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A business’ success depends on having the right people at the right time.

We started LegalVision in a shared-office space in Surry Hills, Sydney. On our journey to over 100 team members, we faced challenges that are familiar to any new business, including:

●    assessing whether we could afford a new hire;

●    competing for talent with established companies; and

●    setting our team members up for success.

53% of business owners expect to hire or fire employees in the next 12 months.

LegalVision & SmartCompany Client Survey 2018

This guide aims to introduce employers to Australia’s employment law landscape, and share best practices around recruitment and retention. A special thanks to Joan Westenberg (FlareHR), Shelby Kesselheim (SafetyCulture) and Ricky Fritsch (Indeed) for sharing invaluable insights and lessons in their case studies. 

Having a process to quickly test for the skills your business needs can help you scale up and reach your next milestone faster. So, whether it is your first hire or your fiftieth, we hope to help you understand the moving parts behind building a high-performing team.

Table of Contents

Assessing the Right Time to Hire

Most businesses start with one person wearing many hats — making sales calls, managing new relationships with suppliers, and setting up social media accounts. As the business grows, you will look for new hires to help take it to the next level. But hiring can be both emotionally and financially draining. And there i’s a risk that there will notwon’t be enough work for your new starter.

Before advertising the role, you should assess current workloads to help answer the following key questions.

  • Is a dedicated person required for the role? Consider whether an existing employee can absorb the work into their role (without working regular overtime).
  • Are there any processes you can implement to improve efficiency? You should regularly review the efficiency of internal processes to identify what roles to consolidate or improve using technology (e.g. outsourcing or automating a data entry job).
  • What tools will your new hire need to do their job successfully? For example, will you need to purchase a phone, laptop or fuel card, and can your business afford this cost?
  • Are there tasks for your new hire to work on immediately? Write a position description that details the new employee’s roles and responsibilities, as well as any key performance indicators (KPIs) they will be held accountable for.
  • Have you identified the impact of any monthly or seasonal trends on your hiring? Seasonal trends can impact the hiring needs of your business. Anticipating these factors helps ensure that your business operations are not interrupted. For example, by hiring additional staff for the Christmas period earlier in the year, you can make sure that you dedicate enough time to training.

Does your business have the budget to hire someone new? 

Case Study: Lachlan McKnight

Hiring new staff is expensive. From recruitment costs to the ongoing costs of employment (such as salary and training), you should always carefully assess whether your business has the budget to hire someone new. 

Recruitment Costs

Many businesses engage a professional recruiter to source and vet candidates. Recruiters have lists of candidates on hand, so they can often fill a position quickly. 

We ha’ve found that sourcing candidates ourselves produces better results for our business. This approach gives us full control over the hiring process and ensures every candidate fits with our culture.

Recruiting in-house is time-consuming and occupies the attention of team leaders and HR professionals – so there i’s a risk that their day jobs will suffer. Plus, there i’s the additional costs of listing open positions on job boards and flying interstate candidates for face to face interviews (yes, you should offer to cover candidates’ travel costs if you can!). Before deciding to recruit, make sure you can afford the significant time it takes to do it well.

Ongoing Cost of Employment

The costs of employing a team member are more than the salary you agree to in their contract. You also need to pay ongoing costs (like 9.5% superannuation, as well as payroll tax) and provide essential equipment (like a desk, computer and software or tools). Ongoing costs vary by industry and state, so make sure you do your research.

Of course, the biggest cost is the new hire’s compensation. You should have in mind a salary range and a sense of how you wi’ll pay, for example, will you offer base salary only or will commission be on the table? It i’s easy to get excited about hiring an excellent candidate – but try not to blow out your budget!

Remember that most team members will expect, at least, an annual salary increase and sometimes, every six-months, so keep this in mind when forecasting expenses.

The Cost of NOT Hiring

You should weigh the cost of hiring against the return you expect to receive from the new hire. But, you also need to factor in the cost of missing out on opportunities that you a’re unable to pursue without enough staff. For instance, if you have inbound leads who are not receiving the prompt attention of a sales rep, you could be missing out on the revenue from those leads. That i’s why we always try to hire a couple of months ahead of the need. This is made possible by anticipating future opportunity  using revenue forecasts.

Determining Who to Hire First

Who you hire first will depend on the industry you work in, your team’s skills and your business goals.

Who A Small Business Should Look To Hire First

Joan Westenberg (Director of Communications – FlareHR)

Once your business gets off the ground, you can better identify what tasks need an extra pair of hands. First hires are critical to driving growth and shaping your business’ culture because they will likely help you train other team members. So, it i’s essential to take the time to hire the right people.

As a small business owner, we suggest assessing your strengths and weaknesses and hiring someone who complements them. For example, if you are an expert in sales, you may hire an all-rounder who can assist with other parts of your business, like digital marketing, finance and general administration.

What to Look For in a First Hire

  1. Focus on the candidate’s industry expertise and work experience rather than their impressive job titles.
  2. Hire for potential, and have a progression plan to help your future employee up skill over time and take on more responsibility.
  3. Invest in your employee by paying them well and providing professional development opportunities (e.g. external training or mentoring) to enable them to grow with your business.
  4. Hire someone with a background different from your own to encourage more creative thinking and problem-solving

In the early days, we outsourced some core functions like payroll, accounting and administration. This gave us more time to focus on what skills our new hires needed to possess to help grow the business.

Types of Employment

It i’s important to know who you a’re hiring and for what purpose. This will determine their employment status and impact the obligations you owe your new hire, as well as what rights they have at work.

We ha’ve summarised the different worker classifications in the table below, using a clothing store as an example.

Employment Classification Example 
Full-time employee You hire a store manager who works full time at your clothing store in the CBD. As an employer, you must provide the store manager with the following:●      38 hours of work per week;●      20 days of annual leave per year; and●      10 days of personal carer’s leave per year. The Retail Award will apply and set out further entitlements, including the manager’s minimum entitlement to wages. 
Part-time employee You decide to hire a part-time sales assistant to work 25 hours each week (five hours each day) to help the manager during busier periods.
A part-time employee works fewer than 38 hours each week and usually works regular hours. They are entitled to the same benefits as a full-time employee, but these are adjusted depending on the hours they work (i.e. on a pro-rata basis).
In this example, you must provide the employee with approximately:12 days of annual leave per year; and6 days of personal carer’s leave per year. 
Casual During the holiday season, you hire three casual employees who work irregular hours from week to week.
Because you don n’t need to provide a casual employee with benefits like sick leave or annual leave, you must pay them a higher hourly pay rate. This is called casual loading.
All modern awards now include a term which gives a casual employee who works regular and systematic hours the right to request a full-time or part-time position after 12 months. 

What Is the Difference Between an Employee and an Independent Contractor?

From time to time, your business may also need to engage an independent contractor to assist with specific projects or to provide expert advice. For example, an employer may hire a consultant to review their sales processes and increase revenue.

Business owners owe different obligations to independent contractors than they do to employees. For instance, contractors may be responsible for their own superannuation.

Below, we have set out some key indicators that may help you determine whether a worker is a contractor or employee:

  • Control: Do you have the right to exercise detailed control over the way work is performed, or does the worker have full autonomy?
  • Advertising the business: Do you require the worker to wear a uniform or display material that associates them with your business?
  • Providing and maintaining significant tools and equipment: Do you require the worker to supply and maintain any tools or equipment (e.g. laptop, software, mobile, vehicle)?
  • Right to delegate or subcontract work: Is the worker free to work for others at the same time? Can the worker subcontract or delegate work to others?
  • Income taxation deductions: Do you deduct tax from the worker’s pay?
  • Payment: Do you pay the worker according to task completion, or pay wages based on time worked?

Australian Employment Framework

In Australia, employees have rights at work under the National Employment Standards (NES), industrial awards and employment agreements.

The pyramid below depicts where an employee’s rights and protections come from. The base is the minimum threshold of rights that an employee is entitled to. Each additional layer offers greater rights and protections.

As an employer, you cannot avoid the rights and obligations set out in the bottom two layers (the NES or an applicable award).

Employment Agreement

An employment agreement sets out an employee’s rights, as well as your expectations about their performance and duties. We have set out some standard terms that your agreement should address, as well as some questions your lawyer may ask when drafting your agreement.

TermQuestions to Consider 
Type of Employment
Is your new hire a full-time, part-time or casual employee?What hours will they work?What is their position title? What are their duties? 
CompensationWhat is your new hire’s salary?What does it include (e.g. penalty rates, allowances, casual loading, superannuation)?How often will you review their salary?Will you reimburse them for work-related expenses? If so, what process must they follow? 
SuperannuationWill your new hire earn $450 or more (before tax) in a month? If so, you’re legally required to pay them superannuation, which is set at 9.5%. 
Notice PeriodsHow much notice must your employee provide when they resign?  
Probation PeriodWill you put your new hire on a probation period?If so, how long will the period last?How will you assess your new hire’s progress and performance during this period?
Importantly, your new employee has paid leave entitlements during probation. 
Intellectual Property (IP)Will your new hire be creating any intellectual property (IP) in their role (e.g. blog content)?Does your new hire know the consequences of disclosing your IP to a third party (e.g. a competitor)?Does your new hire know that you own any IP they create during the course of their employment? 
ConfidentialityWhat confidential information will your new hire have access to (e.g. financial information, business plans, supplier lists)? Is there any type of confidential information unique to your business that the contract should specifically cover (e.g. specific client lists in a sales role)?  
Non-Compete ProvisionWould your business suffer a substantial loss if your ex-employee were to work directly in competition with you after leaving?If your ex-employee were to engage in direct competition with you close to your office, would this impact your business?
If so, you may need to restrict your former employee from working for a competitor for a period or within a specific area.  
Leave RequirementsWill you offer any leave entitlements above those guaranteed under the NES? A full-time employee (other than a casual employee) is entitled to 20 days of paid annual leave per year.Does your employee handbook clearly set out how an employee should apply for leave, and how much notice they should provide? 

Contractor’s Agreement

Contractors will need a contractor’s agreement. As with an employment agreement, your contractor’s agreement should address a number of standard issues.

Term Questions to Consider 
Scope and Delivery of the ProjectHave you engaged your contractor to work on a specific project?What do you expect the contractor to deliver?When will the project begin and end?Can the contractor engage subcontractors to complete the work?
Compensation What will you pay the contractor for their services (e.g. a fixed fee, an hourly rate, daily rates)? When will you pay the contractor (e.g. when the job is complete, within 14 days of providing the invoice)?  
Superannuation Is your contractor responsible for paying their own superannuation? If so, you should clearly state this in your contractor’s agreement. 
Ownership and Use of IPWill your contractor create IP (e.g. a software programmer writing the code for your business’ new subscription service)?Do you intend to own the IP the contractor creates? If so, you need to state this in the contractor’s agreement expressly. Otherwise, you will have no right to use the IP when the contractor stops working with your business. 
Non-Solicitation ProvisionsIs your contractor in a client-facing role, or will they develop client relationships over time? A non-solicitation provision will prevent the contractor from asking former clients to follow them to their business. 
LiabilityWhat kinds of insurance do you need your contractor to have (e.g. public liability insurance, professional indemnity insurance)? 
ConfidentialityWhat kinds of confidential information will your contractor be exposed to?Is there any type of confidential information unique to your business that the agreement needs to cover specifically? 

Sham Contracting

It is against the law to call a worker a contractor while treating them as an employee. This is called sham contracting.

There are Australian Taxation Office and Fair Work penalties if you mischaracterise workers to avoid your employment law obligations. You will also need to pay the worker any unpaid wages or leave entitlements.

If you are unsure of whether your worker is a contractor or an employee, you should seek legal advice.


  • Draft a position description setting out key roles and responsibilities.
  • Write down the skills your new hire should possess to succeed in the role.
  • Determine what type of worker you will need to complete the tasks (i.e. an employee or independent contractor).
  • Prepare an employment agreement or contractor’s agreement for the role.
  • Ensure any rate of pay complies with the minimum set out in the Fair Work Act or otherwise under an award or enterprise agreement.
  • Confirm what other legal entitlements and obligations you will owe your new hire including by checking any applicable award or enterprise agreement.

Finding the Right Candidate

When you begin hiring, the goals are to find great talent, conduct interviews and evaluate a candidate’s skills — usually within a tight timeframe. You can maximise the chances of attracting the ideal candidate in a competitive talent market by providing a quality hiring experience. This should involve planning your hiring process as well as updating candidates promptly about the status of their application. The key steps in hiring are:

  1. Drafting a job ad;
  2. Posting the job ad;
  3. Interviewing candidates; and
  4. Making an offer.

Even if a candidate is not suitable for the role you are currently hiring for, they could be a good fit for a future position. And remember, an unsuccessful candidate is still a prospective customer or referrer for your business.

Employer Mistakes During Recruitment

During every stage of the recruitment process, you have legal obligations as an employer. To comply with these obligations, make sure you do not:

  • reference personal characteristics in a job ad (e.g. age, race, sex);
  • ask any discriminatory questions during the interview (e.g. parental responsibilities, sexual orientation);
  • make any false statements about work conditions (e.g. use of a company car, a private office, additional leave); or
  • share any information that you have obtained during the recruitment process.

Building a strong employer brand 

SafetyCulture (Shelby Kesselheim – Talent Acquisition)

It is tough for employers to cut through a crowded job market, especially when many businesses are telling candidates a similar story — flexible work, free lunches and an office in a converted warehouse.

But we have learned from growing our team from 60 to 300 people in the last two and a half years that attracting talent starts with the following:

  • communicating clearly about the next steps;
  • giving regular feedback to the candidate; and
  • offering a compelling reason why the candidate should join your business

Tell the candidate what they can expect in the process 

At SafetyCulture, we have created a graphic that sets out each stage of the interview process as a roadmap. We send the graphic to each candidate after screening them over the phone, to help them prepare for their interview.

Provide Honest Feedback 

Interviewing is a little like dating, and ghosting can hurt a candidate’s experience and perception of your business. Find time to provide each interviewee with feedback after the interview process. Doing so creates a better experience for the candidate because they know what to work on for their next job interview. It also ensures that you are assessing each person fairly. We have even had unsuccessful candidates refer candidates to us, as they appreciated the transparency of our interview process.

QUICK TIP: When interviewing candidates, ensure that each interviewer completes a scorecard. Scorecards (or interview answer sheets) can help you recall your impression of each candidate. Also, if an applicant is unsuccessful, you can compile this feedback and email it to them.

Position: Sales Manager

SkillsE.g. technical skills, industry expertise, experience managing a team
Character Traits E.g. strategic thinker, resilient, active listener
QualificationsE.g. years of work experience, tertiary qualifications, proficiency using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system

Tell a Story 

Interviewing candidates is a time-consuming process. One way to ensure that you are using your time efficiently and productively is to create scalable content that you can easily share with candidates before the interview.

For example, we have created a mobile-friendly slide deck, using Google Slides, that shares information about our growth timeline and goals, customer stories and an insight into our culture.

QUICK TIP: Building a slide deck can be time-consuming and resource-intensive. But it will save you time in the long run, because it lets you spend valuable time face to face with candidates discussing the team, the role and what matters most to them. You can design the graphic using Google Slides and Canva, which are both free.

Step 1: Draft a Job Ad

Often, a candidate’s first impression of your business is the job advertisement. Like any effective ad, it should engage and inspire qualified individuals to apply for the role.

It is critical that you honestly describe the opportunity you are providing and what the position involves. Under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL), you cannot make statements that mislead a candidate about the availability of employment and the terms and conditions of the role. For example, you cannot:

  • promise to pay for equipment (e.g. a laptop) or petrol if you do not intend to do so;
  • guarantee certain benefits (e.g. a promotion after six months); or
  • leave out information about the nature of the work, location or employment type (e.g. part time, full time).

Misleading an applicant risks not only damage to your business’ reputation, but a hefty fine under the ACL. A misleading job ad will also negatively impact a candidate’s experience if they feel they have wasted their time applying for a position that does not match their skills or expectations.


How Do I Determine the Salary?

When determining the salary for a potential employee, you should first ask:

  1. Does an award or enterprise agreement apply?
    • If yes, you can check the website of the Fair Work Ombudsman to determine the rate of pay that corresponds to the employee’s job classification.
    • If no, you must pay your employee at least the national minimum wage.
  2. What do similar positions at other companies pay? You can conduct a local online job search for similar jobs in the area, or research salary guides to help you.
  3. What does the candidate expect you to pay (commensurate with their experience)?

You should decide on the salary you will offer the successful candidate before posting your job ad. 

Step 2: Post Your Job Ad

Maximise your exposure by casting a wide net and advertise your position on:

  • general job boards (e.g. Seek, Indeed);
  • industry-specific job boards (e.g. Stack Overflow for developer roles, Ethical Jobs for roles in the non-profit sector);
  • your business’ social media pages (e.g. LinkedIn); and
  • Facebook groups.

How to Make Your Job Listings Stand Out

Ricky Fritsch (Indeed – Head of Sales)

When you are in a time crunch to fill a role, there is nothing as frustrating as posting a job ad that does not attract quality candidates.

Your job ad is often one of the first touchpoints a job seeker will have with your organisation. So it is important to make sure that it portrays both your organisation and the role in a positive light.

Here are our three tips to help you craft a job ad that stands out, so you can find the talent you need, faster.

1. Use a familiar job title 

The job title can determine whether your ad shows up during a candidate’s search. And it is unlikely that they are searching for ‘Marketing Guru’, ‘Customer Service Rock Star’ or ‘Growth Ninja’. Make sure the job title indicates what the role involves. If you are unsure what job title will work best, we suggest reading through online résumés and competitors’ job ads. This can give you an idea about what job titles are used for the role you are hiring for.

You should also try reposting the job with a different title, as job titles can vary between organisations and industries. For example, a Sales Manager may also be referred to as an Account Executive.

2. Avoid a lengthy list of responsibilities

It can be tempting to try and broaden your ad’s appeal by listing all the job’s responsibilities and describing the attributes of your ideal candidate.

But you will likely end up attracting candidates who are not right for the role. Or worse, turn off capable candidates who would be a good fit, but do not tick every box. Only include relevant information and key messages that will provide job seekers with an insight into what the role looks like, day to day.

Our data shows that job descriptions with between 700 and 2,000 characters receive up to 30% more applications than others.

3. Outline what is in it for them

When researching a company, 58% of job seekers want to know more about work-life balance, and 43% want to know more about the culture — so provide that information upfront!

Catered lunches, the option to work remotely or regular sporting activities — these details can help job seekers decide whether the company is the right fit and influence whether they choose to apply for a job.


From time to time, you may need to recruit for a niche role quickly. An agency recruiter can help you find suitable candidates, act as a liaison between you and the candidate, and assist in scheduling interviews.

But be aware that most recruiters will charge a placement fee. This can be 15–25% of the candidate’s starting salary, and is usually payable when your new hire starts working. So, you may end up paying a premium for a quick hire!

Step 3: Interview Your Candidates

After you have reviewed the responses to your job posting, you will then invite suitable applicants for an interview.

Planning the interview process ahead of time helps you to:

  1. identify what questions best determine the applicant’s fit for the role; and
  2. ensure all questions are consistent, and neither discriminatory nor irrelevant.

Technical Assessment and Unpaid Shifts

Asking a candidate to complete a technical assessment in conjunction with an in-person interview can help you better evaluate their skills. For example, if you are hiring a Sales Manager, you may ask them to prepare a sales deck and pitch. This also helps the candidate familiarise themselves with the types of tasks they will complete in their role.

But take care – if the work is integral to the business and an employee would otherwise perform the task, the candidate may be entitled to be paid.

Question Purpose 
What do you think you will bring to the business?Can the candidate link their skills to the responsibilities you have listed in your job ad? 
Tell me about a time you made a significant mistake. What did you do to fix the situation and what did you learn from the experience? How does the candidate assess their own performance and undertake self-guided learning? This is an extremely valuable trait in a small business. 
What do you know about our business?Did the candidate research the business before the interview? Do they show a genuine interest in joining?
Do you have any questions?Is the candidate prepared with questions to better understand the role or the business?

But take care not to ask any questions about an applicant’s personal information, for example:

QuestionPersonal Information
What year did you graduate?Age
Where were you or your parents born?Race, ethnicity
What is your marital status or family situation?Family/carer responsibilities
Do you have any children? Pregnancy 
Do you go to church during the week?Religion 
Who did you vote for at the latest election?Political opinion

If an unsuccessful applicant lodges a formal complaint arguing that the reason their application was unsuccessful was because of their protected attribute (e.g. age, race, religion), the Fair Work Commission, the Australian Human Rights Commission or the Federal Court may fine your business. This may also damage your business’ reputation.

Step 4: Make an Offer

The final step is to make a job offer to the successful candidate. We also recommend that you contact unsuccessful candidates and provide some feedback.

If you make the successful candidate a verbal offer, you should follow up with a formal letter. Below, we have set out what a letter of offer should include.


  • Draft a job ad that honestly describes the role, remuneration, employment type and necessary candidate skills.
  • Check that your job ad does not reference any personal characteristics (e.g. age, race, sex).
  • Determine the minimum salary your new hire is entitled to by checking the applicable award and researching what similar positions pay.
  • Post your ad on multiple job boards as well as social media to maximise exposure.
  • Screen candidates with a phone or Skype interview to assess their suitability.
  • Invite candidates for an in-person interview. Make sure you send a confirmation email or calendar invite with the interview time and location.
  • Plan your interview questions beforehand, taking care not to ask about a candidate’s personal information (e.g. marital status, religion, political opinions). 
  • Objectively assess a candidate’s skills using a scorecard.
  • Send a written letter of offer to the successful candidate attaching their employment agreement and the Fair Work Information Statement.
  • Notify unsuccessful candidates of the outcome.

Setting Up Employees for Success

From our experience building a team and advising employers on hiring, we have learned that new starters excel when they experience consistent onboarding.

Onboarding is the process of welcoming and integrating new people into your business. It involves on-the-job training as well as sharing the information in your employee handbook about your business’ policies and procedures.  

What Should an Employee Handbook Cover?

You should treat your employee handbook as a map to help guide your new starter through the business. The handbook should contain information about:

  • why your business exists (i.e. company history and mission) and where it is going; 
  • your business’ expectations of the employee; and
  • the employee’s expectations of the business, including decision-making processes, incentive programs and how you resolve issues.

What is the Difference Between an Employment Agreement and the Employee Handbook?

An employment agreement records the specific terms of the relationship between you and your employee. It imposes legally binding rights and obligations on each person. If you or your employee breach the contract, the other person may have a right to sue in court. For example, you could take an employee to court to enforce a restraint of trade and stop them working for a direct competitor for one year.

An employee handbook and workplace policies usually apply to all your employees and set out your expectations around employee conduct. If an employee breaches a policy, you can discipline the employee, for instance, by issuing a formal warning.

Importantly, your employee handbook helps ensure that you comply with your legal obligations, and should be reviewed regularly to reflect any changes to employment law.

Your handbook should also set out the consequences for an employee if they breach a policy, including possible termination. For example, an employee who posts an offensive video on Facebook wearing the company uniform outside of work hours may be in breach of your company’s social media policy. You may require the employee to take the video down immediately.

Below, we have summarised the key policies your handbook should include.

Tells employees what behaviour the law considers bullying, discrimination or harassment (e.g. a manager treating someone differently because of their age, sexuality, marital status, race or disability).

This policy also lets your employees know who they can speak with and what they can do if they feel bullied, harassed or discriminated against. 

Sets out your expectations around employee behaviour in the workplace, such as:
– dress codes and uniforms;
– representing the company at public events; and
– handling of petty cash. 
Protects your staff from online bullying and harassment and protects your business’ reputation. This policy guides your employees on the acceptable use of social media platforms at work. 
Requires your employees to tell their manager about any conflict of interest in connection with their role.

For example, an undisclosed previous relationship with a supplier may pose a conflict of interest. 
Informs your employees of their leave entitlements and the procedure to apply for leave.

Permanent employees are entitled to:
– annual leave;
– personal carer’s leave;
– parental leave;
– jury duty or community service leave;
– domestic violence leave; and
– long service leave.
You may also choose to offer unpaid leave to your team. 

Sets out the process employees must follow to raise a formal complaint, and explains how the business will handle a complaint. 
Sets out what steps you need to take to identify and protect against risks to the health and safety of your employees, contractors and visitors. It also outlines your workers’ obligations to ensure health and safety.

A workplace health and safety policy should also detail how your team can help maintain a safe workplace. This may include training employees to identify workplace hazards (e.g. exposed electrical wiring) or appointing a Workplace Health and Safety Officer.  
Notifies your employees that you monitor their computer, email and internet use.

This policy should also set out how and why you are monitoring this usage. For example, your business blocks access to cloud storage providers (e.g. Dropbox) because they pose a risk to the security of sensitive corporate data. 

Employees should acknowledge that they have read and understood the employee handbook by: 

  • signing a physical copy; 
  • confirming by email; or 
  • ticking a box online.

Onboarding New Employees

The first day at a new job can be overwhelming for a new starter — a whirlwind of introductions, new point-of-sale systems and unfamiliar operational procedures. You want your employee to learn the ropes quickly so that they can start making an impact, working autonomously and, ultimately, contributing to your bottom line.

Onboarding can feel time-consuming and resource-intensive. But investing in an effective onboarding process will directly impact the long-term success of your employees. Is an opportunity to communicate information about your business, such as:

  • what behaviours you value and celebrate;
  • what you are working towards; and
  • how a new starter will contribute to your success.

5 Things New Hires Want During Onboarding

Neil Basu (Senior Program Manager, LinkedIn)

Ah yes, the candidate has finally signed your offer letter, and it is time to watch them cruise on in and kick butt.  

But sadly, that is not how things work. Data shows that onboarding a new hire can make or break how they perceive the company and how productive they are. 

We surveyed 14,000 global professionals about the types of onboarding techniques they preferred and uncovered that respondents named the five same onboarding practices as most useful: 

1. Make sure new employees get one-on-one time with their direct managers

Employees overwhelmingly agreed that the best way to get ramped up and ready for work is to spend one-to-one time with their direct manager. This gives new employees time and space to hear about their responsibilities — and lay a solid foundation for their most crucial work relationship.

2. Let your new hires know what’s expected of them in the long-term

Clocking in as “useful and ideal” for 67% of all survey takers, employees made it known they wanted a clear outline of upcoming expectations. When employees know what is expected of them in the long run—and how to succeed—they will be more likely to go above and beyond. Laying a clear outline of requirements and goals helps set the tone for success.

3. Give employees an agenda for the first few weeks

Starting a new job is daunting. Unlike the first day of school, when everyone is new, your new hire is the sole novice among peers whose responsibilities are old hat. Setting up a schedule for the first few weeks can help ground new employees until they are able to get into a routine of their own.

4. Remember to place a continued emphasis on company culture

More and more, we have seen companies place a premium on culture as a selling point for joining a team. But attracting candidates with your culture is not enough. Many employees prefer a formal introduction.

53% of survey respondents said that receiving explicit background on their new company’s culture and values, whether through an employee manual or a chat with the boss, is very useful.

it is important to follow-up on the culture you have sold candidates on—and formalise it into your onboarding process.

5. Help set up individual meetings to introduce new coworkers

New hires spend most of their time learning their responsibilities, but they also need to get to know their new teammates, too. To help with this, 52% of survey respondents prefer receiving a list of co-workers they should meet (or having a meeting set up on their behalf).

There are plenty of ways to make a new hire feel comfortable and welcomed, but you can’t go wrong listening to what employees themselves say is most useful.

Onboarding Checklist


  • Register for pay-as-you-go (PAYG) withholding
  • Set up payroll processes 
  • Take out workers compensation insurance 
  • Check the following: 
    • Employment type 
    • Applicable award 
    • Salary 
    • Leave entitlements 
  • Calculate the correct amount of tax to withhold and superannuation to pay. You are legally required to pay an employee 9.5% of their earnings in superannuation.  
  • Provide a copy of their employment agreement and the employee handbook (including the Fair Work Information Statement). 


  • Collect their signed new-starter forms (e.g. superannuation and tax forms) as well as their emergency contact details.
  • Schedule training on computer systems and workplace health and safety.
  • Welcome your new starter to the team with a ‘starter pack’ that includes, for example, stationary, a coffee voucher for a nearby cafe and a welcome note.


  • Document clearly defined expectations for your new team member.
  • Check in regularly with your new hire to discuss how they are performing against your expectations. 
  • Communicate positive feedback to motivate your new hire and celebrate any milestones. 
  • Deliver actionable, real-time constructive feedback to make course-corrections and help your new hire’s growth within the organisation.

Offboarding an Employee

We know that first impressions are critical for employee engagement and retention. But final impressions are an equally important – though often ignored – part of the employment life cycle. Whether your team member resigns or you are responsible for terminating their employment (i.e. offboarding), you should plan how you will transition an employee out of your business. 

An inconsistent offboarding process can put you at risk of breaching Australia’s employment laws. If you dismiss an employee without a valid reason, or fail to follow the correct process, you risk exposing your business to an unfair dismissal claim. This may occur, for example, if you do not provide an opportunity for your employee to respond to your concerns about their performance. Even if you succeed in defending your claim, you may be out of pocket for the costs of going to the Fair Work Commission or court. You also risk damaging your reputation, which will impact your ability to hire. 

Importantly, the process that you must follow will depend on the size of your business. If you have fewer than 15 employees, the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code will apply. The Code sets out what steps you should follow when terminating the employment relationship. If you have 15 or more employees, the Fair Work Act will apply.

No matter the size of the business, determining whether the dismissal was unfair will depend on whether:

  • the employer has a valid reason to terminate the employment; and
  • the employee was treated fairly in the decision-making process.

When an Employee Is Underperforming

Sometimes, things do not work out the way you planned. An employee turns up late to work, repeatedly misses their sales targets, or does not follow your business’ policies and procedures. 

If you have concerns about your employee’s performance, you should consider performance management before you decide to terminate the employment relationship. Performance management aims to help improve your employee’s performance by providing additional support and structure for an agreed period. 

Rather than viewing it as a tick box exercise, you should approach performance management as a positive experience and an opportunity to meaningfully contribute to your team member’s learning and development.


We know that performance discussions can be emotionally charged. Preparation is the key to ensuring that you focus on the facts in order to deliver actionable feedback. A performance management process typically follows these steps.

Description What the process looks like 
Identify the issue. Is your employee delivering poor-quality work? Are they unable to connect with your customers? How long has the problem existed? Spend time collecting feedback from clients and colleagues, as well as work samples that reflect your employee’s performance. 

Prematurely scheduling a performance meeting can be demotivating for your employee. 
Schedule an informal meeting to provide feedback to your employee and discuss their performance. There may be personal reasons that explain your employee’s actions, and you want to ensure that this discussion is productive.

Share your concerns with your employee in an informal setting. You may start by asking:
– How do you feel everything is going?
– What are the main challenges you are facing at the moment?
– What help do you need to overcome those challenges?
– How can we help? 
Provide on-the-job coaching and support. Commit to providing ongoing coaching and support to your employee to help them stay on track. 
Schedule a formal meeting to discuss your employee’s ongoing underperformance and to raise your concerns. Hold the meeting somewhere private and comfortable.

Explain the issues with your employee’s performance. Having written documents in place that contain measurable obligations (e.g. KPIs) will help you provide specific examples of where your employee has fallen short.

Give your employee the opportunity to respond and explain any reason for the underperformance. 
Implement a performance improvement plan (PIP).  After you and your employee are clear about your expectations, you should create a PIP.

The purpose of the plan is to help your employee improve — not to push them out of your business. A PIP should set out the following:
– the areas of concern that you and your employee discussed;
– what the employee needs to do to improve their performance and by when; and
– a date to review the PIP.

After your discussion, send a short follow-up email thanking your employee for their time, and attach a copy of the PIP.
Participate in regular PIP reviews Schedule weekly catch-up meetings to discuss how your employee is progressing against the plan, as well as any wins and areas for improvement.

If your employee’s performance has improved, but not to the level required, you can extend the PIP for a period. 

Terminating the Employment Relationship

If your employee’s performance does not improve, you may consider ending the employment relationship.

If you employ fewer than 15 employees, you must follow the process set out in the Small Business Fair Dismissal Code. The Code protects business owners against unfair dismissal claims. 


  • Make your expectations clear by discussing performance with your employee and providing feedback and training.
  • Raise the issue with your employee in a timely manner. If appropriate, create a PIP together with your team member to help them improve their performance. 
  • Warn your team member verbally and in writing if their performance is unsatisfactory or they have engaged in misconduct. 
  • Keep a record of meetings with your employee about their behaviour and conduct. 
  • Allow the employee to respond to your comments during a meeting or by letter.
  • Allow the employee a reasonable opportunity to improve poor performance.
  • If the potential termination relates to the employee’s conduct, allow them a reasonable opportunity to respond to your concerns around their conduct.
  • If the employee’s performance does not improve, or the response to your concerns around conduct is not satisfactory, give notice of termination to the employee in person and writing. 
  • Arrange a formal dismissal meeting with your employee. They can have a support person present during the meeting.
  • Write a termination letter that confirms the facts of the misconduct or the reasons for ending the employment relationship. You should also specify the notice period, their last day of work, their last payday, and what items or equipment they need to return.

Ending an employment relationship can be emotionally draining — especially in a small business made up of close-knit teams, friends and even family members. But termination should not come as a surprise to your employee. You should be consistently providing constructive and supportive feedback on their work and their contribution to your business. As an employer, each termination presents a learning opportunity to reflect on what you can do differently to improve your employee experience. 

Final Word

The need to hire employees is an encouraging sign that your business is growing. But when you are cash-strapped and time-poor, finding the best person for a role can be draining, emotionally and financially. And even if you can carve out the time to do it, finding and recruiting top talent is a massive challenge – particularly in a competitive job market. By ensuring that you have a consistent and comprehensive recruitment and onboarding process, your employees will start on the right foot.

Every week we interview candidates, onboard employees and run coaching sessions. We are fortunate to have a function of our business dedicated to the employee experience. But for many businesses, this role is managed by a much smaller team (or by the owners themselves!). 

We created this resource to help businesses, like yours, hire amazing team members. We hope it helps you to build a welcoming workplace for your employees to thrive in and, ultimately, set your business up for success.

If you need any employment law assistance, contact us using the form on this page or call us on 1300 544 755. You can also download this How to Hire guide as a PDF booklet.


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