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

Work It, Work It - and 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.



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.



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 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.



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


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.



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.



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  



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


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 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.



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!



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.


  • 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.


  • 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


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.



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.”


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


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.



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.’



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!



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.’



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.



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


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.


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.



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.



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


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


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’.



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. 



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. 



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.



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


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.


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.


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.


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.


  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


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



Read the full article HERE.


Read the full article HERE.


Read the full article HERE.


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


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.


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!


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.


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


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.




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.



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.  



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


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.



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


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. 



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. 



 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.



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


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.


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? 


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. 



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


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.  


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.


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. 



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. 



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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WTF! Is It Ever A-OK?


What’s the go when it comes to profanities in your workplace?  Is a sprinkle of colourful language okay when you’ve got a point to make? Or do you have a strict policy in place, with swear jars for repeat offenders, even if it’s you?

Author of In Praise of Profanity, Michael Adams suggests that it’s a modern problem brought about by changing moral codes.  In an interview with the ABC, he says there are ‘just some moments in life where you reach a point of existential frustration, everything has gone wrong at once, and you search around for other words, but none will suit the occasion quite as well as a nice profanity’.

There are many moments in business when can happen, and some of us may vent our frustrations by letting rip. If you have a tight group of co-workers, it might be the case that that swearing within reason and context is accepted.  In an open plan workplace, where the audience might extend beyond close colleagues, then this might not be the case. And that could lead to offence taken, and perhaps even distress and disengagement. 



A case in point is Mark Baldwin v Scientific Management Associate, which was brought before the Fair Work Commission.  It was alleged that Baldwin had used crude and profane language in a threatening manner towards his manager.  Baldwin’s manager had then become fearful for his own safety.  The Fair Work Commission determined that Baldwin had been fairly dismissed, and the termination was upheld.

This ruling highlights the qualitative difference between swearing in general terms verses swearing when it is specifically directed at someone - becoming highly personalised.



Employees look to their leaders for direction, and follow your cues.  So, when you choose your words as a leader, choose them well.  Set the tone and create a culture that is aligned with best practice. And get it right every time.  

Hats off to you if you consider this important and have implemented a code of conduct covering profanities in your workplace.  Enforce it consistently and lead by example – set the tone yourself. 

If you have no policy, it could be time to consider one. Let’s be frank: it’s only worth implementing a policy if you agree that swearing is not condoned. Good policies take time and effort to develop. And they only have value if you have a ‘follow me’ attitude.  Without this, you can expect your employees to be dubious about your intentions - and the Fair Work Commission too.



If an employee’s language is offensive and/or has the potential to offend or cause harm to others - it’s your obligation as the employer to step in, policy or no. To ignore it is to condone it, and that could lead to allegations of bullying.



If the proverbial has hit the fan and you’re dealing with an incident, you’re wise to consider all the circumstances. Context is key. If the incident is serious, talk to the employee. Gather all the facts and take time to consider the circumstances, before drawing any conclusions. 

Keep front of mind that modern workplaces are generally robust. The use of profanities - in general terms and in certain industries - is not uncommon. Consideration should always be given to the context of the discussion, as well as industry culture.

As an employer, it’s your job to understand these nuances. Some situations - especially the serious ones - should never be overlooked, while others may be collectively acknowledged as contextual. 

Determine what’s acceptable for your workplace - then go on to create a pleasant environment for all, by leading with the behaviours you want to be contagious. 


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Summary Dismissal - Don’t Play That 'Trump’ Card Unless You’re Sure


Terminating employees is rarely comfortable – and nor should it be. It’s not just the legal ramifications and potential costs of getting it wrong that might make one nervous, but the impact upon the employee and their family can be a burden on the conscience that’s hard to bear. 

Summary dismissal is especially tricky.  This type of termination takes place when an employee is involved in serious misconduct.  It may include a serious and imminent risk to the health and safety of another person or to the reputation or profits of the company’s business, or where an employee deliberately behaves in a way that is inconsistent with continuing their employment.

Theft, fraud, assault or refusing to carry out a lawful and reasonable instruction that is part of their job, are just few examples of serious misconduct. 

Think you’ve got it covered? So did the business owners in these five cases of summary dismissal which were held before the Fair Work Commission. Only two of these five cases were upheld by the Commission, while the other three were deemed unfair. 

Which two do you think the Fair Work Commission upheld on the grounds of serious misconduct? 

  1. An employee performed burnouts in the workplace driveway, went on to intimidate a customer, and made ‘rude and aggressive gestures’ towards the Company’s security cameras. 
  2. An employee was annoyed for being contacted on their rostered day off, and verbally abused their co-worker during the telephone conversation. 
  3. An employee left a voicemail message containing ‘colourful language’ on a co-worker’s telephone. 
  4. An employee who was a competitive rifle shooter in his spare time attended work with a high-powered weapon.  He showed it to other co-workers in the Company car park, which led to the police being called to the workplace. 
  5. An employee engaged as a bouncer at a casino allowed an underage girl to enter, having only briefly inspected her Learner Driver’s Licence.

The Fair Work Commission determined that the first two cases constituted serious misconduct and the summary dismissal was upheld.

In the last three cases, the Commission found that the employer had overreacted, and that summary dismissal was not justified when the broader circumstances were considered.

Clearly, once the ‘Trump’ card of summary dismissal is on the table, there’s no going back, and if you’ve misjudged, it could work out to be costly. So it pays not to play your Presidential hand too rashly, unless you’re really sure it’s justified. 

Procedural fairness is always best practice in making sure you get things right first time.  There are a number of steps that must be taken before you make any final decisions as an employer. These include meeting with the employee and presenting all the facts and evidence surrounding the alleged misconduct; and allowing the employee to respond to the allegations, providing them with good opportunity to explain their actions. 

Procedural steps give you time to think, and understand, and can benefit all parties. All the evidence can be considered carefully and the right advice can be sought, before you make a final decision concerning the future employment of what might be a valued member of your team.

Terminating employees on any grounds – serious or not, is not to be taken lightly or done rashly.  Although you might have a level of certainty that the dismissal is well grounded, the law may not necessarily be on your side. Get the right advice first and avoid making an on-the-spot decision. You’re doing what’s right for your business - and your employees! 


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Get Social - and Be Upfront About It


A Victorian business owner learned to his cost recently about the harsh realities of social media use in the workplace - and setting rules around it. 

After being with the business for one year, a male employee was summarily dismissed by one of the business’s executives, due to an inappropriate and explicit update he posted on his Facebook feed.  The post alluded to a woman who had just been promoted having provided certain ‘favours’ to her boss in return for the new role. 

The employee in question soon amended the post, clarifying that the female employee was at his mother’s workplace — not his own.  However, not long after that he was contacted by his managing director and his employment was terminated - effective immediately.

The now ex-employee instigated unfair dismissal proceedings. His former employer argued strongly that the employee’s derogatory comments had overstepped boundaries and were not consistent with a safe working environment which is free of harassment, victimisation, or any kind of sexual abuse. 

The employee counter-claimed that he hadn’t been provided with a copy of the social media policy and was unaware of having received any warnings about social media use. Further, he alleged that the post was unrelated to his workplace, and it was posted while he was on a break at work.

The Fair Work Commission found that the employee had in fact been unfairly dismissed, and awarded him over $6,000 as compensation.


There were three reasons given for this finding. 

  1. The employee had flexible working hours and it was unclear whether he was on a break at the time of making the post;
  2. there was no evidence to show that the employee was provided with a copy of the social media policy, as the policy acknowledgment document was unsigned; and
  3. the employer’s concerns about the language used in the post was ‘tempered by the fact that similar language appears to have been used in the workplace at various times’.


Dealing with social media as an employer can be very difficult. It may only take a few seconds for an employee to grossly misuse social media during work time, but it takes much longer for an employer to properly respond and take appropriate action.  Incidents like this can leave a business owner with a hefty bill - and a heavy heart - when things go wrong. 


It’s vital, astute business practice and good governance for every business owner to get their house in order. 

Every business owner worth their salt wants the peace of mind that comes from knowing they are meeting procedural obligations - with best practice standards in place for when it really counts. 

Meeting your procedural obligations and making your expectations clear to employees from the outset, ensures that your business can handle workplace complexities and disputes as they arise, smartly and professionally – and in line with the law. 


With the rise of new media, ways in which employees can communicate with each other, with those outside your business, and about your business, are continually evolving. While this creates new opportunities, it also creates accountabilities.   It’s important for business owners to have a Social Media & Internet policy that applies to all employees and contractors who use social media and the internet - whether in a private or business capacity. 


If a business expects employees to always treat others with the utmost respect and courtesy, both in person and online, it’s good due diligence to set expectations with a Code of Conduct.  Having benchmarks in place, so employees understand that congenial, professional and respectful behaviour is standard workplace practice, is almost certainly going to help your business tackle the bigger issues, if they arise.


Ensure you take the next steps too. All employees must be made aware of these policies with adequate training on the topic of their obligations within your business.  Have them sign off - to acknowledge their understanding. And don’t let the dust settle there.  Lead by example and remind your employees at every opportunity of exactly what your workplace expectations are. 

While we know that every situation is different, and the policies you implement aren’t legal documents nor will they guarantee compliance, they will provide you with assurance - that you’re meeting your procedural obligations, and can best handle workplace complexities as they arise, smartly and professionally – and in line with the law. 

Need help with policy development and implementation?  Contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for all your best practice support needs.

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Bring It on! Pioneering the Digital Revolution


Times have changed.   We’re almost two decades into the new millennium and it’s clear that the labour-intensive, industrial, hands-on work we grew up watching our elders do has morphed into a highly automated, digitally driven activity and a whole new style of business.

Ideas are changing and with them our workplaces and roles. As we continue to live and work alongside each other in a collective of many generations, even putting a title on the complex jobs that some of us now do can be a challenge – as well as an indicator of how far the world has come.

Many small businesses are kick started with a simple concept. They’re built on a foundation of entrepreneurialism. Much of the personal time and cash resources sunk into them initially often go into branding – that most mysterious and yet essential requirement.  

Very often those taking the leap do so without the comfort of a salary, at least in the start-up phase. They might work from a home office, conduct virtual meetings and taking extended work calls during what should be family time. Such is the new norm. In these circumstances our work can be all around us and woven through our personal life. The olden days when your parents went off to work and you knew what they did there and then they came home again – are on the wane for many of us.

Instead of a simple job title, many of us now offer a thirty second elevator pitch when asked what we do for a living. Being part of this changing collective isn’t a simple matter! We brace ourselves to weather the judgements made by other people who can’t quite fathom what it is we do. Because there are those who still hold true that real work can only be the laborious industrial type.  

The elephant in the room? This type of venturing into the unknown is not actually new. Richard Branson and Oprah Winfrey built their careers on uninformed optimism, weathering opinions and complexity, at a time when their thinking was quite unique and progressive.  Little did they know that their endurance would become a game changer for how our future-selves viewed work and conducted business.

We are moving through this technological revolution with considerable momentum - the horse has well and truly bolted and we must stay in the saddle and hang on.  We must reinvent and digitalise, upgrade and adapt. We must better understand that exploring, trying new things and learning from our mistakes will eventually create a new balance and predictability. But rather than having the stable and linear career of old, we may have a handful of responsibilities we oversee throughout the day.

This cultural transition is a visceral experience for business owners, colleagues, parents and peers alike.  

It’s a good time for the curious, who ask the right questions of those at the forefront of contemporary thinking. Those questions, and their answers, lead to better understanding and our own growth, as people and as leaders.  We must draw intelligent conclusions on how the future economic world will look and how we can progress within it, leveraging all its opportunities and greatness.  

As we morph into this new age, it’s clear that some will continue to be at the forefront taking risks - just like Branson and Winfrey did. They may not have a job title that makes sense – other than ‘Pioneer’ - or have a role that even generates a regular income for a time. Some may lead a subsistence lifestyle to get by while growing their big idea. Others may have to push through negative critiques on their creative endeavours.  

Let’s salute their braveness! Because collectively we can all take direct benefit and make good of their pioneering in the new emerging world they are helping to build.


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