Signing on with the Ox

According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2021 is lucky for those born in this Year of the Ox, as well as Snakes, Roosters and Rats. Let’s hope their luck rubs off on the rest of us.

Rumour has it the Ox will bring stability and order next month, along with favourable conditions for economic recovery. After the rat’s volatile antics of 2020, what a breath of fresh air that will be!

Year of the Ox: 1913, 1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, and 2021

We’ve had TOP for 32 years, and worked through a recession, 2011 floods and the GFC. The scale of COVID, however, has created a profound shift in all our lives.

Now we’ve turned the page on 2020, it’s timely to reflect on what we can learn from each crisis. What skills and ideas, honed in a different time still resonate?

We founded Top just before the recession of 1991. Youth unemployment reached 30%, interest rates hit 18%, famous entrepreneurs crashed and demand for staff plummeted.  As firms slashed overheads, we supported them with flexible staff and trainees to ride it out, as well as accredited training courses to assist jobseekers.

Three decades on, this crisis also presented opportunities and silver linings. Businesses have leaned on technology like never before, enabling us to work from home and cut costs, to help offset revenue drops. Digital platforms have been a godsend to engage online, make our work interpersonal and operate right through Covid.

The contrasts in the downturns don’t stop here, though. This time, JobKeeper preserved jobs and provided a buffer, so unemployment was less severe. In fact, 40% of business leaders we interviewed for Executive Outlook cited skill shortages.

Actually, the power shift this time is astonishing. There was a scramble for talent in the midst of COVID, driven by a shortage of candidates. Who knew we could have a recession and skill shortages at the same time?  Meanwhile, interest rates are at an all-time low, and we’re already out of recession.

Our next hurdle was the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. America’s solution to bank collapses and dodgy sub-prime loans was to print billions of dollars to stimulate markets, to the tune of a $27.8 trillion deficit (last count).  Their experiment worked in the short-term, jobs and the economy bounced back (that’s a tad contentious, now).  

Australia’s strong iron ore and resource exports to China served as a buffer, along with tourism, so we dodged a bullet. Right now, both are very much up in the air.

This time, Australia’s joined the ranks of quantitative easing, to stimulate spending.  (Not sure what happens to the debt, given central banks have nowhere to go on interest rates).

As for remote work post COVID, this is likely to form part of a blended approach, to ensure continuity, reduce downtime and as a retention strategy.

The risk is that the pendulum may have swung a bit too far.  We rely so much on systems and databases, it’s fostered a transactional, fast-paced approach to business.

It’s understandable, in the context of remote work, but there’s a view that digital has made us lazy. Our Executive Outlook survey captured a snapshot of views on remote work (the jury’s still out).

This year brings us a chance to repair.  We need cutting edge technology, but we also need sophisticated people skills to move from transactions to relationship selling. These subtle skills combine engagement, influence and empathy with high-level technical skills. We need these skills to listen, advise and tailor solutions.  (As for convincing a client via email, good luck with that).

We’ve learnt that not everything well-worn is worn out. Each crisis calls on the same core values of personalised service, reputation, the right team and adaptability to pivot into areas of need.

Our leadership workshops are helping local business retain and grow their teams. Talk to Roger on 3812 2920 to see how we can tailor a program to meet your objectives (on-site or at our Academy).

To find out more about our Executive Outlook research into local business sentiment, listen to our recent “Ipswich Today” podcast.

Our popular 2 week Ready for Work programs offer young people the opportunity to upskill and transition into growth sectors (with amazing subsidies for businesses).  Find out more, or reach out to Bree on 3812 2920.

Top Office Group has qualified, tech-savvy workers in finance, front-line, administrative and blue-collar fields, ready to jump in with the skills and enthusiasm to help you thrive. Call or email Liz or Kylie today.

Here’s to 2021, a cracker of year – we look forward to working with you.

Compiled by Jan Gadsden, Founder/Director of Top Office Group Pty Ltd.