Successful Business Strategies and Why it Pays to be Nice

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One of Forbes magazine’s ten most influential business gurus, Richard Branson began his new year blog on an unexpected topic: kindness. ‘Over the break, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can all make this a stand-out year of happiness and positivity, and one of the best ways I can think of doing this is through kindness.’ The Importance of Kindness.

Most of us are taught the golden rule as children, of treating others as we would like to be treated ourselves. It’s what creates peaceful, harmonious and mutually supportive communities. This seems straightforward enough, right? Apparently not. Branson reflects that kindness is on the wane, lost within the chaos of our busy daily lives, sidelined in favour of more appealing and immediate agendas.

We like Branson. Not just because he’s a good chap but because he’s given the world a string of useable philosophies while building his eight billion-dollar businesses. One of his mantras is that running a large business is similar to running a small one, and it’s equally possible to do it in a way that is responsive, kind and friendly to those around you. ‘Kindness is such an important characteristic … we should all work on being more friendly, generous and considerate,’ he says.

In his post, Branson challenges us to complete fifteen random acts of kindness within the next twelve months. He makes some suggestions - tell a joke, call a friend, give a compliment, leave a happy note, smile at a stranger. Hardly an arduous challenge. One and a quarter random acts of kindness each month should be easily achieved, right? Then again, if Branson is going to all this trouble to challenge us to be kinder, maybe it’s easier said than done?

Hardly an arduous challenge. One and a quarter random acts of kindness each month should be easily achieved, right? Then again, if Branson is going to all this trouble to challenge us to be kinder, maybe it’s easier said than done?

He is not a lone voice in urging us towards greater kindness. Once you start looking, there’s a multitude of leaders, writers and influencers who would like us to make this vintage value new again. Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval made it to the top of the advertising industry by exemplifying their simple but powerful tenet that it pays to be nice. They believed, contrary to the outlook of many who surrounded them, that nice people finished first. They wrote about it in their book, ‘The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness’ and continue to campaign on the enormous impact of small gestures.

Seth Godin, who is best described as the ultimate entrepreneur for the Information Age, writes, ‘You've had a hard day, it's raining out, the world is changing, your boss is mean to you, the checking account is overdrawn, you're on deadline... But... Does every need have to be filled, every emotion in place before we're capable of being kind?’

Simon Sinek, a visionary thinker, motivational speaker and author says, ‘Kindness begets kindness, it's holding the door for someone, making a new pot of coffee, and letting someone into your lane. Putting others ahead of yourself - that is the practice of leadership.’

And within Australian shores, Hugh Mackay in his book The Good Life addresses the ultimate question: What makes life worth living? You guessed it, kindness figures highly. ‘We may aspire to lead a life animated by kindness and based on respect for others, but, for all kinds of reasons to do with our personalities, our temperaments and our circumstances, our life often falls short …’

Owning a small business could easily wipe the kindly smile off your face on some days. There are lows to be endured as well as euphoric highs. It can be hard to visualise let alone plan for a smooth road ahead. And on this roller-coaster ride you’re additionally responsible for bringing your team with you through every twist and turn, and guiding your customer experience as well.

What every leader and influencer appears to be saying is that kindness, at every stage of the game, is what makes all the difference to the journey - and the outcome.

Habitual kindness seeps through our interactions like warmth into our being on a summer’s day. It’s a strength, often underestimated and easily undervalued. As a code of behaviour, it’s less about leverage and more about nourishing relationships. Once you benchmark such a behaviour, it builds the kind of engagement that really makes your workplace stand out from the crowd.

Whichever guru or influencer you favour, we’ll wager they’d look kindly upon your following in their footsteps on this.

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How to be Creative in Recruitment and Why the Top CEOs Diversify

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Recruitment is big business for small business, whatever the means by which you go about it - outsourcing or in-house, behavioural assessments or gut-feel, five long-winded interviews or just one snappy half hour with a top pick.

A candid chat we had with a senior executive from a national government department recently revealed much to us about his employer’s priorities. ‘I tick the box of the mature aged worker,’ said the sprightly 45-year old. ‘My manager ticks the box of Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander, and my co-worker ticks the box of graduate.’ It stood out as an unusual paradigm and had me wondering: are they really recruiting on merit, or just by numbers?

As business leaders we should be aiming for the right mix - a strong crew of capable and engaged people who like each other and love the brand. Some might say this is a tough call. We agree. That’s why recruiting well is tricky business.

Fortunately, the country’s smartest corporate minds are working together on this very subject. The collective board of Australian Chief Executive Women and the members of Male Champions of Change are a highly regarded coalition of decent, powerful men and women pooling their ideas and challenging the way we think about recruitment and diversity in the workplace. The individuals making up this coalition hold the top CEO jobs in the country.

Their latest dispatch to fire the synapses of our business world is a 15-page report packed full of ideas. In the Eye of the Beholder – Avoiding The Merit Trap is gaining traction everywhere – and rightly so.

Perceived wisdom, it says, is that we recruit similar, like-minded people in the belief that this creates workplace engagement and naturally cohesive teams. Not so. In fact what we get is a bias of sameness - in gender, ethnicity, taste, thinking - and everything else.

This doesn’t lead to creativity, great dynamics and good business. It leads to stagnation.

Characteristics and qualities tend to cluster within organisations. When recruiting, we often pick up on this pattern subconsciously and replicate it - without thinking. We might tweak our processes and try hard to recruit smarter, but our un-interrogated thinking limits the talent search, and the same problems manifest within our organisation. This is the Merit Trap.

President of Chief Executive Women Diane Smith-Gander explains. ‘Too often, decision-makers think they're selecting the best person for the job on the basis of merit, but in fact they're favouring people who look like them or think like them, and ignoring the organisation's future needs,’ she says. ‘When this happens, they've fallen into the merit trap.’

At the other end of the spectrum, a brand which has side-stepped the Merit Trap and recruited smartly, exhibits a culture of diverse minds and inventive thinking. Employees engage with each other not because they’re able to cluster together comfortably with people who think similarly, but because they see their business being stimulated and enhanced by others who think differently.

Hard-wiring this new thinking into our strategic planning is a big and brave step – but an essential one. It takes collective acknowledgement at the uppermost level that future challenges might not be answered in the same way as past ones – by relying on the same minds, and the same answers.

‘Roles are changing quickly.’ Says Shayne Elliott, CEO of ANZ, ‘I need people for the roles of the future. This means hiring for core capabilities – not technical capability which can be taught or bought. I need agility, broad- mindedness, ability to operate in an unknown environment.’

When our top CEOs voice misgivings about standard recruitment processes, we should surely listen. And if their thinking is different from our own – there’s a red flag worth noticing! With collected wisdom from the uppermost echelons of the corporate world, this is a source worth watching.

And if what they’re saying is that different viewpoints, life experiences and professional knowledge within the workplace brings enhancement which is not just a benefit but a core player in our business’s survival and success, that’s a rationale worth adopting. The beauty is that it’s not hard. The thinking has been done for us. It’s the smartest there is, and gives us the best platform to leverage from. All we have to do is follow suit and recruit. Diversely, creatively, daringly.

 

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Diversity in the Workplace - How to Attract The Right Kind of Talent! (PART 2)

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One of my recent posts Diversity in the Workplace - How to Attract The Right Kind of Talent! was an interesting piece that seemed to strike a chord with many readers.

The article focussed on encouraging small business owners to keep an open mind when recruiting – to actively engage with potential employees who present special and different abilities. It mentioned in particular those on the Autism spectrum whose mindset may see them achieve brilliance in particular areas where neuro-typical employees would be stumped.

A good stereotypical fit for a role is not always the best one. Today’s solutions are increasingly about thinking of diversity and the different skillsets different individuals can bring to a business, including those who sit just outside society’s perception of ‘normal’.

With all the interest in this article, it seemed noteworthy to explore this idea a little more. And to share with small business owners everywhere, the value of looking beyond difference to see the true potential of a person’s smarts - what new ideas, fresh thinking and exceptional abilities can bring to any business table.

On Australian shores, President of Chief Executive Women Diane Smith-Gander explains ‘… the challenge is not to find who’s best for the job. Rather look for the best team for the task. If your team is not diverse then “being different” needs to be part of the selection criteria.’ She continues, [Recruiting on] ‘merit is a concept that has been hijacked to justify lack of diversity by applying a “best person for the job” principle.’

Unfortunately, when applied dogmatically as it often is, that ‘best person for the job’ principle often leads not to creativity, great dynamics and good business, but to stagnation.

When recruiting, it’s not unusual for managers and business owners to go through the same process and jump through the same hoops without thinking, replicating the same mistakes again and again. They might tweak things here and there in the interests of recruiting smarter, but un-interrogated thinking limits the talent search, and the same problems often manifest all over again.

Three years ago, Penny Andrews showed that autism didn’t hold her back. She became a library graduate trainee at Leeds Metropolitan University, having beaten 200 applicants to the job and proving that different smarts count. "Sometimes I feel people think I should be grateful that I have a job but I'm performing a useful task and doing it well, so they should be grateful to me," she said.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports enormous growth in the number of people with autism, with data it collected in 2009 and again in 2012 through its Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers. This represents a vast pool of untapped talent within our communities. As small business owners we are ideally placed to think laterally, rethink the way we conduct our business and our recruiting, and potentially change both lives and our future fortunes.

Autism Speaks has already cemented in some of the groundwork, making it easier for small business owners to embrace new thinking, and access new expertise. Their Employment Toolkit: Employer’s Guide to Hiring and Retaining Employees with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) is the go-to for any employer wanting to gain further insight and experience in recruiting, hiring and supporting with diversity.

As a society, it’s time to be mindful. What makes a difference within any workplace is not just professional knowledge, but different viewpoints and life experience. The enhancement this rationale brings is not just a benefit but a core element in a business’s survival and success. That’s a rationale worth adopting. All we have to do is recruit diversely, creatively and daringly. For both parties, there is nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

Standing on our principles here is a matter not of charity or social responsibility but rather the empirical benefit of taking on unique skills and diverse minds.

To view the initial article, which sparked over 600 social media shares, click here.

 

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Diversity in the Workplace - How to Attract The Right Kind of Talent!

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Whether you favour baby boomers or millennials when it comes to recruiting, most employers feel some pressure to revolutionise their workplace as new generations seep into the workforce. Today, ‘normal’ is at least three generations bundled together and working cooperatively, making for a truly diverse workplace.

The tricky part is not falling back on our perception of stereotypes, when it’s time to recruit again, in how we perceive and subconsciously categorise applicants. Maybe we make judgments without realising it about ear piercing or age, education or lack thereof. Even worse, our shutters come down when we see the ‘wrong’ suburb on a resume, or hear an accent different from our own.

Giving credence to stereotypes and our expectations of them can be damaging, in that it can set unfavourable limits to a small business’s growth capacity.

At #HR, we applaud leaders who look beyond stigmas and don’t mind breaking the mould to recruit on merit. Best practice is to create a culture of diverse minds, where employees engage with each other not because they are all the same, but because they see their business being stimulated and enhanced by others who think differently.

In such a culture, looking different has little to do with a person’s smarts.

Brett Davies, a computer design technician from County Durham in the UK, was the victim of just such misconceptions. After being turned down for hundreds of jobs, his hidden genius for all things visual finally landed him a two-week trial at Peacocks Medical Group. Coincidentally, the BBC was filming a documentary series featuring Davies at the time. They recorded his journey, in securing the trial position, and then landing his dream job – by solving a technical problem that had defeated every other employee who’d tried.

Davies, who had been out of work for eight years said, “I have autism. There isn’t anything different about me, I just think differently. Somehow the unwritten rules of social communication have eluded me.”

Stereotypical perceptions are often unfounded, such as those which the phrase ‘Autism’ inspires. To be a progressive business owner in progressive times, it can pay dividends to front up and get some understanding of how best to leverage qualities that are different from our own.

De-stigmatising and challenging stereotypes is proving beneficial for many companies, as their willingness to break ground brings them not only enlightenment, but profitability – and a highly motivated and fulfilled workforce.

Dave Kearon, Director of Adult Services with Autism Speaks, says...

‘This is not about charity or about what businesses can do for people with autism; it’s about what individuals with autism have shown they can do for businesses’

Research by Autism Speaks suggests that companies employing people with autism consistently give reports of extremely dependable and loyal employees, who follow company rules, arrive on time and are absent far less. Other strengths mentioned include intense attention to detail and a desire to get things right – perfectly right. One employer noted that the turnover rate of his employees with Autism was one third of his neuro-typical workers.

Challenging the status quo – although the status quo is fluid these days - takes grit, for sure. But all the research suggests that for those running a small business in today’s market, thinking openly and diversely offers many opportunities.

Employers who are on the hunt for employees with specialised skills are increasingly wise to the benefits of diverse minds. They remember that no-one is perfect and believe that looking beyond a stereotype can bring something truly unique and highly valuable to a workplace.

 

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5 Effective Communication Skills - Dealing With Difficult Conversations

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Conflict is a fact of life, and it happens in every workplace. As leaders, we’re unlikely to get through day-to-day operations without the occasional tough, perhaps heated, or even hair-raising discussion with an employee or colleague.

Conflicts can manifest overnight and should be managed. Because they can escalate quickly when we don’t make the time to have those difficult conversations.

Such conversations arise for many reasons. It may be a simple matter such as leave or a pay rise request,  or more serious employee grievances or performance related issues.

No matter the nature of the issue, it’s important to deal with it straight away. Let it linger at your peril - that’s when things escalate. Going into the discussion with a careful and considered approach is wise. A difficult conversation, handled insensitively, can affect your relationship with the other party, and the wider workforce too – perhaps even your business relationships.

Fair Work Ombudsman Australia outlines the best practice steps for getting to grips with such conversations, making them easier and more constructive.  These steps provide leaders and business owners with practical guidance, and they’re designed to help us avoid potential pitfalls, oversights and general mismanagement.

1. NO SMALL TALK

Begin the meeting by stating what the issue is right away. Don’t preface the conversation with unnecessary small talk – this gives a false impression.

2. STICK TO THE FACTS

Stick to the facts rather than relying on opinions or hearsay. Give examples where possible. Explain how the issue is impacting on your organisation. Most importantly, focus on the issue at hand, rather than the person.

3. LISTEN

Listen to your employee. Considering their point of view is vital. There could be a range of facts or situations you don’t know about. Keeping an open mind may help you consider alternative solutions.

4. BE PREPARED

Be prepared for your employee to react emotionally. Consider telling them in advance that they can bring a support person to the meeting, if they want to.

5. BE OBJECTIVE

Manage your own emotions as well. Stay calm and focus objectively on the issues.

The ideal outcome is an agreement, and you should aim for a mutually agreed plan. Then be consistent and have the smarts to follow through. The more resolute you are with this, the greater the probability of a successful outcome in the long term. That’s a win for everyone concerned.

There are complexities and ambiguities in every workplace. These simple strategies are designed to help you manage them. Take some time to measure your own processes against them, and tweak accordingly.

Want to mitigate conflict in the first place? Keep communication channels open. Your employees should be comfortable in discussions with you. 

It takes time, skill and effort to lead people – so be brave and have the conversations that truly matter.

 

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Leadership Language - 3 Powerful Words You Shouldn't Use!

Mind-Your-Leadership-Language

Yeah, but no, but yeah, but …

Marshall Goldsmith likes practical and proven methods. He’s not a man to beat about the bush. As a world-renowned business educator and coach, Goldsmith’s singular ability to get results for top leaders has drawn over 150 CEOs and their management teams to transform their thinking and bring about deep and effective changes in their workplace – and their own behaviour.

One of his secrets? The ‘No, But, However’ theory.

Here’s what Goldsmith writes in his MG Thinkers 50 Blog. ‘An easy habit for people who like to win to fall into, and a surefire shortcut for killing conversations, is to start a sentence with “no,” “but,” or “however”. It doesn’t matter how friendly your tone is or how honey sweet you say these words, the message to your recipient is “You are wrong.”’

These three words, however you configure them, exhibit a lack of interest in exploring options and being open to the perspective of others present.

“That’s true, but I think that misses the point ...”
“Yes, but let’s remember that ….. “
“I know. However, the thinking around that has been …”
“No, that’s not what we’re talking about here …”
“Well maybe that’s the case, but if we look at past examples…..”

To Marshall, using of these words is a clear indicator of one’s leadership style. And it’s characterized by an underlying competitiveness and power play.

Does that sound like you? If you’ve answered ‘Yes, but…..’ then perhaps you need to read on.

The presence of these tiny inflections in your speech patterns and your thinking habits means other contributions in the debate sink into a kind of twilight zone for you. They may as well not be there. They’re irrelevant.

It leaves the other people in the conversation wondering whether commenting is in any way worthwhile, or having a future opinion is worth the effort.

When you occupy a leadership position, or any role of authority, it can be easy to override the ideas of others, and call upon your own view as the prevailing one. There’s no doubt that developing a presence as the other style of leader - a collaborative one - takes time and patience. You’ve got to listen to all those other views, think about them, maybe even incorporate them into your own thinking!

However, (did we really say that?) - the payoff can be golden. It builds a team of diverse thinkers, confident that they have the right to put new and interesting points on the table. Ultimately it builds the capacity for your business to make strategic progress, and innovate … without you.

It’s radical, but true. You may remain there, but your business and your colleagues thrive all around you. And if you get called away, take a sabbatical, or want to move on, you’ve created a successful and independent team – that’s a great legacy.

Think about taking this test. For the next few days, make a mental note each time you reply with “No,” “But,” or “However.” Why not make an actual note of it too – you may be surprised when you refer to it later. Go the whole hog and ask your team to help. Encourage them to call you on it! Brave enough? You’ll find that this elevates the quality of your guidance, and your team’s collaborative engagement.

The less we focus on ourselves the more we benefit, believes Goldsmith. We think it’s a simple technique that we could all benefit from!

(We should say at this point, that’s not Marshall in the pink tracksuit.)

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Bad Boss Behaviour - Are You Guilty?

Bad-Boss-Behaviour

Are you guilty of bad boss behaviour? The chances are that nobody will tell you, least of all your employees. But we will!

Employees tolerate a lot of bad management. Some bosses are untrained in how to lead. Others may be uncaring or clueless to the challenges faced by the individuals in their team. And some are just oblivious to the impact of their actions or interaction.

For an ordinary employee, it takes immense courage to give direct feedback to a manager. It’s risky too. What if it goes over badly? Are they likely to face a reprimand or worse?

If they choose not to table their thoughts, as most do faced with this intimidating scenario, then it takes a lot of commitment for them to look past any transgressions and stay engaged.

In the worst case scenario, an employee moves on to greener pastures, leaving their boss no wiser of their shortcomings, or the reason behind the revolving door and continual recruitment drive.

Worth addressing? We think so. Read on – because nobody need know you’re doing so, and it might save you a whole heap of grief – you and your employees.


WHAT IT IS TO BE INCOMPETENT

Incompetence is a slur thrown around and can mean different things to different people. Generally, incompetence is an inability to do your job satisfactorily, the way others might expect.

It can be a passing phase, brought on by random circumstances. We’ve all found ourselves in situations that overwhelm us and have felt unequal to the task in hand at some point. This is pretty natural in the normal course of things. Put your hand up and ask for help – situation solved. That’s not necessarily incompetence. That’s just you, having a moment.

When incompetence lingers and repeats itself, when the same situations occur on repeat, it’s more than just a passing phase. In this scenario, you need help. If you find yourself in a role where the shoe really doesn’t fit, the best course of action by far is to ask for help and advice, or find a role that’s better suited to your shoe size and skill set. That could be inside the company – or it could be elsewhere.

Own it. The problem, the scenario – be accountable. Because those around you have a ringside view of every stumble, blunder and fall. They’re most likely talking too, a situation which isn’t healthy or helpful for any of us.

 

CAUGHT IN THE CLUTCHES OF YOUR EGO

Egos are tricky things. If you’re not careful, yours can sneak up and announce itself when you least expect it. Before you know it, you’re acting in ways that simply aren’t conducive to good leadership. You’re not valuing your team, you’re not adding value to the discussion, and deep down you know it.

Our ego can be our biggest barrier to success. We’re all good at something but we’re not necessarily the best. Some people find that hard to accept, and they waste a lot of everyone’s time and effort in denying it. Ultimately, it’s worth sacrificing your ego and ‘settling’ for mainstream. Because if we all stick to what we’re good at and work together instead of trying to outshine everyone else, we can make greatness happen – together.

To be outstanding in a particular field takes a deep level of mastery. To create mastery as a group is easier. We’re better as a tribe. Try it.


CIRCLE OF TRUST - OR LACK THERE OF

Management gone wrong makes employees feel unprotected and insecure. It creates an atmosphere of uncertainty and a fear of consequences. Marcus Buckingham, British author and motivational speaker has famously said, ‘People don’t leave bad companies, they leave bad managers.’

Great leaders can define a culture. They drive engagement, safety and trust. They look out for the person on their left, while supporting the person to their right, and they never forget about the people above and below.

This type of leader stands out. They’re instantly recognizable. Their employees can be seen to trust them implicitly - they’re given no reason to feel otherwise. And they’re followed because that naturally feels right to those around them.

A leader like this can be certain that when the chips are down their tribe will back them, working smarter, harder, creating greatness.

So if you find yourself standing alone, have a think about your circle of trust. Do you have one? Or are you mostly gazing at your own reflection? Perhaps a few people loiter around you submissively. If so, it could be because you’re paying their salary.

Give them a better reason for staying.

 

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Not Right Now, Thanks! Embracing Workplace Flexibility

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Is your workplace flexible enough to allow a senior member of staff to send this kind of message?

‘I work flexibly at Telstra. I’m sending this message now because it suits me. I don’t expect you to read, action or respond out of normal work hours.’

This is the email signature of Troy Roderick, Telstra’s Head of Diversity & Inclusion. Signs are that while it might still be a tad unexpected, it’s on the way to becoming the norm. And for good reason!

According to Australian research conducted jointly by Bain & Company and Australia’s powerful Chief Executive Women lobby group, juggling our career aspirations and family growth and needs is entirely possible - as long we think of workplace flexibility as a norm and not an exception to the rule.

In this 2015 report, The Power of Flexibility: A key enabler to boost gender parity and engagement, it’s emerges that Australian organisations have built good foundations for flexibility within their workforces. But key challenges still remain - especially if we want workable options for both genders.

As it turns out, workplace flexibility isn’t just a woman’s issue. Data shows that men are demanding work flexibility too. The primary reason is that they want to play more active roles as caregivers, and rightly so. If we really aspire to equality within our workforce at every level up to senior leader, it’s crucial both genders should be equally considered and enabled - with flexible work practices.

Gone are the days when employees worked 9 to 5, Monday to Friday and only within the same four office walls. The incredible transition of the digital age, and our new capacity to run operations and communicate 24/7 from anywhere with a wifi connection has changed everything in most of our working communities - and across the globe.

 

WESTPAC CASE STUDY – IT’S TIME TO LOVE BANKS

The 2015 report highlights Westpac Banking Corporation as a standout company. They offer a range of flexible work practices, as part of their longstanding commitment to flexibility.

Those of us in smaller businesses might debunk their efforts as 'big business with bigger budgets’. But there is no denying the teams at Westpac have done their research and are implementing change for reasons that resonate in small business too. There are many takeaways that smaller teams could easily adopt and weave into their own culture with tremendous benefit.

Brian Hartzer, Westpac Group CEO, nails it. ‘The way I see it, flexibility helps people achieve their full potential by removing barriers to success. If people have the flexibility to manage their personal commitments, they are more likely to bring their whole selves to work every day. And that means they’re more likely to do their best work and exceed customer expectations.’

Like the inside scoop? Here are five key practices Westpac leaders are required to implement, to facilitate flexibility:

  1. Make yes the default answer;
  2. Put flexibility on the agenda at team meetings;
  3. Understand the flex options and resources available;
  4. Raise flexibility as a key benefit; and
  5. Role-model flexibility.

The culmination of Westpac’s thinking is in their WorkSMART initiative. This permits employees to choose how, when and where they work. It’s a transformative program charged with overhauling Westpac’s corporate environment, technology, tools, systems and policies. They’re set on creating a culture where work is no longer a place you go, but something you do and achieve.

 

BENEFITS? WE THINK SO!

When you encourage employees to reach their full potential through flexible work practices, the capacity to generate a positive environment and boost employee advocacy and productivity is proven to follow.

It seems Westpac aren’t the only bank with the smarts on this. As Craig Meller, CEO of AMP points out, ‘normalising flexible work opens up new sources of talent and new ways of operating, and this is key to being an innovative and agile business.’

The small business sector has much to gain by following suit, and actively encouraging the uptake of flexible work practice arrangements. It’s well worth considering how we can make such practices work for our teams – and that includes the whole team, not just those with kids Others have family and other commitments of a different nature.

Be sure to underpin your new thinking with clear policies and practices.

If you lead a culture that’s supportive and respectful of flexibility, and make it the norm rather than the exception, only good things can come, both now, and later!

 

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Carla Schesser
Couldn't agree more Anna!
Thursday, 02 November 2017 11:48
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Endure and Enjoy! Surviving Small Biz – and the School Holidays

Working mother

What do small business ownership, parenthood and crowdfunding for finance have in common?

Well, many of us will do each of them over the course of our adult life. They all feel like endurance sports at times, requiring Olympian levels of vitality, versatility and inventiveness, grit and determination. And they’re all hugely enjoyable.

And what do you need when faced with vertical learning curves and constant juggling, when you’re looking over the rim of a glass of lunchtime Sauvignon and thinking back fondly to your corporate career? Survival strategies!

BE FAST AND CHOOSY

It’s a maxim that comes in handy when looking for husband or wife material in our twenties and it can still serve us well in working life. There’s not a lot of time to waste if you’re fitting your workload into the short hours while small people are at school. That’s a 30 hour working week and every minute has to count. If you’re driving and growing a small business, and if you’re a parent to boot, you are at the coal face when it comes to understanding the value of doing things fast. Doing them well, but crunching the important details, with no time for sweating the small stuff.

Work every day with a priorities list. Choose the things you really want to get done, which have an hourly rate or a fee attached to them, which push forward a useful connection, or drive a campaign. That way, the minute the school bus hits the gravel at the end of the driveway, you can take satisfaction in having achieved what you needed to from the day – and the rest of that day is all about the people you’re doing it for.

GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE – AND LIKE IT!

You learn to put your collywobbles aside when you’re in small business. It’s all about putting yourself and your ideas out there. The secret is simple: just take one small step at a time away from your comfort zone. Don’t let yourself get overcome by the ultimate goal. Break things down into small achievable chunks, and focus on one at a time. Make one phone call. Write one email to an angel investor. You never know what is going to reap rewards, so just keep going. Before you know it, your comfort zone has expanded to twice its original size without you even realising!

"It always seems impossible until it's done." - Nelson Mandela, South African anti-apartheid leader

BE A JACK OF ALL TRADES – BUT AIM TO OUTSOURCE

You’ve got to wear all the hats as an entrepreneur. Have your idea, grow your idea, realise it, market it, get it funded. You’ve got to know finance, marketing, the digital age and how to get on with people in real life and the virtual space. If you’re already transitioning daily between being a red hot innovator at work and a hot mummy or daddy at home, you’re used to switching roles and maybe you love it. But when there’s capacity and finances, outsource.

Whatever you’re a non-starter at in your business, bring the expertise in from elsewhere, whether it’s the accounts, marketing or business development. Form a partnership, do a small business exchange. Get a cleaner to keep your surfaces clear and your feng shui flowing at home. And if you’re crowdfunding or financing a product, look for help with the marketing strategy you’ll need for when you’re fully funded. Because 100% funded is where it all begins!

TAKE IT EASY!

Seriously. Don’t be hard on yourself. If you’re driving any sort of business, campaign or project forwards plus keeping house and home together as well, be sure to program in downtime. The human brain wasn’t manufactured in a Ferrari factory and it’s not designed to be driven at constant high speed. Take time out!

Need some reassurance that it’s not time wasted? Ever woken up with a great idea for that product you’re developing / recruit you’re making / newsletter you’re writing? That’s because your subconscious has been working on things while you were sleeping. Downtime and rest are not time wasted – they’re essential in looking after your mental health.

“Alternating periods of activity and rest is necessary to survive, let alone thrive.” - Tim Ferris, author of ‘The Four Hour Work Week’

KEEP GOING!

The biggest and best philosophy of all? Don’t give up. Success comes in incremental steps – those same small steps you began taking out of your comfort zone earlier in the piece.

"Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat." - F. Scott Fitzgeral, American author


#HR editor, writer and small business owner Fiona Stocker runs a small farm, food and agri-tourism business with her husband, and is crowdfunding her first book Apple Island Wife: Escape to Tasmania with major international crowdfunding publisher Unbound, based in the UK. Read more and pledge your support on the Unbound campaign page.

 

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Lightbulb Moments and Why We Should Act on Them

lightbulb-moment

‘When you’ve exhausted all possibilities, remember this - you haven’t.’ Fine words from Thomas A. Edison, father of the light bulb and one of the world’s most prolific inventors.

Edison was a busy man, creating devices that influenced life around the world, including the phonograph and the motion picture camera. He did it with very limited resources, and often in seemingly simple ways. He wasn’t guided by forums or comment sections, from impressive analytic software or world-wide searches for specialised talent. He invented deftly and creatively - and made lots of mistakes, using his failures to achieve greater understanding and bring him closer to his eventual success.

For us, perhaps it’s not so simple. We’re in information overload, deluged with an abundance of knowhow and opinion. Information is at our finger tips – an endless supply of tools, tips, tricks, and hacks we can access in our pursuit of knowledge and results.

The possibility that we can exhaust every avenue of enquiry is just not feasible. Edison himself would be baffled by the scope of the Internet. So the greatest challenge for us lies in finding the sweet spot – the exact moment when we should stop searching - and start doing. Often it’s much earlier than we think.

Too much choice makes any process exhausting. It leads to uncertainty and a kind of decision-making paralysis. And when you’re in business or leading a team, grinding to a halt is dangerous.

 

IT’S IN THE JAM

Researcher Barry Schwartz says, “As the number of options increases, the costs, in time and effort, of gathering the information needed to make a good choice also increase.” We presume, Schwartz says, that if some choice is a good thing, then more choice will be better. He calls this the ‘paradox of choice’ and cites one particular study that makes it all clear.

In a corner store one Thursday, six types of jam were placed on sale in an attractive display. On Friday, the numbers were increased to twenty-four different flavours. How’s a person to choose? Well might you ask!

Researchers found that Friday’s jam-fest attracted more customers than the modest display on Thursday, but when it came time to buy, shoppers who had seen Friday’s multitude of flavours were one-tenth as likely to buy as those who had seen the more manageable display on Thursday!

 

LESS IS MORE

Too much choice, then, or the endless pursuit for more choice, is not necessarily a good thing, and that goes for our business practices as well.

It certainly makes sense to shop around in the quest for reduced stationary costs or when purchasing specialist safety equipment. But when making decisions involving people or productivity, trying to exhaust all possibilities can end up putting limits on the final decision – or thwarting it altogether.

Making the best choice should be less about algorithmic equations and star ratings, and more about using our creative thinking and intuition.

Allowing ourselves fewer options to choose from and get confused by can also help steer us away from making conventional choices, and encourage us to delve into the world of more creative possibilities.

 

STICK TO YOUR SIX PACK

Recruitment is a prime example of where we often feel obliged to amass an overwhelming level of information before making choices or appointing candidates. Seeking the ideal becomes all about nailing a specific skillset to the ‘nth’ degree, when it should be the hunt for a diverse thinker and a creative mind.

If you’re in an interview and getting the feeling that the best candidate is sitting there right in front of you, trust your instinct. And be careful. Are you conducting a thorough interview – or making them jump through pointless hoops? An excessive checklist of questions can quickly turn a good candidate’s interest into utter disinterest. And for the would-be employer, wanting to exhaust all possibilities in the recruitment and interview process can lose you the best candidate – maybe one who could bring greatness to the team.

When Edison thought he’d try ‘just one more thing’, he wasn’t confronted with a list of multiple thousand search results. The world is different today and it’s important to know when to stop. We all know when we’re having a light bulb moment. Connect with your instincts and act on it!

 

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5 Traits of an Impossible Leader

5-Traits-of-an-Impossible-Leader

Leaders want and sometimes expect to be liked, listened to and respected. So when you hear through the grapevine that your leadership style is on the nose and perhaps you’re not as cool as you thought, it can be pretty devastating.

But count yourself lucky.

Nobody wants to work for someone who is ineffective or even impossible to work with. But very few employees will give feedback when it’s happening. It’s not unusual to find yourself the last man or woman standing – and then find out it’s because nobody liked your style. That’s painful.

Most employees avoid giving feedback upwards and simply find greener pastures. So, if you’re savvy enough to sense that things are turning sour before they completely unravel, take advantage. Get to work on your leadership style.

That means digging deep and doing some self-analysis. A great place to start is with these top five ‘impossible leader’ behaviours. How does your style compare?


1. EXPECTING THEM TO READ YOUR MIND


As a species we’re not able to read minds and yet some managers appear to expect their team to have psychic powers. Whatever it is you’re communicating – direction, praise, information, or a thumbs up emoji – it needs to be made explicit. Say things out loud, send a detailed email, deliver a project brief. If your team isn’t crystal clear about what you expect of them, when they’re on the right track, or when you want a change of direction or focus, confusion, mistakes and frustration will be the result. The reason? The key specifics, deliverables and expectations were not delivered - by you. Big mistake!


2. TUNING OUT, NOT IN


Employees want to be able to talk to their leaders. More importantly, they want to be heard. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a question about new software, project feedback, or job frustrations. Tuning out? Well you potentially leave them high and dry with little opportunity for moving forward. When an employee gets stuck, a small situation can become an insurmountable one – without your guidance. An open door policy needs to mean just that. Open your door, and your ears – and really listen.


3. PURVEYOR OF EMPTY PROMISES


Promises, promises. If you don’t follow through on them, it’s #yawn. Employees are like children in that they remember what you’ve committed to, and what you’ve followed through with. When your list of follow-through deliverables is too long and it becomes clear you have no real interest in closing it off, you’re sending a clear message to the workforce – that you can’t be trusted, and nor can your word.


4. ALWAYS RIGHT


There’s no polite way of saying this. People who insist on being right are impossible to deal with in any situation. They’re particularly damaging in the workplace. If this is your style as a manager, it promises to squash any prospect of those around you feeling empowered in your presence. Are you the type who looks something up on Google mid-conversation to prove your point? Classic. Time to step back, humble up and get your team around you for more of a mutual exchange.


5. CHANGE RESISTANT

Without change, innovation is impossible, and yet leaders can find themselves resisting it. Change brings risk, and responsibility. But if your team or employee presents you with an idea and you reject it out of hand, even if it promises real growth, then there’s a problem. It’s normal to harbor some fear and trepidation, but when this translates to anxiety or worse, if your negative outlook starts to catastrophise things, moving forward becomes impossible - and extremely frustrating for those around you. Find a way of managing change - and even embracing it.


TIME TO WANT IT!


Marshall Goldsmith is an expert of epic proportions on the subject of leadership. He’s been rated #1 Leadership Thinker and one of the Top Ten Most Influential Business Thinkers in the World, a top-ranked Executive Coach at the 2013 biennial Thinkers50 ceremony, and twice a New York Times best-seller.

Goldsmith famously says the clients he spends the least time with are the ones who improve the most, and those he spends the most time with often improve the least. Great leadership emerges in a person not when they are told they have the potential to be better, but when they realise it for themselves – and want it. This gives you the drive and self-awareness to create change in yourself.

Self-awareness and an ability to dig deep are at the centre of our ability to learn and lead. It’s all down to us, because it’s rare that someone whose salary you authorise will be courageous enough to tell you what they really think. So, if you scored marks on this list of impossible behaviours - it’s time to challenge your leadership style.

We’ll give Goldsmith the final say. ’The less we focus on ourselves the more we benefit. It’s an interesting equation: Less me. More them. Equals success. Try it.’

 

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Let Your Characters Speak of Character – Elegant Communication in a Digital World

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In 1905 Mark Twain, American writer, humorist and entrepreneur, received a small package and handwritten letter from a gentleman claiming to be a medical doctor. The package contained a snake oil — a cure-all called ‘The Elixir of Life’ — which purported to ‘cure all ailments of the human, animal, and fowl.’ 

Twain was in ill health at the time. His wife had died suddenly the previous year. Moreover meningitis and diphtheria, which the elixir proudly claimed to cure, had taken the lives of both his daughter and 19-month-old son. With these memories still very fresh, Twain communicated his deep dissatisfaction to Mr. J.H Todd - the ‘doctor’ who sent him the package. 


 

Dear Sir,

Your letter is an insoluble puzzle to me. The handwriting is good and exhibits considerable character, and there are even traces of intelligence in what you say, yet the letter and the accompanying advertisements profess to be the work of the same hand. The person who wrote the advertisements is without doubt the most ignorant person now alive on the planet; also without doubt he is an idiot, an idiot of the 33rd degree, and scion of an ancestral procession of idiots stretching back to the Missing Link. It puzzles me to make out how the same hand could have constructed your letter and your advertisements. Puzzles fret me, puzzles annoy me, puzzles exasperate me; and always, for a moment, they arouse in me an unkind state of mind toward the person who has puzzled me. A few moments from now my resentment will have faded and passed and I shall probably even be praying for you; but while there is yet time I hasten to wish that you may take a dose of your own poison by mistake, and enter swiftly into the damnation which you and all other patent medicine assassins have so remorselessly earned and do so richly deserve.

Adieu, adieu, adieu!

Mark Twain


 

In the eloquent and elegant language of his time, and with an initial lightness of touch followed by but a devastating directness that goes straight to the heart of the matter, Twain elucidates his feelings with precision and purpose. 

But how might he have expressed his same dissatisfaction in contemporary times? Would one of our modern, digital methods of appraisal have conveyed his disdain so ably? 

Perhaps he may have reviewed J.H Todd with a zero-star rating or possibly a 120-character tweet with a few choice acronyms thrown in. Would he have agonized over an emoji? Or chosen to go grammatically correct and emoji-free, rising above the hoy polloi in unadulterated prose? And would he have blocked, reported and unfriended Mr Todd, if they were ever ‘friends’ at all?

Joking aside, the strength of Twain’s letter isn’t his clever use of language but the absolute clarity with which he expresses himself. There’s no misunderstanding his message.  

In these progressive times when communicating with others, including your employees, is something to be ‘optimised’ and abbreviated, it’s vital to remain mindful that good communication practices are still at the heart of every successful business, and every business relationship – internal, external, with employees and suppliers, including snake oil vendors.

Communication has the ability to build, and destroy, a relationship very quickly. As a business owners, you can set yourself apart by developing the right communication style for your workplace.  

Thinking the small things through can be particularly helpful. How would you like social media comments to be handled? When to pick up the phone and have a real-time in-person discussion – rather than yet another email. How to hit the right note in email communication – not too formal, but not too personal either. When it’s okay to send a text message, and when a hand written thank-you card is called for – rather than virtual flowers.  

The communication methods you choose to implement now will set the tone for future business.  It’s free marketing, speaks of your own style and your business, and can leave a lasting impression. 

So choose your words carefully. Few of us will achieve the literary prowess of Mark Twain, but adopting a business style that’s meaningful, authentic and perhaps even a little elegant is generally best practice and will be remembered. Would Twain’s letter still be circulating a century later if he had replied with a ‘middle finger’ emoji?  We think not!

 

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How Safe Is Your Decision Making?

How Safe Is Your Decision Making

They say artificial intelligence is coming but it can never replace some of our smarts. Key amongst them is that of process-driven decision making, the art of taking operational issues, applying logic, and achieving workable solutions. You might use a flash of intuition and you’ll definitely apply judgement, but the whole has to be grounded in rock solid structured thinking.

As a leader you’ve got to be across decision-making of every nature. Whether it’s choosing between two compelling options, or assessing a range of possibilities and carefully determining which is best; picking through the day-to-day choices and knowing when to make a quick choice and move on, or when to research more deeply.

Some decisions require elevated wisdom and experience, they’re game changers in our business that will impact our people. They require a calm, collected and concentrated mind, which invests carefully in considering the risk for all involved. In the day-to-day, they may be more random and sudden with unknown variables, quick decisions we make and then adapt on the go.

Smarts and emotional intelligence are required at pretty much every turn.

The Australian Government’s Department of Defence is a place where, not to put it lightly, the decisions made and the minds making them must obviously be of the highest caliber. Their 2015 brief, Good Decision-Making in Defence: a guide for decision-makers and those who brief them is, unsurprisingly, a seminal document when it comes to strategies for decisions making. It outlines five governing principles.

How well could these be adapted into your business?

 

BE FLEXIBLE AND CREATIVE

‘One size fits all’ is not an approach that has a place in smart decision making. Smart decisions are made with flexibility and an openness to the different processes and discussions which might bring about a solution which is truly unique and creative.

Future challenges are not necessarily answered in the same way as past ones – so it makes no sense to rely on the same formulas. Establish a pattern which looks for new solutions, embraces flexibility and new thinking, and avoids replicating past mistakes.

 

MANAGE RISK, DON’T JUST AVOID IT

It is not possible to avoid risk completely. So think about how risks might be mitigated: what controls are needed, what counter measures can be taken. Implement those, and you manage and mitigate. To avoid risk entirely is impossible and it suffocates creativity. Invest your efforts in finding the right balance.

 

TIME AND RESOURCES IN PROPORTION

Decision makers are the people with the most demands on their time, and the most complex demands on their resources. And so true consideration for the decisions they make is necessarily a weightier process.

As a rule, the more serious the possible consequences of a leadership decision - career consequences, financial consequences - the more time and resources should be invested. Consider the relevant information thoroughly and the determine the true criteria upon which the decision should be made. Decisions must occasionally be defended. Time and resources are the tools that enable you reach ones you can stand by – as well as good judgement and common sense.

 

THE BALANCE OF CERTAINTY - MAKE DECISIONS IN REASONABLE TIME

Time, and resources, cannot assure us of the right decision on every occasion. And decision-makers should not postpone making a decision just because there are unknown facts or further possibilities to be explored.

Even in cases where the circumstances do not require urgency, delays can be detrimental and stressful to those waiting for a decision. Lengthy delays may also cause changes of circumstance which affect the matters under decision.

A time-frame is important. Exercise judgement to get the balance right, taking accuracy and timeliness both into account.

 

BALANCE INDIVIDUAL AND ORGANISATIONAL REQUIREMENTS


On occasion, the interests of the individual and those of the organisation may differ. For example, an individual may wish to delay a decision to seek further advice, while the leadership may want to resolve the issue quickly to resume optimal workplace function.

In these cases, the decision-maker must assess and balance the competing interests as part of their process. Professional judgement must be applied once again – in making the decision and safe-guarding the final outcome.

Make decisions you can stand by and which your teams can back – and let the governing principles you model at leadership level filter down through your business. That’s what makes good business great.

 

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So Here It Is, Merry Christmas, Everybody’s Having Fun. Or Are They?

Christmas-party

With the year end-looming, the silly season is almost upon us. Soon the boundaries between work and play will start to blur with the prospect of festivity. There will be long client lunches where nobody’s quite certain who’s servicing whom, and that annual ritual, the Christmas party or ‘work do’.

Amongst all the merry making, there’s always the possibility of interesting and sometimes unexpected outcomes underneath the mistletoe. Because Christmas drinks can lead to Christmas high jinx. And without meaning to come across all Bah Humbug, we suggest it’s something you plan for.

Rewarding employees for another year of hard work is essential festive fun. As leaders, you don’t want to play Scrooge – you want to have fun alongside them. But let’s not forget that getting the balance right in all things, including festive merriment, and taking responsibility for keeping everyone safe is also your job. So before you don your party hat, wrap yourself in tinsel and get all teary over Auld Lang Syne – do some planning.


YOUR CHRISTMAS LIST – THE TOP 3 RISKS AT WORKPLACE EVENTS

Here’s a Christmas list with a difference – and it’s one to take sober account of.

1 Employees being injured;
2 Sexual harassment and bullying; and
3 Inappropriate behaviour.

It’s not a list any of your employees deserve to be on. So do your part and look out for them, and your business, by being prepared. Get the music and Chrissie Kringles worked out in advance by all means, but also set the tone for everyone on behavioural expectations, accountabilities and obligations.

 

CHRISTMAS LIST NUMBER TWO: 6 BEST PRACTICE TIPS

Here’s how to arrange a Christmas company party or event that’s memorable for all the right reasons – not the wrong ones.

1. Send an email at least one week prior, getting a few things straight:
  • The event is a ‘work function’ and conduct must be aligned with workplace policies.  If you have a drug and alcohol policy, or a sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying policy, then remind your employees to review them, be familiar with them, and take them seriously.  
  • Set clear rules and expectations around social media;
  • Make it clear that employees are individually accountable for drinking responsibly and, where appropriate, legally;
  • Direct employees to make travel arrangements for getting home safely and within the limits of the law. If the function is a significant distance away from the workplace, consider arranging a courtesy coach or cab charge vouchers.

2.
Send invitations with all the specifics - including the start and finish times.

Thinking an ‘after-party’ might be fun? Be aware that this still constitutes a work event and your obligations as the employer continue up until such time that all events comes to a close.


3.
Ensure that the quantity of alcohol available is proportionate to the food being served.

4.
Limit the possibilities for employees to consume excessive amounts of alcohol.

If there’s an “open bar” take extra precautions to ensure the responsible service of alcohol. Make your expectations clear to the bar staff.  The Fair Work Commission found, “it is contradictory and self-defeating for an employer to require compliance with its usual standards of behaviour at a function but at the same time allow the unlimited service of free alcohol.”


5.
Nominate someone to ‘supervise’ the function and address any escalating behaviour.

6.
If complaints are received, take them seriously and deal with them promptly and thoroughly. That’s best practice.


If you’ve got best practice down pat as a manager or business owner, then it should be less than a stretch for you to get it in place as a party planner too. That way, the only headache you wake up to the following day is from the grape juice, rather than nasty spillages and catastrophes.

Your tribe look to you to keep them safe - even when events take them out of the office. So don’t let them down!

 

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The Sobering Facts and Facing Them as an Employer

Sober

Few things bring your business to a halt more effectively than an employee under the influence.

If you’re a numbers person, you’ll be interested in the figures released in 2016 by the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare. Alcohol, cannabis, amphetamines and heroin continued to be the most common drugs of concern over the past decade, with one in two-hundred Australians seeking treatment for alcohol and drug use in 2014–15.

Some of those people work. It’s possible they work for you, or might do so at some point. This is clearly an issue that has a very direct impact upon our workplace culture.

Alcohol and drugs cost Australian businesses an estimated $6 billion per year in lost productivity, with 2.5 million working days lost every year.

The cost to co-workers is just as significant. One in ten say they have experienced the negative effects of a co-worker’s misuse of alcohol. That might include a reduced capacity to do their job safely, causing an accident or near miss.

All employers have a legal obligation to address alcohol and drug related issues in the workplace. Practicable steps must be taken to ensure the health and safety of all staff, as well as contractors or clients.

Safe Work Australia is the go-to authority on workplace standards. They help ensure we have all the tools we need to keep our employees safe. Their guide, Alcohol and Other Drugs in the Workplace, sets out your responsibilities as an employer, and your obligations with regard to the misuse of alcohol and other drugs.

Safe Work Australia advises employers to develop a Workplace Alcohol and Drugs Policy in consultation with employees. That policy must include initiatives that deal with:

  • Managing health and safety risks
  • Approaching a worker who may be under the influence
  • Reporting alcohol and drug use
  • Delivering information, education and training
  • Offering counselling and support, perhaps in employee assistance programs
  • Conducting disciplinary procedures

Not all of these initiatives are appropriate for every workplace, since the nature and severity of alcohol and drug related hazards varies.

However, having a policy in place provides an employer with the correct pro-active measures to manage a crisis swiftly and safely. This not only helps avoid any costly and stressful outcomes - it could save lives too.

There are many resources for employers looking to implement best practice. Safe Work Australia and the Australian Drug Foundation are excellent places to start.

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 Australian legislation governing it.

Don’t run the risk of doing nothing. The law counts on you to be compliant, and so do your staff.

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Is the Matrix Upon Us?

Hashtag-HR---AI-2

With Microsoft, Google and IBM racing to create the first human-like robots fired by artificial intelligence, we could be forgiven for thinking that The Matrix might be upon us!

So are robots really going to take over the world? And are we in the business world ready for it?

We’re told that Artificial Intelligence will supersede cognitive reasoning and that we should prepare for a hostile takeover of jobs, as robots are brought in to replace real people. It sounds over the top - but one look back at even the most recent of history books and it’s clear we’ve been here before!  

Robotics have been highly instrumental in the record high number of redundancies made within the manufacturing industry.  In the United States alone, an astounding five million manufacturing jobs have been lost this millennium, despite the steady increase in production by 2.2% each year since 2006.

In a recent Australian article by Business Insider, technology is predicted to be the key to 40% percent of job losses by the year 2030. The roles identified as the highest risk are accommodation and food services (86.7%), transportation and warehousing (75%), retail trade (66,6%) and administration and support services (62.2%).

Technology experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have even said that some transport companies won't need to hire humans to drive 18-wheelers - they'll be driving themselves by 2032. Sounds far-fetched, right?

Many believe that these statistics will have more impact in industrialised countries, that they will open the door for more manufacturing and production off-shore where labour hire and overheads are less costly, with high cost back home in terms of the labour force headcount.

Whatever, the future brings for the living, breathing workforce of today, robotics are on their way and as business owners and employers, we’d be smart to start thinking about the ways Artificial Intelligence will infiltrate our industry.


ARE YOU READY?

When HR and business leaders in the Principality of Luxembourg were polled on their readiness to handle technologies to support digital innovation, only 35% could say they were capable enough to switch. 70% agreed that it was important and 33% had already taken on some innovation already.

Being ready to join the cohort in the business world who will take the lead requires a sophisticated strategy. Researching workforce trends and industry innovations, and keeping your management and workforce informed is only the beginning.  Transforming our business model to maintain cohesiveness and productivity while we invest in and implement this new technology are first steps to look at.

While we jest about The Matrix, we know that today’s machines aren’t the Hal 9000 that Kubrick created in 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Robotics and automation remain subordinate - to the people like us, who program them.

Let’s take one of HR’s most significant tasks as an example: recruitment. It’s forecasted that scanning resumes will become automated. But the programming of automated services that do this task will still need to be written, coded and put in place - by us.  Determining the right skill set, experiences, education of the potential recruit, and writing the algorithms to calculate their potential, will remain a human element.  

Where the technology will be transformative, however, is in its potential to transform our discussions. Rather than sifting through the overwhelming load of administrative tasks involved in recruitment, we will outsource this to automation and spend our human time instead conducting meaningful discussions about the true attributes required for the job.  Time and resources can then be invested into creative recruitment and recruiting on merit - considering candidates who may have otherwise been dismissed because of bias or stereotypes.

As a result the collective, not the machine, will have the capacity to better direct our human resources, making the right choices thoughtfully, carefully and thoroughly.


WHAT THE FUTURISTS SAY

Royal astronomer Sir Martin Rees believes that we’re rapidly heading toward a ‘post-human future’, and that ‘the period of time occupied by organic intelligence is just a thin sliver between early life and the long era of the machines.’

Perhaps a slightly more balanced and less extreme view is provided by the McKinsey & Company report , which says ‘While automation will eliminate very few occupations entirely, it will affect portions of almost all jobs to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the type of work they entail.’

What we know for sure is that Artificial Intelligence is on its way, in every industry.  It is part of our future economic growth and the development of every business, big and small.  Now is the time to begin our thinking and strategy transformation, considering how innovation may help your business, but most importantly how will it change the way you do business.   From the people you employ, to the jobs that they do! 

 

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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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