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S E P T E M B E R /O C TO B E R 2 0 1 0 • I S S U E 1 5 0

People • PRODUCTIVITY • PERFORMANCE

Employee surveys

A barometer of organisational climate

Story telling How to influence change and inspire staff

Ticking the boxes What approach to executive Education works best?

Conflict coaching Making your organisation a positive place to work www.employmenttoday.co.nz


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contents

SEPTEMBER /OCTOBER 2 0 1 0 • ISSUE 1 5 0

17

30

36

FEATURES

departments

17 short stories ... but true

12 Aitchison’s HR

Stories are central to influencing change, says Paul Stewart. He explains how to use your success stories to inspire employees.

20 ticking the boxes

Professional development courses have been trimmed down and toned up and are performing better than ever, reports Jackie Brown-Haysom.

neville aitchison

13

in the limelight duncan brown

14 on the job

lyndsey swan

29 just the job kaye avery

24 Kiwi companies show leadership in literacy

Staff at two of New Zealand’s largest infrastructure companies are getting hooked on learning, says Jacqui Gibson.

27 The power of conflict coaching

People problems are often hard to resolve but, with the right approach, conflict also provides the opportunity to build understanding and bring about change, says Gabrielle O’Brien.

30 the strategic employee survey

40 sustainable business Nikki Wright

41 remuneration remedies susan doughty

42 hrinz news

bev marshall

43 recruitment jane kennelly

46 public sector paul robertson

If you see employee surveys as unnecessary, it may be time to reconsider the role they play in your company’s success, says Neal Knight-Turvey.

34 learning on the job

HRINZ conference keynote speaker Professor Paul Kirkbride looks at emerging trends in organisational learning and executive education.

36 Secret ballots for strike action

A bill currently before Parliament will make secret ballots for strike action compulsory. Susan Hornsby-Geluk and Chloe Luscombe discuss the implications.

38 getting down to business

Clare Parkes examines the issue of HR business partnering and explains how to put HR at the centre of business strategy.

Printed on an economical and environmentally responsible paper sourced from well managed forests and manufactured with EMAS accreditation.

regulars 4

editorial

6

in brief

10 world at work 11

book reviews

44 employment case notes


EDITORIA L COMMENT

EDITOR Lyndsey Swan lyndsey.swan@thomsonreuters.com Ph 09 360 3722

Working on resilience

M

ACCOUNT MANAGER Liz Kaiwai liz.kaiwai@thomsonreuters.com Ph 04 470 9597 MANAGING EDITOR Peter Bateman peter.bateman@thomsonreuters.com Ph 09 360 3709 Design/DTP Jon Evans Critical Mass Communications jon@criticalmass.co.nz Ph 09 525 3004 Printing GEON Employment Today is published by Brookers Ltd POSTAL ADDRESS PO Box 147 245, Ponsonby Auckland, New Zealand Delivery address 16 College Hill, Freemans Bay CUSTOMER CARE Ph 0800 10 60 60 TO SUBSCRIBE Phone 0800 10 60 60 or email service@brookers.co.nz Published 9 times a year Annual subscription $175 + GST Discounts for multiple subscriptions CONTRIBUTIONS We invite letters to the editor and other editorial contributions. Letters may be published unless clearly marked “Not for Publication”. COPYRIGHT All material in Employment Today is subject to copyright. The contents may not be reproduced in any form, in whole or in part, without written permission from the publisher. DISCLAIMER Material appearing in Employment Today does not constitute specific advice. Readers wanting to take action based on this information should first consult their regular advisers. The views expressed are not necessarily those of the publisher.

“Community resilience can only be achieved if the resilience of organisations providing communities with employment, essential services and economic activity is addressed.”

onday morning typically sees the bulk of the workforce returning to work after their weekend break. That wasn’t the case for countless Cantabrians earlier this month when Christchurch and surrounding towns were hit by a devastating earthquake. Many business owners and workers were left with no workplace to return to. Of course, no workplace, for most, means no work, and no work means no pay. In an economy already struggling post recession, the scale of this disaster could spell the end for all too many businesses—especially if they’re among the huge number of small companies that are, overwhelmingly, the face of business in New Zealand. Fortunately, the Government has come to the party with a scheme that will cover $350 a week of lost wages for each worker in companies of 20 staff or fewer that have been left unable to operate because of the quake. The New Zealand Herald reports that up to 77,000 workers could fit the bill. The scheme, which Prime Minister John Key says will be flexible and “very unbureaucratic”, will operate for four weeks and be re-evaluated at the end of that time. Hopefully, the Kiwi ‘can-do’ attitude will ensure employers and employees work together to find solutions that will soon see Canterbury’s businesses up and running again. Earlier this year ResOrgs (the Resilient Organisations Research Group) released the results of a study of a random selection of organisations in the Auckland region. Staff from just 17 percent of the organisations taking part said their organisation had an emergency plan—and of those organisations, just three percent were happy with their plan. According to ResOrgs, organisational and community resilience are two sides of the same coin. It noted: “Community resilience can only be achieved if the resilience of organisations providing communities with employment, essential services and economic activity is addressed.” Ian Forrester, managing director of business continuity provider Plan-b, says those businesses with a current business continuity plan have managed the disruption surprisingly well. But, he warns, it’s vital for such plans to be up-to-date and accessible. Forrester says his absolute strongest advice is to make sure you treat business continuity as though this could be the last time. At the end of the day, he says, your people and your data are your biggest assets. “You don’t insure your car after you’ve et had an accident.”

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OF WORK RELATED CAR CRASHES One in four work vehicles have been involved in a work related crash. Between 25 and 33% of all serious and fatal road crashes involve someone who was working at the time. Australian studies show that road crashes are the most common form of work related deaths. Road crashes cost New Zealand businesses $250 million a year in direct vehicle claims alone. These statistics show that companies have a duty to ensure their drivers have the tools to stay safe on the road. All companies have a legal obligation to provide and maintain a safe and healthy working environment for staff members, whether they be drivers or passengers, and whether the vehicle is owned, leased or rented. This includes providing appropriate training and supervision. In the Safe Driving Policy, a document created by New Zealand Transport Agency and ACC as a guideline for employers, driver education programmes are a key aspect to developing safer driving. Give us a call to find out how we can combine your in-house policies and procedures with our proven products and services. We can work together to create a custom training schedule that meets your needs. Some of the services we can provide include:

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IN B R I E F

Percentage points

Kiwi men the biggest losers

12.81

%

The latest Quarterly Employment Survey shows the average pay gap between men and women has widened in the last quarter to 12.81 percent, according to Statistics New Zealand.

48

%

New data from Seek New Zealand reveals high paying job listings are on the rise, with a 48 percent increase in the past year for jobs listed that pay over $100,000 per annum ($100k+).

62

%

According to the latest Kelly Global Workforce Index, 62 percent of New Zealanders say that profit-sharing or an ownership stake would motivate them to perform at a higher level, with men much more attracted than women.

39

%

Almost two-fifths (39 percent) of Kiwi finance and accounting professionals surveyed by Robert Half said their total income had risen by up to 10 percent in the past 12 months. That’s compared with an Asia-Pacific region average of just 30 percent.

8

%

Eight percent of Aussie workers said they had been negatively affected by a colleague’s hangovers during the previous year, according to a new study published in the Medical Journal of Australia. Hungover employees could be costing Australian businesses around $453 million in overtime every single year and one-third of workers said they knew a co-worker who often drank a lot.

6 employment today

september/october 2010

New Zealand men are lagging a long way behind their Australian counterparts in the wage stakes, and middle-aged Kiwi men are the biggest losers, according to researchers at Wellington’s Motu Economic and Public Policy Research Institute. Kiwi women, however, are beginning to close the wage gap with Australian women, say the researchers, who have been examining the wage levels of men and women in both countries since 1981. Both Australian and New Zealand men suffered falling or static incomes during

the reform period of the 1980s and 1990s. Incomes for Aussie men have since recovered, but those of Kiwi males have not. Researcher Andrew Coleman told Stuff. co.nz that in 2006, the average 40-year-old Kiwi man earned just 96 percent of what he would have earned in 1981. By comparison, Australian 40-year-olds were earning 31 percent more. The average 40-year-old Kiwi woman earned 31 percent more in 2006 than she would have earned in 1981, while the increase in Australia was 49 percent.

Work killing employee passion

Employees are losing their passion for their jobs, and their belief in themselves and their leaders, according to RogenSI’s 2010 Global Mindset Index. The leadership and performance consultancy’s latest annual index indicates a dramatic erosion of motivation and a loss of mental toughness in the workplace. Over a quarter (26 percent) of those surveyed are suffering symptoms specified by the World Health Organisation as indicators of depression, and passion for the job dropped 18 percent on the previous year. Women aged 25 – 35 years are suffering the most with 23 percent displaying a drop in passion as well as falls in self-belief and mental strength. Gen Y respondents more

than any other group are questioning themselves and 22.5 percent have experienced a drop in passion. RogenSI director and psychologist Dr Clark Perry says uncertainty and nervousness across the global marketplace are now being internalised and have dramatically affected employees. Organisations have become so focused on achieving outcomes or just surviving that they have placed more demands on employees’ time with little or no reward or recognition for the effort, he says. “Young females are suffering the most. They feel increasingly isolated and undervalued,” says Perry. “This chips away at their self-belief and passion for their work.”


IN B R I E F

Talkative colleagues the worst distraction Talkative co-workers are the most common distraction for office workers, according to a global poll by recruitment specialists Robert Walters. When asked their most time consuming distraction at work, 48 percent of those polled said ‘talkative colleagues’, 34 percent said personal e-mail and internet browsing, eight percent claimed social networking sites, six percent smoking breaks and five percent personal calls and/or text messages. These trends were particularly marked in some countries—70 percent of office workers in New Zealand, 67 percent in

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Hong Kong and 62 percent in Ireland said talkative colleagues were the most time-consuming distraction at work. Professionals in South Africa had different concerns—56

percent claimed personal e-mail and internet usage was the biggest office distraction. Richard Manthel, Robert Walters’ New Zealand managing director commented: “Informal conversations can fuel productivity, but a lot of the time professionals are engaging in conversations with colleagues out of politeness. “With most offices now being open plan, other people’s conversations can be hard to avoid. The odd chat during the day can provide a welcome break and can spark new ideas, but there is a balance that needs to be struck.”

Does my bum look big in this? If HR strategist and writer Kevin J Ball could change just one thing about HR, he would forever ban the profession from gazing anxiously at its own navel. “We seem to be perennially looking over our shoulders into the mirror wondering ‘does my bum look big in this?’” says Ball, the inaugural guest blogger on a new XpertHR Employment Intelligence blog series entitled “If I could change one thing about HR …” Ball describes his route into HR as a meandering one and says no other profession he has worked in has engaged in existential conversations and musing aloud about what their contribution to business should be. Yet HR, he says, is forever questioning whether they have the roles they deserve or the right clothes to enter the boardroom. Ball asserts “the insane desire to be ‘strategic’ seems to me to be a direct consequence of all this gnawing self analysis … The facilities people don’t expect themselves to be strategic; efficient and effective is just great, thanks. Frankly, the ops people are only strategic every now and then and that’s usually only because they want some new kit. I could go on, but it seems to me that deciding what to do is usually much less important or difficult than doing what you’ve decided” His final word: “Less chat and more action, please, HR.” We asked our panel what they thought on the issue. Is HR guilty of navel gazing, or is Ball’s take on the topic nothing more than stuff and nonsense?

Susan Jones HR/Administration Manager – Gore District Council Nonsense! The profession is too busy to be bothered with navel gazing! My take is that HR is involved in plenty of action and in a useful, collaborative manner with the underlying goal always being to achieve the best outcome for the organisation.

Mark Olsen HR Systems Advisor – Richmond New Zealand Nonsense! Some HR practitioners perhaps do spend too much time and energy on justifying their existence and place as ‘strategic partners’. However, any successful business will know the importance of taking a strategic approach to workforce planning and management. Also any successful HR practitioner will know their value to the business will be measured by the results they help achieve rather than just the ideas they come up with. Glyn Kessell HR Manager – SGS New Zealand Nonsense! The perception that HR is constantly navel gazing is because of the barrage of media comment—even from our own—about whether we have what it takes to sit at the boardroom table, or demands for “more strategy less personnel management” etc? Most of the HR people I know are incredibly busy. Continuous improvement aside, we don’t have time to waste on “gnawing self analysis”! Mike Johnson HR consultant – Essential HR Ltd Nonsense! All functions need their strategic component, be it planning for an expanded facility or for the people to run it. If HR did not ensure it included strategic thinking they would lose relevance. Being strategic is simply a part of getting on with the job!

september/october 2010

employment today 7


IN B R I E F

Work notes 6 SEPTEMBER: The Department of Labour issues health and safety and employment advice to employers following the 4 September earthquake in Canterbury. Key messages include “Don’t rush in” and “Communicate and be flexible”. 3 SEPTEMBER: Regulations amending the Income Tax (Fringe Benefit Tax, Interest on Loans) Regulations 1995 come into force increasing from 6 to 6.24 percent the rate of interest that applies for fringe benefit tax purposes to employment-related loans. 1 SEPTEMBER: The Leadership Employment and Direction (LEAD) survey finds that 58 percent of New Zealanders rate their current job enjoyment as high or very high, while 56 percent said they were engaged with their organisation and its goals. 1 SEPTEMBER: Changes to Immigration New Zealand’s skill shortage lists see scaffolders, automotive technicians, ship’s masters, ship’s officers and forest scientists added, and 14 occupations, mainly in the building, design and racing industries, removed from the list. 31 AUGUST: The National Bank August 2010 Business Outlook reports lower hiring expectations, with a net four percent of respondents expecting to hire staff over the next year. This is down four points from the previous month and below the long-run average of six percent. 30 AUGUST: Department of Labour research into the effects of the 2008 amendments to rest and meal breaks legislation finds most employers are aware of the changes but only 11 percent had made changes to their break times as a result. 26 AUGUST: A survey of 60 in-house HR directors in Australia and New Zealand, by consulting firm Futurestep, reveals 92 percent rate their capability at workforce planning as low to medium, with only eight percent giving themselves a high rating.

8 employment today

september/october 2010

New path to teaching for industry workers Chefs, engineers, designers, builders and others with dreams of inspiring the next generation with their skills may now find it easier to qualify for a teaching career. A nationwide shortage of fully qualified technology teachers has led to a collaboration between Otago Polytechnic and the University of Otago to create a new pathway for those with industry experience to become qualified teachers. Capable Teachers centres on “assessment of prior learning” (APL) offered by Capable NZ at Otago Polytechnic. This internationally recognised process allows candidates to have their existing skills and knowledge assessed against formal qualifications. Students will then undertake any extra learning they need to achieve their food and technology-based degrees at Otago Polytechnic, followed by a Graduate Diploma in Teaching at the University of Otago. “To enter a career as a secondary teacher, you not only need teaching qualifications, but you must also hold the equivalent of a degree. But many people now working in industries—from cooking to engineering—trained before such qualifications were available or thought necessary,” explains Capable Teacher project leader Don Lawson.

Capable Teacher project leader Don Lawson.

“Through properly recognising the knowledge they’ve gained over the course of their careers, however, people may be surprised to find they are already well on their way to achieving their degrees—and ultimately the qualifications they need to become teachers.” For further information on the Capable Teachers programme, see www.capablenz.co.nz

iPods help Kiwis tune into work

Over half of Kiwi workers find listening to an iPod helps make them more productive at work, with 56 percent plugging in to focus on a task, says a new Seek Watercooler survey. Some respondents said listening to music helped them focus on a task by “blocking out noise and distractions in the office”. Others, however, thought it could be a detriment to work, with people missing out on what’s going on around them. Seek general manager Annemarie Duff believes that as more people enter the workforce who have used their iPod as a tool to aid focus, organisations may need to look at company policies or office etiquette. “What works for some people as a useful tool can be seen as antisocial behaviour by others. Before you start using headphones at work, check the music policy with your manager to ensure you are being respectful of the culture of your office,” says Duff.

On the move Marketing and communications company Clemenger Group New Zealand has appointed Margot Chandler as its People Development Director in the company’s newly developed human resources role. Prior to joining the Clemenger Group, Margot was capability manager for Vector. She started her career as a broadcast journalist with roles at TVNZ, BBC Radio and BBC Television, before taking on the role of performance manager and later learning and development manager for TVNZ. Simpson Grierson recently welcomed Robyn Deacon, who joins the firm as Human Resources Director. A solicitor and broadly experienced HR practitioner, Robyn has previously held roles at the Meat Industry Association of New Zealand, Transpower NZ Limited, Deloitte and a large national law firm.


IN B R I E F

Work notes 25 AUGUST: The Michael Page Salary and Employment Forecast, which includes responses from over 200 companies from New Zealand’s corporate sector, reveals that 44 percent of white collar employers will be raising salaries over the next six months; however, 85 percent of those increases will be confined to the 2-4 percent range.

Video proves to be child’s play Te Puke kiwifruit processor Satara Cooperative Group Ltd has improved recruitment and retention and safety in its packhouses by putting children to work. Last year the company joined with Te Puke Primary School’s film club to produce a series of innovative training DVDs. The 12 children in the club—aged between 9 and 11—worked closely with HR manager Candy Gray and health and safety officer Angela Healy to learn how the packhouse operated. Then, over several months, the children scripted, filmed, acted in and edited three DVDs to show what jobs are available on site, to induct staff into the company’s health and safety programme, and to provide job-specific training for every role in the packhouse. Angela and Candy say the project has

been a huge success, not only making important safety information memorable and easy to understand, but also bringing unexpected benefits. “In the past we’d have people who realised after two days in the job that they didn’t have the physical skills to continue,” Candy says. “Now we have the DVD on continuous roll in the office so they see what the job entails before they start and don’t take on something that’s too demanding.” The DVD is also being used by ACC case managers to identify suitable light work for injured workers, and in a recent staff survey 95 percent got full marks when asked to recall the key safety messages from the induction DVD. In June, this DVD won the staff engagement category at the 2010 Safeguard health and safety awards.

Record increase in youth unemployment Global youth unemployment has reached its highest level on record, and is expected to increase through 2010, the International Labour Organization (ILO) says in a new report issued to coincide with the launch of the UN International Youth Year on 12 August. According to the United Nations agency, 13.1 percent of a global workforce aged 15 to 24 will be jobless by the end of the year. The report, ILO Global Employment Trends for Youth 2010, says that of some 620 million economically active youth aged 15 to 24 years, 81 million were unemployed at the end of 2009, the highest number ever. These trends will have significant consequences for young people as upcoming cohorts

join the ranks of the already unemployed. The ILO report warns of the “risk of a crisis legacy of a ‘lost generation’ comprised of young people who have dropped out of the labour market, having lost all hope of being able to work for a decent living”. An inability to find employment creates a sense of uselessness and idleness among young people that can lead to increased crime, mental health problems, violence, conflicts and drug-taking, warns the report. It explains how unemployment, underemployment and discouragement can have a long-term negative impact on young people, compromising their future employment prospects, and warns “societies lose their investment in education”.

24 AUGUST: The first employment case brought to court under 90-day trial laws goes in favour of a dismissed employee, prompting the Council of Trade Unions to send a warning to employers. Heather Smith was publicised in the union’s ‘name and shame’ campaign after being sacked by Stokes Valley Pharmacy in Hutt Valley. 21 AUGUST: Telecom boss Paul Reynolds has $2 million from his annual bonus slashed as the company reported a 0.2 fall in full year adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation. Dr Reynolds only received a $900,000 bonus under the performance incentive scheme, compared to $3m the previous year. 18 AUGUST: The Department of Labour’s Leading Indicator of Employment predicts that employment will continue to grow modestly (between 0.4 percent to 0.7 percent per quarter) over the coming months. 16 AUGUST: The Employment Relations Amendment Bill (No. 2) is introduced to Parliament. It proposes a number of significant changes to the Employment Relations Act 2000, including extending the 90-day trial period provisions for small employers to all employers and making union access to workplaces conditional on the consent of the employer. 16 AUGUST: The Holidays Amendment Bill is introduced proposing a number of significant changes to the Holidays Act 2003, including allowing employees and employers to agree to the employer paying out up to 1 week of annual leave at the employee’s request. september/october 2010

employment today 9


WO R L D AT WORK

Tim Vinke

Mobile office makes moving easy

Planning on moving on, or up, or simply wanting a change of scenery? Or perhaps you’re worried about how to make a quick exit when you’ve been made redundant? Whichever it is, Dutch interior designer Tim Vinke has the answer. His mobile office can be packed up—or assembled—in no time at all. Vinke calls his portable office Het Kruikantoor, which is a combination of the words ‘wheelbarrow’ and ‘office’, and it’s not hard to see why. Made from polystyrene and covered with a hotspray coating, the lightweight office—which consists of two chairs, a table, a light, an electricity connection and storage space—is equipped with wheels. Once all the components have been slotted into place (forming a compact unit measuring 1500 x 400 x 1200mm), it’s simply a matter of wheeling it away using the back of one of the chairs as a handle. Imagine if everyone in the office had one of these and could set it up where they wanted ... it’s one way to get people in to work bright and early!

It’s all about body language

Job seekers with shifty eyes, reluctant smiles or fidgety limbs in an interview may be hurting their chances of landing a job. A new CareerBuilder survey of more than 2500 hiring managers reveals that failure to make eye contact (67 percent), lack of smile (38 percent) and fidgeting too much (33 percent) would make them less likely to hire someone. When asked what other body language mistakes would make them less likely to hire job candidates, hiring managers reported bad posture (33 percent), handshake that is too weak (26 percent), crossing arms over their chest (21 percent), playing with their hair or touching their face (21 percent) and using too many hand gestures (9 percent).

Aussie law firms block workplace gossip website

Two of Australia’s top law firms have blocked access to workplace gossip website Firm Spy after it published a series of articles criticising management and mocking staff. The Daily Telegraph reports both Mallesons Stephen Jacques and Clayton Utz have banned the site, branding it “irresponsible and inaccurate”. Mallesons blocked access to Firm Spy just days before it reported the firm was artificially adjusting performance ratings to justify lower pay rises. Clayton Utz stopped access about the time the site ran an article alleging it had run a secret redundancy programme that led to more than 100 lawyers leaving, while payouts to partners were increased. Firm Spy, which uses a combination of reader tips and newspaper reports to deliver news and gossip about corporate workplaces, says it provides an informal source of news for junior employees.

Repetitive work makes for randy workers

Factory workers are the most likely to ‘get it on’ in the workplace, according to a new study into the UK’s randiest workplaces. Nearly one in five (19 percent) of factory workers admitted they had had sexual encounters while on the job, closely followed by 16 percent of office workers. HR consultancy Reabur commissioned the study following a noticeable rise in calls for it to resolve situations in which employees had been ‘caught in the act’ by their bosses. It questioned 1434 people about their workplace intimacies in order to find out which professions were the most amorous. Georgina Read, co-managing director of Reabur, said she was not surprised factory and office workers topped the poll. “Jobs that require a large amount of repetition tend to allow the mind to wander, quite clearly leaving it free to think of other more exciting things,” she said.

10 employment today

september/october 2010

Work in 2020

UK technology analysts Gartner is predicting that the world of work in 2020 will be very different from today. The lines between work and non-work are already badly frayed, says Gartner, and employers should plan for increasingly chaotic work environments. It predicts 10 key changes that will evolve in the work world over the next decade, including such trends as: • De-routinisation of work: as automation increases, people will still be needed for non-routine skills, such as discovery, innovation, teaming, leading, selling and learning. • Work swarms: team work will be valued and teams will tend to follow a ‘swarming’ pattern (fast formation, attack of a problem or opportunity, followed by rapid dissipation). • Weak links: with swarming, if individuals know each other at all, it may be just barely, via weak links—the cues people can pick up from people who know the people they have to work with. • Work sketch-ups: the non-routine processes will be highly informal at first, follow meaningful standard patterns. Over time work patterns for non-routine processes will emerge. • Hyperconnectedness: more work will occur in both formal and informal relationships across enterprise boundaries, affecting how people work and how IT supports or augments that work. • My place: many people will no longer have a company-provided office or desk, and work will increasingly happen 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The lines between personal, professional, social and family matters will disappear. Those who cannot manage the underlying “expectation and interrupt overloads” will suffer performance deficits. Tom Austin, vice president and Gartner fellow says “By 2015, 40 percent or more of an organisation’s work will be ‘non-routine’, up from 25 percent in 2010. People will swarm more often and work solo less. They’ll work with others with whom they have few links, and teams will include people outside the control of the organisation.”


BO OK REVIEW S

A Decade of LEAD—Looking Forward, Looking Back Leadership Management Australasia This book is a review of the organisational survey data collected by Leadership Management Australia over the past decade (2000-2010). Their survey instrument is called The Leadership, Employment, and Direction (LEAD) Survey and is managed by Adrian Goldsmith and Chase Research in Australia. The sample sizes over the ten years have ranged from 1902 to 4686 individuals (with the peak in 2008/2009). While companies in New Zealand and Australia are mentioned as having been involved, there is no discussion as to what proportion of the sample was from each country or workplace sector. As the title suggest, this work reflects on the past decade and looks into the future with recommendations for action. It is divided into six sections: Growth, Job Seeking and Change; The Workplace Environment; Leaders and Managers; The Importance of People; Taking Stock; and Looking Forward. Within each section there are graphs and commentary on each of the major questions explored by the survey. At the end of a section the authors provide a review of implications and suggest actions for follow up. While it is interesting to read the results of the survey and to muse on the implications, there is not a lot that is new in the analysis or in the proposed interventions. Anyone who has been working in HR or management for any length of time will be familiar with the ideas, and nothing new is raised—examples are the increasing resilience of the workforce and the need for management to focus on retention, training, and remuneration. Further, as a scientific analysis there is quite a bit missing in that, for example, the reader is not told about the nature of the samples. Neither are they told about methods of data analysis, for example whether the differences between employee groups and/or survey years are statistically significant and at what level. However, on balance, I believe that this could make interesting material for anyone whose company used the survey or for those wanting a general review of the kind of information that could be revealed by such a survey and the general proposals for resolving any issues. But if you want to get to grips with the specifics of your own organisation and to resolve ongoing issues, you would probably be better off getting your own survey running and focus on your own specific problems. There are a lot of excellent books out there that would give you far more in-depth recommendations than this book is able to muster.

The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work Alain De Botton Penguin Books, London English author Alain De Botton has already published several best-selling books including The Consolations of Philosophy, The Art of Travel and How Proust can Change Your Life. He also has two websites—www.theschool oflife.com and www.alaindebotton.com—both worth spending some time over. I came at this book a little reluctantly as one of De Botton’s previous works had been over-enthusiastically recommended to me by an ex-colleague, and I am disinclined to accept his perspective on anything, let alone such important matters as books. However, I have to metaphorically eat my hat on this one. I found De Botton’s work soothing, low key and introspective. It is simply a very sweet book to read. The author started his exploration of the world of work when, standing by the Thames in the early morning, he watched a large container ship come into dock with produce from around the world. This got him thinking about where these products are sourced from, and the nature of the labour involved in getting it from A to B on time. The book is divided into ten chapters, each covering off a different type of work from logistics to aviation with lots in between. De Botton does this by getting alongside people working in the area and finding out by observation and questioning more about the area. I found the chapter on Career Counselling particularly inspiring and I found two especially thought-provoking ideas in this section. The first is the common but erroneous belief that before becoming fully trained/employed adults, we should have discovered our true calling. The career counsellor De Botton talks to has the extremely apposite quote by Abraham Maslow on his wall: “It isn’t normal to know what we want. It is a rare and difficult psychological achievement”. The second thought is that finding fulfilment through work is actually the exception rather than the rule, and by expecting it to make us complete we remake life’s predictable difficulties into incomprehensible curses. We feel shame for having ‘failed’ rather than externalising the problem. The book does not resolve the problem of having to work for money, it does not teach us how to think, or give us motivational tips or tricks, it merely raises some interesting points, and by doing so provides a great deal of insight into the nature of work today. Highly recommended.

Review by Hamilton-based HR consultant Ruth Kim.

september/october 2010

employment today 11


A I TC H I S ON ’S HR

mowing down your goals Mowing lawns is transformative, says Neville Aitchison. The very mindlessness of cutting grass clears space for other thoughts—like wondering at string theory, quantum physics and Mel Gibson’s proclivity for behavioural meltdowns. And in the metaphysics of achievement, his ‘I’ meets his ‘me’. Everything I know about mowing lawns, I learned from my father. He had three rules. To maximise efficiency and to save energy, plot the yard into squares and mow inward from the outer edge. To prevent the engine from overworking and to save petrol, always position the discharge chute away from the square. Have a cold beer when you finish. I follow these rules today, though I occasionally fail to observe the letter of rule three by having more than the one beer my father permitted himself. Far more seriously, I violate its motivating spirit by not finding mowing lawns a tiresome chore at all. In fact, I enjoy it. Despite pushing a rotary mower up, down, and across a sloping Auckland section, I like mowing lawns. Railing against the wet weather recently and not being able to mow the lawns, I began to think about thinking. It’s easy to partly think through some idea or objective and then assume you know the rest; but if you discipline yourself to write it down, you are forced to be precise. Any deficiency in your thinking will be evident in your writing. It makes sense to set written goals.

Faith in your instincts Goals that are clear, simple and precise on paper mean they are clear and precise in the mind. They need to be agreed with your boss and combined with a working diary that identifies the actions needed. You know what you are doing and the act of committing them to paper embeds them in your thoughts so that they become part of the instinctive way you think. Once so embedded, you can have faith in your instincts as embodying your goals. Adopting this process forces you to sensibly break complex tasks into smaller tasks. Once having thought it out and planned the sequence, you need only to do each

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step and the overall goal will be achieved. “Ho hum,” you say, “been there, done that, it doesn’t work.” If that is so, then you need to sit back and carefully assess why it doesn’t work. There are two fundamental reasons. Either it doesn’t work because you have misjudged the nature of your job; or it doesn’t work because you don’t want it to. Weeds were a noxious assault on my father’s sensibility, and he waged a grim campaign against them. He attacked dandelions with deadly force, engaging all the available weapons of biomass destruction. I have not inherited his passion for lawn maintenance nor felt compelled to mobilise and deploy an armoury of lawn weaponry. I do not monitor soil chemistry, pH readings, soil compaction. I don’t top-dress, aerate, fertilise, or use herbicides, pesticides, or fungicides. I hold no animosity toward crabgrass. I just like mowing lawns.

Applied art Cutting grass is transformative. Having finished, one can see, immediately, that the lawn is manifestly different than it was. Mowing is applied art. In doing it, one edits the lawn, grooming the ragged, making the unruly ruly. When I’ve finished, I can see, clearly see, a genuine accomplishment wrought by my expended effort, through establishing goals and planning my output. But I find there’s another reality involved in grass cutting. Grass does most of its growing invisibly, underground, the result of an intricate root system designed to retain water. For me, cutting grass involves a kind of invisible growth. Ironically, the very routine of grass cutting, its essential mindlessness, clears mental space to fill with intentional, task-unrelated thoughts. I experience regrets, weigh alternatives and make choices, plan upcoming events,

sing songs I find meaningful, analyse books and movies. I wax nostalgic, sentimental, or cynical about something or other, and then wonder why I feel that way. I examine assumptions, ponder love, justice, free will; I wonder at string theory, quantum physics, and Mel Gibson’s proclivity for behavioural meltdowns. Where does this all come from, and why? No doubt Freudians would rub their hands and say, “Boy, do we have some work to do.” Neuroscientists would likely offer explanations involving neuron-firing sequences and unperceived stimuli.

Connection occurring All I know is that a window is briefly opened for a showing, that some connection is occurring among my brain’s 100 billion neurons, each, like grass, part of a dense root structure, each entangled with the tendrils of other neurons. And it’s this knowing that allows us to tweak the goals, or improve the working diary. It allows us to alter our habits if we choose. You can improve your leadership, your performance and your success, but you must be prepared to confront yourself and wrestle with the attitudes and habits that currently erode your success and satisfaction. It’s a wonder that our minds are so complex. It’s a wonder our minds and bodies greet each other in mutual recognition and do not, as Descartes would have it, pass each other with an indifferent look. All I know is that, sometimes, while cutting grass, what Seamus Heaney calls “the music of what happens” happens. I am in time, on the beat. My ‘I’ meets my ‘me’. We have a beer afterwards. et Maybe two. Neville Aitchison is a director of Aitchison & Associates Consulting Group.


IN THE LIME LIGHT

Duncan brown head of people and performance deloitte auckland What’s the best thing about your job? Working with people who are exceptionally good at what they do. It’s inspiring seeing how they operate and how they constantly push themselves to improve.

What brings a smile to your face at work? Seeing people get it—whatever the ‘it’ maybe. This is generally evidenced by the rise in energy levels, the widening of eyes, and the flow of ideas.

What’s the worst thing about your job? The commute—I live three minutes from work!

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? I’ve received lots of very good advice over the years and there are two pieces that I often reflect on: ‘Do what you enjoy and you’ll be good at it’ and ‘Focus on continually developing your skills, and opportunities will present themselves’.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned? Things don’t always work out the way you want: pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move on. Know the aspects of your life that are important to you and invest time into getting your balance right.

Managing people: what approach works for you? Managing people is hard; it’s also very rewarding. I try to apply several principles. First and foremost treat people with respect, be genuine, and be honest. After that, I make a conscious effort to invest time thinking about my people and trying to understand what’s in it for them. I am genuinely interested in people’s development and I feel that I have a responsibility to help people grow, whether it is personally or professionally. Finally, I acknowledge that I’m not always going to get it right, so I make sure I ask for and listen to feedback from those around me.

What about you would surprise your colleagues, if only they knew? Some of the stuff my colleagues know about me is top secret. Best I don’t share anymore!

What’s the most fun work you’ve ever done? When I was six, I wagged school for two days to help Dad dock lambs. I was determined not to let him down so worked extremely hard to keep up with the grown-ups. I ended up in hospital with appendicitis. Karma I guess. However, I loved every moment of it and to this day I still feel as though my contribution was invaluable!

How would you describe your career path? Throughout my career I’ve focused on doing things I enjoy, developing my skills and stretching myself. Consequently my career path has reflected this. My HR career started when I was ten. When my teacher announced her resignation I excused myself from class, entered the principal’s office and advised her that I had the perfect candidate. That night, I advised my mother that she had an interview and that she should prepare well for it. Mum subsequently worked at the school for 10 years. Following school and university, I headed offshore, picking up an HR job for a building society in the UK. On my return to New Zealand, I worked

for Westpac for three years before moving to Deloitte five and a half years ago.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years time? Who knows where my career will evolve but I guarantee I’ll be doing something that I enjoy.

What’s your dream job? Coaching the All Blacks to World Cup victory.

Who would you most like to have dinner with? My wife and my closest friends and family.

What’s your favourite: a. Band/singer Elvis.

b. Item of clothing Beige Brigade stubbies.

c. Way of relaxing Watching a movie.

et

Be a name dropper! If you would like to nominate a fellow HR practitioner to feature in our ‘In the limelight’ column, just email lyndsey.swan@thomsonreuters.com with the person’s contact details.

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McCabe Photography

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ON TH E JOB

On the road to a great future Auckland-based Urgent Couriers is keeping its foot on the gas, while making sure its business is both economically and environmentally sustainable. HR manager Sue Bonnici-Carter tells Lyndsey Swan about a rapidly changing industry.

W

hen Steve Bonnici set up Urgent Couriers 21 years ago, things were very different. Customers phoned in their orders and a team of dispatchers worked from slips of paper to send the courier fleet to pick-ups across greater Auckland. Today, the company has just one dedicated call centre staff member and 75 percent of bookings are made via the internet. Change has been rapid in the point-to-point courier industry in recent years, and it’s largely come about through technology, says HR manager Sue Bonnici-Carter. Luckily, this is an organisation that embraces change. Despite the tough economic conditions affecting many New Zealand businesses, Bonnici-Carter says Urgent Couriers has continued to work on a growth model. “We have the advantage of being privately owned. We have the opportunity to make strategic choices quickly and to change quickly to meet the environment,” she says. The courier company survived the economic downturn without losing any of its customer base, although job numbers decreased as clients took a more cautious approach to spending. Bonnici-Carter says she and her colleagues on the management team used the time to improve technology and work distribution efficiencies and boost the sales team so that the company was ready to “hit the ground running” as the market improved. “We’re probably in the best situation we’ve been in for a long time. The contractors we have on the road are high performers and we’re starting to replace people who’ve left,” she says, adding that the flooded market means they can be extremely selective about who they employ. Two of the three people Bonnici-Carter interviewed in the previous week had sales and marketing qualifications, she says. It’s part of a strategy that sees the couriers as sales people, not just drivers. “They’re the face of the organisation, the main point of contact with our customers,” she says. There are two distinct components to the Urgent Couriers’ workforce. The 58-strong courier team are all contractors who own their own vehicles and are paid on commission. Some of the younger ones see the job as a stepping stone before they decide what they want to do or go back to further education. For others, it’s a career which offers flexibility and autonomy. “Most people who make it their career want to be on the road every day because, when they’re not on the road, they’re not earning,” says Bonnici-Carter. september/october 2010

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ON THE JOB

“We’re focusing on strengthening the link between the operations team and the courier fleet—the people who are distributing the work and the people who are receiving it.”

Back at the Kingsland office there’s a team of 20 employees working in management, sales and operations roles. A number of them started out with the company as couriers before moving into operations roles at head office. Others like financial controller Sarah and operations and fleet manager David started with the company as 17-year-olds and are still there nearly 10 years later. In fact, if you take a look at the ‘Our people’ link on the company’s website, you’ll see not only images of the entire workforce, but also that around a third of them have been with the company for five years or more and many have reached double digits. Bonnici-Carter puts the high retention rate down to Urgent Couriers being a family model business and staff are part of that family.

Embracing change With internet bookings doubling in the past five years, the role of the operations team has changed markedly and brought new HR challenges. “We’re at a turning point,” says Bonnici-Carter. “The operations team is becoming a customer service and courier service role, which is challenging. We need to make sure that the operations people have the leadership skills necessary to help the couriers, and the customer service skills. “We’re focusing on strengthening the link between the operations team and the courier fleet—the people who are distributing the work and the people who are receiving it. We’re encouraging the first line managers to empower the operations team, as their time and resources are freed up, to take on the responsibility of the couriers and become courier service people.” As technology improves and jobs are dispatched automatically, the plan, she says, is for each person in the operations team to have a team of couriers to look after. “We’ll look at aligning personalities or getting groups together who get on with particular dispatchers, who will become their support person and link [with head office].” This changing focus means Urgent Couriers has recently transferred training for new couriers from a dedicated trainer to the operations team. That way they can develop a relationship with the courier before he or she goes on the road. Communication and transparency are the keys to ensuring the success of this strategy, which Bonnici-Carter has been working on for the past four years. She explains that it’s important the operations team understands that their actions determine what each contractor earns. “There’s a whole lot of transparency been created so the contractors can see how many jobs they’ve done for the day and their hourly rates for their time on the road, so they can hold the operations team accountable.” With contractors out on the road all day, communication can be an issue. Some like to pop in to the office at the beginning or end

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of their shift. Others are happy to keep in touch by text or with the weekly email brief that goes out to all staff. “Overall we’ve got very active communications channels, but I still think there can’t be too much if you want to link outcomes to strategies,” she says. “That’s got to be continually worked on. It’s all very well thinking ‘Okay, they get a weekly brief, they know what’s happening, I don’t have to worry about it’. But you do. There are personal issues with such an isolated workforce.”

Three-pronged approach Urgent Couriers is New Zealand’s only carbon neutral courier company and its approach to sustainability saw it win the Workplace category at last year’s Sustainable 60 awards. It takes a three-pronged approach to sustainability which encompasses organisational profitability, contractor profitability, and social responsibility. Bonnici-Carter explains that one of the company’s guiding principles is to ensure that its couriers are viable business people in their own right. Prior to taking on the HR role seven years ago, she held a finance role and she soon identified that one of the main areas where contractors failed was in meeting their tax commitments. “The ones that fell over may have been the best couriers in the world, but they didn’t understand tax,” she says. “With our accountants, I developed some safety nets for them. “The documentation for the work they’ve done now gives a recommended tax saving for each month that will cover all their tax commitments. They can authorise accounts to deposit their tax saving in their trust account so their tax is ready when they have a lump sum to pay. Every courier who’s used [the system] has been extremely sustainable and met all their legal obligations.” But it’s not just the couriers who are sustainable. The low-emission cars most drive—a fleet made up mostly of Honda Jazz vehicles— play a key role in Urgent Couriers’ approach to sustainable development. “The industry we’re in leaves a huge carbon footprint,” says Bonnici-Carter. “Steve has developed carbon zero certification so that we measure annually and offset all our carbon emissions. Everyone in the organisation has Shell cards. All the fuel we use is measured and it’s offset against either sustainable energy suppliers or a financial payment to Landcare Research’s carboNZero programme.” She says when the company first placed carbon neutral stickers on its vehicles, some of the drivers didn’t really know what it meant. But as the initiative was talked about and they began to see fuel savings, it soon got the thumbs up. As one driver said: “Now we know what it means and we know the value to us of running fuel efficient vehicles, and we’re going to save money, I feel really proud to work for the organisation.” et


Stories are central to influencing and inspiring change, says Paul Stewart. They stimulate the imagination and are a source of real organisational knowledge. He explains how to use your success stories to inspire employees and depict the value your organisation aims to create for others.

“To change the culture, change the nature of the conversations across the company. And put stories at the heart of those conversations.” This was the answer I gave to a global executive of one to the world’s largest companies last month when he asked me where they should start to build a more customer-orientated organisation. More and more often, people are agreeing that the use of stories is a key leadership competency. Why? Because stories are central to influencing and inspiring change. In a world where the rate of change means that organisations are increasingly having to roll back command-control practices and build collaborative and empowered cultures, stories can play a pivotal role in educating and empowering employees at all levels—from senior executives to the least experienced staff. Take, for example, this story which was shared among the team members of a bank branch:

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… sharing stories creates much greater awareness of what is actually going on and encourages people to think about what they are observing.

“Norma and Bruce are customers who own a Muffin Break franchise. A couple of months ago Norma came into the branch to do her daily banking. Robyn, one of our customer service representatives, commented to Norma that it looked like she had lost weight and seemed a bit stressed. “Norma said that it was a tough week. Three staff were off sick on the same day, she had to fire another, and, her husband had had a heart attack and was struggling to cope day-to-day. “Now we are going down to Muffin Break and picking up their banking and change order to save her queuing for a couple of weeks. Not a biggie, but Norma was so appreciative she cried!” Stories like this generate emotions and feelings—and they stimulate the imagination. There’s no surprise that we remember the best stories, the ones that have touched our hearts or made us laugh.

Why stories work

A source of real knowledge At an organisational level, stories are not only personally meaningful, they are also a source of real knowledge. Think about it. Historically, all cultures and civilisations passed on their knowledge from one generation to the next by drawing pictures and telling stories. In the words of Nigerian poet and novelist Ben Okri: “Stories are the secret reservoir of values: change the stories individuals and nations live by and tell themselves, and you change the individuals and nations.” The same is very true of organisations! If you change the conversations and the stories being told, you will change the organisation. Now imagine an organisation where dozens, even hundreds, of stories like the one above—stories uncovered from ‘within’ the organisation—are being shared and discussed on a weekly basis. Stories that depict value being created—what we call ‘on-brand’ stories—can provide a real catalyst to change behaviours. This is not because they prescribe rules or procedures to follow, but because they describe success in action. And they allow people to develop new insights around them and inspire them to do ‘similar’ things under different circumstances. It’s interesting to think why stories are so effective in this context. Sure there’s the usual thought that stories tick the box on many of the principles of effective communication. Go deeper, however, and science tells us that stories literally change the way we think and the way we act. For example, neuroscience has shown that it is through stories and the experiences of people that new pathways are created in the brain (by discovering insights for ourselves), which ultimately influence how we make sense of the myriads of data we are exposed to in the world (or in this case the organisation). We might think of culture as the neural patterns of the organisation. Stories illustrating and reinforcing vision and strategy are an

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important conduit in creating new neural pathways at a company level—or, in other words, new organisational mindsets. They create an environment where everyone has those ‘aha’ moments—insights that connect what they do to something bigger. As that occurs, a different pattern of behaviour starts to emerge. Very quickly, we start to see that success stories in organisations work at multiple levels (see diagram above). Firstly, sharing success stories influences the climate of the organisation—simply because we are sharing and talking about successes. It helps to counter-balance all that time and focus we dedicate to problems and issues. It also reshapes the subconscious of the organisation—the place where the core beliefs that underpin its culture reside. Fundamentally, it’s about helping to build confidence in doing things differently, which is undoubtedly an enduring characteristic of the most successful organisations and teams. Secondly, as discussed above, every story we share provides us with insights, by highlighting what we, or others, were doing during ‘high-point’ moments. Individuals and teams can then be easily led into a conversation about where else those learnings can be applied. Organisations which are serious about this are building-in deliberate practices which embed the use of stories into their day-to-day practices. They are also reinforcing the value of looking out for examples of value being created. And the benefit of that goes well beyond providing a regular source of stories to share. They understand that by nurturing the behaviours involved in seeking success stories, they are further influencing the culture. Thirdly then, sharing stories creates much greater awareness of what is actually going on and encourages people to think about what they are observing. That heightened awareness is fundamental to changing the patterns of behaviour and, ultimately, the culture in the organisation.


INSPIRIN G C H AN G E

Finally, if people are committed to finding success stories, it influences their behaviour towards creating those stories—as they go about their work and interact with others.

Quality connections I often say that an organisation is simply a group of people who come together to create something of value for others. If that is true, then what matters is the quality of connections that are made between people on the inside of the organisation, and the quality of connections they then make with stakeholders on the outside. At the heart of that quality is the demonstration of the value we create for others. In this context, leadership is about giving people a clear and compelling picture of that value, then, individually and collectively, really changing the mindsets of the people around the way ‘we work together’ to create that value. So make sure you always have two or three stories in your back pocket which depict the value that your organisation aims to create for others. Try starting your team meetings by sharing one and take a minute to discuss. Simply ask, ‘what’s an insight we can get from that story?’—then see how the tone and focus of the meeting shifts. et Paul Stewart is CEO of ON-Brand Partners, a company that assists organisations to integrate their strategy with their people and culture. For further information, go to www.onbrandpartners.com

What makes a good story? Initially, many people struggle to find and communicate a great story. They often end up with a commendation or opinion, or a story that does not convey a key insight. While there are a number of models relating to stories, we find the following framework developed by Australian business narrative specialists Anecdote to be particularly useful as a guide for assessing stories. For a story to have an impact it should: • Have clarity—you hear or read the story once, and you get it. It’s simple, clear and has a good narrative structure (time markers, characters, begin-middle-end). The structure and components don’t have to be too sophisticated. • Be emotional—it gets you in the gut. It doesn’t matter what emotion it evokes but stories that create an impact evoke at least one strong emotion. • Be believable—it shouldn’t sound like ‘BS’. Facts and figures help but not too many. Details help, with real people’s names and specific dates and times. • Transport you—it transports you to relive the experience. You can see, hear, touch, smell and taste the experience. • Be surprising—often it throws you a curve ball that you weren’t expecting. • Be relevant—does it talk to the topic under investigation? That may be an element of values, brand or strategy in action. Source: www.anecdote.com

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E X EC U T I V E E D UC ATION

Professional development courses have been trimmed down, toned up and they’re performing better than ever, reports Jackie Brown-Haysom. She finds businesses are taking a more considered approach to their executive learning programmes and ensuring the right people get the right training.

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E

xecutive education has undergone a bit of surgery in recent years. With finances tight, many employers have felt the need to take to their pre-recession programmes with a scalpel. Rather than dismemberment, however, managers say the process has been more like plastic surgery, resulting in professional development courses that are trimmed down, toned up, and performing better than ever. At Deloitte, learning and development manager Liam McGee says the average number of learning hours per person has increased during the recession, although the cost of the programmes fell by around 30 percent last year. And while his department has made some big changes to the way it does things, those on the receiving end of the learning probably haven’t noticed. “We went through our curricula and identified the must-haves, then took a really hard look at the optional things, to decide whether to continue them,” he says. “We did pull a couple, but replaced them with something else. “At the same time we shifted a significant number of our programmes in-house, reducing our use of external providers. The interesting thing is, we’re getting great feedback from the internal courses because they put things in context, so this is something we will probably continue to some extent after things pick up. ” Warehouse Stationery is also doing more in-house learning, but L&D manager Garth Cook says this is the culmination of a long-term education strategy rather than a response to the recession.


“We have put a lot of effort into leadership development, making sure the right people get the right training, and as a result we’ve actually grown what we deliver. You could argue that the recession lights a fire under you—creates a platform for change—but this is what we’d always planned to do, and I’d like to think that we’d have done it this well without the recession.” The company still partners with external providers—primarily the University of Auckland’s business school and the Institute of Strategic Leadership—but for the 100 senior Warehouse and Warehouse Stationery staff in the leadership development programme, much of the learning has been in-house. “We have a business leaders’ programme, an advanced management programme and a strategic leadership group,” Cook says. “They’re long-term programmes that offer a mix of learning activities, and combine a lot of in-house training with a bit of external exposure.” Internal education programmes may be proving their worth in some companies, but external education providers report that demand for their courses remains strong, particularly in certain subject areas. At the University of Otago School of Business, it is leadership courses that are the big drawcard, according to executive education manager Megan Crawford. “We’ve seen a much bigger appetite for leadership courses over the last couple of years. Our regular clients are wanting more of them, and it’s what most of our new clients are asking for too, maybe because it’s a course they can’t do for themselves. We’ve had an enhanced leadership course for some time, and last year we added a strategic leadership course to meet client demand.”

Companies are viewing education in different ways as they respond to the recession, Crawford says, with many taking a much more considered approach to executive development. “The people who come to us now are generally those with high potential—the ones the company really wants to invest in. In some cases, courses are being used as staff incentives too. When employers can’t afford a salary increase, as an alternative they might send employees on a course that will enhance their professional development.” Kevin Gaunt, CEO of the New Zealand Institute of Management Northern, says tight L&D budgets mean people want to get more out of their executive education. “In the last three years we have noticed a major shift in demand, away from one- or two-day courses, towards longer programmes,” he says. “People are investing more time in their training because they want more value from it. They want to really learn something, as opposed to just going on a course, and that’s a very healthy trend.” NZQA-accredited courses have also gained in popularity, Gaunt says, with people eager to get tangible recognition for their learning. “The top topic for us at the moment is work improvement processes—things like Lean Six-Sigma programmes—along with project management. We’re also seeing a trend towards work-related projects that are linked to longer-term courses. Over time the participants have to apply what they are learning in actual work situations, which is a terrific way of getting it put into practice.” While employers are expecting training providers to deliver more, Gaunt says many companies still aren’t good at following up on education programmes to ensure they are getting real benefits from their people’s new skills.

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e x ecutive educatio n

“There isn’t a lot of interest in return on investment,” he says. “It’s quite hard to measure and we can’t do it for them, so most of them lose interest. HR departments are happy to book people onto courses, but they don’t really have the interest or accountability to monitor progress afterwards.” At Otago, Crawford’s department does follow-up surveys and evaluations after courses to provide data about how new learnings are being used. “We might do a survey three months after a course, and then another after six months, to see what sort of changes there have been. Our clients can take this information back to whoever holds the purse strings to make sure they can see an ROI. “With clients in customised courses, we may track individuals right through their careers to see what they’re doing differently, whether they’ve been promoted, what sort of roles they’re in, and so on. It gives a good picture of how they’ve benefited from what they’ve learnt.” McGee agrees it’s essential to monitor the effectiveness of professional development programmes, but admits he’s happy that Deloitte doesn’t require a dollar-for-dollar measure of ROI. “We do have one course that has a dollar value attached because it ends with a ten-week challenge where participants carry out a number of activities, and report back saying how much extra money they’ve bought in. The ROI for that has been close to ten-to-one, but we can’t promise that it continues at that level when the programme’s over.” Other courses don’t come under the same financial scrutiny, but are monitored closely to measure outcomes against objectives and expectations. “For our big core programmes we send participants back to their managers with an aftercare pack, which gives them a summary of what the people learned, explains how they can engage on it, and sets out what the managers should be expecting in terms of behaviour change. It’s good because it puts responsibility for the outcome back on the business, rather than making it our job.” In another monitoring strategy, training recipients are asked for feedback about the value of the courses they’ve done, but McGee says the company discovered several years ago that such information is only helpful when the right questions are asked. “We were asking participants how relevant the learning was and getting great feedback, yet we weren’t seeing a lot of behaviour change. We realised relevance and usefulness are two different things, so now we ask about both of them.” Warehouse Stationery also prefers to use success rather than dollars to measure the value of its executive education, but Cook says occasional ROI calculations have produced extremely encouraging results. “After one 14-month programme, we got participants to review

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Attitudes to professional development Structured leadership development programmes for senior staff are a comparative rarity, according to a survey conducted by HRINZ and the University of Otago School of Business. Only 48 percent of respondents in the newly released survey said their company has such programmes, while 51 percent said there was no professional development strategy in their organisation. The survey, completed by 75 members of the HRINZ research stream, assessed New Zealand attitudes to professional development. Other key findings: • 60 percent of respondent organisations had a professional development budget of less than $2000 per manager; • 74 percent used a combination of in-house and external providers to deliver professional development; • 83 percent said they would consider doing professional development online or by distance learning; • Leadership and management were the topics most in demand; • 29 percent had decreased their professional development budget in the past year. For more information email megan.crawford@otago.ac.nz

all the business changes they had made in that time, and estimate the value that these changes had had to the business. This figure was then discounted by 96 percent, because the bankable returns from retailing are only 3-6 percent of sales, and then by a further 40 percent, to acknowledge that some of the business changes were not a direct result of the programme. “Even after all that, the return was much higher than the cost of running the programme.” With no immediate end to the economic downturn in sight, what does the future hold for executive education? McGee puts it succinctly: “One word—customisation.” Businesses, he says, are starting to discover that the same learning doesn’t suit everyone, and are moving away from prescribed courses, opting instead for individual learning plans that can be tailored to personal needs. Long-term he predicts a move away from MBAs, unless courses evolve to provide more personal choice. “I think MBAs are great, but what is missing is the ability to pick and choose the components. We’re finding formal training providers aren’t always as flexible as our people need them to be, and that’s making them less relevant to our business.” Cook, too, believes personalised learning is the way of the future. “I think generic leadership programmes are going to fade away in favour of more specialised training. I don’t want generic experts on my staff. I want supply chain leaders who are experts in supply


chains first, and rounded out business experts second, so they need a logistics qualification, not an MBA.” Warehouse Stationery has training partnerships with a number of external providers, covering both academic and technical subject matter. Cook says it is an arrangement that works well, delivering high quality programmes while still allowing the company to shape development to specific needs. From the provider’s perspective, Gaunt believes a major change in learning styles is under way. “I see learning becoming much more flexible. There is still a lot of room for face-to-face learning, but there is a big shift going on towards self-paced on-line learning as well.” Gaunt says NZIM gets a lot of requests for programmes of this type, because they allow study to be fitted in around people’s everyday

lives. “People with young children, for instance, want programmes they can work on when they sit down at the computer at 9 o’clock at night, while others want to be able to use their iPads to study on the train or the bus.” Conversely, the other change Gaunt anticipates is an increased use of experientially based learning, such as outdoor pursuits courses. “We partner with the Hillary OPC to run courses on Great Barrier Island and I believe it is one of the best ways for people to learn. “These courses change perspective, build capability, and provide tangible benefits that can be applied in the workplace, all of which et are real needs in the present economic climate.” Jackie Brown-Haysom is an Auckland-based freelance journalist.

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DoL/Skills Highway

Fulton Hogan labourer Shaun Wairau (left) and general manager for the Central Region, Bill Caradus, at a graduation ceremony for workplace literacy training graduates in July this year.

Kiwi companies show leadership in literacy Staff from two of New Zealand’s largest infrastructure companies are getting hooked on learning. Jacqui Gibson checks out the workplace literacy programmes at Fulton Hogan and Downer and finds they have lifted people’s confidence and benefited company culture.

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hen Fulton Hogan labourer Shaun Wairau dropped out of high school at 14, he was convinced that learning was for other people, not him. “I couldn’t see any reason to stay. I remember thinking there were so many other things I’d rather be doing than sitting in a classroom,” he says. Seventeen years on, though, Wairau’s view of learning couldn’t be more different. The 31-year-old father-of-three says Fulton Hogan’s workplace literacy training pilot is the reason for his recent change of heart. “I’m hooked on learning. Even maths is great, I love it. I do this thing called partitioning to break down numbers and make sums easier. I use it to order tonnes of asphalt at work. At home, I help my kids do their homework with it. The training’s made a huge difference in my life.”

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The pilot programme, called Base Course, offered 58 employees in Auckland and Wellington one-on-one and small group tutoring in reading, writing, maths and communication at Fulton Hogan offices for two hours per week. The six-month course was run by Edvance (in Wellington) and the Manukau Institute of Technology (in Auckland) during company time. Fulton Hogan data shows it boosted participants’ skills and confidence and helped some employees move into more senior roles and others gain more work-related qualifications. General manager for the Central Region, Bill Caradus, is delighted with the success of the pilot programme in his region and the progress Shaun and other employees have made. Caradus believes literacy training is vital for any company with employees who missed out on the basics at school and need to catch up as adults.


wo rkpl ace literacy

“In our industry, like so many, we face a skills shortage. We need people with the basics who can read, write and comply with the health and safety legislation. Our machinery is more computerised than ever before. So, they need to understand technology. But we also need people with strong communication skills who can develop their careers and, ultimately, make the move into leadership. “Base Course helped us achieve all of that and more. It also made me see that literacy training lifts people’s confidence and with more confidence comes a better quality performance overall,” says Caradus.

Huge potential Naomi Woodham, Fulton Hogan’s national learning and development advisor, agrees Base Course has opened her eyes to the huge potential of literacy training within the workplace. Now comes the tricky task of taking stock and looking at what to do next, she says. “The training outcomes have been fantastic and have made a huge difference to participants,” she says. “We’d definitely like to continue with training. But fitting 40 hours of training in with our frenetic operational schedules has not been without its challenges and we’re currently analysing what we’ve learned, so we can consider our next steps.” Edvance programme coordinator Bridget Farquhar believes companies have to stay focused on literacy training if they want to make a lasting, long-term difference. “Often a pilot programme gives you a taste of what’s possible. But it’s important not to stop there. It’s important to keep the momentum going. And there are many ways a company can achieve that.” First and foremost a company should continue to train and upskill staff, she says. But they can also run or organise workshops to raise

awareness of workplace literacy among company managers and relevant staff such as health and safety representatives and foremen. Improving company documentation to make sure it can be read and understood by the employees is another measure.

Embedding learning Downer, one of the country’s largest infrastructure firms, is doing just that after successfully running two large-scale workplace literacy programmes between 2007 and 2009. TeamWorks was a leadership programme with literacy learning embedded in it. Way2Work was for frontline workers. It aimed to boost reading, writing, maths and communications skills. More than 1800 Downer employees across New Zealand took part, making it the single largest literacy training initiative in the country. Both programmes were a huge success, says Downer human resources general manager Chris Meade. “We’ve seen literacy training help our foremen and supervisors improve health and safety compliance within their teams. Their maths and writing skills are much improved, which means they more accurately capture and report company data.” She says literacy training has worked well for frontline workers too. “Working on the roads has traditionally been seen as a lowskilled employment option for people without a strong academic background. However, in today’s workplace, employees need to be confident and competent in handling sophisticated machinery. They need to follow rigorous safety procedures. And they have to be highly productive.” This year, Downer started embedding what they learned from their two programmes across the company as a whole. “We’ve developed a five-year literacy strategy, as part of that

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employment today 25


effort. And we’ve set up a process of consolidating and embedding change called Nuts and Bolts,” says Meade. Nuts and Bolts features literacy champions, located in the branches, who are trained to provide ongoing literacy support in the workplace. All literacy champions have completed their National Certificate in Adult Literacy Education (Vocational), a level five NZQA-recognised qualification, and are widely respected within Downer for their skills in the civil infrastructure industry. “It’s their job to identify skills gaps and work alongside employees to meet those needs. We have a literacy coach, who is part of that process, too. We’re also developing job guides that can be read and understood by everyone within our organisation. Finally, we’ve set up a referral system for employees with dyslexia or needs that might be best addressed from outside the company.”

Join the Skills Highway Kiwi companies are making promising inroads into the country’s poor rate of adult literacy—now there’s a website to help others do the same. The Department of Labour’s Skills Highway website profiles New Zealand businesses who’ve spent the last few years trying and testing workplace literacy training. The website—launched in June—has advice, tools, case studies and tips from real workplaces which reflect the real-life experiences of employers and employees around the country. It’s got a wealth of information and ideas about getting started from big, national companies like Fletcher Construction, Downer, Spotless Services and Millennium Hotels and Resorts. Yet it also features ideas from smaller firms like Canterbury Spinners, a yarn production business in Christchurch, on how to deliver effective training when companies are up against different shift patterns and round-the-clock operations. Research shows about four in every 10 New Zealand employees have difficulties with reading, maths and communication. New Zealand’s poor adult literacy rates have long been considered a serious issue that costs business through accidents and injuries, high wastage, mistakes, missed deadlines and low productivity. Skills Highway can be found at: www.skillshighway.govt.nz

Overall, says Meade, Downer has undergone an enormous shift in culture thanks to workplace literacy training. Tina Rose, business development manager at the Manukau Institute of Technology, believes Fulton Hogan and Downer are excellent examples of big Kiwi firms who’re making the most of workplace literacy training. “But,” she cautions, “You don’t have to be a large business to do workplace training. Half our clients are small, medium enterprises with fewer than 100 employees.” The key to successful training, says Rose, is having people within a business who are committed to making it work and providers who can come up with workable solutions that suit a business’s needs. “Sometimes a contextualised upskilling programme works best. At other times working with participants to create a company’s first induction process might be a better, more sustainable approach,” Rose says. “For us it’s about working with companies of any size to embed literacy, language and numeracy into their workplace in a way that et reflects their context and that’s sustainable in the long-term.” Wellington freelancer Jacqui Gibson is on a year-long assignment with the Department of Labour investigating how workplace literacy training changes lives.

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The power of conflict coaching People problems are time-consuming, energy-sapping and often hard to resolve. What’s more, they can have a profound effect on an organisation’s bottom line. But with the right approach, conflict can also provide an opportunity to build understanding, bring about change, and promote innovation, says Gabrielle O’Brien.

“Whenever you’re in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.” William James, US philosopher & psychologist (1842-1910)

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uch has been written by practitioners of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) about the inevitability of conflict in our everyday lives, including our working lives. William James’s words of wisdom are a century old, but the human condition means they are as relevant today as they were then. Essentially, we may not avoid conflict but we can influence our response to it when it arises. In his book The Crossroads of Conflict, Kenneth Cloke, director of the Center for Dispute Resolution, explains that all conflicts offer us a choice of responses. The most obvious choice is between a pathway of anger, fear, confrontation and bitterness and a pathway of empathy, acceptance, honesty and mutual respect. The first response comes with a focus on past recriminations; the second focuses on negotiations into the future. Cloke suggests there is a third possible response to conflict, which leads from the second option. It is one that facilitates an increased awareness, compassion, integrity and learning. So what relevance does all of this have for organisations, and those tasked with their management? Here at LEADR, we hear from managers on a regular basis that ‘people problems’ are the ones that take up most of their time and energy, and are often the hardest to resolve. An issue may seem to be resolved only to appear again in a similar but different manifestation. Paul Hutcheson is a Wellington mediator and facilitator who specialises in ‘crucial conversations’. He says the most effective contribution we can make to a difficult september/october 2010

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co n flict coac hin g

Speaking from experience Diane’s story Diane*, a senior nurse experiencing conflict with a medical colleague, found that conflict coaching gave her the ability to see the issues more objectively. It did this by helping her deconstruct and then reconstruct the critical event that had led to her seeing a conflict coach. “I could stand outside the issue and see what was going on for me and understand why I was reacting in the way that I did. It made me stop and reflect.” Diane also felt that she had been able to look beyond the immediate issue and understand more clearly what had led to that point. Diane described her realisation that she might be able to convey her views not with the high-impact destructive cannon she had initially mentally prepared (speaking metaphorically!) but rather with the gentler, yet still effective, water pistol that she eventually took along to a facilitated conversation. For Diane, the result of her coaching was an ability to enter a facilitated conversation with greater clarity and understanding of what had brought her and her colleague to that point. This meant that the resulting discussion they had was more productive, and she had clarity regarding what she needed to get out of the interaction. Water pistols were never drawn! Today she talks comfortably of her ability to work alongside her colleague. This is an enormous plus for an organisation that faced the very real prospect of losing one or both employees who were each seen as making a valuable contribution but ‘just didn’t get along’.

James’s story James*, an account director with a client services firm, described a frustrating relationship with a senior manager. What was once a strong collegial relationship had deteriorated into a strained situation characterised by misunderstandings, criticism and differences of opinion. James described the ‘aha’ moment he experienced as he worked with his conflict coach. He realised that although he and his colleague may have taken different approaches to issues, they both still had some core values and drivers they could work with. “Once I understood this, I started consciously thinking about ways in which I could express my needs and views and which would be better understood by my colleague.” James described his shift from the “I can’t stand that man!” to an acknowledgement that the way he reacted and responded had affected the situation. From there, he was able to slowly re-build a professional relationship with his colleague. It may not yet be what it once was, but it allows them to function in a civil and friendly manner, and to interact effectively and professionally. * Real names not used.

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interaction is to do something that is both deceptively simple and yet difficult to accomplish—stepping back and making a supreme effort to understand what someone is trying to communicate. He urges managers to resist falling into the trap of hastily categorising people as ‘mad’ or ‘bad’ as a means of excusing organisations from dealing with challenging workplace interactions.

ADR for one Conflict coaching may be part of the answer. Described as “ADR for one” by Canadian lawyer and mediator Cinnie Noble, conflict coaching is increasingly popular as a way for organisations to help individuals prepare for facilitation, mediation and ‘difficult conversations’, and to improve their capacity to understand their differences. In its broadest sense, Noble describes conflict coaching as a oneon-one process for helping individuals improve their understanding and skills to manage disputes more effectively. So is this enough to convince organisations to take an interest in conflict coaching? Perhaps a more persuasive argument, especially in the current economic climate, is the financial cost of conflict.

Conflict costs While we may know intuitively that conflict impacts on productivity and morale, research suggests that it has a profound effect on an organisation’s bottom line. A recent article in Entrepeneur, a US online publication for small businesses, examines some of the hard costs of workplace conflict. It quotes a 2008 study commissioned by CPP Inc—publishers of the Myers Brigg Assessment and the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument—which found that, in 2008, US employees spent 2.8 hours a week dealing with conflict. This is maybe not such a bad thing if the outcome of these conflicts is better understanding, mutual respect and a focus on future improvements. Sadly, the study found that 25 percent of the employees surveyed sought to avoid conflict by sickness or absence from work. Nearly 10 percent reported that workplace conflict led to project failure, and more than one-third said conflict resulted in someone leaving the company. This is a high price for any business. When these percentages are extrapolated into the follow-on costs of lost productivity, lost investment in the departed employee, and new recruitment, they provide a powerful incentive for improvement.


just the job

Developing career sustainability Outrage factor At Victoria University in Melbourne, the employee relations team has identified the ‘outrage’ factor as the most significant source and symptom of staff interpersonal conflict. When ‘outrage’ has been diagnosed within a grievance or complaint, the team recommends conflict coaching (in their case, the CinergyConflict coaching model developed by Cinnie Noble) to address this factor prior to any mediation or facilitated conversation. Margaret Buchanan, a member of the employee relations team, says in their experience, staff members who undergo conflict coaching before another ADR process to address an interpersonal conflict and/or deal with a complaint, are better able to minimise their own outrage. They are then better positioned to resolve their conflict at mediation. Buchanan says the university is seeing the impact of this approach in a demonstrable reduction in formal disputation and claims to external bodies by staff over the past two years. Janet Taylor, a Wellington mediator and conflict coach, enjoys the way that conflict coaching gives some control back to the individual who is immersed in the conflict. “It is their process, not your process,” says Taylor. She finds that conflict coaching helps individuals to “unbundle” how they are feeling and responding and, like Buchanan, she believes her clients are better prepared to get more out of facilitation or mediation as a result. Through conflict coaching, she is empowering individuals to manage difficult interactions and opening up their thinking to a range of options. Lynora Brooke is a chair of The Executive Connection (TEC), an international organisation that provides mentoring and coaching for CEOs, and an ADR practitioner who also trains conflict coaches. She also speaks of the profound benefits for organisations of training senior managers in the skills of conflict coaching. Brooke describes training to be a conflict coach as not just taking instruction in a process. It offers trainees “an opportunity to practise self-reflection and to increase self-awareness” as they work through their own response to conflict. This means that organisations gain incremental value as their coaches promote and practise a more positive approach to dealing with conflict. This is, in turn, mirrored by those they seek to influence. Of course, conflict coaching is not a panacea for all ills. It is yet another option in the toolbox for those who seek to make organisations positive places to work, and who see conflict as an opportunity to build understanding, bring about constructive change and promote innovation. As William James said, “Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.” … and perhaps, we can add, those of their organisations. et Gabrielle O’Brien is the executive officer of LEADR NZ— Association of Dispute Resolvers. She has more than 20 years experience as an HR professional in both the public and private sectors, and is a LEADR-accredited mediator.

It is no longer reasonable to expect to have a career for life, says Kaye Avery. The world of work now requires us to adjust and respond to new ways of doing things and new ways of being. The concept of ‘sustainability’ has been losing some of its integrity of late as the term is bandied about quite loosely, in some cases. Not only is the word used in relation to the environment, product consumables and business, but also with respect to ‘career’. It’s a widely-used term that now expresses our desires for the world, and it is perhaps also a comforting concept for us as we experience constant change and uncertainty. I am passionately interested in having a ‘sustainable’ world and have the word in my mission statement, but I’m realising that I need to carefully and properly name what it means for me. And, even then, it is an evolving concept. We are living in an era where our activities are mostly in reaction to something that we set in place for ourselves in an effort to increase productivity, connectivity and leisure—like constant upgrades, new fangled gadgets, and Facebook! The world spins as we try to respond to increasing pace, and its counterpoint—increasing environmental and social impact. From a career management perspective, disillusionment abounds as people become suspicious of what a ‘sustainable career’ really means. We have realised for some time now that no longer is it reasonable to expect to have a career for life. The phenomenon of technological advancement has forced some vocational roles to become obsolete, or so changed that the reasons why people were attracted to the field in the first place are lost. Some examples of this are found in the rapidly changing fields of media, including journalism, publishing and TV production. There is a good side to all of this, however, and it is about the development of adaptability and personal growth as a career management strategy. The world of work now requires us to adjust and respond to new ways of doing things and new ways of being. The old hierarchical structures consisting of leaders and followers is evolving. Individuals are being called upon to demonstrate greater levels of personal leadership and accountability, which requires greater levels of personal confidence. However, confidence without conscience is anarchy, as we have recently learned with the fallout from the finance industry melt-down. Similarly, personal power or strength without compassion is folly. We are now more connected via technology, giving greater transparency, which means that actions are scrutinised and the feedback is almost instant. So, the responsibility now is on the individual to grow and develop personally and professionally in ways that enhance our society. By regular personal review of where we are, and an open questioning of our motives and current interests, we are able to check our alignment. Taking steps to renew our career or way of working in the world encourages a regeneration of our focus and increases personal growth and authenticity. Sustainability, in the truest sense of the word, is about the ecological balance within a system. Everything we experience is part of a system, whether as a family, a community, a business or the world. In my view, we are at a critical time in history whereby preserving the ecology of our world is paramount. The process of reviewing our personal alignment with our wish for the world is very much part of career management. The greater our alignment, the better we feel about the work we do in the world. Kaye Avery is a career coach and the director of Career and Transition Consulting. See www.career-coach.co.nz for more.

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The strategic employee survey

McCabe Photography

McCabe Photography

If you or your management team see employee surveys as an unnecessary add-on, then it may be time to reconsider the role that measuring employee attitude and opinion can play in driving your organisation’s success—and how you go about it, says Dr Neal Knight-Turvey.

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employee surveys

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or almost a century now, employee surveys have been used to gain employee feedback on their workplace experience and attitudes. In all likelihood, however, only a small percentage of the surveys conducted in this period would have managed to leverage an organisation’s human resources towards fulfilling strategic priorities. That’s because traditional surveys tend to either focus on the wrong types of things—such as satisfaction, quality of work-life, and other employee-centric elements—or they fail to explicitly link what is assessed in the survey to business needs. As a survey professional, it never ceases to amaze me the number of blank looks I get when asking the question: “What elements of your business strategy do we need to include in your staff survey?” An increasing number of organisations have begun to recognise that they are failing to capture the benefits an employee survey has to offer by continuing to follow the traditional approach. Rather than a preoccupation with morale and worker satisfaction, best-in-class organisations are ensuring their surveys have a strategic focus in linking employee experiences and engagement levels with business performance. They are, in effect, being used as strategic business tools—linking key employee metrics like climate perceptions and engagement levels with key performance indicators like customer satisfaction, revenue per employee, and firm profitability. In this article we look at the more progressive approach to employee surveying. Rather than focus on what has been written time and time again about surveys (the ’10 best practices’ type thing), attention turns here on how to ensure they become more strategic in nature—and how they can serve as the foundation for bringing about not just any old change, but change that affects business performance.

Measuring what counts Historically, employee surveys focused primarily on issues related to employee satisfaction. Unfortunately, these types of surveys only assess one side of the employer-employee exchange. They reveal what the employee gets from the employment relationship, but they fail to inform the employer what they get in return. For instance, a satisfied worker may be one who is in a role where there is a high level of job flexibility which allows them to fulfil personal pursuits outside of work. But there is no indication in a satisfaction survey of whether higher levels of satisfaction are reciprocated back in the workplace with greater work effort. In fact, many years of research suggests there is only a small relationship between job satisfaction and job performance. A survey that focuses on job satisfaction, as many still do, is neither strategic nor likely to improve organisational functioning. What an employee survey should measure are the things that actually make a difference to organisational performance. These include assessments of how well employees understand and believe

in the organisation’s vision and purpose. If staff do not tune into what the organisation is about or what it is trying to achieve, then it is far less likely the organisation will be able to meet its end-goal successfully, or at least as effectively as it could. A survey should also assess how well employees understand and are aligned to the organisation’s strategies, particularly around customer satisfaction and product and service quality. A key component of any survey should be measures of employee perceptions of important workplace attributes such as communication, teamwork, supervision, job conditions, and performance management. By measuring these features (known as organisation climate), the organisation has at its fingertips a barometer of what seems to be working well and what needs attention within an organisation in terms of its operating functions. More progressive surveys will attempt to directly link employee perceptions with performance. For example, a traditional question such as “I am happy with the feedback I receive in my workplace“ would ideally be substituted with “The feedback I get helps me to improve my performance”. The issue of ‘feedback’ is framed specifically around its impact on performance, not just satisfaction with the type or level of feedback, or its general availability in the workplace. Measuring employee perceptions of key business initiatives also serves as a key diagnostic in identifying the difference between intended versus realised strategy. Too often, managers will suggest that they have ‘implemented’ a particular programme or strategic initiative, whether it be a performance management system or a new and improved customer interaction process. But such assertions reflect mere tick-box or ineffective management if a survey reveals that the performance management system or customer interaction process in question is, in reality, perceived unfavourably by employees.

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What is needed, instead, is the identification of the root causes of employee engagement, as well as a means of prioritising which of the engagement drivers found to be most important should be targeted for improvement. If your employees do not believe that the organisation’s performance management is “good”, then quite simply it is not. As the psychological literature has well established, employee perceptions are greater antecedents to employee attitude and behaviour than any ‘objective’ (or manager’s) reality. Lastly, and perhaps most important, surveys must continue to include an assessment of employee attitudes and behaviour. It is, after all, the employee who acts as the most important mechanism by which organisations enact organisational strategies. No organisation can function effectively without energised employees who not only intend to stay with the organisation, but who also display the types of behaviour needed to help the organisation succeed. The most pervasive measure of employee attitude and behaviour in use today revolves around employee engagement. Engagement goes to the heart of the modern workplace relationship between employee and employer and emphasises the two-way nature of

the exchange between the two. Employers need employees who will go beyond just ‘doing the job’. They need people who, without prompting, will go above and beyond what is expected of them to deliver outstanding customer service and sustained discretionary effort. Of course, employers need to recognise that engagement is something an employee has to offer. Employees choose the level of engagement they display at work. Employees are more engaged when working in organisations able to deliver the types of things that satisfy worker needs. These are nothing fancy or difficult, just simple and basic human needs: being well led, feeling respected, being heard, suitably resourced to do what is asked of you, and feeling valued by one’s employer, supervisors and peers. These are also things that will vary across organisations as different types of people are inclined to work in different professions, industries and organisation types. And, moreover, these are the things that can be assessed within an employee survey.

Linking survey metrics to organisational performance

Lead your organisation in the right direction Better information. Better decisions. Build a great workplace where your employees are totally engaged.

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A 1998 article in the Harvard Business Review changed how people viewed the humble employee survey forever. The authors showed how Sears, one of the largest retail stores in the US, was able to use employee survey data to predict company success. Using a causal chain model and statistical analysis, Sears found their employees’ attitudes about the company and their jobs affected their performance and efficiency, which in turn affected customer satisfaction, and in turn affected company profits. A key feature of the employee-customer-performance causal chain—known to most of us as the service-profit chain—is that it highlights the types of performance drivers that should be measured in an employee survey, and moreover, why. Employee engagement, for example, should be targeted for assessment as this is a validated driver of client satisfaction, which itself drives business unit and organisational performance. A survey measuring employee engagement should, in turn, include measures of the potential antecedents of engagement. The potential drivers of engagement are those workplace features discussed above: leadership, communication, resource adequacy, job design, and so on. They are the things that were once assessed solely in terms of how satisfied employees were with them, but now should be assessed in terms of their potential to engage people and drive improvements further along the employee-customer-performance chain. To identify and understand what drives employee engagement, organisations need to turn to statistical analysis of their survey data. Unfortunately, too many organisations continue to rely solely on the traditional yet potentially ineffective approach of simply eyeballing their data. In effect, many managers simply look to the lowest rated


employee surveys

Let’s get strategic—recognising the difference between traditional and strategic surveys Traditional surveys

Strategic surveys

Fire fighting—looking for warning signs of trouble via lagging indicators Employee survey measures examined in isolation (eg, level of job satisfaction) Human resources or organisation development responsibility for survey development—less likelihood of business strategy being assessed Employee satisfaction with the job/organisation—job satisfaction does not correlate well with employee productivity

Strategic—driving organisation success via leading and multiple indicators

Employee-centric—what the employee gets out of the employment relationship

Employee and employer exchange—what both the employee and employer gets out of the employment relationship

Measures attitudes and behaviours relevant to humanistic concerns and morale

Measures attitudes and behaviours relevant to business strategy, organisational values, and operational needs

questions as the foundation for establishing what change interventions are needed. But the lowest rated questions in a survey are in no way guaranteed to be the same things that actually matter. If any low rated item has little—if any—impact on employee attitudes or behaviour, then we would contend that investing time and resources trying to ‘fix’ the issue reflects time and resources wasted. What is needed, instead, is the identification of the root causes of employee engagement, as well as a means of prioritising which of the engagement drivers found to be most important should be targeted for improvement. The most advanced method at present for using the employee survey as a strategic business tool is referred to as linkage research. Linkage analysis involves exploring the relationship between employee perceptions and engagement levels with critical success factors measured elsewhere, such as customer satisfaction, revenue per employee and return on assets. In effect, an organisation joins together several different sources of data into a single dataset that maps the causal chain between organisation management and organisation success. For example, if an organisation has, as part of its business strategy, a focus on customer service, it can use an employee survey to assess employee orientation to customers, which then serves as a lead indicator of actual customer satisfaction. When there is a disconnect between survey scores and customer

Measures assessed as part of a causal chain (eg, what employee attitudes have an impact on customer satisfaction) Key stakeholder responsibility—functional contributions (Operations, Finance, HR) to ensure whole of business strategy included in survey Employee engagement with the job/organisation—employee engagement correlates well with employee productivity

satisfaction scores, the organisation has identified crucial diagnostic information that can then be used to drive appropriate organisational change. The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) adopted a survey linkage approach in their attempts to drive organisation performance improvements. Their causal chain linked managers’ leadership behaviour to the organisation’s culture, which in turn was expected to drive stakeholders’ perceptions of overall effectiveness. The data sources used to identify the leading indicators of performance included 360 degree feedback data for their senior managers, employee survey data around key cultural dimensions, and key stakeholder ratings of EECA’s overall effectiveness. Statistical analysis of these linked data sources provided them with key diagnostic information as to where in the organisation improvements could be made to drive improvements in stakeholder perceptions. EECA’s survey efforts were, as a result, truly strategic. Rather than concentrate on a raft of issues argued to have an impact on employees, this organisation decided there should be as much emphasis placed on what has an impact on the business as et well as on its people. Dr Neal Knight-Turvey is general manager of JRA Australia and research director of JRA Australia and New Zealand.

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orga nisatio nal learnin g

Learning on the job Professor Paul Kirkbride, a keynote speaker at the recent HRINZ 2010 Conference, looks at emerging trends in organisational learning and executive education, and at the challenges for the next decade and beyond.

Professor Paul Kirkbride: “the most powerful learning is action learning”.

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here is an old saying about traditional lecture-based learning that “the notes of the lecturer pass into the notes of the student without touching the brain of either”. The marketplace is full of organisations seeking to develop managers and offering any number of lecture-based programmes. We need to get past that. I’m bored with programmes, and I’m not alone. They are an essential part of the development mix but they are not the most important part. It is impossible to talk about the next decade without discussing the growing awareness of the importance of the 70/20/10 learning and development philosophy—developed by Michael Lombardo and Robert W Eichinger and outlined in The Leadership Machine—and increasing emphasis on experiential or on-the-job learning. This research established that only 10 percent of learning comes from formal programmes, training courses, research and reading. Twenty percent is learned from sound feedback—perhaps 360 or psychometric testing, and if people are fortunate enough to have a good mentor or role model. But 70 percent is learned experientially with real life tasks and problem solving. That can come from planned and systematic onthe-job experiences, working on real tasks and problems in projects or task forces—and this can include deliberately targeted transfers, rotations or promotions. Research into experiential development activities suggests that when people get the opportunities to move into a new role they are enabled to develop new skills. That development is most powerful when the individual experiences high pressure, feels that he has to make a difference, and is working in an area where he has little or no experience and fears he will fail. The challenge for suppliers of organisational learning is how do we get people to have the right experience at the right time? There is a great difference between just-in-case learning and just-in-time learning. Degree programmes are just-in-case learning—just in case you may need it in future. Just-in-time learning is much more powerful—but you have to deliver it at just the time that people need it. If a group is working on a problem and they are stuck and, at that time, you say “let me explain”, it’s like a light bulb going off. They are about to tackle the problem and they have been given the framework to solve it. That’s what makes just-in-time so much more powerful than just-in-case. However, the key and the skill is how to

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blend together the 70 and the 20 with the 10. If we get all this right then we get superior management development I’m a great believer that the most powerful learning is action learning because it allows the blending of aspects of the experiential (70) with coaching (20) and formal inputs (10). This used to be regarded as merely an exercise, but real action learning is a genuine guided teaching project, tackling an issue that the organisation wants resolved, and it means putting people on those projects as a development initiative. Total buy-in and support from top management is crucial to the success of such initiatives because sometimes the projects will fail—and that is part of the learning. If participants are too successful, then you have probably not chosen the right project. I ran action learning programmes for Volkswagen throughout the 1990s and we deliberately looked for projects that were not doable, maybe one that had previously failed. When you put bright people from different areas into that difficult project, they are out of their comfort zone and they have to learn. You build in coaching, you build in feedback but, most importantly, you also build in just-in-time. The skill of the facilitator is that, when the group gets stuck, he or she offers a framework that enables them to get to the next stage. That is learning through experience. Once, at VW, someone said: “I just became excellent in something I never wanted to know anything about.” That was not about a


teaching module, it was about an action learning experience. Organisational learning in the next decade will be about looking forward. We need to ask: Why will people be learning, how will they be learning and what will they be learning? Learning will be developed more for organisational needs than individual needs, for strategic rather than operational or personal reasons, and more effort will be paid to learning that moves the organisational needle. It will aim to enable cross boundary collaboration, to cope with volatility, complexity and ambiguity, to explore different mindsets and to develop and translate strategy. People will go away less for learning, they will learn in close proximity to their job. Greater focus on the 70 percent of 70/20/10 will bring increased use of action learning on real projects, there will be more use of simulations and metaphors in learning to approximate to organisational realities. There will be increased workshop-based rather than contentbased designs and more intact team-based learning. There will be focus on organisationally based communities of practice, more use of coaching and mentoring and much more will be done virtually and using social networks. Learning will also become more business focused. Rather than suppliers telling people what they should be doing, organisations should be telling us what they need. Let’s find out what the burning issues are in their organisation.

However, you can take all these components—lectures, 360 feedback and psychometrics, group dynamics, e-learning, activities and icebreakers, dialogues and debates and project-based and action learning—but, as I’ve already said, it will be the people who can blend these methodologies within a 70/20/10 framework who will be successful. If L&D managers are paying millions of dollars, they want to know what their organisation is achieving from that and how is it moving it forward. To succeed we have to move beyond the happy sheet. I have been in this business for 30 years and, even when I started, the happy sheet was inadequate as an evaluation of learning. The world is not simple. It’s going to become more complex, more volatile and more ambiguous. We need to enable people to change their mindsets and live with complexity, volatility and ambiguity. Learning in the next decade will see organisation-based communities of practice. Knowledge does not just exist in universities it exists in your organisations—what we need to ensure is that we et capture and harness that. Professor Paul Kirkbride is deputy dean of executive education at Melbourne Business School. He has worked in management, executive education and industry globally and written numerous books and articles on organisational change and development.

HRINZ Academic Branch is delighted to announce the inaugural

If you wish to engage with recent research that can improve HRM practice and help build a relevant HRM research agenda for the future, then this Forum is for you! Thirteen papers are being presented, reporting recent NZ studies on such issues as diversity management, generational cohorts, drivers of executive performance, knowledge management, and workplace bullying. All papers are concerned with the implications for HRM in the NZ context. Our target audience includes HR Practitioners, HRM Academics, PhD and Masters Students.

THURSDAY 18 NOVEMBER University of Auckland Business School

For more information, the full programme and registration details visit

www.researchforum.hrinz.org.nz

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employment today 35


McCabe Photography

Secret ballots for strike action

A private member’s bill currently before Parliament will make secret ballots for strike action compulsory. Susan Hornsby-Geluk and Chloe Luscombe outline the proposed changes and discuss the implications.

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nions may soon be required to undertake a secret ballot of members before being able to commence strike action. A private member’s bill is currently before Parliament which will make secret ballots for strike action compulsory. However, recent case law indicates that it is difficult for an employer to show that irregularities in union balloting will render a strike unlawful. Strikes are closely regulated under the Employment Relations Act 2000. Generally they may only occur in relation to bargaining for a collective employment agreement, and cannot occur within the first 40 days of collective bargaining. For those employees operating in ‘essential services’ (eg, fire service, ambulance services and hospitals), the restrictions are even more onerous with 14 days notice of the strike required to be given and strict rules around what must be included in the strike notice. This bill amends the definition of a strike to include a require-

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ment for a secret ballot to occur. It has passed its first reading and is currently before the Select Committee. The bill provides that a union cannot undertake a strike unless the question has been submitted to a vote of those members of the union who would become party to the strike if it occurred. It does not state whether all members must be present, nor does it require that the strike be approved by a majority of members. It merely requires a secret ballot to occur. Those other matters would be subject to the union’s own rules. Generally, unions are not in favour of the bill. Their view is that many unions already have their own rules which require strike action to be decided by way of a secret ballot and, therefore, the bill is unnecessary. They also contend that the change will provide employers with one more weapon to use in challenging strikes, and this will lead to further costly and protracted legal wrangling over the lawfulness of strike action. In addition, some unions have pointed out the practical dif-


strike actio n

ficulties which may exist where the union operates in a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week industry where it is difficult to gather all employees in one place. There is also a general concern, which has been expressed by both unions and Business New Zealand alike, about the difficulty of complying with the requirement to hold a secret ballot in the event of strikes relating to health and safety. In this regard, employees are entitled to strike in situations where there is an immediate and significant risk to health and safety. Health and safety strikes, by their nature, have to occur very quickly. Requiring a ballot may create unnecessary risk for employees. Many employers would welcome the change. Those employers have expressed concern that strike action can occur at the behest of a group of vocal union members, and that other, more moderate, employees feel too intimidated or pressured to voice their true opinion. Employers point to some employees choosing to work during strikes as evidence that not all members support strike action. Submissions on behalf of employers indicate that they would like to see the bill include provisions which declare a strike that has not been subject to a secret ballot to be ‘unlawful’, require secret ballots to demonstrate a majority for a strike to proceed, and require unions to advise employers of the results of the secret ballot. Although there is no current legislative requirement for secret ballots, this issue has already been subject to challenge in the Employment Court. In Electrix Limited v EPMU, the employer brought injunction proceedings seeking to prevent the EPMU’s strike from commencing on the basis that the union’s secret ballot had not complied with its own rules. The employees were employed in an ‘essential industry’, and therefore the strike required formal notice. The employer argued that the secret ballot was not attended by all 77 affected members, and that subsequent discussions with employees indicated that not all members were intending to strike. As a result, the employer argued that the strike notice was sufficiently uncertain to render the strike unlawful. The Employment Court considered the claim but found that a common sense interpretation of the union’s rules meant that when a secret ballot has been held, a resolution to strike would be a lawful decision, which binds the members who did not attend. The Court determined that notwithstanding that only 55 members attended the meeting, this was sufficient to bind the 77 affected members, and the strike was a lawful one. Would this case have been decided differently if the bill had been enacted? Probably not. The bill would have bound the EPMU to very similar conditions as it is currently bound to in its own rules. The Court’s decision that attendance by 55 out of 77 affected members at the secret ballot was sufficient, would likely be the same

even if the bill had already been enacted, as the union’s rules stated that all members were bound by the lawful decisions of the union. However, overseas cases illustrate the potential for increased litigation, and technical challenges, in relation to this type of legislation. An example of the types of challenges which may occur has played out recently in the United Kingdom between Unite, the union representing cabin crew, and British Airways. In December 2009, British Airways successfully obtained an injunction preventing union members from striking on the basis that members who had taken voluntary redundancy voted in the ballot, and therefore the legislative balloting requirements had not been met, as these employees had left, or were planning to leave their employment. The union vowed to re-ballot and continue with its planned strike action, but had lost the advantage of undertaking strikes over the busy holiday season. The second ballot process resulted in an overwhelming majority in favour of strike action. However, in May 2010 British Airways claimed that the union had not met its reporting requirements with respect to this second ballot. Under United Kingdom law, the union was required to advise members of the number of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ votes, and the number of spoiled ballots. The union sent text messages to members saying that strike action was overwhelmingly approved, but only posted the yes, no, and spoilt ballot data on notice boards and in crew rooms. The High Court initially granted the injunction, but this was overturned in the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal found that while the union could have done more to ensure compliance with the statutory provisions, what they had done was enough. However, it also found that a failure to comply with the reporting requirements, if this had occurred, would have enabled British Airways to obtain an injunction. The bill does not seek to impose conditions which are anywhere near as onerous as those placed on United Kingdom unions, but it does illustrate the scope for potential litigation relating to strikes. However, the risk of increased litigation needs to be balanced against the benefits of ensuring that industrial action only proceeds when it is properly mandated by those union members most affected. Strikes are damaging from both an economic and an employment relationship perspective. The decision to commence strike action should not be taken lightly, and individuals should have the right to choose whether that action should be taken, without fear of reet percussion or reprisal. Susan Hornsby-Geluk is a partner at Kensington Swan specialising in employment law. Chloe Luscombe, an associate at Kensington Swan, assisted with this article.

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busin ess partnerin g

Getting down to business The transformation of HR professionals from their traditional roles to strategic business partners has been slow, says Clare Parkes. She examines the issue of HR business partnering and explains how to put HR at the centre of business strategy.

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eal value is yet to be derived from the way HR operates in New Zealand. While there are, of course, pockets of excellence, I believe the profession has yet to earn its stripes overall. In many organisations, and in the minds of many leaders, HR is still regarded as an administrative or processcentric function. But HR has evolved to much more than this and its pleasing to see some organisations are experiencing the benefits of a more businesscentric approach. For most, however, before they can expect to be welcomed with open arms at the senior table, they need to prove their success as a true partner to the business and demonstrate their ability to understand the complexities of business drivers and decisions. While the concept of HR business partnering was conceived well over a decade ago, the transformation of HR professionals from their traditional roles to strategic business partners has been a little slow—particularly in New Zealand. Research suggests that the skills of a traditional HR professional and those of a business partner are quite different and therefore some may not make the transition easily. Many HR practitioners are not building the credibility needed to accelerate their professional transformation and deliver a more outcome-focused, strategic role. What is the consequence? There is still a common perception among HR professionals and others alike that it is difficult to measure the impact of activities undertaken by the HR function. Often, such activities are seen as ‘soft’ or unimportant when considered against operational and financial goals in the development of a business wide strategy; thus HR is left out of important discussions.

What businesses need and want from HR today There are signs that some organisations are expecting more from their HR resources, particularly in response to increased media coverage of issues such as the leadership of talent pools, the challenge to secure the right mix of skills and capabilities, and overall business success stemming from strong leadership capability to name a few.

When it is done well, HR can contribute to strategy, enable the execution of business plans, and deliver tangible commercial benefits. This does not happen overnight and a journey of change is needed—not least of which is that business leaders must buy into a new way of operating. The goal is to appoint strategic HR partners who will become engaged with and accountable to the business, yet also able to support the agenda driven by HR specialists to drive change and raise capability in the organisation. Strategic partners shape both what the business does and how they do it; they exist to ensure the business achieves its goals. Organisations need HR people who know business can influence culture and make positive change happen within an organisation. And they need HR functions that can ensure skilled, motivated, flexible and committed employees are retained and developed.

Structuring the HR function for business partnering The HR business partnering model outlined by David Ulrich, professor of business admininstration at the University of Michigan, suggests three core functions are at the heart of the HR functional structure: 1. Shared services. This is a single unit that handles all the routine ‘transactional’ services across the business in relation to common people management related issues. Shared services typically provide resourcing, payroll, absence monitoring, and advice on the simpler employee relations issues. The remit of shared services is to provide low-cost, effective HR advisory and administration support to the business. An overseas trend has seen organisations outsourcing this function to a third party provider as a more cost-effective way of managing it. 2. Centres of excellence. These are usually individuals or small teams of HR experts with specialist knowledge of HR solutions. Their purpose is to deliver competitive business advantage through HR innovations in areas such as reward, learning, engagement and talent management. Given the size and nature of business in

Become a strategic partner in your business Clarian HR together with Acumen and AUT University centre for innovative leadership present an HR Business Partnering programme for the HR Professional. Contact Andy McCormack on 09 414 3843 or email: andy@clarian.co.nz for further details about this programme and how you can begin to master the business knowledge you need to be seen as a strategic leader in your organisation. To find out more visit www.clarian.co.nz and click Development & Performance.

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New Zealand, it makes sense for most small- and medium-sized businesses to outsource this on an as-needed basis. 3. Strategic business partners. HRBPs are senior HR professionals working closely with business leaders influencing and steering strategy and strategy implementation. Their role can vary enormously depending on organisational size and business priorities, however some common areas of activity are: • Organisational and people development; • Longer term resource and talent management planning; • Using business insights to drive change in people management practices; • Intelligence gathering of good people management practices internally and externally that inform senior executives of best practice actions; • Defining and ensuring talent reflects the core competence of the business; • Designing an organisation that is fit for the future; • Developing leadership capability; • Challenging the norm and pushing the business to go where it’s never been or considered before; • Supporting the leaders to hold true to the culture and values of the organisation (whether implied or explicit). HR needs to get itself organised by putting formal systems in place so it can be taken seriously as part of the business and its strategy. The perception of HR needs to change—and the HR business partnering model has become a key driver of that change. et

The steps to HR business partnering To implement the change to a business partnering role, all stakeholders must understand the vision and support the move towards a more strategic function. Here are some steps to follow: • Ensure there is a clear rationale for the proposed changes and that this is a joint decision between the business and HR, not one that HR foists on the business. Without a clear rationale and clear vision, the expected cost efficiencies may not be realised. • Assess and prepare the ground for change: success of the business partner role is very much dependent on the organisation’s receptiveness to HR practitioners adopting new roles. Allow sufficient time to ensure there is a common understanding of what the role is and what it is not. • Ensure sufficient time to openly discuss partnering, what it means and what adjustments are needed both within HR and across the wider business. As line managers are affected by the changes, it is important they are consulted and adequately prepared. • Assess the skills needed to perform the business partner role. Avoid making the assumption that existing HR managers have the necessary skills and behaviours to move into business partner roles.

Clare Parkes is managing director of Clarian Human Resources and an HR professional with over 20 years of experience in generalist human resources, organisational development and business management. She is also a member of the CIPD in the UK.

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employment today 39


sustai n able busi n ess

corporate responsibility signals a smart approach Forging a business path by specialising in corporate social responsibility has been a successful formula for Nikki Wright, who explains her central philosophy. As the Emissions Trading Scheme takes effect and prominent business leaders make a compelling case for New Zealand Inc to be based on clean-technology, now is the time for companies to become sustainable, or risk irrelevance. Whatever words we use to describe it—whether it be corporate social responsibility (now usually just ‘CR’) or sustainability (made up of economic, social and environmental components)— the philosophy and reasoning is the same. There is ample research-based evidence of potential business customers and end consumers making purchase decisions based on a company’s CR credentials. For those enlightened businesses in the vanguard of the shift towards CR, it is time to sharpen practises and take the next step. For those which lag behind, it is a catalyst for change. W h e n Wr i g h t C ommu nications started in 2006, sustainability was a nonnegotiable bedrock policy, and a point of difference in the PR market place. No other firms were CR specialists. But to gain the trust of clients with enviable CR records such as Toyota and ecostore required impeccable credentials of our own. A token paper recycling bin in the corner of the office wasn’t going to impress the chief executives of these companies—they can sniff out ‘green washing’ from a mile away. To be able to challenge and give credible counsel to Villa Maria Estate and Urgent Couriers on CR, we

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must practise what we preach. From certified sustainable office furniture, and use of a toner cartridge recycling service, to the Wright Communications Smart Car and the commitment of consultants to commute by public transport or car pool, environmental sustainability is embedded. From Wright Communications’ inception, the directors committed to CR by providing pro bono communications services to a chosen not-for-profit. The firm selected the Sustainable Business Network, which has so far received more than $100,000 in work to help the SBN’s goal of promoting CR among New Zealand businesses. CR is a significant component of our full service PR offering. This is a key factor for a lot of clients who approach us—usually either referred by businesses which are strong in CR, or which have done desk research and liked what they see of Wright’s credentials. Our services include promoting clients’ best-practise CR initiatives in the media through to the preparation of award winning sustainability reports and working alongside our clients’ sustainability teams to assist them in developing and implementing their emissions reduction plans. Part of our role is to encourage companies to not only have an environmental policy—everyone can do that—but to actually ensure it operates effectively. The social component of CR (a company’s values) should be a

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Time to get started The best thing a company can do to catch up with CR is to talk to businesses which are already well down the path. The easiest way to do that is join the Sustainable Business Network, or—for larger corporates—the NZ Business Council for Sustainable Development. Attend events, grab a coffee with thought-leaders such as Steve Bonnici of Urgent Couriers, and start taking action.

key consideration for employers. This includes training opportunities and workload management. The PR industry is notorious for its long hours and work pressure, which eventually takes its toll on the morale and health of even the most driven operator. I expect Wright consultants to work hard, but ensuring our operators have an acceptable work/life balance is crucial to providing a top line professional service to clients. Consciousness about our generation’s environmental legacy is on the rise—many in the next generation of employees “want to make a difference” in their roles, and seek work with companies which practise CR. The latest Shape NZ survey findings released in July showed 59 percent of New Zealanders are likely to leave a socially irresponsible employer. For decision makers within an organisation, the survey showed the figure is even higher—clearly CR has large impact on recruitment and retention. From voluntary tree planting, to support of a particular charity or local community project through sponsorship or donations, companies can make a real impact on the world they operate in. This should be a non-negotiable commitment,

not just for when profits are up. But plenty of companies have discovered those sorts of activities—no matter how visible they are—are not worth much to their reputation if their products or services are damaging to people’s health or the environment. It’s a long and difficult road to repair negative consumer perception of a company’s brand or products. Innovation focused on reducing the environmental impact of its products is a key way a company can become more responsible. Toyota’s Plug-in Prius, which is being trialled alongside Massey University, is a good example of CR in an emissions-conscious world. It is important to think of a company as a consumer that can make a difference as well. By choosing suppliers or business partners which are similarly sustainable, companies can influence the overall supply chain. Wright Communications wants to be a part of an economic future where CR is at the forefront. et

Nikki Wright founded PR firm Wright Communications in 2006 and offers clients expertise in CR and sustainability communications.


remun eratio n remedies

under pressure As the economy recovers, there is growing pressure from the workforce for solid pay increases. Susan Doughty provides a low-down on wages and salaries in the year ahead and how to deal with employee and union expectations. With the economy limping towards recovery, there is growing pressure from waged and salaried workforces for solid pay increases. Add to this the impact of increases in GST and the CPI, the introduction of the Emissions Trading Scheme and, of course, the 2011 Rugby World Cup and we may see significant demands for pay increases by employees and unions. Here are some of the questions we have received on wages and salaries recently. The union is making noises that they expect negotiated increases to be aligned to the anticipated CPI incease next year of 5.9 percent. Negotiated increases have tended to follow CPI in our business, but this is completely unaffordable—what can we do to counter this argument? The Reserve Bank Governor has issued a warning to those trying to take advantage of one-off increases in inflation later this year in respect to wages and other pricing contracts. He stated: “The coming increase in the rate of GST and other governmentrelated price changes are likely to temporarily push annual CPI inflation above 3 percent. The Bank does not expect this price spike to have a lasting impact on inflation …” The Governor makes the important point that, given the fragility of the economic recovery, pricing behaviour should ideally reflect low underlying inflation, not the upcoming temporary peak. He also pointed out that “the

October 1 income tax reductions mean most people are already compensated for the effects of the GST increase. Given this, there is less argument for one-off CPIindexed wage increases.” We recommend that organisations start to clearly signal that there is no appetite to link pay increases to the temporary lift in CPI and this will not be translated into significant increases. We further recommend that you undertake solid research of actual practices in your market as, in our experience, increases are nowhere near CPI of 5.9 percent. Recently Victoria University published the median actual wage increase to June 2010 as 4.2 percent. The union has referenced this as a benchmark in negotiations. This appears considerably higher than salary movements and other indicators we have seen. Why is this? This has to do with how these statistics are calculated. Victoria University provides a median increase based on the weighted average of coverage across collective agreements. This means, effectively, that if you have some collectives with very large memberships, they will dominate or ‘swamp’ the results. In this case, settlements on collectives in the health and education sectors had a significant impact on the results. When dealing with negotiations, we recommend that you gather a range of market information to fully understand actual trends. If you have a range of well-validated information, you

will soon be able to determine the ‘real’ picture and be able to have well-qualified discussions with unions and employees. If you are in doubt, seek help from remuneration and industrial relation experts who have a wealth of information at their disposal. How are wage and salary forecasts generally calculated? Very simply, the overall negotiated wage increase reported for each collective agreement and, in the case of salaries, the overall increase applied within the business is counted as one statistic. The median and average is then determined based on the sample provided. No weighting for coverage is applied. This approach therefore avoids the ‘swamping’ of the sample by any one organisation or collective agreement. What are the current forecasts for wages in 2010 and how do these compare to salary forecasts? We recently conducted a survey of wage negotiations across a wide range of organisations and industry sectors which indicates forecasts for wages and salaries are closely aligned in 2010. Forecasts suggest a median of approximately 2.5 to 3.0 percent for both salaries and wages. What do you consider is the best way to prepare for union and/or employee negotiations in 2010? When preparing for negotiations or any pay-related discussions, the most important thing is to do your homework and be

prepared. Key elements of this preparation include: • Understanding the current economic environment, particularly the impact of changes in taxation, GST increases, the ETS and the impact on CPI. • Understand your negotiation ‘weak’ spots. As an example, are you an organisation who will experience a surge in demand during the World Cup? If so, employees and unions may leverage this and expect larger-than-usual increases or special payments during this period. • Research and understand current settlement trends—in your region, in your industry and, if possible, your competitors for talent. • Understand the data sources your union generally relies on. Become au fait with the calculation of statistics and the make-up of data samples and then compare these with the information you have gathered. It is important that both parties are comparing ‘apples with apples’. • Don’t be afraid to share information with your union partners. Collaborative working styles, joint problem sharing and increased levels of transparency are significantly more effective than old-school adversarial et practices. Susan Doughty is a director of DSD Consulting, specialists in remuneration and rewards management.

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Honestly, what do you think? Surveys are an important part of organisational functioning and HR activity—but how useful are they, and what should HR professionals consider when implementing them, asks Bev Marshall. She outlines ways to ensure you get real value from your surveys. “So tell us honestly, what do you think?” Ask an employee this question and the answer may well be: “Why do you want to know, and what are you going to do about it?” Culture, climate, engagement, employee satisfaction … it seems there is an infinite number of organisational surveys available to delve into the hearts and minds of staff. How useful are they and what should HR professionals consider when implementing them? Surveys are an important part of organisational functioning and human resource activity. As a research tool they have the capacity to provide managers with insight into the thoughts and feelings of staff. They can be used to gauge the views of staff on specific issues, to take a broader measure of organisational health, to assess the level of staff engagement with the organisation, or evaluate specific aspects of work process or projects. When well designed, properly deployed and thoughtfully analysed, surveys can be powerful and legitimate drivers of change. Management can capitalise on the strengths identified and develop plans to remedy those critical areas that come up short. In most organisations, senior leadership identifies indicators (KPIs) that signal how well the business is tracking. This data

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tells them what they are achieving. Information gained through staff surveys can tell them how effectively the processes, culture, management activities and other variables are supporting the achievement of those indicators—or not. Survey results can give human resource and organisational development professionals clear guidance on how valuable the processes and practices they design are, and the impact these have on staff when implemented. The real value comes when change is made as a result of what staff have said, and a follow-up survey shows a positive uplift in results that correlates with an uplift in organisational results. For example, a survey identifies leadership as an area of weakness and so a leadership development programme is implemented—as a result, staff engagement increases reducing the cost of turnover. However, it is not always a good news story. We have conducted surveys and management has been so dismayed at their results they shut the report in the bottom drawer and pretended it has never happened. Fortunately, it is also true that we have worked with management teams that took messages on the chin and introduced changes to remedy problems that were having a direct impact on their effectiveness.

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Do I need to add that staff at the former organisation developed a level of cynicism about surveys and management that will take a long time to diminish? The fact is most organisations approach surveys with every intention of delivering change as a result of the feedback that comes through. However, we know the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and so it is with survey results. Many organisations fail to act on the results for a variety of reasons (excuses): we’ve just restructured so the results are not a surprise, we knew they wouldn’t be great; there’s a lot going on, people are just feeling busy right now; we’re already addressing that issue (usually not effectively enough); and sometimes business as usual just crowds out all the plans for change implementation. So what can HR and OD professionals do to ensure their organisations extract the deep value inherent in a good organisational survey? • Work with senior management to ensure they are doing it for the right reasons: what do they want to know, and more importantly why? Are they prepared for adverse results? Are they prepared to act? • Drive it from the top: assist the chief executive to develop

a message communicating the reasons for the survey and what management wants to accomplish. • Work with a reputable organisation to ensure the survey is well designed and meets the needs your senior managers have identified for your organisation Is it capturing the specific information you need to plan change? • Communicate the results— let staff know you have heard what they have said, and address all the issues raised in some way. If it is something that management can’t address (for whatever reason) acknowledge the concern and explain why it can’t be addressed. If it can be addressed, tell them what you propose to do—and then do it! • Re-survey—otherwise you won’t know what has changed. People become cynical about surveys when they think no one listens. Show them you are listening and then, when you ask what they think, they’ll et tell you. Bev Marshall is a director of Winsborough Limited, sponsors of HRINZ’s Nine to 9 conference. In 2009–2010, Winsborough conducted research into the impact of the recession on employee engagement.


recruitmen t

New recruitment DNA The recruitment industry is undergoing massive change and must become more fully engaged with candidates, says Jane Kennelly. She looks at the skills those in the recruitment function of tomorrow will require in order to stay ahead of the game and add value. The world of recruitment is undergoing massive change, according to Steve Fogarty, senior manager of Strategic Programs at Adidas. He says the talent acquisition landscape has shifted from a focus on the war for talent to engagement and experience. There is no doubt that, as recruiters, we are being challenged to communicate in vastly different ways. Traditional methods are being reframed as we shift towards a technology-supported, electronically-driven candidate interaction. This is happening on a global scale and is creating major challenges for contemporary industry suppliers and internal recruitment functions alike. The impact of this changing scene for those charged with talent attraction leads us to pose a question of ourselves: “In the shift to engagement and experience, what skills will be required by those involved in the recruitment function of tomorrow in order to be ahead of the game and add value?” Applicant tracking, dedicated HR solutions, candidate management solutions and a new breed of talent management offering is having a huge influence on the world of recruitment. Add to this the economic pressures that we have all been under and it is clear that companies must be more flexible and adaptable to quick changes in the business climate. The industry is currently on the receiving end of a wake-up call to undertake fundamental changes and become more fully engaged with candidates. This

requires further investment in targeted candidate attraction strategies, along with robust selection processes, ongoing communications with all candidates throughout the selection process (and beyond), and proactive mining of the in-house talent community to drive down the cost of recruitment.

Savvy operators So, how best to enable this? Quite simply, every person in your organisation has to be more than just an operator—they have to be a savvy recruitment operator. It starts at the top and spreads down through the organisation. This is the domain of the technically competent, curious, investigative, creative recruiter —either in-house or external. And the doors will stay open for business as recruitment teams master, share and display the new skillset that has pushed pro-activity into our world. Recently, I spoke to a graduating class of MBA students and posed the question: “What level of connectedness is there within this group of 29 wired business minds?” The results were fascinating—only five had a profile on LinkedIn, fewer than half were on Facebook, and 100 percent blogged (they had to because of the course content). This was a group of individuals who are actively seeking to improve their career chances and employability yet the message about social connection hadn’t hit home. To ignore the trends

in communication is to do so at your peril.

What’s required? So, time for some tangible suggestions about the desirable skill set that is required by anyone involved in recruitment whether from an internal in-house or an external recruitment agency perspective. Social media expertise. This is essential. It’s about creating a competitive advantage for your business. Using social media allows you to navigate the marketplace for opportunities and talent on offer. It allows a variety of conversations to occur with various targeted communities—and in a number of ways. Building employer branding, trust and authentic communication channels are just some of the desirable outcomes. So too are reporting, analytics and metrics to assist with recruitment decision-making. Connecting confidence. Out with transactional activity and in with relationship development. Opportunities pop up for those who take the time to create a social network both virtually and physically. It has never been easier to have a wide social network and, for recruiters, this is high value activity and is vital. Relationship development goes hand-in-hand here. The recruiter of the future needs to be able to form relationships that are at a strategic level, in order to add value. The required level of sophistication in relationship development should not be understated.

Network leverage ability. In a nutshell, this is the ability to get to influencers using social media, email, and yes, even the good old telephone. Doing it well has become an art form. Extending your reach is essential as you develop an authentic professional image resulting in building trust. Selling yourself. Recruiters have to be excellent at expressing their interests, as well as relating to their company, client and employers interests. It’s about knowing what makes you and your team or your clients different. Here, the ability to write engagingly and express yourself clearly cannot be overstated. Think about the texts, blogs and emails we generate daily—written skills are in hot demand. In short, begin today. Communicate now and thoroughly. Don’t be scared to be original. Read and research employer branding trends. Understand that ‘know who’ is just as vital as ‘know how’ in this world of engagement. Start a blog, perfect your networking skills. And a final word from Adidas’s Steve Fogarty: “With global recruiting, building employer branding and instilling passion for recruiting everybody you come into contact with is the et name of the game!”

september/october 2010

Jane Kennelly is the director of Frog Recruitment. Visit frogrecruitment.co.nz

employment today 43


employment case notes

Misconduct or serious misconduct

Unauthorised union meeting

Adams v Airways Corporation of New Zealand Ltd—Employment Relations Authority, Christchurch, March 2010. Claim for unjustified dismissal—successful.

A triangular relationship between a cleaning contracting company and its client, where the client requested removal of a particular employee from its site, exacerbated by the union’s uncooperative approach, resulted in a successful disadvantage grievance for the employee in question. The employee had worked as a cleaner at the town hall since 1985. In 2008, his employer (Vbase) contracted out the cleaning work and the employee transferred his employment to the contractor (Spotless). About a year later, the employee, in his role as union delegate, arranged a union meeting at the town hall. The meeting took place at 11pm, just as the building was being locked up for the night. The employee had not sought permission from Vbase or his employer for the meeting. Spotless, as the employee’s employer, carried out an investigation and the employee was given a verbal warning. Vbase asked the union for an undertaking not to hold a meeting at the town hall without permission again, but the union refused, claiming it had a right to under section 20 of the Employment Relations Act 2000. Vbase then requested that Spotless remove the employee from working at the town hall, saying that it would no longer allow him on site. Vbase was concerned that the employee’s actions had breached the safety and security of the venue. Spotless failed to persuade Vbase not to take “such a draconian stance”, and moved the employee to another site on a lesser rate of pay. The Authority determined that it was Spotless’s responsibility, as the employee’s employer, to ensure the employee knew his obligations, including that he was not allowed on site when he was not working and that he had to seek permission for any union meetings held on the premises. The employee had, without consequence, organised union meetings previously without going through any formality. The Authority noted that the union had materially contributed to the employee’s position by failing to respond appropriately to a reasonable request from Vbase. Although section 20 allows unions to access workplaces, section 21 limits this access to “reasonable times” and in a “reasonable way” that complies with workplace safety and security. The Authority determined that it was not fair or just for the union’s failure to be visited in its entirety on the employee. Vbase admitted that if the union had agreed to follow a proper process in future, it would have seriously reconsidered the employee’s “banning order”. Spotless had alternatives to unilaterally changing the terms of the employee’s employment agreement. It could have tried to facilitate an understanding with the union, or at the very least re-deployed Hannah on the same rate of pay. It stated “Despite the apparent difficulties for employers in these triangular employment cases, it remains the law that the employer is still bound to treat its employee fairly and equitably and in that regard, it cannot be right that an employer may change an employee’s terms and conditions of employment to the employee’s detriment (as happened to [the employee]) simply in reliance on its contractual obligation, without being prepared to justify its behaviour against the usual tenets of employment law.” The Authority concluded that Spotless had not acted as a fair and just employer in reducing the employee’s pay without his consent. At the very least, the employer had an obligation to retain the employee in a like role at the same rate of pay. It ordered the employer to reinstate the employee to his original rate of pay, with back pay, and suggested that Spotless should engage with Vbase and the union to see whether the employee could return to duty at the town hall. It determined the employee was not entitled to compensation for hurt and humiliation because of his contribution by not using his best endeavours to persuade the union of its failure when it refused to agree to seek permission.

The employer should not have relied on old issues that it had not acted upon previously when dismissing the employee, according to the Employment Relations Authority. The employee had worked as an air traffic controller for many years and was in a senior role when she was dismissed. There had been a few complaints over the years about her communication style, which had been described, for example, as “implacable and uncompromising”. This had been raised in performance reviews, but disciplinary action had never been taken. Things came to a head when the employee was working with a relatively inexperienced co-worker. According to the co-worker, the employee thought he had lost separation between two aircraft and challenged him in a very aggressive manner. The co-worker made a written complaint about the employee, saying that her demeanour towards him over the course of his training was “at best passive-aggressive and at worst confrontational and bullying”. An investigation was carried out into the incident. A witness who had been present at the time described the employee’s tone as nasty, sharp and aggressive. During the investigation process, the employee accepted that at times she could be blunt, direct, confrontational and brutally honest. The decision was made to dismiss the employee for serious misconduct on the basis that her behaviour was personal harassment under the company’s code of conduct. The Authority determined that the decision to dismiss the employee had taken into account previous incidents involving her style of communication that had been “noted”, but had not been dealt with at the time in a disciplinary context. The manager who made the decision to dismiss admitted that the incident was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” following a dozen or more incidents raised about the employee’s behaviour, and that the final incident was a “catalyst to solve an ongoing problem”. Determining that the dismissal was unjustified, the Authority stated “Having eschewed the opportunity to treat these matters as disciplinary issues when they arose, it was not open to [the company] to revisit them and include them as misconduct or serious misconduct so as to help justify its decision to dismiss [the employee]”. The manner in which the employee had challenged the co-worker could be properly categorised as misconduct, for which she might properly receive a warning under the company’s code of conduct. The Authority ordered the company to pay the employee lost remuneration and $12,500 compensation for hurt and humiliation, both of which were reduced by one third for her contribution because of her manner of communication.

44 employment today

september/october 2010

Hannah v Vbase and Spotless Services (NZ) Ltd—Employment Relations Authority, Christchurch, March 2010. Claim for unjustified disadvantage—successful.

Abandonment or absent without authority? Gargilla v The Learning Connexion Ltd and Milne—Employment Relations Authority, Wellington, February 2010. Claim for unjustified dismissal—successful. The Employment Relations Authority had determined that the employer incorrectly labelled an employee’s non-return to work as “abandonment” when it was in fact “absence without authority”. The employee took annual leave to visit the US. While on leave, she requested an extension of two weeks’ discretionary leave, or to work from the US. Her manager agreed to allow one week of extra leave. During her final week of leave, the employee told her manager that she was unable to find a flight that would allow her to return to work on time. The manager responded that she had been told she could only take one week of extra leave, and if she did not return on the day agreed, the employer would regard her as abandoning her employment and her contract would end. The employee did not return to work. The Authority determined that it was open to a fair and reasonable employer to insist that the employee return to work and to reject her suggested option of working from the US. However, a fair and reasonable employer would not have implied abandonment of employment when it knew the employee had been on leave in the US and there was no evidence that she did not intend to return to New Zealand. It concluded that a fair and reasonable employer would not have treated the conduct as abandonment, but could have carried out an investigation and disciplinary action based on the allegation that the employee was absent without authority. Claiming by email that she had abandoned her employment was an actual dismissal and it was unjustified. The Authority ordered the employer to pay the employee lost wages and $2000 compensation for hurt feelings, both reduced by 25 percent for her contribution because she was unable to adequately explain her absence when she was required to return to work.


Fear of discrimination Lidiard v New Zealand Fire Service Commission—Employment Relations Authority, Christchurch, March 2010. Claim for unjustified dismissal—unsuccessful. An employee who was dismissed because he didn’t disclose his mental illness on the pre-employment medical questionnaire had his unjustified dismissal claim rejected by the Employment Relations Authority. The employee successfully applied for a job as a fire fighter. During the recruitment process, he completed a pre-employment medical questionnaire. He answered “No” to various questions, including whether he had ever had mental illness, depression or an anxiety state. About five years’ later, the employee accepted 12 months’ unpaid leave after a suicide attempt. The employer sought medical advice with regard to the employee’s return to work, and it came to light that before he was employed, the employee had been treated for post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. He had not disclosed this on the pre-employment medical questionnaire. At first, the employee claimed he had miscalculated the time since the previous manifestations, but later admitted that the real reason for hiding his medical history was fear of discrimination. He was dismissed because the employer had lost trust and confidence in him. The Authority rejected the employee’s claim that the questions on the medical questionnaire were unlawful. Mental health is an important question in whether a person can properly and safely perform the role of fire fighter, and the employer was entitled to assess whether it could take reasonable steps to reduce the risk, as provided by section 29(1) of the Human Rights Act 1993. The Authority determined that the employee was obliged to truthfully answer the questions asked and was not immune from the consequences of his failure to do so. In relation to the claim that the employee withheld information for fear of discrimination, the Authority observed that the statutory obligation is for those in an employment relationship to deal with one another in good faith, which includes not misleading one another. While it might be understandable that a young man such as the employee would think he should hide his mental health history to avoid any risk of discrimination, in doing so he exposed himself to the risk of adverse consequences should the employer later discover his falsehood. The employee had the option to properly answer the questions asked and, if necessary, rely on the anti-discrimination provisions in the Human Rights Act 1993, and the remedies that Act provides. The Authority concluded that rejecting the employee’s explanation about the miscalculation, deciding that his untruthful answers deeply impaired the employer’s trust and confidence, and dismissal, were what a fair and reasonable employer would have done.

Dismissal process Cavanagh v Fonterra Co-operative Group Ltd—Employment Relations Authority, Christchurch, February 2010. Claim for unjustified dismissal—successful. Although an employer’s actions should not, in words of the Employment Relations Authority, be subject to “pedantic scrutiny”, in this case the dismissal process was not fair. The employee had worked for the company for seven years as a tanker operator. Early one morning, the employee was driving a tanker when the trailer rolled as he was going around a corner. At the time, it was hailing heavily and the weather conditions were some of the worst the employee had ever driven in. Although no-one was injured, the roll-over resulted in milk spilling into the river, and the accident ultimately cost the company around $85,000. The employee could not recall his exact speed, however he said he was driving at a safe speed and suggested the company ask two co-workers who had seen him driving about 1km before the accident. An investigation was carried out, and the conclusion was that while speed was not an issue, the driver’s lack of concentration was the major contributing factor. The two co-workers were not questioned because the manager carrying out the disciplinary investigation considered that they would be unable to provide useful information. The company concluded that the employee’s actions were serious misconduct and he was summarily dismissed because the company no longer had trust and confidence in his driving. The Authority accepted that the company’s process should not be subject to pedantic scrutiny, and that it is the overall fairness and reasonableness that is important. In this case, the company’s process was fair except in one respect—the failure to talk to the two witnesses who had seen the employee driving shortly before the accident. A fair and reasonable employer would have wanted to know how the employee was driving shortly before the accident—the drivers told the Authority he was driving to the conditions. Talking to the other drivers would also have helped the company to assess whether it was reasonable to expect the employee to pull over until the weather improved—one of the drivers told the Authority that he would not have pulled over in those circumstances. The Authority determined that, in the circumstances, a fair and reasonable employer would not have concluded the employee’s conduct was serious misconduct. The decision to dismiss him was unjustified. The company was ordered to pay the employee lost wages and $12,000 for hurt and humiliation. —Selected and written by Louisa Clery september/october 2010

employment today 45


P U B L I C S E C TO R

HE’s back! Reinstatement is the primary remedy under the Employment Relations Act. However, as Paul Robertson explains, if there is a potential for reinstatement to open old wounds and create disruption and conflict, then the practical solution is for the person to move on. I t is every b oard o f trustees’ worst nightmare. An employee has been dismissed because of incompetence or disciplinary issues and they apply to be reinstated to their former position. That reinstatement will “open old wounds” and the board is concerned about the disruption the reinstatement will cause. A recent decision of the Court of Appeal confirms that reinstatement will only be ordered when reinstatement is practicable. The potential for conflict between the reinstated employee and existing staff members is an important consideration.

Mutual compaints Mr Lewis was a teacher at an Auckland college for over 20 years. There was conflict between him and other members of the school’s economics department during 2007. There were mutual

complaints against Mr Lewis by his head of department and by Mr Lewis against his HOD. This enmity between the two led to an investigation by the board of trustees culminating in Mr Lewis being dismissed because of bullying and harassment. That dismissal was challenged. Mr Lewis was unsuccessful in the Employment Relations Authority but fared better in the Employment Court. The Court found that the decision to dismiss Mr Lewis was not procedurally or substantially justified. In particular, it found that had the allegations by Mr Lewis’s head of department been investigated properly, the board ought to have decided that there was no bullying or harassment. Mr Lewis sought reinstatement.

Reinstatement The Employment Court refused to reinstate Mr Lewis. This was

because the head of department at the school was still employed and would potentially be involved in supervising Mr Lewis. It would be difficult for the two to work together professionally. Similarly, a board member instrumental in Mr Lewis being dismissed was now the chairperson of the board of trustees. Eighteen months had elapsed since Mr Lewis had been dismissed and the Court accepted that staffing and teaching arrangements had been made in the interim which would make it difficult to reinstate Mr Lewis. Overall, the Court held that “… there is a very real prospect that if Mr Lewis is reinstated to his previous role … there will be such conflict that employment (his or another’s or others’) will be in jeopardy”. It considered that Mr Lewis would be better off resuming his teaching career at another school.

The challenge Before the Court of Appeal, it was emphasised that reinstatement is the primary remedy under the Employment Relations Act. It was also argued that cases considering the ‘practicability’ of reinstatement only applied to dismissals where the dismissal was procedurally unfair. Where the dismissal was substantively unjustified, then a different test must be applied. Mr Lewis argued that in such cases there should be a “strong presumption” for reinstatement. The Court of Appeal considered that the Employment Court had adopted the right test. Practicability was the overall touchstone, and that included the potential disruption if a former employee were reinstated. et Paul Robertson is an associate with Heaney & Co in Auckland.

SCHOOL TRUSTEE LIABILITY & EMPLOYMENT SPECIALISTS We are a service organisation dedicated to achieving positive results for all clients.

Contact: Paul Robertson

www.heaneyco.com

Phone: (64-9) 3030-100 Fax: (64-9) 3677-009 PO Box: 105391 DX CP18503 Level 17, ANZ Tower, 23-29 Albert Street, Auckland, New Zealand

46 employment today

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