By Natasha Hawker
People often ask me, if I could get one thing right around my people strategy, what would it be? Unfortunately, there is not one strategy that fixes everything. For example, I had a client that I initially went in to one day a week, to help with the HR for a period of six months; this business has eleven permanent employees and six contractors. We were still there two years later and the reason for this is that the Managing Director believes his business was running more efficiently and productively with this proactive focus on the people aspect. So what are the keys to success?
- Focus on the People – People are critical to the success of your business and you should never underestimate how much having the best team working with you can impact your results. Ensure that your people know both the Vision, Mission & Core Values of the business and that you regularly celebrate their successes. Communicate, communicate, communicate and invest time in managing your team
- Adverse Action – This is where an employee can bring an Adverse Action claim where a workplace right has been breached or is threatened to be breached. Adverse action is the ‘sleeping assassin’ and it is critical that you understand this legislation and the potential implications for your business so that you can protect against such claims. The onus of proof is reversed, that is, it is deemed that you are guilty until you prove you and your company innocent. Claims could be brought around discrimination, refusing to offer employment or injuring an employee. Claims can be brought within 6 years and payouts are uncapped
- Policy Manuals – The benefits are that everyone knows the rules and there is a consistency of application however, the risk is compliance; that if you have a Policy you must follow the policy at all times. If an employee was to bring a complaint to the Fair Work Ombudsman you would need to show that you have followed your policy correctly.
- Employment Contracts – You need to ensure that your employment contracts are reviewed and updated every two years, especially if there is a change in legislation. I would encourage you to ensure that you are protected around intellectual property, confidentiality and client and employee-poaching. Remember that any new employee must be sent a copy of the Fair Work Information Statement when they start otherwise you are in breach of the Fair Work Act
- Engagement -In the Australian workplace at the moment 63% of employees are Not Engaged, that is not happy and they just do their job; 20% are disengaged which means not sufficiently challenged – funnily enough these are usually the really smart people. The sad thing is that only 17% of employees are engaged; these people are happy and love their job! These employees have much fewer health risks and possibly take lower levels of personal leave. The trick here is to survey your people regularly to understand your team’s Engagement Factor and then develop an action plan to improve Engagement. Just an increase of a couple of percentage points can have an incrementally positive effect to your bottom line
- Accountability – It is very important that your team are accountable for their work and that you manage their performance both informally and formally. From a formal Performance Appraisal perspective, this does not have to be a complicated or convoluted process. It can be as simple as meeting twice a year to discuss three things; What they do well? What they need to focus on?; Where do they want to go? Never forget the power of a simple ‘Well done George your work on that project was superb’. This is hugely motivating to team members
- Terminations – This is an area that managers typically avoid; they know who their poor performers are but are reticent to actively manage performance, let alone terminate someone who is a long term non-performer. This also has a detrimental effect on other team members who end up carrying the load. By all means seek advice about how to terminate appropriately but small businesses, or any business for that matter, cannot afford to retain non-performers
- Recruitment – In Australia, the current unemployment rate is 5.2% – thus it is a tight applicant market and you need to be targeting the passive candidate who is not actively looking for a job. You need a very proactive recruiter who knows your business and can tap into social media such as LinkedIn to find the perfect new employee
- Coaching for Performance – Investing in a coach to increase employee performance and ultimately create high performing teams is a cost-effective way to increase productivity. In the example I mentioned at the beginning of the article, coaching was the main tool used to improve teamwork, customer service and individual performance
- Business Plan – What are your 1 year and 5 year business plans and are you reviewing and actively working to these goals? Or are they documents that you wrote years ago and haven’t looked at since. Or, for that matter, you have not written as yet. I have heard it said that the difference between a millionaire and a billionaire is that the millionaire reviews their goals once a day and the billionaire reviews them twice a day. You need to remain focused on the goals of the business
So make improving your HR People Strategy one of your Top 5 goals for FY 2012 and see the results flow on from this. Exceed your expectations; excite and engage your employees so they help your business to excel!