Monthly Archives: February 2014

One from the trenches

Is this an extended downturn or rather an exciting structural shift?

I’m in the camp that sees the whole global market undergoing a structural shift. This month Australians and in particular Melburnians awoke to the reality that Toyota in 2017 will join Ford and General Motors and do away with their local manufacturing footprint. Rumours are flying regarding Qantas significantly reducing headcount. Times are a changin’ to quote Mr Dylan.

Our own industry is reshaping itself too. Late last year I attended the Association of Executive Search Consultants Conference in London, where John Niland was a keynote speaker. Niland talked about how the market has changed significantly, including the commoditisation of service industries, how buyers have changed their decision making processes and how choices are often made by teams rather than individuals. Traditional sales messages and benefits statements no longer work.

All of this adds up to the fact that in the Executive Search sector we also have to re-frame our service offering and client engagement.

Changing perspectives requires adding:

  1. new options such as increasing or decreasing guarantee periods, psychological assessments and cognitive assessments;
  2. re-prioritising such as determining the real markers of high performance outside of industry experience and known track records;
  3. magnifying the potential (or risk) by using such tools as detecting lies in interviews and
  4. anticipating unforeseen barriers such as assessing the unexpected show stoppers such as salary, national or global moves.

This also means challenging a client’s thinking by offering unique perspectives. We can help clients navigate new alternatives, identify potential land mines, and generally provide new means to tackle tough problems.

It always surprises me how often we pick up an assignment, where the client says “I’d like to bring some fresh thinking with the person I hire” but then invariably falls back on the need for direct industry experience. Our challenge is to reshape and inform our clients’ perspective in line with defensible and supported evidence that counterbalances the accepted status quo.

What clients don’t appreciate is being fronted with fresh thinking where there is no supporting evidence.

John Niland’s talk made me think a little differently, and was very useful in my view in the context of global shifts in business practices. Incidentally if you’re interested in his book it can be ordered at Amazon and is called The Courage to Ask.

What’s happening in your industry? We’d like to hear your Point of View.

Posted in The world @work

Bridging the digital talent gap

In Digital we are nail-bitingly aware of an increasing labour-hire shortage in Australia. Yet, at a time when university graduates are fiercely competing to secure their first jobs, a wide discrepancy exists between the digital expertise needed by companies and the digital talent available.

In a survey of nearly 750 Fortune 500 ad agency execs conducted by The Online Marketing Institute, The State of Digital Marketing Talent, the results are revealing. There appears to be a wide gap between the digital marketing expertise required by organisations and the talent actually available to them, at every level. When quizzed about their digital marketing teams, company execs say only 8% are strong across all digital areas. That might seem a great opportunity for recent university graduates looking for work. But buyer beware: 70% of respondents say young hires expect to be promoted or elevated to higher-level positions before proving themselves.

The need for digital talent is widespread. Companies have trouble finding talent because of subjectivity in hiring and the lingering effects of the GFC. More than one-third of all respondents haven’t hired in the past year because they can’t work out who to go to for talent. Almost a quarter of the respondents haven’t hired in the past year due to a lack of funds. 54% of marketing and agency respondents have trouble distinguishing between candidates with the right skills and those without.

Companies across the board are unhappy with their own level of training and assessment. Across brands and agencies alike, there’s insufficient focus on grooming talent, training and formally assessing skills with 75% relying on referrals from their peers to meet their hiring needs. There are talent gaps in all areas, with the biggest gap in analytics. Just 10% of respondents use some form of testing to measure employee’s skills or knowledge.

As a digital recruitment specialist, I assess candidate expertise through analysis of competency-based skills prior to presenting any shortlist. My clients receive detailed reports on candidate capabilities, highlighting their development areas upfront prior to hiring. Practical work sample assessments give candidates an opportunity to distinguish themselves from the competition, as well as some insight as to what may be involved in the job itself, allowing them to make a more informed decision about the role.

History of placements proves this is a critical step in the recruitment process to ensure a higher ‘stick rate’. Let’s also not overlook the importance of cultural fit: a qualified candidate may or may not succeed – it really depends on both parties. We will never obtain, nor should we look to acquire, a glove fit: 100% role fit leaves no room to grow, to be challenged or motivated.

Bridging the digital talent gap is simple: spend the time to create bespoke digital assessments that involve practical examples during the recruitment process, but don’t stop there. Continue to invest in your digital team through appropriate training and coaching, plan for career progression and be flexible about sourcing talented people from outside traditional channels.

Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

How’s a senator to banter with a union leader?

I was staggered this week when I heard that Adam Bandt, Greens Deputy Leader and Federal Member for Melbourne, was calling for the head of Paul Howes, the Leader of the AWU. Howes stated publicly that some industry workers were ahead of the game in wage negotiations and needed to be pulled back into line.

As Peter Reith was quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald, “Howes is a union boss with ambitions and a mainstream strategy that could take him a long way.” It’s been a long time since the Unions called for a grand compact between Unions, Business and Government, and not since the Lindsay Fox Martin Ferguson jobs road show a decade ago have I seen ‘the greater good’ get ahead of political partisanship.

It seems Bandt himself might be the one needing to be pulled back into line.

For once someone on the unions’ ‘side of the fence’ has come up with an eminently reasonable and logical suggestion, only to be pooh-poohed by one of our so-called Federal Government leaders who clearly cannot see that this country is going backwards at a rapid rate of knots from a competitive point of view.

Petty points scoring to get some headline space never works out well in the long run.

I didn’t agree with everything Howes had to say on the subject either, and the accord he mooted is unlikely to get up. But at least he can see the wood for the trees, and is suggesting something constructive.

I tear my rapidly thinning hair out when I listen to or read about some of the things going on in politics – and the suggestion that Howes resign was way over the top from a politician representing an under-employed electorate.

Read more

What’s your Point of View?

Posted in The world @work

Are we at war in our workplaces?

I can see what successive governments and unions have been attempting to do with the evolving workplace IR laws. They’re designed for an aspirational nirvana workplace where everyone loves work, deals fairly in all situations and glistens with uber-productivity, all the time.

Sadly, that just isn’t reality. Human beings are emotional, have complex needs and desires, aren’t all blessed with super EQ let alone IQ, and some are just plain old mercurial fibbers. And that goes for managers and employees.

The tragedy is that the constant wave of ‘latest’ IR laws result in practices counter to their intent.

Yesterday, a super six page conference program landed on my desk. Its focus: New IR Laws for HR Managers – Managing Your Workplace for Compliance with the Latest IR Laws. The contents, set to pit ‘them’ vs ‘us’, send shivers down your spine. It’s the most defensive line up of subjects imaginable. Look at these topics:

  • The Perfect Disciplinary Process
  • Achieving Zero Tolerance in Workplace Bullying
  • Adverse Action Claims – How recent case decisions change the dynamics
  • Sham Contracting Arrangements – Fair Work protections and penalties
  • Employment Contracts 2014 Update – Implied term of mutual trust and confidence; Breach of company policies

It looks to me as if we’re at war in our workplaces? The bosses are the enemy and the workers a threat. What’s happened here?

A dinner conversation late last year confirmed it for me. A true gentleman and longstanding employer of some 40 people had to whittle those employee numbers down to 20 during the GFC. His business is now down to 14 staff and he has promised himself he’ll never employ more than 15 people because the headaches that come with HR management and compliance with IR are more than he cares to go to sleep with.

Everyone is now protecting their butts. Is that good for workplaces? For growing businesses? For government? For the economy? For Australia?

But it’s beyond me about how we might now shift our thinking, language and the systemic conventions now in place.

What’s your Point of View?

Posted in The world @work