Monthly Archives: April 2015

Digital skills fall short

Australia is facing a major digital skills-shortage.

A new study suggests Australian employers are under-investing in the skills development of current employees, as well as struggling to find new digital talent. With the growing importance of digital in today’s business landscape, a lag in digital expertise in Australia is a major concern – one that has the potential to hinder the ability for growth and innovation.

First alert of a digital skills shortfall, highlighted in Quizzed About Digital on The Slade Report, came when we reported the findings of a US survey of 750 Fortune 500 and ad agency execs, The State of Digital Marketing Talent conducted by The Online Marketing Institute. The US report found that when asked about the expertise in their digital teams, company executives revealed that only 8% were strong across all digital areas.

Commissioned in response to the US study, The Australian Digital Skills and Salary Survey, undertaken by Sweeney Research for the Slade Group Digital Practice and NET:101, was conducted across 150 small to large Australian businesses from a range of sectors.

We know the need for digital talent in Australia is widespread. Now it’s revealed that Australian companies find it difficult to identify and develop talent because of both subjectivity in the hiring process and the lack of on-going training and development.

So how did we compare with the US? Amongst brands and agencies alike, there appears to be insufficient focus on grooming talent, training and formally assessing skills. In the US study 75% of companies relied on referrals from their peers to meet their hiring needs. Comparatively, in Australia only 66% of respondents relied on employee referrals. Considering formal assessment during the recruitment process, just 10% of US respondents used some form of testing to measure employee’s skills or knowledge, compared to Australia’s marginally improved 12%.

The study also reveals leading companies digitise more business practices and processes. Therefore, opportunities for investment in digital specific skill-based assessment and training represent a significant opportunity for external providers to provide high-level education to the workforce.

Other key survey findings were:

  • A quarter of the businesses surveyed found it difficult to source digital employees because they thought not enough talent was available (25%); they could not compete with high salaries offered elsewhere (22%); or they lacked the funds and specialist recruitment expertise to source the right candidate (18%).
  • Just over 30% of respondents had brought in digital staff from overseas and would do so again, despite higher costs associated with sponsorship and relocation. Another 26% would consider it.
  • Over half (56%) of businesses surveyed anticipated hiring more digital specialists over the coming 12 months.
  • Whilst over two thirds of respondents said it was critical that new employees were able to demonstrate digital expertise, only 12% conducted internal or external testing during recruiting.
  • Only 9% thought recent university graduates were equipped to undertake digital role requirements.
  • 80% of managers described staff as being weak in some or several areas of digital expertise; 70% thought a digital skills gap was taking a moderate or heavy toll on their business.
  • Mobile devices took over PCs for the first time in 20141, but only 9% of organisations believed they were ahead of the competition in mobile/SMS marketing today.
  • 98% of respondents thought it was important to continually train their digital staff, yet over 60% relied on employee feedback and ‘observation’ to identify areas requiring development.
  • Respondents believed that 40% of senior managers in their organisations had ‘only a moderate understanding of the importance of digital skills’ while 20% had ‘little understanding’ at all.

The majority of comments that emerged from the survey focused on the urgent need for increased staff training, however the skills gap is magnified by the inability of businesses to source the talent they need from the talent pool. Alarmingly, very few in industry currently use digital skills assessments as part of the recruitment process and on-going training, leading to the downward spiral of digital skills.

High competition for good digital professionals has seen 22% of respondents indicate that they unable to compete with the cash incentives of larger companies – they’re missing out on talent as a result. A quarter (25%) believe there is not enough experience and skill in the market, and 18% feel they are not equipped with the expertise to find the right candidate. Australian organisations should heed these figures; there is an opportunity for talent finders.

If you would like to receive a copy of the full survey report, please contact Slade Executive Recruitment on (03) 9235 5100.

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

Snakes and Ladders or Game of Thrones?

As significant as the Iron Age and the Industrial Revolution, the Technology Age has heralded complexities into business environments. Likewise the emergence of new management disciplines, constantly evolving business models and other destabilising challenges to the status quo could be forgiven for having fostered a generation of conservative leaders preoccupied with maintaining a semblance of business as usual, and a justifiable obsession with risk management and control.

Is the traditional leadership model and its hierarchical organisation chart still relevant? While plotting a course for the future, most organisations are preparing for a highly evolved leadership model. The next generation of leaders were exposed to technology when it was reborn as a great business enabler.

Traditional command and control leadership certainly puts on a good show, but to be effective in modern times leaders must continue to evolve. They must have exceptional people management skills, often gained from highly individualised coaching and mentoring. They favour outcomes-based communications and team-based performance, with decision-making informed by data analytics and business intelligence – structures that are embedded in contemporary business practice.

Our next leaders, however, like those greats of the past such as Julius Caesar or Abraham Lincoln, will be far more visible in the community, have a bigger profile inside and seek greater exposure outside the organisation. They will embrace communications technology considered ‘disruptive’ by their predecessors, such as cloud-based solutions, mobile technology and social media, as effective means for targeting both broad and specific audiences. A new set of competencies will accompany this need breed of business leaders and those of us involved in executive search are already working with leading organisations to define them.

Furthermore, our future leaders will rely less on external parties for strategy. For executives, understanding the constantly changing nature of the role and responsibilities as part of the leadership team, will be as equally important as encouraging the development of new talent and opportunities.

No matter how you roll the die, culture continues to dominate the leadership discussion. The greatest challenge (and opportunity) for management in the twenty-first century, cultural fit is in the DNA of the organisation. In our TRANSEARCH Executive Search practice we see the acquisition of talent becoming more and more competitive every day. Those with leadership talent need to engage with an organisation’s culture to give purpose to its activity. Dynamic future leaders will in turn, attract others like them to the organisation. A recognition system (not Knights and Dames) that encourages collaboration and knowledge transfer may just prevent them sliding back down the corporate ladder.

Does your organisation have the ‘right’ future leaders? Is your leadership team driving holistic company performance?

Featured image: Knight and Horse by Hartwig HKD, Creative Commons licence and copyright

Posted in The world @work

Shooting myself in the foot

I have a big birthday coming up and it’s not my 50th.  Well and truly a Baby Boomer, the world @work in 2020 is not going to feature me because the immediate future lies with Gen X. I’ve got five Gen Xers leading our individual business units and they run rings around me. But that’s not my dilemma.

My dilemma is the dilemma of clients voiced weekly. ‘We need a changing of the guard, we want the next generation to lead the organisation in complex times. We don’t want to discriminate on age but ideally our future leader is younger not older’.

Where are you Gen X? We know from researching CEO appointments going back decades that the most common age bracket for appointed CEOs is 38 – 48 years of age. Ten years ago, these were today’s Baby Boomers. But today this bracket of senior leaders is missing in action and Slade Group is finding it much harder to identify more than one or two Gen Xers in any CEO shortlist.

I’m waiting to hear the Gen X Ambulance riding through the streets crowded with Baby Boomer leaders, sirens wailing ‘stand aside, stand aside and at least offer me the opportunity to take a single point of responsibility and accountability for one major piece of the organisation so that I’m CEO-ready when the call comes’.

Posted in The world @work

Selling your authentic self

Does authenticity equal results?

I was recently invited to two events – sales presentations by experts in their fields. One presenter was American, the other an Australian. I decided to attend both speakers as I thought it would be interesting to hear the contrasts in the sales approach from an American to an Australian.

Ari Galper is an engaging American speaker who promised to “unlock the sales game”, whilst Naomi Simson is a successful Australian online entrepreneur who is passionate and truly believes in “live what you love.”

Both were busy promoting their new books, and as different as their approaches appeared, “authenticity” was the common link.

Let me start with Ari Galper and share a little of what I got out of his talk.

As a consultant, my goal is to discover whether a prospective client will be a good fit for a long-term partnership and likewise, whether a candidate is a good match for an organisation. “Stop the sales pitch and start a conversation,” Ari said. When you’re stuck in a sales mentality, you’re constantly chasing people. Developing trust amongst your network is a better way to grow business.

Think about sales calls. Customers avoid them like the plague. Whether you’re a wine club, have a credit card offer, or promise washboard abs – unless it’s a product or service we have an immediate need for, we’re often forced to tell white lies to avoid the embarrassment of not buying into the sale.

What about the equally dreaded promise of a ‘follow-up’ call? Ari’s empathic: Remove that phrase from your vocabulary. Change your language, ask for feedback instead. This sets the tone for continuing dialogue, a follow-up without pressure. It also helps customers to reassure them that you can handle rejection. “Take care of people and business will take care of itself” is Ari’s motto. I’ve taken it to heart and I think the speaker at the second event would agree.

Online Entrepreneur Naomi Simson borrowed $25,000 to start her business. When she launched Red Balloon, it was a dreadful website (even by her own admission). Hard to believe, considering she is now an expert in online marketing.

I first met Naomi years ago when Red Balloon was in its infancy and it was great seeing her again after all these years and seeing how successful she has become. Nevertheless, she is cautious about being labelled. “Success means something different to everyone,” she said, “so don’t compare yourself to others.”

Naomi’s wisdom and honest natural style is evident in the way she presents. Her blogs have genuine passion for her subject matter, “to be driven by passion is more likely to bring success than to be driven with no passion”, which flows through to her approach to business. Naomi’s an influencer on LinkedIn and also stars on Shark Tank. If you love what you do, you will experience success because you see it as possible – on the way and not in the way!

If there were an Oprah Winfrey moment at either event, it would be something like… Hey, c’mon guys, we know this stuff!

Which brings me back to being your authentic self. Is it compatible with business? Well, let’s face it. A deal done well involves a true connection. There’s trust between the parties that each will deliver on their promise. Changing the way you sell yourself allows you to be in control of your part. Partnering with someone with similar goals, regardless of their style, presentation or background will achieve that result.

What have you achieved by being authentic @work?

Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

Who said the young are apathetic?

A certain Miss Tatiana Farley, 24 years of age, resident in Sydney, previously of Melbourne, sends out a Thought of The Day by 9.00am every day; a virtual early morning gift to nearly 1000 recipients. Some are straight up hilarious: “If you want to really know someone before you marry, set them in front of a computer with a very S L O W internet connection.”

Others are poignant and some are classic pearls of wisdom.

One in particular came through this week that showed how insightful and connected this group of early career, just out of university graduates really are. Inviting comments from her network, Tatiana posted the following:

“Today’s Thought of the Day comes courtesy of Matilda Hay who felt it was pertinent to Australia’s current political climate / life in general…”

“If you want to be popular all the time, you will misgovern.”
– Lee Kuan Yew

(Lee Kuan Yew, GCMG, CH, commonly known by his initials LKY, was the first Prime Minister of Singapore, governing for three decades. He chose to step down in 1990 to ensure a stable leadership renewal.)

It’s exciting to think that coming through our doors for interview, being hired by us and our clients, are a bunch of ‘kids’ who may well watch Housewives of LA and follow Kim Kardashian on a slow Sunday afternoon, but are politically astute, open to voicing their observations and interested in both current affairs and the lessons of the past.

Bring them on!

Posted in The world @work