Monthly Archives: December 2015

Still just a country boy

Which recruitment executives have inspired you on a professional level? Recently industry news site Shortlist asked me to nominate them. Recruitment blogger Ross Clennett also devoted several articles this year to the subject, including What You May Not Know About Recruitment’s Top 16 InfluencersThe 5 Most Influential People in the Recruitment Industry in past 60 years (has it been that long?), and a who’s who of the 15 most influential people in the industry.

Common traits amongst those nominated at the top of Clennett’s lists (John Plummer, Greg Savage, Geoff Morgan & Andrew Banks, Julia Ross – and somehow I squeezed in there too) are the ability to build businesses, develop people, contribute to enhancing the industry and a vision for the future. Those same qualities I’ve observed in industry leaders in every sector, which as Clennett says, have all been recognised by their peers as “individuals that have significantly shaped our industry for the better”.

About 50 years ago, I knew nothing about recruitment. I was a country boy who started my career in an HR role at a global construction business at age 19. Then in the late 1960s I was bold (read lucky) enough to start-up a recruitment business, GW Slade and Associates, with some help in the form of a loan from my parents. This later became Slade Consulting Group and was sold in 1988 – with offices in all major cities in Australia and New Zealand. Fast forward a couple of decades, Slade Group began in 1991.

Many of today’s leaders were highly active members of our industry associations. Before the days of the Recruitment and Consulting Services Association (RCSA), there was the National Association of Personnel Consultants (NACP) and the Institute of Personnel Consultants (IPC), which I was heavily involved with. We later merged the two together with the appointment of Julie Mills (now at ITCRA – the Australian and New Zealand Information Technology Contract & Recruitment Association), who was fundamental in pulling it all together. I was the founding chairman of the RCSA and later its President. It was a fairly interesting time because not everyone was keen on the merger. Julie spent many years as the executive director of the RCSA, and I think without her, the industry wouldn’t be in such a strong position as it is today.

People like the aforementioned were all inspirational in one way or another. Greg Fish was an outstanding young man too who unfortunately never got to 40, but he was also an inspiration.

I’m lucky to have worked with a number of inspirational women, not the least of whom is my wife, Anita Ziemer. Certainly some of these are Louise Craw, who managed Slade Group’s Professional Support business for some 27 years and Nanette Carroll, who actually bought part of the Slade business after Blue Arrow (a UK listed Group who bought my original company) pulled out of Australia. Nanette was awarded Telstra Businesswoman of the Year in 1996. In our current business Maria Cenic, our GM Finance & Shared Services who has been with us for well over 10 years, keeps the ship on course and trims the sails appropriate to the forecast.

Work and accolades aside, I grew up in Bittern on the Western Port side of the Mornington Peninsula and still spend most weekends in the region. I’d say I’m still just a country boy.

Which executives have inspired you on a professional level in your industry?

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Waving the Magic Wand

“If I could wave a magic wand to create a perfect career opportunity for you, what would it look like?” It’s a great question, isn’t it? A former colleague of mine used it in all her hiring interviews.

Open ended questions literally allow people to open up. You bring out a range of answers, which can sometimes be quite surprising. In recruitment, typical responses are: job stability, career progression, management style and company culture. Very rarely does money come up in this conversation.

One of the best responses that I have had in a job interview was from a return to work Mum who had applied for a full-time Sales Rep position in the Architecture & Design market – a role notoriously difficult to recruit for.  I asked her a magic wand question, only to discover that all she really wanted was flexibility. Her ideal wish? To divide three days in the office and on the road, then spend two days working from home, which would help achieve a balanced life with her little one.

We discussed the mutual benefits of a flexible approach and I presented this working arrangement to the prospective employer. My client was open to the concept, my candidate secured the role and now two years later, she has readjusted her schedule (how fast life changes!) to work four days a week and continues to exceed her targets.

If I had never asked my candidate an open question, I would never had known which options to explore with my client. Using open questions in interviews or even business in general, opens up opportunities to explore others’ needs when they may not otherwise be obvious.

As a recruiter I find it’s valuable to ask my candidates about their aspirations, rather than just look at their past experience and make an assumption. You get so much more insight about a person’s genuine motivators.

If you get a magic wand question and an answer doesn’t immediately come to mind, just respond with a smile and take it on notice: “That’s a really good question.” You’ve kept the option to explore it further during the conversation and can continue in a non-confrontational way.

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Transitioning from Executive to the Boardroom – 6 key factors to consider

In my regular meetings with business leaders from the financial services sector, we nearly always discuss their ongoing challenges for the recruitment and retention of key staff. In this context it can seem inappropriate to discuss their own career plans in the same conversation, especially if it means leaving their current employer.

So, when I invited those same executives to discuss adding ‘Board Director’ to their career accomplishments at a Slade Executive Boardroom Lunch, I wasn’t surprised that spaces at the table filled quickly.

Led by experienced Director and Boardroom consultant, Nicholas Barnett, we discussed Australian boardrooms now and moving into the future.

While Boards are still heavily populated with older white males who have been approached directly through their own network, we are definitely seeing changes to this long established practice. More progressive Boards are recognising the value of greater diversity amongst Directors, challenging gender, generational and sociocultural norms. Nor are successful companies promoting diversity simply to achieve compliance or a feel good factor. Numerous studies have shown that best results are achieved where there is greater diversity in the Board of Directors and Executive team. The Australian Institute of Company Directors publishes regular research and reports on board diversity.

Board recruitment processes are changing too. Nicholas, through his company InSync, is regularly being engaged by Board Chairs to undertake Board reviews to identify strengths and capability gaps. From these reviews new Directors are being appointed. Yes, the traditional networks are still prevalent, however, we’re encouraged to see that the trend towards a structured and independent recruitment process for Board positions, facilitated by engaging external consultants such as an Executive Search firm, is becoming standard practice.

If you’re considering adding a board role to your executive responsibilities or transitioning your career to the Boardroom, here are the key factors to consider:

 

  • Board positions are highly competitive. According to Nicholas, the number of people interested in joining a Board has increased significantly, whilst the number of roles has remained largely unchanged over the last ten years. Therefore, you must be able to articulate what you can bring to the Boardroom and how you can make a positive contribution.

 

 

  • As in any role you’ve had in your career, you will be more engaged within an industry or company that you are passionate about. Your network or an Executive Search consultant can help you to identify suitable organisations that align with your interests, as well as your knowledge and experience.

 

 

  • Do your due diligence. You want to be part of an effective Board, and Boardroom culture is often set by the Chairperson. Insist on meeting other directors, as well as the Chair, to evaluate whether others are engaged.

 

 

  • A Board position involves a significant time commitment – can you fit it in with your other responsibilities?

 

 

  • If it’s your first time looking for a Board role, consider Not-For-Profits or unpaid roles, keeping in mind that many NFPs have high profile Board members who have a number of Directorships. Over time, opportunities to be considered for Corporate Board positions may present through this wider network.

 

 

  • Don’t leave it until you are at the end of your executive career. Consider your first Board appointment in parallel with your current role to see if it’s really for you. While establishing a track record as a Director, you’ll build a network of fellow Directors, which can lead to a growing portfolio of Directorships as you wind down your executive career.

 

What are your key considerations for a boardroom position?

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