How To Handle Having Difficult Conversations Remotely

One of the most daunting parts of people management is having difficult conversations. Even with preparation, diplomacy, and an ideal setting, things don’t always go as smoothly as we would like.

But what happens when these difficult conversations need to happen remotely?

How do managers handle disputes, disciplinaries, or even redundancies with someone who isn’t physically present?

Social distancing and a move to remote work have created an entirely new HR climate, and managers must adapt their communication methods to suit different set-ups.

Let’s explore some of the best ways of having difficult conversations remotely.

How To Handle Having Difficult Conversations Remotely

Choose An Appropriate Communication Channel

Visual contact plays a crucial role in communication. Without it, we lose the nuances of body language and facial expressions that we have been taught to subconsciously react to from a young age.

Even though video calling can still provide those visual cues, they are less clear virtually than they would be if the person were in the same room as you. There may be delays or technical issues, and interaction doesn’t flow quite the same way as it does when we are physically face to face.

Effective communication is even more critical when conducting emotionally challenging conversations. Without it, things can easily be misconstrued, sending the interaction in the wrong direction.

Chatting over video is still preferable to a phone conversation – especially when the subject matter is charged. A definite no-no for a difficult conversation is to try and hold it using written communications – it’s all too easy for people to interpret the tone or message differently than intended, and there’s no chance for immediate clarification if there’s a misunderstanding.

However, it is appropriate to follow up a video or voice call with an email or letter to confirm what has been discussed and what will happen next.

If the conversation is part of a formal disciplinary investigation or meeting, then it’s also really important to make sure that you’re following the correct process, based on the ‘offence’ that is being discussed.  As a minimum, for any ‘formal’ discussion there’s a requirement to allow the person involved the opportunity to bring a support person or representative with them.  If you don’t have a formal disciplinary process in place, we’d recommend you get in touch with us – this area is a potential minefield!  But back to the  conversation at hand…

Remove Potential Distractions

The beauty of technology is that you can have meetings from almost anywhere – a café, a beach, or in your kitchen. But just because you can doesn’t mean you should. A tough conversation requires all your attention, so ensure you are making the call from a quiet spot where you won’t be interrupted.

Your employee deserves your undivided attention, so turn off any notifications, silence your phone, and don’t be tempted to multitask by reading emails or ticking off other tasks during the call.

Take Your Time

While any issues with your employees should be handled promptly, that doesn’t mean you should jump into a confrontation without adequate preparation. You need time to assess the situation and develop a plan of how to approach the interaction.

You may also need time to gather evidence, check procedures, and ensure you are handling everything appropriately.  Your disciplinary process should serve to guide you here.

Regardless of the formality of the meeting, make sure you prepare appropriately, by outlining for yourself what you want to talk about and the outcome you would like to reach. Remember, your intention is not to blindside your employee and catch them out. Give them some information on what you need to talk about in advance so they can also prepare (this will also form part of your formal process).

Encourage Two-Way Tough Conversations

Regardless of the nature of your tough conversation, your employee must be given the opportunity to respond. Often these discussions can pave the way for a coaching experience rather than be a one-sided “telling-off.”

Leave time and space to hear their side of the story. Remember, these meetings are challenging for both parties, so encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings about what is going on. You may gain insight that can help provide a resolution.

Consider Their Needs

Choose a time and communication method that suits you both. Bear in mind that remote workers may be in different time zones or have commitments in the home to work around. Some may use their communal living spaces as an office, so will need to choose a time where they can be alone and focus on your meeting.

Everyone has different comfort levels when it comes to communication and technology so you do need to be aware of this and take that into account when arranging for these conversations.

Adjust Your Communication Style

Managing tough conversations is never easy, particularly if you are overseeing a remote team. But there are ways to make the process easier and increase your chances of a positive outcome.

One of the best ways to approach any conversation, be it unpleasant or otherwise, is by understanding other people’s communication styles and adapting yours accordingly. Extended DISC gives you insight into the way people act, how they communicate, and what drives them, empowering you to nurture and build relationships effectively – even virtual ones.

If you would like to know more about Extended DISC profiling in the workplace, need help with a formal performance management process, or want to create a plan for having difficult conversations remotely, then connect with us at Spice HR today.

Individual Employment Agreements: Are Yours What They Should Be?

Times they are a-changing – and quite rapidly, thanks to advances in technology and the impacts of COVID-19.

In spite of that, some things will always remain the same when it comes to people management. One of those is the legal need for individual employment agreements for each of your staff members.

But even these standard documents need to evolve with the times. With flexible work arrangements and lockdown restrictions becoming the norm, it’s essential to modify your individual employment agreements (IEAs) to reflect any changes to salary, hours, location or job description.

So, let’s look at why IEAs are so vital, what changes you may need to make to them due to the evolving workplace climate, and how to modify them.

Individual Employment Agreements: Are Yours What They Should Be?

The Value of Individual Employment Agreements

Employment agreements can be collective or individual, but the bottom line is that they are a legal requirement under the Employment Relations Act. If you employ someone without a signed agreement, you could face fines of up to $20,000.

Beyond legal compliance, employment agreements provide enormous value for both employer and employee. The same can be said about job descriptions (JDs) and employee handbooks. Although a handbook isn’t a legal requirement, all these documents help outline the expectations for both parties.

Clear communication is vital in any working relationship, and these documents set the scene for effective communication from the beginning. They outline exactly what is expected for the employer and the employee, including the rights, obligations and responsibilities of each.

New employees know exactly what’s expected of them, and there’s no confusion. This enables them to perform to expected standards, and simplifies the performance management process for managers.

The Benefits to Both Parties

The IEA and accompanying documents cover things like job performance and indicate what actions could result in a termination, guiding employees on how to act appropriately to align with your organisation’s workplace culture.

When these conditions are clearly stated, employers have recourse to take disciplinary actions if they are breached.

With salary, benefits, time off, work hours, and general expectations clearly outlined, everyone is on the same page, reducing the chance of conflict and miscommunication. These documents really do form the backbone of a positive work relationship and workplace culture.

Modifying Employment Agreements

In today’s working climate, it’s quite likely that an employee’s role or working conditions will change at some point during their time with your organisation.

More people are already working from home or considering flexible working arrangements thanks to COVID-19.

As such, it’s vital to modify individual employment agreements to reflect these changes. But as with the initial agreement you made when hiring, these changes can’t just be decided by the employer and forced upon an employee.

They must be mutually agreed upon, and there is a process to follow, even amidst the uncertainty of COVID-19.

Any modifications should be preceded by a consultation period, where managers clearly explain the changes and why they are being proposed. Employees must then be allowed time to consider the proposal and given an opportunity to provide feedback or offer alternative suggestions.

Any adjustments to the IEA must be made in good faith, agreed to in writing, and signed by both parties, regardless of whether it’s a temporary or permanent change to the agreement.

The key words here are “good faith”. We understand that everyone is under increased pressure during lockdowns, and many are facing hard times, but none of this removes the need to treat each other fairly and kindly.

Accommodating Different Ways of Working

Of course, it’s not just employers who can instigate a change to IEAs. Employees also have the right to ask for flexible work options, including changes to their hours, days, and place of work.

If employees are shifting to remote work or working from home, even temporarily, it’s still the employer’s responsibility to protect them from workplace health and safety risks – both physical and mental.

Due to restrictions around COVID-19, businesses may have to find different ways to operate to keep everyone safe and comply with regulations, such as staggering start times or offering work from home opportunities. These changes may be permanent or temporary, but the length of time should be outlined in the IEA.

Any change in hours – whether a reduction or a return to normal hours – must be stated in writing in the employment agreement or variation to agreement and signed by both parties, after the employee has had time to consider the changes.

In some cases, an employee might agree to a change in job description where necessary. As with any other modifications to the IEA, the employer has to follow the correct processes for these changes.

An individual employment agreement is a vital document that protects you and your employees, provides clarity, and ensures everybody is treated fairly. Right now, and perhaps for years to come, the workplace is rapidly evolving, so your employment agreements must evolve too.

If you need support or advice about how to handle your IEAs, contact Spice HR today.

What Do New Year Resolutions Look Like This Year?

What Do New Year Resolutions Look Like This Year?

At times it felt like 2020 was never ending. Finally, the time has come to farewell that crazy year. But just because the calendar has flipped to a new number, that doesn’t mean everything is going to magically return to the old normal! For many people, life and work look very different from this time last year. So how should we approach this year? What new year resolutions should we make, if any, and how do you approach leadership when things are still so changeable?

Don’t fret; Spice HR have your back and are here to help guide you into the months ahead. So let’s dive in boots and all.

Grand New Year Resolutions

For many people, the New Year becomes the opportunity to assess their lives and set new goals. Perhaps they will think about a new job, going for a promotion, or reassessing their current career path.

This may still be high on some of your employees’ list of resolutions, but other factors may have more sway than in previous years. With so many working remotely, changing their working habits, or experiencing higher amounts of stress than usual, employees may be prioritising things like work-life balance, flexible work hours, health and wellness.

For organisations, now is a great time to reflect on what worked well and what didn’t. It’s a great time to revisit goals and values and decide what should be carried through and what should be laid to rest in 2020.

Why not set a few New Year’s Resolutions for your team? These resolutions can help shape your HR priorities for the coming year and provide focus to the organisation. Think about things like:

  • Ensuring diversity and inclusion in the workplace
  • Attracting and retaining valued employees
  • Encouraging and supporting health and wellness
  • Supporting learning and development
  • Changing your approach to performance management

Communicating Missions, Vision and Values in Uncertain Times

Okay, we know a lot has changed in the space of a year, but some things remain the same. Effective communication is still a top priority, regardless of whether times are calm or rocky. And communicating well comes back to the basics of trust, transparency, candour and empathy.

Leaders have had a crash course in crisis communication this past year and will need to continue honing and developing those skills for the months ahead.

One way to unify people in uncertain times is to reconnect them with the organisation’s missions, visions and values. Hard times can create chaos in teams, but with the right leadership, they can also build stronger team bonds and enhance culture.

Whilst we need to acknowledge that there may well be more unknowns to come, reminding employees of the bigger picture is key. If your organisation is connected to a strong mission and purpose, this is reflected in resilient, hopeful individuals who are capable of looking past the short-term confusion and focusing on the long term mission as a whole.

Motivate Your Team for a Positive New Year

As at any time of year, managers must lead by example. Positivity is vital, but try and strike a balance – over the top rose-tinted glasses aren’t called for: be upbeat but keep it real.

Leaders that project confidence and resilience can help their teams navigate uncertainty. Draw on what you and your team learned last year. Take time to celebrate the wins, acknowledge the challenges, and be transparent about the strategy for this year.

Get Ahead of the Game

If you spent most of 2020 feeling like you were on the back foot, you are not alone. But 2021 doesn’t have to be quite so confronting! With psychometric testing using extended DISC, you can get ahead of the game and start 2021 with a positive communication plan, along with a leadership and development pathway for every employee in your team.

This system helps you manage the different personality types in your team, effectively improving self-awareness, communication and teamwork.

If this sounds like a great way to kick off the New Year, contact us at Spice HR to find out more!