Tuesday, February 19, 2008

You need staff. How much do you pay?

You have finally decided to get some help. This is an important turning point for any new business. The next challenge: Defining what needs to be done and how much do you pay?

A common question I am asked by employers is ‘How much should I be paying for this role?’ Obviously there are a few factors at play here. For any small to medium sized business, the budget can be tight. But to grow (or to keep sane), you need help.

To understand how much you need to pay, you will need to do some homework. What are the tasks and responsibilities of this role? What is the job title? What level of experience and skills do you require? Do you want someone to hit the ground running or are you happy to provide training? How many hours do you think that you really need? Can you offer flexible hours? Do you need someone on an ongoing basis or will it be a casual arrangement? This information will help you to define your requirements and create the job advertisement.

Next, you should then look at other job advertisements and see what the going rate is. You may wish to consider paying per hour or offer a salary. Talk to your accountant about which option is more beneficial for your business. If the salary or hourly rate is more expensive than you budgeted for, you may want to revise the role or take on an employee for one day rather than two days for example.

If you are specific in your job advertisement with regard to skills and experience required, you can benchmark your applicants against the criteria to locate the quality applicants.

For more information on pay, agreements, working conditions and workplace issues, visit www.workplace.gov.au.

Managing your career as a working parent

Managing your career becomes more challenging after you have children. Before children, all you had to worry about was your career, your social life and your personal relationships. Children add a whole new dimension of responsibility and selflessness to your life, and unashamedly to most people, they take priority to a career. In saying that, it does not mean that you want to give up your career. You have worked hard at attaining your qualifications and you have generated significant skills, experience and expertise that should not be wasted. Consider the following ideas to manage your career as a working parent:

Consider your work flexibility requirements on a regular basis. Flexibility requirements may change as your children grow older. You may choose to work more during some stages of your kids lives and be at home more for other stages. No one can define what the happy balance is because we are all different. To achieve your own successful balance, you have to be happy about the choices you make and ensure that family responsibilities are shared.

Do a health check on your career. Are you where you want to be or do you feel like you are being left behind? If you have been doing the same job for a long period of time and you are unsatisfied, talk to your manager. Make sure you apply for suitable internal jobs that match your experience. If a full time person is required, build a case for job sharing. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Also, make sure that your salary is in line with salaries being offered for similar roles in the job market. Refer to the online jobs boards, newspapers, or talk to a recruiter. If your salary is below average, put forward a case to your employer.

Update your skills. Talk to your human resources department or manager about training and workshop options that may be available in-house to employees. Alternatively, your employer may have funds in their staff training budget for you to do an external course. Sometimes you may be able to participate in these workshops / courses / training during a working day.

Attend networking events. Networking events are a great way to expand your contacts, gain exposure to new opportunities, and get up to date on industry trends. Many networking events are still held in the evening however networking lunches are becoming very common. Get in touch with an association in your industry and find out about their networking events. If you work for a large employer, there may be networking groups already in existence that you could tap in to.

Organise your home life. If the home front is running smoothly (most of the time!), then you will have more time to focus on your career while you are at work. For example, if you have great child care arrangements (including drop-off and pick-up), a regular house cleaner, you have pre-cooked some meals, and you and your partner take turns in cooking dinner, you won’t be sitting at work spending your time worrying about your responsibilities at home.

Be confident in your skills and abilities. Many parents are too ‘grateful’ for being given a chance to return to work or for being allowed to work flexibly. You are a skilled, experienced and responsible employee returning to work. If you have returned to work flexibly, you are being paid on a pro-rata basis so you are not getting more than you deserve. Do not work on your days off and do not answer your phone. These issues should have been addressed when you negotiated flexible working conditions. If they haven’t been, you should approach your manager and discuss any problems you are experiencing.

Child care considerations when negotiating work flexibility

If you haven’t already organised how you will return to work flexibly, now is a good time to start thinking about. You have probably settled into your new life as a family and you are starting to think about returning to work at some stage.

Negotiating a flexible return to work is a fantastic way for you to cope with the balancing act.

The following factors will impact on the choices you make in negotiating flexibility:

• The cost of child care;
• The location of your child care;
• The logistics of drop-off and pick-up;
• The type of work you perform.

The next step is to assess your duties, tasks and responsibilities. By working flexibly, will some aspects of your job be neglected? Where are the gaps? Do you have any solutions? Will your team be happy with your proposal to work flexibly? Will some members of your team have to take on more work?

The key to negotiating flexibility is to be considerate of all parties that will be impacted. You will need to consider the implications on the business, your customers, and your team. If you acknowledge these implications and propose a solution, your business case will be more credible and well received.

Ask your human resources department for a business case template so you address all relevant issues. Sit down with your manager and discuss your options to work flexibly. Ensure that you seek agreement before returning to work.

Staying in touch with work while on parental leave

During parental leave, many women often experience a lack of self confidence when it comes to their career and the prospect of returning to work. It is so common, and happens simply because you are removed from the workplace for a period of time. Experience has shown that women who have returned to work are pleasantly surprised at how quickly they fit back into work, and how much knowledge they have actually retained and gained.

Make sure you stay active in your career even if you are not currently working. Consider the following activities to keep you connected to your professional career:

• Attend industry or association workshops and events
• Ask your HR team about staff courses available online
• Enrol in an evening course
• Stay up-to-date with industry reading
• Attend networking functions
• Attend a team meeting at work every month
• Participate in volunteer work

These types of activities will expand your social and business network, and keep you up to date on industry developments. Volunteer work is an ideal way to maintain work experience while on parental leave.