How to use open questions effectively with your staff

There was an article I saw the other day that was titled “31 things you need to do before having a baby”. Gees, as if we didn’t have enough things on our to-do list already! What happened to the good old days when your wife got pregnant and you dealt with how it all worked later? Oh well, better not fight the tide of how things are going…

So we live in a world where risk management is becoming more and more prominent. Insurance premiums are costly, people are behaving badly and now, directors can go to jail. So in the same light as the 31 things we need to do before bringing a new person into the world, I have listed a set of 31 questions you need to ask yourself in relation to your HR Risk Management.

Please note- This list may not be comprehensive for your organisation, but it is a good starting place. It is not really designed to help you, but to create anxiety and stress, as well as increasing in the sale of wine, beer, chocolate and ice-cream…oh, and scotch too 🙂

Questions to Ask in Relation to Risk Management

Compensation and Benefits

  1. Are your rates of pay determined an updated in a consistent manner and in line with legislation (modern awards, executive pay where relevant)?
  2. Do you have pay practices that encourage behaviours that create a significant risk for the business (e.g. big incentives that promote bad behaviour)?
  3. What sort of fraud prevention processes and policies do you have in place?


  1. What practices take place at the hiring stage that reduce the risk of an unsuitable person being hired?
  2. Is there a discrimination prevention plan in place that looks at everything from advertising practices to manager training?
  3. What sort of documentation is kept on file in the instance a candidate brings a case forward?

OH&S (Occupational Health and Safety)

  1. What sort of training is provided to new entrants to reduce workplace accidents?
  2. How are people recruited and selected into roles that require a high level of safety consciousness?
  3. Are you compliant with the relevant legislation regarding OH&S?
  4. How effective is your incident and near-miss reporting?
  5. Do you have a culture of raising and dealing with safety matters or are they left to linger?
  6. What sort of prevention programs do you have to reduce the incidence of physical and mental health and safety issues?
  7. Do you have a formal return-to-work process, supported by the appropriate RTW experts?
  8. Who conducts workplace assessments for hazards (e.g. ergonomics) and how often does this take place?

Fair Work Australia

  1. Are your policies, procedures and contracts in line with Fair Work Australia and WorkCover legislation, including the NES?
  2. Do you know which modern award applies to our employees and which employees they apply to?
  3. Within those modern awards, have you reviewed those requirements against our current practices?

Employee Conduct and Performance

  1. Where have you stated our expectations (and consequences where relevant) regarding employee conduct and performance?
  2. What sort of communication, training and feedback takes place during induction and the probation period to identify issues early?
  3. What has been your custom and practice with regard to dealing with employee misconduct and underperformance and is this consistent with our written policies?
  4. What is your communication process for when an employee is terminated?
  5. What external support is in place for employees and managers who are going through disciplinary procedures?
  6. What is your mediation process and is the person conducting the mediation qualified to do so?

Employee Information

  1. Where is employee information stored?
  2. Who has access to what employee information?
  3. Do you have different levels of access?
  4. Do you have a back-up in place?

Employee Exits

  1. Is there an exit checklist in place and who conducts this?
  2. Do you conduct exit interviews?
  3. Do you have in place a release document for situations that warrant it?
  4. Do your contracts have sufficient restraint of trade clauses to mitigate against customer and employee losses via departed employees?

So, there you have it! 31 questions that hopefully you have a very good answer to or at least a bottle of Shiraz to combat. Rather than tackling this headache for yourself, it can be worthwhile bringing in an external party to conduct an audit to save you some work and keep an objective viewpoint. You need to be mindful though that it may create additional work and so this needs to be factored into your plans. But it does mean you can move forward with a clear conscious and perhaps sleep better at night. Alternatively, Baskin and Robbins has 31 of something else that might do the trick too.

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