Recession — manage your people resources, Part 1

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In the current economic climate it is more important than ever to manage your resources, including people resources, to best effect. Hard times can bring issues that have been simmering in the background to a head, and raise new ones that you may never have dealt with before.

If you’re recruiting you need to ensure you get the right person. Prior to the downturn people were able to move on if they weren’t satisfied with their job for some reason.
But now they’re likely to stay put, and resist being moved on. As financial pressures increase there’s potential for misconduct issues such as theft or fraud. Stress can take its toll and manifest itself in staff performance issues and compatibility issues between staff.

However workplace dissatisfaction arises, employers bear the brunt of it. Managing it and the demands of keeping the business running can be a challenge.
In the first of a three-part series of articles, RMBF in-house counsel Leoni Carter looks at Recruitment and Retention, and some things to consider at the beginning, middle and end of an employment relationship.

First, consider if you really need to fill that position you are about to advertise. If work volumes drop, what then?
Consider redeployment — perhaps there’s an employee who has expressed a desire for change who could, with some training, do the job.
If not, then you need to make sure you engage the right person! To do that you need to ensure you have all the information you need to make the right choice.

Get the right person

Do you have a job application form? It can help ensure you have all the information you need from applicants. Make sure you read it, and follow up with reference checking.
When you conduct an interview, have a list of relevant questions at hand, so you don’t miss any opportunities for them to tell you all the things you want to know about them.

You should also consider setting a work test to ensure they can do what they say they can. It should be a task you would expect that person to be able to perform and perform well.
When you make any offer of employment, make sure your offer is subject to agreement on the final Employment Agreement (EA). Too often an offer is accepted when the prospective employee hasn’t yet seen the EA, and this can make it difficult if he/she then wants to negotiate over terms.

Trial periods

If you are a small employer with fewer than 20 staff (full time and part time), you can make use of the new 90-day trial provision of the Employment Relations Act.
It only applies to new employees, and you must ensure it is included in your written Employment Agreement.

The trial period is intended to allow the employer to assess the suitability of an employee, and to terminate the employment relationship if, after the trial period, that isn’t the case.
The employee can’t take a Personal Grievance (PG) on the grounds of unjustified dismissal (but remember the other grounds in the Act, eg unjustified disadvantage, or discrimination, are still open to them).

Members can log on to the RMBF web site and download an employment agreement that includes the trial and probation period clauses.
Members should also take a look at the Department of Labour’s new Employment Agreement Builder at
http://ers.govt.nz/relationships/builder which is a useful clause-by-clause tool that tailors an employment agreement to your business. You can also draft an offer letter.

• Next month: Part 2 — Managing existing staff.