– Covering the Basics –
It’s sometimes the small stuff that can cause you the biggest headaches and prevent traction towards achieving high performance, or even maintaining equilibrium. Lack of legal compliance and good practice could undermine your company culture and put the whole organisation at risk.
Let me tell you about a case from my personal experience. I was working with an organisation which had an abundance of untapped talent and opportunity. I laid out my broad plans to the senior management team and board about the HR opportunities. The business had been successful and was growing. There was a strong growth plan in place from a commercial perspective which was understood by the senior managers and communicated formally and informally throughout the business. However…
There was an irritating hum below the decks which was distracting. My plans for monthly one-on-one employee performance conversations around objectives and achievements didn’t seem to be getting the feedback required. Plans for developing skills and setting up enterprise-wide development opportunities attracted interest but no one was knocking down my door. Two hot topics – accountability and development – what was wrong?!
I began my investigations with some self-reflection about content and communication. Had I been too focused on the possibilities without noticing the reality of today? In short, yes. Fortunately, this realisation occurred relatively early, which allowed me to gather my team. I explained the situation and asked them to help. What was causing this irritating hum that was distracting from the so-called higher order agenda? It turned out to be compliance, or in fact, the lack of it.
The business had grown so fast that many of its basic functions were struggling to keep up. The payroll system which was designed for a company of a few hundred had a hard time handling the now 2,000 plus employees engaged across many geographic locations. This resulted in late pays and people being paid incorrectly, while basic records and payslips weren’t properly distributed. No wonder people were disengaged! Fortunately, the data was captured, however, the system and processes where not performing. What could be more fundamental than basic payroll compliance? Failing to ensure basic legal compliance and good practice had created a barrier to performance conversations and development – people simply didn’t have faith in the business and more specifically HR (in that case: me) to deliver.
I didn’t cause this lack of compliance with the basics of payroll; however, it was a fundamental error to assume all our practices were compliant and legal. After my ‘Eureka’ moment, the transformation was swift. My team had daily, then weekly compliance meetings, we spoke to employees (as many as possible) and we engaged the senior management team.
In the final analysis, payroll and responding to people’s pay enquiries became a centrepiece of good practice. Yes, we did correct the mistakes and the daily/weekly compliance meetings became a compliance report as part of the payroll process. In the short-term, compliance was fixed from an employee perspective. In the medium term, we upgraded the payroll system and retained the staff while in the long term, a valuable lesson was learnt – never to be repeated! Listen to the hum – its rhythm gives you invaluable clues…
Once the basics were taken care of, guess what? Yes, the trust and confidence had returned due to good transactional HR practices and being compliant. Performance conversations and development took off and were equally successful. The business continued on its high-performance trajectory.
Attend to the basics. If you aren't sure of your employee compliance obligations - ask. If you wish to research them yourself, start with the Fair Work Ombudsman’s website and/or Business Victoria’s website.
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