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Issue 382, November 15, 2006
Strategic trends and case studies in people management

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In this issue

Top stories

Trades skills institute takes first steps as apprenticeships look set to change

High Court Work Choices decision strengthens states, unions resolve

‘Culture of porn’: NCR ordered to reinstate veteran manager

HR admits unequal treatment

‘Culture’ of porn began with superior

Unblemished 30-year record

A ‘unique’ case

Policy sign-off needs more than click of a mouse

Qld Rail ‘more diligent’ than NCR

 

 

Skills shortage

Qld in UK hunt for skills

Fed Govt flags ISCs reform, ‘poor performers’ on notice to step up

IT apprenticeship launched

 

Strategic HR

New take on work patterns

Program ‘natural consequence’ of desire to attract good people

Flexi program drives financial success

Flexible hours model ‘bridges gap’ between X, Y and boomers

Gen Y gets flexi

Boomers catered for

Awareness of ‘cutting edge’ trends helps HR stay ahead

Alcohol and drug use at work: employers ‘concerned’

Work Choices

Work Choices amendments ‘fix unintended consequences’

Record keeping, employer stand down rights mark IR changes

 

Terminations

Federal Court reinstates retrenched NUW delegates

Skills matrix not met

HR had ‘no independent basis’ for skills

Retrenchment disorder relates to unemployment: AAT

Telstra ‘more than reasonable’

Supervisor’s poker game dismissal hearing on the cards

 

 

Attraction and retention

iGrads: the innovation revolution

Staff retention the biggest challenge for HR in 2007

 

Employee relations

End of year functions don’t have to be a bash

 

General HR

Executive demand goes off the boil

Diary

VicSuper and IBM top honours list

 

Master Class with Ian Macdonald and Karl Stewart – Workplace Research Centre


 

Top stories

Trades skills institute takes first steps as apprenticeships look set to change

A business plan outlining initial steps aimed at boosting the profile of trades skills will be submitted to the Fed Govt by the end of Dec, Institute for Trades Skills Excellence (ITSE) inaugural CEO Brian Wexham has confirmed. “It won’t be a full comprehensive plan, that’s not realistic in five weeks, but it will have certain directions in it,” Wexham told HR Report on his first day at the helm. “Our first objective is to try and improve the status of trades. They’re not perceived in the same way as a university degree. That’s a great hindrance and we need to change that perception. It’s absolutely imperative we do that.”

The ITSE was set up with $4.3m Fed Govt funding in 2005 (HRR#345), with the aim of identifying and promoting excellence in trades skills. But it is essentially a private company and its major shareholders include ACCI, AiG, the Business Council of Australia and the National Farmers Federation.

”The industry groups involved are the ones who have to go out and compete in the marketplace,” Wexham said. “They have a greater understanding because they’re the employer groups. Unions are a stakeholder as well and they have a role to play.”

Wexham’s appointment comes as the TAFE sector backs a proposal to revamp apprenticeships by phasing out four-year courses in favour of a two-year diploma. But Wexham cautioned “it’s not just about the time it takes [to complete an apprenticeship], it’s also about the quality of the outcome”. (See IT apprenticeship launched)

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High Court Work Choices decision strengthens states, unions resolve

Unions, state and territory govts have vowed to keep fighting the Fed Govt’s IR laws via political means after the High Court yesterday threw out their legal challenge in a lengthy 411-page decision. But business welcomed the decision, with ACCI saying it was “truly” national IR system a “real and viable option for Australia”.

The High Court’s 5-2 decision upheld the C’wealth’s use of the corporations power to enact the IR laws. It came a day after the Fed Govt announced a raft of proposed changes to Work Choices that affect employers, including “streamlining” of record keeping. (See Work Choices amendments ‘fix unintended consequences’)

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‘Culture of porn’: NCR ordered to reinstate veteran manager

Solutions provider NCR says it is “disappointed and surprised” by a NSW IRC Full Bench decision ordering it to reinstate a manager who was sacked for having hard-core porn on his work laptop (HRR#369). HR Report understands the accounts receivable manager, Richard Budlong, 56, is back at work this week in his original position, having signed a series of undertakings to abide by NCR’s policy about accessing pornography, failure of which could lead to summary dismissal.

The Full Bench ordered Budlong to be reinstated with full continuity of service. But it recognised he should “bear some responsibility” for his misconduct and declined to award him back pay from the date of his termination in June 2005.

That part of the decision was “not unexpected”, Turner Freeman lawyer Aaron Magner, acting for Budlong, told HR Report. “It’s a no cost jurisdiction so despite winning re-instatement his legal costs for the hearing and the appeal are about $40,000,” Magner said. “Employers need to review their IT policies and ensure a zero tolerance to pornography is clearly stated and clearly communicated to staff. In this case, zero tolerance wasn’t expressed in NCR’s IT policy, but when they sacked him that’s the reason they cited.”

At first instance, NSW IR Cmr John Murphy upheld NCR’s decision to sack Budlong after concluding he acted in direct contravention of the company’s policy, which he had signed.

Budlong admitted receiving 125 emails “of a pornographic nature” over five years, but claimed it was part of NCR’s workplace culture.

The Full Bench accepted his argument and said senior managers not only condoned the practice but “initiated and participated” in it. It rejected NCR’s claim there was a zero tolerance policy towards having pornography on its infrastructure systems and said its code of conduct suggested there was “no such thing”.

NCR gave Budlong “unrestricted access” to his computer for three months after discovering the pornography, during which time he received six more emails. “This is hardly indicative of zero tolerance,” the Full Bench said.

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HR admits unequal treatment

In a clear message to employers, the Full Bench said it was “significant” NCR’s HR manager admitted six other employees involved in exchanging pornography were not investigated and were “treated differently” to Budlong. Also, he was treated less favourably than a former employee who was sacked for having porn on her computer, but only after being given a final warning.

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‘Culture’ of porn began with superior

The “unofficial” group that exchanged pornography from 1997 was “sparked off” by the Aust/NZ national credit manager, who was Budlong’s immediate superior. This was despite NCR’s 50-page code of conduct requiring managers and supervisors to ensure unethical conduct was “detected, addressed and reported”.

It was clear Budlong was “caught up in this culture of pornography”, which involved NCR directors, managers and billing analysts exchanging “extreme end” hard-core, bestiality and soft pornographic images and movies in attachments to emails, the Full Bench said. Budlong was not an “initiator” of the emails, except for one, but received them from others and stored them, it said. All except six of the group were made redundant about 10 months before Budlong’s sacking and one of the six was promoted to NCR’s parent company in the US.

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Unblemished 30-year record

The Full Bench concluded Budlong’s dismissal was harsh in the context of his age, 56, and his otherwise “unqualified” 31-year employment record, which included 21 performance awards.

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A ‘unique’ case

It stressed accessing and storing pornography on NCR’s IT infrastructure was “patently unacceptable”, but said the circumstances of this case were “unique”. It made it clear the decision to reinstate Budlong would not “necessarily follow in dismissals for conduct” that was similar. (Budlong v NCR Australia Pty Ltd, NSWIRComm 288, 3/11/2006)

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Policy sign-off needs more than click of a mouse

“If you want to be really prudent as an HR manager you need to do more than request staff click OK when sent policies,” Budlong’s lawyer Aaron Magner (see ‘Culture of porn’: NCR ordered to reinstate veteran manager) told HR Report. “You need to follow up with training and ensure policies are properly communicated. This means more than simply asking staff to say they read the policy. HR needs to show they’ve done everything to ensure their staff have read and understood the obligations of the policy.”

In this case, the Full Bench said there was “an air of automacity” to Budlong’s signing of the code of conduct in 2004. It said ensuring written policies captured the company’s intentions, and “clear communication” about them, would “assist NCR”.

But NCR told HR Report it “strongly refuted” the Full Bench’s comments. “The suggestion employees engage in ‘mechanical, unthinking routine’ is demeaning to the employees who review and sign their undertakings,” a spokesperson said. “NCR has a strict and comprehensive IT policy that clearly prohibits the accessing, viewing, storing and sending of pornographic materials on the company’s computer and infrastructure systems. This policy and NCR’s stance on breaches is clearly stated in its code of conduct. Every employee reads and signs an ethics and compliance certificate to confirm they are aware and understand the code and its importance.”

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Qld Rail ‘more diligent’ than NCR

In Qld Rail v Wake  (HRR#381), the AIRC Full Bench upheld Qld Rail’s sacking of an employee for sending pornographic images. The case was distinguishable from the NCR one because Qld Rail was “far more diligent” in seeking to eliminate use of its computer system by employees for storing and transmitting pornography, the AIRC Full Bench said.

The Qld Rail case was also distinguishable because no questions of culture or inequality of treatment were involved, the Full Bench said.

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Skills shortage

Qld in UK hunt for skills

Qld premier Peter Beattie last week followed other Aust leaders to the UK to promote job opportunities for doctors and skilled professionals (HRR#381).

Qld’s “unique qualities” were trumpeted to local doctors as Beattie stepped-up his international recruitment campaign to lure more skilled professionals to Qld. He pitched the benefits of working in Australia to representatives from the UK’s top recruitment agencies at a special reception.

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Fed Govt flags ISCs reform, ‘poor performers’ on notice to step up

Industry skills councils (ISCs) are set to face “significant reform” but in the meantime can operate for another 15 months, Fed Minister for Vocational and Technical Education Gary Hardgrave has finally announced (HRR#381).

Hardgrave said the reforms would increase the “relevance and responsiveness” of the national training system and include “significant” improvements to the governance of ISCs by focusing on industry leadership.

For the two ISCs identified as poor performers via a recent review — transport and logistics and electrocomms and energy utilities — Hardgrave said he would take “immediate steps” to identify “clear performance expectations”. He warned if their performance didn’t significantly improve “their declarations will be removed and their govt-funded functions redirected”.

ACCI welcomed the move, saying it had long sought reform of ISCs and the govt’s announcement showed its willingness “to respond to industry concerns”. It said ISCs now had just 15 months “to get their house in order or the govt will reconsider future funding”.

The govt set up 10 ISCs to develop, review and improve training packages and support materials to meet industry skills needs.

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IT apprenticeship launched

Apprenticeships may soon be the subject of reforms (see Trades skills institute takes first steps as apprenticeships look set to change), but in the meantime the Fed Govt has announced a new $4m IT apprenticeship program aimed at recruiting high school students to work in govt. The scheme will see 60 students from across the country offered work in govt agencies in the ACT.

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Strategic HR

New take on work patterns

A 2001 decision by recruitment firm Acumen Alliance to offer its employees an alternative to the traditional “work/life dichotomy” has won it the 2006 EOWA award for workplace flexibility.

Announcing the award last week, EOWA director Anna McPhee praised what she described as the “total authority and flexibility” granted to Acumen employees to determine and vary their working patterns.

Under the company’s equilibrium program, employees choose which and how many days they want to work. They’re paid for the number of professional days worked and there is no limit to the number of days leave taken in a year. Staff productivity targets are automatically adjusted to reflect their current work pattern.

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Program ‘natural consequence’ of desire to attract good people

Acumen CEO and founding partner Robert Kennedy told HR Report the program is “a natural consequence” of Acumen’s desire to attract and retain good employees. He said about 20% of employees had taken up the option to work flexible hours. “In a buoyant market, it’s hard to keep good people,” Kennedy said. “We made a deliberate decision to design a program that would meet both the company’s and the employees’ retention needs.” Kennedy said Acumen was one of the first private companies in Australia to introduce three-months paid maternity leave, unlimited unpaid maternity leave and paid paternity leave.

Under the program, staff can take a sabbatical after five years, in lieu of long service. Performance measures for team leaders include financial performance, staff retention rates, understanding and modelling of Acumen cultural values, levels of paid professional development undertaken by team members, participation in induction and recall days where cultural values are reassessed.

Employees can choose permanent full-time, part-time or contract arrangements and no consultant is assigned or expected to work in other states or countries.

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Flexi program drives financial success

In 10 years, the company has gone from a small organisation to one that employs more than 300 professional and support staff with offices across the country, Kennedy said. Revenues have gone from $1.6m to $60M in 10 years. He said the equilibrium program was an “important” contributor to that success, with the company able to attract and retain the best workers. It was also a “significant” contributor to the increased proportion of women at all levels of the organisation.

Under the program, staff turnover has averaged about 10% a year for the past five years and women employees have increased from 38% in 2001 to 48% in 2002.

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Flexible hours model ‘bridges gap’ between X, Y and boomers

Kennedy (see New take on work patterns) said the equilibrium model was based on a set of principles that were laid down when the company started 10 years ago.

“We were all in our 30s and keen to set up an alternative model that reflected our needs,” Kennedy said. “In the early days there were only 20 employees and it was a lot more free-wheeling. Everyone was on separate pay and conditions. Our payroll people were pulling their hair out in despair. Now with equilibrium, we have set down some basic terms just to make the processing of the fortnightly or monthly wages easier.”

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Gen Y gets flexi

But it usually takes “a couple of years” before employees fully appreciate the benefits of the scheme, Kennedy said (see Flexible hours model ‘bridges gap’ between X, Y and boomers).

“The new generation wants flexibility. If they want to work three days under our scheme, they can. If they want time to study they can. If they want more time with their family, they can. There are no second-class citizens under equilibrium.”

Understandably, there’s an “element of trust” to the arrangement, but abuses of the system are extremely rare, Kennedy said.

“People are rewarded in our profession by what they put in. It’s in their interest to use their time wisely,” he said. “Giving autonomy to people to decide their own terms and conditions builds much stronger relationships because part of the process involves consulting with their peers to ensure what they do doesn’t disadvantage someone else. The model simply recognises people are our biggest asset and treats them accordingly.”

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Boomers catered for

The needs of mature-aged workers are fully recognised under equilibrium.

“The flexible nature of the scheme is ideally suited to retaining older workers who may not want to work full-time,” Kennedy said. “At the same time, it keeps that store of knowledge within the company.”

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Awareness of ‘cutting edge’ trends helps HR stay ahead

A far-reaching report by the US-based Society for HR Management (SHRM) has compiled “cutting edge” insights from 12 special expertise panels, which contains important lessons for HR professionals in Australia.

The employee health, safety and security panel warned obesity and diabetes would increase among the working population, affecting health and the ability to work. “Work intensification” would occur as employers moved to increase productivity and the panel cautioned this would “drive up stress and stress-related illnesses”.

The employee relations panel identified a greater role for HR in promoting the link between employees’ performance and its impact on an organisation’s business goals.

Key trends highlighted by the global panel were off-shoring, outsourcing, demographic shifts, including shortages of skilled workers, and the economic growth of China and India.

Of most importance to the HR consulting/outsourcing panel was the continued growth of HR outsourcing and the development of new roles for internal HR depts.

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Alcohol and drug use at work: employers ‘concerned’

The problem of work-related alcohol use is not confined to work-sponsored functions (see End of year functions don’t have to be a bash). A new report by Drug and Alcohol Services SA (DASSA) and SafeWork SA has found employers are concerned about the potential impact of alcohol and other drugs in the workplace, and that there is now a “clear mandate” for stakeholders to tackle the problem.

The concerns impact all areas of a business with the report noting that alcohol and other drug use resulted in productivity-related costs of more than $2.9b in 1998-1999. It says alcohol and other drugs can affect workplace productivity via increased absenteeism, lateness, staff turnover, injuries, increased workers’ comp premiums and reduced performance.

The report concluded employers needed more information and direction about the problem, which required a “holistic, comprehensive approach” rather than a response that was “levelled at the individual”.

“I welcome the focus on workplace culture and the impact of work factors, particularly stress, on drinking behaviour,” Pennycuik (see End of year functions don’t have to be a bash) told HR Report. “I also welcome the move away from the notion of ‘the problem drinker’ as the source of all alcohol and work-related issues.”

A spokesperson for DASSA said the report’s recommendations had been passed to SafeWork SA’s advisory committee. “We expect to hear back this month,” she said.

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Work Choices

Work Choices amendments ‘fix unintended consequences’

The High Court’s much-anticipated decision on the validity of Work Choices (see High Court Work Choices decision strengthens states, unions resolve) came a day after the Fed Govt announced proposed amendments to the legislation, which ACCI and other employer bodies had pushed for earlier this year.

Fed minister assisting the minister for workplace relations Joe Hockey told a Workforce conference in Melb this week that the proposed changes meant some of the “unintended consequences of the legislation will now be fixed”.

ACTU sec Greg Combet opposed the changes, saying they made the IR laws “even more unfair and unbalanced”.

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Record keeping, employer stand down rights mark IR changes

For HR and employers, the proposed amendments (see Work Choices amendments ‘fix unintended consequences’) mean record keeping for hours worked is “streamlined” to only cover overtime and other hours affected by penalty rates, rather than all hours worked. Employers still have to keep superannuation records, copies of agreements and issue pay slips.

The proposed changes also mean a cap on the accrual of annual and personal/carer’s leave so that paid leave can’t accrue for overtime.

For employees, redundancy provisions currently included in a workplace agreement stay in operation for 12 months after the agreement is terminated, thereby protecting employee entitlements until that period expires, or another agreement is signed, Hockey said.

Employers and employees can agree to cash out any amount of personal and/or carer’s leave, provided that for full-time employees at least 15 days remains available. An employee has to make the request in writing and the employer must agree to it before it occurs.

One of the most controversial proposed changes is the statutory right for employers to stand down employees where work is unavailable due to factors beyond the employer’s control.

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Terminations

Federal Court reinstates retrenched NUW delegates

A skills matrix used to identify candidates for redundancy must not be contrived to target specific individuals, the Federal Court has reaffirmed. In the case of two NUW delegates who were made redundant, the employer was unable to show the matrix wasn’t contrived to target the two officials. Justice Robert Buchanan ordered workers Tony Seymour and Jeff Gearin to be reinstated with back pay. A decision on what penalty should be imposed for a breach of s792 of the WR Act will be made at a later date. Justice Buchanan heard the two union delegates had been employed at Saint-Gobain Abrasives’ (SGA) site at Lidcombe in Sydney. One of them had been with the company for 30 years and the other for 18. Both had been site delegates since the 1980s. The court heard the men were involved in “hard fought, even heated” IR negotiations in March.

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Skills matrix not met

But SGA claimed that was not a factor in its Sept decision to select the men for redundancy. Rather, it said the men had failed to meet a skills matrix that had as one of its central requirements the ability to use an off-line printer. Justice Buchanan said the printer criterion was an “unusual one”, and that the two men could possibly have been trained in its use in just a few days. “One possibility which arises is that the use of the off-line printer criterion was not genuine but, rather, calculated to produce a selection of persons for retrenchment which included the applicants,” Justice Buchanan said.

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HR had ‘no independent basis’ for skills

Justice Buchanan noted there was “no independent basis” for the company’s HR manager Catherine Hobbs thinking that skills on the coater or off-line printer were critical or even important. But he noted it was the company’s plant manager, Slavko Grbic, who originally selected the criterion.

“It is ultimately not necessary to attempt to say where the truth really lies on each of these issues,” Justice Buchanan said. “Had the applicants [the union delegates] borne the onus in this case of positively establishing a prohibited reason for dismissal, it is doubtful that they could have discharged it notwithstanding the matters to which I have referred. But they do not. It is the respondent which must discharge the presumption directed by the WR Act by proving that the fact that the applicants were delegates or members of an industrial organisation was not a reason for their dismissal.”

Justice Buchanan said the doubts raised in his mind by these matters didn’t permit him to conclude the employer had proved its case and the presumption had been rebutted. “In all the circumstances I find the respondent has not proved, as required by s809 of the WR Act, that the applicants were not dismissed because they were delegates or members of an industrial organisation. The applicants are, as a result, entitled to relief,” he said. (Seymour v Saint-Gobain Abrasives Pty Ltd, FCA 1452, 9/11/06)

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Retrenchment disorder relates to unemployment: AAT

A psychiatric disorder “solely” attributed to retrenchment relates to unemployment, not employment, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) has reaffirmed.

AAT member Anne Shanahan rejected a workers’ comp claim by a former Telstra technical specialist, who claimed he suffered from depression as a result of being retrenched on June 11, 2003.

Member Shanahan made the decision based on a previous tribunal finding, which concluded retrenchment could not be described as an incident to which a worker is exposed in the performance of their duties.

The tribunal heard the employee, referred to as only VCI on the advice of his doctor, became “particularly distressed” when informed of his retrenchment. It heard that nationwide Telstra retrenched 300 of 2,000 technical officers, including 20 in VCI’s area, following an internal restructuring.

VCI accused Telstra managers of holding an “execution type” meeting that could provoke people to buy a gun. He repeated the comments to others after the meeting.

The managers reported what they perceived as direct threats to Telstra’s HR managers at state and national levels, who in turn reported them to the police.

Telstra GM of the test and implementation team, Miled Abdulnour, and HR adviser Shane Burbridge, were provided with security surveillance and VCI was suspended with full pay pending an investigation for potential breach of conduct. His pass to all Telstra sites was revoked.

On Aug 28, 2003, VCI accepted a redundancy package with termination effective Sept 1. As a result, the investigation was terminated.

In Jan 2004, VCI lodged a workers comp claim, which Telstra twice rejected. He then applied to the tribunal for a review of the decision.

During the hearing, VCI was emotionally distressed, hyperventilated and went into spasm. He claimed Telstra had mistreated him, and that he was targeted because he was Chinese.

But Telstra said VCI’s claim that he suffered psychiatric injury as a result of being retrenched was an “eleventh hour allegation”, and that his claims of ongoing harassment and humiliation were “insulting, vicious and not supported by evidence”.

The tribunal agreed with Telstra, saying given VCI’s personality he perceived “any criticism, or more correctly, instruction at any level, as harassment”.

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Telstra ‘more than reasonable’

Member Shanahan (see Retrenchment disorder relates to unemployment: AAT) said it was “open” to Telstra to summarily dismiss VCI, thus depriving him of his redundancy package. But it chose not to do so. “Following intensive and presumably costly investigation, Telstra more than reasonably allowed the applicant to elect for voluntary retrenchment with preservation of his redundancy package,” Member Shanahan said. “Despite this offer, which the tribunal perceives to be generous, [VCI] believes he should have been allowed to work on full pay for a further six weeks after Sept 1, 2003, as even if he was too sick to attend work he would have still been paid.” Telstra’s rejection of VCI’s claim was affirmed. (VCI v Telstra Corporation Ltd, AATA 912, 26/10/06)

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Supervisor’s poker game dismissal hearing on the cards

An employer who sacked a duty supervisor for playing poker with staff who weren’t on scheduled breaks has failed to have the AIRC throw out the supervisor’s unfair dismissal claim on the ground it was frivolous, vexatious or lacking in substance.

Aust IR Cmr Peter Lawson heard the supervisor was a key holder for the Northside Foodland store and was responsible for staff when store managers weren’t present. He was also responsible for store monies and productivity.

On Sept 2, the employer’s managing director visited the store and found the supervisor playing poker with staff. The MD said he was so angry he didn’t respond. Two days later, he asked the supervisor to return the store keys.

On Sept 28, the supervisor filed a claim for unfair dismissal, alleging no investigation had taken place and that he wasn’t given an opportunity to be heard.

The supervisor claimed his contract required termination for misconduct to be “immediate”, but it had taken the company 40 hours to sack him. He also claimed he was sacked because he was likely to leave in a few weeks following his wedding.

Cmr Lawson said the parties had “significantly differing versions” of the events surrounding termination and he was unable to determine what those facts were. If the supervisor’s version of events was proven, it would prevent the employer making an application to dismiss the claim on the ground it was frivolous.

Cmr Lawson was not satisfied the claim was frivolous, vexatious or lacking in substance and dismissed the employer’s application. A date for the hearing is to be fixed. (Wallach v Venturin Nominees Pty Ltd, PR974503, 2/11/06)

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Attraction and retention

iGrads: the innovation revolution

The challenge of connecting with, selecting and retaining today’s graduate generation — iGrads — is the theme of this year’s Australian Assoc of Graduate Employers (AAGE) conference (see Diary). “They have grown up with innovation and therefore expect to work in an innovative environment,” AAGE says.

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Staff retention the biggest challenge for HR in 2007

The biggest human capital challenge facing HR in 2007 is retaining existing staff, according to a survey due to be released later this month. A sneak preview of the Select Australasia employment trends survey obtained by HR Report lists staff retention at the top of employer concerns (37.6%), followed by sourcing talent (32.45%).

This is consistent with figures from the ABS that show Australia continues to experience record low unemployment levels (at 4.8% in September 2006), driving strong competition for workers.

Significantly, an overwhelming 75.74% of those surveyed in the Select survey believe it is the organisation’s culture, values and people that draw people to work for them.

Other factors that respondents believed attracted employees included market position and reputation as an industry leader (57.32%) and “great employee benefits” (54.69%), such as paid parental leave, flexible work options and health and well-being programs. These were mainly provided by larger organisations.

By contrast, only 25.74% of respondents indicated higher-than-average remuneration was one of the top factors that drew people to their organisation.

Other factors included a strong employer brand that promotes a positive image to prospective talent (42.68%), industry-leading learning and development programs (29.18%) and CEO/senior management team (13.39%).

The full survey is due to be released at the end of this month.

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Employee relations

End of year functions don’t have to be a bash

As HR depts finalise details for their end of year parties, the Australian Drug Foundation (ADF) has reminded employers of their responsibility to provide a safe working environment, especially where alcohol is part of the mix.

“It’s important these occasions don’t end up causing harm to anyone as a result of too much alcohol being consumed,” ADF alcohol & work project officer Sue Pennycuik told HR Report. “Nobody wants to ‘embarrass themselves’ because they drank too much. The Australian alcohol guidelines recommend that if alcohol is served at work-sponsored events employers should actively promote responsible drinking.”

Pennycuik said managers could suggest and provide non-alcoholic drinks and try to make sure staff being served alcohol don’t get drunk. “They should provide food, refuse to serve alcohol to staff who are intoxicated, look for ways to reduce possible causes of harm and closely supervise or monitor young members of staff,” Pennycuik said.

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General HR

Executive demand goes off the boil

Demand for executives is showing signs of growth fatigue with a 7% drop in demand in Oct on the previous month. It is the first decline in four months, according to recruitment firm EL Consult’s latest executive demand index (HRR#377).

For the first time since Jan, internet executive ads fell relative to the previous month. Falls were particularly evident in the business sector. The govt sector ignored the trend by increasing its executive demand.

EL Consult MD Grant Montgomery said the falls were likely due to recent increases in interest and cost-of-living rates. He said any more increases could slow down the WA property market and create “very real problems” in larger states, such as NSW and Vic.

“I am concerned to see the amount of internet advertising falling,” Montgomery said. “Mid-level executive jobs tend to get advertised on the internet, so a drop in online advertising indicates a possible retraction in that sector of the market.”

WA was the worse performing state with an against-the-trend cutback in govt spending. Other large states to record negative results included NSW and Vic. Qld and the ACT finished the month higher due to strong demand from govt depts.

Financial, management and IT sectors fell by 10%, 6% and 8% respectively. A 1% fall in engineering was the smallest drop of all the sectors.

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Diary

  • Conference: 2006 Graduate recruitment conference. Australian Association of Graduate Employers, Melb, Nov 15-17. Ph: (03) 9893 0188 or www.aage.com.au.

  • Conference: New directions in employment and financial security. Workplace Research Centre, Syd, Nov 21-22. Ph: (02) 9351 5626 or www.wrc.org.
    melb recruitment conf.

  • Breakfast seminar: The new superannuation system. Allens Arthur Robinson, Melb, Nov 30. Ph: Jodie Symes (03) 9613 8486 or www.aar.com.

  • Conference: Workplace diversity: IIR, Syd, March 19-21, 2007. Ph: (02) 9080 4090 or www.iir.com.au/hr.

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VicSuper and IBM top honours list

VicSuper and IBM Australia have been honoured as leading organisations for the advancement of women in the under- and over-500 employees categories in the EOWA awards (see New take on work patterns).

VicSuper and IBM were recognised for “embracing diversity as a business imperative to attract and retain staff” and for attracting women into non-traditional roles.

Law firm Holding Redlich won an outstanding initiative award for appointing a parenting partner to deal specifically with workplace flexibility issues. The partner’s duties include meeting with newly pregnant women to discuss childcare, returning to work, working from home and part-time work or job-sharing opportunities. They also include acting as an advocate in negotiations for flexible work practices across the organisation.

Cummins Engine Company was recognised for advancing women in non-traditional areas by establishing a women’s leadership network group, conducting an annual salary review to ensure wage parity and increasing paid maternity leave entitlements.

RSPCA Vic CEO Maria Mercurio won the leading CEO award for introducing mandatory paid maternity and paternity leave, personal leave, paid study leave and purchased leave conditions in the organisation’s first enterprise agreement.

ECH won the outstanding initiative for mature-aged women award for introducing a front-line management program for mature- aged women that focused on their role as leaders.

Westpac’s Niki Kesoglou won the diversity leader award for devising and driving Westpac’s child-care strategy and providing coaching for leaders to overcome bias in their teams.

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Contact Thomson

Editorial Enquiries:
PO Box 6000, Kew Victoria 3101
Phone: 03 9205 0681
Fax: 03 9853 0478
Editor: Miranda Flint 
Miranda.Flint@thomson.com

Managing Editor:
Peter Schwab peter.schwab@thomson.com
Journalist: Steve Andrew

Subscription Enquiries: (e.g. change of subscriber names and new email addresses):
PO Box 6000, Kew Victoria 3101
Phone: 1300 304 197
Fax: 1300 304 198
Email: LRA.Service@thomson.com
Website: www.thomson.com.au
Non-subscribers can find out more about us at: www.hrreport.com.au.

Two of our other news services:

Occupational Health News

Workforce