Written By Hannah Clarke, Head of People.
Face masks hiding our smiles. Hand sanitiser stinging our skin and a national shortage of toilet roll. In a year unlike any other, 2020 will never be forgotten.
However, 2020 will not be forgotten for very different reasons at Oyster Partnership. Like many businesses around the world, we will remember the past 12 months as the year that changed the way and how we worked. Moving to a completely agile workforce and ensuring our high level of service remained was a key priority but with a dedicated and committed team, we knew this wouldn’t be the biggest hurdle we would have to overcome.
Keeping the team motivated was the biggest challenge that we faced in 2020. In a sales environment such as recruitment, people love (and thrive in) the atmosphere in the office, the camaraderie with colleagues, and at Oyster these colleagues become genuine friends. As a business we pride ourselves on the culture that we have created so when lockdown was announced and working from home became the new norm, we knew if not handled correctly, this could have a huge impact on the morale of the business.
MD, Sasza Bandiera’s forte is his consistency and transparency in communication with the business. Throughout lockdown he continued to ensure that messages, both positive and negative, were conveyed in a timely and sensitive manner, the only difference being he was communicating via video calls. Sasza was conscious that whilst many organisations were having numerous meetings throughout the day and Zoom Quizzes, he didn’t want to inundate people with unnecessary screen time, so meetings were kept to a minimum as well as the Zoom quizzes. This is something that was welcomed by the workforce. Sasza personally spoke to all employees on a one-to-one basis, regularly throughout the lockdowns, and everyone was given the opportunity to ask questions. As well as their Managers, Head of People Hannah Clarke, spoke to all employees, offering advice and support for the wellbeing of individuals.
A pivotal moment for the business arrived in September 2020 when Sasza made the decision to present his business plans for the next 10 years to the whole company. This was an unprecedented move, but he felt that the time was right. He wanted to motivate the team by showing them what they could achieve, whilst highlighting the faith that he had in the business, even in a Pandemic. This presentation detailed where we had been as a business 10 years ago, where we were at present and where he wanted to go in the next 10 years. It included financials, the company structure, different brands that he wants to open as well as new potential business ventures. By presenting this to the whole of the business (both sales and non-sales) Sasza was able to show his vision for the business longer term, something that perhaps Trainee’s may not have witnessed before. He included everyone in the presentation, detailing where their future was within the organisation. In a time of uncertainty, this gave the workforce confidence in the business.
Furthermore in order to keep the sales team motivated, targets were appropriately adjusted to ensure that they were achievable. Teams that were significantly affected by the Pandemic were redeployed to help with busier teams. Sasza promised that anyone who had hit their target would not ‘lose out’ on their bonus (a company holiday) and as soon as we are able to travel, every person who had hit their target would be invited.
Sasza was keen to keep business as normal as possible throughout the lockdown, and another way in which we kept the team motivated included keeping promotions as normal. In fact, we celebrated 22 promotions, an amazing 32% of the workforce. We wanted to maintain that if people were hitting their targets, upholding the company values and hitting the promotional criteria, they would still be rewarded and celebrated. As a business we also made the decision to continue with growth plans, hiring 27 individuals to join the business over the year.
Oyster Partnership continued with the Investors In People accreditation which was planned for September/October 2020. We knew that it was vital to undertake an Employee Engagement Survey as we wanted to know how our employees were feeling and although we were in constant contact with all employees, we felt that the anonymous survey would perhaps yield more honest answers. We had utilised many of the suggestions from the first accreditation that we took with Investors in People, so we were confident that we could rely on the impartial feedback and recommendations that we would receive.
We were highly impressed with the results and we were thrilled to have been awarded the GOLD standard. At a time when further restrictions were announced, the results boosted morale across the team and have motivated us to strive for better. Receiving the GOLD Standard has increased the confidence of our Management team, whilst allowing us to take stock of the recommendations that our assessor gave us. We are only a few months in from receiving the review and we have already implemented a number of ideas, and we hope that when the restrictions are lifted, we will be able to put more of the suggestions in to place.
We’re almost a year on from the very first lockdown and although we may be far from life as we once knew it, Oyster Partnership has managed to maintain sales, retain staff and we hope to come back to the office more positive and appreciative than ever before.