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At CML, we take HR pretty seriously, so we’re sharing our coronavirus crisis scorecard. Spoiler alert: there’s room for improvement.

I guess you’d expect us to take HR seriously considering we do HR for a living, and are run by someone that – shameless plug alert – wrote a book about how HR drives company value. Anyway, it will comfort you to know that we practice what we preach.

One of the most important aspects of HR is employee communication and feedback. We’ve had regular meetings and provided regular updates since the start of the coronavirus crisis. Well, from March 12th anyway, which is the day the first coronavirus case arrived on our shores. Hard to believe that was nearly six months ago. Wait, what? It was only three weeks ago? Oh, right.

Our Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic

Anyway, as events unfolded in the days that followed, like most offices, we implemented a work-from-home policy and held all-office video calls to share information on the spread of the disease around the world and to try to ease rapidly fraying nerves. But, as the extent of the global coronavirus crisis became clear it was obvious our management committee had some serious work to do and hard decisions to make.

In fact, the first decision was the easiest to make: No one would be laid off. Many are surprised to learn that CML has 24 staff between our five recruitment teams, immigration, HR consulting and support staff (including, of course, our “sister company”, Nova). For once, we reached unanimous consensus on a ManComm agenda item in under a minute.

Laying no one off was an easy decision for three reasons.:

  1. First, it was unthinkable to lay off anyone at the start of a crisis in which new jobs would be very difficult to find.
  2. Second, it didn’t make sense for the business. It’s taken us 16 years to build the team we always wanted, every single person adds value, and when the crisis passes, we will be busier than ever.
  3. Third, we didn’t have to.

Budgeting down to the nickel showed that some cost-cutting and shared sacrifice (including management pay cuts of up to 50%) would give us at least six months of runway under a worst-case scenario of virtually no business volume. Our exacting budget gave us the confidence to announce early on that no one’s job was at risk.

We were open about the challenges faced by the global economy, the challenges that would bring to us as a business and the plan for us to get through it together. We let everyone know that while we hoped it would be over sooner, we were planning for a period of six months. We talked openly about the sacrifices we were making as a management team and the sacrifices we were asking them to make (if they could). We asked everyone to remember that all we really need at the end of the day is our health, a roof over our heads, food in our fridges, and high-speed internet, and that if we all did what we could to adjust, we could all make it through this challenging time together. Profits and losses don’t matter anymore, the only thing that matters is that everyone is safe and has everything they and their families need to get by.

On March 20th, we met with each and every staff member individually to consult them about their situation, present the options, make sure they understood how the changes would impact them, and to reassure them that we would do everything we could to minimize the impact and get things back to normal as soon as possible.

The Reaction from Staff

The reaction from the staff was incredible. There was no complaint, no hesitation and no pushback. Everyone understood that the sacrifice would be shared and expressed their willingness to do their part. In fact, the extent to which some were willing to sacrifice was truly moving. While I dreaded having these conversations, the team spirit displayed by each and every member of the team made them much easier and I’m very grateful to have a team of people around me at CML and Nova that share my values.

We achieved our cost-cutting target and our goal of making the difficult choices fast and early so that we could get back to work with clearer minds, confident that we were in the best possible shape to get through the crisis together as a company and as a team.

I’m also happy to report that our worst-case scenario has been far exceeded as many of our valued clients have kept us busier than ever in the last few weeks. Long may it continue. But if it doesn’t, we are prepared.

The Overall Outcome

So how did we do? Not bad as it turns out. Below are the results of our anonymous staff survey. There is some room for improvement and we are taking the suggestions we received on board, particularly the need to improve communication.

  1. Our organization has taken appropriate action in response to COVID-19. – Average answer 9.7/10
  2. Senior Leadership does a good job of sharing information regarding COVID-19. – Average answer 9.3/10
  3. I have confidence in the organization’s ability to overcome the challenges faced by COVID-19. – Average answer 9.1/10

I’ve always felt that, when it comes to employee communication, if no one is complaining that we’re doing too much, then we’re probably not doing enough.

To all of our valued employees, thank you so much for being a part of CML and for all of your hard work and support during these challenging times. It is an honour to work with so many people that share a sense of purpose, a work ethic and a set of values, especially my fellow shareholders and management committee members Louise Reed, Will Koutney, Graham Blyth and Ambrose Guilfoyle.

CML & Nova all-office zoom meetings are a common occurrence!


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