Employee expert and author says business owners need to learn how to hire properly and should undertake Appropriate Workplace Behaviour training in light of #metoo.
The author of a new book - From Hire to Fire & Everything in Between - claims "the majority of business owners are terrible at recruiting."
Natasha Hawker, the founder and director of Employee Matters, which provides employee support to businesses around Australia, says poor recruiting means business owners often bring on employees "that are unable to do what they thought they could do or are not a cultural match to the business."
This not only leads to poor productivity but can even lead to costly unfair dismissal claims. With the #MeToo movement gaining momentum, Christmas party season fast approaching and new domestic violence leave entitlements in place, Natasha, who has 23 years' experience in human resources, people management and employment relations, felt the timing was right to launch a new edition of her HR bible.
First released in 2015, From Hire to Fire & Everything in Between, is the only book of its kind in Australia to help small to medium business owners navigate hiring, managing and exiting employees. Entertaining and easy-to-read, the book reveals the secrets to finding, building and maintaining engaged, high performance teams - increasing productivity and profitability by up to 20 per cent.
Equally, it teaches business owners how to have those difficult conversations and exit employees easily, fairly and legally, avoiding company fines of up to $63,000 and personal fines of up to $12,600. "Your employees are your biggest opportunity to make your business successful. They can also be your greatest liability," Natasha says.
She says hiring and managing the right employees, dismissing poor performers and keeping compliant with everchanging workplace laws can be an ongoing challenge.
"Research consistently shows that people issues are the primary cause of headaches for most businesses."
"There are legal challenges to be faced within employment law; there's the cost of hiring and managing employees, whilst trying to avoid and prevent discrimination, bullying and terminations – to name just a few," she says.
"This book aims to remove those headaches by equipping business owners with the knowledge and advice they need to manage employees - from hiring and getting the most out of them, right through to exiting staff."
Natasha Hawker has held numerous human resources and recruitment roles over the past two decades, including for global management consulting firm Accenture, in London, India and Australia, before launching Employee Matters in December 2011. She has presented at conferences and for organisations across the globe, on all aspects of HR, people management and employment relations and has facilitated Appropriate Workplace Behaviour courses as a qualified Train the Trainer. She is also regularly quoted as an expert on employee matters in the national media, including for the ABC and in the Sydney Morning Herald.
From Hire to Fire and Everything in Between
Author: Natasha Hawker
Question: What inspired you to write 'From Hire to Fire & Everything in Between?'
Natasha Hawker: At present 99% of businesses in Australia are small (97% employing up to 19 employees) to medium (2% employing 20-199) using the employment measure. Yet in terms of government or financial support for what they do, it's limited at best. Starting, growing and managing a successful business is incredibly difficult and most people start because they are passionate about their 'thing' - but growing businesses typically needs a team and this can be very challenging for business owners.
I think that Australian business owners are the hardest working Australians I know - and I also know that there are two things that keep them awake at night - Cash Flow and Employees. SMEs are ending up at the Fair Work Commission in much greater numbers than corporates and there is a reason for that. They don't know the rules and they don't have any HR Support - so they 'wing' it and this can have disastrous consequences.
They are exposed to fines for breaching the FWA of up to $63,000 per breach and personal fines of up to $12,000 per breach.
I wanted to empower them to build great businesses and to be able to sleep better at night and it's my belief that if you build great Employee Assets, you will sleep better at night.
It is my goal to get this book into every single Australian SME business owner's hands to help them increase productivity and profit.
Question: What message do you hope small to medium business owners take from 'From Hire to Fire & Everything in Between?'
Natasha Hawker: It's my belief that their employees are their greatest asset and, also potentially, their greatest liability and should be treated as such. I have written the book as a handbook (read "bible"), that they can quickly reference, for example - "I need to have a difficult conversation with a non-performing employee - how do I do that?"
Question: How can business owners protect their employees with Appropriate Workplace Behaviour training?
Natasha Hawker: We believe that running Appropriate Workplace Behaviour training will drastically reduce the risk of both bullying and sexual harassment complaints. As business owners you have a requirement to protect your employees and provide a safe place to work.
We predicted, as a result of the #MeToo movement, that sexual harassment complaints would increase and they have. This is due to awareness and acceptance that this type of behaviour is not OK. But the sad reality is that according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, 1 in 2 of every Australian woman has experienced sexual harassment during her lifetime.
Running Appropriate Workplace Behaviour training, at least annually, and having your team sign off that they have attended the training, and agree to abide by the policy, will help protect you, your business and your employees. In particular, it helps protect business owners, as they can show that they have met their 'duty of care' obligations by proactively training their employees. For employees, it means that they are working in an environment where they are less likely to experience bullying or sexual harassment.
Question: What extra measures with staff should business owners take during Christmas parties?
Natasha Hawker: Christmas parties are notoriously dangerous places for inappropriate behaviour to occur and what many business owners don't realise is that the office Christmas party is an extension of the workplace. So the same 'workplace' rules apply. You still have a 'duty of care' and responsibility to provide 'a safe place to work'. The Christmas party is considered an extension of the workplace.
The best way to protect you, your team and your business is to:
• Remind your team about your Code of Conduct Policy and confirm that these behaviours are required at the Christmas party as well
• Conduct Appropriate Workplace Behaviour training
• Limit the supply of alcohol and have an end time
• Ensure that people can get home safely, you might consider supplying cabs
• Arrange to have a number of managers look out for the team and ensure that, if anyone does overindulge, they pop them in a cab home
I have been involved in a number of investigations around poor behaviour at Christmas parties and work conferences, which sadly resulted in employees being exited from the business. This is not a great way to end the year.
Question: How is technology in the workplace increasing the number of redundancies?
Natasha Hawker: The Future of Work is here now but different industries are being impacted to varying degrees and yes, technology is responsible for the level of some redundancies increasing.
I have a client that, through the introduction of a new piece of software, has reduced his workforce from 25 employees to seven in the last 12 months and this is likely to further reduce, to him needing just a couple of employees. On the flip side though, there are new roles evolving all the time. Redundancies are a legitimate tool for business owners to manage their workforce requirements as the business changes and evolves.
We need to understand that business is always changing and the future of work is already here. It is important that employees are aware that change is coming and that some industries will be impacted more than others.
Interview by Brooke Hunter
From Hire to Fire and Everything in Between
Author: Natasha Hawker