Over the past decade at Worklogic, we have conducted literally thousands of workplace investigations, mediations and reviews of toxic teams. Regardless of the investigation outcomes, for many of these matters where we were ‘choppered-in’ to investigate allegations of miscommunication, misbehaviour or misdeeds, it was often a case of “if only”. For example:
- “If only the team leader had felt confident to intervene when the gossiping and undermining had first emerged as an issue”;
- “If only the HR manager had been able to influence senior managers to invest in performance management training for mid-level managers so they knew how to push back when the poor performing employee tried to undermine the process”; or
- “If only those people who could see the misconduct occurring on the ground had been encouraged to report it through appropriate avenues within the business before seeking assistance or redress through external channels”.
Hindsight is 20/20, but in our experience, in many cases the organisation probably was able to address the conflict and misbehaviour months or years ago and could have avoided the cost, distress, legal and other risks and damage to productivity and employee retention. They may even have avoided the complaint (and therefore the need for an external intervention) altogether. If only the organisation had dealt with issues upfront and more flexibly, it would not have morphed into a complex and involved investigation process.
Of course, if you an HR professional reading this, you will no doubt be vigorously nodding your head in agreement. You get the fact that, for issues of workplace behaviour and culture, prevention is better than cure.
So, here are a few tips for you to help convince your internal clients and stakeholders (those who hold the purse strings!), that tackling these HR issues head on is beneficial to the business’ bottom line:
1. Financial audits are a regular part of any business’s processes to identify and reduce business exposure to risk. Workplace cultural reviews similarly assist to reduce a business’s risk profile; they identify potential issues early, enable prompt and low-level interventions and thereby save time and money. Educate your internal decision-makers about the savings that can be made by conducting a workplace culture review. In our experience, a review not only costs even less than just one external workplace investigation, but it will also reduce the risk of further “people risks” eventuating in future. Legal costs and downturns in productivity are also avoided.
Take home message: “Let’s reduce our exposure to risk!”
2. WorkCover premiums are a necessity and of course are influenced by a number of specific workplace factors. As you’ll know, any incident in the workplace has potential to affect the size of the premium. In some organisations, a hefty Workcover premium is an indicator that staff are being injured, including through bullying and stress, and that the organisation is not quite living its values of “people are our most precious asset”. A very tangible consequence of investing in prevention is a likely reduction in WorkCover premiums. Consider talking to your WorkCover agent about how investing proactively in making the workplace safer for all – including supporting psychological safety – can reduce your premium.
It may be that, depending on how big your business is and the premium you are paying, you can access Risk Management Funding. This funding can be applied to roll out proactive risk management strategies for your employees. Undertaking a culture review, delivering training around respectful communication or setting up a confidential reporting line service (like integrityline.com.au) enables employers to learn about behaviour issues early on.
Take home message: “Invest now and reduce your WorkCover premium“.
3. Prove to your stakeholders that it is possible to measure the costs of poor employee behaviour or systemic cultural issues! If you know that the business suffers from high turnover or absenteeism, consider quantifying the savings from a reduction of those factors. Alternatively, if your organisation measures employee productivity, quantify the improvement to the bottom line if productivity received even a small boost. Research suggests that relative to low performing workplaces, high performing workplaces are 12% more productive, have 3 times high profit margin and lower employee turnover.
Take home message: “Invest now in measurement and save“!
We look forward to hearing how you went in leveraging upwards and encouraging the powers that be to invest in prevention of bad behaviour and conflict. If nothing else, make sure you reinforce that “prevention is financially better than cure”.
About Grevis Beard
Grevis Beard has significant knowledge of the dynamics of workplace disputes and their resolution and 10 years’ experience at Worklogic. Grevis works with a range of clients to improve workplace communication and behaviour, manage workplace risks and handle complaints.
Worklogic has extensive experience conducting workplace reviews to help organisations understand and proactively address workplace concerns. If you would like advice on a workplace review, you can contact Grevis for an obligation-free discussion via email or by calling (03) 9981 6555.
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