delta wave of COVID-19 – which for those of us in Sydney means pretty hard core lockdown – we’ve run out of interesting new craft projects to fill in the hours, so are reduced to doing the long-overdue filing, and cleaning out the bottom drawer of the office cupboards.
Sad stuff really, made acceptable only by working virtuously and then having an extra afternoon tea ration of anti-Dementor food (aka chocolate for those who don’t speak ‘Harry Potter’!), or perhaps, just on occasion, swabbing the affected area with alcohol.
So imagine the hilarity when we unearthed an article from, wait for it, 2007 – in which ThinkEvans is much-quoted for extolling the virtues of flexible working arrangements!
A decade wasn’t enough for most to catch up on this one, not in the face of doomsayers who thought showing staff some reasonable consideration would make the sky fall down and be the end of life as we know it. But see now what a pandemic can do for you – all sorts of different approaches have become so commonplace in COVID-times that it is hardly even a debate about WFH as an option, since we’ve all done it and the sky has resolutely not budged by so much as a micron.
The article, entitled ‘Plan for prosperity’, appeared in Business Review Weekly (or BRW, which was a Fairfax publication that ran for over 30 years but did not, ultimately, survive the transition to online).
But, remembering that this was before the 2008 GFC, it is hard to fault the authors who were addressing the question of why so many start ups never get any further.
When interviewed, we put the focus on lack of HR expertise and haphazard management of people that was so often the case in startups. We had been doing research for the Australian Business Foundation which showed us that a new type of kid was on the block in SMEs – those prepared to prioritise team development as they were wanting to avoid the costly churn of staff so long the bane of SMEs (certainly then, and still now for those who insist on continuing to run a business the old-fashioned way).
By recognising that churn is often about treatment not payment, we were seeing the rise of more sustainable SMEs who set out to avoid that diabolical combination of a) thinking that only the pay-packet matters and writing off the loss of people because ‘we’re too small to pay them any better’, while also b) failing to see that the much greater issue is getting to the bottom of what really drives staff loyalty.
(Big hint: loyalty is mostly not about money, as has been written about a great deal since 2007).
This excerpt was the scene-setting at the start, leading in to quite an interesting discussion about what SMEs could do to help themselves with their own success – like actually having a plan, thinking through the practicalities, and remembering the fundamental importance of doing the paperwork properly (so tax reporting, for example, does not become a boat anchor around your neck).
… ThinkEvans is a small consulting firm specialising in assisting SMEs through the management and process hurdles. Managing director Carolyn Evans, who works closely with the Australian Business Foundation, says one of the key elements for creating a stable and successful business is a well-planned human resources program.
“The growing importance of SMEs to the Australian economy means that they have to get this right because the loss of one key person can have a major impact on the business. Business owners now don’t need to be standing on the burning deck before realising the ship is on fire. I am finding that many employers are now having to look at the time-honoured process of talking to staff and developing flexible arrangements.”
Tony Blackie and Jane Lindhe, BRW, 4 October 2007
Evans says flexible agreements aim to give staff what they need and ensure productivity levels are maintained. The key to HR policy is creating an environment in which staff want to stay. “You can’t buy loyalty with money, but you can with flexibility in work arrangements.” …
So an unexpectedly lighter note to today, and, rather surprisingly, thanks to COVID!
PS for some extra fun, have a look back at this post from 2009, when the team looked all hip and groovy working from cafes!