The second of a two-part peek behind the curtain at HR Assured’s Telephone Advisory Service (TAS), where we finally unmask the people behind it and explore exactly what they do (and why they do it so well…)
The TAS is headed up by Nick Tindley, a lawyer and partner in the Melbourne office. Nick has over 20 years of professional experience and, prior to HR Assured, headed up the employment law division for one of Australia’s key industrial associations, the National Retailers Association.
Managing day-to-day operations in Sydney is Wes O’Donnell, National Workplace Relations Manager for HR Assured. Wes is a Solicitor with over 18 years of experience holding senior employment law positions, including senior management positions in subscription-based employment law services in both the UK as well as Australia.
Underneath them, there’s a team of approximately 15, made up of different professionals bringing together different core competencies. There are not only lawyers – practising solicitors – but also HR experts, WHS experts, and other specialists – a diverse cross-section of occupational backgrounds and professional backgrounds. The diversity enables the team to provide more holistic support to clients, able to match appropriate strengths and skillsets to a client’s unique situation.
What sets them apart?
There are really two things which set HR Assured’s TAS apart from the competition: firstly, the responsiveness and, secondly, the quality of the advice.
In terms of responsiveness, they know that clients are busy working for and in their businesses and don’t have time to sit on the phone for half an hour, on hold, waiting to receive advice. And this is the main problem with complimentary advisory services like the Fair Work Ombudsman. The TAS team knows that clients need timely professional advice: many are small to medium-sized enterprises; many are professionals in the health industry. They’re calling when they have a spare space within their diary – between client visits or patient visits, during a lunch break or out of hours. The window for them to take advice is small and they can’t afford to wait. That’s why HR Assured has built incredibly responsive systems, and continually monitors response rates to ensure that they’re providing the support that clients need when clients need it.
The second thing that the team carefully monitors is the quality of the advice they give. What sets them apart from other providers is that they don’t effectively stack their advisory structure with junior professionals. They recognise that they need to provide excellent advice so that their clients get a high level of value from them. Being highly qualified and experienced lawyers and HR specialists, the TAS team is able to not only give great advice but often give clients options rather than just a ‘yes you can do that’ or ‘no you can’t do that’.
The consistency, responsiveness and depth of advice has, over time, built HR Assured’s reputation for service quality.
Once someone joins the TAS team, the learning never stops. An ongoing professional development structure includes fortnightly tech sessions on a variety of topics. Team members take it in turns to research a topic, prepare the session and present. There are regular meetings where the team discusses issues of concern or topics which are developing, including the latest legal decisions and regulations. There’s also a formal mentoring structure, which means that every TAS person, regardless of their level, is mentored by a senior manager or a solicitor/partner within the workplace, who helps identify any form of professional development and support which they need.
The team operates from three locations: Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. They aren’t confined by geographical location and act as one team despite the distance between them. They operate on a tiered management structure: on any given day, there are the team members rostered on for that day; above them is a supervisor, responsible for overseeing the operations of the day and the first point of enquiry for escalating concerns (though, as a testament to the skill and experience of the team, fewer than one per cent of calls need escalation). The needs of HR Assured’s clients varying in complexity – from small businesses to enterprise-level clients with thousands of employees, each with different requirements, processes, recordkeeping, protocols, etc. – so the team is organised in such a way as to effectively match the skills and experience of particular team members to particular clients, with management able to control from which clients each team member can take calls.
For example, when people first join the team, they will generally be limited to a smaller group of clients. Over time, as the team member develops and becomes familiar with the different systems, processes and client requirements, they’re able to support a larger group of clients.
This means that management can literally control the quality of the advice by the advisor they’ve assigned to those particular calls. The system lets supervisors and managers listen in or assist with a call where the complexity of the matter warrants it. It’s a system that significantly reduces hold time for clients and allows new team members to progressively become more confident and rely less on other consultants or professionals to qualify their advice – all without impacting the quality of advice or the client’s experience.
It’s all about giving the best advice
HR Assured adopts an approach to advice that is all about the client. It seems counter-intuitive, but the company doesn’t encourage a system where callers always speak to a nominated individual or a nominated advisor. While the company likes to encourage people to attach value to a particular adviser, it can be a problematic proposition for both the client and the advisor: for the advisor because it artificially skews volume into an individual and that individual gets an unfair share of the allocation to come through on a given day, but also problematic from a service perspective, because if that individual is in court, on annual leave, sick, not available, etc., it means that that caller is having to wait unnecessarily for the answers to their questions.
To ensure a client’s matter can be handled effectively, regardless of who answers the call, the company uses a CRM system that maintains detailed notes within the platform. What it means is that whenever a caller rings up about an ongoing matter, the advisor assisting them has enough notes in the system to provide contemporary advice without the client having to rely on the same advisor being available to consistently act on the matter. That said, where management know that a matter is complex, or they think that there’s going to be a significant risk to the client, they will nominate a dedicated consultant and that person can case manage that particular matter from start to finish.
Coping with COVID-19
Other than a huge increase in call volumes, the pandemic has had little effect on the ability of the TAS team to assist clients. The team has been able to continue working, both from the office and remotely. The team’s ongoing ability to work flexibly has been accommodated by the company through a range of measures that support them in that decision and minimise the risk of harm, including flexible start and end times, providing parking spaces so they can avoid public transport, limiting interactions as a group, establishing hygiene stations and floor markings, and instituting ample social distancing measure by spreading the team out over two floors, utilising offices left empty by staff who now work from home.
If you’re a business owner or manager looking for workplace advice or support, get in touch with us today to find out how we can help.