Hello weekend!

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Just a reminder that it’s the weekend (if you’re a Monday – Friday worker ), good luck to all the businesses nominated for tonights KBCCI Business Awards I’ve been lucky enough to represent a winning organisation the past 2 years and it’s a great night & honour to be recognised by your peers.

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What’s your business’ point of difference?

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Why would a highly talented employee choose to work at your organisation? What is it that you offer to employees that makes you stand out from the competition when recruiting and is compelling enough to keep your existing talent engaged and in your employ?

As a business you have probably invested a considerable amount of thought as to what your “Customer Value Proposition” is; that clear compelling reason why people should do business with you. Now apply that same thought pattern to your employees and prospective employees; what is the clear compelling reason they should work for you? This is called an “Employee Value Proposition”. In most cases, drawing parallels between customer and employee disciplines is foolish; the relationship with a customer who spends one hour with your business per month making requests is radically different from the employee who spends 40 plus hours per week there. But, over the long term, just like customers, employees do have a choice. It’s in the organisation’s interest to obsess a bit over why they would stay or go.

In case you haven’t yet heard, employee engagement is the key to making your organisation competitive, profitable and successful. In an increasingly competitive labour market, where the best talent regularly change jobs, it’s important now more than ever to identify and communicate your organisation’s unique set of offerings and values to attract top job candidates and retain employees.

If you want your employees to go the extra mile, you have to offer them more than great pay and benefits. When it comes to recruitment, top candidates are often also looking for career development and work that is fulfilling and stimulating.

EVPs differ from one organisation to another, and across industries. The key is to articulate your brand and the values that drive your organisation. Be careful not to oversell or misrepresent staff benefits and conditions; that’s a surefire way to lock in high staff turnover and discontent. And make sure that policies relating to things such as time in lieu, travel and training are clear and applied consistently.

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Writing an EVP is not an exact science, but the following points will help you craft an effective and powerful workplace tool.

Analyse what your employees want, and expect in the employment relationship.

It’s crucial to be clear about why you want to create or adjust your EVP. Having clarity about your core purpose will help you define employee benefits and guide the implementation of your EVP. Ask yourself: “What challenge are we trying to solve?”

Analysis must identify which employees enjoy working with your organisation most and why, as well as what your organisation needs to attract and retain talent. Identify the following:

  • the key reason your organisation needs an EVP, i.e. the current problems and what the EVP will drive
  • who the target audience of your EVP is, i.e. all employees or a particular segment that needs attention, e.g. casuals, young people, graduates, females, etc.
  • what your employee engagement survey data says about why employees like working with your organisation, what drives their job satisfaction and see if there are issues identified that, if improved, would lift employee discretionary effort and motivation
  • what your employee turnover and absenteeism data tells you and how it matches against industry standards, taking note of pockets in the organisation where retention or absenteeism issues are more prevalent
  • what your exit survey data says about why employees chose to leave and what was missing from their employment experience with your organisation

    what your competitors state as their EVP and understand your points of difference

Design an EVP

Once the EVP elements and themes are established, a draft EVP can be designed. Insync recommends
you involve a diverse group of employees in the design process, preferably from different team, job level and tenure groups. This drives the buy-in needed to make your EVP authentic and effective. Furthermore, involving employees is a very effective engagement tool in itself.

The EVP should be designed alongside the organisational vision and strategy. This is critical as employees might have identified something that is just not sustainable for the organisation. For example, a theme may have emerged in step one around flexibility. However, it’s no good stating in your EVP that you have flexible work practices if they’re not really that flexible. The EVP and reality must be aligned otherwise it’s a recipe for frustration, cynicism and mistrust.

Communicate the EVP to both existing & potential employees

Even the best EVP is pointless unless it is well communicated to staff and job candidates, both verbally and in written form. It is important to use the right platforms to target different audiences. Make sure your message is consistent across your corporate websites and hiring channels, and that it comes from the top rather than from the HR department.

Reinforce and deliver

It’s not enough to create a great and well-worded EVP that’s properly communicated. The EVP must be “lived and breathed” throughout the organisation. The EVP must be regularly reinforced by all levels in the organisation and across all departments to ensure it truly becomes part of your organisational DNA.

Not only should senior leaders be equipped to drive the EVP throughout the work environment by walking the talk, employee champions should also be identified to operate as genuine brand ambassadors. By sharing their thoughts and experiences of those working within your organisation, the authenticity of the EVP will be reinforced.

Supporting material to complement the EVP should also be developed to assist leaders and employee champions to deploy the EVP throughout all organisational development activities. It’s important that initiatives resonate at the organisational, managerial and individual level.

Measure your success

A critical step often missed following the rollout of an EVP program is to assess the extent to which it has actually made a difference. Ask yourself: have you delivered the promise? And are you attracting the right type of people?

Measurement is as simple as collecting employee feedback at regular intervals. Employee surveys – entry, exit and/or engagement – can measure effectiveness of your EVP. Measures such as employee engagement and satisfaction can be used. Over time, absenteeism and turnover data should also be positively impacted. The time taken to recruit and an increased talent pipeline are recruitment measures that can provide an indication of EVP success. Are the right people knocking on the employment door for the right reasons?

 No annual fee’s                    No contracts                    Just quality service

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

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Are your workplace policies enough?

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Workplace policies can come in a variety of formats, I’ve seen everything from a simple 2 paragraph statement to a 30 page framework. But if you’re an organisation without any dedicated or appropriately experienced HR personnel how can you expect to be able to act within the constraints of employment legislation if your policies are brief, vague or not compliant to legislation?

There are plenty of places to obtain workplace policies on the internet, generally they are relatively cheap, you insert your business name and you’re off and running, but generic policies don’t always work from business to business. Your policies need to be reflective of your workplace & peculiarities of your industry. In addition most of these policies only contain basic information and will then include a “insert procedure here” paragraph, without the appropriate knowledge how can you ensure your content isn’t just best practice but legal?

The key to getting policies right isn’t just understanding industry and the workplace, but understanding the law. It’s the difference between knowing legally what steps must be taken during employee discipline or termination to ensure you don’t end up on the wrong side of a Fair Work decision & just copying another companies policies off the internet. Policies also detail how issues will be managed, so that there are clear consequences for unacceptable behaviours or poor performance.  Even if certain behaviours are obviously not acceptable, there could be confusion over their severity.  What you think is a ‘sackable’ offence might be viewed by an employee as something that just warrants a warning.  This type of confusion can easily lead to unfair dismissal claims, so eliminating confusion reduces the risk of such a claim.

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The People & Culture Office policies reflect contemporary human resource practice, offer step by step procedures and are fully compliant to Australian workplace law and legislation. They have been written with the average employee in mind; that is anyone in the business can pick up the policy and understand exactly what is expected of them and what procedure should be followed to achieve the desired outcome.

Policies should add value to your business, whether it’s a Recruitment & Selection Policy to guide you to recruit employees of the highest standard or an EEO, Bullying & Harassment Policy that covers off the relevant legislation, if your policies are too vague, don’t provide guidance and protect you from legal action then you aren’t getting the value from them that you should.

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

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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.

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

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Managing performance for business success

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Many small business owners think of formal employee performance management as “overkill” administrative activities that they can put off until their business gets bigger. After all, you spend every day working closely with your employees. Why should you implement a formal process that adds administrative burden and stress?

Actually, a good deal of research shows that effective employee performance management enhances employee morale and performance, and helps drive better business results. As a small – medium sized business, you likely can’t afford to ignore any program that is proven to help you better run your business.

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to managing people and their work performance, there is a range of core management practices that can help managers and supervisors maximise individual and team performance.

I recently wrote this post on the importance of performance management in SME’s, today I want to focus on the big picture, how performance management relates to your organisations strategic plan and how you can utilise the methodology to build a performance culture.

Effectively managing an employee’s performance is a hallmark of a successful manager. Research shows that employees work best when they have clear goals and understand what is expected of them and their work; receive fair and regular feedback about how they are performing; are recognised for a job well done; and get constructive advice about areas of unsatisfactory performance and how they may improve.

An organisation’s performance is the result of the combined efforts of the individuals within it.  Managers and supervisors play a critical role in aligning employee capabilities and efforts with organisational outcomes. This involves ensuring employees clearly understand what they need to achieve; what capabilities they need to be successful in their role; any processes and procedures they are expected to follow; and the standards and behaviour expected of them. Managers also need to work with employees to identify their capabilities, leverage their strengths and provide development opportunities to close any gaps between their capabilities and what is expected of them.

The figure below illustrates how every employee plays an important role in achieving organisational objectives. Leaders translate the organisation’s strategy into the set of capabilities and behaviors required to deliver it; what began as the strategic priorities and vision, mission & values cascades down to operational outcomes and workplace policies and then broken further down to an individuals performance indicators and the creation of day to day structure, systems and processes.

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According to research, an employee’s understanding of expectations and standards – and how they relate to their work and the organisation – is the biggest driver of employee and organisational performance. When employees understand this, their performance can improve by as much as 36%.

Good performance management practice features 6 essential components and related core elements that occur on a continuous basis, are cyclical or driven by an event.

Set and clarify expectations Collaborative process between manager and employee to set performance expectations and clarify them on an ongoing basis.

  • Each employee has an up-to-date description of their role, including required capabilities and responsibilities, linked to the organisation’s strategy.
  • All employees understand the organisations values, the capabilities required of them in their roles, and the deliverables for which they are accountable.
  • All employees are aware of the codes of conduct, policies, procedures and standards they are expected to observe.
  • All new employees undergo a review process that includes informal and formal reviews.

Monitor Ongoing joint evaluation of progress towards achieving work goals and expectations, involving regular two-way feedback.

  • All employees have regular opportunities to discuss their work with their manager and receive informal feedback on their performance (either individually or as a team).
  • All employees have the opportunity to provide informal and formal feedback (through a structured assessment method) to their manager.

Plan and review Collaborative process between manager and employee to plan performance, linked to corporate objectives, with periodic reviews of progress towards achieving work goals.

  • All employees have an annual formal performance agreement with their manager that sets out individual performance objectives linked to corporate objectives as well as the capabilities they are required to demonstrate in their role.
  • All employees have a formal performance review at least once a year.

Develop Collaborative process to identify and develop employees’ capabilities with periodic reviews of progress.

  • Development plans are based on the capabilities required in the role, the employees’ existing capabilities, and his/her performance objectives and/or career goals.
  • Progress against development plans is formally reviewed at least once a year

Recognise Regular practice of recognising employee efforts and excellent performance outcomes and achievements.

  • Organisations have guidelines in place to help managers appropriately recognise employees at the local level.

Resolve unsatisfactory performance Process of addressing employee unsatisfactory performance.

  • Managers promptly work with the employee to understand and resolve instances or patterns of unsatisfactory performance.

Want to learn more about the essential components of managing employee performance? “Managing Performance – A guide for Managers” is available for purchase, please contact us for further information.

Organisations who exceedingly outperform the competition foster a strong employee culture. We view culture as the cumulative effect of what people do and how they do it – and it determines an organisation’s performance. There’s always a culture. You end up with one whatever you do, so you can either choose to shape and influence it or take your chances.

High performing teams and people thrive in high performance conditions and leaders play a massive part in creating and sustaining those conditions. Too many leaders don’t understand what that takes, or are too busy, or say that the time isn’t right. Then they become unhappy about the culture they’ve got and the performance they’re getting. Or they only put the effort in for a while, the culture weakens and people think high performance is a fad. The best people leave, the worst behaviours thrive and results suffer.

Leading a high performance culture makes a massive difference to performance and results. It takes discipline, time and effort because these cultures are not normal and without that leadership focus, they will whither and die. So like behaviours, leaders end up with the culture they deserve.

Choosing the high performance life

Leaders have a massive impact on culture. The behaviours they demonstrate, encourage and tolerate pretty much are the culture

Excellence here has a structure. You need to make sure the key elements of a high performance culture are in place or you’re getting them in place.

You need to line things up. Vision, purpose, goals, behaviours, rewards, signals and messages are all tools that leaders who build high performance cultures use wisely and in combination. After all, you’re out to build a culture that outlasts you, not a cult that’s dependent on you.

You need to show that culture matters to you. Rewarding two results equally even though one reflects and supports the culture you want to sustain and the other doesn’t, is only going to get you what you don’t want.

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

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When being great at your job just isn’t enough

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Gather around kids it’s story time! And boy do I have some tales for you. Now I’m a Kalgoorlie local. I’m born and bred so all of these stories are from my experience with local employers, you may know them, you would definitely know the organisations and some of you have probably got similar stories. All of these instances took place from the mid 90s to current day.

The business owner who answered the phone to my husband and told him I couldn’t come to the phone because I was under his desk sucking his c*ck. I was in my mid 20s, I needed my income so walking wasn’t an option and I was afraid of losing my job if I called him out, I was powerless.

The very senior manager who told me I couldn’t possibly know what I was talking about because I was a women and *gasp* young.

The same senior manager who announced at a morning tea for a departing pregnant employee that he won’t employ another female unless they presented a certificate of sterilisation. The group laughed nervously and the poor pregnant employee stood there looking like she wished the ground would open up.

The mining manager that refused to have any conversation with me in regards to recruitment without my male manager present or cc’d into correspondence because I couldn’t possibly understand how the mill operated and therefore couldn’t recruit a capable employee. Guess what I did know and I was more than capable.

The same manager spoke over top of me and tried to run an interview no less than 2 minutes after giving him explicit instructions on how the interview would progress. He failed.

The Manager who claimed 2 initiatives of mine as his own work, received commendation for the initiatives from the executive and an industry group and then explained to me that he had to as he was worried that no-one would consider the initiatives if they knew they were from me. I resigned.

The manager who when I asked why I wasn’t being paid as much as my male colleague doing less complex work told me I didn’t need to be paid as much because I had a husband to look after me. I found a job at a company that paid me what I was worth.

These are just a few of my stories, now look around your office at the female employees, how many similar stories do you think they have? What about your friends, significant others, mothers & sisters, how many people do you know have found out the hard way that sometimes when you are female, being great at your job just isn’t enough.

A recent report from UK law firm Slater and Gordon found that almost one in three bosses wouldn’t hire a female candidate – in case they became pregnant too soon.

A report conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission titled ‘Supporting Working Parents: Pregnancy and Return to Work National Review’ reveals that one in five mothers had their employment significantly altered during or after parental leave.

The report highlighted that women were made redundant, restructured, dismissed or their contract was not renewed either during their pregnancy, when taking parental leave or when they returned to work.

The gender pay gap in Australia is currently 15.3% and has hovered between 15% – 19% for the past 2 decades. Sex discrimination continues to account for the single largest component of the gap. This component of the gap is increasing over time (from 35 percent in 2009 to 38 percent in 2016). The research shows that systemic discrimination remains a persistent feature of the workforce, while the proportion of the pay gap that can be attributed to differences in skills, tenure and education between men and women decreases each year, as women continue to close the gap in terms of education and labour participation.

The Womens Leadership Forum was recently held in Kalgoorlie, several hundred women attended to listen to a diverse array of speakers and would have left the venue pumped and inspired, but what happens when they go back to work and are confronted with a situation like one of my experiences above. If this is an issue we are going to tackle as an employment community, and as a society, we need men at the table hearing these types of stories, having input into the strategies for change and taking their knowledge back to their respective workplaces and providing education to the wider organisational group.

We can scream from the top of our lungs as much as we want but if we aren’t taking the guys along for the ride with us then what will change? If the they aren’t there alongside the women calling out unacceptable behaviour and practices in the workplace then what will change? While we need initiatives such as investing in high performers for female leadership opportunities through mentoring and network supports. Little will change until we have male role models in senior management to drive the change in gender stereotypes and norms that continue to hinder women’s access to leadership.

*drops mic*

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Why small & medium business needs HR

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When working together towards shared goals, skilled teams can move mountains. Every person in the workforce is a valuable resource, especially for small businesses where budgets are smaller and resources are often limited. Understanding how to get the best out of every employee is the task of human resources worldwide.

What is Human Resource (HR) Management?

No matter its size, if a business has employees, it needs and relies on HR management. It’s an integral part of every business as it involves the best ways to maximise employee performance and ensure employee satisfaction and safety.

Why is human resources so important for small businesses?

Smaller businesses rely on close-knit teams to get the job done, so it’s vital to manage your human resources correctly. Understanding the pain points of your business and drawing on the strengths of your team will give you the best possible chance at success. Gaining the skills and know-how to manage your staff and investing in their continued growth, will give you a marked advantage over your competitors.

What are the benefits of Human Resource Management?

There are so many ways that HR management can benefit your small business, but here’s five reasons why it’s going to make your work life a lot easier:

  1. Find the right staff

HR managers can find the right staff at the right time for small businesses. If you don’t have an HR manager or HR staff, it may be worth your while to consult with an expert, or work with your staff to make a hiring plan. Be clear about the role you’re offering and the responsibilities of your ideal hire. If your budget is tight, offering alternative incentives like flexible hours and remote work days can make your offer more appealing to candidates.

  1. Give new staff the best start possible

Taking the time to put together a detailed onboarding package for new employees ensures everyone starts off on the right foot. Defining a straightforward process for new hires that’s packed full of information about your business processes can save you time and money down the track.

  1. People management

It’s not all about new hires. Understanding your employees and their motivations for working with you is hugely important to their success and the overall culture of your small business. HR management can give you the tools to get the most out of your staff and gain valuable skills that are transferable to a number of different roles and situations.

  1. Improve job satisfaction

One of the best gifts you can give your employees is job satisfaction. Part of the daily duties of HR managers and HR staff is to support, nurture and coach people in their roles. These efforts can make or break a person’s work life and in the context of a small business; it’s important that every staff member is supported and encouraged to reach their full potential. Your business will thrive and your employees will stick around.

  1. Provide opportunities to upskill staff

Negotiating the various legal, ethical, environmental, social and economic challenges that face small business is no easy task. Laws and regulations often change, so it’s important to stay up-to-date with all the relevant information. If you can’t hire an HR manager, upskill current staff with further HR training and qualifications. This will boost your ROI because investing in staff education improves employee retention rates and adds value to your team.

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

source: Kochies Business Builders

Policies? I don’t need that cr*p

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If you’re employing staff then you need policies, HR Policies are general statements that serve to guide decision making and communication with employees. They generally serve three purposes;

  • To reassure employees that they will be treated fairly and without prejudice
  • To assist managers and HR to make consistent decisions
  • To give managers and HR the confidence to resolve problems, knowing that they are following the policy and procedure set out by the organisation in a consistent manner.

You may think that as ‘sensible adults’ your employees know how to behave – but unfortunately it’s not always the case. The mix of backgrounds, cultures, upbringings, education and experiences see all of us develop different ideas of what is and isn’t acceptable, and how to conduct ourselves at work. They can cover simple matters such as how an employee notifies you if they’re off sick, or what is acceptable work-wear. Through to more serious matters such as alcohol & drug consumption and discrimination.  Without clear guidelines, employees could inadvertently do the ‘wrong thing’.

Policies also detail how issues will be managed, so that there are clear consequences for unacceptable behaviours or poor performance.  Even if certain behaviours are obviously not acceptable, there could be confusion over their severity.  What you think is a ‘sackable’ offence might be viewed by an employee as something that just warrants a warning.  This type of confusion can easily lead to unfair dismissal claims, so eliminating confusion reduces the risk of such a claim.

Employee handbooks or policy manuals not only assist with communicating your standards, values and behaviours to employees but it also protects your company from possible legal action. For example if you terminate an employee for inappropriate behaviour and conduct the first thing that a Commissioner will ask is what did your Policy say and was the employee aware of it? So obviously there is no point having policies if you don’t implement them and get them signed off with your employees.

Policies should provide all the information that new (and some established) employees need to know.  They are a great tool in the induction process to ensure new starters are on the same page as you from day one.

With many small business employing only a handful of staff its easy to think that HR policies aren’t needed.  But in some cases 1 or 2 staff members could represent 30% or more or your ‘workforce’, and a simple issue could become a major problem.  Also, the fines you could face as a result of an unfair dismissal claim or vicarious liability ruling are the same as those faced by larger employers, and could mean the end of your business.

At the end of the day you may never need to rely on your HR policies – but like home and car insurance, it’s better to have them and never need them, than not have them when you do.

These decisions from the Fair Work Commission should act as a warning to employers about the importance of making your policies and processes around dismissals absolutely watertight.

Smarter Insurance Brokers (SIB), a small business based in Port Macquarie, were experiencing performance issues with one of their brokers. Relying on what was perceived to be their unfettered right based on a termination clause in the employee’s formal contract, SIB made the decision to terminate employment with four weeks notice, but without supplying any reason for doing so nor compiling any written documentation around the process undertaken.

Because the termination clause in the employment contract suggested that either party could terminate employment with 4 weeks prior notice, it appeared to SIB that termination was a straight forward and defensible process – but it certainly didn’t end there.

After the employee had left, SIB discovered downloaded pornography on the employee’s company supplied laptop. While this may have appeared at first to be the nail in the coffin for the dismissal, closing any gaps in the documentation of the termination, this wasn’t to be the case. Instead, despite the employee admitting to using his work computer to store and download pornography, the Fair Work Commission found that SIB did not have a particular policy in place that prevented the employee doing this, and regardless of the downloaded pornography, the original dismissal was not related to it and did not follow proper procedure.

As a result, the Commissioner awarded the employee $10,000 to cover 8 weeks remuneration.

The Fair Work Commission found a Bunnings employee was unfairly dismissed following a brawl with his co-worker because the company had failed to follow correct procedure.

The fight started when Michael Fitzpatrick told a colleague to “go and get f—ed” and ended in a physical altercation between the two. The incident was partly overheard by other Bunnings employees and the pair were suspended on the day.  But in the investigation following the fight the Commissioner was not satisfied all the allegations were properly put to Fitzpatrick and in particular he made the observation that the allegation should have been put in writing.

Vitale says the case shows even where employers think they have a clear cut case for termination, the commission will still look at the process that is followed prior to termination.

“The employer, particularly a large employer with a dedicated human resources department, needs to ensure its process is spot on,” he says.

An order for compensation was made at a later date.

In the case of Linfox Australia Pty Ltd v Glen Stutsel [2012] FWAFB 7097, Fair Work Australia determined that Linfox failed to have a social media policy in place to govern the conduct of its employees on social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter. The company was found to have unfairly dismissed Mr Stutsel.
 

Mr Stutsel had written derogatory comments on his Facebook account about two of his managers. When the managers visited Mr Stutsel’s Facebook account and complained to Linfox, an investigation was conducted and Mr Stutsel was terminated for serious misconduct.
 

If Linfox had had a social media policy at the time of the misbehaviour and that policy had been clearly communicated to Mr Stutsel, his conduct may not have occurred or Linfox may have been justified in dismissing him.

Linfox was ordered to reinstate the employment of Mr Stutsel.

As an employer, are your policy and process documents really up to scratch when it comes to workplace discipline and cases where a dismissal may be unavoidable? If you’re not sure, it’s definitely time to check. The People & Culture Office can get you started with the fundamentals with their People & Culture Foundations pack, contact us today for a quote.

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