With the instances of the larger employer associations and ex-politicians calling for changes to the Fair Work Act under the guise of slowing productivity, business owners need to ask one simple question, How does the Fair Work Act stop me from getting better productivity out of my workers? The answer is it doesn't.
The Act in no way restricts your ability to communicate with your employees, set targets and expectations, and enforce them. Anyone who tells you otherwise is sadly mistaken.
Granted the current legislation does not allow employers to force unrealistic and unsustainable conditions onto employees that the previous legislation did (remember the AWA debacle?), but there are some simple steps that any employer can take to not achieve increased productivity, but in some instances you will develop a better understanding and appreciation of your employees.
1. Having a robust, in depth analysis done of your businesses peaks and troughs will allow you to roster your staff more efficiently. This is best used in the hospitality industry where there is a good proportion of the staff will be on casual based employment.
2. Don't be scared to engage casual on-call labour. However, you must ensure that you are certain of their need to attend work and that minimum hours/wages requirements in the relevant modern award are adhered too.
3. Establish an Enterprise agreement directly with your employees locking in enforceable productivity increases and removing your business from the restrictive modern award system. This can be achieved through discussions directly with your employees. Remember the old saying, if you don't ask, you don't get.
4. Establish a clear and concise performance management system. Set realistic and attainable targets and expectations. And above all communicate effectively and regularly with your employees.
One crucial point to remember is that it is not only your responsibility as the employer to drive productivity, its your employees as well. Speak to them. Be open and honest in regards to what you expect from them in terms of performance and productivity. Allow them to take ownership of a process or target so they truly feel as though they are contributing to the success of the business.
Although recent reports show that the larger employer associations are calling for the introduction of individual contracts, which they say will allow them to increase productivity, don't fall into the trap. The ability to increase your business productivity through quality engagement with your staff is there, you just need to use it.
Michael Cosgrove is the Director of Rivercity Consulting a company that provides Human Resources and Industrial Relations services.