SMEs should take proactive steps to avoid costly HR mistakes

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Apr 20, 2017 | Posted in Business Advice, Human Resources Services
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For many SMEs, managing their workforce is often trial and error. Mistakes are made – some costly - and lessons are learned along the way. 

So what are the proactive steps SMEs can take that will assist them to manage and mitigate human resources risk?

1   Create the right impression from the get-go

You think you’ve found the right person for the job and you don’t want to lose them.   What can you do to prevent your new hire suffering ‘buyer’s remorse’?  First impressions are lasting so it is critical that your new hire has a positive experience from the get-go. If you are to be successful at creating the right workplace culture and behaviours, it’s also vital that you induct new employees in a consistent manner.

If you don’t already have one, develop and implement an Induction Checklist to ensure new staff are appropriately introduced to the various aspects of your business, and are made familiar with the location and content of your policies and procedures. Remember, new starters need organisational induction as well as job specific induction.

2    Take advantage of Fair Work’s six-month qualifying period

The Fair Work qualifying period is designed to give both employers and employees the time they need to determine whether they are a good fit for each other. A common mistake made by SMEs is to have a three-month probation period rather than six-months. All too often the probation period is not used to its full potential. 

Once you recruit a new employee, make the time to meet with that person at six-weekly intervals to check in on how they are settling in and performing in their new role. 

What milestones have they achieved? Do they need further training to meet the requirements of their role? What are they doing well? What do they need more practise with? 

Identify areas of opportunity where they can learn and grow in their new role. If there are any issues that need to be addressed, provide them with a timeframe within which to turn their performance around. What are they going to do differently to meet an expectation of their role?

Remember to provide constructive feedback and to ask open-ended questions?  Start on a positive and end on a positive (we in HR call this a "feedback sandwich”). 

Importantly, take notes of these discussions as during this qualifying (probation) period new employees can be terminated without you being subject to an unfair dismissal claim.

3   Provide your workforce with the right tools for performance and productivity 

When one of your team members identifies a piece of equipment or tool that will assist them to do their  job faster, more safely, or more accurately, listen to what they propose. Undertake a cost/benefit analysis, if required. If your employee is going to be more productive in their role and/or the piece of equipment tool is going to prevent a workplace injury, then it could be a worthwhile investment. Happy, healthy team members are good for business.

4   Workplace policies

It’s understandable that may SMEs prefer to keep formal policies and procedures to a minimum. After all, the beauty of working in a small business is you can rid yourself of all that annoying bureaucracy, right? Not quite. There are some formalities that you can’t avoid – and some you shouldn’t. Where human resources are concerned, at a minimum, I recommend you prioritise three things: 


  1. Code of Conduct that incorporates a social media policy.
  2. Workplace Health and Safety Policy that encompasses discrimination, bullying and harassment.
  3. Discipline and termination clause to be incorporated into your employment contracts.


Investing in these fundamentals now could protect you from an expensive conflict at a later date.  


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