8 ideas to keep the 'Human' in Human Resources

Many businesses when they start up begin with a small group of individuals with few or no formal business qualifications, just a whole lot of enthusiasm, some core industry skills and a great opportunity in front of them. 

And so it was for OPC back in 1985.

When imagining what it’s like to build and run a business many people tend to focus on the nuts and bolts of promoting the business’ offerings and delivering its services.  Certainly making a profit is vital, but there is a big chunk of ‘other stuff’ that you have to suddenly just ‘know’.  It’s a bit like becoming a new parent really.  With parenthood you have to become an overnight nutritionist, first aid/health care provider, negotiator, multi tasker, somewhat of a psychic and someone who can function on zero sleep, and that’s just for starters.

In the case of a business it’s more or less the same.  While everyone else is busy building, buying and selling the widgets, someone needs to ‘just know’ about the bookkeeping, payroll laws, HR rules, OH&S compliance, taxation, BAS, FBT, when to apply GST and when not to and so on. THAT list is a big one! (Oh, the zero sleep thing applies here too and the parenting skills come in very handy!)

Sure you can outsource all of these services, but this is not viable or desirable for many SMB’s, especially when it comes to human resources. We, for example, like to look after our staff ourselves, not leave it to strangers, both to them and to our business.  We aim for a more personal, sleeves-up, hands-on approach and try to create a safe, part-of-the-team culture where people actually enjoy coming to work.  I am not talking about molly-coddling people, I’m talking about being sensitive to them and interested in them, and about making the big part of our lives that we spend at work every day less onerous. 

We see this emphasis on keeping the ‘human’ in human resources especially important in our industry which, with advances in technology, has the potential to become isolating, impersonal and unhealthy.  OH&S these days is not just about tagging your electrical cables, increasingly it’s being more aware of things like stress, depression, illness, fatigue and low morale.

Achieving this can be easier said than done.  Not every idea works and more often than not just when you think you’ve got all the right cultural elements in place and you’re across everything, everything suddenly changes again so it’s a real challenge. Luckily resources are at hand and all you have to do is keep pedalling. 

Below is a list of some resources and ideas that have worked well for us:

  1. Become a Workplace Relations Member of the Chamber of Commerce – this invaluable resource will give you access to workshops, expert advice and resources
  2. Take 1 Step by encouraging greater awareness of mental health issues in your workplace – see
  3. Undertake an annual Worksafe review – see for a wealth of useful and comprehensive resources to make sure you comply with legislation
  4. Birthday RDO’s– a special thank you for each year of service
  5. Social get togethers – find ways to keep everyone connected; we meet every two months at least after work and have team lunches monthly
  6. Provide opportunities for volunteering – try combining community service with a social activity; great for team bonding

And here’s some we’re about to try out!

  1. ACT Government Healthier Work - a range of resources, tools and templates to help you build and start a workplace health and wellbeing program within your organisation.
  2. Heart Foundation - workplace walking!
Date posted:
31 July 2014
Authored by :
Cathy Norton