Bullying and Harassment Investigations

Bullying and Harassment Investigations:

The Do’s and Don’ts

 

Bullying and harassment complaints and investigations are always difficult to navigate. However, if the #metoo and related news coverage throughout the last year has taught us anything, it is that every complaint requires considerable care and attention to ensure a fair and thorough process and appropriate outcome.

We’ve compiled some of the most important Do’s and Don’ts to keep in mind when commencing an investigation.

Do

  • Have a policy that provides definitions of bullying and harassment, outlines the processes for making a complaint and for investigating
  • Use an impartial investigator – if you do not have the appropriate person internally, use a third party
  • Respond quickly, and complete the investigation as soon as possible. This can take significant time. If capacity is an issue, using a third party to conduct the investigation for you will help to make sure it is done correctly and in a timely manner
  • Consider the legal risks – the health and safety of employees comes first and bullying & harassment is covered by the Health & Safety at Work Act, so you must be mindful of your legal obligations. There is also a risk of a Personal Grievance being raised, breach of contract and/or good faith provisions, and claims of discrimination under the Human Rights Act
  • Balance the rights of the complainant and the respondent – you have a duty of good faith and confidentiality to both.
  • Offer support – provide links to support services and check in with the employee throughout regarding their wellbeing
  • Keep meticulous documentation. Most investigators now audio record meetings (after seeking permission) to save time on note taking and to ensure an accurate record. Alternatively, get the notes checked and signed at the end of the meeting
  • Communicate – you should keep all parties updated on the timeline and the process you’re following

Don’t

  • Have the investigator also be the decision maker – these must be two separate roles
  • Do nothing just because the complaint isn’t in writing
  • Leave the status quo in place while you investigate – you need to consider at the beginning if either the complainant or the respondent should relocate to a different work space, team or shift for the duration of the investigation
  • Default to a full-scale investigation. Regardless of whether you receive a ‘formal’ or ‘informal’ complaint, you will need to assess the complaint and decide whether it requires a ‘formal’ or ‘informal’ investigation and communicate this to the complainant, including the rationale
  • Withhold information – providing the respondent with the relevant information is an important aspect of natural justice. They need to know the identity of both the complainant and witnesses. In some cases, withholding certain information may be justified – but only when it is not prejudicial to the respondent
  • Don’t use a mixture of written statements, phone calls and meetings – choose one method (ideally face-to-face) and use it for the respondent, complainant and all witnesses
  • Engage in ‘off the record’ conversations with witnesses
  • Consider any information in the investigation that is gleaned from “secret” witnesses unless they are prepared to share their identity
  • Draw inferences from demeanour – people react differently to stressful situations so it’s important to only analyse what they say and not body language or facial expressions

 

Positive People are experienced in conducting independent third-party investigations for bullying and harassment complaints. Call us on 09 445 1077 or email info@positivepeople.co.nz

Employer Responsibilities ‘After Hours’

What are my Employer Responsibilities for “After Hours” Employee Activities? 

 

With the Christmas season upon us, celebrations underway and festive cheer being spread, now  is a good time to be aware of your employer obligations, not only for workplace conduct, but for all the happenings that may occur outside of work hours….

Many of your staff will not only attend your official Christmas party, they will celebrate with customers, with suppliers and have “unofficial” celebrations amongst themselves.  This stretches the potential for inappropriate conduct far wider than only being confined to the official two hours of Company celebrations.

Here are some key things to be aware of:

 

Getting to and from the Company Christmas party

As a function promoted and paid for by your business you must ensure, as far as is reasonably practical, the health and safety of your team. This extends to the responsibility for making sure your team are safe getting to and from the event. The biggest danger is drink driving. Make sure you have set clear expectations and communicate in advance the need for safe travel. Its also a good idea to have someone monitoring staff as they leave and taxi chits on hand to use if you think someone is at risk.

Questionable acts during a Christmas function

Just like at work, at the Christmas party you still have the responsibility to ensure your team are safe from sexual harassment, bullying or discrimination. It makes sense to designate some of your team to take on a hosting role to ensure that bad behaviour doesn’t occur and educate them on what to do if they see or hear something that shouldn’t be happening. Music and Christmas cheer do result in more casual behaviour, so have a sound plan in place to keep your team safe.

Behaviour at unofficial celebrations or after the Christmas party

At this time of year “unofficial’ celebrations start as well – whether it’s team drinks after work, Secret Santa’s or carrying on after the Christmas party. Key with any of these is to be clear with your Managers about what is a work function and what isn’t. If an employee in a leadership position organises or promotes the event, if the Company pays for it or if it’s advertised using the Company name, then your business is likely to have health and safety responsibilities.

Celebrations with customers or suppliers

During an event with customers or suppliers your team members are still representing your Company, and as such there is a safety consideration and a need to adhere to your Code of Conduct. Educating your team on this will help to save any embarrassing complaints about their behaviour after the event…

Social Media

Social media has blurred the line for many people around what’s private, what’s public and what thoughts and feelings are OK to share. At any time of the year any public post which impacts negatively on your business or could be perceived as bullying or harassment of a team member should be investigated. It may be made outside of work time, but the impact will be felt during work hours, so you must address this and educate your team on the impacts of their actions. Having a clear policy on posting photos during Company events also helps.

People don’t want everything they do live streamed on Instagram!

 

In todays environment, where the health and safety of our teams is paramount it is no longer acceptable to say “If it’s 5pm, our employees aren’t our responsibility”.

 

Being knowledgeable about your responsibilities will help you minimise risk and keep your team safe – a win/win for all.

 

Positive People have 24 years’ experience helping organisations understand and manage their HR obligations. Call us today on 09 445-1077

Positive Reinforcement

Positive Reinforcement – Why managers should prioritise praise

 

“If each of us was to confess our most secret desire, the one that inspires all our plans, all our actions, we would say “I want to be praised”” – Emil Cioran, Philosopher

 

When we see an outstanding leader in action, one of the first things we notice is their ability to recognise achievement and celebrate success in a way that feels genuine. This has an uplifting snow-ball effect on the team.

This is evident in data gathered from global engagement survey providers, which consistently tell us that there is a direct link between enhanced retention, productivity and revenue and employees receiving praise and recognition at work.

But even when we know that praising employees for their work and commitment has a positive effect on our bottom line, it can still be something we struggle with.

 

Practice makes perfect.

Knowing you should give positive reinforcement, and actually doing it are two very different things. Also, saying the same thing on repeat will quickly lose its impact. So not only does it need to become a habit but you also need to mix it up.

 

“The way positive reinforcement is carried out is more important than the amount” – B. F. Skinner, Psychologist

 

  1. Find out what motivates each member of your team and tailor your positive feedback to drive their performance
  2. Use different channels. Some people prefer one-on-one, others in front of the team, or in an email. Most people will respond well to praise, however it is delivered, so use a variety of forums to keep it fresh
  3. Remember your introverts. You may not hear as much about their accomplishments so make the effort to dig a little deeper to find out how they are going. If they’re delivering great results, let them know
  4. Commit yourself to never forgetting to praise a team member who you see going the extra mile. Discretionary effort is the hallmark of engaged employees and these are the people you need to retain.
  5. Remember, it is far easier to spot mistakes than it is to focus on what is right with a piece of work. Keep this in mind when delivering feedback and make sure it’s balanced.
  6. If you have a consistently high performer, don’t forget to consistently praise them for their efforts. Sometimes when a high level of performance becomes the norm from someone, it can be easy to let the positive feedback slip off the radar
  7. Performance reviews are the ideal opportunity to link an employee’s efforts with the bigger picture. Tie their achievements to the strategic goals of the organisation – this reminds them of the ‘why’ and the important part they are playing
  8. If you’re working on an area of development with an employee, take every opportunity to positively reinforce behaviour or actions that show they’re improving in this area

 

Positive People can help you to develop your frontline leader’s ability to recognise their team and elevate performance. Contact us today at info@positivepeople.co.nz or 09 445 1077.

 

Verbal Warnings

Verbal Warnings – Do they have a place today?

 

As the disciplinary process evolves, it is helpful to reflect on your own organisation’s process and make sure it is up to date, current, fair and reasonable.

A key part of a traditional disciplinary process is the verbal warning – a step Managers can take when they believe an employee’s actions are serious enough to warrant more than an outline of expectations or a coaching session, yet not serious enough to warrant a Written Warning. Frequently these warnings are given by Managers without following a full process, and Companies often then mistakenly rely on them as the first step in a progressive warning process for misconduct.

A general rule of thumb for misconduct is that the progressive disciplinary processes should allow for three formal warnings for the employee prior to dismissal being considered. It’s important to consider whether a verbal warning forms part of the progressive disciplinary process for your organisation, and if so, specify this in your Code of Conduct.

For a verbal warning to be part of a progressive disciplinary process:

  1. It must be confirmed in writing, outlining the breach of policy and procedure and future expectations, and ideally have the employee’s signature
  2. You must still conduct an investigation, allowing the employee to respond after having the opportunity to prepare, have a support person present, and have access to all the information you have gathered about the misconduct

To be utilised and considered as part of a progressive process, the process you follow before issuing a verbal warning must be the same as if a written warning is given.

If you do not follow this process, then a verbal warning may be considered as part of the investigation into further misconduct but cannot be relied upon as one of the formal steps. It is instead background information confirming that the employee was aware of the Company rules and the impact of their actions.

If you do not follow this process, details of the verbal warning should not be stored on the employee’s personal file. Instead it would be considered the same as a coaching session, a letter of expectation or a Manager’s diary note.

For many Companies this requirement for a full process has meant that verbal warnings have become a thing of the past.

A more current approach is to streamline the process, doing away with verbal warnings altogether:

  • First instance of the behaviour – Informal discussions reflecting concerns. The Manager would be advised to keep “diary notes”
  • Second instance of the behaviour- Issue a Letter of Expectation alongside conducting a Coaching session driven by a Performance Improvement Plan (if appropriate). This is an informal process which does not require a formal investigation. The Manager outlines the impact of the behaviour and uses a coaching approach to help the employee identify ways they can improve. This is documented by the Manager and kept as part of the Performance Improvement Plan
  • Third instance of the behaviour – An investigation is initiated, which can then set off the formal disciplinary process, inviting the employee to respond. It also includes the other requirements of a full process. A possible outcome could be a first written warning.
  • Continuation of the Disciplinary process

Having a process which is sound, streamlined and allows for the employee to have an opportunity to change their behaviour is critical to minimising the risk of any comebacks on the process.  

This area can be a minefield, and is not easy to get right.

Positive People are experienced in developing performance management frameworks which are legally compliant, understandable and practical for both managers and employees. Contact us today and we can help you review yours.

Mental Health and the Workplace

Mental Health and the Workplace

Recently there has been a lot in the news regarding mental health. The passing of Greg Boyed prompted an outpouring of tributes by his journalist colleagues. One, by Rawdon Christie, called for managers to take more responsibility for the wellbeing of their employees.

There are some important reasons to make mental health a priority in the workplace:

  1. In NZ one in five adults experience some form of common mental health issue in any year. Almost two in five adults have experienced a mental health issue over their lifetime.
  2. Employee health affects the workplace and the workplace affects the health of employees. It is important for employers to understand the difference between pressure, which keeps us all going and makes us productive, and stress, which makes unmanageable demands that damage both employees and the business. There should also be an awareness that life outside of work affects the wellbeing of workers when they are at work.
  3. Workplaces are legally required to take all practicable steps to ensure the health and safety of their employees. Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, workplaces have a role to play in the prevention of harm to all people at work. This includes mental harm caused by work-related stress.
  4. A healthy work environment increases productivity and reduces employee turnover, stress, and personal grievance claims
  5. Workplaces feel the effects of poor mental health of employees through increased absenteeism and increased ‘presenteeism’ – when employees are at the workplace but not mentally engaged with work. It is estimated that on average, employees have nearly three times as many ‘presentee’ days as absentee days

Source: www.mentalhealth.org.nz

 

Your role as a manager

It’s crucial that managers are equipped to act or know where to turn if they have concerns about the mental health of an employee. There are a number of onsite and offsite courses from a variety of providers that teach the basics of ‘Mental Health First Aid’.

In addition to crises management, it’s also important to consider:

  • What support can and should you provide when an employee is struggling with their mental health?
  • How will you manage misconduct or disciplinary processes when there are mental health concerns?
  • How will you manage the return-to-work of an employee after time off due to a mental health issue?

Once you’re ready and prepared to support employees experiencing mental illness, then it’s time to consider how you can proactively promote mental health in the workplace. This might be as simple as organising a shared lunch, entering a team in a local sporting event, or organising a charitable donation for some of your team to deliver on behalf of your business. Check out five ways to wellbeing for employer resources, put together by the Mental Health Foundation.

Contact us to find out how we can partner with you to implement a mental health and wellbeing programme that suits the needs of your business and employees. 

Domestic Violence Leave

Domestic Violence Leave:

What does it mean for employers?

From 1 April 2019 all employees will be entitled to 10 days domestic violence leave every year. While this is a positive step forward for supporting victims of domestic violence, it may have a significant impact on your business so it’s crucial to understand what the new legislation means and how to implement it successfully.

The legislation means that:

  • Each employee is entitled to 10 days domestic violence leave per year, if they or a child they care for is a victim of domestic violence
  • This leave does not carry over each year (unlike annual leave), and so each employee has a maximum of 10 days each year regardless of whether they have taken domestic violence leave before
  • Domestic violence leave that has not been taken does not need to be paid out on termination of employment
  • Like sick leave or bereavement leave, the entitlement is available only after 6 months continuous service
  • The employee must inform you of their intention to take domestic violence leave as early as possible before they are due to start work, or as soon as practical after this
  • The leave should be paid out as either the relevant daily pay or average daily pay (like sick leave)
  • An employer may ask that the employee provide proof of domestic violence to be entitled to the payment

So what steps should you take to put this into practice in your organisation?

We recommend you:

  1. Update your Employment Agreement or Employee Handbook to include a clause on domestic violence leave
  2. Talk to your payroll provider to make sure they have set it up in their system, and ensure your payroll administrator is aware of the information they need to process this correctly
  3. Develop a clear policy that covers requests for domestic violence leave and the process and support available to any employee who requests it. This information will be very sensitive so you must consider the privacy aspect of these requests very carefully when developing a policy
  4. Educate you leadership team on handling requests, how to be sensitive and supportive to the employee, and how and when to request proof of domestic violence
  5. Consider what additional support you may be able to offer employees who request this type of leave, through counselling, EAP support or referrals to support agencies

Domestic violence can happen to team members from all levels of your organisation and have a major impact on their ability to perform their role. Anyone who is not safe at home will struggle to fulfill the requirements of their role, and asking for help in this situation can be challenging. By offering a supportive, caring environment where your team feel OK to ask for help, you can make a significant difference to their lives.

Positive People has 23 years’ experience helping organisations develop policies which align with legislation and support their teams. If you need help to implement a policy on domestic violence leave, please contact us today.

Performance Reviews

Performance Reviews:

Staying in-touch and in-tune with your individual team members

 

Performance Reviews are hard to get right!

Whether you are the manager or the employee, there is often a sense of trepidation, dread or duty attached to them. Equally, we all know that they are important and are also highly valued by many employees.

As a result of these commonly held love/hate feelings, Performance Reviews bubble away as a current topic. Their worth is constantly being questioned and processes fine-tuned in an effort to improve engagement and generate a more positive perception.

 

What is the secret?

It would be fair to say that most people, to a lesser or greater degree, want some attention to be focused on them. Traditionally, Performance Reviews are conducted either annually or bi-annually. To stay in touch with team members’ personal feelings about their work, as well as their workplace aspirations, and their performance on the job, more communication than this is required.

Day to day interactions are, of course, important. They tend to be very much operational and concerned about the job at hand. They are necessary and facilitate and provide support to meet the demands that arise daily. But this is still not enough.

 

The most important key to unlocking great performance is to

Link the

Day to day inter-actions that occur between a manager and employee

with the

Performance Reviews

by holding

Regular scheduled one-on-one meetings with each person in your team.

 

This cyclical communication approach means that you are in close contact with your team members throughout the year. If you think through and conduct your individual One–on–One meetings in a standard way with regular topics up for discussion, then you will find that you are in-touch and in-tune with each team member throughout the year. You will be able to canvas all the important topics that are covered in Performance Reviews.

 

How do One-on-Ones actually work?

  • Decide on a standard format for your One-on-Ones
  • Customise this format to suit each individual member of your team
  • Work out the most appropriate scheduling of meetings that works for each individual relative to their need and the seniority of the job. Some need weekly meetings, some fortnightly, some monthly
  • Hold the meetings regularly!
  • Act on what is decided.
  • Cover the topics on a by-exception basis so that the One-on-One meetings are short, punchy and useful

By regularly holding the One-on-One meetings, the Performance Reviews simply become a more in-in-depth extension of them. One-on-One meetings provide a non-threatening and natural forum for current work issues, as well other important matters beyond the daily grind, to be raised, discussed and resolved. Come Performance Review time, discussion flows and real benefit from the annual or bi-annual “stand back” review is the outcome.

Introduce a system of cyclical one-on-one communication and performance reviews, and watch performance improve.

 

Keen to learn more? Positive People have tried and tested systems and formats across both Performance Reviews and One-on-Ones to help you improve performance. Contact us today at info@positivepeople.co.nz or 09 445 1077.

360-Degree Feedback Surveys

360-degree feedback surveys:

Forming a rounded view

 

What is 360-degree feedback?

360-degree surveys are a tool that allows employees to receive performance feedback from their manager, peers, direct reports and other internal or external stakeholders. It provides a rounded view of the individual and usually results in employees accepting the feedback, as it is validated through coming from a range of people and angles.

People who are chosen as feedback providers are selected in a shared process by both the employee and their manager, with support from HR. Generally, they will be people who regularly interact with the employee who is receiving feedback.

 

What is the purpose?

The process aims to assist the employee to understand their strengths and weaknesses and to provide insights into where there are opportunities for development.

360-degree feedback surveys can help an organisation to:

  • Get better quality employee feedback that is more accurate and insightful than only considering feedback from an employee’s manager. Also, if there is a personality issue between the employee and their manager, multi-source feedback reduces the risk of this impacting their relationship and performance assessment
  • Highlight gaps in perception between the employee’s own perspective (demonstrated through completing the survey themselves) and the perception of others
  • Improve leadership strength by including employees in the leadership feedback process
  • Gauge the relative strengths of a team through gathering comparative peer related information
  • Identify individual and organisational development needs, so learning and development spend can be more effectively allocated
  • Help team members to work more effectively together – improving communication and processes
  • Empower the employee to take responsibility for their own development and career
  • Improve the level of customer service the organisation is providing where external stakeholders, like customers, are included.

How do you implement a 360-degree?

For a 360-degree feedback survey to have a positive impact on your organisation, it must be integrated into the learning and development goals of the business and your performance management and review system.

It’s also important that the feedback is shared with the employee by a trained coach. This allows the employee to understand the feedback by discussing unclear comments or seeking more information about the ratings and their basis. A good coach will also help the employee to focus on the positives and how they can build on their strengths, rather than dwell for too long on the negatives. Where areas for development are identified, a coach will support the employee to find solutions and make positive change.

360–degree feedback surveys are a powerful but under-utilised leadership development tool. Improve performance and ask us about them today.

 

We support businesses to implement effective 360-degree feedback systems. Contact Positive People today to discuss how we can help you introduce this valuable performance enhancement tool. info@positivepoople.co.nz or 09 445 1077

HR Software Systems

 

How HR software can make your managers better leaders

No doubt you’re already using software for your accounting and view it as essential to the success of your business. But have you considered implementing an HR information management system? HR automation isn’t new, but with cloud-based technology it’s now cost effective and feasible for small and medium-sized businesses.

Much like your financial software, an effective HR system will quickly prove itself as a tool that saves you time, money and frees you and your managers up to focus on the more important aspects of leading your people.

If you’ve been manually handling HR operations in the past, you may be wondering about how a software system will benefit your business, particularly your managers.

 

  1. It will help your managers make better use of their time

Time is the one thing none of us can get more of. If your managers are having to manually create, print, sign, scan, save and manually upload documents, they don’t have time for things that matter more – like coaching and mentoring their direct reports.

Sadly, HR software won’t solve all of your time management woes, but it certainly helps to save time so you can better allocate those resources.

  1. It will provide you and your team with important insights

When you’re manually handling HR records, you miss out on some valuable information. HR software collects and analyses data to provide you with accurate insights in order to make strategic decisions.

  1. It will support effective performance appraisal processes

Gone are the days where you need to purchase expensive performance appraisal software, or muck around with multiple Word documents and hard copy forms. A good HR software system will incorporate a performance appraisal system that will facilitate an efficient process and focus your managers attention where it should be – on having quality conversations with their employees about their performance.

 

So, what should you look for if you’re in the market for HR software?

  • It pretty much goes without saying, but a cloud platform is essential
  • You should also prioritise ‘employee self-service’ features. The more you’re able to shift responsibilities from your managers, the more useful they can be. For example, with self-service a new employee can log in and view their employment agreement, digitally sign and have this saved to their file where they can access it throughout their employment
  • Alongside affordability, scalability is also important – you only want to pay for what you need, when you need it
  • Full functionality will ensure your managers get the best out of your system. Essentially, HR software is an HR administration tool. However, along with HR document management, look for a system that incorporates:
    • Recruitment process / candidate management
    • A performance appraisal system
    • Health and safety management

This will ensure all relevant HR documentation is correctly stored and easily accessed.

Positive People partner with enableHR HR software. We’d be happy to arrange a time to show you around the system so you can get an idea of how it might work for you and your team. We think you’ll find it ticks all the boxes.

Change Management

Making Changes Smoothly and Without Drama

Plan a smooth restructure that enhances the business and allows the future to be tackled with confidence.

Sometimes it is essential to make changes in your organisation. Markets shift, customers demand more, technology advances and business practices move along. It is imperative that organisations stay ahead of the game and adapt to rapidly changing environments.

Making changes within your organisation to meet these challenges can often involve difficult decisions that will affect your people’s employment.

It is not just the human side of the changes that can keep you awake at night, but also the legal risks involved. Additionally, a badly handled restructure does your employment brand no favours. A badly handled change initiative can sully how attractive your business is to work for as well as negatively impacting on your current team’s satisfaction, engagement and retention.

Successfully navigating your way through a restructure, relocation or major system or process change requires expert planning and careful implementation. A fair process throughout is essential.

Once the decision is made to explore the possibilities of a change, then a proposal needs to be developed which explains the background, provides the genuine commercial reasons and provides a justification for the proposed changes.

Any changes contemplated must be for a genuine commercial reason.

A key element to be aware of is that from the moment a change idea is conceived until after all relevant feedback has been received is that it is only a proposal. Only after a fair process has been conducted, and all relevant feedback received and carefully considered can a decision on the proposal be taken. Up until that time the change contemplated is simply a proposal, nothing more. This is still the case even if you’re facing a certain change – for example, the lease running out on a premises meaning that some sort of change is inevitable.

The people affected need to be provided with a fair opportunity to provide their response to the proposal. If redundancies are a possibility then all alternatives to redundancy need to be explored to see if any people affected by the changes could be accommodated elsewhere in other roles, or other working arrangements introduced.

Once the decision on the proposal is made, then those affected need to be informed.

Throughout the process everyone affected needs to be treated with the utmost care and consideration. Suitable support in the form of the offer of counselling and CV/career path assistance should be offered to those affected. This will reduce your risk, but also ensure you are acting as a good employer and looking after your employees.

Because the discussions that are held are confidential, it can be difficult to maintain the engagement and morale of the rest of the team in the organisation as they naturally want to know what is going on. However, there is little choice but to wait until the whole process is completed before information like a new organisation chart and role descriptions can be shared.

If your Company is committed to creating a work environment where open dialogue, honest discussions, trust and fair processes are nurtured and promoted as part of the organisational culture, you and your team are most likely to come out of a restructuring process with a sense of optimism.

Following these guidelines should help you emerge from any change program with minimum risk and ready to take on the future with confidence. Positive People are well experienced in guiding, assisting and providing support to companies who need to make changes. Contact us today at info@positivepeople.co.nz or 09 445 1077 to discuss the details.