The Fair Work Ombudsman has released a set of guidelines for small businesses to help them hire new staff members, in response to questions from SMEs and consultation with the sector.
The guidelines include specific directions on how to employ young workers and tools to help employers practice interviewing applicants and have difficult conversations in the workplace.
FWO executive director of education Lynda McAlary-Smith told SmartCompany the first thing businesses need to do when hiring a new staff member is ensure they understand their legal obligations.
“My first piece of advice is to understand what the law is; what’s expected of the business and what help is available,” she says.
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The FWO frequently deals with underpayment cases, but the courts have been clear ignorance is no excuse when it comes to underpaying staff their wages and entitlements.
McAlary-Smith says businesses must also invest time in finding the right candidate for the job.
“Putting someone new on is very exciting for the business, particularly if it’s the first hire for a business. So put the time into thinking about what the job is and what the skills are that the applicant will need for both today and tomorrow in the business. You don’t want to just hire for today’s particular task, they need to be able to grow with the business,” she says.
“This doesn’t mean the person has to have 100% of the required skills, but they need to be able to learn and grow with the business.”
The FWO has launched a new interactive online learning course to help employers improve their hiring skills and teach them how to induct new staff.
When interviewing applicants, the FWO recommends asking questions which ensure the job seeker has the necessary skills for the job, but avoid asking personal, intrusive or irrelevant questions which could be deemed discriminatory.
But the hiring process doesn’t stop once you’ve found the right staff member, McAlary-Smith says the new employee then needs to be inducted into the business.
“Once you’ve gone to all that hard work and you’ve invested in the business, when the new employee starts, spend time actually training them and ensuring they understand your business.
“Look at what their contributions can be and open up the channel of communication so if they have great ideas or have concerns they feel comfortable to approach you,” she says.
The guide was put together based on the 500,000 calls the FWO receives each year with workplace questions, and from information gleaned from consultations with industry groups and small businesses.
McAlary-Smith says the hardest thing for small businesses is often finding the time to invest in making sure they’ve found the right staff members.
“It’s about finding the time to do the interviews and then have thinking time where you consider which skills a person needs to have to help your business move forward,” she says.
“It is tricky because it’s hard to manage competing priorities running a small business, but it’s worth the investment in time, as it brings hope and possibilities.”