Covid-19 – Consider this before making changes in your business

Published April 2020

Australia has jumped from challenge to challenge this year – it’s safe to say that most people are ready to cancel their free 3 month trial of 2020 (to the day +1) and move on!


For employers, many of whom do not have a HR team to bounce ideas around with and seek balanced guidance from, it’s easy to assume that stand down and redundancy are your only options when Covid-19 is knocking on your door. But other viable options do exist, and you should strongly reconsider your initial thoughts to go down these paths just because the world as we know it is changing.


Any business owner worth their salt knows their business is nothing without its people, so let’s talk about what you should consider to keep them meaningfully employed for as long as possible.


A bit further on I’ll provide some options, but first it’s important to explain why you should thoroughly assess your business and your options before jumping to a quick knee jerk decision.


1. People (employees, clients, potential clients, communities, suppliers) will remember how your business acted through the Covid-19 pandemic.


Your actions, regardless of your reasons or motives, will reflect on your business reputation, your employer brand and your ability to source good people when you recruit in future.


Many people will be judging your actions but from an employees perspective, when all of this blows over, they will want to work for a business that powered on, found new ways of doing things (like selling online instead of from a shop front or working from home), and looked after their people as best they could. If you work through this strategically, you’ll (hopefully) keep your best people and you’ll be able to find complementary team members in future when growth hits.


2. Knowledge and skill retention Remember all those hours you spent trying to find the best people for your team, and the hours of training you invested teaching each new team member to do things your way? The way that makes your business different to your competitors, naturally authentic and overall successful? Well imagine throwing that all away and having to start again with a new team that might not be as good as your current team in an economy very different to what we are used to.


The individual skills, experience and knowledge that your current team holds about your business and the industry you operate in is truly invaluable, especially during a challenging time like the present. If it is possible for you to retain them; absolutely retain them!


3. Skill transferability Skill retention brings me to my next point – skill transferability which will have an immediate positive impact on your business. Do not underestimate the benefits of putting your team’s strengths to use in different areas of your business.


Recently I read the story of a business struggling through the GFC which lead to an inevitable recruitment freeze. Rather than laying off their large team of in-house recruiters, they redeployed these people-loving individuals to customer service at a time where customer service was more important than ever before. It was win-win-win – the employees, the customers and the business all won because the business logically transferred the skills of their brilliant team to a different area of the business to weather the storm. The people-loving recruitment team worked wonders from a customer service perspective so you can imagine the value add for their reputation. Is there a way you can do the same?


4. Business sustainability If you think that making a role redundant will save you money up front; think again. When you initiate a redundancy as a knee jerk reaction to an unexpected situation and pay out notice, leave entitlements and (in most cases) a severance package which can be thousands of dollars or more, you do not achieve a quick cost saving. What you often achieve is an unhappy employee, anxious wider team, and a dent in your bottom line that may never have been necessary if you objectively considered your other options at the beginning.


Standing employees down, offering paid leave entitlements and setting employees up to work from home may also come with costs so its important to assess what is right for you.


Overall, there is no one size fits all way to ensure you business will remain sustainable during this challenging time, but by conducting a balanced assessment and strategically moving forward, you will minimise the negative impacts while keeping your team happy and retaining their knowledge and skills.


Be sure to speak with your Accountant about balancing dollars with sense for long term sustainability, as well as the Government Stimulus Packages you may be eligible for. The Job Keeper payments are a generous incentive for keeping your team employed.


5. People, Process, Profit Philosophy The Edwards HR PPP Philosophy is at the core of all we do. Put simply, it means that when you have the right people and the right processes, you’ll improve your bottom line. You can read more about it here. There is no better time than the present to put this model to the test in your business.


Ask yourself:



  • Do we have the right people, with the right skills, in the right roles to suit the way our business is both operating and changing?

  • Who has superstar skills that could be useful in another area of the business, if necessary (think the people-loving recruiter come customer service extraordinaire)?

  • Is anyone in our team interested in learning something new in a different area of our business?

  • How will we educate our team on how we’re going to tackle this challenge together and adapt our way of doing things?

  • Are our leaders capable of stepping up to the level required during this challenge?


  • Do we understand how our business is likely to be impacted by Covid-19 in the coming weeks and months?

  • Do we understand which tasks/contracts/commitments will or won’t continue (and how workload will be impacted)? How will we keep monitoring this?

  • How will we adapt for business sustainability?

  • How will we determine who is best suited to the work that will continue?

  • How can we get the team engaged in answering some of these questions?

  • Will our systems and processes keep our team happy and engaged?

  • Have we set guidelines for communicating with individuals working from home?

  • Do we have the right tools for employees who are completing different work or working from home?


So now that you’ve got some food for thought, you can start considering what your options are as Covid-19 continues to develop.




There are many factors to consider in determining what is best for your business and each individual employee. This list provides an indication of the options that you might consider during this challenging time and we strongly recommend you seek advice on what is most suitable for your individual circumstances, along with the associated legal considerations.

  • Working From Home – head over here to download your free Working from Home Toolkit (on our shop page)

  • Adjusted rosters

  • Reduced hours

  • Transfer to a different role

  • Combining or sharing reduced workloads

  • Using paid leave entitlements

  • Stand down

  • Redundancy


Please note that this is general information and does not take in to account your business or individual employee circumstances. There are legal employer obligations associated with these options that you should seek advice on before introducing any of these changes in your business. You can reach Edwards HR on 0459 818 011 should you require guidance.


It really is an unpredictable and unprecedented time and most businesses need support with adapting to change, managing their employees and understanding their employer obligations – that’s where we come in! Edwards HR is the trusted partner for many heavy industry and professional services businesses. Here’s how you can reach us:


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