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Through the looking glass: a case study on Kalyx’s transformation of the “people process”

21 December 2018


Through the looking glass: a case study on Kalyx’s transformation of the “people process”

Erin Lynch, Director

Hearing PCS Founder and Managing Principal, Joydeep Hor, speak at the HR Summit about the PCS approach to people issues and “what good looks like” resonated with Sue McGregor, People Culture & WH&S Manager at Kalyx Australia Pty Ltd (“Kalyx”). She felt this refreshing perspective was one that her company could benefit from exploring.

Kalyx provides an unparalleled level of independent, quality research to Australian agriculture and horticulture. With regional locations and a national focus, it provides quality and innovative research that is timely, accurate and second to none in Australia.

In respect of its people, Kalyx has 16 offices, 100 permanent staff and between 50 and 60 casual staff members at harvest time. The majority of the office locations are regionally based, and a high percentage of the workforce comes from a rural area and/or have studied agriculture or science.

Kalyx had reached a stage where it needed to develop a strategic plan. The Board was grappling with competing in the “corporate world” at both a national and international level, but also wanted to retain its authenticity and its “small company” feel.

Listening to Joydeep speak made Sue realise that, with the right attitude and approach, Kalyx could achieve that balance. The concept of “what good looks like” may have been simple in concept but made sense and was an easy message to deliver. Getting buy-in on “what good looks like” was necessary for Kalyx to maintain market share and achieve success in the industry.

The Plan

After meeting with Sue, a project plan was developed. This involved:

  • reviewing current systems and structures (including vision statements, organisational charts, position descriptions, relevant policies and template contracts) and also conducting high-level interviews with Sue and the General Manager;
  • based on the review, developing a “gap analysis” and also making necessary recommendations to bring the source documentation in line with best practice; and
  • conducting a half-day session with the Board around making Kalyx a high-performing organisation.

The Message

Deciding on the level of staff involvement in the process was considered at the outset. Sue was initially the one driving the process, however, “buy-in” was also sought from the Board and the senior management team.

In Sue’s opinion, the message was simple and the level of interest in the process was heightened because she believed in the message and the Board also backed the process. Sue says this made it much easier to get the management team to engage in the process.

The Actions

The current position descriptions and performance review documents were updated to reflect easily understandable and measurable key performance indicators.

This included creating a matrix for each position description that addressed things such as technical competency, relationships and adherence to values. For each of these areas, examples were created so that staff could easily recognise how they could satisfy these requirements and to help them understand “what good looks like”. For example, “conducts high quality trials that produce meaningful and significant data”, “has the technical expertise to accurately diagnose problems in the field”, “is flexible, adaptable and open to change”, “breathes integrity – doesn’t compromise values for anyone” and “trusts the team – help others and be helped when required”.

This led to developing clear progression and succession pathways, as well as improved onboarding processes and increased engagement with staff via informal and formal feedback and reviews.

Contracts of employment were reviewed and “paired back” to a more approachable document. To provide Kalyx with the ability to expand upon the contract, a bank of optional clauses was created to be inserted into the contract as required. For example, if Kalyx required an employee to have a particular qualification the “Accreditation and Qualification” clause could be inserted, or if Kalyx wished to have an employee subject to a particular post-termination restraint a “Restrictions After Termination of Employment” clause could be inserted.

Onboarding and exit checklists were also reviewed and amended to ensure they aligned with the updated employment contracts.
An induction timeline document was created, which spanned from the recruitment phase to the first six months of employment. This allowed Kalyx to develop the appropriate timelines, training and internal HR documents. It also provided for a uniform approach to recruitment and induction for new employees.

Finally, the employee handbook was reviewed to ensure that the entire “people process” was consistent.

The Learnings

Sue describes the main learnings as:

  1. Getting the recruitment right.
  2. Spending time on onboarding correctly and spelling out “what good looks like”.
  3. Being clear on the ‘non-negotiables’ to success in the organisation.
  4. Checking in regularly and providing feedback (both positive and constructive).
  5. Providing clear and transparent progression pathways.

The Surprise

The biggest surprise for Sue was confirmation that you need to keep things simple. On reflection, getting tied up with “corporate lingo” does not assist the process, and a simple message is what resonates with the staff.

The Changes

Since undertaking the review Kalyx has:

  1. Introduced value and cultural fit questions into interviews.
  2. Developed a week-long onboarding phase (at one branch) to instil consistent compliance requirements in staff and discuss “what good looks like” for Kalyx and for the staff.
  3. Developed clear progression pathways.
  4. Introduced quarterly informal check-ins rather than formal (stuffy) performance review process.

Twelve months on

Kalyx has seen a number of benefits as a result of engaging in the process.

Management and staff no longer tolerate non-compliance or the “rotten apple” syndrome. Staff are now comfortable to call out, and capable of calling out, poor behaviour by others in the workplace. This means that rather than a “top-down” approach to poor behaviour, behaviour is managed at the ground level.

Sue also believes that these new processes have meant that staff engagement and retention is higher. Of particular note is the increased engagement or willingness of staff to have open discussions with management about the positive and negative aspects of the workplace.

Sue says she would recommend this process to organisations because of the simplicity of the message. The workplace gets so busy and there are so many competing priorities. For Sue it was very refreshing to return to the basics and just “get it right”.

 

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