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Adjusting to the New Normal

Adjusting to the New Normal

We’ve all learnt a lot through the Covid-19 crisis – and not just about how to make a sourdough starter. For many business owners and managers, it has been a time of reflection on what was working well pre-lockdown and what was already a problem that now needs to be addressed. Aside from the few industries that are suddenly booming, we’ve all realised that it’s time to dig deep and work out how to survive the recession. Below you’ll find some HR opportunities we’ve been thinking about.


Realising the benefits of long-term flexible work practices

Flexible work arrangements have a multitude of benefits for employers and employees.

Employer Benefits

  • Reduces absenteeism (as employees can often still work if they are at home with a dependent who is unwell). This assists with productivity with less disruptions to continuity of work
  • Better work-life balance increases employee morale, engagement and commitment
  • Reduces employee turnover
  • Builds your employment brand and attracts top talent
  • Increases your potential candidate pool to people who live in other locations or too far away to consider a daily commute
  • The opportunity to reduce your office footprint and associated costs

Employee Benefits

  • Reduces the time required to commute and the expense of petrol and parking
  • Better flexibility to meet family and personal needs
  • Increased control of work schedule and environment
  • Ability to work at times of highest energy and not during troughs – for example, starting early when energy levels are highest, and then having a longer break in order to exercise to re-energise

Flexible work practices can also make a positive contribution to environmental sustainability.

However, to make flexible working arrangements work for your business, you must look to overcome some of the disadvantages:

  • Employees who do not work well without supervision. It’s always important to set clear goals and expectations. If the employee cannot meet these working from home, this must be addressed. If the problem is ongoing, then it’s time to review the arrangement. Flexible working arrangements are largely a ‘privilege’ and not contractual, so going back to a traditional model is appropriate if it’s not working for either party.
  • Where the role is client-facing, client availability and relationships may suffer from the employee trying to compress their time in the office. Again, this is something to be addressed and discussed – this may include clear goals for client-facing time to ensure it doesn’t drop off. It’s not practical for all office-based roles to include work from home or flexible hours, however, this it can usually be accommodated to some degree. It’s about finding the ‘sweet spot’ that works for the employee and the business.
  • Feelings of unfairness when some roles are able to work from home or choose their hours and others cannot. This is probably one of the most difficult issues to address. Consider what benefits you could implement for onsite staff to help offset these feelings. For example, a well-stocked kitchen, or an upgrade to the coffee machine. Where work from home isn’t possible, consider if flexible start and finish times are. You may wish to also consider an additional benefit for 100% on-site based staff only (be careful to communicate to the team that this is to offset the travel time that flexible workers gain through working from home some days).
  • Health and safety concerns. If working from home is going to be a long-term and regular arrangement, you must be satisfied that the employee is doing so safely. You can review our guidelines for Safe Work from Home here 


Reducing cost and saving time through virtual meetings and other tech solutions

Video conferencing has been around a long time, but the use of video calling and virtual meetings for team meetings, training and recruitment seems to have taken a lot longer to gain momentum than perhaps we might have thought.

Why? Maybe it’s the belief that the human connection can only be fully achieved face-to-face. This is still true, but if lockdown has taught us anything it is that far more can be achieved via video calls than we ever thought possible.

As we all look to cut costs wherever possible, now is the time to re-look at all of your normal practices that require people to travel from one location to another (even if that is within the same city) and consider if that can’t be achieved through video call or another on-line solution to reduce time and cost.


Updating and streamlining your other processes and systems

Following on from the above, we must all examine where else we can streamline and improve our processes and systems. Get your employees involved in looking for more efficient and effective solutions to literally everything you do. Incentivise this focus on continuous improvement where possible.

Look at your organisational structure. If you’ve had reductions in employee numbers or needed to pivot your business and offering, does your current structure still make sense or does it need to change? Look at the functional responsibilities of roles and teams and re-organise where necessary.

Where changes to work practices interact with your employee policies, ensure that these are updated to reflect your new ways of working. For example, many businesses will need to update:

  • Flexible working policies that may have previously stated that working from home was to only take place on occasion and with express management permission.
  • Expense policies may need to be tightened
  • Travel policies temporarily updated to mandate that essential travel only is to take place and cost-reduction measures are implemented (e.g. lower budgets for accommodation, rental cars etc.)
  • Health and Safety policies will have temporary changes and a ‘Covid-19’ specific policy created with clear guidelines and expectations


Capture those Culture gains

If you’ve ever watched Survivor, you know that in times of adversity, groups of people can go one of two ways – we either thrive and come together or we fall apart and turn against each other. During the Covid-19 crisis you may have some employee behaviour from both camps and any divisions need to be addressed.

Whether you are looking to nurture those Company Culture gains or need to start to re-build, we have some ideas for you here


Employee development – why it is more important than ever

Many businesses are unfortunately in the position of needing to reduce hours, pay or carry out redundancies. This can have a very negative effect on productivity and reduce the trust within your work environment. One way that you can look to re-build this is through investing in employee development. This both demonstrates the value you place on your employees while also benefiting your business through increased productivity and performance.

Employee development does not need to be a costly exercise. Some ideas include:

  • Online and virtual learning options – on-line seminars and short courses, virtual conferences, TED talks
  • Coaching and mentoring – either an internal program (informal or formal) or involving external contacts
  • Increased one-on-ones and performance appraisals. Getting more disciplined in your focus on setting objectives and monitoring progress against these costs nothing. In return, it will deliver results to both the employees development and your bottom line
  • Give learning lunches a try – these can also be virtual. Use an external speaker (again, virtual may be a cost-effective option) or simply have employees share information and learnings from projects they’re working on. If an employee attends a seminar, have them share the knowledge with the team and distribute their notes and reference material


Positive People have been working with and helping to grow SME’s for 25 years. We have the experience and systems to guide, support and provide customised HR solutions for you.  We deliver a range of services across the full HR Management spectrum. Our services are tailored to meet the particular needs of your business and we take the time to get to know you and your business. Call us on 09 445 1077 or email info@positivepeople.co.nz

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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.

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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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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