The World According to Cachia

All Hail the Annoying Co-Worker

John Cachia - Thursday, July 28, 2016

One of the (I’d say) pitfalls of working in an open office environment are dealing with those pesky co-workers… and whilst it’s good to be able to work in a team environment and to draw from the respective skills and experiences of those around you; alas people are people and as such notwithstanding their professional skills, their personal habits leave much to be desired.

Working in the beautiful science that is HR, I have, over many MANY years, had the opportunity to work with people from broad and diverse backgrounds and I have been privy to my fair share of conflicts and counselling sessions where personalities where the reason for the conflict. Professional courtesy forbids me to disclose all of the matters discussed, however one universal issue that continues to arise, is the annoying co-worker.

I am presently working in an ‘open office plan’ - thanks to the 1990’s suggestion that this would be a great idea that would contribute to good working relationships and accessibility to all; especially the manager! Notwithstanding, I am reminded of all those individual idiosyncrasies that people have: those habits that people bring to work, that they have no issues with, but drive their colleague MAD!!! Perhaps these are acceptable at home (although I’d wonder about a partner that would condone this?), but at the workplace I simply shake my head.

Not surprisingly there have been lists complied, stating those personal behaviours that ‘tick people off’ some of these ‘traits’ are as follows:-

-          The loud/noisy talkative co-worker;

-          People with no concept of personal space;

-          Mr Know-it-all;

-          The inappropriate/socially awkward colleague;

-          The Bully;

-          Everybody’s best friend;

-          The patient;

-          Teachers Pet;

However the one that gets my attention the most is The Noisy Eater!!! We all know that person that still (in this day and age), doesn’t have the good manners/sense to know that in public it isn’t acceptable to eat food with their mouth open…making those blood chilling noises as their lips smack together; showing everybody within close proximity what they are eating; and on occasion inadvertently spitting food out, cause they also thought it would be ok to actually talk while eating… UGH!!!

Perhaps I am too prim and proper, or perhaps it’s my modest European upbringing; or perhaps it’s the modicum of good manners that my dear parents instilled in me; but WOW, how can anybody think they can be taken seriously when the only salvation is that eventually the food supply will end!

I find it particularly boorish when said person, in casual conversation, decides to take a handful of [say] peanuts, and one by one consume them; then talks (whilst still placing peanuts in their mouth). At the same time, perhaps because the sound of eating is too loud, decides to increase the decibels with which he/she is speaking…

I am not sure what is worse, the sound of dragging fingernails down a chalkboard (and for those of you born in this millennium – that’s something you’ve truly missed out on), or the sound of a colleague eating with their mouth open???

I appreciate that we are to work in a collegiate environment and we should be patient and supportive of our work-mates, however sometimes the good intents are diminished by the consistent battering of [some] peoples appalling manners… people are people and sometimes people are strange!

Is your Employer Branding strategy effective?

John Cachia - Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Last week I was facilitating a lesson on Recruitment and Selection processes, and the topic of Employer Branding came up… I asked what I thought was a fairly obvious question “who can describe what Employer Branding is”? and to my surprise, not one of the students had heard of it, let alone could describe it! That has made me wonder if this form of advertising is still current.

Employer branding is the process of promoting your organisation to a select group [of candidates], which the employer wishes to recruit and retain. Some organisations adopt this strategy as it is considered particularly important for Companies in highly competitive labour markets and/or perceive themselves as having a bad image.

Therefore Employer branding [basically means];

-          the coordination & standardising of all recruitment information to portray the organisation in a particular way;

-          It makes the organisation stand apart from other Company’s,

-          It reinforces its reputation as a desirable employer;

The Employer Branding statement should be approximately 1 paragraph in length and contain information such as:-

-          Specifics of the Industry/Sector,

-          Size of Organisation (turnover, staffing, locations),

-          Products,

-          Unique Initiatives or Programs of the Organisation (i.e. associations, sponsorships),

-          Attractive characteristics of the role

I was reading an article recently that states 87% of organisations believe in employer branding strategies, yet only 17% of them actually have developed and implemented such strategies, despite there being suggestions that Companies WILL increase their investment in Employer branding [strategies].

With the availability of social media that allows more creative ways to advertise the Company, the above statistics perhaps don’t instil too much confidence that organisations understand or know how to use Employer branding statements.

For mine, the ‘job ad’ is much more than just a notice pinned to the ‘positions vacant’ board. It should be seen as an opportunity to advertise the role (of course) and therefore a method of identifying ‘suitable’ applicants. But more so, it is a great opportunity to promote the organisation for all its benefits (I see this as HR’s foray into Marketing).

Effective employer branding can reinforce the organisation’s ability to attract and retain top talent. Attracting the right people helps build an better workforce/team environment; a better workforce leads to a better culture; a better culture leads to increased productivity; better productivity leads to better profits and increased [company] reputations; etc..

It is important to note that the employer brand should not be confined to the job ad, suffice to say, it is the whole organisation and its people that effectively ‘OWN’ the brand, and that means that your employees will have no hesitation in advocating the positives of the Company when outside of work, and as we all know, satisfied employees can be your best ambassadors!

Whether your organisation is a ‘household’ name, and/or a division of… or if yours is an SME that perhaps isn’t easily recognisable, an employer branding strategy should not just be seen as an effective way of advertising a vacancy; but also a great way of promoting the business and thus attracting stronger candidates.


Australian adults return good results in literacy and numeracy skills report

John Cachia - Monday, July 28, 2014

In a report compiled by the Productivity Commission, Literacy and Numeracy Skills and Labour Market Outcomes in Australia - Australian Productivity Commission Australian adults, when compared with other countries in the OECD, have been rated as being above average in literacy skills; and average when it comes to numeracy.

When considering numeracy and literacy skills, we can see a link to a person’s wellbeing; as having good skills in these areas will clearly ensure a person’s ability to contribute effectively to society (and of course) the workforce. Suffice to say, those with higher numeracy and literacy skills, tend to be more productive; happier, healthier and more socially engaged.

When considering the above from an employer’s perspective; having employees whose skills are at a higher level suggested they will achieve more from training and education. This course means that the employee works better and provides better returns (which of course benefit both the employer and the employee).

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), in a report released in September 2013, states that of people employed, 60% had literacy skills at ‘level 3’ or above, and 51% had numeracy skills at a similar level.

In contrast, 14% of Australian adults have low literacy skills. In broad terms an employee at this level has the ‘ability to apply common sense understanding to carry out simple one or two-step instruction, thus having sufficient skills to work with regular situations having only occasional or no variables’.

It is recognised that literacy and numeracy skills vary across different groups of people, for example; people from a non-English speaking background have lower literacy and numeracy skills than most others; older Australians (55-74yrs) have lower numeracy and literacy skills than those younger, and those better educated have higher literacy and numeracy skills.

From this we can see a strong correlation between numeracy and literacy skills and labour market outcomes (i.e. employment and wages).

It is important to appreciate that good numeracy and literacy skills influence productivity, and that they allow/ensure individuals can and do develop other skills. We see that the way we do business keeps changing and as such we as individuals are required to be more innovative and adaptive in an effort to ensure we are able to perform not only effectively, but to perform at higher levels!

Whilst the basics that are learnt at school at school provide us with the foundation, we MUST continue to develop our skills thus we can better contribute to a more productive workforce.

The return of the Boomerang Employee

John Cachia - Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I was bemused to hear all the commentary regarding Wayne Bennett (noted Rugby League Coach) returning to the Brisbane Broncos. Some say it’s good for the club, his returning to the where he had great success; but there were many who think the contrary, believing his return to the Broncos won’t deliver the expected results. Notwithstanding, it does pose the question; what are the ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ of returning to a former job?

I read an article that referred to people who return to former roles/company’s as ‘Boomerang Employees’ This concept ostensibly works on the premise of ‘getting the old team back together’ Commonly seen in technology and sometimes the retail sector.

Previously it was a rarity that an employee would leave the organisation and then consider returning to the same and/or different positions… I can recall there being policy that stated the organisation would not re-hire former employees. The perception being that they left for a reason, so it’s best to let them go! From the employees perspective, to leave an organisation then suffer the indignity of asking for his/her job back (because the new job didn’t pan out as expected), is just too embarrassing!

However times have changed and it seems that this practice is gaining momentum…perhaps the savvy employee is a good exponent of ‘not burning bridges’ when they leave a company. Even though their leaving is for what they consider to be the right reasons; but by leaving on a positive note it won’t adversely impact on their reputation. As we purport in an interview, the first impression is important, well perhaps upon leaving [an organisation], the last impression is just as important!

When an employee leaves an organisation (and let’s look at this from a positive point of view), it’s for progression and better/different experiences… therefore this change will further develop the employee as a professional. Of course then, if she/he was to return [to a former employer], he/she will bring updated and/or different skills… and perhaps a different perspective on work and a new attitude! Perhaps even, the employee that returns is now a more loyal employee and therefore will ensure this tenure is even longer than the first, and he/she already knows the ‘politics’ of the organisation, so can work effectively in this environment.

It is important to acknowledge that there’s no guarantee returning to the ‘fold’ is going to be warmly accepted by all employees, and as such ‘management’ MUST consider the feelings of those who’ve remained, ensuring this re-employment does not cause dissention in the ranks.

Whilst there may be some initial awkwardness, Boomerang employees can deliver added efficiencies and can assimilate into the organisation quicker and easier (perhaps) than a new employee; in addition to renewed loyalty and contribution suggests good reason to consider this as a recruitment program to adopt when next filling a vacancy.

For Brisbane Broncos, time will tell whether the return of the so-called Super Coach will deliver the club another premiership… at the very least though, both the employer and the employee have an idea of what to expect from each other!

Effective Complaints handling processes provide the Organisation with many benefits

John Cachia - Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Sadly it seems that not all employers are well versed at the disputes resolution process, and as we’ve found out, poor management of this can lead to claims of bullying/harassment that then lead to litigation and inevitably compensation!

Perhaps the issue is to do with managers not taking the time to properly understand the employee complaints/matters. This means that by not knowing/understanding what the problem is places the manager in a poor position to resolve the matter. In some cases the manager is only interested in having the problem go away with as minimal cost to the business.

The longer that the manager leaves the problem to ‘fester’ the less likely that any form of mediation will succeed, as both parties build up a sense of angst or resentment. Some employees perhaps want to ‘punish’ the organisation for not listening and acting on their complaint appropriately.

Conflict at some level is a daily occurrence in the workplace. These conflicts vary in their reasons for being, and it seems that the nature of workplaces and the relationships within generally makes conflict inevitable, and the way that conflict is resolved can be relative to the cultural (environment) of the organisations.

Interestingly, from an industrial relations perspective, all organisations MUST have initiated a disputes resolution procedure, either contained within the Modern Award or Enterprise Agreement. Some organisations go as far as implementing a grievance/disputes procedure policy. So it is a concern that workplace conflict is not being managed properly.

An important part of managing is effective communication. Communication is a vital part of creating and maintaining a safe and efficient workplace environment. Suffice to say that how managers and their team members interact (with each other and clients) will affect how well the Company functions and how satisfying staff find their employment to be.

As a function of good management, open and proactive communication ensures that all employees receive appropriate information, and that the views and concerns of staff are taken into account in the planning, management and evaluation of policies, programs and initiatives.

Organisations therefore could do well to enlist the following to help them manage their workplace ‘difficulties into positive outcomes’:-

        Identify and analyse difficulties, and take action to rectify the situation within the requirements of the organisation and relevant legislation

        Guide and support colleagues to resolve work difficulties

        Regularly review and improve workplace outcomes in consultation with relevant personnel

        Manage poor work performance within the organisation's processes

        Manage conflict constructively within the organisation's processes

By effectively managing any disputes that arise in the organisation not only limits the potential for poor workplace relations (i.e. increased resentment towards the organisation), it can provide many benefits including increased morale, productivity and profits, as well as letting the business get on with doing its business

Would you pay your probationary employees an incentive to leave?

John Cachia - Wednesday, July 09, 2014

It seems that a company in the U.S. has found a novel way to help its employees decide if they’re happy at work… This organisation (and there’s a few more like it), will offer its workers a financial incentive to actually leave their employ!

The Company CEO devised the plan. This plan allows a newly hired employee the opportunity to receive 10% of their salary (to a maximum payment of $US 25,000) to leave… this offer lasts for the first 60 days of employment and is designed to show the employee they can safely exit the company rather than linger and be unhappy.

We are probably well aware of that employee who is bitterly unhappy, who doesn’t ‘fit’ into the company culture and who’s performance is questionable, yet remains only because of the regular pay check… the concept of paying this exit incentive is, ostensibly, to help the employee quickly identify it’s time to move on, which of course is best for all concerned.

It must be said that this cannot be seen as a panacea for an ineffective probation review, and as such organisations have an obligation to properly manage the induction and performance of their employees, especially those new recruits who are settling into a new business.

Now the purist may say that this concept creates the wrong culture, as the applicant upon receiving the offer of employment, (who knows of this scheme), may only accept [the offer] because of this incentive, and thus be less discerning. So it could attract the wrong person with the wrong motives! Notwithstanding, the opposite may actually occur, that the employee really considers whether to stay or go; and if they’re serious about the role and reject the offer, then maybe you’ve retained a really committed employee.

Of course HR practitioners know that it’s important to create a strong, positive and motivating workplace culture – but it’s not enough for HR simply to facilitate it. You also must develop and implement appropriate strategies that deliver benefits to the business, and sometimes such initiatives will impact upon the budget.

Whilst HRM Consulting does not advocate organisations introduce an exit incentive scheme, we do, however, support the notion of monitoring, evaluating and communicating performance standards and targets to its employees, which of course all forms part of an effective Performance Management Program.

For information on Performance Management Programs, inclusive of Probationary Review Schemes, please feel free to contact us at HRM Consulting Services for assistance and advice.

Passive Candidate Sourcing on the Rise

John Cachia - Thursday, October 31, 2013

You may not want to know or acknowldge this fact, but increasingly, your employees are being courted by the competition, and as such there is a potential drain on the the best and brightest from within your organisation! And whilst Snr Managers will rely on the so-called 'passive candidate pool' to fill vacancies, rest assured that Companies within your industry/profession are doing the same!

Talent poaching (or Head Hunting) has long been a process used by HR. But of late we've seen the introdcution of social mediums, (i.e. LinkedIn) that has in effect changed recruitment dramatically. Therefore using LinkedIn to find 'passive jobseekers' is becoming quite popular.

Of course there are those that warn this way of recruiting can have a negative effect on retention, and in fact, the trend in looking to employed candidates over unemployed candidates may be putting your entire talent pool up for grabs.

There is an apparent trend whereby HR will hire candidates that are currently employed and as such those currently unemployed are not considered. This is supported by a survey of senior HR executives in the US, where some 90% said recruiting passive candidates is central to the HR strategy.

It has been seen that HR Managers experienced resistance when presenting qualified yet unemployed candidates to clients/colleagues, with a number of hiring managers believing that unemployed job seekers are “unemployed for a reason”.

However in opposition to this view, some hiring managers will in fact interview unemployed candidates for every available position. Suffice to say that not considering currently unemployed candidates is very short-sighted. therefore by not considering both employed and unemployed candidates equally could result in missing out on very good candidates!

In the end what this means is that Organisations should of course have a current and effective recruitment strategy that has as its key, the recruitment of sutiably qualified candidates, based on a number of factors. and so whether the candidate is employed or unemployed, actively or passivley searching; appointments are best made on merit!

Managers MUST ensure procedural fairness when investigation workplace incidents

John Cachia - Tuesday, October 22, 2013

In a recent Fair Work Commission (FWC) ruling, the Company that dismissed two employees for assaulting their supervisor, has been found to not have acted properly with regards to their investigation of the incident.

The incident in question refers to an altercation between an employee and his supervisor, which escalated into a verbal argument, followed by the employee assaulting the supervisor. A second employee then also joined in, with both punching the supervisor in the head. The fight was eventually defused by a second supervisor, who restrained one of the employees.

The two supervisors reported the incident to their managing director, who then interviewed the employees individually.

Whilst being interviewed, the first employee did not provide a detailed account of the incident, notwithstanding, the MD dismissed him. The second demanded the right to detail his account of the incident, and stated that the supervisor had also attacked him. Despite this, he too was dismissed.

In its decision, FWC accepted that dismissing the two employees for their assault was valid, however maintained that neither [employee] were provided a meaningful opportunity to respond to the allegation. Suffice to say, the MD made the decision [to terminate] without taking the employee accounts into consideration.

Another factor considered by the FWC was that the MD did not take into account that the two employees had limited proficiency of the English language and so [perhaps] didn't properly explain the situation. Additionally FWC noted the MD's lack of HR training and limited experiencing managing workplace issues was also a factor.

While not reinstated, the two employees were both awarded two weeks’ wages as their dismissals were found to be unjust and unreasonable.

Considering the above, it is imperative that managers investigating any matters of misconduct, that all factors are considered and a thorough investigation conducted!

Monday.. the most popular day for a "Sickie"

John Cachia - Monday, March 18, 2013

Although somewhat unsurprising, the most popular day of the week for chucking a sickie is Monday! It’s a feeling otherwise known as Mondayitis and, for some of us, it begins on a Friday. This of course is scientifically backed and so the affliction actually does exists.

One poll from a couple of years ago found people spend roughly 34 minutes complaining on a Monday morning. The average on other weekdays falls to just 22 minutes. 

Mondayitis is not just a modern symptom of the intensity with which we work these days. It’s been around for ages, way before management jumped on the work/life balance bandwagon. 

Dating back as far as Tuesday 12 October 1926, a newspaper article (The Advocate, a newspaper in northwestern Tasmania) made an interesting reference to Mondayitis. This article (apparently) provided  some useful advice on how to avoid the emotional perils of a Monday morning. 

The article goes on to state that the cause of Mondayitis, is overindulgent eating on the weekend. This affects the liver and explains why people feel sluggish come Monday. The antidote (at the time) was a dose of Dr Morse’s Indian Root Pills taken before retiring on Sunday night?

These pills are no longer available, so we'll have to consider other remedies? One of these could be to scrap Mondays altogether by embracing a four-day workweek. It’s a policy the Greens took to the most recent NSW state election. 

It’s not a bad idea, and it’s one that worked really well in Utah when 17,000 government employees were forced to do it as a cost-saving measure. The results were amazing. Sickies plummeted. Greenhouse gas emissions were slashed. Staff saved $6 million on petrol costs. And, despite being hostile to the move initially, 82 per cent of employees eventually wanted it to stay. Unfortunately, the four-day workweek was scrapped in 2011.

A small study conducted at Flinders University discovered that people were more fatigued on a Monday when they tried to catch up on sleep over the weekend. Despite having a good long sleep, it was found that we become more tired on the days that follow a sleep-in rather than the days before it?

Some suggest all we need to do is simply find a job you love! This is a fanciful notion for a lot of employees, but perhaps  easier to accomplish in Australia than in other countries where unemployment rates are crippling.

A more realistic option would be to make your current job a little more enjoyable. Endless studies indicate the best way of doing this is by incorporating your talents and maximising your strengths at work. Too many of us focus too much on our weaknesses and limitations, thereby making us dread heading to work on a Monday.

Maybe it's time that we tell ourselves there is no such thing as Mondayitis? And it seems that Starbucks in the UK are advocating that notion...  

Their clever new advertising campaign states that:- man first walked on the moon on a Monday - Big Ben first chimed on a Monday - Macbeth was first performed on a Monday - and now you can get cheap lattes on a Monday!

Well maybe that's one way to start your Monday???

Scientific results are in... People make mistakes over and over!!!

John Cachia - Thursday, February 28, 2013

As the saying goes, some people will never learn!!! but now it seems that scientists know the reason(s) why. Simply stated, 'People who keep repeating the same mistakes have less active brains'.

Researchers studied the brainwave patterns of 36 people who were given a simple time-guessing task.

They were asked to press a button when they thought 1.7 seconds had passed. The volunteers were then told if their guess was correct, too short or too long before having another go.

Good learners showed a greater electrical brain response when they were told where they had gone wrong. They demonstrated better communication between the parts of the brain that monitor performance and areas that coordinate senses and physical actions.

Although we are always told how important it is to learn from our errors, why is it that we don't all not learn from our experiences in the same way? Sadly, It seems, some people rarely do... despite being informed of their mistakes in repeated attempts.

Studies in this area presents an insight into how our brain processes performance feedback and what it does with this information, whether to learn from it or brush it aside.

Apparently the good learners used the feedback not only to check their past performance, but also to adjust their next performance accordingly.

Does this mean we need to listen to the feedback given, and actively introduce what we've learnt?

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