Employing new staff? Get it right from the start

by Stephanie Zillman26 Mar 2012

Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) Nicholas Wilson has said clarity and respect are essential if employers want to avoid a poisonous, problematic workplace.

Writing an open letter to Australian employers in the Sydney Morning Herald, Wilson voiced his belief that a good employee induction process can greatly reduce the chances of work relationships souring. “Just one disgruntled worker can disrupt an entire workplace. And just one badly handled performance discussion can give an employer a bad reputation among workers,” Wilson said.

The ombudsman added that while he recognises that most employers are well aware of the dangers of having a disgruntled worker, he suspects not all are aware of the practical things they can do, particularly at the induction of a new worker, to help avoid the problem in the first place.

The FWO investigates some 20,000 complaints nationally each year, and many problems stem from lax induction programs and issues compounding over time. “Many of the complaints we receive could have been prevented if the manager had been more thorough in inducting new employees,” Wilson said. His advice to employers was:

Establish performance expectations. Clearly explain the employee's responsibilities, key work tasks and standards required, as well as the rewards for achieving them.
 

  • Put it in writing. This can help avoid misunderstandings that can result in employees becoming confused and even feeling betrayed.
     
  • Be sensitive and respectful. Ask employees if they have any personal requirements related to cultural, medical, language, disability, family or any other factors and be respectful and as accommodating as possible.
     
  • Get the pay right from day one. Before a new employee starts, the employer should ensure they know which industrial instrument, classification and pay rates apply. One of the easiest ways to put an employee offside is to short-change them.
     
  • Be fair and equitable. You should make it clear to new employees that you provide them with equal access to learning and development opportunities and merit-based promotion opportunities, regardless of their age and gender.
     
  • Understand your employee's induction rights under workplace laws. Employers are now required to provide all new employees with a copy of the Fair Work Information Statement. The statement provides a handy summary for employees of their workplace rights.
     
  • Keep the lines of communication open. Make it clear from the outset employee initiative and suggestions are encouraged and that the boss' door is open if employees are concerned or uncertain about any issue. This will help prevent issues festering and snowballing.
     

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