Thursday, 15 December 2016

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas Gifts

A friend of mine has a garbage truck driver who every week toots his horn and waves to her kids, who are watching him with delight through their lounge room window. She wanted to give him a 6 pack of beer as a Christmas gift.
The idea of this filled me with terror for the poor man.
Because he is a public servant, and as such, will be bound by a "no gifts" policy. This means he either needs to refuse the gift (which some people feel awkward and embarrassed about doing), take the gift and then hand it in with some paperwork to the compliance group at the office (time consuming), or take the gift knowing that he is breaching the council's policy and run the risk of being caught and reprimanded. You may think that risk is small, but there are plenty of neighbours and workmates around who may report it. Not usually because they are malicious, but maybe because they are bound to by the same Company policies (you never know who of your neighbours work for the council!).

"Bah Humbug!"

Yes, I hear you, but just because you don't agree with a rule doesn't mean you should give a gift that puts someone in a compromising position. 

Do all public servants have a no gift policy?

Some have a value cap on gifts, and you can find this easily by looking at their website. But more and more, there is a blanket no gift policy for those working in the council, or State/Federal public sector. This is because if you have a $ amount as a cap, who determines what that gift is worth? For example, is a diary worth $20, $50, etc. It also means you need to hire staff who have the job of determining if a gift is worth that or not, and to monitor the paperwork, and the gifts etc. So it is much easier from a compliance perspective and an efficiency one to just say no gifts.
Also, if the organisation has a no alcohol policy, that is likely to include no alcohol being brought to the workplace. So if you go ahead and give a public servant a bottle of wine or 6-pack of beer, they may be breaching the no-gifts policy and the alcohol policy! "Merry Christmas - here's your First and Final Warning!"

"This world has gone mad! We can't even thank a garbo anymore!"

Actually, you can. What would be a truly wonderful gift would be a handmade card from the kids. On top of that, if you go to the organisation's website, you will always find a "feedback form" for compliments and complaints. Use that form to send a compliment. It usually will make the employee eligible for something within the Company's reward and recognition scheme, and even if they don't have one, it will be something s/he can use in his next performance review or interview to provide an example of how s/he is performing well.

Best Wishes for Christmas and the New Year

Thanks to everyone who has supported this blog this year, please accept this virtual bottle of champagne ;)
I have now completed by maternity leave and I have started a HR consulting Company, so there will be some exciting changes with this blog that I will announce in the new year!

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Why we all need to be great sales people

That man with a moustache stalking you in the new car sales yard... 
A stranger you see through the peep-hole in your door trying to get you to change electricity plans...
The immaculately presented real estate lady asking you for your phone number at an open home....
 (Insert Jaws theme song!) 

This is what most people think of when they hear the word "sales", but the reality is that very few sales people fit this mould, and thankfully very few of them continue with the "hard sell" techniques of yesteryear. 

I've always believed that pretty much every job has an element of sales. In some small way, we are all sales people. 
Think about corporate service roles (Finance, WHS, IT, HR etc.). Those who do really well in these service functions sell themselves and their function. Rather than just providing service A in response to request B, these service professionals first develop rapport and relationships with key stakeholders and look at ways they can provide a service to those stakeholders. They anticipate their needs and provide solutions the stakeholder didn't even realise they needed.

For example, one of the best IT Managers I knew set time in her calendar every week to connect with different functional heads in the organisation. These could just be informal "drop ins" ; or could be a set meeting to discuss possible IT needs over the following period. During those meetings she would ask probing questions to really understand that stakeholder's function and then use that information to reflect on how IT could support those initiatives. She would use her professional expertise to make suggestions of products/services, use her understanding of their needs to influence the stakeholders as to why these products/services would help them, and then provide these. In this process she was providing excellent customer service, and yes, selling, IT to that stakeholder. This gives the whole IT function credibility and value to the business and therefore makes it less likely to be seen as a candidate for outsourcing. It arguably also gives the IT people higher job satisfaction and helps to continually develop them and increase their skills. 

Recently someone posted in one of the business groups I am a member of that she wanted a part time role where she could work at home that wouldn't involve sales. Most of the suggestions given were for her to consider being a Virtual Assistant (VA). This is a good suggestion, but how does she develop her business as a VA if she doesn't want to develop and use sales skills? Now to be clear, I’m not talking about Marketing, because although this can often form part of the sales cycle, most people are fairly comfortable with the idea of marketing their services. But just because you’ve attracted a client with a good marketing effort does not mean they will buy from you! This is where I think that the preconceived notions of sales prevent people from truly thinking about their role as salespeople and the enormous value this could bring to their job or business. 

 I put the question “What is Sales” to Pritam Sarkar, Director of SearchCraft Sales Recruitment:

“In essence, sales is influence. So, all of us who work towards achieving an outcome - will influence someone. There are great examples like Mandela or terrible ones like Hitler, who influenced a nation. But each one saw a need, came up with their solution and then influenced people towards a desired outcome. Sounds like the same process we label "sales". 

Essentially sales is a subset of influence, where money changes hands for goods or services provided. Often, I meet people who want to 'start their business'.... and my first question is "are you willing to sell?" because it doesn't matter what you know or what you make until someone is willing to pay for it. You can not have a business unless you want to learn how to sell. In most cases for small start-up businesses, it is 97% sales efforts and 3% domain experience. 

Secondly, sales takes on the character of the individual wielding the influence. So, people who have weak characters and the wrong motives will give sales a bad name. But the problem is not sales, it is about the person using the influence. The challenge is that in a profession with low barriers to entry, low salaries and high incentives for achieving goals, negative stereotypes abound. Essentially, people with good character and integrity can be very good sales people who can help customers achieve their goals whilst earning themselves and their companies the right fees for their time and effort. So, if you have integrity, you should learn how to become a master of influence and enjoy the benefits sales can add to your life and business.” 

So where to start?

If you are working in a business, start to think about how Sales can form part of your role. Essentially, you are planning to understand your customers (internal or external), building relationships, finding solutions for their needs and influencing them to want those solutions.

If you are running your own business, then you will need to learn how to sell. Pritam suggests these books for those willing to dive further into the world of sales: Influence by Robert Cialdini and 'E'- Myth - Michael Gerber.

What do you think? Can thinking about sales differently and developing into a great sales person help you in your career or business?

Thursday, 17 November 2016

I've agreed to be a support person, but I don't know what that means

As a support person you play an important role supporting, but not advocating, for your friend/colleague. First let's start with some background on the role of a support person

Why employers offer a support person

The Fair Work Act (s387(d))  states that if an employer unreasonably refuses an employee's request for a support person to the present at a meeting which may lead to a dismissal, the dismissal may be considered harsh.
This does not mean that every meeting that you are invited to bring a support person to may lead to dismissal, many Companies offer a support person as good practice for any meetings that are part of an investigation (even where you are being interviewed as a witness) ,disciplinary process, or consultation on workplace changes (for example, that may lead to redundancy).

The role of a support person

The Fair Work Commission has given us some direction here. As a support person you:

  • need to be aware of confidentiality. It probably goes without saying, but you are required to keep the meeting confidential and not talk about it with others unless there is good reason (e.g. obtaining legal advice)
  • are not an advocate. This means that you are not to speak on behalf of the employee. You are there as a witness and support. 

Although you can't speak on behalf of the employee, you can speak to the employee and give them prompting/ideas/questions to ask. You should also keep good notes of the meeting. Your friend/colleague will have a thousand things running through his/her mind, so having notes to go back to is a good idea. You can ask for permission to record the meeting. If you do not ask permission and record the meeting, please first reference the relevant state/territory legislation regarding this, and also be aware that the Fair Work Commission generally views convert recordings in the workplace as unacceptable. 

Preparing for the meeting

It is a good idea to be prepared and ask your friend/colleague for any information they have regarding the meeting. This will help you both 'brainstorm' some questions that you may have prior to the meeting. You can then make sure before the end of the meeting that you have had these answered and you are clear on next steps.

Next Steps

Don't leave the room unless you are clear on what the next steps are. You shouldn't agree to anything on the spot (e.g. signing any documents, deciding between redeployment or redundancy), but have the opportunity to discuss and decide after the meeting.
If you are concerned about the way the matter is being handled, or the possible outcome, then it may be a good idea to seek some independent advice.

More workplace tips
Whether you are an employee or run your own business, we'd love for you to join us at Savvy Business Women, our Facebook group dedicated to information, collaboration and support.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Am I an employee or a contractor?

You see your dream job advertised, go for the interview, they offer you the job.. hooray! And then they ask you to provide an ABN and your rates.

This recently happened to Simon* who was left feeling a little confused. The Company told him they would provide him with training (which they said was worth $4000), they would provide him with the clients, hours and days to work and all the tools required. So, is he an employee or a self employed contractor?

Photo credit: bark via Visual hunt / CC BY

The Fair Work Act provides a list of indicators that can help to determine if you are an employee or a contractor. These are:

  • Degree of control over how the work is performed
  • Hours of work 
  • Expectation of work
  • Risk
  • Superannuation
  • Tools and Equipment
  • Tax
  • Method of Payment
  • Leave
There are also penalties for any employer trying to disguise an employment relationship as a contracting one (this is called "Sham Contracting"). It is not enough to simply state that someone is not your employee.
In Simon's case, as the Company would be providing the clients, directing his hours and how his work is performed and providing tools and equipment, this would more than likely be seen by the Fair Work Comission to be an employment relationship.

The ATO also has a very good tool to be able to determine if you are an employee for Tax purposes (which is one of the Fair Work indicators above). You can find this tool here.

As I write this, I received a notification about a case in the UK where two Uber drivers have been found to be employees, and not contractors. Naturally, Uber is playing down the potential ramifications of this decision, but it is an interesting one where Uber drivers in Australia are currently considered contractors, but Taxi drivers are employees. As the "share economy" continues to grow, there are likely to be more of these cases brought before the Fair Work Comission for a ruling. You can read about the British decision here.

What to do if you feel you are an employee and not a contractor?
You should seek advice from an employment lawyer before agreeing to anything, or if you are already working in this scenario, then you can still seek advice and claim for back-pay of Superannuation, long service leave etc.

More workplace tips
Whether you are an employee or run your own business, we'd love for you to join us at Savvy Business Women, our Facebook group dedicated to information, collaboration and support.

*Simon is not his real name

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Gender equality is sliding backwards says the World Economic Forum

It's not great news for women in employment this week with the potential changes to the Government's Paid Parental Leave scheme on the horizon, and now it has been reported by the World Economic Forum that it will take 170 years for women to get pay equality. Not only is that a pretty scary number, but this has increased from 118 years as the estimate just 12 months ago.

According to the World Economic Forum:
"The report is an annual benchmarking exercise that measures progress towards parity between men and women in four areas: Educational Attainment, Health and Survival, Economic Opportunity and Political Empowerment. In this latest edition, the report finds that progress towards parity in the key economic pillar has slowed dramatically with the gap – which stands at 59% – now larger than at any point since 2008."

Australia is not faring too well on this list. We are in 46th place, significantly lagging on other parts of the world including most of Europe and New Zealand. Last year Australia was in 36th place, and we have actually declined significantly over the last ten years. 

Photo credit: steve_lodefink via / CC BY

So why does this matter?
As I said in my blog post on Equal Pay Day, apart from the obvious fairness and equity argument, there is an economic one.
The female participation in the workplace in Australia is 65.2% compared to the male rate of 79.2%. If women were paid equally, and we know that part of the answer to this is around caring responsibilities, then we can increase the participation rate in Australia which means more workers, and therefore more taxes being paid, while less benefits ("Government handouts") are paid from those taxes. 
This can only be a good thing for our country as more workers mean a higher GDP and a lower tax burden on our citizens.

There was some good news from this report, and that is that the gap between men and women in terms of education - literacy and school enrolment - is so small that they could be at equal levels within the next 10 years.

We know that old adage of "what gets measured, gets managed", so let's hope that the work being done by the WEF will help make a difference to closing the gender gaps around the world.

More workplace tips
Whether you are an employee or run your own business, we'd love for you to join us at Savvy Business Women, our Facebook group dedicated to information, collaboration and support for Business Women.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Paid Parental Leave Scheme Changes and You

The media has started more reporting today on the proposed changes to the Government's Paid Parental Leave (PPL) scheme. Essentially they are proposing to remove access to the full PPL for those who receive paid parental leave from their employer, so that the maximum received between both PPL and any employer scheme is 18 weeks.

According to ABC News: 
"The Turnbull Government wants to save $1.2 billion by stopping new parents from receiving the full 18 weeks available under the Government's scheme if their employer also offers parental leave. The revised scheme, which would see up to 80,000 women have their taxpayer-funded entitlement reduced or cut altogether, has a proposed start date of January 1."

The Labor Party and Greens have started they will vote "no" to the changes, but One Nation and Derryn Hinch have stated they will likely support the changes, leaving the decision in the hands of Nick Xenophon. He does not support a start date of January 1 as that will effect those already pregnant, but may support a start date of October 1, 2017. A decision is likley to be made in the next few days.

If you want to show your opposition to these changes, you can sign a petition at The Parenthood here and also Getup here.  

Once we know more, I will post with what the changes (if any) are and how that may impact you.

4 November 2016 - SBS Reports that Senator Hinch is no longer supporting the proposed changes. Article is here
31 October 2016 - Nick Xenaphon has confirmed he won't support current scheme according to ABC News. Article is here

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Domestic Violence and Work

According to the Australian Human Rights Comission:

  • In Australia, approximately one woman is killed by her current or former partner every week, often after a history of domestic and family violence.
  • 34% of women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15.
  • 17% of women have experienced violence from a current or former partner since the age of 15 (compared to 5.3% of men).
  • 30% of respondents to a 2011 survey on domestic and family violence and the workplace reported they had experienced violence, and 5% of those respondents had experienced violence in the last 12 months.

If you are experiencing domestic violence, or know someone at work that is, should you tell your Manager? 

This is an entirely personal decision. There may be some support mechanisms available to you in the workplace, and this may assist you with that decision.

Flexible Working Arrangements
There is a provision in the Fair Work Act for someone who is experiencing, or providing care or support to someone who is experiencing, domestic violence to request flexible working arrangements. My previous post regarding requesting flexible working arrangements may assist.

Domestic Violence Leave
Some pubic service departments introduced a special type of leave relating to domestic violence, and some larger Organisations followed suit, so it is always helpful to check your Company policies and procedures, and your Award or Enterprise Agreement to see if there is a provision for this.

Employee Assistance Programs
Most medium-large organisations provide EAP and this is a great option for free counselling sessions and other resources

Security concerns / Domestic Violence Intervention Orders
If you have a concern about your safety at work, or a restraining order that includes your workplace, then I would encourage you to speak to your Manager or HR Manager to try and determine what extra security measures could be enacted in your workplace. (small things like locking doors that are usually left open during the day, or alerting security guards to be extra vigilant could be suggested)

When you work with your partner
Recently there was an Unfair Dismissal case (Leyla Moghimi v Eliana Construction and Developing Group Pty Ltd [2015] FWC 4864) where the victim of domestic violence was dismissed, but her ex-partner retained. She won that unfair dismissal case and was awarded compensation. The clear message from this case was that the onus was on the employer to work with her regarding the Intervention Order. Therefore I would recommend seeking external advice if you, or someone you know, is in a similar situation.

The future of domestic violence in the workplace
Despite the frightening statistics, Australia doesn't have much legislated within employment law to assist those in domestic violence situations. There are a few organisations such as the Australian Human Rights Comission that are actively advocating for more to be done, but in the meantime, at least as a minimum, there is some assistance available in terms of flexible working arrangement requests and unfair dismissal protection.

More workplace tips

Whether you are an employee or run your own business, we'd love for you to join us at Savvy Business Women, our Facebook group dedicated to information, collaboration and support.
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