Hiring, Firing and Performance Improvement HR Tips – Nicole Allen


In this interview we steer a little away from marketing your business towards another powerful leverage point – your staff.

To grow your business you are going to need to delegate, automate or eliminate. Nicole Allen from Moreton Bay HR Solutions shares some tips with us in this podcast on how to get the ‘right people on the bus’ so we can delegate to them.

Nicole also covers areas where we business owners can get into trouble around human resource(HR) issues and how to head that off with the right communication.

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Mick: Welcome back, folks. It’s Mick Cullen here from Redcliffe Marketing Labs. Look, I’m really lucky today to talk to Nicole Allen from Moreton Bay HR Solutions. Nicole, thanks so much for coming along.Nicole: Thank you very much for inviting me.Mick: So, we are heading a little off track today, we’re not so much marketing but we’re going to focus on sort of HR issues which are really relevant to small business owners because this can be something to grow your business where it’s marking and you need extra staff and if you’re dealing with lot of issues being a small business owner so, hopefully today [0:00:34] and go through some of the big issues that folks have when small business owner with their HR and some considerations I need to look at, may be some tips that you can take so, we were trying beforehand, we spoke about one of the first issues faced when they’re growing the business from that very first employee bring your aim and building a business hub way. So, we’ll go through with some of the pitfalls and the problems you’re saying people have when they put on that first employee.

Nicole: Yeah, absolutely. What I find is that when they’re recruiting for their first employee that I have a very clear idea or exactly what that person needs to do so the skills set are need to be involved in that but they also recruit very fast, so they don’t think about where they’re wanting to head with the business and what sort of culture or what sort of behaviors and attitudes that they would like to see from this person to grow their team because this is the first initial person and the cultural of that company will be actually based on this first employee. Being sure of exactly what this role entails, being very, very clear as part of that recruitment process to exactly what that is, and that helps people to as the time whether that skill set is correct and what the attitudes and behaviors are. What you need to look at is behaviors and attitudes will be the strength of your business and the customer service will fall from that as well so if you get a bad egg, that may have all the skill sets in the world but not the right attitude, it won’t be very great for your customers so really look at attitudes and behaviors of exactly what you’re trying to perceive to your customers.

Employment contracts is another area that I find that small businesses may not go down the lengths of doing and I think it’s absolutely crucial to cover of in both the employee and the employer of their responsibilities as part of their employment contract that you’re going together. It doesn’t need to be an extensive contract but it does need to include a number of key factors to ensure that the contract is legal and that everything is covered of.

Mick: Is there templates from the government that you can mostly fill those in? Or how do you come up with the initial sort of form of employment contract?

Nicole: There is some templates that you can get from Fair Work Australia, absolutely but what I find is that they’re very, very generic and they’re not particular to the business but also, there is areas that are deficient in some clauses that may not be included that really needs to be included, and if you’re not aware of what the legal rights are of the employee and the employer, you may find that there is some clauses that are not included that need to be absolutely, essentially in the employment contract.

Mick: Okay. You told that job description before, I’m guessing a lot of people when they come to at hiring their first person, they need the person in the business like now or yesterday.

Nicole: Yeah.

Mick: And so, it’s a matter of gaining each other [0:03:40] quickly as I can and trying to get people in when hearing [0:03:45] to upfront thinking about that before hand.

Nicole: Yeah.

Mick: You get to make the whole process a whole lot easier?

Nicole: Absolutely, and that’s what I’m saying with the recruiting is that recruit slow, I know that you’re needing to get that person on as soon as possible but you don’t want to recruit the wrong person with wrong skill sets, so taking that time to really reflect on exactly what those skill sets are and as part of the interview process, portraying what those skill sets are. So, yes, okay, their resume match up with their skill sets but making sure that that person is aware of exactly what their duties are and that’s what I find is that sometimes people start on the first day and they go, “Oh! Well, I didn’t realize I needed to do that.” whereby as part of that interview process and that process before you start the interview as part of the recruitment, is that you get a really good set of skill sets whether that develops into a position description you become as full model as that or you just have some that points of skill sets so you know exactly what that looks like and you can portray so that the both parties know exactly what it is because you don’t want to be wasting time having to go back again of recruiting again if you’ve selected somebody that may have best skill sets and they may think that they can feed it and you haven’t been very particular about what that looks like in their first day, they leave and we’ve heard that very, very recently. Somebody’s left on their first day because it wasn’t portrayed in the interview process.

Mick: Wow. Okay, so you got to be specific as you can.

Nicole: Yeah.

Mick: If somebody has seen you on [0:0:23] trying to work out with their skill set requirements are, can you list off like 1 or 2 example of points or what someone would have on there, on their page?

Nicole: Well, even just the process is always exactly what you want in that person to do so it might be for instance, a delivery driver, so they need to have really good customer service. They need to pick up from one destination to the next destination. They need to handle money. So, it’s just thinking about all of those basic skills but also what does that look like from a behaviour and attitude. So, you know, as you said, you can’t have all the skill sets there but you also need to look at the behavior and attitude. So you’re wanting great customer service, you’re wanting the attention to detail, you’re wanting time management skills because they’re going to be needing to drive from here to here, you don’t want them to go from A to C to D and then back to B. It’s not really time perfect to you so having a really good think about what that looks like and being very particular about that because we are flooded with a lot of work as of the moment so being really particular about what that looks like and being very honest upfront about how that role is and how simple some of those jobs can be.

Mick: Okay. So we’ve got a job description right there. We had a look of employment contracts for staff, what’s the next step [0:06:44] advertising for the position?

Nicole: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So advertising, so being really particular about what you’re needing and wanting, being open especially if you’ve got a very good reputation, being open and transparent with who you are, the sorts of clients that you deal with, so that you can actually attract the right types of people. There are some fantastic people that fantastic companies that have great reputations and you need to sell that for them. A lot of employers think that you know, that the employee as coming into their company needs to sell themselves to the employer but it’s actually up to the employer also to sell why they should be joining their company. Both of them are in a sales role in selling each of their ways to them.

Mick: Where do you go? What are the main channels for finding employees or take up sessions?

Nicole: It really depends on the budget. If you have got a very flush budget which most small businesses don’t have a massive amount, [0:07:53] is always a very, very good are if you’re going more into the technical aspect

Mick: So it’s seek.com?

Nicole: Seek.com, yeah, that’s really fantastic and it does come at a cost. That’s for more of the technical roles. If you’re looking at more of the basic roles, for instance the delivery driver, you may want to go along on the lines of Gumtree. There’s also some other areas on Facebook that can advertise and for instance, I’ve just done a delivery driver for one of my clients and we received 50 resumes for that role through Gumtree and a number of these employment Facebook pages. There’s some really, really great candidate and especially if it’s local, you know, your really target that and that saved a significant money for the employer in having to pay the fees of Seek.

Mick: Okay, so you got resumes coming in now? Quick tips for how to screen resumes, work out who you actually going to interview because I guess, we love to interview everyone because you’ve got a business to run, you just can’t spare that amount of time to interview everyone [0:09:02] to come in so how do we go from a pile of resumes to a pile of interview candidates?

Nicole: Absolutely. You come back to that skill set again so that whether you’ve called a position description or whether you call it skill sets, you come back to those essential tasks that you’re needing to do and you have to look through the resumes of exactly that skill set. It’s the whole criteria. Do they fit the criteria? And you look at say, 4 to 5 criterias. If they ticket to criteria, then you put them into then Maybe category. If they don’t take all of the criteria, then you put them into the No category. So, it’s going back to that skill set of what you’re looking for. Generally, recruiters and this include business owners as well, will find, they will have up to 15 seconds to have a look at a resume depending on how many resumes she’ll get through, so being very concise about what you’re looking for and sticking with that skill set is extremely important.

Mick: Alright, I got to have a candidate list [0:10:10] coffee and just have a general chat with them, why? You know, what’s the proper way if you haven’t done interviews.

Nicole: Generally, what I do suggest is a telephone interview and that’s where you can then you may have a dozen paper there that fit all the criteria and you’re wanting to whittle that down a little bit more so you can conduct the telephone interview where you ask them more particular questions about their resume, fill in the blanks because there may be some gaps in the dates of their employment, have a bit of a feel for exactly how they portray themselves on the phone and ask them some of the questions that you may wish to ask them as part of that interview face to face process.

Mick: Would you tear a run sheet so you’re doing each interview the same?

Nicole: Absolutely, yeah. What we’d be going through the criteria making sure that they do fit that criteria and how they fit that criteria and what dates they fit that, and asking those particular questions as you do as part of that interview process, you have those particular questions that you run through and to make sure that they do fit, and then you shortlist from there. So you normally if there’s for one role, you would normally look at 3 o 4.

Mick: Okay. When I come in whether you’re acting on the phone or Skype when they come into the office, you’ve talked about having a list of questions to ask them, how do you come up with that list? And what are bad questions to ask and what are good questions?

Nicole: Excellent, excellent question. What you really need to look at is coming back again to that skill set again but also you need to look at behavioral interviewing so what I’m talking about with behavioral interviewing is finding out more about that person and how they react to various situations. So, you’ve got the skill sets, okay, yep, they can drive a car, they can talk to customers, etcetera, but then asking them questions about situations, so for instance things like, tell me about a time, one particular time, where you’ve had to demonstrate time management or tell me about a time where your customer service was exceptional and what you are looking for is the star process. So you’re looking at a situation, the task and finding out exactly what their response from that was as well, so what was the outcome for that? So, that gives you a good clearer understanding about how that person will react to various situations, in particular when it comes around to stress or timeframes or very, very tight timeframes. What sort of personality do they have? Are they a flight or fight? Are they passive which is what you’re looking for or they’re confident or what type of person is that and that’s reflecting back to what I spoken to about before whether you need to have a really good understanding about what your business is looking for the future. So, how do you want your business team be perceived because that’s what your employee will be. Are you looking for a passive person? Are you looking for a confident person? You know, what sort of person so that you can then go, yep, as part of the behavioral interviews, they would actually fit very, very well with myself and also with my business and my customers.

Mick: [0:13:34] excuse me. On you getting side or on the first employee side, are there any sort of gaps we’ve left out there? The time, he should know that?

Nicole: Having someone discerning about the code of conduct, so coming back to some basic HR policies and procedures, so that the employee is actually aware of, for instance, one of them most important ones is the code of conduct policy. They know what their behaviors are to be. You know what your behaviors are to be and everybody has a very good understanding of what that is and a signature to say that because it’s all very [0:14:12] when you’re first employing somebody but it may come to a time that you may say, “Oh really? That conduct is not acceptable in our business and to our clients, etc.” and that we need to maybe discipline or terminate based on this. So, having some basic standard HR policies and procedures manual in the business is crucial too.

Mick: Have you come up with conversations with business owners especially looking into unions and hidden use about workplace agreements and things like that? There’s this feeling, is it possible to actually fire someone? Or how much you put them on? Or is it incredibly hard and that’s been put people off actually bringing employees on because they [0:14:55] this commitment is going to be seem stressful, things like that, so can you just built that sort of meet?

Nicole: Yeah, absolutely. My strategy is always ‘hire slowly, fire quickly.’ So, when it comes around to discipline and termination where it has an impact on the business and it may have an impact on the employees, there is some very significant processes, clear, concise processes that you do need to go down the lines to ensure that there is procedural fairness in the whole process of this, and if it does get to the commission’s side that you have shown procedural fairness at all times with allowing employees to have a right of response and etcetera. So there is you know, it can be a fairly, messy, emotional situation, however, if you do have a very good HR person that is able to hold your hand and walk you through that process and educate and provide the tools so that if it does happen again, that you’ve got some of those tools in place. It’s worth the waiting goal because the fees if you don’t actually process and if you just miss out one little step of this process, it can get you into a lot of hot waters. So, it can get messy depending on the situation but you know,

Mick: They’re perfectly doable like–

Nicole: Absolutely.

Mick: Yeah.

Nicole: Absolutely, perfectly doable and in fact, what I see is that employees are over cautious which is fantastic but they’re not thinking about… well, they are thinking about their business but they are not actioning that business straight away and even if it’s a matter of a fine court to say, “This is want I want to do. Am I entitled to be able to do that and to have that peace of mind and that clear head that yes, I have done everything in my power to give that person procedural fairness, to give them the right of response to whatever their allegations are but it is, it is.” And it’s great that employees are cautious about it because it can cost them a bit of money but it’s nothing to be scared of from hiring people to worry about that situation because it really doesn’t incur a massive amount of time if you communicate and effectively managed those employees throughout their employment period.

Mick: Alright, because I’ll say terminating someone is you know, for all this hurt, it would be perfectly be a last resort, you know, when you want to beat performance management anxiety before hand because you know, about the time you did the whole hiring process, the instructions that were placed like what have I cost [0:17:46] dollar cost in… What’s the training before we get to that point of no return where it’s taught me to termination dismissal, what can businesses owner to be doing you know, day to day, week to week, to try and you know, talk about forms with the staff and get back to performance.

Nicole: Communication is absolutely the key for the whole process, from the start to the finish. If you’re communicating to your employees, you are essentially 80% of the way there, and I’m not talking about formal communication necessarily, I’m talking about informal. So, giving people regular feedback informally on a regular basis so it might be a weekly basis saying, “Okay, you know you’re doing really well, can you please consider this area or a place work on this area or…,” giving them some feedback so that they can actually realize that one, they might be doing a fantastic job which is fantastic for their emotions and their production of the business, but two, that they can then change their behaviors if it’s not satisfactory to what you’re looking.

Mick: Would you talk about that?

Nicole: Absolutely, absolutely. If you’re needing to give some feedback, as part of that process you should be documenting everything that you do as you know, if you’re needing to get them to where they need to be at that they’re not necessarily at that, and documenting it doesn’t need to be a massively form of process. That could be just simply writing in your diary or it might be making a note on a Word document and filing that to say that, “on such and such date, this is what I just spoke to such and such person, join blogs about and this is his response:” now, that’s an informal basis and I do said that there needs to be, it’s good to have a regular communication, an open form of communication because you’re wanting them to change or to get to the standards of what you’re expecting and it’s their right also to know how you’re feeling and from a moral point of view, you want them to do their best and to provide that service to the employees too. Yeah.

Mick: Nicole, we’ve caught of a bit of area, so we talked to that first employees, we talked about recruiting process and actually interviewing people, and then dismissal past and sort of [0:20:14] and how you can actually encourage them, so communicate with our folks, just for the business owners who are listening now, what’s 3 quick sort of easy means of actions I could take this week that’s just going to put them on a better position HR ones for the next couple of months?

Nicole: Yeah. I think first of all, look at your employment contracts. They are legal documents so you need to make sure that you’re covering yourself as well as your employee, so even a basic employment contract is worth the wait in goal so have a review of your employment contract to make sure that it does cover up on everything that you need to and you’re happy with exactly what that looks like.

The second thing is looking at your job descriptions. Know exactly what that looks like from all of the different positions that you’ve got in the company and that will help you set yourself up for the next time that you’re needing to get a person urgently. You’ve got that skill set, you know exactly what the type of person that will fit into the business so make sure that that’s clear and concise.

The other thing is the communication channels. So, anyhow way you’re communicating with your employees. Do you have regular formal surprisals? Do you catch up on a regular basis? Do you do one on one’s with your employees and give them positive and negative feedback on how they’re performing and what are your expectations are, but also, their successes, so are you meeting on a regular basis with your team or with your company and giving them how the company is progressing, the wins, so maybe you’ve won some contracts, providing them with that stability so that they know that they don’t need to look anywhere else because this company will continue, so providing all that information to them. Having a look at your policies and procedures and making sure that they are clear and concise, that all of the employees are aware of that and they have actually signed off on this polices and procedures so that they know that what the code of conduct is, what the, you know, that there may be no smoking at work, there might be vehicle use policy that they are aware of what their requirements are and they have read, understood and signed it.

Mick: Nicole, you’re neck deep in this day in, day out, all these different areas. You’ve people listening and go in a particular question they want to ask or they want to dig deeper into one of these issues in their business, what space might they can get contact or get some more information?

Nicole: Yeah, I’d love to speak to anybody that needs some assistance or even if that they got a quick question that they would like to ask me, so Moreton Bay HR Solutions, you can find us on the website underneath that particular name but also, you can contact me directly on 0459 220 516.

Mick: Nicole, thanks for sharing with us and coming in.

Nicole: Thank you.

Mick: So, we really appreciate it. It heaps different areas and if you don’t know what you’re looking for,

Nicole: Yeah.

Mick: You can’t you know, look for more information [0:23:23]

Nicole: Absolutely, and there’s nothing better than helping small businesses getting through that tangle of concerns when it’s just a very simple process that we just need to tweak, so thank you very much for inviting me.

Mick: Fantastic. Okay, we’ll catch up really soon.

Nicole: Thank you, too.

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What is your biggest HR struggle in your business that you need help with? Drop your questions in the comments below and Nicole will be able to point you in the right direction.