Like many other organisations, YMCA Victoria, also known as the Y, had to move quickly to close down many of its face to face services when social distancing was introduced in Victoria to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading.
The sad consequence of shuttering around 150+ locations such as swimming pools, gyms, youth programs and camping sites was that the Y also had to stand down around 5,200 of its people. Like many Australian businesses and organisations, this was very challenging time for executive leadership teams as well as employees affected. So when the Government announced the JobKeeper subsidy, it became the Y’s priority to not only immediately apply as an eligible organisation but to make the process for employees as easy as possible.
The Federal Government’s $130 billion JobKeeper package is designed to preserve millions of Australian jobs that have been displaced by the social distancing requirements associated with COVID-19. Many workers who have been stood down because of the virus are eligible for a $1,500 JobKeeper payment each fortnight – as long as they apply for it and meet the Government criteria.
That process was what the Y wanted to help with says Shane Riddle, Executive Head of Technology and Strategy. The Y wanted to let employees that it had stood down know about the JobKeeper opportunity and also explain that to receive the payment they would need to complete a self-nomination form supplied by the Australian Tax Office.
Riddle acknowledges; “That presented a very large logistical challenge for us – to try and manage a manual process with the thousands of different people that we needed to engage with.”
The Y was also mindful that although employees were the ones self-nominating, the organisation would need good governance in place in case any of the applications were later queried by the ATO.
Says Riddle. Which was when he reached out to Microsoft partner Barhead.
It was 6pm on a Wednesday evening when John Orrock, founder of Barhead took the call from Shane Riddle.
He told Orrock that the Y needed to get a message out to their stood down employees that that they could apply for JobKeeper, to explain the process to them, and then make it as simple as possible for those people to self-nominate for the payment.
Orrock adds; “Although the 2-day request was aggressive, it was also doable given the Y’s approach to teaming. Our expertise and experience with Microsoft’s Power Platform allowed us to complete the solution and support the Y’s team through end-user processing of about 5,000+ records. It was a true rapid solution delivery with the appropriate controls.”
Working through the next couple of days and the weekend, Barhead and the Y built a Power App that could be pre-populated with all the information that the individual needed in order to apply for the support package. They would be able to see that information, verify it, and apply a digital signature so the Y could submit the nomination to the ATO. The Y meanwhile would have a record of the process and content for governance purposes.
“The scale and power of the Power Platform allowed us to do that,” says Orrock.
The rapid turnaround had genuine human impact says Riddle. “We had to ensure that we could get those forms out, get the people to review and populate the form, and then send a signed form back. Because within the regulations that the ATO had laid out, no one will be paid unless they have a signed form.”
The Y needed to move fast to understand who had nominated to meet the ATO deadline, get them onto the pay cycle, and ensure they could be paid for that month.
Riddle says; “Timelines were quite strict. We had no movement in that. Barhead were fantastic – the way they approached it was agile in the extreme,” with the PowerApp completed and operational in just a few days.
To ensure maximum uptake the system needed to be easy to use as not all the Y’s people are tech savvy.
“We needed something very simple to allow them to walk through, understand what they were looking at and signing up to, and then apply their signature and send that form back,” says Riddle.
Besides using the app to streamline the JobSeeker application the Y sent emails and texts to people to remind them to complete the self-nomination form in order to ensure they secured the JobKeeper payments if they were eligible
The solution also made information available to the Y’s support team that they might need when responding to questions from staff about eligibility criteria. The app can be easily adjusted if required to take account of any changes to the JobKeeper package that the Government might announce in the future.
According to Riddle; “The number one benefit is that we’ve been able to process all this information and have them eligible for the back-payment. If we didn’t report this to the government under the timelines they laid out, those people would have missed out on that April payment.
“The use of this technology really demonstrated the benefit of investing in a product that will make things easier – albeit in a very strict timeline – particularly in a time of crisis when people needed our help.”
We’re focused on supporting our customers during these difficult times. For more information on how we can help your business, please see our dedicated webpage and report on Supporting Resilient Operations. We’ll be updating these resources regularly as the situation evolves.