How mature are your HR practices?

Questions are often asked about the value of HR to an organisation and the level of influence that the HR function has on overall business direction and decision-making.

More recently, with the disclosures of corporate malpractice and unethical executive conduct in the finance industry in particular, there are significant questions about the culture of the organisations concerned and, by extension, as the culture custodians, where were HR in all of this.

The truth is that HR can look very different in different organisations and is more often than not reflective in style of the mindset of senior management. Is the focus compliance or is it about real employee engagement? Is it about risk management and enforcement or is it about leadership and values-based behaviour? Or is it just a processing function administering operational procedures and conflict transactions?

Where does HR sit on the scale of maturity in your organisation?

Back in 2005,we developed a maturity model based on our experience in dealing with hundreds of organisations and this 4C model is a core part of our consulting and coaching offerings. While in our consulting, we focus on “People and Culture”, you can apply the methodology to any business function.

Here is what it looks like:

C1 = Commitment: this is the ground floor, the point at which an organisation makes a specific commitment through a vision statement or a values statement or a set of goals in a business plan or a policy statement or a contract which sets out an obligation that the business commits to.

C2 = Capability: this involves the organisation investing in the resources needed to give life to the commitment including the right people, processes, tools and equipment.

C3 = Competency: here the organisation has invested in the learning and support that people need to effectively play their part in utilising the resources and they are delivering good outcomes in the area of the commitment.

C4 = Culture: where the commitment has been fully embedded in everyday activity in practice, people believe it and they are consistently delivering high performance outcomes.

A lot of the organisations that we have worked with in our compliance activities are at C1 to C2 level and a significant number are quite limited in the breadth or range of commitments that they have made in real terms. Managing people is an ongoing challenge for these businesses.

Then there are the others who aspire to be employers of choice and really get the connection between employee engagement and wellbeing and high performance. With the right leadership, a positive mindset and values driven behaviours, those aspirations can be realised. Our 4C framework provides a simple and effective roadmap for getting there.

If you look at the people and culture practices in your organisation, where do you sit on the 4C scale?

6 tips on effective communication

Why is it that, whenever you conduct an employee survey or business diagnostic, communication comes up as one of the key areas for improvement?

In part, it is because we are human and we each deliver and receive and interpret information in our own individual way.

In part, it can be because, as business owners and managers, we are technically competent in what our businesses do but we are not necessarily trained or skilled in communication techniques.

In part, it is also because, in any business, the timely and accurate flow of the right information to the right people is critical for getting work done efficiently and optimising job satisfaction for the people involved.

In part, it can be because we don’t think through the actions that we are taking or changes that we are implementing by consciously considering who is affected and needs to be communicated with.

And, in part, it can be because in the everyday hurly burly of running a business, we can forget to communicate or have trouble listening to others who have something to say that is significant for them.

So what can you do to improve communications in your business?

  1. Project positivity from the top.
  • Be honest and transparent
  • Be clear about the purpose
  • Set good practice standards in policies (not just consequences for breaches)
  • Ensure that all of your managers/leaders believe the message and “sing from the same hymn book”
  • Be timely
  • Be responsive
  • Celebrate successes
  1. Define the audience on 3 levels

Tailor your message to people to take account of:

  • Whole of business communications (what everyone needs to know)
  • What particular teams might need to know about the impact for them and
  • What individuals need to know about the impact for them

Consider other stakeholders as well eg customers, suppliers, contractors, etc and what you need to tell them if they are (potentially) affected in some way

  1. Build it into project management
  • Identify stakeholders in each project up front
  • Identify key points and messages to be given in the project
  • Build these communications into the project plan
  • Make sure it happens
  • Review the effectiveness of communications as part of the review process on project completion.
  • Learn from that and continuously improve
  1. Validate understanding

This is about ensuring that the people concerned “get the message” and know what it means for them. It is really just a question of asking them what it means for them, ensuring they understand and observing what is happening in practice

  1. Give your people genuine voice

This is probably the improvement opportunity that comes up most often in employee surveys and there are lots of options such as:

  • Set up a staff consultative committee or representative workplace improvement team
  • Do regular employee surveys to get people’s views and spot check progress
  • Have a publicly committed to improvement plan for people and culture
  • Ensure that you have trusted and effective grievance and suggestions processes in place
  • Give people regular and balanced feedback about how they are going
  1. Make sure you have the capability

Continuously work on your communication processes and skills as a core business competency that impacts critically on all aspects of running a business.

If you don’t have the strengths internally, look externally to get help in communications design, positive policy writing and coaching for people in your business who play key roles in communications.

The spin offs are higher efficiency, happier people and a more profitable business.

Ridgeline HR offers a variety of coaching, consulting and contracting services to assist businesses with consultation and communication requirements and enquiries can be directed to Peter Maguire on 0438 533 311 or email pmaguire@ridgelinehr.com.au.  

 

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. “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.

 

Helping Civil Contractors with Building Code Compliance Preliminary Assessment

In order to qualify for tenders on Commonwealth-funded construction works, businesses have to demonstrate compliance with the Code for the Tendering and Performance of Building Work 2016 (the Code).

The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) is responsible for administering and enforcing the Code. Part of that process involves assessment of the industrial instruments (awards or enterprise agreements) covering a business and its employees.

The ABCC now requires applicants for a Letter of Compliance to conduct a preliminary review of their enterprise agreements using Guidance Material developed by the ABCC. The guidance material is in the form of a spreadsheet with over 1600 clauses from enterprise agreements with commentary as to whether the clause is deemed to be “compliant”, “not compliant” or “compliant with implementation feedback” (i.e. it depends on what really happens in practice).

This is a very complicated and time consuming exercise for businesses and especially those who do not have their own specialist industrial relations staff.

Ridgeline HR has been servicing the HRM/workplace relations needs of members of the Civil Contractors Federation in Victoria for the past 11 years and is now assisting with the conduct of preliminary reviews and corrective action where that is necessary to achieve code compliance.

Enquiries can be directed to Chris White on 0419 130 580 or at cwhite@ridgelinehr.com.au or Peter Maguire on 0438 533 311 or at pmaguire@ridgelinehr.com.au.

 

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!

Will your termination pass the “3 tents test”?

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.

7 steps to effective policies

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:

  1. Be clear about why the policy is necessary(and, if it isn’t, don’t do it).
  2. Ensure that the policy aligns in content and presentation with your vision, values and strategy (don’t create contradictions).
  3. Communicate the policy appropriately to everyone to whom it has application (on launch and progressively through inductions, refreshers etc as necessary).
  4. Train people who have roles to play in application of the policy in how to perform those roles in the right way.
  5. 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.
  6. Consult people and review practice regarding the policy to ensure that it is working as intended.
  7. 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?

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 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.