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How We're Seeing Defence Companies Adapt During the COVID-19 Pandemic

By Rob Kremer on 27 March 2020

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Crazy times.

We have been speaking to hundreds of managers and job seekers over the last two weeks and I thought that I would share some of the key things we have been learning.
 

1. ARE COMPANIES STILL HIRING?

Broadly yes, but it is a really mixed bag. If a company has funded work, then yes, they are absolutely still keen to hire, but nobody is hiring on a speculative basis right now. Defence ICT companies have adapted quickly, although it should be noted that the nature of the work involved makes WFH easier than some other jobs. Defence is still issuing RFQTS, meaning that Professional services companies are also keen to keep hiring, although there are practical challenges to this as many contractors work from Defence sites, and there appears to be a bottleneck in the issue of DREAMS accounts. Prime contractors are also keen to keep hiring, although we have seen some companies defer hiring because their equipment providers have shut down.

Companies are hiring more experienced people or contractors as a means to ensure productivity and flexibility.

Three companies this week asked us to hire local people to replace foreign staff who have returned home or who are no longer able to travel out here.
 

2. HOW ARE COMPANIES INTERVIEWING?

Mostly via phone or online video platform, although there are still a few in-person meetings happening. Where the latter occurs, it is usually in a designated clean space, or outside. We do not recommend in-person interviews at this time. Beyond the health risks, the current situation can make all participants nervous and not on their best game.
 

3. HOW ARE COMPANIES ONBOARDING?

This is the tricky one. Until we get to the PM’s Stage ‘X’, when the whole country is in lockdown, companies are planning on holding in-person induction sessions once a week, and putting as much content online as possible.

Stage X will mean that everything needs to be done online, and that will require a big change in process for most companies. One of our clients is mailing out laptops to candidates when they sign their employment agreements.

We have now seen two examples of candidates being able to cross borders when supported by employment documentation, however there are real concerns about being able to access rental accommodation.
 

4. HOW ARE COMPANIES STAYING PRODUCTIVE?

All companies have implemented some sort of WFH arrangement. Some companies have implemented a roster system to manage the number of people in the workplace.

Free car parking has also been made available to staff who have to go into the office to allow them to avoid public transport,

People are being given UNCLAS tasks to work on, although a number of people told us this week that this made them feel less secure in their job.
 

5. CANDIDATES- THIS IS A BIG ONE!

Job seekers are certainly still out there, but they are very nervous! If you are looking to hire someone, then I would recommend making it clear that their health and employment are safe with your organisation. One company this week waived the probation period for a candidate, and on a number of occasions, a timely call from the hiring manager gave the candidate the confidence required to sign up.

Some organisations are even guaranteeing pay or sick leave should their contractors need to take time off for Covid related reasons.

Candidate care is really important. Any negativity or uncertainty will kill a candidate’s interest really quickly.

Interestingly, candidates from adjacent sectors see defence as a safe place to be due to the perception of long term, secure employment.

Sharing

We are firing up a LinkedIn group - Australian Defence Sector HR Forum - where we will post information that will help inform and empower our community as new risks and opportunities become apparent during this challenging time.

We are all facing many of the same challenges, and it would be great if you also contribute to the community’s understanding with your own thoughts or experiences.

Please also feel free to get in touch directly if you have any thoughts or questions.

 

Stay safe,

Rob Kremer

Defence Sector Blog

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