UNDERSTANDING the importance of employee mental health and wellbeing in work environments is coming into sharper focus for enlightened Australian business leaders.   

Experience is showing the effects can be both economically and socially vital, according to a recent survey by SuperFriend, a national mental health promotion foundation created by the Industry Funds Forum, an association whose members are the CEOs of Australia's largest industry super funds

A survey of super fund executives, group insurers and corporate HR employees who attended the recent 2013 SuperFriend Symposium in Melbourne revealed Australian businesses are beginning to understand the importance of the mental health and wellbeing of employees.

With one in five Australians experiencing mental illness in any given year and 45.5 percent of the Australian population aged 16-85 experiencing a mental health issue in their life time, SuperFriend CEO Margo Lydon said workplaces needed to realise it was far better to support employees and keep them in work irrespective of whether they are living with a mental illness.

She said by providing a positive work environment, research showed staff productivity increased, and there were reductions in staff turnover, absenteeism and presenteeism, along with an overall improvement in morale.

While the majority of respondents (60 percent) said their workplace currently invested in promoting mental health and wellbeing, Ms Lydon said it was important to note that the majority of the survey respondents were already a step ahead in understanding the impact of mental health problems.

"It is an encouraging first step to see that majority of attendees have workplaces currently investing in promotion of mental health and wellbeing, however, the situation extends beyond this group and impacts all Australian workplaces," Ms Lydon said.

"We understand that Australian businesses have a multitude of priorities and it is a difficult task to juggle all of these. However, businesses need to understand that people are their greatest asset and there are a range of benefits from creating a mentally healthy workplace which impact both the culture and the profitability of the company."

According to the survey, 43 percent of group insurers and corporate HR employees believed improved morale and job satisfaction to be the main benefit of ensuring Australian workplaces promote positive mental health and wellbeing. About 30 percent viewed increased staff productivity as the second major reason.

"The benefits of investing in programs that promote a mentally healthy workplace are mutually beneficial to both the organisation and the worker," Ms Lydon said.

Over half (56%) of delegates said their workplaces were engaging in activities to promote a healthy work/life balance to improve mental health and wellbeing, followed closely by engaging in RUOK conversations (44%) which encourages and empowers all Australians at work to regularly and meaningfully ask ‘are you ok?'.

"There are a number of initiatives employers can implement to nurture a healthy workplace," Ms Lydon said.

"It can be as simple as encouraging workers to connect with their colleagues, having an R U OK? At Work event and ensuring strong leadership of employees. Workplaces will also benefit from training staff in early detection of mental illness and on supporting employees while they seek assistance," she said.

SuperFriend has developed as a national foundation aimed at improving the mental health and wellbeing of industry superannuation fund members, employers and staff. SuperFriend's mission is to reduce the incidence of suicide and the impact of mental illness on individuals, employers, workplaces, friends and families, Ms Lydon said.

"SuperFriend is interested in a total holistic solution, not just an economic one, or a human one. Addressing these imminent issues is about achieving total health," Ms Lydon said.

SuperFriend collaborates with industry funds, group insurers and the mental health sector to facilitate targeted workplace mental health initiatives for members of these funds.

www.superfriend.com.au

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BUSINESS leaders seeking long-term sustainable growth need to focus not on what they need to do but how they need to do it.

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Introducing a quality management system can boost profits.

 

In his experience, SAI Global quality management trainer David Gray said he had seen businesses grow and become more profitable – even in an environment of very high customer expectations – by developing integrating high quality management systems into everyday business operations.

Delivering an impressive customer result is often linked to the quality of a company’s internal operations, Mr Gray said. While most businesses understand this synergy, many fall short of having a strong quality management system (QMS) in place. It is an area of increasing focus by quality management training and certification group, SAI Global.

“It’s surprising that most organisations continue to operate without implementing an effective quality management system, especially when failing to do so can be detrimental to both reputation and profit,” Mr Gray said.

“The consequences may include ongoing operational delays, budget overruns, and a waste of precious resources. As a result, both a business’s reputation and profit may be at serious risk.”

Mr Gray said some employees responsible for quality management morph into the role without any official training or education.

“In some companies quality management can land on the lap of an employee who hasn’t undergone any training whatsoever,” he said. “While this may have been a natural step within the business structure, it may be detrimental to overall performance.”

Mr Gray said an efficient quality management system, managed by a qualified staff member, improves performance and internal efficiency, identifies inconsistencies and problems and recognises ways to resolve. As a result, staff morale and productivity is increased and consumers are given confidence in the business.

SAI Global recommends managers responsible for quality evaluate their skillsets in accordance with recognised standards such as ISO 9001. Mr Gray said ISO 9001 was the international benchmark for any employee looking to implement a QMS.

SAI Gobal has developed an online Auditing Quality Management System training course to provide a portable qualification that meets the standard. Mr Gray said the 8-10 hour course was becoming popular as it was cost effective, flexible and attractive to time-poor businesses.

Based on the official ISO 9001 standard, SAI Global has developed six clear steps business leaders can use to instill quality processes:

  1. Document your business model: As a first step, ensure there is a person responsible for quality management. This person is to ensure the company has a policy in place that defines its ‘quality promise’, underpinned with stated objectives and targets for employees. Be sure to include instructional documents as well as a defined ‘roadmap’ to guide employees through to fulfilling that promise. This information is to be accurate, accessible to those that need it, and detailed to a sufficient level.

  2. Build relationships: Have a clear understanding of your point of difference in the marketplace – this means you must know your competitors. Know your customers, too, and what they value most about your products and services. Communicate this information to your employees, ensuring they understand what is needed to ensure happy and satisfied customers.

  3. Enable and empower your people: Engage employees by delegating responsibility and authority to deliver the promise of quality made by the organisation to its customers. Remember if you spell out these aspects of operation, employees understand what is expected of them. Without these fundamental guidelines, employees will not understand the rules and they will develop their own which may not align with the expectations of the organisation or the customer. You must also ensure that employees have the knowledge and skills to perform their work with confidence.

  4. Deliver on your promises: Make sure all operational aspects of the organisation are working cohesively to deliver the promise of quality, ensuring not to forget those aspects that are outsourced to external third-party providers. Do they understand what your promise of quality is, and their role in keeping this promise?

  5. Evaluate and seek improvement: Objectives and targets are of little value, unless they are used as the baseline to gauge success. Monitor and measure performance results to determine whether the promise of quality was achieved. And if not, determine why not. Using these results, seek to understand what needs to change in your business roadmap and operations.

  6. Apply the wisdom: Up to now you’ve assessed the possible roadblocks to quality. Now you must remove them through controlled changes in your operations. If you have a sufficient quality plan in place you will be able to assess which process is most appropriate to the issue and apply the solution in a timely manner to achieve results.

http://www.saiglobal.comends

 

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AUSTRALIAN businesses looking at improving the bottom line have been urged to spruce up the offices for a ‘return on interior'.

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When designing plant for efficiency, don't forget the office plants.

 

That is the message going out from experts on indoor environments, who claim there is a direct correlation between 'green' offices and long-term workforce performance.

With only 40 percent of Australia's offices having plants, according to a 2011 study by indoor plant specialist Ambius, they warn that business managers are actually missing out on what they term a significant ‘return on interior'.

This week is World Green Buildings Week (September 16-20) and Graeme Armeni from Ambius said it was reminder that ‘greening up' was good for a building and its occupants in a number of subtle ways -- but it can also positively affect the bottom line.

"In addition to creating a pleasant, tranquil office environment there are wider positive returns to be gained from improving and investing in a greener workplace environment," Mr Armeni said.

"Research from University of Technology Sydney and universities in the UK found that indoor plants can improve air quality, well-being and increase productivity."

He said studies carried out at the University of Exeter in the UK showed employees working in environments enriched with plants or artwork, and those who see something of themselves in their workspaces, feel physically more comfortable at work, identify more with their employers, are more productive and feel more positive about their jobs.

By enriching work environments employees are happier, healthier and at least 15 percent more productive than they are in a de-personalised work environment, according to the study by Knight & Haslam in 2010, titled The Relative Merits of Lean, Enriched, and Empowered Offices: An Experimental Examination of the Impact of Workspace Management.

Mr Armeni said, "Having indoor plants can also form part of a business' green commitment and the Green Building Council of Australia recognises the importance of indoor plants through its Green Star program. 

"Many businesses are choosing to combine green building features and office design, an attractive option when you consider the potential impact on workplace productivity and the bottom line."

Ambius interviewed 1500 Australian office workers, in March this year, about their work environments.  Only 8 percent of respondents considered their workplaces as airy or fresh and as few as 14 percent sit near a window or natural light. 

Furthermore, 16 percent never leave their office throughout the working day and 34 percent regularly get headaches at work.  

Research by Dr Fraser Torpy and colleagues at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) strongly suggests that indoor plants can improve air quality and well-being.

According to Dr Torpy, "Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) emitted from synthetic materials in office furniture, fittings and computers can cause headaches, loss of concentration and other health problems. Carbon dioxide (CO2) has also been linked to drowsiness. 

"Our research proves that plants can reduce potentially harmful VOCs by 80 percent and CO2 by up to 25 percent, so the health benefits are significant.  Plants can also reduce dust levels, refresh air and stabilise temperature and humidity levels. 

"Employers will also be interested to hear that this cleaner air leads to clearer thinking which in turn promotes greater productivity and efficiency."

These results were published in the study Greening the Great Indoors for Human Health and Wellbeing by  Prof. Margaret Burchett (UTS), Dr Fraser Torpy (UTS), Jason Brennan (UTS), Prof. Ashley Craig (Univ. Syd.) through the Plants and Indoor Environmental Quality Group, Centre for Environmental Sustainability (CEnS) at UTS in February 2010.

http://www.ambiusindoorplants.com.au/

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NETSCAPE, HMV, Kodak, Borders and SAAB have something in common, apart from their demises. They all lost their vital battles for relevance, according to researcher and author, Michael McQueen.

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Major brands are struggling with how to remain relevant.

 

Mr McQueen has today launched his new book, Winning the Battle for Relevance, in which he sets out to explain how organizations, individuals and brands can remain viable and relevant in an ever changing and rapidly evolving world.

In the past, this thrice best-selling author has worked with brands across the globe including Pepsi, Nokia and Tupperware, so his book is coming from sustained experience.

In 2010, Mr MacQueen embarked on an extensive study of over 500 brands and organisations worldwide, tracking their rise and fall (and occasional rise again). Drawing on this research, his book highlights how most businesses and entities have no idea they are becoming obsolete till it’s almost too late.

"This is due to the fact that most leaders only pay attention to audible pulse indicators such as profits and sales figures, while completely ignoring their organisation’s silent pulse, the measure of their relevance," Mr McQueen said.

In an effort to help leaders gauge what he calls "their silent pulse"  Mr McQueen's book features a model called The Relevance Curve which tracks the four phases every organisation or brand goes though in their journey from emergence to prominence, and then obsolescence.

“The key at any point is to determine where you are on the Relevance Curve,” Mr McQueen said. “This will determine the steps you need to take in order to avoid becoming obsolete in the future.”

Mr McQueen said no entity is immune to extinction.

“Simply because an organisation has been successful, dominant or powerful in the past, does not automatically mean it will remain so in the future,” he said.

Mr McQueen said a powerful example was the music industry which, at the end of 2012, had shrunk to almost half the size it was in 2000. As the digital age has obliterated the status quo, music manufacturers, product distributors and retail outlets have found themselves undermined and undercut, with many including British music retailer HMV going under as a result, he said.

"In early 2013, David Bowie released his latest single straight to iTunes, skipping the CD format altogether," Mr McQueen said. "As physical music products almost entirely disappear, analysts believe Bowie’s move is a sign of things to come.

Advertising specialist and and ABC television program, The Gruen Transfer panelist, Dan Gregory, offered a clear warning to all organizations, brands and leaders when he commented on Mr McQueen's analysis: “Ignore Michael’s book at your peril.”

In addition to highlighting businesses and organisations that have failed to remain relevant, Mr McQueen also investigates in the book how brands such as Lego, Volvo and IBM have re-invented themselves in the face of change and achieved enduring relevance as a result.

Drawing on such case studies Mr McQueen offers practical advice for any business, leader or organisation committed to staying ahead of the curve and competition. His book offers readers step-by-step recommendations on how to create a game plan on how to remain in the prominence side of the relevance curve.

Winning the Battle for Relevance is available in bookstores from today and retails for $22.95. 

www.MichaelMcQueen.net

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SIR Richard Branson, who built his career from record shop owner to Virgin Group billionaire, told a QUT Business Leaders' Forum yesterday that business leadership was about bringing great ideas to market and benefitting communities in the process. He urged business owners and leaders to take a higher view of their businesses and to have faith in their best ideas.

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Sir Richard Branson (seated, centre) with members of his Carbon War Room initiative: yesterday in Brisbane he commented that carbon taxes should be applied on a global basis, so as not to disadvantage some countries.

 

Sir Richard told a sold-out QUT Business Leaders' Forum at the Hilton Brisbane about his career as an entrepreneur, which began with a student magazine he launched at 15 years old. Earlier he had made a keynote address at the Asia Pacific Cities Summit at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre - and today's Summit keynote speaker is former New York Mayor, Rudy Giuliani.

More than 300 companies in 30 countries are now part of Sir Richard's Virgin Group empire, including businesses in air and rail travel, telecommunications, media and space tourism.

In an hour-long interview with ABC journalist Kerry O'Brien, Sir Richard talked about his drives and vision for business - and how business interconnects with and assists communities.

Sir Richard said his best businesses ventures were not based on making money.

"The most successful businesses I've launched came out of the desire to create. I hated flying on other people's airlines," he said.

"I thought I could create an airline I would want to fly on. I never thought I could make lots of money doing it. I created an airline that I wanted to fly on, other people liked it."

Sir Richard later joked he was financially illiterate.

"I never use accountants when I'm launching a new business," he said.

Sir Richard called on businesses to play a greater role in philanthropy and discussed the work of Virgin's independent charitable arm, Virgin Unite.

"More and more business leaders are turning their companies into forces of good," he said.

Sir Richard urged business owners to delegate the "nitty-gritty", day-to-day processes of running a business to others to free up time to "think about the bigger picture" and try new ventures.

"Just give it a go. Try it out, you'll soon know if your idea is going to work or not," he said.

"If you do fail, you haven't really failed. You've just had a great education."

Sir Richard also spoke in earnest about challenges facing the music industry and book stores in the last 10 years - and their precarious future.

"I don't think music shops will survive. You'll get a few second-hand, historic music shops that may still be around in a decade's time. I think the writing's on the wall for music shops, I think the writing's on the wall for book shops," he said.

"People who swore they would never read books on an iPad or a Kindle, more and more people are doing it now. Obviously, it's sad. I think it's just the way things are. Other things will hopefully replace these."

Sir Richard also talked about testing times in the airline industry, which for him included when birds flew into the engine of his first Virgin plane during a test flight.

"I jokingly said about 27 years ago that the easiest way of becoming a millionaire is to start off as a billionaire and go into the airline industry," Sir Richard said.

"It's certainly a very challenging industry."

The next speaker at the QUT Business Leaders Forum will be Westpac chief executive Gail Kelly.

www.bus.qut.edu.au/blf

 

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One of the largest public practice and corporate accounting conferences in Queensland is being held on the Gold Coast this week, holding to account the biggest current issue in business - carbon tax.

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Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale is certain to give his frank assessments of key issues.

 

The WPIAS Congress is being held over Thursday and Friday, 14-15 July at the Hyatt Regency Sanctuary Cove and attendees will hear from keynote speakers City of Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale, CEO of the Jetstar Titans Michael Searle, CEO of the Gold Coast Suns Travis Auld, mayoral candidate David Power and Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston.

Industry experts include Karl Morris, executive chairman of financial advisory firm Ord Minnett, Carbon Credit Corporation (C3) managing director Malcolm Borgeaud, technical directors of SMSF industry bodies SPAA and SISFA, Peter Burgess and Rob Jeremiah respectively, and former ASIC Commissioner Barrie Adams.

Now in its second year, the WPIAS Congress is one of a limited number of  regional conference opportunities held outside of the industry bodies CPA and CA, in which accountants can hear about the broader issues affecting their industry.

The event is held in conjunction with My Training Partner, a part of the Williams Partners Independent Audit Specialists (WPIAS) group, a local independent accounting group specialising in the provision of audit and assurance services.

The WPIAS Congress will include a range of well-known keynote and expert industry speakers who will address questions surrounding the impending carbon tax legislation and Australia's $400billion self-managed superannuation funds industry.

Congress convenor, Michael Plehan from the WPIAS group, said the event attracts industry professionals from all over the country and provides an opportunity to update  knowledge and skills in a relaxed and effective learning environment.

"Two of the biggest issues facing the accountancy industry are the impacts upon business from the proposed introduction of a new carbon tax, and the ability of Australians to  provide for their own retirement," Mr Plehan said.

"These issues both have huge flow on effects, not only within our industry, but to the wider economy and ultimately to the hip  pockets of all Australians - hence their importance.

"As such we've assembled a ‘who's who' of experts in these fields and others to inform and educate our delegates."

WPIAS managing partner Reg Williams said the two-day congress has become recognised as a regional calendar event for the industry with plans to grow it to a premier national conference in the coming years.

"The congress has grown enormously since its inception with extremely positive feedback from all those who have attended," Mr Williams said.

"Our goal is to provide finance professionals with quality, value for money knowledge management opportunities on a range of issues that not only affect accountants and their industry, but topics that will invariably affect their clients as well."

http://www.businessacumen.biz/www.wpias.com.au

 

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Businesses directly affected by the Queensland floods can gain one-on-one assistance to develop strategies to help rebuild at special sessions in Brisbane on Friday.

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Brisbane business Furniture Concepts is one of those fighting for recovery post-floods.

 

The Mentoring for Recovery (M4R) sessions being staged at the Archerfield Airport Corporation Terminal Building on Friday, May 20, may help to get many businesses back on track.

M4R is a mentoring program specifically aimed at assisting enterprises that have been significantly affected by the recent floods by providing access to private sector business mentors who can help in addressing business challenges and issues as a result of water inundation or supply chain interruptions. 

M4R may be a great first step for business owners and managers looking for a sounding board or for those wishing to test new ideas for recovery on a select group of business professionals.

M4R is a free fully subsidised service provided by the Queensland Government   Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI) Brisbane Southside Service Centre and is run in partnership the Brisbane Metro Business Enterprise Centre (BEC) and South West Chamber of Commerce in addition to industry professional advisors.

The session will run from 9am to 5pm and participants must register first through the Brisbane Metro BEC.

Contact Alice Langford, Brisbane Metro BEC manager. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 
Busiensses may also contact the South West Chamber of Commerce Inc. E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it Tel: 07-33979899 or 0419 00 77 09.

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