Spring is upon us: Spring clean your HR
This article appears in the Sep/Oct 2016 issue of Business Franchise Australia & New Zealand
Spring is upon us! What better time to review your people processes? There are a myriad rules and regulations for franchisees to be aware of, especially when it comes to the hiring and managing of people.
Franchisees are often caught up in the day to day running of their businesses and dealing with immediate employee challenges and issues and it can be tempting to let things slide, but this can lead to very costly mistakes. I have always found it perplexing that businesses frequently conduct financial audits, however reviewing HR processes is often something that is pushed to the bottom of the list.
Compliance and dealing with employee issues are probably the two most challenging areas for a small business. There are numerous federal, state and local workplace laws that cover both these areas. Laws cover requirements such as how to store employee files, how to administer leave, when to pay overtime, requirements for classifying exempt and non-exempt employees, how long a meal break must be and more.
Running a business is all consuming and there are countless distractions that take your time and attention away – it’s the old adage that business owners are ‘too busy working in the business to work on the business’. It doesn’t have to be that way though. With a bit of planning and consideration, you can improve your business’s HR processes and the satisfaction of your employees – which will save you time and money in the long run.
To get you started, consider the following questions in the context of your business:
• How do we attract people? Are our attraction strategies working (i.e. are we getting good people into the business)? If not, why not? Should we consider more innovative sourcing methods such as employee referrals, career fairs or social media?
• Do we have a thorough training and induction process? Are our employees made familiar with key policies that will protect us if we find ourselves in a precarious legal situation?
• Do we have robust contracts of employment? When were these last reviewed by an expert?
• Are we paying our employees in line with the relevant award rates? Are we across other provisions of the award such as overtime, meal and break requirements?
• Do we measure our employee’s performance and have regular and meaningful performance conversations? Do our employees know what they need to do to be successful in their role?
• Do we provide employees with sufficient training and development opportunities?
• Are our employees happy and engaged when at work? Are they turning up on time, with a smile and telling their friends that it is a great place to work? If not, do we know why?
• Do we have someone to call when we have an issue we are not sure how to deal with? If we have an employee whose conduct is inappropriate, who is not performing, or who is constantly on sick leave do we know what to do?
Your answers to the above questions will give you a feel for the current state of your HR function. With small steps and the help of experts, you can quickly improve this area. One of the most important aspects of running any sized business is developing a sound human resources strategy that works for the individual company. This helps with efficiency, morale, cost management, and the ongoing continuity of your business practices.
There are some simple ways to ensure your HR function is robust and compliant:
• Develop an HR manual: with a suite of comprehensive policies to ensure compliance with legislation and consistent communication about business rules and practices. This manual will become your business’s bible and a key reference document for employees when they are unsure of a business rule or practice. It also provides you with an opportunity to reinforce your expectations, values and code of conduct.
• Seek feedback from your employees: feedback from employees can give great insights into your culture and where you might be able to improve the employee experience. You can do this by surveying your staff or conducting small focus groups to explore key areas of the employment lifecycle.
• Start reporting on key people metrics: staff turnover, time to hire, reasons for leaving – these are all very useful metrics to monitor and allow you to continuously improve.
• Engage an expert: either in-house or outsourced – to provide ongoing or ad hoc support when you need technical expertise. This will give you peace of mind that no matter what happens, you have mitigated the risk of the business being exposed in the event of a claim.
• Ensure you are familiar with the relevant award: Fair Work Australia has a plethora of resources on its website including an award finder www.fwa.com.au
• Ensure your employees are trained regularly in OH&S, EEO and bullying and harassment so that they are well versed in being able to recognise inappropriate workplace behaviour and know what to do if they are on the receiving end.
• Ask a HR or legal expert to review your employment contracts and ensure they are best supporting the business. This is something that should occur with some regularity as laws and practices relating to employment change often and it is important that contracts are watertight.
The above may sound overwhelming to implement if you do not have a dedicated HR person on staff. If your business is under around 50 employees, you probably don’t need to employ an HR professional on staff. There are other options for ensuring that your HR is managed well.
The easiest approach is to assign HR duties to a manager or someone else who manages the day-to-day operations of the business. It is important that this person attend regular HR seminars. There are a lot of free webinars and low cost local seminars that cover HR topics. Local seminars are a great way to network with people in HR — people who could be a good resource later on when you have an HR question.
HR consultants can also provide support to small businesses but regardless of what approach you take to cover your HR needs, including HR as part of your business strategy will ensure compliance with applicable workplace laws. It will also provide a structure for communicating and implementing good workplace practices with employees.
Owning or starting a new business can be exciting, but also daunting. However, it doesn’t have to be a nerve-wracking experience. Set up a healthy HR function as an essential tool in your business strategy to save you precious time and money, so you can get on with the job of growing your business.
EMILY MANLEY is an HR Specialist with HR Central, a business that provides Human Resources services and solutions to SME’s and Franchise operations Australia-wide.
Emily has worked with a diverse range of organisations across a variety of industries during her 14 years of consulting in both the private and public sectors including: Foxtel, Australian Red Cross, NSW Government and Allens – a top tier Melbourne law firm. Emily holds a Bachelor of Business with majors in HRM and Marketing.
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