People are your most important business asset. Successfully engaging and retaining the best people, and driving business results, requires new understanding, new processes, and new technology. It’s time to set traditional thinking aside and start afresh.
It’s 2018 and there’s a new mood gathering in the nation’s workplaces – one that involves greater flexibility and new thinking. Employers are having to look outside the traditional square to attract and retain the right employees, and employees have greater expectations around opportunities and job conditions.
There’s no doubt that there are major issues within workplaces. Angeline Long, director of Auckland-based HR Executive Solutions and an expert in disciplinary management and dispute resolution, points out that employers are increasingly concerned about staff engagement. They’re having to deal with non-performance issues, such as people failing to show up for work, less accountability, younger employees bringing a different work ethic to the workplace, and a career path that sees millennials especially changing jobs every couple of years as they seek that next big opportunity.
“Employers are realising that they don’t [personally] have enough performance management training or experience,” explains Long. “So they hire staff, things get worse, and they end up with a major problem.
“Often recruitment selection processes are not robust enough to employ the right people to begin with.”
Long says employers are now focusing more on company values – for example, honesty and trust. Therefore they prefer to employ people with similar values. If there’s ever an issue, they can refer back to those values.
They also appreciate that they must harness employees’ skills and energies to best move them on to areas of more responsibility and keep satisfaction levels high.
Employers must be open to the new ideas of millennials (Gen Y) and the generation following (Gen Z or iGen), or risk employees becoming increasingly frustrated.
“These employees, especially qualified young Gen Z’s, want more ‘buy in’,” explains Long. “They want to know how their role fits into the bigger picture; it’s not just about money.
“Employers need to show their employees the strategic goals of their organisation, and in doing that, get a lot more [from them].”
More on millennials
Considering that millennials will soon make up the bulk of the workforce, it’s worth taking the time to understand their mind-set on employment.
However, as Jason Ennor, CEO of MyHR, a company that provides a unique combination of HR software and HR consultancy, explains: “specific adjustments needed for millennials gets overstated”.
“There are clear trends towards more flexible work practices, shorter times spent in roles and the ‘Gig Economy’ – but it’s not just a millennial thing.”
We also have an ageing workforce, Ennor explains, so there’re more people wanting part-time or contract work. And there’re increasing numbers of immigrant workers with their own needs, as well as both parents working – the latter placing more demands on employers.
He believes clear, honest, two-way communication is the key.
“Understand that the workplace is now an environment of mutual benefit: what does the company need/want? What does the employee need/want?
“When both sets of needs/wants align there is a great outcome. Companies can no longer expect or assume loyalty just because they’ve given somebody a job.”
Ennor says millennials have seen their parents’ generation getting laid off during tough times after years of loyal service. “So you can’t really blame them for wanting to look after themselves first and not fully trusting their employers.”
The latest Randstad Workmonitor research reveals some interesting insights about New Zealand’s millennials.
Commenting on the findings, Katherine Swan, country director of Randstad New Zealand, says there’s been plenty of speculation on what millennials have to offer the workforce as Gen Z enters and millennials start earning managerial positions. Rapid changes in technologies are also creating disruption, and changing expectations around how work gets done.
“Millennials may work differently, but this doesn’t mean they are not as productive as other generations,” she says. “Growing up with technology all around them, millennials are focused on working smarter not harder. New processes like agile working, that use technology to enable workers to work from anywhere, are strong motivators for new generations. Employers can reap the benefit of adapting their approach to improve team performance and drive business results.”
Randstad’s Workmonitor research found that 80 percent of millennials like agile working because it increases their productivity, creativity and job satisfaction by having more autonomy in how they work. They also like the work-life balance it provides, says Swan.
“However, right now more than two-thirds are still working in a traditional office environment where they need to be visibly at work.”
On a positive note, there’s a shift towards more agile workplaces in New Zealand, with 60 percent of businesses giving employees ‘location liberation’, and the technologies that enable them to work in or outside the office.
“While having the right tools for the job is important, so too is reward and recognition, adds Swan. “Our Workmonitor research found that 66 percent of millennials are expecting their employers to deliver a pay rise at the end of the financial year – with just over 60 percent also expecting a one-off bonus.”
Recognition doesn’t always have to come in the form of an increased pay packet either, she says. “For millennials recognition can be receiving more responsibility, internal awards and side benefits.”
Get the basics right
Some business owners or HR departments can get distracted chasing a ‘Silicon Valley-like’ work environment with slides, pinball machines and other outward displays of ‘cool’, says MyHR’s Jason Ennor.
“But if the basics aren’t right all these fancy initiatives can seem a bit cynical and staff may see them as a thin veneer over a broken culture,” he says.
Nothing welcomes a new person to an organisation like getting it together, he adds. “To have a decent employment agreement issued before they start, with a solid induction plan that invites them into your organisation.
“Paying people correctly and on time; establishing objectives at the start of a year, not halfway through; treating people with respect; building a company culture where actual behaviours align to stated values. “Getting these things right may mean you never need to invest in a slide, but if you do it will be for the right reasons.”
Jonathan Rice, director of Joyn.co.nz (see sidebox) – an on-demand recruitment or HR solution – believes managing and retaining employees is all about building a culture of trust, mutual respect, and openness.
“Employees these days, especially Gen Y and millennials, don’t want to be micro-managed. They want autonomy, to know they can contribute ideas, be listened to and treated like adults,” Rice says. “It takes courage to relax the ‘command and control’ culture that typifies many New Zealand businesses, but once this is implemented in an authentic way, most managers will be pleasantly surprised at the improved productivity, morale and retention rates they get from their teams.”
Adjusting with the times
Both sourcing and engaging with workers is not what it used to be. On the sourcing front, Angeline Long reminds us that many business managers, especially the younger ones, are much savvier around sourcing candidates through social media channels such as LinkedIn, as well as networking and ‘shoulder-tapping’, rather than opting for traditional channels.
“There are a lot of opportunities within LinkedIn for sourcing candidates, and it’s also worthwhile exploring other social media avenues.”
But if you opt to work with a recruitment consultant, her advice is to choose one prepared to work on an hourly rate – not a percentage of the candidate’s salary. “That way you’re essentially paying for what you get and can put a limit on your spend.”
As for engaging with new employees, Long believes it’s vital to make them feel valued, to understand what their training and development requirements are (indeed what all their needs and wants are), and to be flexible on work hours. “You don’t have to see your people to know if they’re performing.”
While times have changed in the workplace – human nature dictates that disputes and disciplinary action will always still arise. For these unfortunate (and often scary) moments Long strongly advises business owners and managers to seek professional advice.
If things can’t be resolved by a relaxed discussion around a table, experienced mediation is often the best, and least expensive, way through. Getting lawyers involved often only escalates a situation.
However, Long says preventing disputes from happening in the first place comes down to a three-step process of good employee management (particularly at the start), regular consultation (even if it’s just a ten-minute catch-up over coffee), and looking at where they could advance within the organisation over time.
“It’s really archaic if you think you can run your business and never touch base with your people,” she says. “And saying that you’re too time poor to do it just doesn’t cut it.”
Her advice is to work on a culture within your business that will work for all employees.
“Keep the communication lines open, and always make your people feel valued and special.”
Painless and fruitful recruitment
Joyn.co.nz was born out of a traditional recruitment agency, and last year morphed into a range of technology tools based around the existing human HR expertise already in place.
It makes consultants even more efficient and gives clients greater control, transparency and cost savings, says Joyn director Jonathan Rice.
Joyn’s unique offering delivers better capability, adds Rice. Eighty consultants nationwide provide expert recruitment or HR support for businesses in most sectors. “Once we understand a client’s business and requirements we match them up to the best-suited consultant, who’ll then partner with them going forward.”
Rice says they can typically deliver successful project outcomes for less than half the amount charged by traditional, generalist recruitment agencies.
“It’s a more ethical approach,” he says. “Our consultants are not fee-driven or working on commission with sales targets like in many agencies, they focus purely on delivering the best quality outcomes possible on an hourly rate.”
There’s no fee-per-hire, he explains, so if your consultant finds multiple candidates for an SMB to hire, you only pay for their time, not an extra fee for each hire.
“We’ve also developed our own proprietary technology enabling clients to log into a dashboard to get smart metrics on their project’s progress, the amount they have spent so far, past project data and historical cost-per-hire data.”
Client Jay Goodey at e-commerce website Once It says working with Joyn has been one of the most painless and fruitful recruitment experiences she’s had at Onceit.
“I believe the value and efficiency the team offer will massively disrupt the market.”
With the global rise in the gig economy, the access most people have to technology, and the increasing desire for people to fit work around their lives rather than the other way around, more and more companies will realise the benefits and cost savings of accessing professional services in this way, says Rice.
“Beyond HR and recruitment this model will be increasingly adopted by other sectors such as marketing, legal, accounting, sales and property services too.”
HR software that’s AI ready
MyHR delivers a combination of HR software and human support – “providing ‘tailored’ services in much the same way as a consultant on in-house HR team, but without the cost,” says Ennor. “Our ability to scale gives us a rich body of live information to ensure we’re always across, not just employment law, but best-practice, trends, case law and risk areas.”
When he founded MyHR in 2013, Ennor says New Zealand’s HR services industry for smaller businesses was “quite stale”.
“It offered only high-cost bespoke services or cheap DIY services, neither delivering quality solutions in a cost-effective way. One traded off against the other.
“The obvious solution was the use of tech, yet we also found an abundance of HR tech that simply digitised traditional manual processes, rather than transform them.
“[That’s why] we developed and built MyHR.”
Ennor regards technology as the most significant agent for change in HR.
“HR carries a lot of admin responsibilities that can be easily automated. All HR reporting can be automated, including providing insights and predicative analytics. And meaningful remuneration reviews, drawn from deep, rich data.”
With real AI (artificial intelligence) the human requirements will diminish or disappear completely, he says. Then further up the value chain many aspects of standard HR processes such as recruitment, restructures and disciplinary processes will also transform.
MyHR software is already AI ready, Ennor says. “We have built a platform and framework that currently provides automation, but the real leap will come when our software begins to ‘think’. As we begin to turn these features on, then build on them, the software will be able to provide so much more. and many admin tasks will disappear.”