Having been in the field of human resources management for over 30 years, there have been plenty of occasions where I have had to consider disciplinary action and termination of employment as remedies for misconduct.
In doing so, we need to consider fairness from a couple of angles:
- Substantive fairness which requires that the action taken would not be harsh, unjust or unreasonable and
- Procedural fairness which is about ensuring that due process has been followed and the principles of natural justice have been complied with
A process that I use to consider the substantive fairness of an action is to assess them against the “3 tents” namely:
- Content: what actually happened, ensuring that you are aware of the facts of events that have given rise to consideration of action?
- Intent: was the action or dereliction of duty or other offence deliberate or was it due to a misunderstanding or a heat of the moment thing and is it in or out of character for the individual concerned?
- Extent: what was the effect of the action or dereliction of duty or other offence on the business and/or employees and/or other parties?
Of course there are the procedural elements to attend to as well but ensuring that the action that you propose will stand up to the “3 tents test” is a good start.
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?
One of the most common requests we get at Ridgeline HR is for assistance in developing HRM policies and procedures for our clients.
Many businesses think that simply having a policy is enough to demonstrate compliance but there is actually a lot more to it than that as businesses too often find out the hard way.
It is not much good having a policy if it is not practised in fact and the fact is that, if a business doesn’t follow it’s own policies, it automatically has a compliance problem.
And there is quite a bit of work involved in ensuring that policies are both appropriate and managed in the right way to achieve their objectives.
There are 7 steps to effectively implementing policies:
- Be clear about why the policy is necessary(and, if it isn’t, don’t do it).
- Ensure that the policy aligns in content and presentation with your vision, values and strategy (don’t create contradictions).
- Communicate the policy appropriately to everyone to whom it has application (on launch and progressively through inductions, refreshers etc as necessary).
- Train people who have roles to play in application of the policy in how to perform those roles in the right way.
- Assess risks (eg people who might have potential to breach the policy or need additional support to comply with it) and implement appropriate risk management strategies.
- Consult people and review practice regarding the policy to ensure that it is working as intended.
- Review the policy annually to take account of any legislative or best practice developments as well as organisational experiences to continuously improve it and ensure ongoing compliance – return to Step 1.
Perhaps the thing that I find most remarkable about most organisations which focus on risk management is that they don’t actually assess risks that exist in their organisations when they implement a policy. See Step 5 above.
There is too often a mentality that, if the rules are communicated and an individual then doesn’t follow those rules, the risk is transferred from the business to that individual.
For organisations that might be in that space, I suggest that you consider why the policy is needed in the first place – ie what purpose (other than complying with a legal obligation) does it serve in the management of people?
Or, to put it another way, why did it become a legal obligation in the first place?
Do your policies exist for policies’ sake or do they have a positive impact on your people and culture?
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?”