2020 - What did I learn this year?

As the year finally comes to a close (we still have to survive Brexit, though), I decided that my last blog post of 2020 would reflect on the stuff I learnt and/or achieved in a year that turned out to be as far as it possibly could be from what we expected and had planned for. 


Trusting my gut with over-the-top preparations 

I’ve written about that a number of times, but by February 14th, I had added the potential of a pandemic to our risks assessment/business continuity plan. I figured that if a city the size of Wuhan (population 11 million) could be quarantined overnight, that was a very real possibility for Ireland. With all the multinational companies located in Dublin, it seemed reasonable to think that with that number of international travels from employees, the epidemic (not yet a pandemic) would spread. 

Did I watch too many zombie movies? Maybe. Maybe I also had a random interest in epidemiology tracking, which helped with my reasoning. Maybe. 

My key learning here is that hoping for the best while preparing for the worst is worth it. Yes, a freak snow storm would have been more likely, however being prepared for working from home for longer than a couple of days enabled the business to smoothly transition to 100% remote with no business interruption (and aren’t we smug about it). 



Writing 36 blog posts (including this one) 

I prepared an up-skilling program for the wider business early in May. Since we had transitioned to a remote workforce, it was high time we also worked on building our personal brands online. One of the initiatives was to produce written content – blog posts. 

Since things were quite slow at that time, I put the target to 1 post per week – people screamed bloody murder. One blog post a week, was I insane, that was way too much, an unreachable target, no-one could possibly do that! 

As a leader, I would never ask anyone to do things I wouldn’t do myself – from cleaning up keyboards for new starters, to setting up rooms for meetings and database clean-up – been there, done that still doing it. That prompted me to hold myself to one blog post every single week, a distinct increase from the 1 post a month prior to that. 

Week in, week out, I produced a blog post without fail – including while I was on annual leave. Will I keep this rhythm next year? Probably not. My goal is to go down to one post every 2 weeks. It’s hard to come up with topics to write about, am I right? 



Hosting 3 webinars 

If you’ve met me in person, you probably know that public speaking does not exactly come naturally to me. I deliver a lot of training sessions, but under the engaging exterior hides a very good antiperspirant. I was very happy to attend the meetups we organised and to actively engage with the attendees informally. 

However, when we relaunched our meetups online, I felt that the host should really have a background in recruitment in order to make for an interesting Q&A session, which resulted in our marketing manager asking me repeatedly, who do you think could do it? Until I volunteered myself for the job. 

I think I’m doing a better job each time, so hopefully by mid-2021, I’ll grow from decent host to good host. :)  



Running over 70 CV workshops 

When the lockdown hit, loads of people lost their jobs, and when you work for a recruitment agency, you cannot hide behind “oh the media are blowing this out of proportion” or quit reading the news altogether. Recruiters have been on the front line of the unseen mental health crisis that hit job seekers in parallel to the health crisis. 

We tried to help by offering free CV workshops to people who lost their job because of the pandemic as part of our CSR. The marketing manager and I teamed up to offer a hiring manager and an in-house recruiter’s perspective to job seekers, and from April to September we helped (or at least tried to help) over 70 job seekers. 



Creating content and filming 10 videos 

While we were doing the CV workshops, we quickly realised that job seekers, particularly graduates, had the same questions. We knew we wouldn’t be able to keep doing free workshops indefinitely, so we looked for other ways to provide free resources. We came up with the 20 most frequently asked questions, divided them between us and started writing content and recording bite-size videos to help job seekers. 

I put on make-up for the 1st time since lockdown and recorded all 10 in one morning. And then had to re-record half of them because we could hear the noise coming from Guinness when they were storing thousands of kegs that had gone bad opposite my building (yes, I’ve been living beside Fort Kegs since May). 



Doing more math than I ever have since I left high-school 

Who would have thought, right? But between calculating short-time hours and annual leave accruals, notice periods and redundancies (they suck; big time), I actually did a lot of math this year. Many thanks to Excel and calculators; they saved me from a horrible fate. 

I also embarked on an up-skilling of my own: people analytics. That course basically deconstructed everything I thought was true about the analysis of people data. I’m still in the process of revamping all my HR reports with all the things I now know were not a good way to measure stuff. As it turned out, I learnt that people analytics were a lot more accurately predictive when you worked with a large amount of data, and because my data set has always been small, I feel we might have been over-relying on data for some of our decision-making. To more analytics training in 2021! 



Not testing my COVID-19 protocol before reopening the office 

If I was to pick one big mistake for this year, this would be it.  

To be fair to myself, I know that I worked with the government guidelines and the legal advice we were given at the time, however, so much unnecessary stress could have been avoided if I had done a crash test of that protocol. 

We had reopened the office, with all social distancing guidelines implemented, and 4 days later, I received a call from a sick employee who was a close contact to a person infected with COVID-19. That was not in my protocol. All the documentation about “safe return to work” was about people infected with COVID-19. There was nothing about being exposed to asymptomatic people. 

That prompted frantic phone calls to the leadership team, who were now on annual leave (hello summer months), to the HSE (what should I do), and to all staff members that had been in the office, advising them to stay away from friends and family members that were in an at-risk category until we knew more. This was the longest hour-and-a-half of 2020 as I was on hold with the HSE’s hotline and fielding concerns from the sick employee and other employees with close relatives at risk. As it turned out, based on our circumstances, the risk of contamination was “minimal” and the sick employee tested negative to COVID-19 and was just, well, sick. 

The employee had known since the Friday that they were a close contact, yet, they only called on the Monday morning when they were actually sick. We were very lucky, but it could have turned out to be catastrophic, as people had been meeting people over the weekend.  

Based on these learnings, I changed the protocol, and if anyone finds out that they’re a close contact, they need to call straight away; I don’t care if it’s 11pm on a Saturday. 



This is it for blogging in 2020. I hope you’ll be returning readers in 2021! Enjoy the end of the year holidays as much as you can while being socially distant!