Monthly Archives: January 2015

Off Balance. On Integration.

WORK life integration. Instead of trying to balance the two separate spheres in our lives, our professional and personal lives are now deeply personal and inextricably linked – and we want to see value in all we do. Organisations aware of this can focus on creating a more conscious culture.

When I returned to the Slade offices in January, our new agile workspace beckoned. Bright, white and light, the choices were endless – was it a window seat, cosy corner or lounge chair today? Walking past our lockers now housing our precious belongings that no longer took pride of place on the desk, and with my cloud-based Chromebook in hand, I had a moment to reflect on this time last year: the rigidity of our office environment had dramatically changed and no one was watching the clock.

The advent of technology and more flexible working arrangements has highlighted that the bricks and mortar of traditional workplaces are no longer required for people to do their jobs effectively in our hyper-connected world. Whilst the office environs at Slade had changed, what hadn’t changed was the focus on creating a positive, friendly, empowering and supportive culture that leads to productivity and high performance.

The mood was set on day one. Geoff Slade, Chairman and Founder of Slade Group, called a company-wide meeting inviting all of us to see the New Year as a fresh start. “Our relationship with our customers is formed strongly on trust; an ideal that is fortunately consistent with our family owned business. The key point here is that we need to focus on creativity. We need to be creative in adapting to changes in our industry.” He spoke of the importance of creating that enviable culture, but swiftly reminded us to focus on business development, delivery and customer service which is key to our business, “You need to be clear about the market you are in and what you know about it.”

This is no different to the way our clients are viewing culture in their workplaces. Cultural fit and character are now taking the front seat for employers when assessing potential candidates, with many adopting the ‘hire character, train skill’ approach. With Millennials and Baby Boomers working alongside each other, making sure there is strong alignment to the values and vision of the company is critical in bridging that generation gap in today’s diverse workforce.

The importance of getting the culture right, was highlighted in recent articles published on The Slade Report Work is a thing we do, not a place we go and We’re curious: What’s your experience with Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) and Hot Desking, where readers agreed moving to an agile environment was beneficial provided key rules were followed. One Slade Report reader stated “I am a big believer in agile work practices and the benefit they provide employees and businesses alike. We recently undertook a similar process… We transformed our 450 person traditional office space to an agile hot-desking environment with great success.” The reader goes on to describe how they made it happen in five simple points:

  1. Redesigning our office space to drive what we do, not where we sit.
  2. Introducing and encouraging flexible working patterns that gives us more control over the way we work.
  3. Ensuring our IT tools improve communication and collaboration.
  4. Maintaining a greater focus on measuring performance by outcomes.
  5. Facilitating a process of culture change across the organisation which was in line with our cultural statement – this included significant employee and leader training particularly around the notion of presentee-ism and managing performance by outcomes.

Olivia Holmes, HR Business Partner, M&K Lawyers

Certainly Geoff’s aim when he addressed our team was to ensure that Slade’s world @work means continued respect to engagement, trust, flexibility and productivity – all underpinned by that elusive, enviable culture. Slade Group Executive Director, Anita Ziemer, agrees the changes are positive: “We already have a range of different employee arrangements, and yet time related language, as in full-time and part-time seems to be old school and unrelated to productivity, culture and performance. So agile seems much more appropriate offering the flexibility we’re seeking in managing our professional and personal lives.”

What Anita is describing is a culture term we will definitely be hearing more of in 2015: work life integration.

What is your view?

Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

Who dares an open conversation?

Some folks are scared to ask the next question. The one that drills down just that bit further. I’m passing on the essence of an article I had considerable empathy with, by Belgian management consultant John Niland.

“It takes both courage and energy to have real conversations: to ask questions, to state what we are OK with… or not OK with. Dialogue can be a thrilling adventure or a tedious necessity. Whether the conversation is with a client, a partner, a friend or a colleague, our conversation can be a window or a wall.

Such conversations win credibility when conducted with calm respect. All too often, alas, they land as whining complaint, neediness or anxious self-preoccupation. A lot depends on how the conversation begins, as well as the language and tone used. Even more depends on the mindset of the initiator: are you seeking an ideal outcome for your client/team or simply pursuing your own convenience? Are you being heard? As we arrive at the mid-point of the decade, are you having the conversations with clients, colleagues and friends that you want to be having?

Courageous conversations win respect. When conducted with an attitude of value, initiated at an appropriate time and followed-up reliably, conversations distinguish a professional. January has started with a week of great conversations, resulting in a strong sense of purpose for the year ahead. How is 2015 opening for you?

A new year is an opportunity for new dialogue. It’s an opportunity to assert where we stand, what we are willing to do and also what we are not willing to do. Here are some of the sentences that I found myself using over the last week:

Before we spend time on this, can I ask a couple of questions first?

Of all of these objectives, which are most important to you?

I’m feeling somewhat frustrated that…

No, I wouldn’t be happy with that.

Who defined these priorities?”

Let me know how it goes for you in 2015 when you find the courage to ask the next question.

Posted in The world @work

Fireworks to really light up the joint

Back in Bittern when I was growing up, penny bungers were the fireworks of choice on New Year’s Eve. I had more fun setting off and running away from my small stash of crackers than being a passive spectator to the brilliance of News Year’s Eves at Times Square and on Sydney Harbour.

So, welcome in 2015 and here’s my fuse – can someone light the match?

Sometimes you need to completely change the existing state of affairs, and in Australia right now, one of those affairs are our Labour Laws. Not the efforts against bullying, harassment and improvements in safe workplaces, but our minimum wage conditions and penalty rates.

What’s the worst thing that could happen if we took just one State and made it the ‘test case’ for re-jigging wage conditions? I’m nominating South Australia. Why? Because if you’re up the creek without a paddle, you might as well install a propeller.

South Australia might just make for brilliant laboratory conditions: The suburb of Elizabeth in Adelaide has the highest inner-city jobless rate in Australia with 32.4 per cent of locals unemployed. Overall ABS youth unemployment is at 15% and I’m suggesting there is some smoke and mirrors in that number. Holden is pulling out in 2017, Mitsubishi withdrew in 2008, the naval shipbuilding industry is under threat, BHP has put a hold on Olympic Dam. It seems hope may well be missing in action.

Would the Federal Government in cahoots with the South Australian Government be prepared to run a 12 month trial whereby enterprises would be encouraged to trial labour hungry ventures with the lure of lower minimum wage? Of course I haven’t had the actuaries run the numbers or the analysts model the outcomes, but what if…

…the minimum wage wasn’t $640.90/week but $450.00/week, the minimum hourly rate wasn’t $16.87/hour but $10.00/hour? South Australia has lower cost of housing, lower rentals and lower overall cost of living. Work is about so much more than money. It’s about giving people a purpose, it’s about learning how groups of people can collaborate for a better results, it’s a reason to get out of bed in the morning, about building self-esteem through a sense of achievement. It’s having a sense that you’re part of a high functioning community. That’s just on the employee side of the balance sheet.

On the employer side, South Australia should attract offshoots of interstate businesses, it would lure start-ups, it would encourage further intake of job numbers, it would enable more expenditure on training and development.

What more could South Australia lose? And maybe the rest of Australia could learn something too.

As Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” I’m passionate about work, and I feel everyone should have the privilege of working.

What’s your point of view?

Posted in The world @work