2019 expert predictions

At iHR Australia some of our industry leading experts have taken the time to identify what they see as key points of focus for Human Resources Professionals for 2019. In a must read, our expert consultants and facilitators discuss a variety of topics, including:

  • Safety and Management
  • Mentally Healthy Workplaces
  • Social Media in the Workplace
  • Sexual Harassment
  • Employment rates and;
  • HR and Management Policies

Expert facilitators Dr Kathryn Gilson and Dr Verena Marshall along with Director Workplace Relations John Boardman and Managing Director Stephen Bell, provide insight in to what they expect to be important factors for organisations in today’s environment.

Dr Verena Marshall, PhD – Senior Workplace Relations Adviser / Facilitator

Cracks in the Fuselage? Performance in the Management Cockpit

A great deal is written about safety at work:  in the legislation, organisational research, policies and codes. Examples of industries that work diligently on their cultures of safety are Aviation and Medicine. Why? Clients who fly and seek medical services are generally fussy about who they go ‘up’ with and who they go ‘under’ with. James Reason, emeritus professor of psychology at Manchester University, described a strong culture of safety as one that is resilient, fair and just. While Reason gave significant attention to Aviation, lessons learned are applicable to all organisations and those who manage them.  From such lessons, a proposition emerges: Any crack in the fuselage of an aircraft – can be traced back to a chasm in management policy and practice.  Inherent in Reason’s explanation of safety is the need for managers and HR professionals, as Custodians of Culture to:

  • Be mindful of danger – people can behave in a manner and work under conditions that endanger an organisation’s operations;
  • Accept setbacks – senior managers accept that occasional setbacks and nasty surprises as inevitable. They anticipate that staff will make errors and train them to detect and recover from them;
  • Hold senior managers accountable for being genuinely committed to safety and providing adequate resources to ‘walk the talk’;
  • Ensure past events are thoroughly reviewed at senior-level meetings and lessons learned are implemented as global (whole-of-organisation) rather than local repairs; and
  • Keep a close eye on the ‘management dashboard’ – to nurture an organisation that has the will to acknowledge its errors, to apologise for them, and reassure staff that lessons from such lapses will help to prevent their recurrence.


Dr Kathryn Gilson – Clinical Psychologist / Facilitator

Create a Mentally Healthy Workplace

All employees have a role to play when it comes to creating a mentally healthy workplace and HR managers in particular can steer the workplace to a mentally healthy environment by making it a strategic focus.

Nearly half of all psychological injury claims in the workplace are due to work-related stress/pressure. In comparison, bullying and harassment accounts for approximately a quarter of all psychological injury claims.  The benefits of a mentally healthy workplace include improving the well being of staff, greater productivity and loyalty, reduced stigma, and decreased absenteeism, adverse action, and compensation claims.

There are a number of actions and strategies that HR managers can implement to create a mentally healthy workplace. So that one does not feel overwhelmed, approach the goal of creating a mentally healthy workplace by focusing and prioritising key areas such as prevention, promotion, and on-going support.  Some actions overlap across these areas and could include:

  • Identify and eliminate workplace psychological risk-factors
  • Communicate pain-points to leaders
  • Invest in building and safekeeping the mental health of employees.
  • Reduce stigma
  • Create a discrimination free workplace
  • Ensure a zero tolerance approach to bullying
  • Review roles, responsibilities, and policies
  • Build the skills and confidence of employees to identify mental ill-health and seek support
  • Provide managers / leaders with skills to identify indicators of mental ill-health and train best-practice management
  • Implement legislative and morally-driven responsibilities
  • Keep updated on mental health resources and supports available
  • Support employees with mental ill-health to stay at or return to work
  • Build skills of resilience


John Boardman – Director Workplace Relations / Subject Matter Expert

Keeping HR policies and Guidelines apace with Technology

While most employers now have a social media policy,  a number of investigations conducted by iHR Australia have highlighted that in many cases they are inadequate in terms of instant messaging services which poses a real risk to Employers. Policy reviews should be addressing emerging issues.

2018 saw a significant increase in the proportion of sexual harassment investigations to overall investigations undertaken by iHR Australia. This can be expected to continue into 2019. A heightened sensitivity to this type of inappropriate workplace behaviour has made many women feel more empowered to report sexual harassment by the ‘#metoo movement’ and public awareness generally.

Many sexual harassment cases involve the use of social media. While emails are usually retrievable by the employer, there are many forms of instant messaging which the employer does not have access to, but can be accessed, at work, by employees and shared between groups of employees. This can be done without using employer equipment (personal smart phones etc). Instant messenger services set up between individuals do not necessarily have any Administrator and members of the group may have no capacity to stop any member of the group inviting other people from joining that group or have capacity to edit the content posted by any member of the group.

It is important that Social Media policies include an obligation on employees to immediately report any inappropriate material they become aware of between employees whether they have generated the offensive material or not.


Stephen Bell – Founder / Managing Director

Sexual Harassment and Employment Rates

2019 will bring with it another chapter in the sexual harassment piece.  Anecdotally, I have been very impressed with the position taken by HR professionals, men and women, who have generally maintained objectivity and a deep sense of ‘fairness’ when faced with the challenges and questions being put forward by the ‘#metoo movement’ and the range of high profile cases unfolding in Australia.

Vigilance around policies, complaints reporting and training must continue. HR professionals must stay clear of amplifying arguments of the ‘progressives’ or ‘traditionalists’ within their workplaces. Simply, this is an issue about treating people with respect; mothers, daughters, fathers, sons and friends all deserve the best of mental health and equal opportunity to succeed

I also want to touch on employment rates. I noted that the unemployment rate in Australia remains relatively steady. Withstanding China and the US posturing on trade and the housing market not dramatically collapsing, the Australian economy should remain quite buoyant. This means high end talent will be all that harder to find and keep. If the current trend continues, HR professionals are going to need to ensure they put significant effort into attraction and retention.

In this complex and diverse environment the days of ‘one fit for all’ solution for retaining talent are finished. Strong generic strategies need to be balanced with well thought out individualised programs. I like the methods being applied by progressive and elite sports coaches who talk about the athlete’s current work situation as being ONLY part of their journey. They are in open dialogue with their players about ‘their personal journey’ and are able to indulge in open and frank discussions about the type of environment best suited for the next phase. This modern way of approaching career discussions is positive for all parties and important to retaining high end talent, although archaic employment law practices require us to plan our approach carefully.

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