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Who is to blame?

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Written by Lee-Anne Hunt – The HR Dept Ringwood

Yet another business is publicly blamed for underpayments to their employees.


Please don’t think I’m supportive of businesses who knowingly do the wrong thing; it’s just I’m not that surprised. Our Modern (is 2010 still Modern?) Awards system is confusing and open to interpretation at the best of times. And provides a place to hide for quite some time at the worst.


Businesses are being fined left, right and centre. And where is that money going? Of course, to fund more investigations; that has big business shaking and small business completely terrified!


On the surface that’s great for employees. But is it? I know businesses who won’t grow because they don’t want to employ people because its all too hard and there’s too much risk, even when they try their best to do it right. And don’t even get me started on how employers are supposed to offer flexibility and attractive working conditions when the Awards just aren’t set up to accommodate the demands of the current and future workforce in this space. So, guess what Australia that means less jobs and less opportunities.


I don’t want to see a situation where employees are taken advantage of. What I do want is an overhaul of the system to make it easier for those employers who want to do the right thing. And easier for employees to make sure for themselves they are being paid right!


So how about we use the money from the fines to make our system better not just hunt down offenders? How about the Australian Government asks businesses, employees and their HR teams what would work? A Taskforce maybe? I’d be up for that!

The loss of customer service goes beyond the loss of jobs in my book!

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Written by Lee-Anne Hunt – The HR Dept Ringwood

Everywhere I go these days I see more and more automation and self-service. I know it makes life quicker and apparently cheaper, but does it make it better?


I no longer need to queue at the bank or the checkout; I can do it all online thank you. I don’t even need to speak to a real person; ever!


Does anyone else lament the loss of the service station attendants? When I was little I longed for the day when I could drive and have someone fill up my car, wash my windscreen and pump my tyres and be just as important as my mum. Ah, but no, when my turn came; it was out in the cold with me; I have to do it all myself.


And where has all this taken us? Of course, I can see the benefits. The opportunity to connect with loved ones far away and reach thousands of strangers with my words on LinkedIn is truly wonderful.


But I miss the idle chit chat. Standing in the queue comparing my shopping with the person before me. Laughing with the checkout operator and fellow customers. Having someone actually assist me. Knowing there is nothing else I can do right now but pass the time. I miss that sense of community and belonging with the other people in the store; even if only for a minute.

I’m lucky; I still live in a street where neighbours wave and smile and chat over the bins. And yes, I do have family and friends and the dog to chat to when things are quiet. It’s not that. I just wonder if technology is taking us further away from each other rather than bringing us closer together.


Being in HR and having children I do think about the future of the workforce and what I should be preparing them all for. I want to know that real people customer service and community connection will always be a part of our modern world and social skills like empathy and compassion will matter.


I fear that our constant need for progress and efficiency will further erode our connection and make it easier to be less compassionate. In the words of Brene Brown; “it’s hard to hate close up”.

Is this meeting necessary?

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Have you ever stopped to ask, “Why are we having this meeting?”. If the only answer presented to you is “We always meet at this time every week.”, it’s time to put meetings under the microscope.

If you’re looking at ways to improve productivity you’re not alone. Reports tell us that employees spend over 5 hours a week in meetings, managers even more so, and around 70% of people found their meetings to be unproductive.

Most meetings are planned with the best intentions. However, meeting to talk about an issue or topic with no structure or agenda in place will not produce the results you are looking for. The participants will also likely become frustrated that issues don’t get resolved and projects don’t progress, despite all the time spent meeting about them.

So whether it’s a meeting tradition that started on day one of your business which needs reviewing now your business has grown, or you can’t track down your senior staff due to them always meeting, we can help.

How to stop meeting for meetings’ sake

Before arranging or committing to your next meeting, ask yourself the following five questions.

1. What is the main objective?

Defining a clear objective and sharing it with participants ahead of time helps everyone to understand the main purpose of the meeting before they attend. This can aid meeting prep and can cut down time spent telling everyone why they were invited.

2. Who needs to attend?

It is best to keep meeting attendees down to a minimum. Invite only those whose input is required as they can subsequently share important information to interested parties. If the meeting objective was to obtain a decision, make sure the decision maker can attend.

3. When and where?

Try to avoid known busy times and steer clear of Monday first thing or Friday last thing if you want the full attention of your attendees. If you’re holding a meeting over breakfast or lunchtime, catering will prevent any bad decisions being made on an empty stomach.

If idea generation is the objective of your meeting, a new location can get employees thinking differently. Try outside if it’s a nice day or even offsite once in a while.

4. What is the agenda?

An objective sets out why you are meeting. But an agenda with a clear time limit ensures you make the most of it. A meeting plan or agenda allocates time slots for all topics of discussion and can reduce the risk of overrunning or wasting time. Why not try meetings standing up or assigning someone with a stopwatch to be in charge of sticking to the agenda.

5. When to follow up?

Most meetings require actions or follow up. Without this it won’t be long before you are meeting again to discuss the same topic. A list of actions should be decided upon during the meeting and shared with all participants along with any important notes. Setting deadlines or committing to follow up dates will improve the likeliness of those actions being completed.

Need further ideas on transforming your meeting culture?

Applying this five-point checklist will cut down unnecessary meetings in your business and give valuable time back to you and your workforce. If you’d like further ideas on how to transform your meetings and increase engagement give us a call. Our experience is varied, from tiny start-ups to established brands, across all industries.

Why every business needs a social media policy

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With 18 million Australians of the population being avid social media users it’s safe to assume that some, if not all, of your employees have an online persona.

You may even have put the most socially savvy of them in charge of your own business social media accounts, to manage your brand reputation online.

Whilst it’s advantageous for your business to have a team proficient in digital communication skills, it can become a problem if an employee overshares online or impulsively pushes an inappropriate photo out to their extended network.

Since the dawn of social media, we have seen numerous faux pas play out. From big brand cringe moments like when an HMV employee live tweeted from the brand account about a company restructure with mass redundancies. To celebrities losing jobs or opportunities after making controversial comments online, most recently including Roseanne Barr, Kevin Hart and Danny Baker.

With the world so easily accessible at employees’ fingertips, how can you maintain your brand reputation and protect your business from being caught up in an awkward situation?

Protect your business with a social media policy

Although you cannot manage what employees are sharing on their personal social media accounts, you can set rules regarding usage at work and provide guidance on expected behaviour online.

Your policy can remind employees that their actions reflect on your business and that impulsive or thoughtless posts could get them in to trouble at work.

What should be included in a social media policy?

Usage – Unless being active on social media is essential to an employee’s role, it’s a good idea to make it clear in your policy that personal use during working hours is not permitted.

Confidentiality – You’ll certainly want to restrict employees sharing or publicly discussing any confidential details related to your business. Specifically, any trade secrets, financial, operational or legal information and private client data.

Boundaries – Set boundaries for employees and explain that discriminatory posts by them on social media will not be tolerated and could be classed as gross misconduct.

You can also ask them to add a disclaimer to their personal profiles which reminds other users that the employee is an individual and their posts are not a representation of their employer.

Representation – If you have employees in charge of your business social media accounts, it would be wise to mention this specifically in your policy. Provide guidelines on what is and isn’t appropriate for the business account and mention that any mismanagement will be in breach of the company social media policy.

How does a social media policy work?

The policy makes your expectations on social media activity clear to employees. It must also point out consequences and processes in the event of a policy breach. By implementing and following official processes you can protect yourself and your business if ever taken to a Fair Work tribunal. With this in mind, it is important to be able to demonstrate that all employees have seen and understood the policy.

Some difficult conversations can arise from addressing conflict. So if you would like to know what you can do rather than what you can’t, get in touch with your local HR Dept today. We’ll give you peace of mind so that you can move forward with the best decisions for your business.

An employee is looking for another job. What can I do about it?

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Times have changed since most employees would stick to one job throughout their career, looking forward to their retirement gift. The job market has developed and moved on.

Age can remain a factor with some employees content sticking with one employer. But younger generations, such as millennials and below, are already accustomed to scouring opportunities for greener grass.

When you discover that an employee is looking for another job, whether they openly told you themselves or you found out some other way, it can instigate reflection: “What is it they’re unhappy with? What can I do with this information? Can I begin looking for a replacement?”.

Perhaps you already suspected that they were unhappy. You may even be relieved if your employment relationship has been a trying one. But when it’s a top performer who is well liked by management and co-workers, you’ll likely be pondering what it is that’s made them look elsewhere.

It’s important to remember that between three to five years is quite a normal length of time for someone to spend with one employer, so it could just be a natural time for an employee to move on. But if you are experiencing less than this on a regular basis, you may want to review your employee retention strategy.

What can you do when you learn of an employee looking for another job?

As you’d expect, there is good and bad practice that you could follow. So let’s look at some tips to take on board and pitfalls to avoid.

Have a contingency plan.

It’s not a bad idea to assume that most of your employees at any given time could be looking for another job. This can help you to consistently develop their working environment and form a contingency plan. Think about who in the business might be ready to step up (or sideways) into new roles if they become vacant, and ensure you have a succession plan for business-critical roles. Review job specs regularly as your business grows and build a knowledge base of useful information that could be made readily available to a new hire.

Don’t jump the gun.

Before you go and ask them when their leaving date is, remember that they haven’t officially handed their notice in yet. Presuming a resignation can be risky. It would be best to schedule a 1:1 with the employee to discuss their workload or suss out happiness levels to get a better idea of the situation.

If they told you they were looking elsewhere, be open with them and ask them if they still feel this way. It may have been heated and they could have changed their mind. If you found out some other way, don’t ask them outright. Try some open-ended questions to better understand their position.

Move on and gain from it.

Accept that sometimes they just need a new challenge. Sometimes people need to move on for career progression and you might not have an available opportunity for them. In addition, keeping an employee who doesn’t really want to be there can end up being detrimental to your business and disturb the culture.

When they do leave be sure to conduct an exit interview. This can be hugely beneficial intel for you. It can help you to understand who else in the company might be feeling a similar way and if there is anything you want to do about it.

Ask the experts.

Making sudden moves can be risky in a situation such as this. You’ll want to steer clear of anything that could instigate a claim for unfair dismissal. If you want to find out what you can do rather than what you can’t, speak to your local HR Dept today.

 

What to do when an employee is always late for work

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Employee timekeeping can be a major concern to employers. Particularly in businesses which require staff to clock-in. Lateness, absenteeism, even keeping track of sick leave can all act as a distraction to the time-pressed manager.

There can be occasions when an employee’s time keeping goes awry and your attention is taken away from other important tasks to manage their lateness. Didn’t you have enough to do already?

Whilst it might seem like a waste of your time to address it, an employee’s persistent lateness can lead to even bigger problems within your business.

The importance of addressing poor timekeeping

When an employee is late for work it is frustrating and can upset the order of events for that day.

Co-workers who can make it to work on time may start to feel put out if they see a colleague constantly turn up late without reprimand. Not only can it affect morale but can disrupt their own work if they have to delay meetings, postpone projects or keep clients waiting.

You’ll want to nip it in the bud. But what do you do? Jumping from your seat having had enough of it and demanding an explanation in front of everyone could become a very awkward situation. Most importantly, there could be a very good reason for the lateness that the employee does not wish to be made public.

How to address poor timekeeping

There are a few simple steps that you can take to effectively manage employee lateness in your business. Following a fair procedure and having a company policy in place will help.

  1. Let the employee know that you are paying attention. If it is a one off and they have provided a valid reason, such as a bad commute, you may not feel the need to take any further action. However, if it was poor judgement that made them late, you could ask that they make the time back.
  2. If the lateness continues, book in an immediate 121 with them to ask why it is happening and point out how it might be affecting their work or colleagues. If their excuses seem just that, excuses, and they don’t have a valid reason, you should issue a warning and initiate disciplinary procedures. Refer to your company policy on lateness.
  3. When an employee reveals to you that there is a reason behind their lateness, such as family problems or health concerns, we’d advise that you discuss this with them to see if and how you might be able to support them. Flexible working could be helpful here.
  4. Have a process in place to record lateness. If employees are working at multiple sites or locations, it can be difficult to manage timekeeping and attendance. You can’t be everywhere at once after all. Consider a cloud-based clocking-in system for accuracy and peace of mind.

 

Need further support?

If you’re too time pressed to address an employee’s persistent lateness or want to implement a timekeeping policy, we can help. Contact your local HR Dept today.

“Life Admin” Is it ok to get personal at work?

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Written by Lee-Anne Hunt – The HR Dept Ringwood

On Friday I spent a good hour and a half on hold with a government department. During that time, I googled a little, replied to a few emails but I admit it was difficult to concentrate with that awful hold music and helpful messages about using their online services (which was the reason for my call; my online account doesn’t work)

It got me to thinking about life admin during worktime. And how much is ok?

We all do it. From a quick call to change an appointment with the dentist to lengthy searches on realestate.com. How much is ok? I polled a few people I know, and the average was between 3 and 7 hours per week. Not something I think most employers would want to hear and not something many employees would admit to.

So, is this a problem?

To some degree it depends on your job. If you are on the tools or in retail, hospitality, health/child care or any kind of customer facing role it would be obvious and very difficult to take time out to do any life admin while you’re working. And that would be a problem as your attention would be diverted and the appropriate care not taken.

So, I guess that leaves our colleagues in the office and behind their screens or closed doors furtively making a call or doing their internet banking.

Is it ok? What if those same workers start early, work back late or work though lunch to make up the time. Is it ok then?

I would have to say probably not. I’m not a fan of working through lunch as we all need a break. And I can say from experience that attention diverted to my personal life takes away more than just the minute or two it takes to make the call. It distracts me and takes away from the momentum of my work day.

So, what can we do? We could take a lead from Perpetual Guardian NZ and just acknowledge that life admin needs to happen and pay five days work for four days? They found that employees completed their work and were happier.

Or if that’s not possible do we consider implementing RDO’s, so our team know they have at least one day a month to get stuff done?

Or should employers be outcomes-focused (instead of micro managing) and be happy if the job gets done and only worry if it isn’t?

Or (at the risk of sounding like a penny pincher) should our employees work during work time and leave the life admin for after hours?

Interested to hear your thoughts. I figure there could be a little bit of give and take here as lets face it, not everything can be done out of hours and life happens, but it seems to me, just from those I’ve asked, that the pendulum may have swung a little too far in the ‘life admin’ favour.

It’s the new year – Are your employees already thinking of their next break?

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As the new year is now upon us and the shiny new 2019 diaries make an appearance, it’s likely that your team-members are already planning their next breaks.

January is the busiest time of year for booking holidays as we long for our next escape. As an employer, it is therefore good to get yourself prepared for the potential surge of annual leave requests over the coming weeks.

Prepare for a rare calendar quirk

If your staff can’t wait until later in the year, there is also a rare opportunity to have 16 consecutive days off work whilst only using seven days of holiday! This is due to three public holidays falling close together this year over the Easter break and ANZAC Day (19th April, 22nd April and 25th April).

It is likely that some will look to take advantage of maximising their precious holiday entitlement. This will be applicable for all industries where public holidays are not counted as a normal working day.

Managing the ‘Holiday Hack’ as an employer

It is worth being aware of this as an employer. Make sure that your acceptance of holiday requests is done fairly. Some staff-members may look to jump on the band wagon and bag themselves this extended period of time off work before their colleagues.

Before making the decision to sign off on this, think about the impact that this extended period of time off may have. How will the rest of your team left in the office feel? Is there a potential dip in service delivery to your customers?

One way to assist with this is to use an HR management system tool. The holiday management element of the system will enable you to clearly see who else has requested time off over the same period before you approve any requests. It can also avoid the confusion of the growing pile of paper requests.

If the Easter break is a busy time of year for your business, perhaps think about communicating this to your teams beforehand. This will help to avoid any last-minute disappointment if plans have been made without your approval.

If you need help with workforce planning or are interested in implementing a holiday management tool contact The HR Dept today.

Is HR really the Grinch?

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We’re not, not really. At the HR Dept Ringwood we love the Christmas Spirit. What we don’t love is the inevitable problems that arise when people indulge in too much Christmas spirit.

Starting with the office Christmas Party; should be a time of joy and celebrating the past year right? Well, not so much for HR. We’ve learnt the hard way that Christmas is often for everyone else not HR. As HR you are expected to fix every little problem. “The starter is seafood and Jane is allergic.” “Susan is crying in the toilet and won’t come out.” “You need to take Brian’s keys off him as he is way to drunk to drive home.” And that’s all before dinner’s even served!  And then come the office romances and the practical jokes – it all seems like harmless fun until Monday when you can’t meet each other’s eyes or there’s a hotline to the HR office as complaints come in thick and fast!

We don’t want to be the “fun police”, we actually want to relax and celebrate the year with our colleagues, rather than keeping our eyes and ears to the ground ready to catch the first drunk and whisk them away in a taxi before their boss sees. There’s some simple solutions, and it starts with ensuring your employees are aware of acceptable behaviours, have safe options for getting home from events, are provided with enough food, limited free alcohol, and that there are allocated people (who are sober) to supervise the event and know how to appropriately manage any issues that do arise.

To all our corporate HR colleagues – we hope you get your workplaces through the celebrations without a loss of licence, sexual harassment claim or any grievous bodily harm. And better yet, we hope you get to relax too and celebrate another year of hard work. Merry Christmas!

A laugh a day keeps HR away!

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Written by Lee-Anne Hunt, HR Dept Ringwood

Yep, I know I’m HR so I probably shouldn’t be writing this but the more businesses (and people) I’m in touch with the more I reflect on what makes a business successful.

All of the successful businesses I know ( including ours) share many characteristics but today I want to focus on one. Laughter!

As a HR professional I have been called in many times to counsel employees/teams because they are having “too much fun”.

I have to ask: “Are they achieving their goals? Are they contributing to the business growth? Are they team players? Are they being appropriate (not bullying)”

If the answer is “Yes” then what’s the problem? I’ve been told “it doesn’t look good to other departments or they’re too loud or they don’t look professional”.

I disagree. There is so much evidence bombarding us that happy employees are more productive and stay longer. It’s time for some of the “old school” to rethink what the workplace looks like.

For our little team at the HR Dept – Ringwood, well, we laugh every day! At ourselves, our families (mainly our kids!) and yes, I admit it, sometimes at the silly things people do at work.

We are happy professionals who are successful. I challenge you all to bring a little happy to your workplace ( and perhaps because you spend so much of your time at work; to your life).