Changing gears for a winning culture

There is plenty of research out there that tells us that the 1900’s command and control approach to management just doesn’t work in the modern world where change is constant and people want answers and results now.

If we are going to get true employee engagement and high performance with today’s and future generations, we need to fundamentally change the management model to one based on leadership and values-based behaviours that deliver trust and inspiration rather than just process control and risk management which really only deliver compliance. This is what study after study tells us.

It means business leaders need to change gears and in doing so reimagine their business culture and language from:

  • human resources to human beings
  • risk control to trust
  • process control to relationship optimisation
  • management to leadership
  • tasks to behaviours
  • outputs to outcomes
  • compliance to engagement
  • command to inspiration
  • structure to flexibility
  • reactive to resilient

It is a big adjustment and it is easy to fall back into the traditional management norm that has been drummed into us for all those years.

That is why it is so important to have a clear vision about where you are going and clear values and behaviours that say how you are going to go about doing that and then holding everyone accountable for modelling those every day, most importantly yourself.

Be prepared to challenge and be challenged, listen to what your people have to say and learn from that. It is amazing what a difference it can make to performance, engagement, innovation and wellbeing.

Ready to change gears?

 

Ridgeline HR educating young people on workplace rights

This morning, we ran the first of our “Your Workplace Rights” briefings for secondary students and first up were Year 10 students at Melba College about to go out on work experience.

The briefing covered pay and conditions, National Employment Standards, Modern Awards and Enterprise Agreements and the roles of the Fair Work Commission and the Fair Work Ombudsman. The presentation included links to online information resources, tools and calculators that anyone can use to be better informed about their rights, entitlements and obligations.

This pro bono service has been launched for all Maroondah secondary schools as part of our contribution to improving community wellbeing in the City of Maroondah.

Improving people performance in 7 simple steps

Do you do performance appraisals in your business?

If so, how productive are they?

Here are some ideas on how you can improve the quality and outcomes of your performance and development conversations with your people.

  1. Define the purpose

Be clear about what you are trying to achieve.

You have made an investment in people and you want to get the optimal return on that investment, don’t you?

So the process should be about how you work with your people to improve their performance thereby improving business performance, shouldn’t it?

  1. Connect the dots

This is about “getting people doing what you need them doing in the way that you need it done all of the time”. Provide that alignment by “connecting the dots” for people and teams:

  • You have a business strategy (vision, values & plan) which sets out your goals and how you are going to achieve them – .the BUSINESS plan
  • You have teams which are established to execute specific elements of your business plan – the TEAM plan and
  • You have people who are engaged to execute specific elements of their team plan – the PERSONAL plan
  1. Keep it simple and practical

What you need is a simple process that is logical, easy to use and applied consistently in practice eg a basic Action Plan model for BUSINESS, TEAM & PERSONAL plans which set out:

  • WHAT is the goal? Ensure alignment between business, team and personal goals
  • HOW are we going to achieve it? Detail the activities and the learning required to achieve the goals.
  • WHO is going to do it? Make teams and people accountable for delivering the expected outcomes but also recognize supports they require.
  • WHEN is it going to be done by? Set realistic timeframes.
  1. Make the time

Just as you need to continuously monitor and review your business plan (because things change), so you need to ensure that your teams and your people are adapting to any changes required.

Have regular meetings at each level to review progress against the plan, confirm outcomes, identify areas for improvement and make any necessary adjustments. At the personal level these should be at least quarterly.

  1. Manage the time

How do you get the most out of the time together?

Start with being structured – allocate a specific period of time for the meeting and have a simple agenda which might be:

  1. Review progress against the plan
  2. Identify any changes that are required
  3. Congratulations on achieving outcomes
  4. Confirmation of areas for development and focus,
  5. Set next meeting date

And stick to the commitments – if your people are your greatest asset, why wouldn’t you!

  1. Have balanced and transparent conversations

People value constructive feedback which is balanced giving hem recognition for their achievements, clarification with improvement requirements and support with learning.

It is very important that you listen to what others have to say and give them constructive feedback including the reasons why you hold a particular view whether or not that accords with theirs.

Above all, there should be honesty and no unpleasant surprises.

  1. Change the language

Drop generic HR terms like “performance appraisal” which, over time, have too often been associated with ineffective practice and unwanted events.

Be innovative and think about words that resonate with your business goals and values integrating them into the process.

Get these 7 steps right and you’ll enjoy both the process and the results!

Improve wellbeing for better performance

We have all heard about serious societal problems such as alcohol and drug abuse, domestic violence, the health effects of smoking, mental health issues plus obesity and associated challenges with healthy eating and physical activity and the incidence of diabetes.

You no doubt have people you know including employees and contractors in your business who have these sorts of challenges.

So what can you do about it as a business owner and employer and why should you?

The business case for productivity

When you invest in a car or a new piece of plant, you look after it because it is a valuable asset and you want to get the best return on it, minimise costs by servicing and maintaining it in optimal condition and be able to show it off with pride.

There is a mountain of research that leaves no room for any doubt – investing in your peoples’ wellbeing pays dividends in productivity by:

  • Improving capabilities and performance
  • Reducing absenteeism
  • Getting better attraction and retention of talent
  • Reducing risks of accidents and injuries and WorkCover costs
  • Enhancing employee morale and engagement.

In the publication “Healthy workers, healthy business”, WorkSafe says: “There is a great deal that businesses can do to maintain a healthy workforce and keep talented, productive workers on board. An increasing body of evidence supports the idea that employee health and wellbeing programs can have major benefits for your business, from reductions in sick leave to a boost in morale and productivity.”

I hear many employers say: “Our people are our greatest asset”. So, if that is the case, shouldn’t we be looking after them too? Apart from it being the right thing to do, it is just good business, isn’t it?.

The business case for social responsibility

A wise man once said to me “You spend a third of your life at work so you had better enjoy it.”

Equally, if I spend a third of my time at work, what I do at work and how I am treated at work has a significant impact on my life and how I live it including my health and my relationships.

Results from 300,000 Work Health checks delivered in Victoria show why business leaders should be concerned. More than 66% of participants were found to have a medium to high risk of developing type 2 diabetes and/or cardiovascular disease. In addition, 92.9% of workers tested were not eating enough fruit and vegetables, and 70% weren’t doing enough exercise. (S Radi and M Sim, WorkHealth Program Evaluation (Monash University Melbourne, April 2011).

So clearly, given the scope of the problem, employers can make a significant contribution to the wellbeing of their people and the general community by helping people with education and opportunities to make healthy choices at work.

Introducing the Achievement Program

The Achievement Program is part of the Victorian Government’s vision for a Victoria free of the avoidable burden of disease and injury, so that all Victorians can enjoy the highest attainable standards of health, wellbeing and participation at every age. Launched in 2012, it boasts a membership of more than 3000 early childhood services, schools and workplaces from around Victoria.

Image provided courtesy of Achievement Program, Department of Health and Human Services, Victorian Government, December 2016

When you register with this free program, you get access to guidelines, tools and templates that can assist you in planning, implementing and evaluating initiatives to improve worker wellbeing in any of the following five key areas:

  • Alcohol
  • Healthy eating
  • Mental health and wellbeing
  • Physical activity
  • Smoking

You can implement things at your own pace and in accordance with your peoples’ preferences and you can also apply for recognition for successfully implementing programs in any of the above areas.

That shows job candidates that you are a good employer and helps to retain and motivate the people you have.

Further information is available at http://www.achievementprogram.health.vic.gov.au/workplaces or contact me on 0438 533 311 or at peter@ridgelinehr.com.au.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: What it means for me

There is a great line in this Aretha Franklin classic which is “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me”.

A lot of the work that we do at Ridgeline HR has to do with developing and maintaining the right behaviours in workplaces built on respect for people regardless of their station and their personal characteristics.

In 2011, I was privileged to present on the subject of respectful workplaces at Melbourne Law School in conjunction with the Australian Institute of Employment Rights and the Centre for Employment and Labour Relations Law.

The focus of my presentation was on the characteristics of an effective respectful workplace program and, in this context, here is what R-E-S-P-E-C-T means for me:

Responsibility:

Everyone is responsible for their own behaviour and for influencing the behaviour of those with whom they come into contact. Values should be clear and people at all levels from board down to the shopfloor should be held accountable for practising them consistently at all times and performance against values should be measured and used in performance management processes.

Empowerment:

People are educated and trained in why the values are important, how they are applied in practice and what that means in terms of how they and everyone else are expected to behave. People are encouraged and congratulated for doing the right things in the right way and are encouraged and thanked for identifying contradictions and taking appropriate action to stop the wrong behaviours.

Socialisation:

Every workplace is unique and values and behaviours need to be socialised to the nature, culture and structure of the organisation. Due regard must be had to the people demographic (employees and other stakeholders) and the prevailing paradigms of organisational behaviour (the good things to be preserved and celebrated and the contradictions that need to be addressed to ensure a respectful workplace).

Performance:

This is about doing it every day in every way – in the way that board and management make decisions, in the decisions themselves, in policies and procedures and in the way that everyone at every level interacts with each other, in not tolerating contradictions but fixing them and in maintaining the message day in day out, saying “thanks” and saying “sorry” as and when appropriate – really living the values.

Evolution:

This is a journey where we continuously learn about new challenges and opportunities, where business circumstances change, where people come and go (employees, customers, suppliers, etc) and so the respectful workplace is something which continues to evolve and adapt to different needs. There is a need to conduct periodic healthchecks to look for contradictions and opportunities for improvement as well as to recognise and celebrate the successes. Like most things in life, it is about continuous improvement.

Community:

A truly respectful workplace is one where all of the stakeholders are partners in the values and required to demonstrate them – board members, managers and staff but also customers, suppliers, contractors, associations or unions and any others who have an interest and involvement in the workplace, Community also means recognising people as individuals and having respect for the people, relationships, beliefs and activities that are important in each one’s life. Diversity is valued and celebrated.

Trust:

The foundation upon which any respectful workplace is based. For it to work, we must trust in the values of the organisation, the commitment of board and managers to lead by example, the willingness of all stakeholders to engage in the journey and the ability to rely on everyone to do the right thing and to be supported in doing that, Only then, can people genuinely believe they have a respectful workplace.

So that is what R-E-S-P-E-C-T means to me – what does it mean for you?

Why would I want to work for you?

When advising clients on how to go about recruiting a new employee, I emphasise the importance of writing good position advertisements.

Why is this important? Because you are trying to find the best person that you can for your business in a very competitive labour market and you need to quickly get their attention – like lots of things in business and life, first impressions count.

To do this effectively, you need to be clear about your Employee Value Proposition and communicate that simply and clearly in your ads so that you answer the question:

“Why would I want to work for you?”

If you look at any of the major job boards online, you will undoubtedly find that most job advertisements don’t answer that question – they say little or nothing about what distinguishes the business/employer and the role advertised from the rest.

In a discussion with a CEO of a significant business recently, one that has a lot to offer in the way of an Employee Value Proposition, I showed him one of their job advertisements and asked him why they said nothing about that EVP.

I said: “It is a competitive marketplace – everyone says that it is hard to attract and retain good people so why aren’t you selling your EVP out there.”

His response: “When you say it like that, it just makes business sense and we are obviously missing an opportunity that we need to fix”.

So what is your EVP – is it your culture, your products or services, your brand, your customers, your development opportunities, your location, your swish offices, your life balance, your variety of work or ……..?

Next time you are advertising a job (or looking for one), ask the simple question: “Why would I want to work for you?”

Why does HR struggle to impact organisational performance?

This is a question often asked and, from my perspective, one not often answered well.

That’s because there are a number of factors at play here and here are some that come to mind.

You get what you ask for

The first hypothesis that I want to put to you is that the HR function (it’s focus, responsibilities, purpose, activities, relationships etc) is the product of the business owners and/or board and/or senior executive – their philosophies, priorities and perspectives on what HR is and is there for in the context of the particular business setting.

For example, on my first day as HR Manager in one business, my boss, the Manufacturing Manager, said to me “It is great to have you on board, we have missed having someone to get us out of trouble!” “Ouch!” but clearly the focus for the business and the bulk of my activities were going to be on risk management and conflict resolution. That proved to be the case.

What that means is that the business gets exactly what it asks for in HR and, most of the time, that is not what (or not all of what) the business really needs.

The HR hierarchy

Having worked with hundreds of organisations over many years, I have identified 4 tiers of HR (the 4Cs which underpin our consulting model at Ridgeline HR) and these are:

C1:  Commitment – we do what we need to provide direction and meet legal obligations

C2:  Capability – we have implemented systems to assist in HRM

C3:  Competency – we have trained our managers to manage their people appropriately

C4:  Culture – we have strategies which engage and develop our people to deliver results

This leads me to my second hypothesis – 80% of Australian businesses have not progressed beyond C1/C2. Their focus is on compliance and risk management, on record keeping and avoidance of complaints, unfair dismissal claims etc, rather than on organisational development and employee engagement.

What that means for most HR Departments is that compliance is the focus and HR is therefore seen by the business as a compliance cost and not a value adding performance enabler. It is hard to get excited about cost!

I am a human being!

Now to my third hypothesis – we are human beings (not just human resources) and we want to do a good job. We want to have a sense of purpose, we want to feel that we are contributing to and are part of something worthwhile, we want to have dignity and pride in our work regardless of our station and we want to feel valued and recognized for our contributions.

Bearing this in mind, let’s revisit the 4Cs looking at them from an employee’s perspective:

C1: Commitment – I know what is expected of me.

C2: Capability – I am provided with the tools, equipment and systems I need to do my job.

C3: Competency – I receive the training and support that I need to do my job well.

C4: Culture – I understand how I contribute to our success and I am empowered to do it.

Again, I believe that most Australian employees would see themselves as being at C1-C2 because that is where their employers position them and these are the key HR messages being sent to people – comply, do what is expected and we won’t have any problems with you. Not really inspiring stuff, is it?

What this means is that organisations’ expectations and HR messages to its human resources are far too often at odds with our needs and values as human beings – and that is why we don’t get good employee engagement.

And we are not learning

There is a huge body of research which tells us emphatically that the key to productivity improvement, in generating that discretionary effort on the part of our people, in encouraging innovation and discovering new and better ways to work in all sorts of fields is employee engagement.

Yet our current national debate on productivity is centered firmly on employment laws and costs rather than contemporary thinking on what makes a productive business and a great workplace and the importance of good leadership and employee engagement in this regard.

If our national industry leaders don’t get it, it is no wonder that HR Departments struggle to engage with it, let alone deliver it!

Do we have the will?

It is much safer to stay in the compliance space – after all:

  • It is the law or the customer or the government or someone else who makes the rules, isn’t it, and therefore they (not us) are responsible for the rules, right? and
  • If we have told everyone what the rules are and they haven’t complied with them, that is their fault (not ours), right?

Or are we prepared to take on the realities of what our people really think about our organization and do something constructive about it?

Are we prepared to consult with people to inform them, to obtain their input into decision-making and to get them engaged in conversations as part of the culture or will we continue to just consult them as and when required to under employment and workplace health and safety laws?

Are we prepared to invest in their development and wellbeing in a meaningful way as opposed to just doing what we have to in training and workplace health and safety?

I could go on but you get the picture, I’m sure.

So are you in the 80% who need to change and, if so, do you have the will to make it happen?

Things won’t turn around overnight but they will turnaround if you have the will to persist.

There are plenty of good tools and resources around to help and a couple of my favourites are https://www.investorsinpeople.com/https://www.investorsinpeople.com/ and www.engageforsuccess.org. All free stuff – enjoy.

Engage through the CORE

Why is it that some businesses have people who stay with them and consistently perform well?

How do they keep them motivated?

Here are a few essential elements at the CORE of successful employment relationships:

Clarity

To get the right results, you need to be clear about:

  1. The plan – business goals and values provide the foundation for alignment of people with business needs
  2. Competencies – the skills and behaviours which drive your recruitment, selection and training activities
  3. Roles – the tasks that people are to perform and the results that are expected
  4. Resources – the systems, tools, information and relationships needed to succeed
  5. Communication – ongoing and open dialogue to ensure continuing alignment of people with business needs.

Opportunity

People want to do a good job and generally welcome opportunities to:

  1. Be involved – to be asked for their opinion and to have the opportunity to make a contribution
  2. Grow – to develop skills and experience new opportunities for expanding and applying their knowledge and expertise
  3. Comply – to understand what is expected of them in results and behaviour and do it and
  4. Succeed – to deliver the results expected

Recognition

Recognition of people’s value to the business is critical for ongoing motivation and delivery of results as well as in meeting legal obligations in managing people. These include:

  1. Remuneration and benefits – ensuring that people receive pay, benefits and conditions of employment appropriate to the role that they perform, the contribution that they make and its worth in the marketplace and having regard to obligations under legislation and awards.
  2. Ongoing feedback – investing the time to have regular reviews against personal goals, recognition of achievements and areas for improvement
  3. Rewards – personal incentives (ensuring that statutory obligations re minimum rates and conditions are still met) or other forms (public recognition, gifts or gift vouchers, development opportunities, etc)
  4. Correction – despite best efforts, sometimes a relationship doesn’t work and underperformance needs to be addressed promptly, sensitively and legally.

Equilibrium

People like equilibrium – a sense of balance and assurance in:

  1. Life – balancing our family and personal needs and our working life is as a key driver in attracting and retaining good people
  2. Respect -mutual respect between the employer and the employee and the capacity for open and honest communication
  3. Team – people want to belong and to have a sense of being part of a collective in which they are respected for who they are and what they contribute
  4. Security – the knowledge that the business is successful, my job is safe and I will be able to provide for my needs and those of my family.
  5. Sustainability – people’s confidence in the business commitment to continuous improvement and good corporate citizenship.

Focus on these core elements and you will optimize your prospect of having motivated people in your business and a great return on your investment in people.

When do I hire a HR Manager?

This is a question that I am commonly asked by SMB owners, often when the business is a little out of control because it has grown to the point where the owner cannot personally supervise everything that is going on anymore.

My initial response is that you are asking the wrong question up front and you should first ask: “What is the best way to manage the growing number of people in my business?”

Firstly let’s break that down into component parts which I call the 4Cs of people management:

C1: Commitment

This is the base level of people management and is fundamentally about ensuring that the business  has a plan providing clear direction and understands and is compliant with its legal obligations as an employer in relation to such things as:

  • Wages and conditions of employment
  • Workplace health and safety
  • Equal opportunity, discrimination and harassment
  • Privacy

C2: Capability

This is about building the processes for managing people which include or add to what you have done in compliance but also facilitate:

  • Effective conversations about team and individual performance and development
  • Skills analysis and learning and development activities that are aligned with business needs
  • Reward and recognition that has meaning, is properly aligned and is affordable, providing the right return on investment
  • Targeted recruitment and retention of the right employees and fair and effective management of the exceptions.

C3: Competency

Having put the systems in place, you need to develop the abilities of your people to apply them and comply with them in a consistent and competent manner by:

  • Training your leaders and managers in the application of the processes with their teams and individual team members
  • Educating all of your people about the processes and their roles and obligations
  • Ensuring that you practice what you preach and both require and allow your managers to do their jobs and
  • Incorporating the leadership qualities you need in your criteria for selecting your managers

C4: Culture

This is when it all comes together – you know that you are compliant with your legal obligations, you have people management systems that work and your leaders and managers are really driving improvements because you:

  • Have a clear vision and business strategy with measurable goals for improving business performance and “your people get it”
  • Understand the competencies that you need and your investment in training and development delivers improvements in performance
  • Engage your people in improving business performance and recognize and reward them for their contributions and
  • Have leaders and managers who ensure that your people are on board, contributing and continuously improving their capabilities and performance.

The truth is that your specialist HR resource needs (ie the skill set required) will differ depending on where your business is in the above hierarchy.

At levels C1 – C2, there is a greater emphasis on administration, compliance and risk management whereas at C3 – C4, there is a much more strategic focus on organizational development, engagement and leadership.

What will not change is that you need your managers and leaders to be on board every step of the way because they are the real people managers every day.

That leaves us with a different but much better question: “How do I best support my managers to do their jobs better?”