Perfection Fresh Covid-19

Michael Simonetta

One of Australia’s largest fresh produce companies, Perfection Fresh, has outlined the measures it has taken to stop the spread of Covid-19, while maintaining business continuity and providing support to its employees.

As the company looks to gradually reintroduce its workforce into the office, chief executive, Michael Simonetta (pictured), highlighted the importance of supporting the people who are the core of the business' identity.

“From the beginning, we knew Covid-19 was a game-changer. Call it instinct or long experience – but the senior leadership team quickly moved into action and set up measures to protect our people and our customers,” said Simonetta.

Although Perfection is identified as a provider of essential services, Simonetta described Covid-19 as the single most disruptive event in his memory, and as such, presented major challenges but equally opportunities to measure the company’s adaptability and approach to crisis management.

Simonetta added the approach to dealing with Covid-19 had to take into account every aspect of the Perfection business, which includes operations in fresh fruit and vegetable markets, glasshouses, farms, production, and offices.

“The first steps we took involved cancelling international travel and tightly limiting domestic travel before deciding it would be prudent to cease our travel altogether – in advance of the government restrictions,” explained Simonetta.

“We also put in place very strict guidelines for visitors and ordered additional stocks of disinfectant and other cleaning materials. We set up an internal crisis team of senior leaders, meeting daily, to set the course for the business, including preparing a business continuity plan specific to Covid-19.

“While we were preparing to keep our people protected, we also knew it was critical to keep them up-to-date. We built a dedicated portal on our intranet to deliver information across the business, used internal TV screens to deliver messaging, and sent out a daily chief executive communique which was shared with everyone across the business,” he added.

These communiques included internal updates on Covid-19 related processes, information about symptoms and the process for employees who were unwell, reminders about hygiene requirements, as well as a summary of what was happening in Australia and across the world.

“We also took advantage of running an internal campaign to encourage employees to update their emergency contact details, which we tested company-wide with an SMS messaging function,” said Simonetta.

“We also pushed our flu vaccination programme harder than usual to keep people protected.”

In terms of business, the company said it had noticed a downturn in its pre-prepared fresh produce, including snack packs, due to reduced demand.

Perfection also redirected employees into different parts of the business, in order to ensure everyone remained employed during the Covid-19 period.

According to a release, the company said 90 per cent of its workforce strongly agreed communication regarding Covid-19 had been comprehensive, while also understanding their responsibilities.

Simonetta said the far-reaching and devastating nature of Covid-19, which has included widespread job losses, has meant people are aware of how lucky they are to be working in an essential services business.

“We’re currently preparing to bring office workers back into the business. This involves careful scheduling within teams to ensure we adhere to social distancing requirements. It’ll be a challenge, but I think people can’t wait to get back to work and connect with each other,” he said.