I can barely believe that it was three months ago since we were told to “work from home” if we possibly could. My team and I walked out of the office facing a severe amount of uncertainty.

I will be honest and tell you that this will be a day that I will remember forever and was possibly the toughest I’ve had as MD of Elite Staffing Solutions from the past 5 and a half years.

My main fear was never coming back into the office as the dream team that we are!

In our business of permanent recruitment, almost overnight 80% of our roles went on immediate hold with a further 15% following in the next two weeks. As if that wasn’t tough enough, all of the new starters we had scheduled for the next few months were gradually told it wouldn’t be happening or placed on hold with no guarantees. It is safe to say it wasn’t our finest hour and recruitment was on the back burner for the masses!

Then came furlough…

Then the government threw in the lifeline of the Furlough scheme and I met this with mixed emotions.
This unprecedented intervention would no doubt protect our business and the team from consequences I don’t even want to think about but we are a TEAM, I would go as far to say a family, and this decision would mean a temporary disruption to our solid unit. But this was the right thing to do and 80% of team Elite were furloughed and topped up.

We’ve stayed tight through weekly zoom calls, where we have watched each other growing increasingly bronzed, in some cases fit and hairstyles changing. We’ve had chats and photos over our WhatsApp group and I went about ensuring that we will emerge from the situation even stronger than before.

Keeping connected during furlough

So how does a recruitment company or in fact any company grow through a pandemic? Ultimately when do you take the plunge and start to “unfurlough” staff?

I am not one to give up very easily and what this situation did give me was the absolute knowledge of how important the team is to me and so I religiously turned up to work (in the home office of course) day in day out for them.

The thought of us all being back together was the motivation I needed when things were more difficult. I am fortunate to be part of a mastermind group and their training and support proved invaluable also.

We were given training on new approaches and so over the course of the last 3 months I have reached out to as many clients as I possibly could. Not to talk about recruitment, just to talk and find out how they were coping and what they were finding in their own business and I have been really touched by how well this was received.

Concentrating on certain markets, once I felt I had reached out to as many existing clients as I could, I started with new ones!

Throughout this time we have won new vacancies from new clients and forged some fantastic new relationships.
One important lesson I have learned is; be myself, be honest and seek to listen and ask questions and the rest flows.

Also, we have become so used to relying upon emails as our first means of communication but actual conversations, whether they are over the telephone or video call hold huge value.

Be sensitive, be curious, be mindful but be there as you can be very quickly forgotten.

How to go about returning to work

So the next question, when do you take the plunge and “unfurlough” staff?

Well we have now started in this process which is the best feeling in the world and I knew the time was right when the workload felt so great that I risked not getting everything done and meeting all of my promises.

I think it’s also important to consider the individuals and their situations and how furlough is impacting them in their day to day lives. If someone has children at home full time the opportunity of furlough may be a slight relief so that the pressure of working is removed.

However, if they live alone or remotely, working may have provided the focus they need to keep them going throughout a very challenging time.

What’s more it’s not just about the income here and now, what about a pipeline?

If you are so busy tied up with existing business who is taking care of the future and ensuring that you have new people to make them happy with your service!

It feels very reminiscent of the early days when you take the initial steps in hiring your first staff members.
Yes – there are risks but with a plan, focus and the right tools, added resources should only help you to produce more. At the beginning of July the scheme obviously changes and hopefully this should help business owners use it more flexibly with part time opportunities.

Equally you could rotate the people to enable everyone to have a break or a chance to work if numbers need to remain limited.

For us, “Operation Reunite” has been in full swing and the momentum is building. Each one of my team will be learning new skills within their positions and whilst we will live with these circumstances for a while to come, we have a choice over how we approach it and whether it makes our teams stronger as a result.

We’re moving ahead and are still here to support you to get you moving ahead too. Reach out if you need guidance, the Elite team will be by your side.