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Growing a business in pandemic times? Yes, we can – and did!

  • Written by Matt Seadon, General Manager – APAC at Achievers

Uncertain and challenging economic conditions don’t have to be an impediment to expansion, writes Achievers general manager APAC, Matt Seadon

Like millions of other businesses, COVID-19 threw us a very large curve ball. It’s just over a year since surging case numbers compelled governments, here in Australia and around the globe, to close borders and introduce shutdown restrictions to slow the spread of the virus.

With sharp economic pain coming hot on the heels of the worst pandemic in 100 years, downsizing pre-emptively and battening down the hatches until the crisis passed was a common strategy for businesses of all stripes and sizes.

At Achievers, we chose to take a different path, investing in people, product and marketing to maintain the growth trajectory of our company, a global leader in the employee engagement and success space. It’s worked. Our business expanded significantly over the past 12 months. Global headcount has increased by more than 100 and we’ve added a string of new customers to our stable.

Some of the latest organisations to choose Achievers in our region come from a variety of different industries and countries, and include: Western Power, Hitachi ABB Power Grids and Société Générale Hong Kong. In other parts of the world, we signed Wolseley Canada, Michigan State University Federal Credit Union, Economical Insurance Group, Pearson PLC, Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society, RSA Insurance Group, 3M, BOC and Swiss Re Group.

How have we done it? Here are some of the actions that have helped us connect successfully with companies and their human resources departments during these most unusual of times.

Producing compelling content

Social distancing and shutdown restrictions put paid to the face-to-face marketing that was our company’s stock in trade, pre-COVID. That meant we had to find new ways to engage with our audience, to create engagement and drive sales. We did so by pivoting to digital; producing webinars, virtual round tables and other timely and compelling content that kept us connected with customers and prospects.

Investing in the sales cycle

Getting people to spend money in a pandemic is tough unless, perhaps, you’re a manufacturer of personal protective equipment or toilet paper! COVID certainly slowed the sales cycle down across many industries but, as we saw it, that was all the more reason for us to keep the pedal to the metal in the sales and marketing space. Our goal was to maintain our momentum so that, come the end of the crisis, we wouldn’t have to spend a year or two rebuilding our pipeline. Keeping morale and motivation high wasn’t always easy with our team working remotely but the proof was in the pudding: sales figures that were on par with those we enjoyed pre-pandemic.

Interviewing differently

Expanding our team was fundamental to Achievers’ growth last year. Making the hires we needed during those times called for a fundamental rethink of our recruitment methodology; one which formerly had the face to face interview front and centre of the process. Instead, we got comfortable with switching the cameras on and engaging via Zoom. Recruiting virtually had the added benefit of allowing us to involve more Achievers personnel in the process, including regional and global colleagues who had valuable insights and information to share.

Investing in onboarding

An effective induction program ensures new employees are enthusiastic and engaged from the outset. It can also mean they become productive much faster than if they’re left to find their feet with minimal support. If you’re in growth mode, that matters. Pre-pandemic, our onboarding process relied heavily on in-person sessions, with peers, senior colleagues and HR executives. After our pivot to remote working made face to face get togethers temporarily impossible, our HR team moved quickly to fill the void, with a suite of videos and self-guided education modules. Investing time and effort in making that material relevant and engaging helped our 2020 hires feel like part of the team, even though they were out of the office.

Going for growth – in good times and bad

Expanding a business takes energy and commitment, doubly so during difficult times. Being flexible, adaptable and committed to our team helped us pull it off during the year of the virus and put our organisation in a stronger position to take advantage of new opportunities as the economy continues to recover.

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