Employers should have conducted annual reviews by now.
Annual Performance Reviews
Annual reviews are usually conducted in September prior to strategic & budget planning for the financial year ahead and for the balance of the current year.
Performance reviews are a requirement for employers – regardless of the situation your business or the national or global economy is faced with.
We recommend that employers follow an established and standard process for conducting performance reviews and this year, more than most, a focus on goals and the achievement of them or progress toward them is required to evaluate performance – obviously taking into account whether or not it was possible for employees to meet expected and agreed goals.
Some employers may even have managed to review goals in place as an interim measure when it became apparent that the year would be non standard.
Having performance review standards in place removes any element of personality related issues from the equation and places the focus entirely upon the performance.
If goals have not been achieved, spend some time drilling into why that may have been and if the goals were in fact reasonable under the circumstances that unfolded. Your employees will be grateful for the opportunity to share their view on how things may have played out differently, share their views in the working from remote and give you valuable insights for your business planning, which inevitably will involve some new situations that have arisen as business challenges recently.
Here are the things that you should cover in your performance reviews:
- Review the core competencies required for the specific role and rate the employee on their level and have them rate themselves also to see if you are on the same page.
- Review goals and subgoals as they were agreed.
- Review progress toward the goals and if they were achieved, not achieved or partially achieved.
- Review any roadblocks experienced.
- Review any specific training requirements or other ways around the roadblocks to ensure they do not continue to hinder progress.
- Get feedback on support provided to the employee when it was required.
- Establish new goals and stretch goals for the year ahead.
Your team is your most valuable resource and is also your single greatest outgoing. Ensuring that goal reviews and performance reviews are fair and reasonable will win you respect and loyalty – and may well be the difference between enabling that employee to grow further with your business, or leaving and taking their experience with them.
Another aspect of the annual performance reviews in 2020 may be to review communication processes and assess if you need to put layers in place or introduce new methods of communication for people to be able to function as optimally as possible with away from the office – because the reality of the year ahead is that flexibility will be the new normal.
If you feel you require some assistance with conducting performance reviews this year – or with any aspect of HR, please reach out. Funded options are available through the Regional Business Partner Programme. Our team of HR professionals are available to help you with this and to help with your annual business planning!
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Employers are at risk when making team changes – even minor changes, without correct processes in place. The Skill Matrix reduces this risk.
Employee Skill Matrix
There are a number of areas of high risk for employers when it comes to HR Management – one of which is considering changes to employee roles without the foundation of knowledge and consideration of the bigger picture.
The employee skill matrix provides the structure of information required to make sensible moves – whether they be temporary or permanent.
Putting correct, structured processes and communications in place during any shift in employment is the other side of the high-risk equation. Where personal grievances are upheld in court, it is almost always due to a lack of correct procedure being followed rather than the actions taken.
Every alteration of an employee’s work environment requires documentation and written consent from both parties for every aspect.
The role of the Employee Skill Matrix
The Skill Matrix is a grid that tables the skills, experience & training an employee has and matches them against the skills & experience required for each role, often also taking into consideration the relative importance of the role to the business & the relative time of accumulating the required level of expertise & training for any given role replacement.
When you conduct a skill matrix for every employee and you also detail the skills required to do any job in your business well, it becomes apparent where you have overlaps and where you have gaps.
It will also become apparent if you have gaps in your succession plan in covering key and core capabilities – and you will see the requirements for training and development in some areas.
It can happen that in considering moving one person from one role to another, that you plug one hole and in doing so, create another hole. Employees with overlapping key and core skills become relatively more important to your business overall.
There is value in letting employees become aware of their importance – this instils a sense of pride. It is equally important that they see you putting in place the necessary steps to replace them if required to do so – if for no other reason than to have adequate cover should any key employee become ill or require leave.
A strategically planned HR Strategy takes the future direction for the business into consideration and identifies priorities for the process of building skill and capability for the future – allowing business owners to build experience and trust in the most impactful areas.
Restructuring or temporary restructuring
On any occasion where a business owner needs to respond to an emergency or unforeseen situation (such as a pandemic limiting business functionality), an equally planned and measured approach must be put in place.
The bird’s eye view of an external party such as ourselves is extremely valuable in this situation, as we look at skills and capability as much as (if not more than) anything else – and we are somewhat more removed from the stress of the emergency situation to hand.
In every business situation, employee skills, experience and aspiration to a degree must be considered before all else – even in emergency planning situations.
To create an Employee Skill Matrix, the 4 pillars for success are as follows:
- List the roles in the business (the positions)
- Nominate the key skills required for each of the positions, the relative level of experience or competence required, and the relative importance of the skill to your business. Key roles require a robust succession plan to be in place.
- Rate each employee against each of the required skills for each role (regardless of the role they are presently in, taking into account the level of skill and level of experience.
- This should give you your map of where you need to increase resources and where you may be able to release or redeploy some.
Please give us a call to discuss further if you need some expert advice or if you feel you are getting caught up in the details.
Business owners who do not have an allowance for force majeure in employment agreements moving forward would be wise to consider this now.
Force Majeure Clause – Force majeure allows employers to be excused from contractual obligations to employees (or any other contracted party) due to enforced ceasing of business due to pre-specified external forces.
Effectively, force majeure enables employers to be excused from contractual obligations to an employee under certain conditions where they are prevented from following certain usual business practices due to significant circumstances beyond their control preventing business operations.
Force majeure is not straightforward – there are strict and precise rulings around the use of this clause.
In wording a force majeure clause to include temporary business closure due to coronavirus or any other communicable disease, one must have specifically included pandemic, epidemic or outbreak of disease in the force majeure clause. It is worth noting that an epidemic – while serious in its own right is not the same as a pandemic.
Importantly, Force Majeure covers specifically what the parties agree on – so the clause must be very specifically and carefully worded. There is no overriding governance or independent doctrine on the intention of the force majeure clause and any legal challenge will rest solely on the working of the clause in question.
Force majeure must render business operations not possible to continue.
The one thing that is clear however is that the event or situation enabling enactment of the Force Majeure clause must be significant and must render business operation or operations by impacted employees either physically or legally impossible.
The other factor that is clear is that the nature of the force must be out of the control of the business owner – and not possible to work around in any way.
It is also worth noting that where business operations are made very difficult due to employee restrictions, this is not the same as being rendered impossible. Force Majeure may only be put in place where business operations are physically or legally not possible.
In summary, force majeure is a specialised area of HR where employers really need to seek specialist advice to ensure the Employment Agreement is written to include specific situations, and must be very clear about the fact that the specified situation must be unavoidable, be out of the control of the business owner and must prevent business continuance.
Traditionally, Force Majeure would have included Acts of War (which would include terrorism, but there is no harm in specifically including terrorism), a change of law or government required restriction of trade and ‘acts of God’ – which would include all natural disasters, but not necessarily include business closure due to communicable diseases.
Indeed, where Coronavirus is the cause of business closure – and the closure meaning that the business is not able to trade in any capacity, a force majeure clause must specifically state that cease of trade due to a pandemic is covered.
In the case of a pandemic being the ‘external force’, the clause should go into further detail in the instance of an employee being prevented to work due to quarantine requirements – even though business operations may be able to continue in some way.
In its own right, this example must be a mandated requirement. The following of recommended advice from health experts in quarantining, for example, would not suffice.
So – force majeure, while straightforward in principle in enabling an employer to be excused from obligations to employees, is not at all straightforward in implementation. The clause must be broad enough to cover most possible situations, yet specific enough to state the exact situation and action agreed and allowable.
Finally (and importantly), a force majeure clause must be both reasonable and not be off putting to a potential employee.
Please contact us for assistance in this area. Our team of HR experts will be happy to discuss this with you.
Making a position redundant in your business
When can you recruit after making someone redundant? When you make a position redundant in your business, it is the job that is disestablished – not the employee.
The affected employee only has to leave the business if there is no other suitable job for him or her at that time.
Employers are required to offer upcoming suitable positions to the person affected by the position’s disestablishment for six months following disestablishment.
This being the case, the short answer is that if a position is disestablished, you cannot hire a new employee into it – simply because it no longer exists.
Business restructuring process must precede redundancy
When can you recruit after making someone redundant? The process prior to disestablishing a position in your business is also critical to transparency and risk reduction – given how frequently employees losing their jobs due to their position being disestablished (or made redundant) challenge the decision with a grievance.
The risk of grievance is reduced significantly if the employer follows the correct restructuring process leading up to any positions being established or disestablished. The process can also get messy if any performance management of the employee has taken place leading up to this process. This can be challenged as a sham redundancy- buts that’s another blog topic!
A restructure process must be based on the needs of the business and be managed in accordance to the business plan. Restructuring is conducted when a business moves to a growth or scaling up phase as much as it is when a business needs to scale down.
When can you recruit after making someone redundant? After the business planning and structure revisions are considered at management level – based on business requirements, the initial stage of restructuring is one of consultation and soliciting feedback from the employees. Anyone potentially impacted by a change in the structure must be consulted – and there is a strict sequence of events to be followed to ensure this process is compliant. We are not listing that information here, simply because compliance requirements can change from time to time.
Employees should be invited to have a support person attend meetings with them (but are not required to do so) – meaning that enough time to allow people to contact their support person and enough time to consider the situation to hand must be allowed for in the process – but not so much time that they begin to become anxious. A couple of days are generally enough.
Most employers getting into difficulty with grievances have skipped this step and presumed that they have the right to make changes that impact on employees without a consultation process.
Following consultation, the employer is required to take time to consider feedback before moving forward.
In the case of a team where all employees have the same position and one or more positions are to be disestablished, in the absence of a company policy stating the redundancy structure when restructuring occurs (which we recommend for all businesses), each team member must be individually met with an interviewed for the remaining positions.
In this instance, a selection process is required. That process must also be transparent and laid out at the initial consultation so that everyone knows what to expect.
Following your reconsideration, another meeting must be held.
Positive side effects of managing a restructure and redundancy process correctly are as follows:
Firstly, you have taken time to consider the restructure from a business point of view and you have a business based reason for the moves at play. This ensures no personality or performance related issues are able to be connected to your decisions.
Secondly, because the team has been informed from the outset, had the opportunity to input and to consider what the business needs, they will adjust much more easily to losing a job or a teammate.
Employers acting in good faith putting business needs at the fore will generally manage this process without it feeling personal for the employees, which means less risk and less grief due to a team member’s job and thus a team member being removed.
If you feel you need assistance or guidance with this process, our team of HR experts are here to help or to manage the process for you. Often that is easier for all concerned. Please contact if you feel that this would be helpful for you.
When can you recruit after making someone redundant
Apprenticeship & Training Programmes in New Zealand
‘Apprenticeship Boost’ has been created to get New Zealanders into skilled jobs.
Government Subsidised Apprenticeship Programme – With many employees displaced in the construction and trades industries following the COVID-19 lockdown in New Zealand and employers seeking recovery strategies, the Government has initiated funding for employers through a paid apprenticeship programme & funded workforce training in areas of need.
Over $380m has been allocated for skill development for people of all ages across nominated industries in a programme called Apprenticeship Support. Around 18,000 employers will be eligible for the programme, supporting over 35,000 apprentices each year and will be a welcome source of future skill in the Trade & Construction Industries & some other areas where skill shortages are impeding growth. There are four main sectors to the Apprenticeship Support programme as follows:
- Apprenticeship Boost – a wage subsidy system designed to help employers retain apprentices already employed and increase numbers of apprentice employees in their business.
- Mana in Mahi – ‘pride in work’, which is focused on helping vulnerable and at risk people into industry pathways to find sustainable future work
- Group Training Scheme (GTS) support – continued funding of the existing programme on a considered programme by programme basis of almost $20m to assist employers who were previously in this scheme and to help retain apprentices for the period immediately post lockdown (to 30 June 2021).
- Regional Apprenticeships Initiative focused primarily on increasing skills and employment prospects for people in provincial areas.
All of these options are available for employer support with the exception of the Group Training Scheme, assuming your apprentice(s) are enrolled in an approved NZ Apprentice or Managed Apprentice Programme at Level 4 and a minimum of 120 credits.
Apprentices involved in a Group Training Scheme may also be eligible for employer funding through Mana in Mahi or Apprenticeship Boost programmes.
For the employer, employing an eligible apprentice will mean up to $12,000 subsidy in the first year and $6000 for second year apprentices – who should in theory be much more productive by the second year of employment. An additional $320m has been set aside for a targeted training and apprenticeship fund (TTAF) for undergraduates from 1 July 2020. This funding is focused on providing support to primary industries, construction & trades, mechanical engineering, road transport, electrical engineering. There is an additional focus on community care for youth and elderly, caring for those with disabilities and for victims of domestic violence.
Anyone legally entitled to work in New Zealand can access funding from TTAF, regardless of age or prior study.
These initiatives are all aimed at helping employers retain employees in post COVID recovery – and at helping displaced & vulnerable people gain skills to contribute to overall future productivity & employment. If you would like assistance in organising this for your business, please contact us.
Government Subsidised Apprenticeship Programme