- Managers play a key role in the business
- Managers aren’t trained or mentored for their role
- Companies aren’t investing enough in training and development
- Build an effective communication that works for your business
- Find a good mentor
- Work out what your good at and lift your skills
Joanna: Hi, it’s Joanna Oakey here and welcome back to Talking Law, a podcast brought you by our commercial legal practice – Aspect Legal.
Joining me on today’s episode is Natasha Hawker, the Director of the recruitment and HR advisory company – Employee Matters. Natasha is a senior HR practitioner as well as a speaker, author and trainer (which is quite a mouthful!), and we’re super excited to hear her insights on how to get the best return on investment on your management spend thereby reducing employee disputes.
One of many areas that we specialise in here at Aspect Legal is employment law, and like all other areas of our practice, we believe in taking a proactive approach – that is, we strive to help our clients make the necessary changes to their business in order to avoid and prevent disputes before they arise. So in this episode, we drill into how you can potentially minimise employee disputes within your organisation by investing on training and development for your managers.
So don’t go anywhere, and let’s get started!
Joanna: Hi Natasha I’m so excited to have you on the podcast today. Thank you so much for coming along to chat to us.
Natasha: My pleasure. I’m really excited to finally be here, Joanna.
Joanna: We’ve had a few goes at this but let’s not get into the very gory details.
Natasha: Of why I haven’t been here before now. Yes.
Joanna: I know. All right so let’s launch into it. I think this topic will be extremely relevant to our listeners because many of our listeners are managers or advisors to managers of businesses, whether it’s the business owners themselves or the management layer within a business.
Let’s talk first, I just want to talk first about why this topic matters so why are we talking about the concept of management and the failure of management in the first place? What’s the issue that you’re seeing?
Managers play a key role in the business
Natasha: Yeah. I think it really matters Joanna because I believe your employees are your greatest asset. They’re also potentially greatest liability in a business.
Joanna: Isn’t that the truth!
Natasha: And what we do know is when you talk to business owners and managers are exactly the same. The two things that keep both business owners and managers up at night are their employees, and so it’s a really important thing. What we also know is that employers that actually find the secret source and they’re able to build, create and maintain high performance and highly engaged teams outperform their competition every time.
We know that your employees, and especially if we talk about law, your employees are often your most expensive or second most expensive line item in the business. Often, I don’t think we give them the time and attention that we need to enable them to do their job as a business owner or not, and I feel like most managers are never actually given the skills. They’re never taught how to be effective managers let alone great managers, so I believe that all businesses need their employees working to 100% productivity as much of the time as possible and your managers are key to you achieving that. If your managers aren’t managing particularly well, you’re never going to get there.
Joanna: That’s absolutely true and I guess you know just throwing from a legal perspective of course we see many legal issues that relate to the area of employment law. But in many of these areas I feel that the way staff has been managed can contribute. Now I’m not saying that it’s the fault of the managers but I’m just saying that there’s a lot of elements of management that can impact the way whether issues occur number one and number two I think every manager no matter how good they are will still see issues occurring from time to time. But the way you manage or have managed over a long period of time then contributes to how those issues will be dealt with and how likely it is that you’ll end up in legal strife I think. Let’s just call it for what it is.
Natasha: I definitely agree with you. I think that’s a very good summary.
Joanna: So we’re talking about prevention here I guess, which might be a funny thing for a lawyer to say but we really would prefer to see our clients be able to prevent issues. Of course, we’re there when issues are there from a legal perspective and need to be dealt with. But I think it’s also good to give other components of how we can maybe help to prevent these issues from occurring in the first place. Let’s then kick off into what the biggest issue you see from a management perspective.
Managers aren’t trained or mentored for their role
Natasha: Great question. I think the biggest issue I see is that managers have quite simply not been trained or mentored for the role that they’re actually promoted into or are performing. They are often promoted into that position without the required experience, skills or training and they’ve often learned by observing a manager around them or different managers around them. Often these managers have bad habits, so those bad habits are just replicated and then they just grow and develop within the business.
I think the other issue here is that employers don’t invest in training and an example being I met this person literally just this last week. I met a senior manager the other day and he had 50 people under him and he’d worked for the same boss for 25 years Joanna. He’d grown into the role, but he had never had any formal management or leadership training.
Now he seems to be doing what I would suggest is quite a reasonable job. But what if he had had that investment either through himself, going off to university or going off and doing a course today or wherever, and he’d had some great leadership training, what would that have done for his own performance and confidence as a leader? What would it have done for the level under him as he grows and develops them mentors them? And what might it have achieved for the employees and the productivity of the business? And I think the answer would have it would achieve a lot.
Joanna: It’s really good points you’re making here because in the corporate sphere there is generally speaking always a management program that’s operated for people as they move up the ladder into a component of managing people and you know there’s the management and then the leadership training as that progression continues.
I think you’re absolutely right in SMEs I think the issue is that quite often and you know it can be a time and a cost issue but I’m sure you’ll talk to us about why there really is a very good return on training spend. Of course, it has to be the right training, right? But a very good return on training spend even for SMEs.
But it’s not just the managers in inverted commas it’s also the business owners and the owner layer as well that quite often is obviously sitting there even before you implement a management layer. But even once a management layer has been implemented, you still have the founders, the owners of the business needing to manage the managers so quite often they are the ones who have also not had training.
Companies aren’t investing enough in training and development
Natasha: You’re absolutely right and I think it’s a real. It’s a sadness for me that we’ve stopped as I believe a nation. I grew up in corporate world. I was lucky enough to spend 12 years of what I believe is one of the top management consulting firms and the training that I got there was first class and you’re right. It went a whole way through.
But what I’ve done, and probably as a result of that, and it’s only clicking in my brain now. When I started my own business, I realised there was a lot I didn’t know and I reckon we probably spent over $150,000 easily on my professional development since I started my business and that is absolutely proving itself in terms of dividends and results of the business.
I don’t believe anyone is ever fully trained. I believe that we’ve always got to invest in our training and I love that quote and I love Richard Branson and he says “Train people well enough so that they can leave, but treat them well enough so that they don’t want to.”
Joanna: Wow! That’s awesome.
Natasha: I think it’s a really important message for business owners and I think generally companies just aren’t investing enough in their employee’s development. I think as a country Australia has basically forgotten the importance of ongoing training and development, and what they need to do in that space and I think as a result we have some productivity issues in Australia. We really do. We’re dropping down the OECD scale in terms of how productive we are as a nation and I would even test your listeners to say can you tell me what your productivity cost per employee is or result per employee and I would suggest that most of them couldn’t even tell me how to work it out.
Joanna: It’s interesting. I was just actually at a conference yesterday talking all about the labor efficiency ratio for organisations, which for all the accountants out there who like numbers you’re probably all over it. But for the mere mortal business owner that’s not an accountant, these are areas that aren’t spoken about perhaps widely enough I think and productivity of course as you say is a pivotal part of running a business.
Let’s just recap the issues with management I guess are a poor training or lack of training so basing your own management style on those of just your anecdotal experience, which might be good or might be bad but it probably isn’t best practice in any in any event and then the issues that this can cause is low productivity or not optimizing productivity and as I’ve said legal issues. What else Natasha? What else do you see is the issues that are caused?
Build an effective communication that works for your business
Natasha: Yeah. I think the other way that we see management failing is around they don’t know how, when and what to communicate to their team. That leads to miscommunication errors and sometimes just general resentment. I think effective communication is really not important in a business, but it sort of happens just like you know it just sort of forms and just sort of comes out but there’s no real planning around it. I think business owners really need to build out a communication plan that’s going to work best for their business and it depends on the team dynamics.
For example in our business, as you know Johanna, we have a dispersed workforce across Australia and New Zealand. So we use a tool called Voxer and Voxer is a free app and it acts like a walkie talkie. Because our team are all over the place, their offices or client sites or whatever, I just press the button and a communication goes out to my entire team.
They can listen to that when they’re driving, when they’re commuting, when they’re in their client with some headphones on. But it keeps them feeling connected and we do that once a week as an example and we talk about what are the wins, what’s in the pipeline. We do a shout out to the team member. We just share and may feel bought in and even though they’re all over the place, they feel connected to what’s happening in the business and I think that’s really really important.
Joanna: I love it. I love it. We actually use Voxer. I’m a big lover of Voxer. In fact we also do, we don’t do it through Voxer, but we do do what you’re talking about. We call it in our organization here our daily huddle. We do a bit of a huddle here.
The history of that is quite interesting because I’d heard about the huddle for years and years and years, but I just sort of thought look that belongs in touchy feely business, maybe even tech businesses, cooler businesses and legal practices perhaps. But one day a very experienced business person said to me you know what they do it in their business. I thought hell if they can do it well we can do it too.
But it’s really transformed our business because of the communication flow within our organisation so big thumbs up from us. I completely agree with you Natasha on both the Voxer and the communication flow. Maybe can you give us an example of what you have seen in terms of issues caused within a business because of the communication flow that isn’t helping?
Natasha: Yeah. The most common one is that the rumor mill starts. If you don’t control the communication, the communication will get controlled for you and it’s generally not the most positive and it’s generally not the most accurate communication.
Joanna: Have you seen examples of that?
Natasha: Yeah definitely. We have a client where when we first went in they were they didn’t communicate frequently, they didn’t have a structure and there was a lot of smoker breaks outside. You know an organisation that still does a lot of that and the information that was shared in that smoker break wasn’t positive and it wasn’t in line with where the business was going. So what we had to do was to pull that in and actually get a communication strategy for how, when and what do you want to communicate to your people and I think it’s a really important thing.
I can give you a personal example. At Employee Matters, we’ve always been incredibly transparent with our team, and we went through this a couple of years ago and I have said this publicly before. But we were going through a really hard time at the beginning of our business and we realized we needed to make some changes and that was going to have a negative impact for some of the terms and conditions for our employees.
We pulled everyone together and we just laid it out on the table and we said what we needed to do. Now interestingly because we’ve built up so much goodwill and so much transparency that the team took the message even though for them it wasn’t necessarily great news really really well because we had developed that transparency. They knew we were authentic. They knew it was coming from a good place. We shared all the figures with them and it was a case of well maybe we don’t like it but we understand why you’re doing it and we trust you and we know why it’s happening, and so it meant that process as difficult as it was significantly easier than have we come from a place of distrust with our employees.
Joanna: Let’s maybe drill then into some practical application here. How can people be better managers? Obviously, get trained.
Natasha: Yeah. I think number one is get trained yet.
Joanna: But what are the tips? What are some actual practical things over and above training that managers should be thinking about?
Find a good mentor
Natasha: Yeah. I think the easiest way for an individual is, and this doesn’t cost anything, which is even better, or you can pay for them, but you don’t have to, is to identify a mentor and ask them to mentor you. Someone that’s got experience that may have experienced some or all of the things that you want to experience or you’re going to experience all that you want to learn about and ideally that might be someone from your industry but it doesn’t have to be.
In my personal experience, I’ve had the same mentor since I was 18 and we regularly catch up. It’s interesting because the relationship has evolved over time. It was very much me in awe of her at the beginning and I learned, and it was very much a one way flow of information and wisdom and knowledge. But now our relationship is evolved much more and she’s become a client and a friend and we coach and develop each other. We’ll bounce ideas off each other of different experiences.
I think obviously we talked about education but getting specifically around management education it would be how to listen effectively. We think that such simple skill, but listening is a really tough skill and using effective listening or tactical empathy can be really powerful things. It might interview skills, or it might be coaching skills.
I am a big fan of the coaching model called TGROW – topic, goal, reality, options, way forward – and that is a great way to mentor and grow and develop your team under you so you’re not doing it to them, they’re doing it and growing like a coach in a sports team and I think that’s really important. So yeah, they would be my top tips of getting some skills and identifying being really honest with yourself.
Work out what your good at and lift your skills
Natasha: We’re not all superstars at everything. I know my attention to detail is not my strength so that would be an area I need to develop. Think about yourself and work out what you’re good at and what you’re not good at and then try and lift your skills in that area or focus on what you’re good at. Do jobs that enable you to do the things you’re great at.
Joanna: And I guess I’d add into that something that we’ve recently done is profiling across each of our team members and I found that an amazingly useful and we use DISC but there’s many. I think actually Natasha you talked to me about another profiling too that you use so how about we talk about that in a moment. But I actually used DISC so I felt comfortable with it. I’ve used it for years and years and years, but I hadn’t used it in this business. But I thought you know what why not let’s profile everyone.
Going through the results was so intriguing. Our business is only eight or nine years old but our longest serving employee has been here for around about that period of time. But even still I’m still learning things about people and certainly the newer employees I learnt a lot about and a lot of depth. One of the things of this particular profile that we just used is not only is a personality profiling but it also being gave a value and motivation profiling results as well and that can be really useful from a management perspective to understand what the drivers are but also why conflicts occur because conflicts, no matter what you do will arise from time to time in a workplace because you’re dealing with people.
I think the benefit of profiling is that people can recognise that you all come from slightly different perspectives and certainly sometimes there’s similarities and so people can see why maybe sometimes they have the same perspective as someone else. It’s because they have the same similarity in how they view the world, whereas other people coming at things from a different perspective it can really just help to bear in mind that they’re coming at that perspective differently and it’s not necessarily that there has to be aggression in the workplace. It’s just that people are viewing things differently. So I think from a personal perspective that has been really useful in our business. What do you use Natasha?
Natasha: We use one called Harrison’s Assessment. What I like about Harrisson. (I’m very familiar with DISC and Myer’s Briggs) is that Harrisson actually maps them to a job. So from a recruitment perspective, for anyone who is recruiting, it says if Natasha is fit to be a manager and it will say yes she’s a 79% fit and better still here are all of her traits that are mandatory to be a great H.R. manager that are desirable and that are not necessary.
So you know when you get somebody into your business and it takes you six months to work out what they’re good at and what they’re not good at. This gives you that information upfront. What we know is we used to do it as an add on to our recruitment support. Now we actually do it for the top candidate and what it’s done is lift the effectiveness of the hiring decision of our people and they are much more confident about their hiring decision and it’s also increased the tenure of those people that are in those jobs because they’re being hired. The two times the person said I love the candidate. I don’t care that Harrison says they’re dreadful. They both just didn’t work out. It’s purely anecdotal but it’s the only evidence that we have at the moment but it’s really interesting to see how successful that’s been.
Joanna: That’s incredible. How long have you been using that one?
Natasha: We’ve using it now about 4.5-5 years.
Joanna: If you’re still using it, it must have been working pretty well for you and your clients then.
Natasha: But it works also for that working out how people work together as well. They have other tools that do that as well.
Joanna: Great okay. All right well we’ve covered a lot today. Natasha, thank you so much for coming on to the podcast. I think we will be talking again in another podcast soon about ways that organizations can accelerate employee engagement and indeed why you’d want to. I guess it’s fairly obvious why you want to accelerate it employee engagement. I’ll certainly be looking forward to talking to you in that episode and if you’re interested in contacting Natasha how do we go about doing that?
Natasha: Great. If anyone wants to contact me you can contact me at employeematters.com.au, and we have a whole lot of free tools and checklists and also downloads there that would be great for some of your managers that want to manage better.
Joanna: Excellent. Wonderful. Well thank you so much for your time. As I said at the beginning, I think it’s extremely important for us to help our clients in finding ways and our listeners to find ways to avoid issues from occurring in the first place so that’s what today’s discussion has all been about. Thank you, Natasha. We look forward to speaking to you again very soon.
Natasha: Thank you very much for having me.
As a quick recap, today we talked about the sad reality that most managers aren’t really trained or mentored to perform such a crucial role in a business. Natasha stressed the importance of really investing in the development and training of anyone in a management role and for your employees in general, if you wish to see massive and lasting improvements in their productivity and engagement, and ultimately put you in the position to outperform your competition.
But spending on management development doesn’t only help increase profits and productivity, it also helps ward off employee disputes and other potential legal issues.
I hope you enjoyed what you heard today. If you did, please subscribe to Talking Law on iTunes or your favorite podcast player to get notifications straight to your phone whenever a new episode is out. We’d also like to hear your feedback so if you would, we would love you to please leave us a review and rating if you’re already one of our subscribers, or even if you’re just listening to this for the first time.
Thanks again for listening in! This has been Joanna Oakey and Talking Law, a podcast proudly brought to you by Aspect Legal.
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