Change at Vargo+Lewis, a farewell to Shary Vargo

Change at Vargo+Lewis, a farewell to Shary Vargo

During lockdown we had a momentus change that slipped by without much fuss due to everything else going on, but we can’t have this pass by without a big thank you and some insight into the history of Vargo + Lewis. One of the original founders of Vargo + Lewis, Shary Vargo, stepped down from her role as Director at the end of March 2020.

As we launch into the next exciting phase of the Vargo + Lewis journey we want to acknowledge Shary’s significant contribution to our business and wish her well in her next stage of career/life. Before we let her go, we asked for some insights into her journey with Vargo + Lewis.

Can you tell us how and why Vargo + Lewis Ltd started back in 2006?

With a Learning & Development background and experience in three international Management Consulting groups, I met Sally Lewis at my son’s high school career’s presentation. We exchanged cards, and the networking began! After several conversations, working together on projects and lots of planning, we ultimately created a collaboration of ideas that led to the birth of Vargo + Lewis.

We were going to have a quirky name for the business but the marketing professional who helped us get started advised we use our names. She concluded this after her research, where she discovered both of us had well established relationships in Canterbury. So, we went with Vargo + Lewis.

What are some highlights of your time with Vargo + Lewis?

The greatest highlight for me is all the amazing relationships I have been able to develop through the business. Those relationships initiated vast opportunities to support a diverse range of organisations and people.

Additionally, there were certain projects where we were able to make a significant difference and when I see those people today, they still tell me how their lives were changed.

What do you feel has been the biggest accomplishment in your career?

Having a career that aligned with my values; freedom/learning/building relationships. Having your own business gives a sort of time freedom, but it’s not for the faint hearted! Often you feel like you are thinking about the business all the time. And, in reality, “time freedom” sometimes looks like the freedom to work at night to get done what you didn’t get done in the day as you exercised your time freedom.

What were some major turning points in the story/history/life of Vargo + Lewis?

Well, as other businesses will also attest to, we faced a few challenges beyond our control, but Sally and I, with the support of John, always had a positive outlook for the future. Facing major crises isn’t something you ever want to happen, but when it does, what you are made of comes to the forefront. Some major events were:

  • Christchurch series of earthquakes: We lost our offices at Forsyth Barr House and just got on with the “new normal”. I think the healing that needed to take place was more personal. The business, to our amazement and delight, continued to thrive. I remember having a house full of friends and family who needed a roof over their heads after the big February quake. Despite all that was going on, I found myself working on Skype with clients in the West Coast. I think the adrenalin was pumping in those days just after the big event. It was a bit awkward because house guests and kids kept coming into my home office to ask me questions, like, “what’s for lunch?” Much like we had again in Lockdown.
  • Economic downturns: Prior to the quakes, there were economic downturns, but the worst was the global financial crisis. We witnessed many small consulting businesses struggle. Once again, the relationships we had established and the diversity of the services we offer, kept the business strong. Like other businesses, we agreed on changes to our structure, adopting a contractor model, that also enabled the viability of Vargo + Lewis.
  • Business Partner changes: When founding members of a business leave, the turning point is often one of mixed emotions: celebrations and separations. Sally’s departure from the business was sad because she had to leave to support an unwell husband, not the type of leaving any of us had wanted. However, all the shared energy and commitment to Vargo + Lewis has given us a friendship that continues to this day.

Are there any inspirational or amusing events that occurred along the way?

We had lots of fun along the way. Coming from learning and development backgrounds, Sally and I were continuously learning ourselves, creating new programmes/services and trying different ways of doing things. I remember one day, we were particularly overwhelmed with a new business venture we had implemented, I said to Sally, “I’ve got an idea”. In her, “enough is enough” tone, she stated firmly, “No more ideas!”. Sometimes you must consolidate and re-energise before the team is ready for, yet another, idea that means change.

What are you most looking forward to in this next stage of your work life?

After a three-year succession management plan, finishing my Directorship with Vargo + Lewis happened on 31 March, just as Covid-19 lockdown was starting. That part wasn’t planned! Interestingly, I was immediately approached to be deputised onto the Pastoral Care Team for lockdown in my rural community. Without reservation, I could freely respond with a ‘yes’! So, you asked, “what am I most looking forward to?” As I continue to provide coaching and mentoring to leaders and professionals, I also look forward to greater time freedom, allowing me to support not for profits and community groups to make a difference.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Of course, I wish Kirsty Allott and Helen O’Neill, the new owners, the best of success as they manage the business. I have total confidence in their professional and relational skills to continue the good work of Vargo + Lewis. There may be challenging economic times ahead, but we’ve been there before!

Thank you Shary for these highlights, and for your hard work, dedication and inspiration. We wish you all the best for the future, with that “time freedom” filled with family, friends and fun.

Kirsty Allott and Helen O’Neill

Outplacement Support

Outplacement Support

Outplacement Support – What is it?

You’ve probably heard the term a lot recently but what does Outplacement Support actually mean and why should you provide it to your staff?

We prefer to call it Career Transition support, but the term Outplacement is still used widely. It’s one of our specialty areas and we’ve been working in this space for many years. Put simply it’s a service, normally paid for by employers, to provide employees who have been made redundant with support to help them find new employment.

What does Outplacement Support involve?

Good outplacement support is more than just CV preparation. We start by assessing an individual client’s needs, including emotional and financial. Reactions to a redundancy, and the support needed, are unique to every person we work with. Many just want practical support but others need support around resilience and wellbeing. Our work is forward focussed, helping our clients to move on from their change experience instead of dwelling on what has happened.

We then work through a process of identifying skills and achievements, linking these to personal marketing tools (CV, LinkedIn profiles) and on to Interview skills coaching. The goal is to equip clients with all the tools they need for a successful job search or next step. We take a career-based approach, exploring different career options, for example next steps, job pivots, retraining options, self-employment, or retirement.

In terms of job search strategy, we’re not recruiters, but we have relationships with recruiters so can refer to appropriate ones. Our job search coaching also involves how to tap into the hidden job market and how to build & make use of networks.

We also sometimes get brought in during Selection processes to provide employees with CV and Job Interview training. This ensures all people contesting for roles are given the same preparation and are on a more level playing field.

What are the Benefits of providing Outplacement Support?

For an employee, the benefits are all around confidence and their personal brand. When change is imposed on people, even the most confident will have a reaction. We put people back in the driver’s seat of their career and help them to move forward.

The biggest benefit for an employer is that their brand and reputation is retained in the market. Your former employees have an ongoing impact on your brand so treat them well as they leave. You may need them back in the future. Employees who stay are also watching closely how those leaving are treated. Providing good support demonstrates that you value all employees.

Providing outplacement support eases the pressure on managers & HR staff by using external providers. It can also decrease risk for employers by reducing the likelihood of the employee pursuing a personal grievance.

Talk to us about your Outplacement Support needs, there are numerous ways we can structure it to work to your budget and the number of staff involved.

Restructure and Redundancy – how to do it well

Restructure and Redundancy – how to do it well

As we come to the end of 12 weeks of the Wage Subsidy Scheme, we’re expecting another wave of restructures and redundancies. Some businesses have already made changes, the news is full of well-known businesses closing stores or reducing staff numbers. For many smaller businesses with less resources, we’ve been hearing plenty of examples of employers not following good processes when they have done this.

Failing to follow a proper process not only causes more stress for people during an already stressful time, it also adds to the risk of those people taking personal grievances against their employers. Staff who remain in the organisation are also impacted by a bad process as it can add to their stress and feelings of uncertainty about the future, as well as impacting their relationship with their employer.

So we’ve produced a free checklist to help businesses restructure, while keeping in mind that their employees are people who deserve to be treated with dignity.

Please get in contact with us if you would like further support with your change process.

Download the PDF

Working from home in the new “normal”

Working from home in the new “normal”

We’ve just been through an extraordinary time where almost overnight we were “forced” to work from home. For some who already had flexible working arrangements, this was fairly normal and not a big adjustment, but for others it was unusual and took a lot of adapting to.

But what if we found we liked working from home? We liked having a better work-life balance, not spending so much time commuting and we even felt that our work productivity increased.

How do employers now deal with employees who want to keep working from home?

In terms of the law, employees have a right to request a variation in their working arrangements and employers have a right to refuse a request.

If you didn’t have a Flexibility Policy before the lockdown, now is the time to develop one. Employees who have flexible working arrangements, the most common being working from home, report higher levels of job satisfaction and flexible work arrangements are considered the top work benefit by over 50% of employees, according to SEEK research.

We’re hearing these questions from employers at the moment:

  • How can we transition from current situation to some sort of new normal?
  • How do we work out a policy for staff who want to keep working from home?
  • If they want to keep working from home “sometimes” how do we decide which days?
  • How can we work as a team if some staff are in the office and some are at home?
  • Should we ask our staff or just decide and tell them what our policy is?
  • Do we have the right processes in place to keep working from home?
  • Should we pay for the additional equipment needed (e.g. screens/cameras/docking stations)? And on the flip side:
  • Can I ask people to keep working from home if they want to come in to the office?

It’s safe to say that while we are still in Level 2 we are still being encouraged to keep working from home if we can. This may or may not suit your business.

Your organisation’s Flexibility Policy will depend entirely on what suits your business. You made it work for the lockdown because you were forced to. Consider what worked well and what didn’t. Ask your staff what they liked and what they didn’t like.

Is there one day of the week that you’d prefer everyone was in the office, but on other days it’s not so important? Are there some roles that can’t really be carried out from home, but others which easily can without work being impacted?

Consulting with staff, instead of forcing a policy on them will benefit everyone in the long term.

Remember as well, as you work through the next iteration of “normal” that there will be people who don’t want to return to the office due to anxiety about Covid-19 and others who will be feeling vulnerable around their (or someone in their family’s) job security. There will be many different reasons why people are seeking flexibility, and this will impact on their reactions. Gathering insights from your team in an anonymous way can really help to get honest feedback from them.

If you need help with working towards your new normal, please get in touch.

We’re here to help

We’re here to help

We are pleased to announce that Vargo + Lewis now offers services that are registered with the Management Capability Development Voucher Fund, part of the Regional Business Partner Network.

Small businesses (less than 50 employees) may qualify for vouchers of up to $5,000 per year, to help pay for services such as training workshops, courses and coaching that build the management capabilities of their owners, operators and key managers.

As you may already know, Vargo + Lewis are People Consultants with HR backgrounds who focus on people, leadership and change management. We improve management capability within our client’s businesses by enhancing leadership capability and employee engagement as well as providing our clients with solutions to people problems. Our current focus is helping our clients through the next phase of the Covid-19 pandemic as it affects their business.

We are registered under the following services:

HR Support and Planning for Covid-19 Change Management in Covid-19 Change Management in Covid-19 workshop Coaching Support of Managers in Covid-19 Outplacement (redundancy) Support

If you are needing support in any of these areas, please get in touch. To make use of the voucher system you will need to be registered with the Regional Business Partner Network which you can do online here

We look forward to supporting you on your Covid-19 journey and are happy to answer any questions you might have. Please also forward this to any others you know who may need support with the ‘people’ side of their business. We’re keen to offer advice and support wherever we can at this time of uncertainty.

Take care and stay safe