Is an enterprise agreement right for your business?

It is now over 25 years since enterprise bargaining became an option in the Australian industrial relations system, first introduced via the Prices and Incomes Accord between first the Hawke and then the Keating Governments and the ACTU.

Unfortunately, over the years, unions and employers with unionised workplaces have dominated the enterprise bargaining space and there are few examples of genuine change delivering benefits for both employers and their people. They have really been just about negotiation of over award pay and conditions.

That is why many corporates are stepping away from enterprise agreements now – they don’t see them as offering productivity and flexibility benefits, notwithstanding the fact that they don’t see modern awards as positive alternatives either.

So why would any employer want to have an enterprise agreement today?

Ridgeline HR Practice Leader, Peter Maguire, who has been involved in enterprise bargaining since the early 1990s, offers some options for you to consider:

  1. “The first enterprise agreement that I negotiated was nominally about pay and conditions but what it was really about for me was enshrining a requirement that any matter requiring a vote by employees had to be by secret ballot. Why? Because the women who made up most of the workforce were intimidated by a small group of males backed by male hierarchy in the union and the blokes would hold sway if the vote was just by a show of hands. The union said the agreement wouldn’t get up – the secret ballot delivered an 87% approval by employees. We gave the women their voice and they backed us and that was a significant cultural change for them and the business.”
  2. “25 years ago, I participated in the process that developed the so called skills based classification structures that grace our modern awards today. The reality is that those structures were primarily the product of  industrial relations negotiations so they were mostly flawed from the outset. The world of work has also changed dramatically since then and it should be no surprise that they are not a great fit with the skill sets and talent hierarchies that exist in lots of businesses today. So, if your business is paying your people significantly above award, why wouldn’t you put in place the classification and pay structure that makes sense for your business and your people in today’s world.”
  3. “There are some award provisions that are just wrong. For example, the Building and Construction General On-site Award has an Industry Specific Redundancy Provision that gives employees who leave after their first year ‘other than for reasons of misconduct or refusal of duty’ a redundancy payment of up to 8 weeks’ pay. In the civil construction industry that means that a Plant Operator or Labourer or Traffic Controller would receive that benefit if they resign or are sacked on other grounds eg performance grounds. Other staff in civil construction such as engineers, administrative people, truck drivers etc don’t get those benefits. That is just not right or fair and can be addressed by including the National Employment Standard on redundancy for all employees regardless of business size and employee occupation.”
  4.  “The pay structures in some awards are extremely complex with a combination of base rates, allowances, penalty rates and loadings and, in some cases, specific clauses on annualisation of salaries all of which can be hard for small business owners to get their heads around. An enterprise agreement can help to make that all a lot simpler by redefining how all of that works in simple and easily understood terms and in the context of normal business operations. For example, you might typically work a 40  hour or 45 hour or 50 hour week and would like to be able to just pay a flat rate or an annual salary for doing that. That can be done in an enterprise agreement by striking flat rates that factor in all of monetary award rates, loadings and allowances with a caveat that, if you go outside the prescribed arrangement, there are extras that come into play and they are defined in the agreement as the exception rather than the rule. This ensures that your people are still better off overall and you know just what you need to do to safeguard that outcome and stay compliant.” 
  5. “Principals in supply chains and head contractors on major projects like to be assured that they will not be subject to operational disruptions caused by protected industrial action. That assurance can come from the delivery partners or sub-contractors having their own current enterprise agreements and this provides a resultant advantage when your business is bidding competitively for work.”
  6. “Some award provisions are just wrong. An example of this is the Industry Specific Redundancy Scheme” in the Building and Construction General On-site Award 2010. This provides that ‘redundancy means a situation where an employee ceases to be employed by an employer to whom this award applies, other than for reasons of misconduct or refusal of duty.’ This means that an employee covered by this Award such as plant operators, labourers and traffic controllers in the civil construction industry with at least 12 months’ service is entitled to a redundancy payment of up to 8 weeks if they leave in any other way eg by resignation or dismissal on other grounds such as unsatisfactory work performance, etc. Notably, other employees in the industry such as drivers, engineers and administrative staff do not enjoy that benefit so the arrangement is both unreasonable and unfair. This can be addressed in an enterprise agreement by extending the National Employment Standard on redundancy to all employees regardless of their occupation or the size of the business.”
  7. “Enterprise agreements sit in the public domain on the Fair Work Commission’s website and so serve as both a demonstration of your business’s compliance with workplace laws and your value proposition as an employer. This sends positive messages to both the labour market and the regulator. ” 

So perhaps there are some benefits to having an enterprise agreement after all.

If you would like to explore the opportunities that enterprise agreements offer, give us a call.


Lessons from the 2017 Corporate Health and Wellbeing Summit

I recently attended the Corporate Health and Wellbeing Summit in Sydney and thought that I would share some of the key learnings from what were a great set of presentations.

I have selected three – one from a regulator’s perspective, one from a manager’s perspective and one from a consulting psychologist.

Lucinda Brogden, Commissioner,

National Mental Health Commission

 Lucy presented some startling statistics on mental health and its impact on productivity such as:

  • About 1 million Australians live with depression and about 2 million live with anxiety
  • 8 Australians (of whom 5 are men) die of suicide every day
  • Mental health conditions cost Australian businesses $10.9 billion per year
    • Compensation claims: $145.9 million
    • Absenteeism: $4.7 billion
    • Presenteeism: $6.1 billion

She recommended 6 ways in which businesses can improve mental health in the workplace:

  1. Smarter work design
  2. Promoting and facilitating early help seeking and early intervention
  3. Building a positive and safe work culture
  4. Enhancing personal and organisational resilience
  5. Supporting recovery
  6. Increasing awareness of mental illness and reducing stigma.

Stephen Scheeler, Former CEO, Facebook ANZ

Stephen spoke about the challenges he had joining the organisation in his 40s when the average age of Facebook employees is 26. He said he had been there about a week when the HR Manager gave him some feedback “You need to smile more, don’t look so serious”.

He also spoke about the importance of being positive in line with the values of the organisation which was going through massive change e.g.:

  • Revenue of $1.58b in 2012 to $27.6b in 2016
  • Facebook users from 0.9b in 2012 to 2.0b in 2016

Steve cited this comment by Facebook Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg as a real indicator of their attitude to their people:

“Bring your whole self to work. I don’t believe we have a professional self Monday through Friday and a real self the rest of the time. It is all professional and it is all personal.” 

Dr Aaron Jarden, Psychologist, South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute

 Aaron described his goals as follows:

“Within an organisational setting, it’s to enable organisations to invest in creating more rewarding, happier jobs for their people. To create positive workplaces where people are able to do meaningful and enjoyable work that taps into their greatest strengths and their most important goals. To capitalise on the unique intellectual and personal strengths of each employee by focusing less on getting employees to do their work and fixing problems and more into promoting excellence by enabling them to do good work; their best work.

He advocates that one size does not fit all and workplaces should be looking to utilise peoples’ strengths to optimise engagement, job satisfaction and productivity.

Aaron introduced the audience to a free strengths survey tool (VIA Survey of Character Strengths which can be accessed at as a way for people to identify their key strengths.

I recently participated in an exercise using this survey tool in a committee of volunteers and found it to be very useful in identifying my key strengths, comparing mine to those of others on the Committee and looking at how we can best deploy each others’ key strengths to get optimal results.

Aaron emphasised that positive leadership is crucial – “Leadership involvement was cited as the most effective factor for a successful wellbeing program by 59 percent of employer respondents. (State of Workplace Wellbeing Survey).”

In 2018, Ridgeline HR will be launching a Better Workplaces Project which will utilize positive psychology principles and a strengths-based approach to achieving improvements in employee wellbeing, engagement and productivity.

Contact Peter Maguire on 0438 533 311 or email if you would like more information.

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?


Support the Footmen Foundation

The Footmen Foundation is a long serving charity meeting the needs of community groups and people in need in Maroondah and surrounding areas as a funder of last resort for over 40 years.  If there is a special need for which funding cannot otherwise be fully sourced, grant applications can be made to fill the gap.

To do this great work, the Foundation needs to raise funds and does so through membership, donations, bequests and events.

Upcoming events are:

  • AFL Finals Lunch on 21 September 2017
  • Golf Day on 16 November 2017
  • Christmas Rendezvous on 12 December 2017

Corporate membership costs just $100 per annum for which you will receive acknowledgement on the Foundation’s website and in the Footnotes newsletter plus free entry into the Christmas Rendezvous function. Single memberships ($50 per annum) and family memberships ($75 per annum) are also available.

You can download the application form below.

Footmen Foundation Membership Application 2017

Ridgeline HR Practice Leader, Peter Maguire, is a volunteer Board Member and can be contacted on 0438 533 311 if you would like further information.

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 or contact me on 0438 533 311 or at

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:


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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?”

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:


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.


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 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.


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.