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R U OK Day, Australia - Are you ready to ask, “R U OK?” this September?

In June 2022, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released a review of mental health, highlighting an “urgent need” to transform mental health and mental health care across the world. In 2019, nearly a billion people were living with a mental disorder, and suicide accounted for more than 1 in 100 deaths.

The report makes several recommendations for actions including:

  • Deepening the value and commitment we give to mental health,

  • Reshaping environments that influence mental health (including workplaces), and

  • Strengthening mental health care by changing how it is delivered and received.

Although this report encourages change at a world-wide and national level, employers and leaders have a unique opportunity to do their part in positively influencing mental health transformation.

Why not start on Thursday 8th September 2022 by choosing to actively participate in R U OK? Day. It’s a National Day of Action when we remind Australians (which of course can extend to our friends in NZ) that every day is the day to ask, ‘are you OK?’. The purpose behind R U OK? Day is to start a meaningful conversation whenever you spot the signs that someone you care about might be struggling with life.

Of course, as employers there is a duty of care to provide a healthy and safe work environment for our teams. However, this aside, the workplace is the perfect place to create a culture where people feel confident asking and answering this simple yet important question. Leaders play a particularly important role in setting the tone and supporting the mental health and wellbeing of staff. So, where do you start, we hear you ask?

  • Engage with an Employee Assistant Program (EAP) provider to understand how they can support you within your business and highlight their services to your team.

  • Check in with your team if they are showing signs that they might need some extra support. For example, have they taken more sick leave than usual? Or have you noticed changes in their physical appearance, mood, or behaviours?

  • Develop your skills and confidence in navigating the conversation – start by reaching out to your HR team for advice, or by following the tips on the R U OK? Website.

  • Embed the R U OK? message across your HR and people frameworks – recruitment, induction, training, performance reviews (honestly, the possibilities are endless).

  • Review and update your individual and team meetinto approach the topic of wellbeing intentionally, and with transparency.

  • Get to know your staff on a personal level so you understand what factors may be influencing their mental health, and so you can recognise situations that may be challenging for them in advance.

  • Finally, Register to be an R U OK? Workplace Champion – here you will unlock many more guidelines, templates, tools, and videos to help you have life-changing conversations!

If you haven’t already decided to start putting these tips into action, this might be the clincher! Remember, according to Prof. Allan Fels of the National Mental Health Commission:

“Businesses that invest in mental health are also more productive, innovative, and likely to recruit and retain the best and brightest people.”


The True Cost of Poorly Managed Probationary Periods

If you’re a business owner or leader, I would be surprised if you said “attracting and retaining staff” wasn’t one of your biggest challenges right now. Does it give you any solace knowing you’re not alone?

According to a recent study conducted by PWC, in the Australian labour market there are more jobs available than candidates willing to fill them, and the average cost to hire an employee has increased to $23,000 per candidate (up from a typical spend of $10k in the previous year). With further changes announced on Sunday to the Working Holiday and Accredited Employer Work Visas the New Zealand government is trying to get more migrants in the country to support staff shortages in healthcare, aged care, construction, snow sports, the meat industry and the list goes on.

From where we are standing, if you’re spending all that time and money just to fill one position, you would want to make sure that you’re doing everything possible to retain them! Not to mention, make sure they are performing to a standard that was worth the $23k investment (which is insignificant when you compare it to other indirect costs associated with staff turnover) or a lengthy visa application process.

This is where Probationary Periods come in! If you’re like many of the businesses we work with, you may think this is just a period where you can take an “easy out” if you decide the person isn’t quite right for the business or role. Think again. In this labour market, you should be heavily investing time and resources in your new hire during this period to make sure (or at least be satisfied, that you did everything you could) they are performing, engaged, and connected to your business when it comes time to confirm their future with you.

So, switch your mindset around probationary periods, and consider what more you could be doing to see a return on the investment you made in your newest team member. Why not try some of these tips:

  • Set them up for success. Spend time mapping out your new team member’s first few weeks before they start. Which key stakeholders do they need to meet with? What training do they need upfront? Is there any pre-reading they can do? Make sure they know where they need to be, when and with whom on their first day!

  • Show them you care. Set up structured probationary meetings (we recommend at least every 6-to-8 weeks) throughout this period, so they know you are invested in seeing their success. Create a process that allows for targeted topics of conversation (based on their time in the role, and their role responsibilities), active preparation by both parties, and clear actions and goals to work on before the next meeting.

  • Create an open dialogue. Outside of structured meetings, check in regularly, and create space for them to ask questions and resolve concerns early. Despite your best efforts, you may not be as approachable as you think. So, make sure you’re the one putting in the effort to connect regularly, and build the relationship in these first crucial months.

  • Give & receive authentic feedback. Provide on the job feedback (good, constructive, or otherwise) whenever the opportunity arises. Use your structured probationary meetings to summarise how they are performing overall so they are not left wondering. Most importantly – ask for your own feedback. Not only will this gain you respect as a leader, but it will also help you understand if there are any areas where you or the business need to improve so you can retain new (and future) team members.

  • Explore problems together. If you have concerns, don’t make assumptions around what has occurred and why. Raise it with your new team member, take the time to understand it from their perspective, and workshop solutions together. Not only will you build a better relationship with them, but they are also more likely to take ownership of the solution and resolve the problem.

If you’d like to find out more about how to use your probationary period to set your newest team member up for success, or you would like to know more about the legalities of Probationary Periods (and Trial Periods for our clients in NZ) we are happy to help you out.

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Te Wiki o te Reo Māori 12-18 Mahuru 2022 - Māori Language Week 12-18 September 2022

In New Zealand we are looking forward to celebrating Te Wiki o te Reo Māori this September which is led annually by the Māori Language Commission of New Zealand. The first Māori Language Week was held in 1975 with less than 5% of Māori children speaking te reo Māori at the time. Today, 30% of New Zealanders feel that they can comfortably speak basic te reo Māori and the Commission is aiming to have 1 million New Zealanders speaking basic te reo Māori by 2040. Further encouragement has been found following the results of their 2020/2021 annual report where 84% of New Zealanders stated that they recognise the Māori language as part of the country’s national identity. This is a huge achievement and very promising for the revitalisation and preservation of the language.

However, there is still a level of trepidation or fear of ‘getting it wrong’ in the workplace, but as research by Auckland University of Technology (AUT) shows, incorporating Māori language, terminology and tikanga Māori (practices) “significantly enhanced” workplace mindfulness and job satisfaction. Furthermore, as noted by Professor Tania Ka’ai from Te Ipukarea, it is essential to recognise that “the use of te reo Māori – even if not executed perfectly – enhances its progress”.

We cannot underestimate the role in which servant leadership plays in nurturing and enhancing confidence in the employee experience and practice of speaking te reo Māori in the workplace - what can your business do to educate and celebrate this September? Check out the many online resources at Reo Maori ! Here you will find all sorts of tips from pronunciation through korero (conversing) and waiata (song), to how one can incorporate te reo in their everyday online and workplace interactions.


Hot Topics for August! We asked our consultants what has piqued their interest or has been topical for their clients over the past month. Here’s what they said:

Paid Domestic Violence (DV) Leave

On 28th July 2022, the Australian Federal Government introduced the Fair Work Amendment (Paid Family and Domestic Violence Leave) Bill 2022. This Bill proposes to amend the Fair Work Act by inserting a non-accumulating entitlement to 10 days’ paid family and domestic violence leave each year into the National Employment Standards (NES) for all employees (including casuals).

Currently, Australian employees are entitled to five unpaid days of family and domestic violence leave. It is proposed that the new paid entitlement, which will take effect from 1 February 2023, (or 1 August 2023 for small business employers with less than 15 staff), will become an Act of Parliament later this year.

In New Zealand, employees are already entitled to take 10 days of paid DV leave each year as well as request short-term flexible working arrangements for up to two months – this also applies to employees who may need to support a child in their care who has experienced DV. Furthermore, it does not matter when the DV incident(s) took place i.e. before the employee commenced work with their current employer, or after 1 April 2019 when the law changed regarding entitlements for those who had experienced DV.

For more information on how you can develop awareness on this subject in the workplace and support colleagues to ensure their safety, please refer to the following links whilst bearing in mind that DV, and its perpetrators, are expressed in many forms:

Why are Candidates Dropping Out?

It is pretty much a daily occurrence for us to speak with a client who is disheartened by the seeming lack of engagement in the recruitment process, with candidates actively dropping out. HR software company Sterling has released findings supporting this anecdotal feedback, confirming that 45% of candidates considered dropping out, and 26% actually dropped out of their most recent hiring experience.

Interestingly, the findings showed that candidates backed out because of issues with the

hiring process (76% citing it was too long or too complicated) as opposed to taking a different job or being counter offered by their current employer (only 15%).

This evidence brings home how important it is to align recruitment processes with the expectations of job seekers and focus on the factors they find important; pay and benefits, this is followed by a feeling of safety in the workplace, and flexible work hours.

Employer Obligations to Part-Time Employees

Despite an increasing number of the Australian and New Zealand workforce opting for part-time employment, it remains a confusing topic for many employers. We, unfortunately, see clients (unknowingly of course) not meeting their obligations when it comes to part-time employees often.

We can forgive you for this with Awards in Australia differing quite substantially when it comes to ordinary hours of work, record-keeping, rostering, and overtime. It would be irresponsible of us to try and provide general advice here, however if you are new to engaging part-timers or are not quite sure you’re across all your obligations, please reach out to your consultant so we can help set you on the right path.

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