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How to prepare your business and staff for lockdown lift

By Blog, Employer

Today officially marks ‘Freedom Day’ in Sydney, as we leave lockdown after a mammoth 107 days of staying at home. For a lot of us, this meant working from home for 15 weeks. 15 weeks of Zoom calls, phone calls, and trying our best to run a company remotely. For others it meant putting business on hold, as they were no longer able to work at all. No matter what your work situation was for the past 15 weeks, it is undoubtedly going to feel a little weird returning to work in-person after such a long period of doing things differently. We’ve put together the top tips for preparing your business and staff for lockdown lift and the return to work.

Tip 1. Devise a return-to-work strategy

Return-to-work strategies will look different for each business owner and will depend on multiple factors, including the type of business you run, where your staff operate out of, and how many staff you have. A good place to begin is with the government guidelines, which you can access here. These guidelines outline everything you need to know, from when your business can resume trade again if it was put on pause during lockdown, to when masks are no longer required in the office. These guidelines are constantly changing, so it’s best to check them regularly.

Another great resource is the Safe Work Australia site. This is your go-to for all things related to returning to work safely and ensuring the health and safety of your staff.

A few things to consider when devising your return-to-work strategy are when your staff will return to work, if this return to work will be staggered, and if it is more suitable to allow staff to continue working from home. If you do plan on having all your staff back working together, staggering their return – or having staff come in on alternative days – is a good way to ensure social distancing measures. It’s also a simple way to ensure your employees are not overwhelmed by such a sudden shift to their work life.

Tip 2: Make communication a priority

There will likely be some confusion from your staff about when the return-to-work is happening and how it will all work. Stay in regular communication with your staff via Zoom and phone calls to make your businesses’ return-to-work plan clear. This is also a good time to communicate any guidelines your staff need to be made aware of, such as whether their vaccination status will affect their return to work. During this time, keep communication lines open and listen to any questions or concerns coming from your staff.

Tip 3: Ensure the workplace is COVID safe

Your team may have reservations about returning to work while COVID-19 cases are still present in the community. Thankfully, vaccinations have dramatically decreased risks involved with COVID, and there are measures workplaces can take to keep their staff safe. COVID-19 safe practices in the workplace include maintaining physical distancing, practising good personal hygiene, and ensuring the regular cleaning of common spaces. You may also want to reduce the risk of spreading potential disease by eliminating the use of hot desks and encouraging employees to avoid common spaces in the workplace if they become overly crowded.

Tip 4: Set clear policies around illness

It’s important your staff feel safe when they return to work and have peace of mind that they are returning to a healthy environment. One of the best ways to ensure this is to set clear and consistent policies around illness in the workplace. Health advice is likely to be constantly changing throughout the period that your staff is returning to work, but there are some policies you can introduce from the get-go. A good place to start is making it clear to your employees that they must stay home if they are sick, as well as get tested if they are experiencing COVID-like symptoms. This will ensure their illness does not spread throughout the workplace, keeping both your staff and any customers safe.

Tip 5: Practise patience 

The past 15 weeks have been hard on everyone, and each of your staff members would have certainly faced their individual struggles during the lockdown. Many would have been home schooling while working from home, while others may not have worked for quite a while. Take some time to reconnect with your each of your staff on their return and touch base on how they have been going during lockdown. It’s also a good idea to see if anyone needs any training to refresh, or help getting back into a work routine.

How to stay connected to your staff during lockdown

By Blog, Employer

Another week of lockdown. Yawn. By now, your staff are probably settled into a routine of working from home, but they may also have hit a lockdown plateau: fatigue (especially if they are also homeschooling); a drop in motivation; and a loss of connectivity to their work. You can help combat your team’s lockdown plateau by keeping communication levels up and letting them know you’re still there for them during these hard times. Try these four ideas to stay connected to your staff throughout lockdown.

Tip 1. Check in daily

Whether it’s a quick phone call in the morning with each member of your staff, or a larger group Zoom, daily check-ins are a great way to stay connected. Use this time to not only touch base on work projects for the day, but to also check in with your staff on a personal level. Just by asking them how their weekend was, or how they’re going in lockdown, your staff will feel assured that you truly care for them, and don’t only contact them when it’s work related.

Tip 2: Set challenges

Weekly or monthly challenges are a great way to stay connected to your staff while having some friendly competition. Set up a Zoom call to organise some fun challenges for your staff to complete and keep track of the winners on a virtual scoreboard. These challenges could be anything from who can track the most steps in a day, to who can eat the most dry weetbix in a minute. This is also a great time to learn about some secret talents your staff may have up their sleeves. A Zoom talent show may reveal a secret future poet or piano prodigy among your team.

Tip 3: Try online team building 

Another great way to keep your team connected during lockdown is to introduce some virtual team building exercises during your catch-ups. Online games such as Codenames and team trivia are great ways to introduce team building into your Zooms, while keeping it fun. Games like this are perfect for a Friday afternoon, as your staff wind down for the week.

Tip 4: Host a virtual lunch 

If your staff is used to having lunch together every day in the office, they’re probably missing these daily lunchtime catch-ups. A great alternative is to invite your staff to have a virtual lunch over Zoom, where everyone can enjoy a meal and chat with no mention of work to be done. Your staff can cook up their favourite meal for the catch-up, or to make the occasion extra exciting you could arrange to have their favourite lunch delivered to them at their home. Financial services firm Deloitte has already done the hard work for you to prove this works: in 2015, it conducted a case study to see how employees reacted to this type of virtual socialising and it was a huge success. It was found that the causal nature of the Zoom, the inclusion of food, and the Zoom having no formal structure allowed for the conversation to flow freely.

How to support your employees during lockdown

By Blog, Employer

Lockdown is an uncertain time for everyone, and each time it happens it brings huge changes to every part of our lives. Depending on your business, there’s a chance your staff are working fully from home – or are required to adhere to a bunch of new working practices if they are on site.

This shift brings both physical and social challenges for your employees and it is critical that you show your staff extra support to get through this lockdown successfully.

Try our top 5 tips for supporting your staff during lockdown:

Tip 1: Keep communication lines open

Maintaining regular communication with your staff during lockdown will let them know that you’re still supporting them, even from afar. Try to check-in with each team member via text or email, or organise a team zoom meeting or two as a chance to catch-up on both work and life. Chatting to your staff face-to-face, or screen-to-screen, via an app like zoom allows you to maintain a great connection with them without physically seeing them in the office. If they are working on site under Covid-safe restrictions, make sure they fully understand what they are required to do and feel comfortable with it.

Tip 2: Ensure your team is work from home ready

If you haven’t done so already, check your staff’s working-from-home set up is suitable and allows them to work effectively. Working from home comes with physical challenges as your staff must move their permanent work setup to a more temporary working space at home. If your staff work on laptops then this is an easy fix, but for employees that need to access a monitor or multiple screens it’s important that these are relocated to their home, or alternatives are arranged for them. Keeping employees’ home setup as much like what they had access to in the office will allow them to continue working productively and bring a sense of familiarity to such an uncertain time.

Tip 3: Respect work-life balance 

Remember that being at home for a lot of your staff means extra responsibilities such as teaching or looking after their school-aged children, and making extra meals for their family each day. And that is hard work. You may think that your staff will have extra time to smash out their work, but it’s important to respect that they still have busy lives outside of their work duties and work-life balance is more important than ever for lockdown survival. Encourage your team to continue taking their designated lunch break, get outside for a walk in the sunshine and to log off from their work computer after working hours.

Tip 4: Focus on the positives

While lockdown certainly brings its fair share of challenges to the workplace, it’s important to remember that there are some benefits to both you and your staff working from home. Your staff will save time not having to commute to and from work each day, the usual distractions of the office won’t be present and the flexibility of working from home will allow your staff to manage their own time, while spending more time with family. In fact, 78 per cent of Australian staff believe they’re just as (or more) productive working from home.

Tip 5: Keep an eye on your own mental health

Finally, it’s impossible to support a team of staff without making sure that your own mental and physical wellbeing is on track. This is a tough period; be gentle with yourself. Maintain catchups with your own manager, or other members of staff, for a chance to check-in on how you’re going during this uncertain time. Get outside, spend time with family, and make sure to step away from work each day to just relax.

How to use hashtags on Instagram to grow your small business

By Blog, Employer

Using hashtags on Instagram is a quick and easy way to reach new audiences, increase engagement and expand your business potential. Business coach Alison Morgan shares her top six tips on how to use hashtags to grow your business.

Tip 1: Use up to 30 hashtags per post

Instagram allows you to include up to 30 hashtags per post. However, Alison warns consistently using all 30 risks your content appearing messy, so it’s best to mix it up. Whether you place these hashtags in the body of your Instagram caption, or in the comments of your post, does not matter: it won’t affect engagement. However, many businesses choose to place them in the comments in order to keep their captions looking clean and professional.

Tip 2: Create business-specific hashtags to increase your reach

By creating and using hashtags that are relevant to your business you will be able to reach a whole new audience – even those who are not following you. This is because Instagram allows users to search for specific hashtags and then view posts under that hashtag in their own feed, similar to the Instagram home page. By making use of hashtags that are relevant to your brand and what you are posting you will be discoverable to the right audience.

Tip 3: Produce 7 bundles of hashtags and use them on rotation

Instagram can penalise you for repeatedly using the same hashtags on your posts. To avoid this, Alison recommends creating seven bundles of varying hashtags that can be used on different days of the week – so one bundle of hashtags per day. These bundles can contain up to 30 hashtags each, and preferably should include a minimum of 15. By creating these bundles, you will be able to reach new audiences and grow your presence across Instagram.

Tip 4: Ensure your hashtags are specific

Using hashtags that are too broad and used often can mean that your posts get lost among others. Instead, it is important to keep your hashtags specific, so that your audience can easily find you. For example, if you run a café and use the hashtag #cafe, you will be competing with cafes from around the world. Instead, use more specific hashtags such as #cafesydney or #sydneycbdcafe. By making sure your hashtags are specific to your industry, location or community, your audience will be more likely to find your business.

Tip 5: Understand your target audience and create hashtags relevant to them

Alison emphasises the importance of understanding your target audience in order to get the most out of Instagram, and using hashtags to grow your business. The target audience of your business is those who are interested in your relevant industry, so it’s likely that they would follow hashtags related to the industry. This gives you the opportunity to take advantage of these hashtags, to make sure you are reaching the right people. For example, if you work as makeup artist, it is likely that your target audience would be interested in makeup, and may follow hashtags such as #makeupinspo, #makeupartistsydney or #sydneymakeupartists. Be specific when we can.

Tip 6: Use online hashtag generators

Online automated hashtag generators are a great resource to find hashtags relevant to your business. These generators allow you to search for a broader hashtag e.g. #cafe and will then give you similar, more specific hashtags to use. Make sure you pick the most relevant hashtags from your list and include any standout hashtags in your hashtag bundles moving forward.

Fun fact: The most popular hashtag on Instagram is #love, with over 2 billion posts.

hiring employee for small business

How to find good employees for a small business

By Blog, Employer

Choosing employees who are qualified and committed to their role is of top priority to every employer – regardless of the size and scope of their business. But finding good employees for a small business is crucial, because a small team needs quality input from every member. Any business with less than 20 employees belongs to the small business sector, and a recent report found that small businesses account for a whopping 98 per cent of all businesses within Australia – and they employ 44 per cent of the country’s workforce. Despite such a vast number of businesses competing for good employees, marketing your small business to stand out, and finding reliable, quality employees can be easier than you’d think. Here’s how to do it.

 

Make your business alluring and motivating to potential employees


The first step to find good employees for your small business is to make sure the role you are advertising not only emphasises its benefits, but also what employees can gain from being part of your company as a whole. The What’s In It for Me’ strategy (otherwise known as WIIFM) is a simple and effective way of making your business more alluring, as it operates by clearly stating what someone stands to gain by the object or role that you are offering. In this case, the strategy would highlight how working for your small business would improve an employees’ skills in their field, provide future career progression opportunity and benefit an employee’s overall quality of life. Internationally recognised executive recruiter and search consultant, Stacy Pursell, attests to the importance of knowing what motivates and makes an individual feel valued, particularly when it comes to the hiring process within an organisation. “You should make it a priority to know what motivates those around you, especially those with whom you work,” she says. By emphasising the benefits and value of working within your small business, you are more likely to attract better employees who are eager to work for a company that values its staff.

Offer clear employment incentives

If you’re looking to attract high-quality, motivated staff, it’s important that the job you are offering is also high-quality, values the individual performing the role, and has room for career progression. An employee incentive plan is an excellent way to do this, as an employee can experience tangible benefits which are directly proportionate to being part of your small business. While there is an array of different incentive programs available, such as ‘share option plans’ or ‘performance right plans’, as a general rule, the employee incentive program works to provide equity between the employer and employee. If the employee’s position is one which values KPIs – Key Performance Indicators – then outlining the tangible rewards when numerous KPIs, such as sales, are achieved is an effective way to attract good employees. These employees would be eager to meet strategic objectives, and potentially climb the career ladder within your company when said objectives are met.

Nail your advertising strategy for the role

There’s no question that good employees who match your small business’ ethos and values are available, but finding them can be time consuming and tricky. According to a recent Forbes study, 86 per cent of consumers trust word-of-mouth marketing as opposed to any other form, so it’s a good strategy to get networking within your industry to source credible recommendations for good employees. Social media can also be useful to advertise the role, as can online employment marketplaces (tip: if you want to find your next employee for less than the price of a cup of coffee, create a job brief on IWant2Work. We’ll send the ideal candidates straight to your inbox).

There are myriad ways to find good employees for a small business, from offering clear employee incentives to emphasising your business’ motivating features. You’ll find more advice, including what questions to ask when conducting a job interview, at iwant2work.com.

Business will benefit from attending a networking event

Why your business will benefit from attending a networking event

By Blog, Employer

By attending a business networking event, you are opening yourself up to a room full of opportunities, not just a room full of people! Networking events can be extremely rewarding for your business. It is a chance for you to meet other like-minded business owners and influential people together in one environment, that you may not otherwise meet.

Some of the rewarding benefits you can gain by attending a networking event include:

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Technology can be better than traditional recruitment for your business

5 reasons why technology can work better for your business than traditional recruitment

By Blog, Employer

If you are ready to hire for a new position, or you need a role filled, heading straight to a traditional recruitment agency might not be the correct option for your business. In fact, 34% of employers in NSW described their recent recruitment experience as difficult (Australian Government Department of Employment). Many businesses and employers are unaware that there are better alternatives out there.

Some of the restrictions traditional recruitment options place on your business include:

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Why cultural fit is critical to the modern company

By Blog, Employer, Job Seeker

Successfully matching a candidate to a specific job role requires more than just the assessment of skills and qualifications. Employer’s need to place importance on cultural fit and consider how each candidate will fit into their workplace environments.

When considering cultural fit it’s important to distinguish between cultural background and cultural fit. We aren’t referring to an individual’s ethnicity (in fact multi-culturalism is highly encouraged in Australian workplaces) but rather an individual’s interests, values and unique personality traits. It is ultimately their ability to fit in with a particular workplace culture and its underlying values.

So why is this important?

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