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Attracting and retaining the best talent is vital for businesses of all sizes, and ensuring you are up to date with employment legislation is a necessity for all business owners. 

As a small business owner you have a lot on your plate. Whether it is managing cashflow, shaping your brand proposition or developing distribution channels, every decision you make has a considerable impact on your business’ future. There is one consideration however which often falls off the radar for many small business owners: an adequate human resources program.

SME owners are by no means alone, Australian businesses of all shapes and sizes have difficulty in keeping abreast of the latest changes to workplace legislation and human resources practices. However this can be a particularly difficult and onerous task for small and medium sized companies as many do not have an internal HR resource.

The value of top class HR advice does not diminish with the size of a company. Attracting and retaining the absolute best talent is vital for businesses of all sizes, and ensuring you are up to date with employment-related legislation regulation is a necessity for all business owners. This is particularly pertinent for SME owners who account for over 70 percent of employees in Australia.

Workplace legislation is ever evolving and, at times, a contentious issue, with businesses under pressure to ensure they are up to date with the important legislative changes. Added to this are the proposed imminent changes to Living Away from Home Allowance (LAFHA) and it is little wonder that organisations occasionally find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

To help companies navigate the maze of HR issues being faced on a daily basis Randstad has launched into Australia, for the first time, the Randstad workpocket 2012/13. An internationally recognised, annual employment and HR guidebook, it contains advice to help companies navigate the minefield of people-related issues and concerns, helping to find the best solution quickly and easily, whilst ensuring your organisation remains compliant, competitive and there is minimal to no impact on your organisation’s employer brand. Putting into place over 50 years of international learning and expertise, workpocket is like having an HR and employment law advisor at your desk, helping to manage ever-increasing issues, changes, and people-related questions that arise each day.

HR is a fluid and ever-changing sector, and while there are always key factors which will impact your employer brand and affect your ability to attract the best employees, there will always be issues which businesses will need to focus on in the short-term in order to remain up-to-date with emerging trends and legislative developments.

Below are two of the major issues business owners need to be informed of in order to, not only remain legally compliant, but competitive in this labour tight market.

Changing legislative landscape

The expected changes to LAFHA are likely to impact a large proportion of foreign workers on 457 visas, with many overseas employees no longer benefitting from the tax-free payment. This will no doubt have a large knock-on impact for small and medium sized companies that rely heavily on overseas workers and use LAFHA as an added incentive to entice them to consider a role in Australia.

The vast majority of small and medium sized enterprises will not be able to increase salaries in line with overseas employees’ expectations, and there is the added concern over the impact of suppliers passing down costs through the supply chain and the overall negative impact on business confidence.

The lengthy debate in relation to LAFHA highlights the need for companies to understand the changes in legislation and not only how these need to be factored into employee contracts, but their overall employment and business strategies. Failure to keep up to date with the latest hiring trends can have a direct impact on an organisation’s ability to function effectively and to remain an employer of choice.

Training and development

Even more than larger organisations, small and medium sized enterprises feel the added fiscal burden that comes with the need to upskill and train employees, particularly when the market is not as buoyant across many of Australia’s key performing industries.

Despite the current economic climate and ongoing levels of uncertainty, previous slowdowns have proved organisations that continue to train their workforces emerge in a much stronger position than those that stop or slow down their investment in training. Rather than spend money on unnecessary training programs, first focus on the changes that you know are taking place within the organisation in the near future and the implications these changes will have on an employee’s ability to carry out their role.

What changes are in the pipeline in technology? Can the organisation expect to be impacted by a merger or acquisition in the near future? All of these changes will impact on the type and level of training that an employee needs.

Design and implement a training program that understands the theory of how people learn and absorb information, plus the organisation’s requirements and then combine the two to identify the best route to meet the needs of both employer and employee in the most cost-effective way.

Whilst training can be expensive, investment in up-skilling and development programs is essential for maintaining a competitive workforce. Pay attention to employee feedback through regular staff surveys and also at exit interviews to establish if a lack or perceived absence of a coordinated training and development program is one of the reasons your staff are leaving and do what you can to combat this.

In recognition of the high costs associated with many training programs, a number of federal and state government programs have been established to help SMEs cover the costs of developing a more skilled workforce. The National Workforce Development Fund announced funding in the 2011/12 Federal Budget to support training and workforce development in areas of current and future skills needs.

The Randstad workpocket provides a one stop booklet on best practice hints and tips for training and developing your employees, to ensure your organisation is well placed to take advantage of any upswing in market conditions.

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Fred van der Tang

Fred van der Tang

Fred van der Tang is the CEO of Randstad Australia & New Zealand.

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