Ensuring the success of Australia’s commercial backbone

December 29, 2015
HR Assured

In 2015, FCB Group decided that small-to-medium enterprises needed a cost-effective, complete workplace relations solution that would empower and protect their business. Nick Tindley, Head of Workplace Relations and Advisory, and Alistair McDonald, Head of Marketing and Business Development, provide an overview of the new addition to the FCB Group family, HR Assured.

Small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) are widely seen as the backbone of Australia’s commercial success. Nevertheless, despite the loud cheering from the sidelines, SMEs have always been at a competitive disadvantage compared to larger businesses, especially when it comes to the ultimate driver of success – their people.

Larger enterprises are able to dedicate more time, resources and people to the human resources side of their business, such as workforce structure, development, performance and compliance. In the end, this means that they are able to get more out of their people.

HR Assured gives SMEs the opportunity to fight back by combining:

  • front-end compliance
  • strategic improvements in people management systems and processes
  • an award-winning, cloud-based HR management system
  • high-quality legal representation
  • insurance against costs and damage awards.

In this way, HR Assured helps SMEs manage their people just as effectively as large businesses, but without burdening them with costs they can’t afford.

What is HR Assured?

HR Assured is FCB Group’s complete workplace relations solution, devised to help smaller businesses reduce the costs and risks associated with managing people. It achieves this by:

  • ensuring that a business’s HR management practices comply with Australia’s complex, and constantly changing, workplace laws
  • giving businesses on-demand access to a team of highly experienced employment specialists
  • protecting businesses from any future employment-related claims through representation by Australia’s leading workplace relations firm, FCB Workplace Law
  • providing businesses with comprehensive coverage against costs and compensation associated with workplace-related claims.

Any SME can purchase the HR Assured package for a low-cost monthly fee.

The evolution of HR Assured

For the past 20 years, FCB Group has been providing advice on employment law and human resources to a diverse client base. We are now widely regarded as Australia’s leading workplace relations service provider, largely because we adopt a multidisciplinary and holistic approach to workplace relations.

Our interest in SMEs arose because we noticed that Australian businesses, especially smaller enterprises, weren’t being well served by their traditionally run HR departments. They struggled with archaic people-management systems that largely failed to keep up with Australia’s workplace relations system. When things went wrong, they were forced to call in expensive teams of lawyers. At best, this cut into profits and acted as a major distraction. At worst, we saw it cause perfectly healthy businesses to collapse.

FCB Group has also grown and evolved substantially since it was established in the mid-1990s. Like our clients, we’ve experienced the challenges that all growing businesses face, including ensuring that we:

  • attract and retain the right people
  • manage those people effectively
  • get those people to perform not only at the right time but in the right way.

One of the most persistent problems we’ve faced as a growing business has been building capability, process and support. More specifically, we’ve often had to consider when to build these things, and in what way.

Experiencing these problems ourselves, as well as seeing what our clients are going through on a daily basis, made us acutely aware of the problems a large number of SMEs were facing. Even more concerning was the fact that a large percentage of SMEs weren’t able to afford the services that FCB Group could provide through its legal, consulting and technology arms. Basically, they were having to battle on without proper professional assistance because they couldn’t afford it.

This led us to gather together our team of specialised employment lawyers, workplace relations consultants and technology experts. We told them we needed to come up with a complete HR management system that would protect SMEs, rather than leave them vulnerable.

We told them that the new system had to achieve five key objectives:

  1. Ensure that businesses’ HR management practices comply with Australia’s employment laws on an ongoing basis.
  2. Give businesses on-demand access to high-quality employment law advice.
  3. Protect businesses from employment-related claims.
  4. Ensure that businesses are run more fairly and safely.
  5. Deliver a workplace relations system where the priority is outstanding product delivery and exceptional service.

Finally, we explained that each of these objectives had to be part of a single package that could be delivered to clients for a reasonable price.

They came up with HR Assured.

The HR Assured team

The HR Assured team is led by Managing Director, Campbell Fisher, one of the founders and the current Managing Director of FCB Group. Campbell is well known for being a workplace relations strategist and legal advisor who is not only commercially pragmatic but also thinks outside the box. In many ways, the spark behind the establishment of HR Assured came from Campbell’s commitment to the idea that the old-fashioned law firm is an outdated concept. What was needed was a new, and more cost-effective way, of servicing clients.

Nick Tindley, Head of Workplace and Advisory at HR Assured, is responsible for ensuring that the various services within the HR Assured package work together as a holistic and fully integrated workplace relations solution. In this role, Nick is assisted by Wes O’Donnell, our Workplace Relations and Advisory Manager, who checks that HR Assured’s delivery standards match those of our parent company, FCB Group. Wes also ensures that the various parts of the package are perfectly synchronised, and that the package is optimised for each client.

Another key member of the HR Assured team is Alistair McDonald, Head of Business Development and Marketing. Alistair focuses on giving as many SMEs as possible the opportunity to experience, as quickly as possible, what HR Assured can do for their business.

Finally, Renee Makoni, our Client Experience Manager, ensures that every client experiences a seamless transition from purchase to implementation of their solutions package.

How HR Assured works

HR Assured provides four key services that protect and empower SMEs with up to 300 employees.


HR Assured begins with front-end compliance, so every business that comes on board goes through a comprehensive audit. The reasoning behind this is very straightforward: compliant businesses have reduced exposure to legal claims and enhanced workforce engagement, both of which promote better business performance. This leads to a number of recommendations to deliver best-practice people management.

The crucial thing for clients to understand about HR Assured is that the recommendations are simply the start of the process. HR Assured then helps clients to implement the recommendations made during the audit process.

HRA Cloud

HRA Cloud is the first step in the implementation of this complete people management system.

As an online information and management system, HRA Cloud provides businesses with human resources and workplace relations support wherever and whenever they need it. The cloud-based platform provides industry-specific information; contract, policy and other document creation capability; as well as people and safety management workflows. In short, it is a dynamic, rather than a static, people management resource that is constantly updated so that businesses can be sure they are compliant at all times.

Telephone Advisory Service (TAS)

HR Assured clients can call the HR Assured TAS at any time on any day and run through any employment-related issues. The consultants can log into the client’s HRA Cloud account and take them through the documents and processes step by step. The TAS consultants will give the client detailed advice designed to achieve an outcome, not just answer a question and then leave them to work out how to implement the solution.

Insurance and representation

If an HR Assured client has accessed HRA Cloud and the TAS and they receive a claim from a current or former employee (for example, an unfair dismissal claim), they will be represented by FCB Workplace Law and are assured against all claims and awards up to $2 million, with no excess.

An HR Assured case study: how the solution works in practice

ABC Pty Ltd (ABC) is a graphic design business with 40 employees across two locations.

Since its start-up five years ago out of a home office, ABC has expanded rapidly. It plans to employ another 10 people in 2016, and to open an interstate office. ABC signed up with HR Assured because it needed to manage its people better, but it wasn’t viable to employ a dedicated HR person.

HR Assured conducted an audit for ABC. During the process, it identified two payroll compliance issues. First, one employee was being paid at a rate lower than their legal entitlement. Second, the business wasn’t issuing copies of the Fair Work Information Statement to new employees.

In addition, HR Assured identified some process and systems gaps. A number of employees had no key performance indicators (KPI) and no position descriptions. This oversight had caused some tension in the workplace and had impacted negatively on employee productivity. Employees felt they were being told to do things they considered were outside their role, and were being criticised for not doing things they didn’t know they had to do.

HR Assured assisted ABC to put in place KPIs that would driver better performance, but were also realistic. We also assisted with the implementation of the KPIs.

ABC calls the HR Assured TAS about once a week to talk through employment issues. Since it hasn’t had a lot of experience with managing employees’ performance in the past, ABC needs a lot of guidance to help build line manager confidence and capability. Each time ABC calls the HR Assured TAS, the consultant logs into ABC’s HRA Cloud account with the caller. If the question is about managing performance, they go to the relevant employee’s file and identify what the issue is and what expectations have been communicated to the employee. Often this comes from the KPIs and the position descriptions that have been implemented. The TAS consultant then goes through the performance management workflow with ABC.

Why should SMEs consider integrating HR Assured into their businesses?

From first-stage compliance to case management support, HR Assured makes the task of people management simpler and more efficient. Most importantly, it builds the capability of SMEs to carry this out more cost effectively. Finally, it gives businesses peace of mind, because they know the system they are using is best practice. In the event of something going wrong, provided they have followed the processes and procedures set out in HRA Cloud and sought our advice via the TAS, they are covered.

We are pleased with the result, and the feedback we’re getting from clients is very encouraging. That’s why if we were asked to sum up HR Assured in a nutshell, we’d describe it as smarter workplace relations for SMEs.

‘HR Assured helps SMEs manage their people just as effectively as large businesses, but without burdening them with costs they can’t afford.’

‘… if we were asked to sum up HR Assured in a nutshell, we’d describe it as smarter workplace relations for SMEs.’

If you would like to find out more about how partnering with HR Assured could help your business please contact Nick Tindley on 03 9098 9400 or nrt@fcbgroup.com.au or Alistair McDonald on 02 9922 5188 or asm@fcbgroup.com.au