Hybrid work isn’t just a trend—it’s becoming the new norm. But offices still matter, especially when it comes to collaboration.
One European study, the Okta Hybrid Work Report 2023, found that despite going hybrid, many companies aren’t cutting back on their office space. Instead, they’re redesigning it to make it capitalise on the benefits that can come from being together.
In an age where people expect productivity to matter more than presenteeism, they’re also adopting an ‘office first’ approach to hybrid working that gives employees some degree of flexibility but also captures the many benefits that can come from working with colleagues face-to-face
With that in mind, we look at whether ‘office first’ should become the new normal for Australia’s workplaces, including yours.
Three types of hybrid work models
The Okra report found that hybrid working now generally broke down into three models.
In this model, remote working follows predictable patterns. Employees have set days where they work from the office and also days where they work from home. For instance, many employees work every Monday and Tuesday at the office desk and remotely the rest of the week. This schedule doesn’t change; it’s fixed.
This model is great for planning but can also be a bit restrictive for those employees who favour variety and flexibility. It’s a model that’s favoured by organisations with more traditional views on work-life balance, including many of Australia’s large corporates.
In this less prescriptive setup, employees get to pick where they work each day, depending on what they feel suits them best. Got a day of deep work? Stay home. Need to collaborate? Head to the office. This model suits people who like to control their own schedule, but it demands a high level of self-management and requires very high levels of trust.
It’s often favoured in highly skilled professional settings, where productivity can be easily measured through methods such as billable hours.
Under this model, employees are expected to be in the office most of the time, but they can still choose to work from home for a portion of their time, maybe a day or two each week. It’s not as prescriptive as the fixed model, though – if an employee doesn’t have to be at the office on a set day to do collaborative work, they can choose to be at home.
The goal of the office-first approach is often to keep teams aligned and maintain company culture. If management says it’s a day for everyone to be in the office, employees need to be there.
The case for Office First
In the post-pandemic world, the report found that it’s the office-first model that was gaining the most traction among Europe’s employers. That’s because it tends to make collaboration easier and more spontaneous.
If an employee is stuck on a project, they don’t always have to schedule a video call or wait for an email reply. They can instead simply walk over to a colleague’s desk for quick help. This face-to-face interaction can not only solve problems faster but also foster a sense of community and team cohesion. Having everyone in the same space reinforces company culture, something that can get diluted when people are scattered remotely.
The report found that another advantage was that mentoring and career development often thrive in the office environment in a way that’s just not possible online. In-person interactions give employees a chance to observe how their leaders manage challenges or even just run a meeting. These subtle, everyday learnings can be hard to pick up in a remote setting.
For those new to a field or looking to climb the ladder, being physically present can offer invaluable lessons and networking opportunities.
The broader organisational impact of choosing a hybrid work model
The report noted that in European organisations, choosing the right work model is often a collective, board-level decision involving multiple stakeholders, not just a matter for HR.
This C-suite collaboration makes it essential for various departments to align their objectives and challenges and to reach some agreement on what is going to work best in the interests of the whole organisation.
In doing so, many take the view that employee wellbeing comes first. And this doesn’t necessarily mean allowing employees to work remotely whenever they feel like it. Instead, the emphasis on collaboration that comes from an office-first approach can significantly enhance team dynamics and overall productivity. This, in turn, offers a well-rounded employee experience that prioritises both wellbeing and work outcomes.
How to decide if office-first is right for you
Every workplace now has to choose which model suits the kind of work they do. For some, such as manufacturing, hospitality or retail, the nature of the work means that face-to-face has to happen. For others, though, it’s more subtle.
Before jumping on the office-first bandwagon, we recommend considering several factors and how they impact your business.
- Team dynamics: Does your team really need frequent face-to-face meetings to collaborate effectively? Or can they do it just as well remotely?
- Productivity metrics: Do you have any performance data that can compare productivity when employees are at home vs. in the office? If so, does it show an uptick when the team is in the office? Or are they just as effective from home?
- Employee feedback: Conduct some internal surveys or focus groups. What does your workforce prefer? One way or the other, you might be surprised..
- Business Objectives: Align your decision with long-term company goals. Will an office-first approach help you achieve them?
- Wellbeing: Does the office setup offer resources that support employee wellbeing better than they can get remotely?
By weighing these factors, you’ll get a clearer picture of whether an office-first model benefits you.
Implementing an Office-First approach
If people are used to having the freedom to choose, they might find some resistance to moving to office first. If that’s the case, here are our tips for transitioning effectively.
Announcement: Clearly communicate the shift to an office-first model and the rationale behind it.
Transition Period: Offer a grace period for the team to adjust to the new setup.
Office Layout: Redesign the office space to maximise the benefits of in-person collaboration. Show everyone why being in the office matters so much.
Flexibility Clauses: Despite being office-first, consider built-in flexibility for special circumstances.
Review: Periodically assess the effectiveness of the new model. Make tweaks as needed.
Implementing office-first isn’t just a policy change. It’s a cultural shift that demands clear communication and a thoughtful approach. By considering the nuances and involving your team in the decision-making process, you can make the shift as seamless as possible.
If you’d like to know more about implementing an office-first approach in your workplace, get in touch.
The ‘Closing Loopholes’ Bill could be about to change Australia’s workplace laws in the most significant way since the Fair Work Act was introduced.
If the Bill passes through both houses, the Albanese government will be able to implement its workplace relations agenda, changing everything from the rights of casual workers to the laws around industrial manslaughter and from minimum employment conditions through to the definition of employment itself.
We explore how the Closing Loopholes Bill will impact your organisation if it becomes law.
What is the Closing Loopholes Bill?
The Fair Work Legislation Amendment (Closing Loopholes) Bill 2023 aims to introduce some of Labor’s workplace relations-based pre-election promises, as well as some of the outcomes agreed at last year’s Jobs and Skills Summit.
While the Bill may not be law yet, it will likely pass through parliament in some form after February next year, after a Senate Committee Report. (Although independent Senator David Pocock, whose vote is likely to be needed, supports splitting the Bill).
That means all organisations should start preparing now. Here are some of the key provisions you need to know about.
A re-written (and more onerous) definition of casual workers
Over the past couple of years, several high-profile court cases attempted to define what constitutes a casual employee. Then, in early 2021, the Morrison government stepped in, legislating that the written contract – rather than the patterns of behaviour – should be paramount.
The Albanese government wants to change this – by introducing a new test that considers the totality of the relationship between employer and employee. The idea behind this is to end what the government calls “the permanent casual” to look at “what’s really going on”. If passed, the test will require employers to continually assess their workforce and the nature of the way they engage employees to make sure they are genuine casuals.
This could impose a real burden on employers in sectors that rely heavily on a casual workforce, such as retail and hospitality.
A new definition of employment itself?
Another area the government is targeting is the distinction between employer/employee and principal/contractor. Again, this has been a long-litigated and contentious area of employment law.
Under the government’s proposed definition, we’ll see a return to a test based on many factors, effectively expanding the definition of who counts as an employee. This also reverses recent High Court authority, including WorkPac Pty Ltd v Rossato  HCA 23 and Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union v Personnel Contracting Pty Ltd  HCA 1, both of which adopted a narrow definition of who was an employee.
Tied in with this are new ‘same job, same pay’ provisions. These give the Fair Work Commission authority to make orders preventing employers from undercutting the wage provisions of enterprise agreements by using labour-hire workers.
If passed, the new provisions could also impact several sectors, especially those that rely heavily on contractors.
Stronger penalties for underpayment
New ‘wage theft’ provisions in the Closing Loopholes Bill will make deliberately underpaying employees a criminal offence.
The Fair Work Ombudsman will handle any initial investigation and has the power to make ‘snap’ entries. If they find something amiss, the Commonwealth DPP can take legal action based on information from the Australian Federal Police. Prosecutions can start up to six years after the alleged offence, and the penalties are severe – up to 10 years in jail for individuals and fines that could go as high as $7.8 million for companies.
But there is a safety net. The FWO is offering a “cooperation agreement” for businesses that self-report wage theft. This agreement serves as a ‘safe harbour,’ protecting you from further prosecution.
So, while the Bill brings more accountability and stringent rules, it also provides an avenue for rectification for those businesses and individuals that find they have breached the Act.
Greater protections for gig economy workers
The FWC will also be able to set fair minimum standards for ‘employee-like’ workers, such as those working through ride-sharing and food delivery apps. They’ll also be able to hear claims concerning unfair deactivation or termination from a service.
This further regulates one of the most controversial and vulnerable workplace sectors and one that is growing more important to the overall economy.
New rights for union workplace delegates
There are new rules around workplace delegates’ rights and protections, including in employer disputes. Workplace delegates will be allowed ‘reasonable access’ to workplace facilities, as well as to communicate with current and potential union members about industrial matters.
A general protection will also apply to workplace delegates. This includes preventing employers from unreasonably refusing to deal with them. Employers are also prevented from obstructing workplace delegates or misleading them.
Workplace delegates also receive paid time off for training in their role, unless they’re employed by a small business.
Tougher anti-discrimination laws
Stronger protections will apply to workers who face discrimination as a result of family or domestic violence. This aims to bring the Fair Work Act into line with federal anti-discrimination legislation.
Industrial manslaughter laws already exist at the State level. The Closing Loopholes Bill will introduce a federal industrial manslaughter office that could land an individual 25 years in jail. Meanwhile, companies could face fines of up to $18 million if they’re found to be reckless or grossly negligent.
These are just some of the changes that the Closing Loopholes Bill aims to introduce. If enacted, it will bring about new responsibilities for most employers and change the definition of many workplace tests.
That’s why it’s vital you stay on top of the legislation, especially if you have a high number of contractors or casual staff.
If you’d like to know more about the impact this is likely to have on your workplace, get in touch.
The start of a new financial year also brings new changes to Human Resources. We explore five key ones likely to impact your workplace.
1. Super changes once again
From 1 July 2023, the Superannuation Guarantee Contribution (SGC) is going up again. This time to 11%.
The SGC will continue to increase by 0.5% every year until we reach 12% in FY2026.
The other change to super includes an increase to the contribution base to $62,270 a quarter. This effectively means once someone’s salary hits $249,080 a year you no longer have to make super contributions on that portion of their salary over the contribution base.
The concessional contributions cap remains unchanged at $27,500.00.
2. The new minimum wage is in effect
From 1 July 2023, the National Minimum Wage goes up 5.75%, an increase of $70.20. That means the least you can pay anyone is $23.23 an hour or $882.80 a week for a 38-hour working week. For a casual, the minimum hourly rate is $29.04 per hour.
3. Unfair dismissal threshold raised again
High-income earners don’t have access to our federal unfair dismissal laws and generally speaking, can’t bring a claim in the Fair Work Commission. The cap for what constitutes a high-income earner has been raised again, from $162,000 to $167,500.
Just remember, exceeding the threshold doesn’t mean an employee has no rights if you terminate their employment. They can still access the Fair Work Act’s General Protection provisions.
The maximum amount of compensation the FWC can award has also been raised by $2,750 – from $81,000 to $83,750.
4. Changes to tax-free thresholds on redundancy payments
From 1 July 2023, the tax-free redundancy thresholds have increased to $11,985 plus $5,994 for every year of service. For a genuine redundancy, these thresholds are important when working out what an affected employee’s take-home payments are likely to be.
5. Expect more legislation changes in the new financial year
It’s fair to say that 2023 saw some of the most significant changes to the Fair Work Act since its inception in 2009. And it appears these tranches of changes are not ending any time soon. Shortly we are expecting to see the Protecting Worker Entitlement Bill to pass through royal assent.
We will keep you updated on these changes as they come through.
Are you FY24 ready?
As FY24 begins, there are plenty of Human Resources -related changes that businesses need to be on top of. If you have any questions regarding the changes or are keen to find out how they could impact you or your business, speak with one of the Catalina Consultant team members today.
New legislation allowing employees access to 10 days of Paid Family and Domestic Violence Leave (FSVL) applies for large business from today, 1 February 2023. What does this mean for employers?
Firstly, what’s changed?
- Full-time, part-time and casual employees will be able to access 10 days of paid family and domestic violence leave in a 12-month period (FDVL)
- Previously, only full-time and part-time employees could access FDVL and only up to 5 days of unpaid leave in a 12-month period
- The full 10-day leave entitlement will be available upfront and can be taken in a single block or in any other manner
- There is no length of service requirement or qualifying period
- The leave does not accumulate year-to-year
- There are now tighter rules about information that must not be included on an employee’s pay slip relating to paid FDVL in order to preserve confidentiality
What is FDV?
Violent, threatening or other abusive behaviour by an employee’s close relative, a current or former intimate partner, or a member of their household, that:
- seeks to coerce or control the employee;
- or causes them harm or fear
Who is included?
- Spouse or former spouse, de facto partner or former de facto partner
- Child, Parent, Grandparent, Grandchild or Sibling
- A child, parent, grandparent, grandchild or sibling of an employee’s current or former spouse or de facto partner,
- A person related to the employee according to Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander kinship rules
- Intimate partners (even if not living together), or
When can it be accessed?
Full-time, part-time and casual employees may apply for FDVL if:
- they experience family and domestic violence
- they need to do something to deal with the impact of the family and domestic violence
- it is impractical to deal with the family and domestic violence outside their ordinary hours of work
What evidence is required?
An employer can ask their employee for evidence that shows the employee took the leave to deal with family and domestic violence
If the employee doesn’t provide the requested evidence, they may not get FDVL
The evidence has to convince a reasonable person that the employee took the leave to deal with the impact of family and domestic violence
Types of evidence
- documents issued by the police service
- documents issued by a court (AVO/ADVO CAN’s)
- family violence support service documents, or
- a statutory declaration
What about Confidentiality?
New regulations prohibit employees from including information concerning FDVL on employees’ pay slips (Regulations)
This includes information about the employee taking FDVL, including leave records as well as any evidence provided by the employee
Payroll systems must be set up to ensure non-disclosure in leave records and on payslips
Pay slips must not mention FDVL, including any leave taken and leave balances
What are the obligations of an employer?
- FDVL is now an NES entitlement
- FDVL has strict record-keeping requirements
- A contravention of these requirements by an employer can lead to civil penalties
- $16,500 for individual; $82,500 for corporation
- FDVL poses general protections risks in that someone may not be treated adversely due to accessing FDVL.
What should employers do now?
We recommend that all businesses take the following actions immediately:
- Update your employment contracts
- Update your Family and Domestic Violence Leave Policy
- Communicate the changes to all employees
- Update your induction processes to ensure all new employees understand the policy and how to seek support
- Ensure your payroll and finance systems are compliant with confidentiality requirements
We are here to help you with any of these changes. Reach out if we can offer you support.
As we head towards the holiday season, it’s fair to say that 2022 was yet another big year for Australia’s workplaces. We look back at seven HR issues that have helped shape the previous 12 months.
1. Labour shortages
Perhaps the most important factor that shaped Australia’s workforce over the past year has been our labour market. With the unemployment rate sitting below 3.5% and with immigration slowing thanks to COVID-19 restrictions of the past two years, many industries and employers have faced a full-blown labour crisis. In fact, a lot of employers have struggled to get new workers while others have failed to keep their existing ones without offering significant pay increases.
It’s at times like these that both recruitment and retention strategies take on a whole new importance. So, if you’re not doing what you can to optimise your workplace culture and keep employees happy and productive, now is the time to start.
2. A new government
In May, the Albanese-led Labor government took office, bringing with them a different approach to industrial relations This included a renewed emphasis on job security and gender equality.
In early September, the government also hosted a Jobs Summit in which it committed to multi-employer bargaining, as well as changes to the ‘better off overall’ test the Fair Work Commission uses when creating Awards.
To help alleviate labour shortages (see 1 above), the government also announced it planned to lift the number of skilled workers it would accept from overseas.
3. Elevation of psychological risks
Mental health has been a major issue in Australia’s workplaces for some time. However, this year, the NSW government made it mandatory for employers to assess the workplace for psychological risks (and protect their employees from them). This elevates psychological harm to the same level as physical harm under NSW law, and means employers have new obligations in the field.
So if you haven’t already assessed the psychological risks in your workplace and taken steps to rectify them, do so as soon as possible.
4. Clarity on contractors
Towards the end of last year, the High Court handed down its Workpac decision, which means that this year – finally – employees have had a higher degree of certainty over their employee obligations.
The distinction between casual and permanent employees is now more obvious, especially when combined with the former government’s legislation around transitioning from casual to permanent. That meant employers could act with a bit more confidence when it came to staffing issues this year.
5. Diversity comes of age
Diversity has been a major issue in our workplaces for some time. However, 2022 was the year that it finally became a workplace priority for many of Australia’s employers. And why wouldn’t it have? Diverse companies are shown to “lure better talent and improve their decision making, customer orientation and employee satisfaction” – all major considerations in a job market like the current one.
6. The workplace changes
While COVID-19 is still with us, 2022 was a year of less disruption than 2020 or 2021. We didn’t have the lockdowns or border closures or anything else that impacted our businesses in quite the same way as we became used to in the two preceding years.
And yet, this didn’t mean we went back to how things were pre-pandemic. Instead, we still kept many of the workplace practices that had been developed over the past two years. A lot of workplaces have adopted more flexibility, with employees using a hybrid model of working both from the office and from home. Some have even abandoned the physical office altogether – or at least now only ask employees to come in once a fortnight or once a month.
This has presented new challenges for managers and business owners, but it’s also introduced new efficiencies – especially when it comes to communication. In many cases, it’s also made output and productivity the main gauges of employee performance.
7. Outsourcing becomes even bigger
With labour shortages and flexible working now very much part of our daily lives, we’ve noticed outsourcing is also on the rise too. To some extent, we believe that’s because employers are now used to having high-quality work performed offsite. But we also think it’s part of a push to keep costs down in light of rising wages and high inflation.
Either way, outsourcing functions – including HR – was a major trend we noticed this year and one we believe is likely to continue in 2023.
If you’d like to know more about outsourcing your HR function, get in touch.
The year’s end is fast approaching, but there are still several HR-related things you need to do before everyone clocks off for the summer break. To help, we’ve created this checklist of the six things you should do to get your HR function right before 2023 arrives.
1. Take stock
With limited time left between now and the end of the year, you should map out exactly what needs to be done. That means, of course, factoring in routine HR tasks such as payroll. But it shouldn’t just be about doing the bare minimum. There’s still probably enough time to get other, more strategic things done too. That could include things like developing recruitment and training plans, working on employee engagement strategies (it’s going to continue to be one of the biggest issues next year) and other important HR tasks.
That said, you’re unlikely to get absolutely everything you want to complete before the break, so work out what your main priorities are and what you need to do to make them happen. Use the tried and trusted technique of ranking each task as ‘Urgent/Non-urgent’, ‘Important/Not important’, and focus on those that are urgent or important.
If some of your big picture stuff is important but can wait until the New Year, work out what you can realistically do this year to progress it, so that you don’t have a mountain of work to come back to once the holidays end.
This can be an unproductive time in some workplaces as people get that ‘end of term’ feeling. But, as a business owner or manager, you can’t afford to let things slide. So let people know your expectations between now and the end of the year. Don’t be oppressive about it – you want people to be happy AND productive But you need to make sure they also get through the work that has to be done. You should also let people know your expectations around the holiday period. Are you closing down for a while? Do you expect people to take leave? If so, let them know.
Over-communicating is always better than under-communicating.
4. Throw a party
You’ve probably organised your workplace party by now. But if you haven’t, there’s still time to do something. No matter how small your workplace, or busy you are, celebrating the end of year is an important point in the calendar and something your people deserve.
Even if it’s just a lunch or some informal drinks, make sure you get people together before the holidays start to reflect on, and celebrate, the year that was.
5. Say thank you
Speaking of which, this is the time of year you need to say thanks (and your office party/lunch is an important part of that). For many of us, 2022 has been another trying year, and it’s important you let people know they’re appreciated.
Saying thank you is important for your workplace culture, as well as for employee productivity and wellbeing.
It’s also important for you as a manager or owner, because it boosts your productivity and wellbeing too. As the Harvard Business Review notes, “Gratitude is good for you.”
So compile a list of the highlights of the past year, who’s been involved in them. And celebrate them either at the end-of-year function or in a company-wide communication. (Or both.) Just be sure to thank everyone for their efforts this year.
6. Get your HR ready for 2023
Finally, it’s worth remembering that while the year may change, the work goes on. There’s nothing worse than arriving back from holidays with a pile of work on the proverbial desk. So, going back to step one above, gear up for what lies ahead by drawing up a list of what needs to be done in 2023.
Make headway into it now if you can, before you go on leave. And plan out what you can’t get through so that you don’t place yourself under unnecessary stress when you arrive back in the new year.
Have a great holidays. If you’d like to know more about HR strategies for the rundown to the end of 2022, get in touch.
Employers often use restraints of trade to try to stop employees from taking their confidential information to a competitor and gaining an unfair advantage over them. But just how enforceable are they?
A recent New South Wales Court of Appeal (NSWCA) found that whether a restraint of trade is enforceable depends on whether you’re trying to protect a legitimate interest, as well as factors such as their duration and an employee’s seniority.
The background to the case
The case started with a familiar scenario – a senior sales manager left his employer to work for a competitor. However, his employment contract contained three clauses: a confidentiality clause, an ‘exclusive employment clause’ (this said he must devote his time and attention to the employer during business hours and promote its best interests), and a restraint of trade.
The restraint of trade clause was one of the typical ‘cascading’ ones that employers sometimes use that allow for ‘12 months’, ‘9 months’, ‘6 months’, etc, in the hope that a court will enforce the most reasonable duration.
When the employee left and worked for a competitor, the employer alleged he broke all three of these clauses in his contract.
He then failed to comply with the notice of termination clause of the contract, which provided for three months that he would not work in direct competition. Instead, he started working for the competitor within four weeks of leaving. He also helped the competitor poach a more junior employee who was subject to a similar restraint of trade clause.
The former employer brought proceedings in the Supreme Court of NSW (the NSWSC) alleging the employee – and the employee he poached – had breached their employment contracts. It received interlocutory orders (that is, temporary orders), which prevented the employees from working for the competitor until the court decided the case.
The court eventually handed down a decision in the employer’s favour. It found:
- The employee breached his employment contract when he worked for the competitor within his three-month notice period.
- A nine-month restraint was reasonable and, therefore, enforceable in both contracts.
- The employee breached the ‘exclusive employment clause’ when he helped the competitor poach another employee.
The employee appealed the NSWSC’s decision in the NSW Court of Appeal.
The appeal: Are restraints of trade enforceable?
The Court of Appeal noted that restraints were only enforceable insofar as they protected an employer’s reasonable interests for a reasonable amount of time.
In this case, the employer had a legitimate interest in protecting its confidential information from a competitor, including its marketing plans and potential weaknesses in its product. As the employee was senior and privy to this information, it was, therefore, reasonable to restrain him from a competitor for nine months.
However, it also noted that the employee he helped poach was more junior and did not have any awareness of the company’s confidential information. It wasn’t reasonable to restrain him from working for a competitor because he could not damage its legitimate interest.
The Court of Appeal also found that the employee breached his notice of termination provision. He had also breached his contractual and fiduciary duties to his former employer when he helped poach the employee.
The Court of Appeal also found that because the competitor had encouraged the employee to breach his fiduciary duty, it, too, was liable.
What the case means for you as an employer
There are times you can rely on restraints of trade to protect your confidential information, but they need to be proportionate, and they can’t be used as a ‘catch all’ to try to limit who employees can work for. You’re also far more likely to find they’re enforceable against senior employees.
It’s always a good idea to have restraints drafted properly by your legal adviser. It’s also often a good idea to use ‘cascading’ clauses – based both on duration and geography – so that a court will enforce appropriate terms rather than ‘striking out’ an unreasonable restraint.
Also. if you’re hiring an employee from a competitor and they have a restraint, proceed with caution. If possible, have your legal adviser check their restraint over before you sign them up.
If you’d like to know more about restraints of trade, get in touch.
Alternatively, you can read the full decision here.
The Royal Commission into Financial Services has been sending shockwaves through Australia’s banking and finance sector. But it’s not just bankers who can learn some valuable lessons from the stories that have been emerging. Some of the key takeaways are just as relevant for human resources (HR) and business owners and managers too.
How the Royal Commission affects HR
The Commission has been unveiling some jaw-dropping revelations about bad business practices and the unethical treatment of customers. This has thrust into the spotlight human resources staff working for banks, insurers, super funds and financial advisers. There’s been some seriously bad stuff going on, and the resulting public relations nightmare is also an HR nightmare.
Spotlighting on financial services, it’s easy seeing how any industry could be similarly affected by unethical or underhanded practices. Take, for instance, the recent media reports in the food industry over fake honey, or the fashion industry’s struggle with ethical manufacturing.
Here are three key lessons for people from any industry.
At its most basic level, HR is all about managing people – and wherever people are involved, the art of communication is key. What the Royal Commission shows above pretty much anything else is a failure of financial institutions to communicate effectively — whether that’s within their organisations, with their staff or externally with customers.
Internally, a lack of communication around accountability has resulted in compliance issues and cultural problems, including permissiveness when it comes to overcharging customers. Externally, a failure to communicate effectively meant customers often signed up for products without knowing any of the terms and conditions of what they’ve signed up for.
And that, in turn, led to unacceptable risk in a sector that was supposed to be all about stability, sobriety and sensibleness.
When mistakes happen — and, in the banks, it seems they were happening all the time — sweeping them under the carpet or failing to acknowledge them only compounds them over the long term. The right ethical approach — and the best business one — is to admit to them with effective, prompt, proactive and timely communication with customers.
The shambolic state of compliance with many financial institutions has been another of the Royal Commission’s key themes. In short, many of the organisations under scrutiny preferred saving money or generating profits rather than following their obligations under the law.
From an HR perspective, nothing should be more important than operating on the right side of the rules and regulations. As a starting point, this means making sure those rules and regulations inform your organisation’s HR policies and procedures.
But it also means having gatekeepers who will actually enforce these HR policies and procedures too. That’s where the banks fell down. Too often their gatekeepers failed to raise red flags – or at least failed to wave them vigorously enough – when they saw bad things happening.
This is one of the more common issues we see among other businesses too. If your organisation has rules and regulations there needs to be accountability, escalation procedures and reporting around them. The buck has to stop somewhere. If it doesn’t you’re leaving yourself wide open to claims such as bullying, harassment, unfair dismissal and more. You’re also inviting, even courting, bad publicity. And that can hurt your bottom line more than any fine ever could.
Every business needs the right environment, or culture, for success. The Royal Commission has at times unveiled a culture of short-term gain – often at the customers’ expense – that’s deeply embedded within the culture and psyche of financial organisations.
Sometimes this culture has sprung up as a result of badly structured incentive schemes related to remuneration or performance; other times it has simply been a sales-driven, alpha culture that fails to place the customer first.
If your organisation doesn’t have the right culture right now to satisfy your customers and grow your business, what do you need to fix? Do your remuneration structures encourage a culture of risk-taking? Do they take into account the psychology behind your staff’s motivation and the long-term effect on your business? Are you in control of your workplace culture or is it controlling you? Do all your people engage wholeheartedly in what you do, and do it ethically and responsibly?
Remember, nothing is more important to your organisation’s success than its culture. And as an HR person or business owner/manager, you’re the one directly responsible for building it.
Want to build a healthier culture in your workplace?
If you’re looking to better your organisation, then speak with the team at Catalina Consultants. We’re the human resources experts and can put together a bespoke plan to improve your workplace’s culture. Talk to us today.
In the early stages of a business, most owners and managers focus on growth – almost to the exclusion of everything else. But by spending a little time on your human resources (HR) upfront, and then re-examining where you’re at along the way, you can save a lot of headaches and create a more dynamic, successful and profitable business.
There are many examples of startups where neglect for human resources, led to serious issues down the track. Some of the more high profile ones include Uber’s alleged sexist workplace culture to Twitter’s alleged lack of diversity. And these were startups that had already made it big. More common are the ones whose issues get in the way well ahead of that, hampering the business so that it never reaches its potential
It makes sense to make your HR a priority from day one: the first employees you hire are likely to be the most important ones you’ll ever employ. The culture you build together will be the one that permeates through the whole business and, if it’s the wrong one it can take seriously expensive surgery to fix it.
But it also makes sense to keep reviewing and making sure your people and your policies continue to serve your business the right way all the way through your journey.
With that in mind, here’s what I think you should be doing and when implementing your HR procedures:
1. When you’re starting out
When you’re starting out you’re usually looking for work, so it can be hard to envision the day you’ll be so busy with it that you won’t have time to scratch yourself. But, if you do things right, that’s exactly what will happen. And, if you haven’t put the fundamentals in place now, retrofitting them over an existing business will be trickier. That’s why, when you’re opening the doors, I think it pays to look at:
- The technology and systems you’re using. Set up your payroll properly and invest in software that can grow with your business. You should also consider which human resources management tools you’ll use. The best let you manage everything from leave and training to performance. If you can avoid working with word and excel from the outset, do so. Going paperless now will save you from having to transfer everything to a new system down the track.
- Your policies and procedures. I know you probably want to keep things reasonably flexible and personal when you’re brand new but the day will come when that won’t work. So put the policies and procedures in place that you’d have if you had 50 people working for you, not five. Go beyond the statutory minimums and try to make sure they reflect the culture you’d like to have. For instance, if you’re big on flexible work put down the way you see it working from day one.
- Defined roles and responsibilities. Map out what everyone in it does and let them know what you expect of them. Then spend time drawing up an organisational chart that reflects this. Better still, put together two of them – the one you’d like to have in the future as well as the one you have today. That way, when you do have to hire, you should already have a firm idea of what you’re looking for and be better able to slot people in.
- Recruitment. Employing the wrong people will be the most serious drag on your business. Employing the right ones will be the most important step in your journey to success. So look at recruitment right from the start. Define the kind of employees you want and the core values you want them to have. But don’t leave it theoretical – go out and start looking for them. I’m serious. Even if you can’t hire anyone right now, why not post to uni job boards and similar so that people know who you are, what you do and what you’ll eventually be looking for. Speak to them informally and tell them where you’re at. That way, when you do need to hire, you’ll have a bank of eager graduates waiting to come and work for you.
2. A year or two into your HR journey
Hopefully, now things are chugging along. And hopefully, also, those HR steps you took when you first started out have helped keep you on track. But you’ll probably be facing some practical issues that you never reckoned on: the employee who keeps calling in sick, the person whose skills aren’t what you thought they were or the star performer who ups and leaves.
Here’s what I think you should be doing about now:
- Review and update what you’re doing. Now is the time to look at everything you did on day one to make sure it’s still working for you. Are your policies and procedures still working? Does your org chart still reflect where you want to be or has the business pivoted? Some of what you look at may make you cringe. Other stuff may make you pat yourself on the back for how right you got it.
- Focus on culture. You’re in a phase of business now where culture really starts to matter. So take the time to assess what yours looks like. Are people happy in their roles, energised by their work and making a real contribution? If not, why not? Is there something you can do to improve things? Is it time for a team bonding day or retreat? Do you need to look at what you’re paying people?
- Refine your disciplinary procedures. It’s about now that you’ll probably have to start doing what you hoped never to do: start performance managing people and potentially even sacking them. This is one of the toughest things a business owner has to do.
- Encourage talent. You’re probably starting to get a feel for which employees will drive your business to the next level and which simply won’t. So this is the time to encourage the people who are making a real contribution to your business. Let them know how much they’re needed. Be prepared to invest in a bit of training for them to help them advance their careers and your business. And start helping them step up where you can.
- Call on outside help. You’re probably also starting to recognise that doing everything HR-related yourself is a big ask. So be prepared to call on outside help when you need.
3. Three-to-five years down the track
By now you’ve grown to the point where it’s simply impossible to be across all the detail for every employee. It’s also when people and culture issues really come home to bite. Here’s what you should be thinking of about now:
- Leadership capability. You’re probably going to need to involve others in the strategy of the business now, as well as in its day-to-day operations. You might even be considering getting in CEO or managing director to take over the running of the show. The biggest decision you’ll likely have to make is whether to hire internally or externally and there are real advantages and disadvantages to each. Generally, a good place to start is to look at what skills you have in-house and what’s missing. Are the things you need teachable? Could any of your existing employees get there with a bit of help or are you better off looking elsewhere? This is when a good lateral hiring policy starts to become vital too.
- Training plans. Tied in with this, I think a more mature business should also take a more formal approach to training. Make sure every person in the business has a training plan which will help them progress to where they and you want them to be.
- Performance appraisals. You should also now have a formal system for assessing performance. Whether that’s a traditional performance appraisal twice a year or a more regular and consistent system is up to you. But it should now be transparent and easy to follow so that staff know where they stand and what needs improving.
- Salary and remuneration. When you first started out this was probably transparent enough – people could see how the business was performing and how their personal remuneration tied into that. Now, it needs some thinking through. If you don’t have a proper profit share or bonus arrangement, especially for key staff, this is when to do it.
4. Once you’re big
It may be tempting to take a breather and sit back but I can tell you that now’s the time you’ll notice everything that didn’t go to plan. How nice it would have been to have had a crystal ball back at start.
This is often the point where businesses change direction, where experiments didn’t happen or when the ground shifts beneath their feet. So it’s also when you often have to start thinking about redundancies and letting people go, not just hiring them.
It’s also when you should probably invest in tech solutions that will help you make things more efficient – not just throwing people at every problem.
Finally, it’s when your core values start to shine through. These should now be the rudder that guides you through growth so go back and look at them. Make sure you still stand for what you said you were going to stand for. Ensure that your people and their metrics for success match these too.
Ultimately, that’s what business success should look like: doing the work you want to do for people you want to do it for without ever compromising what you stand for.
See how we might be able to advise you when it comes to your HR
No matter which stage of business you’re at, we’d love to see how we might be able to assist with your HR capabilities. Get in touch with us today.
In the age of LinkedIn profiles and email, it’s tempting to think that there’s no need for a cover letter. I’d argue the opposite is true. In fact, when it comes to human resources, I think it’s more important than ever. It’s a great opportunity to demonstrate how you’re the perfect candidate for that new job you’ve always wanted.
Are cover letters required in HR anymore?
I could be going out on a limb here, some HR professionals have declared the cover letter dead. And figures from a Jobvite survey last year in the US show many job applicants agree. Actually, 47% of Americans didn’t use a cover letter when they applied for the job they’re currently in.
Also, the younger you are the more likely you are not to bother with one. With 58% of those aged between 18-22, don’t send a cover letter.
This is certainly a trend here in Australia when we recruit for our clients or for ourselves at Catalina Consultants. Many applicants leave off a cover letter, assuming their CV or LinkedIn profile will do all the convincing for them. But it’s not a wise idea.
I’m not saying it’s impossible to get a job without one. Many people succeed in getting a job based on their CV alone. And some companies using an online system for applications allow no space to add one. So there are circumstances in which you safely say you won’t need a cover letter.
But in most situations, speaking from experience in HR, if you leave a cover letter out you run the risk of someone who values them ignoring your application altogether just because it is undifferentiated from the pile other applications they’ve received.
Why we need cover letters for talent recruitment
That’s what a good cover letter does. It shows why you’re different to everyone else who’s applied. Explains why I should read your CV in the first place. It draws the connections between what you’ve done – your education, skills, experience and past career – and the job you’re applying for.
In doing so, it makes the HR department or recruiter’s job easy by doing the heavy lifting and letting you explain yourself up front so that you’re on the front foot when it comes to helping them form an opinion of you.
What it does for talent recruitment
While a CV is somewhat formulaic and static no matter what the job is, a cover letter is bespoke. It lets you talk about the specific role and argue your case. Why choose me?
It’s no easy task to write a good one (which is one of the main reasons I think many people prefer to skip it altogether). But here are the key characteristics I think a good cover:
- is short: a maximum of one page or four paragraphs – no more.
- provides context: it’s your chance to take control and state your case by showing why your skills and experience are relevant.
- is personal: you should use it to introduce yourself and show a bit of flair (just don’t go crazy). You can also be less formal and more direct than you’d be in a CV.
- is a chance to show off: it should be your opportunity to demonstrate some of the skills you say you have – like written communication skills.
- should show you understand the organisation and the role: write about what is entailed in the job and how it relates to your skills, so the recruiter knows that you haven’t just applied for everything advertised.
- is unique: it should never just regurgitate your CV but can be used to highlight something you think may be overlooked or ignored in your CV.
- can help you explain: put in context your experience, your career journey and any career breaks, study breaks or career changes.
- should be persuasive without being arrogant: use your narrative to engage your reader and show why you’re interested in this job above all others.
- lets you reveal your knowledge: write about the area, issue, brand or company – whatever it is that matters – and demonstrate your enthusiasm and excitement at the opportunity you’re applying for.
Make your cover letter recruitment worthy
I know, I know. It’s hard to do all of this in four paragraphs. When I said it wasn’t going to be easy I wasn’t lying. But use your judgement. The right ingredients for your cover letter will depend on you personally, the job you’re applying for, and the company and industry it’s in. The nice thing about cover letters is there’s no right or wrong: it’s about introducing yourself and presenting yourself in the best possible light so you have the best chance of showing you’re a good fit for the role and snaring yourself that all-important interview.
Keen to find out more?
If you’d like to know more about what to look for in a cover letter or have any questions about HR or talent recruitment, then get in touch.