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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.

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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.