Common misconceptions about HR

Believe it or not we don’t sit in our offices all day dreaming up ways to give you more work or ruin your life.

HR is one of those business functions that people just “don’t get”. They either have this really narrow view of what HR is to business, or they think we are evil b*tches.

The latter is usually because they’ve had some dodgy manager that has allowed them to believe that some decision has been made because of HR.

“I don’t want to do this but HR is making me”

Then, there’s nothing like a manager who doesn’t want to have the tough conversations and puts it back on HR, setting them up as the bad guy.

So, are we all evil b*tches? Well, misconceptions come from somewhere, and absolutely there are some HR people out there doing our sector dirty. Sometime the function itself is outdated and there is no desire to move forward into the new era (or decade) of work, it can have too much red tape and it can all just be a bit too stuffy.

This isn’t how HR should look and feel⁠. And it’s not how we operate.

Let’s unpack some common misconceptions about HR

HR is about protecting the company⁠ – HR has a responsibility to minimise risk, sometimes protecting employees is the best way to minimise risk and sometimes it’s protecting the interests of the company. HR’s job is to be a neutral voice of reason, we are there to help leaders and employees navigate doing the right thing⁠.

Yep, a lot of HR people are anti-employee, but this isn’t what HR is, or should be. Sometimes this sentiment is driven by the leaders – if the company you are working for is anti-employee you should probably go find another job⁠

All HR does is hire & fire⁠ – Unless you are a dedicated recruiter this is about 10% of what HR is. HR is involved in the hiring and firing process to ensure it is a good process (and a legal process), but we don’t initiate it and it is nowhere near how we spend our days⁠.

HR is easy and anyone can do it⁠ – Ok, so we don’t just organise Christmas parties and answer employees questions. A large part of HR is strategising things that may or may not happen in the future, we look at organisational design and ensure you will have the right people to take the organisation forward. We develop initiatives to drive the right culture and build the capacity of your people⁠

We manage ego & politics and we need to be able to manage our own emotions when we need to flip from ending someones employment to celebrating someone else’s promotion.⁠ HR is full of “big feelings” and you need to be a skilled enough operator to juggle all of that in amongst the day to day & technical aspects of the work⁠.

They are always on our back – If you’re a manager and you aren’t completing a component of your job such as effectively leading your team, then yeah, we are going to be on your back. You know the stakes, if something is part of your job you need to do it. You can’t blame HR for the repercussions of you not doing your job.

Want to learn more about what quality HR is? Click HERE

The People & Culture Office supports HR teams and SMEs Australia-wide to take a fresh approach towards their people and culture function. 

With 20-plus years in the HR game behind them, Tiahanna & Simone build capacity and culture in the workplace to drive the achievement of your operational goals and give you an edge in a talent-led economy.

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Changes to flexible work arrangements commence 1 December 2018

Employee Working | HR Consultant | The People & Culture Office
The People & Culture Office – your first choice for HR solutions

As of tomorrow the new changes to requesting flexible work arrangements come into effect for all businesses under the national workplace relations system. If you are a Sole Trader eg: Jane Smith T/as Janes Cafe, an unincorporated partnership eg: Jane & Bob Smith T/as Janes Cafe or an unincorporated trust eg: Jane and Bob Smith as trustee for Janes Cafe you fall under the WA Industrial Relations Commission, so these changes do not effect you. The majority of employees in Australia fall under the Federal system which covers all constitutional corporations or in layman’s terms it is any business with “Ltd” or “Pty Ltd” after its name. All other states in Australia have referred their industrial relations powers to the Federal system but Western Australia being Western Australia has chosen to keep the State based system.

So what are the changes and how do they effect your business.

Come December 1 2018 there will be a right for certain employees to request flexible working arrangements from their employer. An employer can only refuse such a request on “reasonable business grounds”.

More specifically, the requests may be made by:

  • permanent employees who have completed 12 months of service
  • casual employees who have been employed on a regular & systematic basis for a sequence of periods of employment of at least 12 months, and have a reasonable expectation of the arrangement to continue

Eligible employees are entitled to request a change in their working arrangements if they:

  • are the parent, or have responsibility for the care, of a child who is school aged or younger
  • are a carer (under the Carer Recognition Act 2010)
  • have a disability
  • are 55 or older
  • are experiencing family or domestic violence, or
  • provide care or support to a member of their household or immediate family who requires care and support because of family or domestic violence.

Examples of changes in working arrangements may include:

  • hours of work (eg. changes to start and finish times)
  • patterns of work (eg. split shifts or job sharing)
  • locations of work (eg. working from home).

Employers must give employees a written response to the request within 21 days, stating whether they grant or refuse the request and may refuse the request only on reasonable business grounds. If the employer refuses the request, the written response must include the reasons for the refusal.

Further, it is unlawful under:

  1. The Fair Work Act to take adverse action against employees including termination of employment
  2. State & Federal legislation to discriminate against employees either directly or indirectly through their employment because of their family or carers responsibilities

Employers must accommodate their employees’ family and carer responsibilities where it is reasonable to do so. Whether a refusal to accommodate such requests is unreasonable will depend on the facts and circumstances of the particular situation. A defence is available to employers on the basis that an adjustment is not reasonable if it would cause an unjustifiable hardship on the employer taking all circumstances into account, including consideration of:

  • the requested arrangements are too costly
  • other employees’ working arrangements can’t be changed to accommodate the request
  • it’s impractical to change other employees’ working arrangements or hire new employees to accommodate the request
  • the request would result in a significant loss of productivity or have a significant negative impact on customer service.

Reasonable grounds for refusal for a small employer may differ vastly to those that are reasonable for a large, well resourced employer.

For example if the employee is in a customer facing role or manning a busy switchboard, and you are a small – medium employer with a minimal number of similar employees to provide coverage for the absence, and recruiting may be impractical given the hours of engagement, then you may be able to justify that you have reasonable business grounds. The same situation with a large employer with 20 + admin staff would struggle to provide such a justification.

Similarly a non customer facing role who can complete the bulk of their tasks online, and with minimal interaction, such as an accountant or engineer would have quite a good case to suggest their absence from the office to work from home would create minimal disruptions to the operations.

The future is now

The reality is flexible working arrangements will soon become the new normal, and not just for the legislated requirements we have now. In a recent white paper released by Employment Hero on what Australian employees want from their workplace, flexible work arrangements rated in the top 3 wants with 45% of respondents indicating it was important to them when choosing a prospective employer. The same group, when asked what benefits they would like their existing employer to introduce, overwhelmingly stated flexible work arrangements with 59% of respondents giving it priority over other benefits such as career development, financial incentives and “feel good” benefits such free massages.

The next generation crave flexibility. The Deloitte 2017 Millennial Survey reveals that “flexible working continues to be a feature of most millennials’ working lives and is linked to improved organisational performance, personal benefit, and loyalty”. Overall, 84% of millennials reported that some degree of flexible working ranging from flexible start and finish times, flexible roles and flexible locations including work from home were highly desirable.

These arrangements are not identified as “simply a nice to have” but as being strongly linked to improved performance, employee retention and loyalty. Further, the report notes that organisations that have adopted flexible work indicated any earlier misgivings that opportunities would be abused appeared to be unfounded with 78% of respondents feeling trusted by their line managers. If you would like to read more about the changing millennial workforce Click Here. I also shared my thoughts on whether the changing face of the workplace was a contributing factor to the skills shortage in residential mining and trades positions here.

The inclusion of flexible work policies into your HR framework isn’t just about millennials or working mums, as we hurtle towards a large ageing population it provides the flexibility for the ageing workforce to continue working well beyond 65, something that will become more and more a necessity with superannuation unlikely to accommodate most retirees needs into their 80’s & 90’s.

Flexibility as a workplace norm builds diverse and inclusive workplaces, it allows those who would otherwise be somewhat excluded or restricted within the workplace to be able to contribute to the organisations success, it allows organisations the ability to attract & retain talent as we see a societal shift in personal priorities. Creating a flexible and agile workplace goes beyond creating “an accommodation for working parents”, rather it’s a strategy that enables a competitive business edge in the ever changing world of work.

At The People & Culture Office you only pay for the work we undertake for you;  no annual or monthly fees; no contracts; just quality, local, service. Click here to learn more

How to impress the cr*p out of potential employees

Employee Working | HR Consultant | The People & Culture Office

34% of Australian employers say they can’t find the talent they need, 43% of medium sized employers (50 – 250 employees) say they have trouble filling vacancies while 32% of small employers report the same. Every industry is impacted, from manufacturing to mining, transport to trade, employers can’t find the people they need with the right blend of technical skills and human strengths. Keeping pace in the changing environment  demands faster, more targeted talent management than ever before.

The leading cause of being unable to fill positions, according to a recent survey of Australian businesses, is a lack of applicants. The secret to attracting high-quality applicants is differentiating yourself from the competition, and showing top talent how joining your company will be a great career move, so how can you impress the cr*p out of potential employees?

Put your people first

When you truly care for your employees, they’ll care for one another, your customers and the community. Go beyond amazing benefits. Foster a workplace that thrives on trust and respect for everyone — and protect that culture every day. Word will get out. Your people will talk, and they’ll refer like-minded, talented people who believe in your culture and your mission.

When it comes to attraction & retention culture is king

Identify what sets you apart from the competition and shout it from the rooftops

This is not a piece of marketing spin; this is your elevator pitch to potential employees. What are you going to do for me that I can’t get from every generic employer in the industry? Just as an organisation has a brand for the external market, there needs to be an employer brand that can effectively communicate the employee experience, this is your value proposition when you can define your purpose, values & point of difference for candidates they will be motivated to apply. Employers unable, or, unwilling to do this will need to be prepared to pay a premium with benefits, wages or other perks. An environment of skills shortage can drive up wages and turnover, employers need to understand that candidates are consumers too; in order to attract and engage the best and brightest, they need to offer something tangible and appealing.


Know your target market

Recruitment is a sales pitch for your organisation, just as with taking your product to market, you need to do some market research. Have a good grasp of skills your candidate needs (and what are the compromises eg: are you willing to take on someone with less work experience but a tonne of potential?), the age demographic you are likely, or seeking to attract and where to find them. Let’s say you are looking for a tradesperson with a few years of time up their sleeve, 90% of your candidates are going to be early 20’s – mid 30’s. Don’t waste time advertising in the paper, this isn’t where this generation seeks out information. Advertise on seek, your website & Facebook, if you aren’t online then GET ONLINE! Facebook has been around for over 10 years, the internet has been a mainstay in Australian households since the early 2000’s, not being computer savvy enough is no longer an excuse. Advertise your workplace culture and ensure any advertising & web content echo’s your candidates skills, needs and attitudes as it relates to your employer brand.

Understand the candidate experience

You can have nice shiny offices, the newest technology, expertly written job ad’s and pay in the 75th percentile for your industry but if you treat candidates & employees poorly all the work you are putting in will be in vain. I’ve written about the ways in which employers turn candidates off here and here. Your organisation’s reputation permeates candidate decisions. The candidate experience is a continuum that begins prior to the candidate contemplating a role with your organisation (brand awareness) and extends well beyond the time they may leave. Understand your organisations turnover and put strategies in place to counteract the negatives.

If they don’t exist, create them

You don’t always have to bring in new, skilled staff.  Instead, you could focus on nurturing your current employees with training and possibly even offering subsidised higher education or apprenticeship opportunities.

The obvious advantage is that you’ll already know the staff member, their work ethic, commitment and skills, but offering progression will also work wonders for your employer brand. Employees want to know they’ve got somewhere to go and potential employees want to see that you are an organisation that invests in top talent.

Be authentic

Don’t make promises you can’t deliver on. Be honest about the realities of the role, it’s critical the candidate knows exactly what he or she is walking into and can make a smart decision about the future. The only way to know if it is a fit is for both parties to have open eyes and clarity.

Based in Kalgoorlie, The People & Culture Office is an independent HR Consultant who can partner with you to offer a one stop HR solution, we only charge you for the work we perform; no contracts, no annual or monthly fees, just quality service. Click here to learn more

Why outsource your HR function

HR | Kalgoorlie | The People & Culture Office

More than just hiring & firing, HR is an integral component of any business looking to succeed. Human Resources is the function in an organisation that manages all employees and ensures maximum engagement & productivity, as well as make sure the company is protected from any issues that may arise from the workforce.

There’s no denying that HR focus has dramatically changed in recent years. In the not so distant past, HR was primarily an admin function, the dreaded “fun police” when it came to workplace policies or it was a task lumped in with Payroll.

But today’s astute business leaders understand in order to succeed in today’s (and the futures) business environment they need to move their HR function away from focussing on personnel management and administrative tasks, and direct their focus towards managing employee engagement and strengthening workplace culture. Smart business owners see the benefits in ensuring their employees are happy and as a result will continue to stick around for the foreseeable future.

By outsourcing your human resource operations you can improve compliance, save money & attract the best talent. The People & Culture Office can offer your business long term support so you can focus on achieving business success. We are on hand to support all businesses, wherever you may be.   

No annual fee’s                  No contracts                  Just quality service


When you just don’t like your co-workers

HR Consultant | The People & Culture Office

You spend a large chunk of your life at work and usually it’s spent with people that normally, you wouldn’t willingly hang out with. Unless you want to be miserable at work, or get fired, you need to find away to work around it. You don’t need to like the people you work with, but you do need to be professional.

The most common reason cited by employees for not liking co-workers relates to the employee in question exhibiting, to some degree, challenging behaviours. I wrote about the impact challenging employees have on business here. Some of the most common challenging, or toxic behaviours found in the workplace are;

The Hot Mess

Incompetent, unreliable & erratic, The Hot Mess can kill productivity for the whole team.  Whether they just don’t know how to do their job, or just don’t want to, they bring everyone down with them. Fun fact – Studies have shown low performing employees to be the most happiest in the team & often rate their workplaces as a great place to work. Ahhh ignorance is bliss.

The Slacker

We’ve all worked with one, finding a way to get out of work is a full time job for The Slacker. Like The Hot Mess they are a major drain on everyones time and enthusiasm and don’t really seem to care what others think of them. If they can find away to get out of something they will.

The Martyr

The complete opposite of The Slacker but The Martyr comes with its own set of problems,  not just a hard worker, they generally insist on doing everything themselves and aren’t shy about letting everyone know either. The Martyr is a control freak that creates unrest in the workplace, undermines the confidence of team members and is “that person” who comes to work when sick and spreads there germs around. Life Pro Tip if you do this – no job & no employee is that important,  all you are doing is infecting your co-workers and reducing productivity even further, just stay home kids.

The Socialite

Funny, entertaining and everyone’s best friend, The Socialite treats everyday at work as though it’s their own private party or stage for the day. For The Socialite, gossip & chatting are always the core component of the day, and while having some fun at work is must, The Socialite has a hard time distinguishing between what’s appropriate and what isn’t. Perhaps in what can be a bit of a dark side to The Socialite, they can be very charming, often blinding & manipulating management and colleagues to their poor behaviour.

The Sociopath

An employee with sociopathic tendencies leave a trail of destruction where ever they go, they poison the atmosphere and create a hostile environment for everyone else. Just 1 destructive employee can wreck the morale for the entire team, if placed in a customer facing role they can cause serious damage to your reputation & bottom line.

Karen Gately, the author of The People Managers Toolkit gives the following strategies on how to deal with coworkers you just don’t like;

Choose your attitude

The key to getting along with anyone lies in your ability to choose your attitude.  Of course, their attitude matters also, but the reality is you can’t control other people.  Focus on what you can control; that is your own thoughts, emotions and behaviour.

So many of us waste energy thinking and talking about people we don’t like.  How often do you replay annoying events or conversations in your mind?  Do you ‘roleplay’ scenarios in your mind about the conversations you intend to have with some people? Do you imagine yourself winning an argument with your nemesis? Do you allow your emotions to build as you invest in the drama unfolding in your mind?

We all have the power to choose the thoughts and emotions we invest in.  The ability for anyone to offend us or drain our spirit entirely depends on our response.

Pick your battles

While of course it matters to stand up for ourselves when being mistreated, in many circumstance we can simply choose to ignore the things that otherwise upset us.  We have the choice to simply walk away and disengage rather than wade into an argument.  We can choose to let thoughtless comments or unintentionally offensive remarks ‘go through to the keeper’.  Choosing for example to see someone’s words as ill-considered is healthier for our relationship with them, than assuming their actions are malicious.

Judge carefully

Ask yourself if you are being unfairly judgmental.  Sometimes the actions we see as wrong are simply different to the way we would approach things. Reflect on why you don’t like the person and challenge any unfounded assumptions or unconscious biases you may have.   For example, the woman you perceive as being attention seeking, may be simply talkative and unaware that her enthusiast sharing of stories about her life is coming across as insufferable self-indulgence.

Build bridges

Look for ways in which you can build trust, respect and rapport. Common interests are a safe place to start.  Find out things about the person you find interesting or respect.  This can be particularly challenging with some people, but appreciate the good that can be found in most people and give credit where it is due.

Rapport can be built by finding common ground as well as by being empathetic.  However, it’s important to understand that most rapport-building happens without words and through non-verbal communication channels.  People build rapport subconsciously through non-verbal signals, including eye contact, facial expressions, body positioning and tone of voice.

Based in Kalgoorlie, The People & Culture Office is an independent HR Consultant who can partner with you to offer a one stop HR solution, we only charge you for the work we perform; no contracts, no annual or monthly fees, just quality service. Click here to learn more

Work is hectic, getting help doesn’t have to be


HR myths about SME’s busted

HR Consultant | The People & Culture Office

For those of us that live and breathe HR, it can be frustrating to constantly defend the importance of what we do. I frequently hear “Oh, we don’t need HR, our Office Manager handles that.”

Then there are those that think HR is nothing more than maintaining files and making sure payroll gets submitted. The truth is HR is much more than paper pushing and file maintenance. It takes great dedication, commitment and knowledge to be a true HR professional. There are a lot of areas where SMEs get into trouble with their HR, such as:

  • Managing grievances e.g. bullying, sexual harassment
  • Unfair dismissals
  • Managing underperformance of employees
  • Parental leave and the requirements for the employee and the employer
  • Managing absenteeism
  • Keeping up to date with HR legislation and implementing HR frameworks
  • …and the list goes on.

So on that note I’d like to bust some common myths that SME business owners hold about hiring external human resource consultants.

Myth: “I’m not sure they’d have a place in my business.” Reality: Every business that hires and deals with employees most likely needs an HR consultant at some point. You may need your HR framework drawn up and implemented from scratch, a strategy for recruitment, help managing an employee’s performance, or a business restructure to best facilitate growth and change.

Myth: “Hiring an HR person would probably cost me an arm and a leg.” Reality: Not hiring an HR consultant might end up costing you much, much more. Let’s look at unfair dismissal. In recent times, unfair dismissal payouts cost businesses sums of five figures or more. In the financial year 2016/17 Fair Work awarded 7,194 monetary claims for unfair dismissal at a median rate of equivalent to 8 weeks pay, of these, 810 were for amounts of $10,000 up to the maximum amount payable (26 weeks of the employees earnings), these figures do not include fines imposed on businesses where applications were heard before a full hearing of the Commission,  a recent sexual harassment pay out was  $130,000. Evidence suggests that these high costs are usually incurred due to a lack of compliant HR policies, procedures or poor documentation. Hiring a HR consultant means you’ll be fully compliant in all these key areas.

Myth: “They’ll just give me cookie-cutter advice that won’t apply to my business.” Reality:  The People & Culture Office will come into your business tailoring a solution to your exact needs. For example, you may be managing the performance of your operations manager. How can you manage the risk? We provide commercially viable and relevant advice helping you deal with any and all HR issues.

Myth: “These HR types will try and lock me into some kind of pricy ongoing agreement.” Reality: The People & Culture Offices’ business model works on a once-off or project basis. Depending on your business needs I don’t need to stick around for months or years on end. The People & Culture Office can provide a framework for your HR needs with ongoing HR support as and when required. It’s your business, you control the level of involvement, not me.

Myth: “HR is just about recruitment.” Reality: Recruitment is just one of the activities an HR professional does. Human Resource function is as vast as any other technical function can be and is segregated into multiple areas. While HR is the first and last point of contact for any employee in the hiring and exit process, it surely isn’t the only thing HR professionals are there for. There are several other areas any successful HR department caters to like employee engagement, training and development, performance management, resource management and many more.

Myth: “Anyone can do HR.” Reality: HR activities are based on theory, research and most importantly, practical experience to understand how to apply HR principals into the workplace. I decided to launch my own consultancy service after hearing many stories from Goldfields business that employees were being directed by the “HR Person” to take annual leave on a gazetted public holidays, to book annual leave just to get day’s off from continual rostered shifts, leaving them with no leave to actually take a holiday, telling employees on parental leave their job has been given to someone else and employees being given written warnings for time off sick when a Doctors Certificate is present. There is a shortage of skilled HR people in the region which unfortunately has seen the rise of admin personnel being promoted into positions that require a great deal of technical skill & knowledge, this practice isn’t good for business and exposes the organisation to a great deal of risk.



Are you getting employee discipline & termination right?

Employee Working | HR Consultant | The People & Culture Office

The discipline or termination of an employee is never easy. It’s important that your termination procedure is compliant with Australia’s unfair dismissal laws and is based on an understanding of your employee’s rights. If you have employees you should have comprehensive policies and procedures in place to educate employees on the expected standards of behaviour and how you will approach any disciplinary actions relating to a breach of those standards. I’ve written about the importance of workplace HR Policies here and here.

Under Australia’s workplace laws there are some keys steps that must be followed for a termination to be lawful, the big one is whether the action taken meets the principles of “procedural fairness” or “natural justice”. This means the employee has been made aware of the allegations concerning their conduct and are given the right to defend the allegations put to them, this implies an opportunity that might result in the employer deciding not to terminate the employment if the defence is of substance. An employer may simply go through the motions of giving the employee an opportunity to deal with allegations concerning conduct when, in substance, a firm decision to terminate had already been made which would be adhered to irrespective of anything the employee might say in his or her defence. An example of this is walking into a disciplinary meeting with a pre-written letter of termination or warning in your notebook ready to pass across the table to the employee once you have put the allegations to them.

More and more with unfair dismissal cases Fair Work is looking at the process the employer followed as opposed to the conduct of the employee, it pays to have good policies & procedures in place and more importantly, to follow them. Particularly with breaches of policy such as WHS and Medication, Drugs & Alcohol the Commission is going to want to see evidence that the employee;

  • knew what was required of them
  • knew a breach of the safety requirement / policy could result in dismissal
  • An adequate investigation took place
  • was given a fair opportunity to respond to the allegation
  • failed to give an adequate response to the allegation

In regards to breaches of Medication, Drugs & Alcohol policies employers must verify a breach has occurred, this requires the sample to be sent for GCMS testing to confirm the presence of illicit substances in excess of the Australian Standards, a positive at the cup is not a verified positive result.

Best Practice

  • Failure to warn employees that their conduct may lead to their dismissal is usually considered a major employer omission by the Commission. This means there should be a ‘paper trail’ which documents the relevant incidents leading up to a dismissal.
  • Proper documentation is essential. It is advisable to have the employee sign the notes of any discussions relating to performance, although the employee is not legally obliged to do so. The employee should be given the opportunity to have a support person present, chosen by the employee.
  • The employee must be informed about all problems, be given an opportunity to respond, and allowed a reasonable period of time to remedy them.
  • In regards to written warnings the employee should be told this is the first warning in a process which may end in termination.
  • Under unfair dismissal laws, there is no statutory period of time in which a warning (verbal or written) remains valid.
  • The period a warning remains enforceable will depend on a number of factors, including the seriousness of the problem and the nature of the offence.
  • Between three and eight months is usually appropriate, but will obviously vary depending on the circumstances, such as how often the criteria for satisfactory performance can be applied to an employee.
  • A ‘shelf life’ of a year or longer for a written warning would be considered extreme in most cases before a tribunal.