Open door to staff

The Advertiser - Careers - - Front Page - Lauren Ah­wan

BUSI­NESSES are be­ing urged to dis­cuss em­ployee ex­pec­ta­tions with their staff to in­crease pro­duc­tiv­ity and to avoid per­cep­tions of per­sonal in­tim­i­da­tion or dis­crim­i­na­tion.

A re­port re­leased by spe­cial­ist re­cruit­ment firm Robert Half re­veals poor pro­duc­tiv­ity and staffing in­ef­fi­cien­cies are two of the most hid­den and costly prob­lems fac­ing Aus­tralian busi­nesses.

The re­port co­in­cides with warn­ings from lawyers that busi­nesses mon­i­tor­ing per­for­mance stan­dards may be sub­ject to le­gal action if proper guide­lines out­lin­ing work ex­pec­ta­tions are not in place.

Ni­chola Con­stant, a se­nior as­so­ciate at Harm­ers Work­place Lawyers, says that in work­places where poor per­for­mance man­age­ment guide­lines ex­ist, staff may be left feel­ing in­tim­i­dated or dis­crim­i­nated against, lead­ing to claims of un­fair dis­missal or breach of con­tract.

She says it is vi­tal that work ex­pec­ta­tions are com­mu­ni­cated at a com- pany, or firm-wide, level to avoid per­cep­tions by in­di­vid­ual em­ploy­ees that they are be­ing un­duly tar­geted.

Scott Way, from or­gan­i­sa­tional psy­chol­o­gist PKF, says dis­cussing work per­for­mance with staff is a del­i­cate is­sue for em­ploy­ers.

‘‘Aus­tralia doesn’t have a great cul­ture of re­ceiv­ing feed­back . . . so peo­ple are still learn­ing how to do it and don’t al­ways do it well,’’ Mr Way says.

He ad­vises com­pa­nies to en­sure their staff are well versed in what is ex­pected of them and that per­for­mance re­views be un­der­taken reg­u­larly – at least twice a year.

Mr Way says per­for­mance re­views are an im­por­tant tool for im­prov­ing staff con­tri­bu­tions but should never be used to taunt work­ers with threats for dis­missal.

‘‘You’re try­ing to get bet­ter per­for­mance out of staff, so let’s en­gage with staff and get them on board,’’ he says. ‘‘If you’re us­ing this in­for­ma­tion to beat peo­ple over the head with, then you’re go­ing to get re­sis­tance.

‘‘It should be about how staff can im­prove their per­for­mance. It’s not as if we look for­ward to hear­ing neg­a­tive feed­back about our per­for­mance but if we can re­ceive some ad­vice as well about how to im­prove, then there’s less like­li­hood for peo­ple to see it in a neg­a­tive light.’’

Robert Half di­rec­tor An­drew Brush­field says open com­mu­ni­ca­tion is the key driver to max­imis­ing pro­duc­tiv­ity. Mr Brush­field rec­om­mends bosses take a keen in­ter­est in their staff, at both a pro­fes­sional and per­sonal level.

He says praise is also an im­por­tant mo­ti­va­tion tool be­cause it em­pow­ers work­ers and recog­nises their con­tri­bu­tions.

‘‘ Pro­duc­tive work­places pub­li­cise their goals,’’ he says. ‘‘Their staff are kept in­formed, praised and the door to the boss is al­ways open. While small, th­ese tac­tics sig­nal to em­ploy­ees that they can openly ex­press con­cerns and ideas and there­fore feel prop­erly en­gaged.

‘‘Un­pro­duc­tive em­ploy­ees con­tinue to cost busi­nesses time, money and ef­fort. It’s im­por­tant that em­ploy­ers draw their at­ten­tion to this now, to en­sure top tal­ent is re­tained.’’

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