What are you doing for mental health month?

October is Mental Health Month and World Mental Health Day is on October 10, a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy.

This a great opportunity for businesses to get proactive in dealing with a major challenge for Australian society and every business – the impact of mental illness.

A recent Pricewaterhouse Coopers report identified that ignoring it costs Australian businesses around $10.9 billion a year in lost productivity. And with poor mental health likely to affect one in five employees, by taking action the benefits can be profound.

PwC discovered that on average, across all businesses, for every one dollar invested in mental health initiatives, there’s a return of $2.30 and reports showed that in many industries the returns were even greater. 

Source: Heads Up

So what that says is that working on improving people’s mental wellbeing at work will generate great returns for business owners. That means that looking after your people is not just the right thing to do but also the smart thing to do.

So what are you going to do to get started on the mental health improvement journey?

There are lots of resources at Heads Up, the website of the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance.

Mental Health Australia which is leading the campaign for World Mental Health Day also has useful information and materials to promote mental health in the workplace – see https://1010.org.au/.

This is an area where Ridgeline HR is committed to making a difference through our Better Workplace Projects, a key component of which is creating mentally healthy work environments.

This post is one way that we can help to raise awareness of the issue and encourage employers to be proactive and tackle mental health in your workplaces.

Join us by sharing this and other promotions of mental health to help that happen and make a difference.   Pictured: Croydon Chamber of Commerce  AGM giving a thumbs up for workplace wellbeing.

 

 

 

 

What are our “Better Workplace Projects”?

In essence, they are whatever you need them to be. Here are some different elements of better workplaces that we might include in a “Better Workplace Project” depending on client needs, preferences and budget:

  • A Respectful Workplace: implementing a values-based approach to behavioural standards that are to be applied across the business and addressing legal requirements relative to bullying, harassment, discrimination, gender inequality and related unsatisfactory behaviours.
  • An Aligned Workplace: providing clear direction to employees on organizational goals and structures and what they translate into in terms of the roles and performance expectations of teams and individual employees.
  • A Safe and Healthy Workplace: developing and implementing a risk management and employee engagement strategy that helps to improve the wellbeing of people in the areas of physical, emotional and mental health as well as addressing legislative requirements in relation to workplace health and safety.
  • A Connected Workplace: developing and implementing consultation and communication processes that ensure effective employee voice and timely and constructive communications between people across the business as well as better informing management decision making.
  • An Engaging Workplace: developing and implementing performance feedback and development processes that are timely, balanced and friendly whereby each employee has a performance and development plan of their own. Managers meet with them regularly to review progress against the plan, provide positive feedback on achievements and guidance and encouragement with areas for development.
  • A Sustainable Workplace: equipping and coaching leaders to maintain the impetus focused on constantly reviewing workplace policies and practices and identifying and harnessing opportunities for continuous improvement.

If you are interested in making your business a “Better Workplace”, give us a call on 0438 533 311 to see how we can help.

Make every day RUOK Day

Today is the official RUOK day, that day once a year when the spotlight is shone on mental health and what we can all do to support those doing it tough on the mental health front.

Those 4 simple steps can make such a difference:

  1. Ask RUOK?
  2. Listen
  3. Encourage action
  4. Check in

And please here are 4 things that you don’t want to do:

  1. Don’t tell me to cheer up.
  2. Don’t be judgmental, telling me what my problem is.
  3. Don’t be instructional, telling me what I must do.
  4. Don’t give up on me – just being there helps.

20% of people have mental health challenges so the odds are that 1 in 5 people in your workplace do too.

In our Better Workplace Projects, we help employers and employees to develop high performing, caring and supportive workplaces where peoples’ wellbeing is a priority because it is both the morally right and the commercially smart thing to do.

We want you to “Make every day RUOK Day” but also to reduce the incidence of mental health problems by having a great place to work. Don’t let your workplace be a contributing factor to Australia’s mental health challenge.

There are lots of resources available at RUOK and Heads UP.

These are some of the tools that we use in our Better Workplace Projects.

Give me a call on 0438 533 311 if you would like to learn more about how we might help.

 

Procedural fairness so often the stumbling block

I have read a number of stories in the media and on social media about sacked employees successfully prosecuting unfair dismissal claims even though the Fair Work Commission found that there was justification for the sacking.

This happens a lot (even to large employers) and it is because, according to the law, it is not just about whether the sacking is justified (substantive fairness), it is also about how the sacking takes place (procedural fairness).

So, here are some tips on due process (ie what you need to do to demonstrate procedural fairness):

  1. Properly investigate matters ensuring that you have evidence to present as underpinning the allegations of underperformance or misconduct.
  2. Advise the employee that you will be meeting with them at a date/time/place to discuss significant issues regarding their work performance and that they have the opportunity to have a support person present.
  3. Have a management representative present at the meeting (especially if the employee is likely to be contentious) to act as a witness to proceedings and to sign off on meeting notes as a true and accurate record.
  4. Present the employee with the allegations and the specific evidence/examples of occurrences in detail to respond to. Note, in circumstances where the allegations are particularly serious or complex or could have serious consequences (eg termination of employment), it can be appropriate to provide advice of these in advance of the meeting to allow the employee the opportunity to obtain advice.  
  5. Consider what the employee has had to say and determine what you believe the facts to be based on that response (on the balance of probabilities) and other evidence and what course of action needs to be taken eg if new information is presented that would warrant further investigation, adjourn the meeting to undertake the investigation or, if that is not necessary, determine what course of action is appropriate in the circumstances.
  6. If additional investigation was necessary, present the findings and associated evidence back to the employee when you re-adjourn, repeating steps 4 and 5.
  7. Once the investigation is completed and the employee has had the opportunity to respond to all of the evidence, make a final determination as to what the facts of the matter are “on the balance of probabilities” and what the appropriate action to take in the circumstances would be.
  8. Advise the employee of your findings and the action that you propose to take, asking the employee if they can provide any reason as to why you should not take that action. One of the things that needs to be considered is the question of the severity of the impact this action would have on the employee having regard to their personal circumstances (eg terminating a mature age worker with little prospect of alternative employment and a low level of financial sustainability could have serious consequences for that person and the FWC has been taking such matters into consideration in relation to the harshness of the penalty).
  9. Having heard and considered what the employee has had to say, advise them of the action that you have decided to take, having considered everything that has been presented in the process.
  10. Confirm the outcome in writing including, if a warning is involved, what the performance improvement expectations are and what the consequences are if those expectations are not met including advice of a reasonable period for review and implement it.

This should  all be underpinned by a clear and practical written disciplinary procedure which is provided to everyone and is followed religiously without exception. Those responsible for investigating concerns and complaints and initiating disciplinary action all require training and access to professional advice.

There could also be circumstances where it would be appropriate to stand the employee in question down with pay if termination of employment appeared to be a likely outcome and/or if the continued presence of the employee in the workplace would interfere with the proper or efficient conduct of the investigation.

Have a look at our article on substantive fairness as well for as simple approach as you will find for determining what action is justified – “The 3 tents test”

And for small businesses with less than 5 employees, the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code provides a checklist for you to follow: Small-Business-Fair-Dismissal-Code-2011.

Following the type of process that we have set out in this article won’t guarantee that you won’t still get an unfair dismissal claim from a terminated employee. However it will help you to defend that claim and minimise the cost of settlement.

It also sends a really positive message to your employees that you understand your legal obligations and that you will give your people a fair go and honour those obligations.

Sacking someone is not an easy thing to do and, for most managers, it isn’t something that you do often so don’t be afraid to call out for help. A small investment can make a world of difference to the outcome.

Note: We are not qualified lawyers and this article does not constitute legal advice. It is intended to provide inexperienced employers and managers without access to professional workplace relations advice with some tips on the sorts of things that they need to take into account procedurally in dealing with matters of this sort. We are of course able to assist with developing the right procedures for your business, training your managers and supervisors and providing professional advice and support as needed.

7 ways to build trust

In the backwash of the banking royal commission, the investigations into paedophilia in religious institutions, ongoing domestic violence and gender inequality, much publicised cases of underpayment of wages by rogue employers and gig businesses and rorts by members of parliament and government officials, there is a lot of talk about “trust” and Australia having a “crisis of trust”.

Interestingly, one of the primary qualities that great employers have is trust and there is a great opportunity for businesses to make a difference in our community by leading change through the practice of trust.

Are there things that you as an employer can do differently to be more trusting in your people and to be more trusted by your people?

Here are a few suggestions for any leader.

 

Respect my views

Seek my opinions and ideas, listen to any concerns I have and always ensure that you understand what I am saying and why. Respond to me in a timely, polite and constructive way. Never leave me wondering where I sit with you and any issues of concern.

Believe in me

I want to do a good job and want you to help me do that. Accept that sometimes I might make mistakes but that, with your help, I will learn from them. See me as someone worthy of investment and optimism rather than through the lens of risk and micro management.

Let me be myself

All of us have our own styles and strengths and that diversity is powerful. Give me opportunities to use my strengths so that I can enjoy and succeed in my work, grow in my own way and enhance my value to the business.

Let’s get to know each other (appropriately)

If we understand who each other is, what each other’s strengths are and what we rely on each other for, we have the foundation for building a positive and constructive relationship. I may be able to help you with something that you are struggling with just as I expect you as my employer to support me.

Give me clarity

I want to know where we are going and what it is that you need me to do to help you get there. Put a plan in place and help me to do my part by having clear goals and responsibilities and a plan of action. Catch up with me regularly to coach me and support me to deliver on the plan. Celebrate successes and capture the improvement opportunities.

Give me a sense of belonging

Have clear statements of purpose and values that tell me what the organisation stands for (ie why it exists and how it behaves). Engage me by living that purpose and values every day in every way so that I am inspired to perform for you and go the extra yard.

Believe me

If I tell you something, believe that I am telling you my truth. If I tell you I can’t come in today, believe that I have a good reason for that. If I tell you that I am unwell, don’t make me go to the doctor to prove I am unwell – let me get better. If I am struggling to get the desired outcome with something, accept that I am trying my best and look at how you can help me to deliver what you want.

Our EngageMentality coaching and organisational development model focuses on peoples’ strengths and building respectful and productive relationships in the workplace. Building trust is a central element of the process. To find out more, call Peter Maguire on 0438 533 311.

Is good financial advice better for morale than a pay rise?

Smart employers understand that anything that they are able to do affordably to help their employees handle all of the pressures which go with living in a modern world has spin off benefits in employee wellbeing and productivity. One of those significant pressures is financial insecurity.

This article provided courtesy of our friends at FMD Financial tells us why and what you can do about it. 

Research shows 46% of employees worry about their finances and that worry can stop them achieving at work and feeling positive about their job. It’s a statistic that is motivating employers to take action. Improving financial wellbeing among staff was the top employer initiative for just 30% of companies in 2014. That figure has now jumped to 56% according to AON Hewitt’s 2016 Hot Topics in Retirement and Financial Wellbeing research.

Companies like RAA in South Australia are leading the charge. Senior Manager, Pay and Benefits, Tatjana Bergen, says providing employees with access to qualified financial advisers who build an ongoing relationship with the organisation and its employees is an important part of their commitment to supporting the financial wellbeing of staff. “FMD adviser, Dan Arcadiou, is regularly on site to meet with employees and FMD have developed a dedicated online survey our staff can access via the Intranet to get a better understanding of their financial situation at any time.”

It seems there is both a bottom line benefit and a moral imperative to boost financial wellbeing among employees. Eighty-five per cent of Australian employers say they’re focused on financial wellbeing because it’s the right thing to do, but almost as many (80%) are motivated by the desire to improve employee engagement.  Yet barriers to seeking financial advice remain. Employers may not know a good financial adviser or how to evaluate one. And recent scandals among big bank advisers have understandably put many business and HR leaders off taking that first step.  Experts agree people need to be empowered to take control of their financial wellbeing just as they do with maintaining a healthy lifestyle through a good diet and exercise. Fitness programs, fruit boxes and gym passes have long been a part of Australian workplaces, so why not high quality financial advice tools and qualified financial advisers?

As professional work continues to become more flexible but also more uncertain, good financial planning is becoming crucial to the growing contract workforce. Contingent workforce specialists Entity Solutionshave partnered with FMD to offer their workforce access to quality advice to help them plan for the future. CEO Neil Merola says “It’s key to ensure every independent professional has the opportunity to protect their lifestyle and where possible, maximise their income.”  With evidence suggesting many professionals are unprepared for maintaining their lifestyle in an uncertain job market, now is the  time to help employees take greater control of thier financial futures.

Talk to us about running an advice clinic at your workplace to give employees access to a reputable financial health check. Or if you have questions about your financial wellbeing, complete our quick and easy online financial health checkor book a free 1 hour consultationwith a qualified adviser.

Check them out at https://www.fmd.com.au

 

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.

 

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 http://www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths-Survey) 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 pmaguire@ridgelinehr.com.au if you would like more information.