Closing the gap on Aboriginal employment outcomes

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On Friday I had the pleasure of attending a workshop on Aboriginal employment hosted by the Kalgoorlie Boulder Chamber of Commerce and Working Together Goldfields Esperance. Aboriginal employment strategies are a subject dear to my heart having worked in HR roles in Kalgoorlie over the past decade that have included implementing strategies to increase the numbers of Aboriginal people in meaningful employment.

Fridays workshop provided participants with an overview of cultural awareness before a presentation from Aboriginal Workforce Services which is a free service funded by the State Government. In the past 5 years the service has placed over 2000 people into vacant job roles, they also offer a mentor service to regional businesses to assist with any employment issues that may arise with Aboriginal employees. The impact of having someone to act as a support to your aboriginal employees, particularly those new to the workforce, can not be underestimated & will increase retention considerably.

In my experience, and others may have different experiences to me, the key areas to a successful Aboriginal workforce strategy are;

  • Providing a supportive, safe and culturally inclusive work environment for Aboriginal people 
  • Attraction and recruitment of Aboriginal people through providing culturally appropriate and flexible recruitment and selection processes 
  • Implementing support mechanisms and provide flexible working arrangements and career development opportunities 
  • Effectively resourcing the strategy/action plan to ensure its sustainability and success. 

Aboriginal employment strategies are a key framework to recognise the importance of providing a long term economic starting base for Aboriginal people, in a workplace where they will feel respected, valued, culturally safe and get to share in the same opportunities for skill and career development on parity to all other peoples, and, acknowledges that employment equity is a key determinant of positive health & wellbeing and consequences that lead to a more harmonious, strong and dynamic Aboriginal community. 

While us HR people often work very hard in the background to develop strategies and build relationships to attract suitable applicants for positions, ultimately the success of the initiative comes down to the wider workforce. I’ve worked alongside Supervisors who have actively undermined Aboriginal employees because they have considered them “too much work” to have in their area, and, with a population diverse as Kalgoorlie’s you are also managing the cultural differences from other nationalities who have little to no understanding of the local Indigenous culture. This is where having a cultural awareness program is vital to underpinning the programme for success. But most importantly, the organisation must embrace genuine efforts of offering career development opportunities, like anyone else, Aboriginal people know when you are not genuine with your intentions and the efforts of the team doing the hard yards will all be in vain.

One of the most commonly heard comments when discussing Aboriginal employment strategies is that “they are being given special treatment” or “jobs handed to them on a platter”. Our workplace system values the way non Indigenous people have been socialised over the way Indigenous people have been socialised, and this is where targets or quotas to meet diversity workforce numbers comes in. Much like the discussions around quotas for females in senior roles, the subject will always be quite divisive and it’s not a rabbit hole I want to venture down today. Employing people based on merit only works when the current system of employing people is already functioning extremely well on a merit based system, and it isn’t. To say that it is means that each organisation in Kalgoorlie-Boulder would have a percentage of Aboriginal employees that is commensurate with the local population of 7.3%, that would mean for every 100 employees in your business you would have at least 7 Aboriginal employees, or if you’re a small business of 25 employees or less at least one employee would be Aboriginal.

Whether business owners and managers like to admit it or not, people tend to recruit someone that reflects back themselves. Sometimes when a management team states they recruit on cultural fit what they really mean is they are looking for a while male aged between 25 – 45 that likes to sink a few beers at the end of the week and supports the West Coast Eagles. Sometimes it’s overt, such as my example, but sometimes you can look around your workplace and realised you’ve basically employed the same person 40 times, this is called unconscious bias.

Research suggests that we instinctively categorize people and things using easily observed criteria such as age, weight, skin color, and gender. But we also classify people according to educational level, disability, sexuality, accent, social status, and job title, automatically assigning presumed traits to anyone we subconsciously put in those groups.

The “advantage” of this system is that it saves us time and effort processing information about people, allowing us to spend more of our mental resources on other tasks. The clear disadvantage is that it can lead us to make assumptions about them and take action based on those biases. This results in a tendency to rely on stereotypes, even if we don’t consciously believe in them.

No matter how unbiased we think we are, we may have subconscious negative opinions about people who are outside our own group. But the more exposed we are to other groups of people, the less likely we are to feel prejudice against them. So the more diverse our workplaces, the more it will become the norm, and the requirement of workshops such as Fridays will no longer be needed, and the days of affirmative action reporting and quotas will be relegated to the history books as just “another one of those things we had to do while we waited for the remainder of society to catch up”.

So where to from here? I can assist you with an Aboriginal Employment Strategy, it can be as basic as modifying your recruitment practices to provide a level playing field for Aboriginal candidates or as comprehensive as writing a strategy focusing on creating a culturally inclusive workplace; attraction and retention of Aboriginal candidates; building capability and careers; fostering Aboriginal leaders in your workplace and putting reporting measures in place for your workplace to be accountable to itself.

I can be contacted here for further information.

 

 

 

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Is your boss affecting your mental health?

Design 17As a manager or supervisor have you ever stopped to think about what effect your conduct has on your employees? I bet it has a greater effect than you come to think.

Number 1 rule when it comes to people management is that this is people’s lives your dealing with, sure as a manager or HR representative at some point or another in your career you have to make business decisions that will have a negative impact on an employee or group of employees, but the way you choose to do it can be with respect and compassion that softens the blow or it can be hard lined that blindsides the employee and leaves a bitter taste in their mouth, and the way they communicate your actions to family and friends will make a dent on your reputation.

But it’s not just about disciplining employees or terminating their employment, the most damage is done in the day to day interactions, how employees are spoken to, the subtle (or not so subtle) indications of playing favourites, failing to address another employees’ poor behaviours or performance, I hate to be overdramatic but whether or not an employee enjoys their job, largely comes down to their manager, and whether or not an employee suffers situational depression as a result of a workplace incident, largely comes down to their manager. Food for thought isn’t it?

Toxic bosses are, unsurprisingly, the top cause of unhappiness in the workplace. Half of employees have left their jobs to get away from a bad manager, according to a 2015 Gallup survey, and 41 percent of workers say they’ve been “psychologically harassed” on the job.

In Australia, workplace health and safety legislation effectively holds employers responsible for ensuring the emotional, psychological and physical wellbeing of employees.

Mental stress claims lodged by affected employees against their employer increased by 25% from 2001 to 2011. Although the proportion of stress claims specifically relating to “poor relationships with superiors” was not reported, a Medibank Private commissioned study reported that in 2007 the total cost of work related stress to the Australian economy was A$14.8 billion; the direct cost to employers alone in stress-related presenteeism and absenteeism was A$10.11 billion.

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A recent study into the impact of systemic toxic behaviours exhibited by managers found that even one or two toxic behaviours, such as manipulating and intimidating, was enough to cause significant harm to employees’ mental and physical health.

The most common toxic behaviours exhibited by managers include:

  • Constantly seeks and needs praise
  • Has to win at all costs
  • Lapses into time consuming, self-praising anecdotes
  • Charms, cultivates and manipulates
  • Plays favourites
  • Takes credit for others’ work
  • Lies
  • Bullies and abuses others
  • Incessantly criticises others publicly
  • Has mood swings and temper tantrums
  • Treats all workplace interactions as a fault-finding exercise
  • Takes all decision making authority away
  • Micro manages everything you do
  • Promises to take action but later reneges
  • Ignores requests

Impact on an employees wellbeing

Negative consequences for wellbeing reported by participants in the study included:

Psychological

Anxiety, depression, burnout, cynicism, helplessness, social isolation, loss of confidence, feeling undervalued.

Emotional

Anger, disappointment, distress, fear, frustration, mistrust, resentment, humiliation.

Physical

Insomnia, hair loss, weight loss/gain, headaches, stomach upsets, viruses and colds.

One way to deal with toxic managers is to escalate the risk and report it to senior management. However, a common theme in the study was frustration felt by participants when no action was taken after reporting the leaders’ toxic behaviours. Sometimes organisations are reluctant to take action against the offender, perhaps because they hold important relationships, bring in significant revenue, or for fear they will become litigious if challenged. Organisations that choose to ignore toxic leadership behaviours are likely to incur increased stress claims and litigation costs.

Individual coping strategies

If you are experiencing toxic leadership, and feel you are not in a position to report it, or leave the organisation, coping strategies reported in the study as helpful were:

  • Seeking social support from colleagues, mentor, friends and family
  • Seeking professional support, i.e. Employee Assistance Program, counsellor, psychologist, general practitioner
  • Seeking advice from Human Resources
  • Undertaking health and well-being activities, i.e. diet, exercise, meditation, yoga, breathing exercises
  • Restructuring your thoughts about the incidents in question to maintain a sense of calm and manage your state of mind.

What not to do

Coping strategies that were reported as having negative consequences or prolonging stress and fear of their leader were:

  • Confronting the leader
  • Avoiding, ignoring or bypassing the leader
  • Whistle blowing
  • Ruminating on the wrongs done and reliving the feelings of anger and frustration
  • Focusing on work
  • Taking sick leave (short-term relief only).

Individuals regularly on the receiving end of toxic behaviours commonly start questioning themselves, doubting their capabilities and feeling locked into their current situation/role/organisation.

To protect against such frustration, ensure you have an up-to-date career plan, clearly outlining your strengths, achievements, personal values, work preferences, development opportunities, and employability. Keep your resume and online profile up to date and ensure you are well networked in your occupation and industry – all part of a contingency plan to exit the toxic workplace situation should it become untenable.

So we’ve looked at the impact poor management has on employees but what is the impact it has on the organisation?

High turnover

A high turnover rate deters jobseekers from applying for the recently vacated positions you want to fill as the company earns a reputation of being a bad employer – and then you’ve got reviews from disgruntled former employees on sites like Glassdoor to worry about. Even if you miraculously manage to fill those vacancies, it can take as long as two years for replacements to reach the same level of productivity as an existing employee.

And when you consider the costs associated with employee turnover (including interviewing, hiring, training and lost productivity), well, you’re screwed. Analytics place the costs of turnover between 30% and 50% of entry-level employees’ annual salary to replace them, more than 150% for mid-level employees and a whopping 400% for senior-level employees. In other words, poor management isn’t just bad for business; it’s expensive, too.

Decreased productivity

“A boss manages their employees, while a leader inspires them to innovate, think creatively, and strive for perfection.”

Scientific research (as well as our daily experience) confirms this. Effective leadership, and particularly psychological and team empowerment, is positively associated with task performance, as well as job satisfaction, innovation, organisational commitment and more.

By comparison, poor management – whether that’s belittling staff, bullying, throwing temper tantrums, dismissing ideas, setting unreasonable expectations or generally failing to lead by example – has very serious consequences in terms of employee productivity. Their work performance takes a toll which, in turn, negatively impacts an organisation’s financial health. One study even found that workers who were exposed to rude behaviour were less creative during a brainstorming task.

Damaged organisational reputation

As briefly touched upon earlier, poor management isn’t just bad for employees; it’s also bad for an organisation’s health and overall reputation – something it depends on to survive. And that is kind of a big deal.

As a company’s reputation for being a bad employer starts to spread across the internet (thanks to review sites like Glassdoor), it doesn’t just lose potential candidates’ interest but also consumers’ trust. Beyond employee turnover, a bad manager will also contribute to a drop in company profits.

Reduced morale

Poor management doesn’t necessarily have to take the form of a racist or sexist boss; it can take the form of a supervisor who is incompetent, inexperienced or who simply has a God complex.

For example, they could continually ignore the input of staff, which typically results in a feeling of worthlessness. Similarly, employees who aren’t praised and recognised for their performance and achievements begin to feel unappreciated and unwilling to perform to a high level. They can sometimes even begin to display a passive-aggressive attitude.

Before long, a toxic workplace has been created and the reduction of morale is quickly spread around the office like a virus. Even if a manager’s behaviour doesn’t directly affect an employee, the effects their behaviour has had on others will be noticed eventually and could lead them to up and leave.

 

 

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Are you really saving money by getting rid of HR?

JPEG image 15Have you ever stopped to crunch the numbers on whether having no HR presence in your organisation is really saving you money? I’m not talking about an admin or payroll person who sends off site clearances or tells employees how much leave they have accrued, I’m talking about strategic human resource management – implementing recruitment strategies to ensure a more quality hire, creating a compensation strategy to ensure your salaries & benefits are attractive to potential candidates and enough to stop your star talent from jumping ship, writing contemporary & legally compliant workplace policies and procedures to develop culture, embed standards and build reputation and creating a performance culture.

A report from the Society for Human Resource Management indicates an organisation’s size often determines the impact of not having an HR representative or a limited HR team. “In smaller organisations, the HR function or department … may have interactions with other staff that more often than not centre around duties directly related to having a primarily transactional role,” it states. Smaller companies are unlikely to employ an individual in human resources, or to designate the duties to another job function, by default making them adhoc HR personnel. Recent surveys of SME’s indicate that as much as 82% of employees fulfilling this role within the organisation had no formal HR training, without the proper training, tools and resources to perform HR related tasks, organisations with adhoc HR personnel can inadvertently suffer serious consequences.

Failure to Address Performance Issues

When operational managers perform multiple roles, HR processes such as performance management are unlikely to become a priority unless a crisis occurs. Operational managers may be unwilling to tackle poor behaviors or substandard performance among their employees. Alternatively, they may lack the necessary skills or experience to do so. Failing to address performance and behavioural issues in a proactive manner can lead to a loss of productivity and increased employee turnover, both of which can adversely impact a company’s profitability.

Failure to Develop Employees

With no specialist HR personnel to guide them, small companies are likely to lack the formalised learning and development structures that exist in larger organisations, such as annual appraisals, training needs analyses and development plans. The lack of such processes can lead to training needs being overlooked and a failure to keep staff up to date with best practices. If employees see no opportunities to learn and develop within a small company, they may choose to leave to further their careers.

Difficulty Attracting Top Talent

The quality of employees within a small company is particularly important, given that resources are limited. Attracting new employees of the correct calibre can be a challenge for small companies if they find themselves competing with large organisations. In large organisations, HR managers can ensure that the company’s brand is promoted to job seekers. HR managers achieve this through effective recruitment and compensation strategies, without this assistance smaller organisations can be seen as the poor cousin in comparison.

Failure to Comply With Employment Legislation

Employment legislation and government regulations place the same burdens on small companies as on large organisations. While HR personnel within large organisations have time to keep up to date with changes in employment legislation and regulations, this is much more of a challenge for overstretched managers in small companies. Failure to understand current employment legislation can lead to unintentional breaches of employee rights. This may occur when a company denies employees a right to which they are entitled, or a manager dismisses an employee unfairly.

The right outsourced HR solution — one that connects you with a dedicated HR professional that knows your business personally and has proven processes in place can help. Outsourced HR solutions can help manage your risk, keep you compliant, and give you peace of mind. And in doing so, you’ll be placing your company in a strong position to grow and prosper.

The People & Culture Office 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. 

 

 

 

 

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How 1 toxic employee can undo a whole organisation

Design 17The catty gossip. The relentless bully. The slovenly slacker. Toxic employees come in an appalling array of annoying forms. They’re destructive, distracting and draining. Like a cancer sapping the energy of those around them, they cripple their coworkers’ morale, performance and productivity. Worse, they poison your entire business in the process.

I recently caught up with a friend who relocated from Kalgoorlie a few years ago to take up her dream position as a Manager in an up and coming company in Perth. She lamented that she works with an awful group of employees, the office is relatively small which makes an employees’ ability to interact with their colleagues respectfully and professionally even more crucial. About 12 months ago a group of 3 employees started a campaign against her, what started with mindless gossip progressed into blatant undermining of her position and spread until more than 50% of the office regularly joined in on the activities. The behaviour of her colleagues had progressed so far that it was effecting her life away from work and she had begrudgingly resigned as she could no longer cope with the physical & emotional effect it was having on her.

Prior to her resigning she approached her Executive Manager to share her concerns, as she had done on many other occasions, except on this occasion she was quite taken aback by his response, despite previously being extremely supportive, and having attempted to (unsuccessfully) put initiatives in place to put a stop to the behaviour, he was now denying any knowledge of the issues and claimed to not have any knowledge of their previous conversations.

Many managers avoid confronting toxic employees because they fear that difficult conversations might make things worse. After all, the temptation to avoid or delay addressing the issue is almost irresistible given the expected tension, conflict and angst. In this instance her Manager chose to take the easy way out and let the aggrieved employee leave rather than attempt to address the situation with the group of employees causing the most damage. But it’s just false economy, because what the Manager has ultimately made clear to the group of bully’s is that they are now untouchable, I mean if they can push a Manager out what chance does anyone else have against them? The choice to do nothing is of course a sign of a weak leader, but the denial of any issue is representative of a lack of integrity on the managers behalf & indicative of much bigger issues.

In his recent article on Perth Now, Professor Gary Martin said “A toxic employee can poison the atmosphere where you work and make it difficult, if not impossible, to manage effectively. The toxicity is insidious and can drag you and your colleagues into an abyss of low morale and decreased productivity.” he went on to note “No organisation worth its salt ever wants to label any of its employees as “toxic” or “poisonous”. However, a single toxic employee in a team or an organisation can cause a constructive culture to turn into destruction, headlined by aggression and reduced productivity. A toxic employee might do their job well, as measured against personal performance targets. However, it is work behaviours outside this domain that contribute to a poisonous culture.”

Professor Gary Martin categorises toxic employees as exhibiting the following behaviours;

The “pot stirrer” attempts to pit one person against another through creating rumours, innuendos and malicious gossip, while the “blame gamer” attributes fault to everyone else for any workplace issue.

Like the leech, the “protectionist” latches on to others to make themselves indispensable and difficult to remove. They build a group of supporters who remain loyal to them and will help defend them should questions be asked.

And the “illusionist” spends considerable time and energy on pretending to be hard at work or meaningfully engaged while frequently complaining they are overworked.

But by far the most challenging toxic employee is the “underminer”.

This employee will make every effort to sabotage management and colleagues alike.

While face-to-face with managers they will agree to adopt a course of action, but when left to their own devices will systematically undermine that direction if they believe their own interests will not be served well.

A toxic employee costs the business at least the equivalent of the individual’s salary – and likely more. Take the example of a badly behaved accounts payable person being paid $50,000 annually. As this individual is not highly paid, you might consider that their behaviour is less of a problem, but if you have someone in that role who is toxic, who gossips and bullies and so on, then firstly, everybody wants to avoid them, but they can’t get their accounts paid if they avoid them permanently; secondly, they’re spending a large portion of their time running around being a nuisance, so are not really doing their job; and finally, their manager, who is on a much higher salary, is spending 20 per cent of their own time – often more – trying to solve the problem.

Other costs that are more difficult to measure include lowered productivity, higher employee turnover, increased absenteeism and presenteeism, adverse publicity and loss of employer brand (leading to attraction and retention issues), workplace accidents and security issues.

The commitment of management is essential in solving behavioural issues in the workplace and ensuring they do not become regular occurrences. Once you have correctly identified a bad apple by their behaviour, start identifying and articulating the management problem. Once you do that, the pain is in the past. Then it’s simple – your goal is to turn the employee’s behaviour around and if you can’t, then you terminate.

Principles to Remember

Do:

  • Talk to the person to try to understand what’s causing the behaviour.
  • Give concrete, specific feedback and offer the opportunity to change.
  • Look for ways to minimise interactions between the toxic employee and the rest of your team.

Don’t:

  • Bring the situation up with your other team members. Allow them to mention it first and then provide suggestions.
  • Try to terminate the person unless you’ve followed the correct procedures in regards to investigations & terminations.

Need to put workplace policies in place to deal with workplace issues?  The People & Culture Foundations is a package of human resources solutions individually tailored for businesses that are either building their people & culture framework from scratch or reviewing and updating their HR functions.  This package is also offered in a ‘mix & match’ format for companies who have some, or all, of the functions in place already, but wish to update, check, and fill any gaps in their existing HR processes.

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.

 

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When your boss has amazing technical skills but terrible people skills

Design 7You know the old story, a person is promoted into a supervisory / management position because they are excellent at their job, but it soon becomes apparent it was a terrible, terrible mistake. You see whilst technically you can’t fault their performance, being a people manager is more about motivating and engaging your employees and less about the technical aspects of the job.

In order to move up the ladder in most companies and increase their earnings, generally a person must be promoted to management positions. And the role of manager seems like the perfect reward for that one great employee. It comes with higher pay, greater responsibility to help that person grow, and more perks. And, some employers may hope, one high-flying team member can share those skills with a whole group, increasing productivity overall.

However, not everyone excels at managing other people. Sometimes that star employee is good at leading a team for just a short time, but you may see a decline in performance if they take over long-term. Also, though they may be able to make friends and work together, they may not show the empathy and desire to help others that is essential for a manager.

Managers who most consistently drove high engagement, loyalty, productivity, profit, and service levels all shared five uncommon talents:

  • They motivate their employees.
  • They assert themselves to overcome obstacles.
  • They create a culture of accountability.
  • They build trusting relationships.
  • They make informed, unbiased decisions for the good of their team and organisation.

Studies of employee engagement since the 1990s, and has repeatedly found that companies with happy and committed employees outperform all others in terms of business outcomes including absenteeism, turnover, innovation, and productivity. Getting the decision right in who you name manager and how you develop them is the most important decision any organisational leader can make. The best strategies in the world will likely fail in execution without the highly talented managers in place.

The best organisations know that people don’t become leaders just because they got promoted. They take leadership development seriously.

However, lots of other employers don’t. They delude themselves that new managers will learn how to lead employees on their own, without guidance or instruction.

There is another reason there are so many poor managers around, and that is that many of the people who might be coaching and inspiring young leaders don’t understand leadership themselves.

When you have great leaders around you, it’s easy to emulate what they do to be successful. Unfortunately, the same is also true for bad bosses.

If you’ve only ever seen bad examples of leadership, you are much more likely to follow their poor lead.

So how to recognise if you are, or you have, a poor leader

1. Poor Integrity

One of my favorite leadership quotes is, “Integrity is the most valuable and respected quality of leadership. Always keep your word.” It doesn’t matter how capable, intelligent or effective a leader is. If they lack moral integrity, troubles are bound to follow. For one, employees look to their leaders for examples of what behavior is acceptable. If a leader is engaging in unethical behavior, it won’t be long before the employees under them are engaging in unethical behavior as well. Sooner or later, a lack of moral integrity almost always leads to a person’s undoing, which is why it should be a major red flag.

2. Lack Of Adaptability

Great leaders know how to employ a range of leadership styles depending on what the situation calls for. The simple truth is that not all employees are motivated by the same factors, and there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach that will work in every situation. Good leaders recognize this and are fluid, while poor leaders may be stuck in their ways and unwilling to adapt to what the situation calls for. If you notice that a leader is stubborn, slow to adapt to changing situations and is demonstrating a “my-way-or-the-highway” attitude, they are likely a poor leader.

3. Little Vision For The Future 

The job of a leader is to push forward, and good leaders should always be focused on how they can make tomorrow more efficient and productive than today. Bad leaders, though, often get complacent and stay satisfied with the status quo. If a leader is not focused on the future and demonstrating a clear plan for how to continuously improve, progress is unlikely to happen.

4. Lack Of Accountability 

The best leaders take accountability when things go wrong and give credit to others when things go right. Employees want to know that they are working for a leader who will give them due credit when they do well and not throw them under the bus when things go wrong. Some leaders, though, are unable or unwilling to shoulder this responsibility and instead deflect blame to others and take credit for themselves. In the end, this behavior is going to do very little to motivate a workforce to succeed.

5. Poor Communication Skills

Great communication skills are by far some of the most important traits for a leader to have. It doesn’t matter how effective a plan a leader is able to draw up. If they are not able to communicate that plan to their employees in a way that is easy to understand and motivating, then little progress is going to be made. Good leaders need to be able to listen intently and communicate clearly. If a leader is demonstrating an inability to communicate their ideas and expectations to others, they are not likely to be a very effective leader.

Leadership can make or break any business. Because of this, there are a few key factors to consider before you join a new team or hire a new leader. These characteristics should also be applied to anyone trying to improve their own skills, as well. No matter the case, remember that great leaders must regularly demonstrate integrity, adaptability, vision, accountability and communication skills to effectively lead their teams to greatness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Job applications & interviews are the worst!

JPEG image 3Ugghhhhh I really do not enjoy the whole applying for a job and going to an interview process, and I’ve yet to find anyone who finds the whole thing enjoyable. Even though I’ve facilitated a couple of thousand interviews in my time, and reviewed even more resumes I just do not enjoy being on the other side of the table. It probably dates back to when I was 18 and went for an interview in a very stuffy & corporate organisation, after shaking the interviewers hand I sat back in the chair (a little too hard) it toppled back and I flashed my knickers to the hiring manager. I did not get the job and would 0/10 recommend doing again.

So how do you ensure your application stands out to the recruiter, and better still that you ace the interview? There are 1000’s of articles on this very subject and the advice can vary widely, and thats because recruiters aren’t clones, what one person thinks its great another will think as tragic. It also varies from industry to industry and whether you’re attempting to standout against 100’s of other candidates or just 10.

So presenting my top tips, which by no means are the be all & end all – just what I look for when recruiting.

Make sure your resume & cover letter is consistent with the position you are applying for, too many times I’ve opened an application to see the candidate has written that they aspire to obtain a job driving trucks on a FIFO site when the job is as a Process Tech and residential.

Typos & formatting – particularly if you are applying for an admin job. I find it hard to believe you have advanced word skills if I display the formatting and I see nothing but space space space space space space space.

The style of your resume; unless you are applying for a job in a creative industry don’t make your resume too busy and overly creative. When I’m shortlisting if I have to go hunting on the page for your qualifications and work experience I’m closing your application and moving on. Make sure your resume is nice and clear to read, formatted in a logical way and has your name, address, qualifications and relevant work experience on the first page. Depending how long you’ve been in the workforce and how many jobs you’ve had I would try to keep the in-depth job info to about 10 years and then just list your previous employers and the dates you worked there underneath, or group irrelevant jobs together ie: “2001 – 2005 Various retail & customer service positions”. If you’re returning to an industry you haven’t worked in for several years I would suggest a header of “Relevant work experience” and then “Recent work experience” so the recruiter can see straight away that you do have experience it’s just not as current as your most recent positions.

Nobody cares what primary school you went to or that you won an award at scouts when you were 12 and you’re now 35. Adding to that, once you’ve passed your early – mid 20’s I’d be removing any reference to high school, your TER or subjects studied.

You don’t need to list every single duty performed and try to steer clear of overused buzzword or jargon only relevant in your company. I really enjoy reading how you collated the WENUS for the Finance Manager but it would make much more sense to me if you wrote “Utilised complex Excel spreadsheets to collate the Weekly Estimated Net Usage System report for the Finance Manager”

Please use common industry terminology and list software you have used, particularly when sending your resume to recruitment agencies and large employers. Every resume received is parsed through recruitment software that is programmed to pick out your details and common industry words, so if you’ve used Pronto, MYOB, Leica or Datamine then list it. It helps the recruiter identify you when they are searching for an AP/AR Officer who has Pronto experience or a Surveyor who has used Leica.

Please, oh please, do not put a photo on your resume unless it is considered standard industry practice – like you’re a model. Similarly don’t include personal info such as age, marital status, children, hobbies, religion or things like tax file or drivers licence number. I only want to know if you can do the job and will be a good fit for the organisation, recruiters and hiring managers can unwittingly succumbed to unconscious bias if they have too much personal information about you so just don’t go there.

Okay, so you’ve been shortlisted for an interview, how do you improve your chances of making a good impression?

Number 1 tip – rehearse. A good interviewer will ask (at the very least) about your previous work experience, examples of encountering conflict in the workplace, how you work within a team, how you overcame a challenge / solved a difficult problem, showed initiative, a safety issue you identified and what you did next and where you see yourself in the next 5 years (Life Pro Tip – don’t say in the Manager who is interviewing you’s job). Go through your resume and make notes about your experience giving actual examples, then stand in front of a mirror and keep practicing until you can rattle off your answers without looking at your notes. Take your notes to the interview with you, theres is nothing wrong with excusing yourself to refer to your notes to ensure you’ve not missed anything.

For the love of god please research the company you have applied for a job at. The more senior the position the more information you know about us I want to hear, applying for a management position and you haven’t even bothered to look at an Annual Report or Strategic Plan? Seriously? Even for an entry level position replying “not much” when asked what you know about us is not acceptable. Everyone has a webpage and / or Facebook, show an interest and do some research.

As hard as it may seem try to picture the interview as a cup of coffee between friends, when you walk in the room exchange pleasantries and try to find something complementary to say for example “Wow great building” “What a fantastic day it is outside” or if it’s today “I can’t believe the feels like temp is still only 4 degrees” Whilst on this subject, employers you have nothing to gain by making the recruitment process stuffy, formal & intimidating. The whole point of an interview is to get a feel for the candidates skills, experience, personality and values to assess their compatibility to your organisation. Not breaking the ice, offering a drink of water or conducting the dreaded panel interview with them sitting opposite a row of staff is intimidating and went out the window of best practice 10 plus years ago. Interviews flow a lot easier when the candidate can see each member of the panels faces easily to address their questions, theres is a bit of banter and additional explorations questions are asked to dig deeper into their experiences. Another big one for recruiters and hiring managers, quite often a candidate telling a bit of a furphy is evident in their bodily language and a bit of a flush rising in their cheeks or across their chest, you can’t see this if your head is down for 90% of the interview busily writing notes, or reading questions off the page.

Try to think of a couple of questions to ask at the end of the interview so you can get a good feel for the employer or the team you would be working for – remember this is also your opportunity to interview the employer to see if this is somewhere you would actually want to work at. Some good questions to ask are “How would you describe your leadership style” “How would you described the culture of the team and the organisation overall” “If I were successful what do you consider my biggest challenge will be” “How has this position become available”

So I think that pretty much covers a general overview, if I’ve missed something you would like to know please comment below or send me a message and I’ll attempt to answer your question.

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Is the Goldfields hiring woes just a reflection of the changing workforce?

Design 25In recent weeks there has been some media attention about the ability of the mining industry to attract workers. There was this article by ABC Kalgoorlie’s Jarrod Lucus addressing the decline in enrolments for professional mining careers and then this one last week about the difficulty in filling FIFO jobs.

I’ve worked in HR on both FIFO and Kalgoorlie residential sites, the prime recruiter on both so I’m aware of how hard it is to attract workers to live in town v’s FIFO. But the decline in WASM & other University enrolments for professional mining roles signifies that there has even been a move away from the desirability of FIFO opportunities as well.

FIFO can be hard on a lot of people, you’re away from your family and friends at least 50% of the year, you miss sharing milestones in your’s and your loved ones lives and it can play havoc with your mental health. Then factor in the long hours, and in some cases long rosters, over indulging on camp food, celebrating shift change a little too much at the wet mess and lack of sleep from noisy neighbours and you have a recipe for poor health outcomes. The Mine Managers, Engineers, Geo’s and Met’s I knew on the FIFO site all worked beyond 12 hours a day, and while they were on the much more attractive roster of 8:6 they definitely worked astronomical hours for their salaries.

Similarly at residential sites these positions are employed on a 5:2 roster and it’s not uncommon for them to have been working close to, if not, 12 hour days throughout the boom, and generally for less money than their FIFO counterparts.

If we flick back to this blog post about Millennial employees I discuss the changing priorities of millennials which is shaping the new workforce, and a big driver is more balance in their lives ie: less bulk hours and more flexibility for leisure pursuits.

When it’s an employers market with an abundance of skilled candidates you can somewhat afford to sit back and say this is the roster, this is the salary, take it or leave it. We aren’t in that type of market right now, local sites that have operated for 20 years as 100% residential are flying in fitters and sparkies on FIFO contracts and in a few very short years the decline in WASM enrolments will start to cause some real pain.

So is the answer to this crisis actually that a career in mining is now on the nose to the new breed of employee, and the industry needs to act a little more strategically to win back that “cool factor” again? Is the answer to look at greater flexibility with rosters and work hours, less money directed towards flight & accommodation for FIFO’ing Kalgoorlie based positions and directing those funds to more attractive salaries to entice people to reside locally and bring their families to town. Because we know from past history iron ore pays more than gold, and you’re only 1 expansion project up north away from having zero candidates if you continue to look to FIFO as the solution to the problem. In my experience if you pay well and have a great reputation people will choose to work for you, but you need to present that as an attractive value proposition, employees want to sleep in their own beds, with their family & friends network close by and not knock off from work to go back to a lonely existence in a donga or hotel room. Yes, looking at alternative measures may affect the profitability of the business short term, but not as much as having no employees to keep production running in the future.

In business you need to adapt or die, you can’t remain relevant if you aren’t willing to embrace change.

Are you 100% sure you’re paying correctly?

JPEG image 20Running a business & employing people is hard, workplace legislation is not the easiest to navigate and depending on your type of business its not uncommon to be paying under multiple Awards. So how do you know you are getting it right?

All employees in WA are employed under either the National or State system of industrial relations. 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. The majority of employees in Australia fall under the National 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 National system but Western Australia being Western Australia has chosen to keep the State based system.

If you’re a State based employer you can search Awards and pay rates at the Department of Commerce or can obtain pay rates by calling Wageline, National system employers can obtain the same information from Fair Work

State system employers derive their conditions of employment from either;

  • the Minimum Conditions of Employment Act 1993
  • a state award
  • an industrial agreement (replaces an Award, pay & conditions must be equal to or exceed the applicable Award)
  • an employer-employee agreement (replaces an Award, pay & conditions must be equal to or exceed the applicable Award)
  • a common law contract of employment (pay & conditions must meet the Minimum Conditions of Employment)

National system employers derive their conditions of employment from either;

  • National Employment Standards (NES)
  • a modern Award
  • an Enterprise Agreement (replaces an Award, pay & conditions must be equal to or exceed the applicable Award)
  • a common law contract (pay and conditions must meet the NES or the relevant Award if applicable)

Howard era Australia Workplace Agreements (AWA or Individual Workplace Agreement)  have not been permitted to be entered into since 2008, if you are still using these stop now!

An Award (or alternative) will set out the minimum conditions for an employee such as hours of work, spread of hours, maximum hours per day / week / 28 day cycle before penalty rates apply, breaks, allowances, leave entitlements, redundancy provisions, consultation requirements and many more provisions.

It will also set out pay level classifications & definitions for positions, this section of the Award will detail the competency level required to adequately perform the role and will cross reference this information to an hourly rate.

Wages irregularity can fly under the radar if employees don’t understand their rights and are concerned for their jobs if they raise issues, but if things catch up, they can do so with a vengeance. For business owners who make a practice of underpaying staff, the risks are three-fold: penalties; payment of the amounts underpaid, plus interest; and damage to reputation.

An underpayment claim can go back six years, so systematic underpayment can add up to a large amount and, of course, if one employee has a claim of this kind upheld every other employee who has been underpaid in the same way will also have a claim on the same basis, so the risk of the issue spreading is substantial.