HR Lessons From A Digital Agency's First Pandemic

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Reflecting on the backdrop of the COVID-19 crisis, ClickThrough's Head of Operations and HR, Debbie Bissell, explains why diversity is the key to handling adversity, the importance of considerate communication, and what she has learned so far from the experience.

What have I learned recently?

No one person in a business will be able to weather the storms of life and COVID-19. In this day and age you need a team of leaders with a breadth of experience and individual styles to bring challenge and creativity to every situation. There is no rule book for times like these, what you need are people who will create new rules, listen to clients, listen to their teams as these are the people that will get you through this troubled journey.

At ClickThrough our team is made up of predominantly digital marketers but hiding in there, myself included, are a few others from different sectors, different roles and with different ideas. Difference on this occasion is a positive that I believe has helped us through these times. In life, you need to be part of a team. They can be sat next to you or a million miles away. If you all work together, listen, support, challenge and don’t avoid the tough decisions you can be confident in your choices.

COVID-19 has been like the old assessment centre exercise that I completed over 16 years ago when you have to decide who to save from a sinking boat. The reality is there is no right answer, just the right answer based on what you know at the time. Everyone’s opinion matters and the healthy debate that ensues the right decision is reached, democracy ensures fairness and an equitable approach for all.


What have I learned about myself?

I am more robust and can deal with more than I thought I could, HR is not for the faint-hearted. People are unpredictable in unpredictable situations. Times like this make us all more emotional, sometimes the messages we share are tough and not always popular. Even with the best intention messages can be misunderstood and misinterpreted.

I have learned that the Hanlon’s Razor aphorism applies more now than ever; we intend no malice but the individual's situation can affect how they receive your message, tiredness, stress, anxiety and isolation can all play a part. They do normally but more so at the minute. We have to adapt our styles and communication in the way we have adapted our business if our employees are going to respect our decisions and stay with us on this journey.


What did I learn about our team at ClickThrough?

I know more about my team than ever before and I respect them for their honesty and integrity. Some have truly excelled in these challenging times, some have demonstrated leadership, but kindness and support for colleagues and peers can be seen all around.

Those who were hidden before have stood up to be counted and have now been seen by all. The introverts have found a place amongst the extroverts who can dominate with their loudness - now it is the value of what you say and the things you do, not how loud you say it. This time has allowed them to step forward and be recognised.

Our team will see us through and on to the next phase of 2020. I will continue to learn and grow, as will all our team. Reflection is hard because we all want to think we are the best we can be. We can all be better if we learn from every situation we find ourselves in and I personally do hope to not deal with another pandemic in my lifetime! However, this one has taught me more than I ever knew I needed to know!

Stay well, stay safe and stay happy.

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