Good workplace practices

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It makes good business sense to ensure that your employee(s) and apprentices are generally satisfied with their work and workplace conditions. This means balancing the needs and desires of the employee with the needs and capacity of the farm business.

Keeping your employees

The following steps highlight the key areas you need to focus on in order to keep your employees satisified and your business running smoothly:

1. Get the basic conditions right
You must comply with relevant awards which can be checked with the relevant State or Federal employment regulatory body. Work within or slightly above award guidelines to be a competitive employer. Do not forget to outline the value of additional benefits to your employees such as uniforms, meals, accommodation or transport provided etc.

2. Be a good communicator
What makes your apprentices tick? What motivates them to keep turning up for work?

The answer will be as varied as your employees. You will not really know what you need to do, to keep them happy, unless you ask them. This means building good communication into your business relationships.

Your own personal style and personality will greatly affect how you communicate with people, but be deliberate in making sure good communication occurs. In the long run it will save you money and hassles.

You need to create regular opportunities for you to listen carefully to your workers and make sure you understand their concerns. You may do this formally in weekly meetings, at the pub on a Friday afternoon, or during quiet times when you are working together and can talk without interruption.

3. Have a positive management approach
Having a positive management approach means striving to be a reasonable, fair and considerate employer. There are many opportunities to do this in your relationship with your apprentices and employees;

  • Remember to use common courtesies with your employees, and show them general personal respect;
  • Consider how you can be flexible about work arrangements to create a ‘family friendly’ working environment – i.e. varied start and finish times, varied break times, periods of part-time work, or time off in lieu to attend family events;(Note: after your employees have been with you for 12 months you are required under the National Employment Standards to consider any request for flexible working arrangements made by any employee who has the care of a child under school age or a disabled child under 18 Years.)
  • Where possible negotiate annual leave to enable family holidays or so that employees can meet family responsibilities;
  • Keep workers informed about changes so they know where they stand;
  • Consider your policy regarding personal phone calls;
  • Be appreciative – remember to regularly thank workers for their efforts; and
  • Be a model of the kind of behaviour you want from your worker.

Building a team

People are more motivated if they feel a part of a team. If they have a sense of ‘ownership’ they are more likely to be committed to their work. This means giving workers a chance to have a say, come up with their own ideas to solve work problems, or participate in some of the decisions which affect their work.

This doesn’t mean they are taking over the farm; they are just being given the opportunity to bring their best to their work, and to feel they are able to make a commitment to their employer.

Part of building a team involves having some fun together, either on or off the job. Organising social events can really help develop good working relationships and gives you a chance to get to know your employees better.

Your employee’s family also has a huge influence over their capacity to be effective at work. Getting to know their spouse, partner and/or family is part of the process of getting to know them. You aren’t applying to be their social worker, just showing appropriate interest in them as a person.

Commitment

Encouragement

* the following is an extract from “A Guide to Managing the First 100 days of an Apprenticeship” reproduced with the permission of Australian Industry Group

“To foster employee commitment to their role and to the business, employers and other staff members must be provide continual encouragement to the apprentice(s). The health of the relationship between apprentices, their employers, their supervisors and their co-workers is a good indicator of apprenticeship success.

While apprentices will have a lot to learn, this does not mean that they are not able to make a valuable contribution from the very beginning of their apprenticeship. Many companies cite taking on apprentices as the main way in which they update the skills of their company. This will only be possible if their employer is committed to giving them the opportunity to make a contribution, and if that feel that contribution will be valued.

Integrity and honesty

Integrity and honesty are fundamental to gaining the trust, respect and honesty of others. Do not inflate benefits, underestimate problems, or promise promotions that cannot be guaranteed.

Constructive feedback

The provision of feedback should be constructive and undertaken with care:

  • A quiet, private setting should be used where there will be no interruptions;
  • Describe the behaviour, activity or performance that requires feedback in a neutral and non-threatening way;
  • Identify the situation and how it might have occurred;
  • Describe the impact and the consequences of the behaviour or activity;
  • Identify an alternative behaviour or activity and offer any support you can provide that may help enhance the employee’s performance;
  • Work with the apprentice to develop a plan for implementing the alternatives and the supports you have identified; and
  • Invite the apprentice to give you feedback and describe how it felt to receive the feedback. Ask the apprentice how it felt for them to receive the feedback you gave.
  • Effective Communication
  • Engage in two-way feedback;
  • Be concise and courteous;
  • Be patient – repeat your messages with different expressions and examples if necessary;
  • Be empathetic;
  • Consider timing when communicating;
  • Be positive;
  • Choose your setting or environment carefully before engaging in discussions with the apprentice about performance or other issues; and
  • Listen/reinforce to avoid misunderstandings and mistakes.”

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