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The economy is slowing, inflation and interest rates are going up and wages aren’t keeping pace. Now is the time to ensure your business is in the best position to weather the storm.

As we start 2023, the mood in the economy is not great. People are saying we’re going to be in a similar position to 2020 – Australia may not go into recession, but recessions are predicted for many other countries. Recently there also have been warnings of a global recession, the third major financial crisis in 15 years after the GFC and the pandemic. 

This doesn’t sound like a great prospect, but it can be seen as an opportunity for businesses to look at ways to retain their best people and focus on workplace culture. Usually, when people first start thinking about their HR and people and culture practices, they think, ‘I don’t know where to start’ and ‘people are the biggest asset in my business, but they’re also the biggest headache’. 

‘people are the biggest asset in my business, but they’re also the biggest headache

It’s hard to understand how to make culture tangible. What actual steps do you need to take? Here I’ll take a look at the practical things you can do to put people and culture practices in place in your business. A strong culture is built on these steps:

  • Ensure compliance – you must build your workplace culture of a solid foundation of compliance.
  • Set goals – Decide what you want your culture to be. 
  • Ask people – Ask your people what they want. 
  • Build your culture – Use these elements to build your workplace culture. 

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The Pains

There are telltale signs when you’ve got work to do in your HR practices. You will start to hear yourself saying things like:

  • ‘Oh, why doesn’t that person just do their job?’
  • ‘I was totally blindsided by that person leaving’
  • ‘I’m stuck in back-to-back meetings’
  • ‘I can’t get this project off the ground’
  • ‘I’m stuck in a spiral of hiring and training’
  • ‘I have to do this myself, or it doesn’t get done.’

People often come to us at Amplify HR when something like that is happening. They’re not getting projects up and running, they’re losing big customers, or great people are leaving the business. At other times people come to us because they want to grow or scale their business. Growing a business is heavily dependent on people because it’s not the company entity that does the work, it’s the people within your business. You need to focus just as much on your people and culture as you focus on cash flow, finance, technology and sales. 

You need to focus just as much on your people and culture as you focus on cash flow, finance, technology and sales

One of our clients is a technology business with about 30 employees that’s been in business for a few decades. Within a month of working with Amplify HR, the owner said, ‘we should have done this years ago.’ She told me, ‘Before, we had to do everything through trial and error; we had to make it up as we went along. We made some really big mistakes.’  

It’s because ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’!  


The Gains

Instead of trial and error, put in professional HR processes to help you move your business forward. This will give you three things. 

Clarity

You’ll know where to focus. Rather than just responding to employee requests or news articles about the next best thing, you’ll know what will work for your business and what you’re focusing on regarding people and culture.

Compliance

You’ll also be more compliant. As I discussed in my previous post, big changes are coming in 2023 and staying on top of those changes is part of running a business. 

Consistency

When you have consistent people and culture processes within your business, trust develops, leading to engagement and satisfaction. You’ll be able to keep people for longer, and they’ll be more productive. If you keep fighting fires, you won’t be able to work on the reasons for the pain because you’re only looking at the symptoms.


Ensure Compliance

You must start with compliance. Think of your business like a house; if the foundations aren’t right, you will not be able to build the house. It’s the same with your workplace. If you’re not compliant, you can’t build a business. For example, if you’re not paying people correctly or you don’t have your legal obligations covered, you will not be able to build a great culture. With compliance in place, you can add the walls, doors, windows and roof to house your workplace culture. However, I often see errors when it comes to compliance. 

Award Coverage

In Australia, almost all employees are covered by the Fair Work Act. Almost all employees are also covered by one of the 122 modern awards (“Awards”). I often come across business who owners believe that if they give an employee a contract of employment, they don’t have to worry about the Award. This is simply not true. You cannot contract away Award provisions. 

You cannot contract away Award provisions.’

You must ensure that even if you have a contract of employment, you understand the Award provisions. This can come up with things like annual shutdowns, where a company shuts down for a couple of weeks and you need to give a certain notice period. This is not usually in a contract of employment, but it is often covered within Awards.

Required Policies

Another error I see is not having the required policies in place. This includes WHS policies but also policies required to keep compliant with the Fair Work Act. These don’t need to be complex, 12-page-long pieces of red tape, but they do need to set out the expectations within the business. Because as soon as your business has an issue that goes to a regulatory body, the first thing you’ll be asked is, ‘where’s your policy?’ How did people know what was required?

For more, see my podcast episode 4 on reducing complexities with policies that matter. 

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Set Goals

Once you have your compliance measures in place, the next thing to think about is your goal workplace culture. If you want to build proactive people-and-culture processes to get you through 2023 and beyond, you’ve got to be clear on where you want to go. I spoke about different types of cultures in episode 7 of the podcast. I also did an episode on how you can shift your culture in episode 44. Read more about How To Change Your Workplace Culture.

If you’re not clear on your people-and-culture goals, or if you haven’t had a conversation with your lead team in a little while, I encourage you to schedule one. 


Ask People

Once you’re very confident around compliance, and you know where you want to go, the next thing you have to do is ask your people for feedback. I know this can be a scary proposition for some people, who think ‘if I go to our employees and say, “give us your feedback”, then I have to do something with that feedback’. You are putting your head above the parapet at that point. 

But it’s important because if you put your head above the parapet and show that you want to improve, you’re being transparent. This can help drive engagement, providing you do something with the information. 

If you do a staff survey or focus groups, and your employees see that nothing results from it, you are going to create disengagement. Before you take that step, you have to be completely committed to whatever the feedback is; you have to take it on board. You’re not going to be able to act on all the feedback, and that’s okay. You just need to tell people why you’re not acting on it. 

I believe in doing a full employee survey at least once a year. And you may do other ‘pulse check’ surveys throughout the year. These are really important to give you a baseline and keep you updated on where your organisation is at.


Build Your Culture

Once you have gathered this information, it’s time to build your people-and-culture processes. For example:

Recruitment Processes 

  • How will you write your job ads?
  • How will you describe your business within the ads?
  • What is your employer brand? 
  • What are your standard interview questions?
  • What pre-employment testing will you do?
  • How will you do your reference checking?

Onboarding Processes

  • What are your standard onboarding processes?
  • What are the roles or responsibilities for onboarding?

Succession-Planning and Talent-Mapping Processes

  • How will you rate everybody according to their leadership potential and their performance?
  • What do you need to do to develop your people? 
  • Are there people that you need to performance manage?

Rewards and our recognition processes

  • What benefits and rewards do you offer?

Leadership Expectations

  • What should be in the leadership charter for your business?
  • Are all managers having one-on-ones with team members?
  • What are the processes for that? 

Performance Review Process

  • How have you updated the dreaded yearly scoring and judgmental performance review process?
  • Do you instead have a quarterly check-in process?

Internal Communication Process

  • How do you communicate with employees?
  • How do you ensure all messages are getting through?

Putting it Together

Your people-and-culture planning should look at all these building blocks, and incorporate your team’s feedback on those things, and clearly allocate responsibility for actioning plans and communicating initiatives to the whole business. I outline all of these things in my book, launched last year, Great People Great Business. We have used this process in many businesses so they can scale and grow. 

A Case Study

To demonstrate the power of this kind of proactive HR, let’s look at one of Amplify HR’s clients. We have the staff survey results over a five-year period. 

Each question is within a category, for example, within “Behaviours and Culture” there may be five questions. Each question asks people to rate their answer on a five-point scale from ‘strongly disagree’ to ‘strongly agree’. Those who ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ are added together to create a percentage score. We’re looking for a score of above about 68% for the benchmark survey. Then we’d like to see improvements to 75% or 80% of people agreeing that the business does well in each category.

In our case-study business, we did a survey before we put any HR processes in place. There were only two categories where the score was close to the 68% benchmark – one was 68%, and one was 69%. All the rest of the categories scored much lower, and the lowest category scored 34%. 

We put the processes in place and we did the survey again after one year. This time, we scored over 70% in six categories. Two scored around 65%, and two were closer to 60%. This was already a huge jump, but in the third, fourth and fifth years, every category scored above the benchmark. 

That’s really the key, once you start this process of establishing people and culture processes –  you can’t just put them in and forget about it. Culture doesn’t work that way, it is constantly evolving, and it needs to be cultivated. You need to establish processes to ensure you’re always listening to what’s going on, and adjust things in response. 

You can monitor other indicators besides the staff survey too. With the case study client, for example, there was a reduction in staff turnover and a reduction in grievances. Innovations improved, and they were able to launch new services to market, and to hire better people, because they were more attractive due to their culture. And they were more willing to adapt to change when the pandemic hit, with more flexibility and openness from the staff. 

Put Your Head Above the Parapet

This is one of many examples that we can give about the benefits of this process. Put your head above the parapet and say to everybody, ‘workplace culture is really important to us and we’re going to be consistent and proactive about our people and culture processes’. It becomes an ongoing machine within your business to get things done.

You may be thinking, this all sounds fantastic, I really need to get my HR sorted for 2023 so I can focus on the business. But I just don’t have the time to do it! What you can do is take a quick quiz. It’s 30 multiple-choice questions, that will take you a couple of minutes. Take the free quiz and you’ll get a customised report, which gives you insights on the key HR areas of ‘Find’, ‘Grow’ and ‘Keep’ and tailored tips on what you can do to build you people and culture processes. 

Or, if you’re ready just to get started, reach out to me directly. I’m more than happy to discuss how we can help you from an outsourced HR perspective to get your HR sorted for 2023. 

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