JENNIFER GUTWENGERJennifer Gutwenger is Principal Consultant at #HR and draws upon aseasoned background and credentials in corporate HR, deep workingknowledge of best practice and an inclination to muse. She is the driver of#HR’s game-changing service offerings and the principal generator of itsunique content and thought leadersh...ip.Jennifer is an author at Smallville and writes for the Chamber of Commerceand Industry QLD – platforms where top professionals share their ideas,advice and knowledge with business owners and entrepreneurs everywhere. More

Lean In – This Is Just the Beginning

Lean-In

Despite our best efforts, there are moments in life where business goes on pause, because other priorities are calling in a voice that can’t be ignored.

It might be a rope-jump tournament, or a whole school assembly in which a young person has a speaking role. Or a five-a-side match where there’s just a chance of the ball making contact with our child’s foot. And sometimes it really does seem as if the house will fall down if we don’t bear presence to an essential piece of maintenance.

Just secretly, we might enjoy going to the Easter parade. We might treasure the paper bunny ears our four year old has made. And we’re right to. Because this is what we’re working for.

But we worry. We worry that our professional credibility appears compromised. We worry that our little people suffer our absence too often. We worry that our own health and wellbeing is copping a hit – from the hectic pace, from trying to fit everything in, and not least from all the worry.

The juggling and the worrying is very real.

Those of us who work and parent, whatever our gender, are used to the tradeoffs we make in order to get things done and still be present for our loved ones. And it seems that women are still likely to be more used to it than men.

You only have to look at the research on housework and how it fits with all this shuffling and compromising, to see that there’s progress to be made. Science Daily states that ‘Women of all ages tend to do more household chores than their male partners, no matter how much they work or earn in a job outside the home. New findings demonstrate the persistent gendered nature of how housework is divided.’

Bear with us, you blokes! We’re in the business of equaling things up and engaging in the debate here. You’ll be hearing everybody’s version of reality – and yours is a key role.

If women are the gender statistically shown to carry the biggest burden, the question then becomes what are we all doing to change that?


THE SECOND SHIFT


This ‘tradeoff’ isn’t a modern day complexity. In 1989, Arlie Hochschild wrote the ‘second shift’, in her seminal book, ‘Working Parents and the Revolution at Home’. The ‘second shift’ is a term borrowed from industrial life. ‘You’re on duty at work. You come home, and you’re on duty. Then you go back to work and you’re on duty.’


UNSPOKEN ASSUMPTIONS


Our gender behaviours are not the result of some deliberate or cunning plot. They have resulted from centuries of unspoken assumptions about what relative roles that men and women should occupy in society, and what we are each supposed to be like.

In contemporary times, when we all understand in theory that whether we are naturally ambitious and creative, or naturally domestic and nurturing is not something necessarily decided by gender, we can all finally move on - right?

If only it were so easy.


LEVELLING THE PLAYING FIELD


The data says that some of the compromises we make stems from the lack of flexible options available to women, once they are back in the workforce after having children. It also indicates that although men and women might both say they’re willing to make career sacrifices to support their spouse or raise a family, women are still much more likely to do so.

A 2016 report conducted by Bain & Company, ‘Level the playing field: A call for action on gender parity in Australia',  highlights that while ’76 percent of male respondents said they have spouses who would make sacrifices for them, only 48 percent of women felt similarly.’

So, although the assumptions of the past have changed and we agree collectively that managing tradeoffs and life-work balance should be shared equally, the playing field remains lopsided. Overall, only minor changes have occurred within our workplaces and the family units.


LEAN IN


In 2013, Chief Operating Officer of Facebook Sheryl Sandberg, and writer Nell Scovell wrote, ‘Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead’. The term ‘lean in’ quickly gained momentum and fired discussion. Sandberg believed that women should be the prime instigators of making changes - projecting confidence, taking a seat at the board table, and physically leaning forwards to make themselves heard.

There has been much contention over these ideas, and Sandberg herself has made some adjustments to her original thinking – one of these being to recognise that men too should be ‘leaning in’.

‘Two years ago, I wrote a book that encouraged women to lean in. Maybe you've heard the phrase. Maybe you had no idea what it meant. Or maybe you steered clear of the whole concept because you didn't think it applied to men. Actually, it does. You — a man — can lean in, too. You can lean in to your family. You can lean in to supporting women in the workplace. And here's the best part: You will benefit when you do.’ - Sheryl Sandberg, Esquire Magazine, 12 March 2015

Here at #HR we believe, know and sense in our bones that Sandberg is onto something, as are many other contemporary thought leaders. Stick with us over the coming months as we bring you their ideas – and yours too. How do regular people in small business ‘lean in’ and cope with the demands upon them – in business, family, and all those unspoken assumptions.

Help us spread the word and broaden our thinking together. Subscribe to receive these articles, and tell your friends to do the same. #wink.

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Carla Schesser
Totally agree Anna!
Wednesday, 22 November 2017 17:46
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When Passion Goes Quiet

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Highly motivated employees can, if nurtured, bring an extraordinary exuberance and pep to your business.  These are the vibrant individuals who can drive ideas forward – perhaps with even as much passion and zest as you can!  

They’re the ones who love your brand and put their heart and soul into making it work. Others may have talent. These people bring something extra to the table – creativity, ideas and keenness. 

It’s a worst case scenario when one of your most passionate employees goes quiet. As Tim McClure, professional speaker and brand and leadership consultant observes, ‘Passion is contagious, and so is not having it’.   

Dealing with highly inspired, smart people can take all the emotional intelligence skills you have. And showing them how valued they are is critical.  Because the last thing you want, as a business owner, is to fail in recognising when such individuals are feeling undervalued - and disengaged.

In a changing and innovative world, retaining top potential and keeping employees engaged and fulfilled is the flame you need to keep kindled. If you find yourself faced with the challenge of silence, here are our top three tips to get your most passionate people energised once again.

 

COMMUNICATION – KEEP IT COMING! 

Great communication with your employees has to be given a red hot go pretty much all the time. The effects can be electrifying - charging workplace dynamics, building relationships and trust. Communicating openly and in detail with your team demonstrates that you understanding their input, needs and projects in their every detail and nuance. This is confidence inspiring, and it shows great capacity on your part.

Bad communication and indifference is like a power outage. Connections fail, progress stops, and everything goes dark. 

To communicate well, be candid and open – and that means listening. If one of your mission critical people or projects have gone off track, you need to know what’s going on. And the individual at the centre of it all will most certainly have insights about it. So stop, and pay attention. Create a comfortable space and time where they have the chance to talk without negative comeback. Respond but don’t interrupt. You’ll learn something, and you’ll have started to equip yourself with the knowledge you’ll need to fix things – with your employee alongside you.  

 

SWOOP IN! 

Problems can manifest overnight or in moments around the lunch table. If they gain traction, they can become contagious and even toxic. If you value your team and the individuals within it, act on discontent the moment it manifests. Those special players within the ranks will respect and thank you for banishing discontent, so that they can get back to what they love – making progress and building your brand! 

 

LEAD AND INSPIRE! 

Tim McClure talks and writes about why passionate employees lose their mojo. Often it’s down to an issue with your leadership – you’ve breached trust, you’ve been inconsistent, you’ve overlooked something or something. Be open to any changes you might need to make, or ground you might need to make up. Resolve problems decisively, and most importantly get the buy-in of that team member. The way in which you handle their grievance will determine whether they continue to love your brand - or move on to love another one.  

Passion is infectious, and it’s noisy. So when passion goes quiet and you know there’s a problem, respond! Your response as leader is what those vital employees will remember, and it’s what underpins their loyalty to you and your brand. So break any silences before they morph into something bigger. Get your collective mojos back - and it could take everything to a new level! 

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Body Art at Work - Drawing a Fine Line

Body Art in the Workplace

In the past, body art was generally only seen on the outskirts of town. Now it’s in every high street and walking down the mall. And those are only the visible examples! Who knows what any of us are sporting underneath our crisp business wear. 

Tattoos, piercings, brandings and dermal implants have come to be considered acceptable in society, even normal - within a generation. And if you’re thinking about introducing restrictions on them for the personnel in your business, it can be a legal minefield - so tread carefully. 

One in seven Australians have a tattoo, according to a study conducted by the National Health and Medical Research Council. The study surveyed 8,656 Australians between the ages of 16 to 64 years. The results showed that Australian men are more likely to have a tattoo than Australian women. However, women in their 20s are more likely to have tattoos than men in the same age group.

Go figure.

It’s of course likely that many of those surveyed have a place of work, and highly likely that someone just like them may work for you, or do so at some point.  As a business owner, it’s critical that the decisions you make within your business are lawful, about body art and everything else. And that means bearing in mind that what you might think is acceptable, may not necessarily be aligned with the law.


ARE EMPLOYERS ALLOWED A 'NO TATTOO POLICY’?

Specifically, ‘physical appearance’ is not regulated under the Fair Work Act. However, discrimination, equal opportunity and workplace health and safety are most certainly forefront considerations when it comes to the implementation of rules and employment practices - and it’s here in which body art and physical appearance can be brought to the table for discussion. 

For example, the Australian Human Rights Commission may consider an employer who refuses employment to an Aboriginal applicant because they have a tattoo which is connected to their ethnic origins, to be potentially guilty of racial discrimination.  

And the Fair Work Commission might determine that strict ‘no body art’ rules imposed upon front-of-house staff at sporting clubs could be considered unfair, when we consider the prevalence of professional athletes we see on television who themselves wear body art. In the sporting realm, it could be considered the norm. 

Judgements between governing bodies can be a grey area in this matter. Thus, making body art taboo in your workplace should probably come with a warning.  Before implementing a ban, take advice. The perspectives are as many and varied as the designs your employees or potential employees might be wearing - and implementing rules is not as simple as following your own personal preferences. 


THINK ABOUT A POLICY

Approaching the matter with overall guidelines can offer a lighter touch which doesn’t cause offence. A general ‘personal appearance’ policy helps to impose limits or provide the guidelines which you expect employees to respect. This way, it’s about upholding a professional image, which everyone agrees is best for the business. Implicit in this must be the understanding that a person’s body art does not affect their ability to perform certain duties.

This policy can address things such as (a) where the safety of an employee could be compromised, (b) where it may negatively impacts others, or (c) when there might be a breach of any legal responsibilities of the organisation. 

It’s best to ensure that your policy is underpinned by workplace legislation - specifically discrimination, equal opportunity and workplace health and safety laws.  Getting this wrong could be a costly mistake - so ask for help if you’re not sure.  

Lastly, it’s best to be consistent.  It’s one thing to have a policy, but without fair implementation a claim arising from a dispute could easily be applied - resulting in unpleasant, costly and unexpected implications.

The statistics say that people of all ages and genders are getting inked, pierced, branded, or implanted.  Be an employer who ensures that your rules are sensible and reviewed regularly, so you don’t lose the best talent in the market and you avoid any nasty claims due to oversights.

The writing’s on the wall, and the bodies - we should all be paying attention. 

What do you think? Do you feel that tattoos have a place in the workplace? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below. 

 

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No More Smoke and Mirrors! Let Your Employees Be Themselves

No-More-Smoke-and-Mirrors

President Franklin D Roosevelt took great care to ensure that he was always seated at the Cabinet table before his Ministers entered the room for a meeting. Whilst everyone knew that he was in a wheelchair, he still went to some lengths to keep his disability from being at the forefront of people’s minds and their impressions of him.

Sociologist Erving Goffman described this as ‘covering’. He coined this term in 1963, to describe the measures we take to conceal certain features about ourselves, those unique identifiers we’d prefer people not to focus on. We often do this socially, he noted, but more often in the workplace.

In his book, Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity, Goffman wrote ‘It is a fact that persons who are ready to admit possession of a stigma - in many cases because it is known about or immediately apparent - may nonetheless make a great effort to keep the stigma from looming large.’

It’s an interesting insight into the world of workplace behaviours. Why do we feel the need to create a smokescreen around a certain aspect of our identity? Why do we strive to keep it out of the spotlight?

And how, when some work colleagues may still take such measures, can we claim to have truly progressive and inclusive workplaces where people can be themselves, wholly and authentically? From a policy perspective, it’s an interesting question. 

IT’S OK TO BE DIFFERENT, AS LONG AS YOU ACT THE SAME

Finding it hard to believe that anyone in a modern workplace has to conceal a part of themselves for the sake of fitting in? Here are some examples.

  • A Muslim sales manager habitually uses a dusty and deserted corner of his employer’s premises in which to pray, instead of using a conference room where co-workers might see him.

  • An account manager bites her lip and holds off from mentioning family commitments she has, including childcare pickup, because she doesn’t want to be the cause of awkward comments about flexible arrangements working in her favour at the expense of others.

  • An administrator keeps his desk free of personal pictures including any of his partner, and is mindful of personal pronouns in discussions, so as not to reveal his sexual orientation in front of co-workers.

  • An executive leaves her jacket on the back of her office chair so to obscure the fact that she’s working from home for the afternoon to care for her children.

All entirely plausible, right? So how do we make our workforces richer and more accepting places where we each feel we can answer our needs, stand out and be proud, rather than being seen to run with the herd?

We’ve all got it in us to strike out and make a difference, but in case you’re having difficulty getting off the blocks, here are three starter ideas.

 

1. LEAD BY EXAMPLE

Hard-wiring diversity and inclusion into our strategic planning is a big and brave step. Such a change has to start at the uppermost level before it can be collectively embraced. So lead by example. Taking time out to watch your kid’s athletics carnival? Be brazen about it! Put the school scarf on as you leave the office and phone the results through from the track.

You’ll make up for lost ground with higher productivity through the rest of the day. Have the same expectation of your team. Work with them on doing the right thing, and a bucketful of renewed commitment to the cause will eventuate. If it doesn’t, keep communicating and make adjustments.

 

2. BE AUTHENTIC

Authenticity isn’t just a buzz word, it’s a state of mind. Brene Brown, author and speaker, defines it as ‘a collection of choices we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real.’

To create a diverse workforce and accept co-workers for who they are requires authenticity. Those around you know when you’re being genuine, and when you’re not. So dig deep, and keep it real.

 

3. ENCOURAGE WHOLE-SELF

‘Covering’ for an aspect of ourselves takes energy that could be invested much more productively. When you change the rules and allow your employees to bring their whole self to work, big benefits follow - both for the individual and the company. That’s a great reason to foster an environment where your employees can be themselves.

 

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Work It, Work It - and Breathe!

Work-it-Work-it-Breathe

‘When did you last take time to breathe? Be still, fill your lungs and let it all out?’ This is the question posed to readers by print magazine Breathe recently. In our chaotic lives, they say, it’s easy to forget the importance of investing in our body and soul – just breathing and being.

Are there particular stressors that tip you over the edge into frantic? Business decisions and accountabilities? Pulling long hours? Feeling isolated? Cash-flow? And what about the other every-day factors such as kids, family, spouse and ad hoc events that all add to the pull and push. We’d each recognize and relate to all of those, and the sum of all these parts can seem overwhelming - enough to make even the calmest heart palpitate faster.

We all know deep in our fast-beating entrepreneurial hearts that taking time out for ourselves makes us better business leaders and entrepreneurs - and better humans too.

But when we’re riding the roller coaster it can be hard to find exactly the right moment to jump off for a spell. We might never get back on! Planning a poolside holiday with cocktails is all very well, but it’s easier said than done.

The answer? Build some strategies into your everyday working life to allow your brains and body to re-fuel with the good stuff. No time to make like a Buddha at a Balinese retreat? No sweat! Here are some simple measure you can take closer to home.

 

MAKE EVERY MEAL THE MOST IMPORTANT

Seventy percent of your energy is spent on digestion. Amazing, right? It happens when you’re not doing or thinking about much else, and it takes some effort. Furthermore, the foodstuffs you’re providing your body with make a difference too. The less natural and the more they have to do with white coats, laboratories and conveyor belts, the more energy your body requires to digest them. Yup, turns out nature knows best when it comes to what you’re eating.

So fuel yourself with good food - it’s the least you can do for your body! Be kind with what you put in your mouth, because a diet of fresh, raw and home-cooked foods are the best way to deliver the enzymes, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that keep you breathing easy too.

 

MOVE

We’re not talking gym membership, or even an evening jog. Just make movement a part of your working life and bring it up front in your consciousness. Park further away from the office, leave the building to eat lunch, track your steps, walk to someone’s desk instead of sending an email, take the stairs. You don’t necessarily have the best ideas while seated behind your desk. Sometimes they arrive when you’re elsewhere – and your subconscious is doing the work for you. Going for a wander can be productive! Move more and sit less – or ring the changes by holding your next meeting standing up. Simple but effective ways of keeping you on the move, motivated and just a little bit refreshed.

 

MUSIC

Music can have profound effects on both your emotions and your body. Faster music helps us feel more alert, and perhaps even concentrate better. Upbeat music often spurs optimism and positive thoughts, while a slower tempo quiets minds and relaxes muscles, helping us to feel soothed and releasing the stress of the daystress of the day. Just remember: one person’s beat-box is another person’s white noise, so earplugs are the go.

 

A PRODUCTIVITY SECRET

We couldn’t let the chance to share one of our best ‘to-do’ list tricks slip past. Breathe easier by picking the most challenging, important or profitable task of your workday as the one you do first thing. Once it’s achieved, everything else may seem much easier, more manageable, and stress-free. This can help build momentum and keep you focused and achieving for the rest of the day.


We all have those days where clear thinking is gone with the wind and we find ourselves pinned to our seat, paralysed. The trick is to get up, move, keep refreshing and using the simple tricks to manage your workload that do it for you. But most importantly, just breathe!

 

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Three Ways to Keep Your Workplace Ecosystem Flourishing

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A collaborative workplace is like an ecosystem in full swing. An interplay of organic and productive relationships. People are friendly, and kindness is in natural abundance. They make genuine connections and are encouraged to do so. Even quirky differences have a place, accepted with grace and a celebration of diversity – in thinking and style.

It’s a natural habitat for engagement and a mutual sense of easy accord – a place of abundance, oxygenated and breezy with energy.

Enjoy rich moments like these and relish the journey you’ve been on. A flourishing workplace is no small feat. It’s most certainly a milestone you should enjoy - and handle with the utmost of care. 

When everything is flourishing, it’s the best time to let your dynamite team forge ahead. Make some assumptions – about what they’ll generate and create. You’ve planted the seeds by putting best practice in place. Now watch them reach for the light!

If you’ve faced some challenges and had the productive flow stemmed in recent times, enjoy the refreshing change and the blooming scent of success. And work on teasing more of it into life. 

Don’t rest on your laurels too long. Just as natural disasters can sweep through without warning, businesses and ecosystems must always safeguard against any coming storms. After you’ve thanked your staff, take a moment to review these helpful strategies and checkpoint your management style.

 

CHOOSE YOUR WORDS WELL

The words you choose influence the way you are perceived. They’re a vital factor in the decisions people make about you - and your brand - and can build or destroy a relationship.

Mohammed Qahtani, the Saudi Arabian security engineer who won the 2015 World Champion Toastmasters title with his inspirational speech  The Power of Words, tells us, ‘A simple choice of word[s] can make the difference between someone accepting or denying your message.  You can have a very beautiful thing to say, but say it in the wrong words and it's gone.’

Take the time to think about what you’re going to say. And we’re not just talking about grand speeches. A few simple words carefully chosen and passed in a thoughtful tone are memorable to those around you.

Words have power and it’s worth reflecting on how your chosen words helped you get to where you are. And tweak. Your words will be listened to, and noticed.

 

MIND YOUR EGO

The ego-centric self, and we all have one, can be one of the biggest barriers to success. False pride and its antithesis self-doubt both have the capacity to cast a blight on healthy growth.

It’s crucial not to forget that you can be competent at something but not necessarily the best at it.  Sometimes it’s important to acknowledge that what you’re good at might never get any better than that – good.  To be truly great at something takes a deeper level of mastery. This doesn’t have to come from you. It could be someone specialized and supremely well resourced.  Recruit such a person on merit, and satisfy your ego with the company of a fellow clever-self to join your friendly, increasingly accomplished and ever-flourishing team. 

'Every company would like to be the best at something, but few actually understand with piercing insight and egoless clarity- what they actually have the potential to be the best at and, just as important, what they cannot be the best at.' - Jim Collins  

 

THE ONE THING

Steve Tobak, management consultant and author of Real Leaders Don’t Follow, says ‘Picasso painted. Henry Ford made cars. Einstein was obsessed with light. They excelled at what they did because they focused their passion and attention on one thing at a time. Bill Gates had Microsoft and now the Gates Foundation. Mark Zuckerberg has Facebook.’

The more seeds you plant, the more time you need to nurture them all.  Generating ideas, growing plans, putting in place multiple strategies, will spread you and your time thin.  So choose carefully and know when it’s time to thin out your seedlings – or bring in extra hands, minds and capability. 

'People think focus means saying 'yes' to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying 'no' to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.' - Steve Jobs 

Three powerful ideas brought to us by the best minds. Stay focused on one thing. Keep a check on your ego. Use the power of words to be kind, gracious and memorable. 

Create the temperate conditions your business needs, achieve that delicate and delightful balance and watch the energy flow!

 

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Keeping Your Annual Leave Entitlements Airborne

Annual-leave

Iconic, low-cost Irish airline Ryanair had a fiasco on their hands just recently. The mismanagement of their pilots’ annual leave left them with a shortage of pilots - not enough to cover their scheduled Autumn flights. This led to a massive cost blow-out, reported to be in excess of seventeen million pounds - not to mention an embarrassing blemish on their brand image.

Always Getting Better’? It didn’t look that way, to the pilots, or customers.

Ryanair’s cancellation of hundreds of flights after it admitted ‘messing up’ the planning of its pilots’ leave, makes you wonder. How many more of us who are running businesses could easily fall into the same pit of mismanagement, leading to who knows what consequences?

 

THE STATS

The management and occasional confusion of annual leave can be a simmering mess that quickly reaches boiling point if not enough time is spent on planning. And for those of us in small business, it’s even more crucial to pay attention. The smaller your team, the bigger the impact.

And yet, studies released by Roy Morgan Research show that Australia’s full-time workforce has accrued a total 123,510,000 days of annual leave. That averages out at just under 21 days’ leave for each full-time worker. The research indicates that certain industries have a higher level of annual leave accrued than others, with those employed in wholesaling accruing an average of 25 days each.

 

THE COST

Allowing employees to accrue excessive annual leave in such a way has its cost. So does the approach of not taking care to spread annual leave over the course of the entire year.

Big leave balances are expensive. Why? Because untaken leave is a recorded liability. That’s a big problem. But let’s also keep in mind the purpose of leave in the first place – to prevent burnout! Leave is there to have a positive impact to the mental and physical health of your employees. And that’s a win for you – because it yields greater productivity and a more engaged workforce when they return. Bonus!

 

BEST PRACTICE

Maintaining best practice for annual leave is certainly clever business practice. Here to help you get it right is a quick Do and Don’t Guide on how to get your annual leave planning right first time.

Do:

  • encourage your employees to submit dates for annual leave as far in advance as possible.
  • review employees’ leave accrual regularly and discourage accruals greater than 6 weeks.
  • send reminders to employees on outstanding accruals - anything approaching 4 weeks should be planned for and discussed.
  • speak to employees who have not taken any annual leave nor requested dates for leave - as a matter of urgency.
  • ensure that your employees’ annual leave is planned for in such a way that the business has adequate cover at all times – and keepyour planes in the air. 
  • be proactive in the management of annual leave - this is not a topic to leave at the bottom of your to-do list.

Don’t:

  • leave annual leave allocations to chance.
  • take the view that it’s up to your employees to decide whether or not they choose to take leave.
  • wait until the year end before reviewing annual leave accruals.
  • give in to requests for payment in lieu of annual leave.
  • make employees feel guilty about taking annual leave.


Managing annual leave certainly has its challenges but so do the scenarios that develop if you allow things to get out of hand, or plan badly. With transparency, good communication, forward planning and a culture that values leave taking, things can run a whole lot more smoothly - and with luck there are flights available to your employees’ chosen holiday destinations.

 

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Four Simple Words for Mental Health Week

mental-health-week

Across Australia, it’s Mental Health Week. This takes place in October each year to highlight the essential message that looking after our mental health and that of our colleagues, friends and family members should be a number one priority – at all times of the year.

In Australia, about eight people take their own life each day. Some 65 thousand people attempt suicide each year. And if those numbers aren’t hair raising enough, suicide is reported to be the biggest killer of Australians under 44 years – and men account for around 75 per cent of all suicide deaths.

These statistics are of considerable relevance to those of us in small business. Here in Australia, small businesses account for nearly 98 per cent of all companies. Around 80 per cent of these will fail within the first 18 months, possibly because of the unique set of pressures business owners face. These are exacerbated by a frequent lack of proper support structure and a vulnerability to mental health problems which over one third of us have a predisposition for.

Consider the obstacles to success in small business: financial pressures, high work demands and long working hours, the challenge of maintaining business growth and long-term viability, and too often a lack of focus on self-care and work-life boundaries.  Sadly, it’s no surprise that many business owners contribute to the statistics above.

 

THE BILLY GOAT STORY

Leanne Faulkner is the founder of Billie Goat Soap, a successful Australian start-up launched in 2004 using milk from her own goats to create beautiful soaps. At its height, her business was turning over $2.4 million annually. But when the global financial crisis bit, the business began to struggle, and Faulkner internalised its deficiencies as her own personal failings.

Appearing on this week’s ABC RN Life Matters program, she said, "A bad day became a bad week became a bad month and the bad month became chronic. At the worst I ever felt, I had some very, very dark thoughts and I just really wanted to hang in there for my family and I was starting to get quite scared.”

For Faulkner, the dream of working for herself - having flexible hours and living the high life - wasn’t in fact the reality. Long working weeks, the grind of staying afloat and the long periods away from her family were all at odds with what she associated with the entrepreneurial life.

Faulkner was diagnosed with situational depression triggered from her working conditions, and spent three months away from work. It was hard to ask for help, she explains. “It took me a bit of time to get up the courage to go and talk with someone. In my head it was, if I actually go and do that then I'm really admitting that I can't cope.”

After selling her business in early 2012, Faulkner now works as a mental health advocate for small business owners. “Nowadays I still get stressed and anxious at times, but I understand I have to come first in that process. In the past, when things were hectic at work, I didn't have time to exercise, work was always more important ... I'm much more selective with what I do and don't do these days.”


ARE YOU OK?

There is real need for all of us to ease this burden and look out for those we know who may be labouring under untold pressures. Perhaps we are a small business owner or an entrepreneur – perhaps we work for one, shop with one, or have a partner or a parent who is one?

R U OK?, a Australian national suicide prevention charity dedicated to encouraging everyone to connect meaningfully, says ‘A simple hello could lead to a million things’.

The Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull agrees. ‘R u ok? Four letters, but they can save a life.’

These four small letters can resonate with someone who might be struggling with the demands upon them and their business. We encourage you to check-in with them and listen. It’s that easy. We’ve all got what it takes to follow these steps - and we all have an obligation to look out for one another.

Great leadership is about looking out for the person to your left while supporting the person to your right, and not forgetting about the people above and below. Let’s remember that this week – and the rest of the year as well.

 

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Pimp Your Perks! Why Employee Benefits Should Get Their Attention – and Yours

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They say small business is very different to big business. We agree. Entrepreneurs and business owners are fast, smart thinkers. One thing they know for sure is that a happy, engaged workforce is a high-performing workforce.

So when we hear of companies like software designer SAP, with their indoor putting green, or Google with their indoor more-than-you-can-imagine, we think about our own little team - and wonder how we can keep up with the fireworks on offer elsewhere.

The bells and whistles that big players use to keep their teams agile and engaged come with a big price tag too - and a bucket load of resources as backing. This is what can make these benefits seem out of reach for the small but no-less-mighty businesses we normal folk lead. But with the idea for Gmail being dreamt up by a small group at one of Google’s workplace cafes, it’s important to keep an open mind and dream big. Employee perks shouldn’t just be left to the big guys, when we all want to keep our smartest talents on board.

Smaller businesses are mighty in their ability to react and respond quickly, to think laterally without the red tape and boardroom conversations those bigger players have to engage in. All it really takes is a little creative thinking to show your people that you’re committed to finding agile ways of growing your brand and taking them along for a great ride.

Here’s our take on five out-of-the-box ideas to help you get started on employee perks.

 

CLEVER LEVERAGE

Look at the other businesses in your local area. Could trading your services for theirs benefit all your employees collectively? Whether it’s a hair salon, bakery, dry cleaners or coffee shop, leveraging with each other builds connections and creates small but handy and welcome perks. It’s a great way to support each other - and increases the foot traffic through your door.

Mark Bilbe of Mimecast did just that, using the services of a local catering company. ‘We started catering lunches four days a week to allow employees to take a break, socialise, swap stories and enjoy a lunch on us. Food in general is a great unifier of cultures, functions and personalities.’

 

INNER CHILD

Maybe you haven’t got the space for a ping pong table or tennis court, but there are plenty of ways to get your employees away from their desk and talking to each other. Puzzles on the lunch table, pencils and colouring books, board games by the coffee machine – all encourage interaction, and are simple, effective and fun ways to get people talking. It’s certainly not as cool as slippery dip from your mezzanine, but the intention – and the effect - is just the same!

 

DOGS ON THE JOB

If you're a dog lover, this may work for you. Studies have shown welcoming a dog into the office can improve sense of work-life balance, boost productivity and morale, make employees more trusting of one another, inspire creativity, and lower stress levels.

Shayan Zadeh, CEO of app creator Zoosk says, ‘Like any successful company, we want to foster a happy and productive workforce. In order to promote a stress-free environment, Zoosk has a dog friendly workplace, which helps relieve employee tension.’

 

AGILITY AND FLEXIBILITY

Play with your working hours. Allow working for longer hours on certain days in exchange for a shorter week. Try job sharing, half-day-Friday, a Christmas shopping day, pro-rata bonuses and days in lieu. Incentives like these offer great flexibility for employees who appreciate the fresh take and the opportunities. And the cream? These offerings shouldn’t affect your cash flow. Just be sure to check the employment standards in your jurisdiction first - complying with relevant laws and legislation is essential.

 

DISCOUNTS

If your business creates products or services that could be useful to your employees, offer them a discount. Don’t be a Grinch: make sure it’s a discount worth having – you don’t want your altruism questioned for the sake of a few dollars. If you have no products or services to offer, think outside the box. In Australia, a membership to Entertainment is a tangible perk with benefits for the good cause you source it from too. Friends and family movie deals are another option. Get creative! Some crowdfunding startups give employees “bucks” or points to donate to the campaign of their choice on a monthly or quarterly basis.

 

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Swipe Left on Workplace Distractions

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As business owners we’re used to switching - between menu tabs and devices, from messages to email and back again. We might even take the same approach to switching between work and family if we’re based in a home office. And maybe we’re programming our social life in amongst the mix – if we’re lucky enough to have one!

Switching from one thing to another with alarming frequency has become not just the norm, it’s almost an expectation. Our minds have become used to it and allow us to jump from one shiny, new and demanding incoming alert to the next.

But is it productive? And more importantly, is it good for us?

Breaking the habit is difficult, and staying focused on just one thing when we’re used to a plethora of stimulants, is tricky. But we should be clear: the low productivity this lack of single-minded focus comes at a cost – a direct cost to the bottom line, and an indirect cost to our health. The overwhelming and accumulating stress of never quite finishing anything takes its toll, make no mistake.

As business leaders, it’s important to be accountable for overall productivity – and that means our own as well as the people in our tribe. It’s time to nail down the best way to invest our time and energy wisely, and narrow the focus again.

Gary Keller, author, entrepreneur and cofounder of one of the world’s largest real estate agencies, says that when we stay focused on exactly what matters the most at any given moment, that’s when real success becomes obtainable. If all your energy is channeled in one direction, things are achieved sequentially – one thing at a time.

Take a moment to think about how focused you and your team are and whether a blur of devices, screens and sources of distraction are causing a fog of ineptitude. If so, it’s time to turn things around!


Here are three simple strategies to help you stay on one thing at a time.


1. MOST IMPORTANT TASK

Keep it simple. Before you start your working day, determine which is the most important task for that day. Something is always the priority. Don’t build a list here - just choose the one thing. You’ll get to the others later. Once you know what your priority is, plan for it. What do you have to do, to get it done? Don’t waste time with indecision – keep it moving! And then make a start.

 

2. SWITCH OFF

Clear your space of anything that goes beep, bling, kaboom, woop and anything that swooshes or sweeps. Distractions are hard to ignore – they’re made that way. Some of our biggest brand names have achieved success by designing the digital space to be deliberately inviting. No wonder we get distracted.

Can’t resist the lure of the internet? Turn it off! Disconnect your wifi or router. And turn that phone off. Switching it to silent is often ineffective. Close the browser on your computer, and any applications that you don’t need. This limits notifications – those alluring sounds, lights and vibrations that let you believe something tastier might have come in.

Our colleagues in the seventies might have stepped outside for a cigarette and that’s the last thing many of us would do nowadays. But the lure of the smartphone and those minutes spent checking in, are easily just as much of a waste of time.

 

3. FIVE MINUTE WINDOWS

Our working days include many small tasks that take five minutes or so. Start thinking about five minute windows in which you can get one or more of those done. Keep an on-going list of those tasks – anything you can do quickly: before a meeting, between phone calls, before the teleconference. And if you’ve got a spare quarter hour, go crazy and do them all!


The nature of distractions and how many you’re plagued with depends on many things - the type work you do, your office setup, workplace culture, and the size of your company. But the solution is the same. Start a new trend! Acknowledge that you work best when you’re working on just one thing at a time. Swipe left on distractions! And encourage others in your tribe to do the same. It can only lead to greater benefits – for both you, your business and the people you employ.

 

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Inspirational Words from Impressive People

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Never give up! It might be a cliché and you’ll hear it over and over when you’re in the thick of building your career or business. But there are good reasons why such time-honoured maxims continue to circulate and hold their meaning. You simply never know when success is imminent. It could be lurking just around the corner. So never give up!

There’s strength and solace in the stories of others as well – of people who have journeyed the same path and made something wonderful from humble beginnings. Their industriousness and relentless, dogged self-belief paid off, and the modern world knows them today as true ‘success’ stories. Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Henry Ford, President Barrack Obama, Colonel Sanders - and of course Richard Branson. From vastly different fields and with one thing in common – they never gave up!

In our constant quest for inspiration at #HR, we’ve formed a collection of illuminating and inspiring philosophies, by people who have made an indelible imprint on our world. Quotes, clever ideas and self-reflection that pushes us to think differently, diversely - and bravely.


PABLO PICASSO on don’t clone yourself.

‘Success is dangerous. One begins to copy oneself, and to copy oneself is more dangerous than to copy others. It leads to sterility.’
one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.


JASON FRIED on big things in small packages.

‘There’s nothing wrong with staying small. You can do big things with a small team.’
co-founder of Basecamp, a company that builds web-based productivity tools that, ‘do less than the competition’.

HENRY FORD on resilience.

‘When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.’
- founder of Ford Motor Company.

MARK TWAIN on bravery.

‘Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbour, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover.’
- writer, humorist and entrepreneur.

ALAN WATTS on weathering storms.

‘To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don't grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.’
- philosopher, writer, and speaker.

VIDAL SASSOON on industriousness.

‘The only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.’
- hairstylist, businessman and philanthropist.

BILLY COX on one thing.

‘I have a friend who’s always jumping from one opportunity or business to another. To him, the grass is always greener on another field. He’s never learned that if you water and fertilize the grass on your own field, it will get greener and you’ll want to stay. Sometimes the grass truly is greener somewhere else, but that’s only because someone is over there taking care of it! Take care of the grass on your own field. If you’re convinced you’ve found your field of dreams, build it! Stop looking for something better and stay focused on the opportunity at hand. If you do, eventually it will become so fresh and desirable that others will want to play on your field.’
- the only surviving member of Jimi Hendrix's three main bands.


The words of ordinary people who have achieved extraordinary things – reading them is irresistible. Perhaps it’s the vast diversity of their professional lives, their circumstances, their niches in life and their journeys which fascinate us. Or it could be that their reflections tap into something we feel an instant connection to. Whatever it is, there’s nothing like a great quote or cliché to get you revved up and focused all over again. Inspired!

 

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The Magic Number – Not to Be Dismissed

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There’s a magic number which most owners of an Australian business would definitely know. Fifteen. 

This is the golden number below which their employee head count should always be, to benefit from the more generous clauses set out in the ‘Small Business Fair Dismissal Code’.

 

WHAT IS THE CODE?

It’s simple.  Small businesses with less than fifteen employees have different rules for dismissing employees. The Code protects small businesses from unfair dismissal claims – as long as that employer has followed the fair and reasonable steps set out the legislated guidelines.  

In the code, there is a checklist.  This takes the employer through a step by step guide, in assessing and recording reasons for terminating an employee.  It supports the employer in understanding their procedural obligations and how to best be compliant.  In so doing, it protects both their business and their credibility. 

 

WHAT IS THE BENEFIT?

Small business employees cannot make a claim for unfair dismissal in the first 12 months following their engagement. If an employee is dismissed after this period, and the employer has followed the Code, then dismissal is deemed to be fair. 

 

WHAT IS THE CATCH?

Keep your head-count under fifteen!  Here is how the Australian Small Business Fair Dismissal Code defines small business: 

A small business is defined as any business with fewer than 15 employees.

 

To figure out whether a business is a small business, count all employees employed at the time of the dismissal including:

  • the employee and any other employees being dismissed at that time
  • regular and systematic casual employees employed by the business at the time of the dismissal (not all casual employees)
  • employees of associated entities, including those based overseas.

The size of the business is counted the earliest of:

  • when the employee is told their employment has been terminated, or
  • when the employee is given their notice of termination.

 

WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE?

Be smart. Follow the code, and document all the circumstances on the journey to dismissing an employee.  The Fair Work Commission loves to see hard evidence and procedural fairness when faced with a claim. Do your best to follow the protocol and always seek specialist support if you’re unsure. It will stand you in good stead. 

Here at #HR, we often see the consequences - and the costs - of poor judgement and all-too-common oversights. All could easily be avoided.   We know that dismissing an employee is never easy. So stick to the magic number – and protect yourself. 

 

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Police Checks – and Staying in Line on Recruitment Practice

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Recruitment and the legislation governing it is now one of the most complex areas in which a business engages, and it’s vital to get it right.

Twelve months ago, Senator Derryn Hinch made an adjournment speech in Australian Parliament, in which he publicly named a convicted child molester who was employed at McDonalds. His announcement triggered a chain of events that prompted an investigation into the food chain’s recruitment process – and as a result of the revelations, McDonalds commenced compulsory criminal checks for all applicants over the age of 18.


WHAT DOES THE LAW SAY?

In Australia, some industries are legally required to conduct police checks under legislative or regulatory frameworks for registration, licensing or employment purposes. And some of these occupations may include, but are not limited to, lawyers, community care workers, teachers, the police, correctional staff, taxi drivers, financial brokers - you get the drift.

There are many other industries – such as iconic fast-food chains, walking a tightrope in this area. Because while more and more employers choose to conduct criminal history checks as part of their own risk mitigation strategy, it isn’t compulsory.

THE RISK OF DISCRIMINATION

InterCheck Australia, an accredited police screening service, highlights the large number of companies who do not fully understand best practice surrounding criminal history checking procedures. ‘This can be a real danger for businesses, because there are ramifications and risks associated when handling, storing, sharing and making adverse decision based on criminal history information.’

Under the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Act 1986, the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has the power to investigate workplace discrimination on the grounds of a person’s criminal record. According to the guidelines provided by the AHRC, whether or not a criminal record is relevant depends on the inherent requirements of a position.

Where an individual’s criminal record prevents them from performing the inherent requirements of a job, discrimination is unlikely to be argued. So, if a prospective employee is found to have prior convictions that prevent them from working in such an industry, an employer is free to refuse employment for this reason.

BURDEN OF PROOF

And then there are some other types of pre-employment checks that can be risky business from an evidentiary perspective. The burden of proof rests with the employer to ensure that criminal history checks are only conducted when they’re directly related to the inherent requirements of a role. When it’s not - and the employer decides that the candidate is not right for the role, they need to be very clear of their reasons behind their decision. And here’s where the risk lies.

Proving that a candidate is not offered a job because of reasons unrelated to their criminal history may be complex - and verge on discrimination. And depending on your business’s location and jurisdiction, the laws can differ accordingly. Best practice is knowing the regulations in your region, and then putting appropriate compliance system in place prior to implementing any type of pre-employment screening.


TWO THINGS TO CONSIDER

  1. In the case of McDonalds, Hinch’s argument was the fast food chain’s failure to recognise any alignment between an applicant’s criminal history and the inherent requirements of the positions they offer. McDonald’s eventually changed their processes - but it has been at an unmeasurable cost.

  2. An applicant should not automatically be dismissed because of their criminal record if the disclosed criminal record is irrelevant to the intended role. Actions like this may expose a business to claims of workplace discrimination, as stipulated under the Australian Human Rights Commission Act.

If you have any doubts, contact a professional who can support you through this process. Look for a consultant with the right expertise, a thorough knowledge of best practice and the legislation governing it. Get the right advice first and avoid making any on-the-spot decision.

Do what’s right for your business, your employees and your consumers!

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Get the Best #HR Content and Industry Thinking on the Go

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Did you know #HR Blog is on SoundCloud? If you’re always on-the-go or just prefer to listen to articles, you can subscribe to our SoundCloud channel and get our audio articles delivered right to your device. Whether you’re in the car, on a walk, or just taking a break, audio is a great way to get some valuable #HR content when it best suits you.

CLICK HERE to subscribe to our SoundCloud channel and never miss another audio article.

Below are a few of our most recent audio articles for you to enjoy, alternatly you can play our Audio Article playlist

 

BRING IT ON! PIONEERING THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION

Read the full article HERE.

GET AGGRO IN THE WORKPLACE - OVER HEALTH AND SAFETY

Read the full article HERE.

I AM A LEADER, HEAR ME ROAR!



Read the full article HERE.

 

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Wake Up to the Facts About Sleep. They’re Alarming!

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Alarmingly but perhaps not surprisingly, a Sleep Health Survey of Australians has found that 33 to 45 per cent of adults sleep either poorly or not long enough on most nights. This leaves them feeling fatigued, irritable and generally unwell.

It’s a subject given scant regard by many of us, but ignore it at your peril. As a factor affecting our health, lack of sleep is a major contender. Dr David Hillman, Director of the Sleep Health Foundation says, ‘Just like obesity, smoking, drinking too much and not exercising enough, sleep problems cause real harm in our community.’

Not to mention in the workplace.

WAKE UP CALL


The findings in this survey, recently published in the International Sleep Journal, showed that inadequate sleep can reduce natural immune function. It can also increase the risk of infections and other serious illnesses. Links were made to hypertension and heart disease, as well as compromised cognitive function and mental well-being - including disturbances in mood, thinking, concentration, memory, learning, vigilance and reaction times.

Fully awake and paying attention now? We certainly are!

SLEEPING ON THE JOB


A weighty 17% of people in the survey reported missing at least one day of work in the previous four weeks because they were too sleepy or had a sleep problem. This was especially common in younger adults, with 27% of 18-24 year olds and 30% of 24-35 year olds reporting days off from sleepiness.

Arriving late for work and making job specific mistakes caused from sleepiness or sleep problems was also common. A significant 14% of men and 21% of women reported being late because they were too sleepy when they woke up. A further 21% of men and 13% of women had fallen asleep at work in the previous month, which was a common finding up to the age of 55 years. It seems many of us really are sleeping on the job.


YOU CAN SLEEP YOUR WAY TO THE TOP – LITERALLY!

It is possible to sleep your way to the top – by sleeping when and where you’re supposed to. So says Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, CEO of Thrive Global and author of 15 books. Before writing ‘The Sleep Revolution’, she learnt the importance of sleep the hard way – by fainting from exhaustion. She hit her desk on the way down, breaking her cheekbone, and had to have five stitches in her right eye. ‘And I began the journey of rediscovering the value of sleep,’ she says.

Huffington’s fall and her subsequent findings, became the precursor to a crusade on educating others on the importance of sleep. ‘The irony is that a lot of people forego sleep in the name of productivity, but in fact our productivity is reduced substantially when we’re sleep deprived,’ she points out.

Her findings and the message in her books are completely aligned with those of the Australian Sleep Health Survey. And when it comes to workplace productivity their messages are pretty simple. Loss of sleep not only impairs moods and affects diet, but it also hinders productivity, creativity, and decision-making. If you work in an industry such as medicine or transport, sleep deprivation could mean life or death. For most others, it certainly means sub-standard performance.

Poor performance does little for your bottom-line - and so does the 24/7 working day that those of us running our own businesses often adopt by default.

The clincher is that exhaustion levels are not necessarily brought on by workload and stress, but simply a prolonged lack of sleep. And doing something about it is a game changer!

What we do and how well we do it when we are awake is dependent on how much sleep we get – it’s that simple. So it seems the key to achieving, and reaching our full potential, is sleeping! Pushing up zeds. Getting shut-eye.

So getting to bed on time and nurturing your recharge time could help you avoid being one of the statistics in the report. You may well find that you’ll will work smarter, be healthier and possibly happier too! Nothing to lost and everything to gain – starting with a great night’s sleep!

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Sexual Harassment - There’s No Place for It

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We’re all of the opinion that a work environment free of discrimination and harassment is the ideal scenario, right?

We agree. And the principles of Equal Employment Opportunity now in place in any business operating with best practice in mind, are designed to underpin all your business and workplace decisions in this area. 

When it comes to managing allegations of sexual harassment, employers must stand to attention pretty quickly. Investigating an allegation is mandatory, regardless of whether you think the claim has veracity or not.  Employees count on you to get this right - and so does the law, so having a zero tolerance for any kind of sexual harassment is most certainly best practice - and the way to go.

Here are two cases of sexual harassment held before the Commission, with learning points relevant for many workplaces.

EXTRACTS FROM AUSTRALIAN HUMAN RIGHTS AND EQUAL OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION (HREOC)

 

1. THE CHRISTMAS PARTY

Two months after Amy began employment as a short-term contract delivery person, she attended the staff Christmas party at a local hotel. Amy alleged that on arriving at the hotel with her sister, a group of about ten male co-workers wolf-whistled and made sexual remarks about them. Shortly afterwards a co-worker, Evan, walked over to the table where Amy and her sister were seated with their drinks. He started to dance and lifted his T-shirt, exposing his stomach and chest. He then allegedly proceeded to loosen his pants and turned around and bent over, exposing his bare backside directly in front of Amy and her sister.

Later in the evening, while Amy was playing pool with another co-worker, Evan allegedly approached Amy from behind and pulled down her top, exposing her right breast. She claims she hit Evan over the head with her pool cue because she was frightened and embarrassed. After this incident Mark, another co-worker, approached Amy and tried to wrench the pool cue from Amy’s hand. Amy claims she was further intimidated by Evan, because he was sitting across the room, staring at her.

Amy complained to her manager the following work day about these incidents, and her employer conducted an investigation into the complaint. Her allegations were substantiated. Evan was transferred to another work-site, while Mark was reprimanded. After making her complaint, Amy alleged that her co-workers treated her coldly and her contract was not renewed. Amy lodged a complaint with the HREOC seeking financial compensation and the introduction of a more transparent sexual harassment complaint and discipline procedure. Amy’s employer settled her complaint privately for an undisclosed amount, prior to going to a conciliation conference.

 

2. OLD SCHOOL BEHAVIOUR IS NO EXCUSE 

Tracey began working for a telecommunications company through an employment agency as an administrative officer. A co-worker, Sam, allegedly started to make innuendos and comments of a sexual nature including “I know what you need”, and “Are you wearing a G-string?” Tracey also claimed that Sam stared at her breasts, tried to hold her hand when he was passing her something, and invited Tracey to sit on his lap.

After almost twelve months of this behaviour from Sam, Tracey stated that she was suffering from stress headaches and hated going to work. She complained to the manager who responded by allegedly saying that Sam was “from the old school and doesn’t know any better” and to wait a few days or a week and see what happened. No action was taken by the telecommunications company.  Tracey lodged a complaint with the HREOC alleging sexual harassment against Sam and the telecommunications company. Prior to a conciliation conference, the parties decided to negotiate settlement privately. The terms of the final settlement remain undisclosed.

Acts of sexual harassment can play-out at any time, and can occur during office hours or at other premises - including Friday afternoon drinks at the pub.  Whether an allegation arises as gossip or a direct complaint, there’s a legal obligation to investigate and take the matter seriously.  

 

REASONABLE STEPS

But that’s not all. Additionally, employers have a legal responsibility to take reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment from happening in the first place.

‘Reasonable steps’ may vary, depending on the size of your organisation. At the very least, they include  implemented policies which create a discrimination-free environment. The next step we’d encourage is documented procedures - outlining specific steps to take in the event of an allegation – as well as specific training for employees on acceptable workplace conduct. 

Leaving no stone unturned, here’s a brief list of examples from the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission on what constitutes sexual harassment:

  • Staring, leering or unwelcome touching
  • Suggestive comments or jokes
  • Sexually explicit pictures or posters
  • Unwanted invitations to go out on dates or requests for sex
  • Intrusive questions about a person's private life or body
  • Unnecessary familiarity, such as deliberately brushing up against a person
  • Emailing pornography or rude jokes
  • Displaying posters, magazines or computer screen savers of a sexual nature
  • Communicating content of a sexual nature via social media, such as sending sexually explicit text messages.

We hope none of these examples ring true in your workplace. But if they do, it’s time to step up and get compliant!

 

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One Quick Way to Kill Productivity - Hire the Wrong Recruit

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What takes forever but can kill your productivity overnight? Hiring the wrong recruit. 

It sounds like a bad joke, doesn’t it? But those who’ve experienced the results of bringing the wrong person into the fold, know that it’s anything but! 

There can be a number of reasons why an employee is not a good fit for a company.  It could be due to a poor skill set that was misjudged at interview stage, or a personality clash. Perhaps they turn out to have a lack of drive or ambition and act like a wet blanket on your goals and your team. Good recruitment, even when outsourced to experts, isn’t fail-safe, despite our best efforts and intentions. 

The best recruitment takes time and careful planning. If you’re lucky enough to have struck gold and there’s a pool of good candidates to choose from, you’re smart to do the job well, and carefully. When things go wrong and the appointment turns out badly, it’s not just a disappointment, it’s a waste of time and effort. Plus, it can have a ripple effect through your workplace and affect productivity and morale - the backbone of a good business.  

This is something it pays to get right. 

In a study released by global employment firm Robert Half, in which two thousand chief financial officers were interviewed, 95% percent of respondents said a poor recruitment decision impacts the morale of the team.


Greg Scileppi, the President of International Recruitment at Robert Half confirms this. “Hiring a bad fit or someone who lacks the skills needed to perform well has the potential to leave good employees with the burden of damage control, whether it be extra work or redoing work that wasn’t completed correctly the first time,” he says. “The added pressure on top performers could put employers at risk of losing them, too.

Other findings from the survey included:

  • Supervisors spend on average 17 percent of their time managing poorly performing employees.
  • Sixty percent of recruitment managers report that bad recruits don’t get along with co-workers.
  • Forty-one percent of recruitment managers estimate the cost of a bad recruit to be in the thousands of dollars.
  • It takes five weeks, on average, to fill a staff-level position and over seven weeks to fill a management position.

The statistics are telling. It’s clear that recruitment catastrophes can change the culture of your workplace and be a significant burden on your bottom line.

 

OUR TOP RECRUITMENT TIP – AND IT’S SIMPLE 

In Australia, employers can appoint new starters under the terms of a probationary period.  This provides business owners with the opportunity to assess their fit for the role and the business.  The employer can decide on the length of the period. It can range from a few weeks to a few months at the start of employment, and should be written into all employment contracts. 

During the probationary period, there’s a chance to review the employee’s performance and provide constructive feedback. This gives both parties the best chance of building trust, maintaining a successful partnership – and getting on with the job in hand. 

However, where a new employee is not suitable for your workplace, letting them go during their probationary period is perhaps the best option - and the most straightforward.  This must be done lawfully, so if in doubt, err on the side of caution and get professional advice first.  

Persist! Recruit carefully until you find the right person for your team - and your business.  It will be well worth your efforts for your business’s longevity. In the meantime, the protection of a probationary period is there to help you. 

 

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Moaning and Groaning – and When to Pay Attention

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We all complain sometimes. We’re only human. And workplaces aren’t immune to it. Typically, a couple of disinterested, disengaged or just downright grumpy employees might have a grumble at some point during the working week. 

You can hear it in their tone, and the general tenor of what they say, and if you’re a manager or a business owner, we don’t need to tell you - it can be an array of issues, ranging from the surprising to the predictable. 

Perhaps it’s a colleague’s annoying ring tone, or they’ve been asked to perform a task outside of their job description.  Either way, this is one of those aspects of management that make it a complex game. It takes patience, no doubt. Critically, it also takes judgement – in knowing what complaints to take seriously and which ones can be taken with a pinch of salt. 

If you’re unclear on what workplace rights you’re required uphold, here’s some help in how to begin deciphering what can be dismissed as a moan, and what could have greater consequences. 

 

WHAT THE LAW SAYS

Starting with the basics, workplace laws ensure that employees are protected under an employment agreement or any relevant award or enterprise agreement.  If you’re up to speed, you’ll already know that these are the documents that are the go-to for determining employment conditions like salary and other entitlements.  Make sure all your employees have one - that’s best practice. All employees have the right to participate in lawful union activities too.

Beyond this, the Fair Work Act is clear that every employee has the right to be treated equally, regardless of race, sex, age or disability, amongst other things. In practice and in person that means our personal odour, birthmarks, dermatitis and comb-overs are all part and parcel of us as a person and must be accepted as such.

When more untoward behaviour becomes repetitive in nature, then there might be a duty of care for the employer to intervene, under the workplace bullying and harassment laws.

The Fair Work Act even gives us the right to make a ‘complaint’ or ‘inquiry’ while at work. Where the line must be drawn is less clear, between complaints about the ply of toilet paper in the shared facilities, and matters which are obviously more substantial. At the very least, a complaint should be related to a person’s work. 

 


CASE STUDIES

 Complaints which have been upheld, in which the employee was found to have been exercising a workplace right include: 

  • Where an employee was not paid a commission in accordance with their employment agreement;
  • Where a colleague was found to have a conflict of interest - in choosing to engage their daughter as a preferred supplier to the business; and
  • Where a senior manager made inappropriate statements.

These cases suggest that a complaint or inquiry has to be about something that has direct and tangible impact on a person’s employment. By contrast, an employee’s concerns about another staff member’s dissatisfaction with their job, or complaints about the general lack of structure or direction within the business have been found not to be examples of employees exercising their workplace rights.

 

KEY TAKEAWAYS

ADVICE: It’s not always obvious what is a workplace right – and what isn’t . When in doubt, err on the side of caution and get professional advice.  

POLICY: Get solid policies and procedures bedded down.  They should be underpinned by workplace legislation - specifically  discrimination, equal opportunity and workplace health and safety laws.  The tighter your policies, the less opportunity for uncertainty - or complaints.  

TRAINING: Tackle the hard stuff early. Provide regular training and communicate to employees what is an actual workplace right - and what is not. You might find there is less complaining and more time spent achieving your business goals. 

Most employees avoid being the squeaky wheel.  So complaints about real workplace issues might be few and far between in your business. But they can happen.  And when they do, it can be tricky to get the business of an employee’s rights, well - right. 

So get the right policy in place, take advice where you need to and avoid making on-the- spot decisions. There might still be the occasional grumble, but you’ll be clearer about what’s justified- and so will your staff. 

 

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Bringing the Best on Board – How to Go About Recruiting Smarter

We-Are-Hiring

In business we’re so focused on operations - building, branding, marketing and delivering. One things leads to another, and the business grows – great! More business means you recruit more staff. And there’s the rub. 

Because replicating success doesn’t necessarily mean replicating your people.  Getting the right recruits in place creates the culture of your workplace.  So it’s clever business to be strategic, know exactly what you’re looking for, and how to interview to get it. 

Believe it or not, the last thing you should do is recruit someone who thinks just like you. Find someone who brings different thinking to the table but who is also a great team player, and genuinely gets on with everyone. That’s more likely to result in the robust collective skill set you need to carry on with that healthy growth and development. 

Here are some tips to help you single out the best candidates.
 

ASK THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

Jotting down a few random questions and hoping for a wonderful outcome is unlikely to cut the mustard.  There’s nothing wrong with prescribed questions. Write them down and use them! But be flexible – go off piste and improvise occasionally, it’ll make you seem more human, and it keeps you thinking too! 

Moments of silence can be a good thing. They can prompt ‘gold nugget’ moments – when the candidate fills the space by talking unscripted.  This provides you with the chance to discover behaviours and experiences that may not have revealed if you had kept talking.

Ask questions that draw out the behavioural type of the person sitting before you. Past behaviour is usually an indication of what future behaviour will be like.  When you ask about specific tasks or real life experiences, you’ve got a better chance of the understanding how the candidate might react to workplace situations under your roof.  

Here’s what we mean. 

  • Describe a time where you have gone out of your way to help a customer. What did you do and what was the result?
  • Can you tell me about a time when you’ve been around people that you really didn’t like or you just didn’t want to deal with? Describe your worst example of this and how you made best of the situation.
  • Tell me about a time where a customer did not accept the information you gave them and you had to explain it in different terms.
  • Describe a time where you took over a difficult client. What did you do to ensure the relationship ran smoothly? What made a difference in these circumstances? 
     

GET SOME SLEEP

It might sound like an odd suggestion but when you’re interviewing a potential new starter, make sure you’re at your best.  Arm yourself with a clear mind so you’re fully on the ball and don’t make a costly mistake. 

President Bill Clinton, who was renowned for sleeping only five or six hours a night throughout his presidency, observes ‘Every important mistake I have made in my life, I’ve made because I was tired.’  

If only he’d been thinking more clearly that day in the oval office with the cigar. 

Don’t make an error of judgement that will come back to bite you. 

 

WATCH THE BODY TALK 

Being mindfully present during an interview means you can chat naturally - and look for non-verbal clues  - the subtle nuances of behaviour that start in our subconscious and emerge to give away so much about us.

Nikoletta Bika, researcher and writer at Workable, gives some specific pointers to use when reading body language during an interview. 

  1. OBSERVE EXTREME BEHAVIOUR: Colourful quirks can make the workplace better, but be cautious about other extreme behaviours - constantly checking a phone or avoiding eye contact. 
  2. SPOT THE DIFFERENCE:  Look for any changes in movement or posture -  is the tapping foot responding to an uncomfortable question?
  3. CONNECT THE DOTS: One isolated gesture might be a one-off, but if you see repeated behaviours that all say the same thing, listen to your instincts about them. 
  4. ASK AWAY: If you pick up on non-verbal clues that suggest an interesting or off-the-wall response, or perhaps withheld information, don't hesitate to ask follow up questions.

Good recruiting is simple and straightforward but also smart. You don’t have to impress with fireworks, just be well prepared and professional. Know in advance what attributes you’re looking for – find a great fit for your team, and bring something new and wonderful to the table! 

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Dealing with Workplace Hotheads

Hothead

Getting along at work is easier said than done.  Mutual accord amongst colleagues is a reciprocal thing – but sometimes it’s unrequited! 

A great workplace buzz relies on the collective valuing their relationships. It needs people who know how to build trust, and who aim to do so. When like minds meet and values are shared, we make productive connections.  There’s nothing like a sense of camaraderie for creating a platform from which your best work will be done.

That’s the best case scenario! But as we all know, sometimes workplace relationships just ain’t that simple. Worst case, they can be really challenging.  One person’s temperament - good or bad - has the potential to set the tone.  If things turn nasty – and sometimes they do - workplace productivity can really suffer, along with morale.  

WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH

Difficult employees create confusion. Talking incessantly, not listening, always having the last word, falling short of commitments – those are some of the traits we’re all familiar with. Even more challenging is someone who’s competing for power, privilege or attention.  Or all three! When these behaviours are left unmanaged, conflict begins to simmer - and when it erupts it’s always counter-productive.    

We all have ordinary moments at work occasionally. Maybe we’re going through a sticky patch personally, and impoliteness is a bi-product of that stress.  Usually it’s short lived. But when something goes on for longer, not everyone has the self-awareness to see how it’s impacting on others. And then, look out! 

The reasons behind bad behaviour are a secondary concern. Whatever they are, the behaviour must be addressed and resolved quickly - that’s best practice.  If someone’s behaving badly in your workplace, here are some tips that might help.

THE TOUGH GET GOING

Talk constructively with the employee and find out if there’s a deeper issue.  If they’re making barbed comments in one particular colleague’s direction, take them aside and ask them why. They might be apologetic – it’s possible they genuinely don’t realise it’s a problem. On the other hand, they might make excuses for themselves, or counter-accuse the colleague. 

Either way, you’ve begun to set the tone and put them on notice that their conduct is unacceptable, and you’d like things to change - for the better.  This type of conversation can be disarming for an employee – but can go direct to the heart of the matter. If you’ve handled it well, the calm and rational conversation you’ve just had will be a far better outcome than what may have happened if you’d let things simmer. 

 


THE TOUGH GET READY

When an employee continues to be problematic or destructive, the problem can lie beyond what’s happening at work. According to Mindframe statistics, 1 in every 5 Australians annually will experience a mental health problem. So where a behaviour seems emotionally charged or disproportionate to the problem at hand, it’s possible there’s a more deep-seated psychological issue.

Keep your cool. Get your thoughts together – be logical, rational and empathetic. Then talk to the employee. Calmly. It may be enough to de-escalate things.  Giving your employee the chance to be honest about what’s really going on may bring clarity to the situation, and a new level of awareness for them. What they say should put you on the path for managing the situation. 

 

THE TOUGH WEATHER THE STORM 

When you've tried everything to improve a difficult relationship but the employee still seems hell bent on making your workplace miserable, it's time to consider your options.

You can always try and ride it out. Forge ahead! But be candid with your employee about how their behaviour impacts productivity and workplace morale.  They need to hear it! 

No matter how challenging you find their personality, this alone is not grounds for terminating employment, and may lead to all sorts of allegations - including unfair dismissal. 

However, doing nothing - and allowing their behaviour to continue - sends a clear message to everyone else that their behaviour is condoned.  This can be a costly mistake - in employee engagement, staff retention and productivity.  Not to mention your duty of care under the work health and safety legislation.

The sad reality is that sometimes you have to make the best of a bad situation – and put up with them. Stay within the guidelines of the law, and set the tone for your employees – all of them. Be clear and direct about what’s acceptable workplace etiquette. Be especially direct with those who need to hear it. Avoid being re-active. Do what’s right for your business - and all of your employees!

 

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