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Archive for October, 2010

‘Information rage’ hits half of Aussie workers

October 22nd, 2010 Comments off

by HR Leader Online Magazine

http://www.humanresourcesmagazine.com.au/articles/F5/0C06D1F5.asp?Type=59&Category=917

More than half of Australian employees are close to breaking point as they struggle to cope with increased levels of information in their daily working lives.

According to new research by workflow solutions provider LexisNexis, information levels are at an all-time high, with Australia leading the rest of the world in the amount of data each professional is required to manage.

Marc Peter, director of technology and business development at LexisNexis, said the information boom, along with pressure from markets, shareholders and customers to hit targets, is leading to ‘information rage’ and having a negative effect on productivity.

“The implementation of information and communication technology (ICT) is changing the way we work, and the speed of this technology is dictating our expectations on responses and results. As humans we struggle to keep up [with technology]; the good thing with this research is that now we have evidence of that.”

Read more…

Categories: Human Resources

Inappropriate workplace behaviour an OHS risk

October 22nd, 2010 Comments off

by HC Human Capital Online Magazine

http://www.hcamag.com/news/50068/details.aspx

In the wake of several high profile cases, law firm Minter Ellison has highlighted the importance of organisations properly managing allegations of inappropriate workplace behaviour.

Human Resources and Industrial Relations partner, Samantha Betzien, said that companies can be vicariously liable for harassment and discrimination in the workplace, with significant damages awards possible.

Betzien pointed out that the cost to a company of such claims can be substantial, and not just in terms of the amount of the damages awarded. “Leaving aside any legal liability, the public attention that claims can receive can have a significant impact on a company’s reputation and can even adversely affect a company’s share price,” she said.

“A company’s liability is not limited to the incidents that happen in the workplace. If there is a connection between the inappropriate behaviour and the workplace, companies can also be held accountable for harassment or discrimination that occurs outside the workplace. This could potentially include activities using social media sites, such as Facebook.”

There are a number of strategies that companies can implement to manage and monitor workplace behaviour and protect against legal risk. According to Betzien, these include dealing with appropriate workplace behaviour in policies and procedures.

“What is and what isn’t appropriate behaviour needs to be clearly defined. It is particularly useful to include examples of these types of behaviours in your policy document,” Betzien recommended.

However, broad and sweeping ‘motherhood’ statements in harassment and discrimination policies should be avoided as these can create additional sources of liability for employers.

Effective training of all staff and refresher courses on harassment and discrimination, including dealing with grievances, is essential. “Managers must proactively manage workplace behaviour and deal with any issues quickly and appropriately,” Betzien noted. “There is no such thing as an off-the-record conversation when it comes to a complaint of inappropriate workplace behaviour. Whether reports are made formally or informally, all reports must be dealt with by management.”

Categories: Articles, OH&S

Low Cost and ‘No Cost’ Staff Retention Strategies

October 22nd, 2010 No comments

by Vantage Human Capital

http://www.businessstrategyblog.com.au/835/staff-retention-strategies/

All businesses can benefit from putting in place simple and practical strategies to help retain staff, whether you run a global multi-national company or a growing SME.While many businesses let staff go during the GFC, the next 6-12 months are likely to see another skill shortage and employers scrambling to both attract and retain key talent.

A great staff retention strategy can provide any business with benefits such as:

  • Reduction in staff turnover
  • Reduced recruitment and training costs
  • Increased productivity
  • Reduction in sick leave, absenteeism and theft
  • Increased business profitability

Retention strategies are not just about tossing freebies around, they are a sound commercial decision that, if done correctly, will make your business more profitable.

With support from the Australian Government’s Enterprise Connect initiative, Vantage Human Capital is holding free seminars throughout Queensland from October to December. I’ll be running these seminars, to provide SMEs with practical tools to create their own low or no cost staff retention plans.

Great Staff Retention Tips

As a sneak preview to the seminar content, here are some staff retention tips:

1.    Recruitment: Examine your current staff. Are some people outstanding in their jobs? What type of people seem to enjoy your workplace, what common values do they have with your business? It’s important to create a clear picture of the type of person who will thrive in your business and sometimes the best person isn’t always the most highly qualified. Putting real forethought into the skills, values and personality of people you recruit gives you have a higher chance of getting a good match and being able to retain them. This is crucial, because the process of replacing someone who leaves costs the equivalent of their salary for a year.

2.    Culture: What culture will create the most effective, productive environment for your business and ensure an enjoyable working experience for staff? What type of environment do your staff want to work in and what do they love/hate about work? It is essential to do a confidential employee survey to get feedback about the workplace. I’ve seen many workplaces waste money on failed initiatives because staff were just not interested. Know what makes your staff tick.

3.    Plan and Budget: Based on your knowledge of the business, decide on a retention initiative budget that is realistic and achievable. It’s possible to spend little, or even no money, if you think creatively and have a sound understanding of your people (come to the seminar to learn more on this). One of the biggest reasons for failure is simple – there was no plan. Write down your goals, timeframe and how you are going to do it.

4.    Measure: Give your initiatives time to work. You can use simple HR metrics such as staff turnover, absenteeism or morale as a measure. It’s vital to measure how effective your strategies have been. A culture survey at the 6 month mark enables you to see how your changes have affected employee perception – and also shows staff that you want their input (every staff member wants to feel their opinion is valued in the workplace).

Seminars:

Fri Oct 29, 1.30pm – 3.30pm Gold Coast, Bond University Function Centre

Wed Nov 24, 8.30am – 10.30am Townsville, Jupiters Townsville

Thu Nov 25, 8.30am – 10.30am Mackay, Mackay Entertainment Convention Centre

Tue Nov 30, 8.30am – 10.30am Toowoomba, Picnic Point

Wed Dec 1, 8.30am – 10.30am Brisbane South, Brisbane Technology Park

Tue Dec 7, 8.30am – 10.30am Brisbane CBD, Brisbane Polo Club

Thu Dec 9, 8.30am – 10.30am Brisbane North, Kedron Wavell Services Club

To RSVP contact Tahlia Reid on (07) 3229 5750 or email your name, title, company and contact number to treid@vantagehumancapital.com.au.

Vantage Human Capital’s free seminars will cover:

  • The importance of recruiting the right staff
  • Low and no cost HR initiatives that improve your overall business profitability
  • HR initiatives that are relevant for your business and provide the best return on investment.
  • Providing you with the tools to create your own retention strategy – and giving you free access to a consultant (via phone and e-mail) for two weeks after the seminar to help you formulate a retention strategy for your business.

Hope to see you at the seminars – I’d also love to hear your comments about great staff retention tips that have worked for your business.

Kate Klease is an executive at Vantage Human Capital, a specialist recruitment and human resources consulting firm that helps ensure clients have appropriate strategies in place to successfully retain, motivate and manage their people. http://www.vantagehumancapital.com.au/

Categories: Human Resources

HR2You – October 2010 Newsletter

October 15th, 2010 No comments

by HR2You at www.hr2you.com.au

I am A River To My People…

Are you a “martyr-boss”? Do you shelter your people from stress and disruption? Are you putting their happiness first and sacrificing yourself on the altar of hard work?

Many (most) bosses out there working in small businesses are working 60-80 hours a week and, in effect, supporting their employees. This can lead to burnout and resentment which can double if you have weak or destructive people on your team. So what can you do?

Read more…

Decisions Decisions…

Slow decision making can be a killer in many businesses. Nothing frustrates employees more than bosses who either can’t (won’t) make a decision or take ages to do it. Also, nothing frustrates a boss more than employees asking for a decision on something and only supplying half the information needed to make the decision. Frustration all round and a higher staff turnover and lower customer satisfaction. So what can a business owner do about it?

For starters empower your employees. Look around at their daily tasks and see what they can decide on without the need to go higher. Set the rules and boundaries and let them decide as much as possible. Hard to let go of some decision making but the rewards in staff satisfaction (and customer satisfaction) will flow back into the business.

For the decisions that the boss alone must make, let the employees know what information they need to gather and present in order to get a quicker decision. Set a process in place, write it down and communicate it to everyone.

Businesses that can harness the power of quick decision making will immediately set themselves ahead of their competition.

The Silly Season is Coming…

After a busy year many employees, and employers, will be looking to kick their heels up at the traditional office Christmas Party.

So what are the risks and what should you do beforehand to minimise those risks to the business?

Read more…

Paid Parental Leave Scheme

Employers can now pre-register for the Paid Parental Leave (PPL) scheme. PPL is fully funded by the Australian Government and will start on 1 January 2011.

From 1 July 2011, businesses must provide parental leave pay to employees who meet the eligibility criteria. Registering will help you to get ready for July 2011 by providing you with notifications on PPL.

Read more

The Bossy Boss..

Overly assertive bosses can be seen as bullying and overbearing. But, bosses who tend to hold back may be considered wimps. Good bosses find a balance between the two.

This doesn’t mean you should try to be moderately assertive all the time. Instead, be prepared to use both approaches in different situations. Your employees may need you to challenge them to accomplish a particularly tough goal. Or you may need to be more passive to let them step up.

Be flexible. Use your emotional intelligence to determine when being assertive will be motivating rather than stifling, and laying low will be appropriate rather than discouraging.

Work Safe Week

The 25th to 29th of October is Work Safe Week. Over 100 events being conducted around metro and regional Victoria. There are seminars on bullying, OH&S, return to work master classes and solutions to causes of injury at work.

Read more…

Handy Quote

“Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them.”

-       Paul Hawken

Categories: Human Resources

Christmas Party Risk Checklist

October 15th, 2010 No comments

by HR2You at www.hr2you.com.au/christmas_party_risk_checklist.htm

After a busy year many employees, and employers, will be looking to kick their heels up at the traditional office Christmas Party.

So what are the risks and what should you do beforehand to minimise those risks to the business? Below are a handful of familiar scenarios with a checklist of what to do to avoid issues and minimise risks to employees and the business.

Scenario 1: A drunken employee wraps their arms around another employee and gives an unwanted kiss.

Sexual harassment is the number one key risk that employers need to be aware of. No business owner wants a sexual harassment claim and no employee wants to be in a situation where they have reason to launch one. Office party plus alcohol equals potential lawsuit.

Checklist # 1: Provide Harassment and Awareness training to staff. Circulate a Harassment and Victimisation workplace policy to all employees.

Scenario 2: An employee drinks heavily, gets into their car and crashes on the drive home.

Under the OHS Act 2000 employers have a duty of care to protect health, safety and welfare of all employees including company work functions. Employees can lodge a workers’ compensation claim if they are injured travelling to and from work. This risk goes up with the likelihood of a high consumption of alcohol. A claim can put your insurance premiums up and involve more money that the budget for the party. Paying for the taxi home for staff is likely to be cheaper than a compensation claim on a failure to provide a duty of care.

Checklist # 2: Review your Health and Safety Issues and Risk Management plans. Address the safety of your employees travelling home – cab charge, chartered bus or paying for taxi receipts submitted after the event are examples.

Scenario 3: A frustrated employee, fuelled by alcohol, decides to get even with another employee and a fight erupts.

Employee relations are a sensitive area and office parties can sometimes bring out the worst in employee relationships. The potential for long term conflicts from office party dust-ups to undermine the culture of the business going forward are quite real, and damaging. In a year where there have been many employee cutbacks, an office party has the potential to be a minefield.

Checklist # 3: Circulate a Code of Conduct workplace policy before the office party. Make sure employees fully understand the standard of expected behaviour.

Scenario 4: A high value client is invited to the office party and insulted by an inebriated employee. They cancel a contract the next day.

Businesses can spend years and mountains of money to build up their reputation, only to have it blown by a thoughtless drunken employee. Consider carefully whether or not you need to invite your business clients to your party. Is it worth the risk of them seeing your staff without their ‘work hats’ on? If your employees are likely to let their hair down in a major way, then perhaps a smaller quieter function might be more relevant to impress key clients.

Checklist # 4: Advise staff of any VIP’s coming to the office party and make sure they know who they are and how valuable they are to the business. Revisit Checklist # 3. Can you organise a smaller function for relevant staff and your valued clients?

Scenario 5: Employee spills a full glass of wine on to the Marketing Manager’s laptop. The laptop fails and data is lost because it wasn’t backed up.

Damage to premises is another major worry for employers. Damage inflicted at an on-site party can cause significant damage and loss that could have been avoided. It is usually recommended that the event is held off-site at a restaurant, pub or other appropriate venue. But while you can avoid workplace risks by doing this, you should also consider the risks at an off-site venue. Have the function co-ordinator assess the risks at the venue and communicate to all attendees regarding any hazards, toilets, restricted areas, smoking areas procedures to follow in the event of fire, a fall, injury or other incidents.

Checklist # 5: Establish an Incident Reporting Procedure and circulate to all attending staff. For an on-site office party, make sure the designated area has been cleared beforehand to minimise damage. For an off-site office party make sure that the function co-ordinator has inspected it beforehand to identify risks.

Scenario 6: An employee with a mobile phone camera takes inappropriate pictures and posts them on Facebook along with comments.

The advent of social networking sites has added more risks and headaches to business. Employers can face claims of harassment and discrimination from employee’s activities on such networking sites. The reputation of your employer brand can trek downwards very quickly if employees use social media sites with a free rein to say and do what they want regarding fellow workers and their employer.

Checklist # 6: Circulate a Social Media and Blogging workplace policy to all staff. Make sure all employees are aware of the consequences of discussing fellow employees and business online.

In conclusion:

Most risks associated with having an office Christmas Party can be minimised with planning and the implementation of a solid set of workplace policies.

At a minimum, review the following set of policies with your employees: Harassment and Victimisation Policy, Social Media and Blogging Policy, Drug and Alcohol Policy, Code of Conduct Policy and Workplace Bullying Policy. Set the expectations for employees and outside attendees alike and make sure that you achieve the main goal of your party and have some fun!

If you don’t have a set of workplace policies to implement and need them straight away then contact HR2You today and get them in place.

Categories: Human Resources

winHR & winOHS Version 5.6.1 Released

October 14th, 2010 No comments

Favour is pleased to announce the latest release of winHR & winOHS.  This minor release includes some additional fields in screens and also new MYOB Exonet payroll integration.

winHR Human Resource Software and winOHS Occupational Health & Saftey software  is able to integrate with almost any payroll via its unique integration functionality.  If you use a payroll we have not conencted with before, we can integrate it very quickly.  Advantages of integration include reduced duplicate entry and self serve access for employees to their own information such as leave accruals via web browser.

At Favour, we strive to continue to enhance our Human Resource & Occupational Health & Safety solutions according to our client needs.  Our next major release will introduce enhanced recruitment and course management features.  Please stay tuned for these.

Favour aims to provide the most affordable HR & OHS solutions in the Australian market.  Please contact us for more information 0n 1300 657 158 or visit our website at www.favour.com.au

Categories: Product News

Employment Screening: The Benefits of a Role Based Approach

October 13th, 2010 Comments off

by First Advantage courtesy of Human Capital Magazine

http://www.hcamag.com/hc-business-review/pre-employment-screening/employment-screening-the-benefits-of-a-role-based-approach/49876

One in three Applicants are not telling the truth. Are you uncovering the information that will put your organisation at risk?

According to a recent survey carried out by Galaxy Research (and corroborated by First Advantage’s 2010 Background Screening Trends Australia Report) a third of job applicants are guilty of telling fibs in the recruitment process. Integrity issues aside, some untruths wouldn’t have a material impact on your hiring decision – but what about the big fibs that put your organisation at risk?

The Employment Screening process is essentially built on the concept of risk mitigation and is established as a proactive initiative to promote a safe working environment and to protect the organisation’s reputation and other assets (including people, property and information).

The level of risk varies with where you are, what you are doing, what you plan to do and who is making the decision; hence the importance of a role based approach.

Regardless of what level of Employment Screening is implemented, it should be based on a thorough understanding of the organisation, the risks inherent in each role within the organisation, as well as the environment in which it operates (this should extend to contract and casual staff).

While this sounds like a daunting task, it can be broken down into a few activities:

  1. Identify the attributes of the roles that put your business at risk
  2. Assess the level of each risk (i.e. minor, serious, critical)
  3. Review each role in its capacity to put the business at risk (the relevant attributes of the role)
  4. Assign the checks required to reasonably address the risk

The attributes of roles are generally consistent for organisations in any environment, however the level of risk that each creates can vary considerably from one organisation to another.

Almost every organisation will have roles that require a qualification. First Advantage’s 2010 Background Screening Trends Australia Report highlights a concerning number of Applicants falsifying their qualifications. This may be considered a serious risk where the absence of a qualification could impact remuneration and performance and a more critical risk where its absence could threaten the safety of the organisation’s Employees and Customers.

A further example, generally all organisations provide nominated staff with access to an operating platform. This may be considered a minor risk to an organisation that can restrict access to sensitive information, however another with open access may find this to be a critical risk.

Likewise, while all organisations have assets, the value of each asset depends on the size and nature of the business. As such, access to the same asset may be considered minor in one organisation but critical in another.

The level of risk and the attributes of any role are always subject to change. Employment Screening should therefore be seen as a continually evolving and improving process—one that should be integrated into the risk management and broader business framework of the organisation.

For a free consultation, or to request your complimentary copy of the 2010 Background Screening Trends Australia report, contact First Advantage: hcmagazine@fadv.com.au

Categories: Human Resources

Stressed workers costing economy $730m a year

October 7th, 2010 Comments off

by HR Leader Online Magazine

http://www.humanresourcesmagazine.com.au/articles/6f/0c06ce6f.asp

Job-stress related depression is costing Australia’s economy $730 million a year, according to a new report. With employees taking on extra work and therefore excessive pressure, the strain is proving too much for many.

Associate Professor Tony LaMontagne from the University of Melbourne School of Population Health, said that “job strain”, where workers have little control over their job, but who are under high pressure to perform, accounts for 17 per cent of depression in working women and 13 per cent in working men.

“These figures represent a significant burden on the Australian economy that is preventable by improving job quality,” he said.

The report from University of Melbourne and VicHealth said that the $730 million job strain price tag includes lost productive time, employee replacement costs, government-subsidised mental health services and medications for depression.

It equates to $11.8 billion over the average working lifetime, with the biggest loss accruing to employers. The report also revealed an $85 million cost of absences for depressed workers who do not have access to paid sick leave, which also represents a significant cost to employees. “There has always been legal and ethical reasons for employers to address poor working conditions and to support staff, but these new findings add an economic incentive as well. Employers would be the major beneficiaries of reducing job strain over the long term, because the greatest costs fall on employers due to lost productivity and employee replacement,” said LaMontagne. Todd Harper, VicHealth CEO, added: “This report raises questions about the current workplace culture in Australia. We need to develop strategies that can be applied in all workplaces to make them healthier, happier and more productive environments that nurture good health rather than cause ill-health.”

Categories: Articles, OH&S

Small business OHS seems to be stalled

October 5th, 2010 No comments

by Kevin Jones at Safety At Work Blog

http://safetyatworkblog.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/small-business-ohs-seems-to-be-stalled/

OHS research into why the small business sector does not “get” safety has been occurring in Australia for over ten years with some of the most useful being undertaken by Dr Claire Mayhew.  But the challenge, or problem, persists.

On 4 October 2010, WorkSafe Victoria released some information about an OHS blitz by inspectors on small businesses in Mildura, a rural town in the extreme northwest of Victoria.  In some ways, the tone of the media statement is a little defeatist or, at least, exasperated.

“Although we wrote to the businesses and told them we would be visiting, we still had to pull them up on a high number of health and safety issues,” Manufacturing and Logistics Director Ross Pilkington said.  “In many cases, the safety solutions were straightforward.”

98 small businesses were visited and 160 OHS breaches were identified resulting in improvement notices for the following issues:

  • Incorrect storage of dangerous goods
  • Damaged or faulty electrical tools and wiring
  • Forklift maintenance
  • Guarding on machinery, including lathes
  • Poor housekeeping
  • Manual handling (lifting, pushing and pulling)
  • Lack of perimeter guarding on mezzanine floors
  • Failing to display safe working load on shelving.

All of these are very familiar to OHS regulators and safety professionals. In fact many of these hazards have solutions listed on the WorkSafe website.

So why are small businesses not complying with OHS obligations?  Big question and not one that one blog article can answer.

OHS regulators are well versed in the research literature on the issue and the advertising strategies employed have exploited some of the motivators of workers, employers and the community.

Should WorkSafe have a higher community profile in rural areas?  It already sponsors country football and other rural activities and it is not as if WorkSafe hasn’t blitzed the city before.  In May 2007, WorkSafe reported:

“WorkSafe inspectors issued 97 improvement and 12 prohibition notices in a week-long workplace safety campaign in Mildura.”

That release also provided some regional costings on non-compliance:

“Apart from the impact of workplace deaths and injuries on individuals and local families, the cost of treatment, rehabilitation and compensation costs of 1277 reported work-related in Mildura over the past five financial years exceeds $22.4 million.  These costs are covered by employers’ WorkCover premiums.”

That’s a lot of money but the quote may answer the question of why small business does not embrace OHS:

“These costs are covered by employers’ WorkCover premiums.”

Insurance premiums do not get close to reflecting the actual cost of workplace injuries and deaths.  Businesses are not accountable for the cost of their own indifference or ignorance or laziness.  And, as a result of not being accountable, they are able to feel that the worker’s medical costs and return-to-work program is and SEP (Someone Else’s Problem).

The costs are outsourced to insurance companies so that businesses only have to pay the premium costs which, admittedly, can remain a heavy burden on a small business but are well below the true social and personal cost of injuries and rehabilitation.  It is worth asking how workplace safety would be managed in small business if workers’ compensation was not available?  We know from the experience of other countries that the cost of workplace injuries are absorbed by the community and perhaps social services but what of the management of safety, the prevention of injury?

It is worth revisiting some of the older research reports into small business safety like the work of Dr Felicity Lamm and Professor David Walters.  In 2003 they looked at the broader policy context and, amongst many other fascinating findings, wrote:

“…the key factors affecting OHS in the small business sector can be grouped under the following headings:

    • Low management and training skills;
    • Lack of resources;
    • Burden of compliance;
    • Relationship with regulatory agencies and the use of consultants;
    • Dependent relationship with large businesses; and
    • Employment and OHS practices.”

In 1997, Lamm stated a finding that, I believe, remains true to this day:

The paper also demonstrates that small business employers are becoming increasingly reliant on their accountant to provide a range of compliance advisory services, including OH&S.” [link added to abstract only]

Others suggest that in some industries OHS change may be best achieved through targeting spouses and other family members of particular significance in business decision-making.  Curiously, WorkSafe Victoria tried this in the farming sector in the early 1990s, if memory serves.

A WorkSafe small business initiative that I believes deserves analysis is its small business consulting service.  This strategy has operated for many years providing free consultancy services by private OHS providers for, usually, 3 hours.  In this period a consultant needs to identify, in practice, major OHS deficiencies, identify control measures and, most important, provide employers with the tools to manage their own OHS needs.  It is a tall order and is likely to lead to continuing services from the private providers in order to assist small business to comply with the law.

Publicly-available on the performance of this program is scarce with WorkSafe usually only releasing data on the number of businesses participating, as it has in the 2010 Annual Report (page 12) with over 2,500 businesses visited.  Page 23 of the 2009 Annual Report provides similar figures:

“Over 2400 businesses sought assistance from the program, up by 8% compared to the previous year and 33% compared to 2006/07.”
In 2005, the Annual Report indicated the number of business helped was 2,000.
It would be very interesting to see the results of an audit of the small business support project to determine whether much more than just numbers of participants.  Has there been some remarkable successes in the program that have changed the relationship between the small business and WorkSafe and how OHS has been implemented?  How are the OHS service providers selected, audited and, perhaps, de-registered if under-performing?
There is a small business category in the many annual OHS awards but much more important is any lessons from the support programs that others can implement.

There certainly are no obvious solutions to improving safety in this economic sector but safety seems to have stalled.  There needs to be a innovative approach to small business safety and I accept that these are being sought by regulators but it is also valid to question the value of long-standing business support programs, particularly if the results have plateau-ed.

“Over 2400 businesses sought assistance from the program, up by 8% compared to the previous year and 33% compared to 2006/07.”

If you appreciate this article, please show your support by visiting Kevin Jone’s Safety At Work blog at safetyatwork.blog.wordpress.com

Categories: Articles, OH&S