Blog Archives

A President, a CEO and a journalist were in a room together…

On the last Wednesday in August, Slade Group hosted its annual Footy Lunch. As usual there were meaty titbits from Caroline Wilson and plenty of differences of opinions about teams most likely, players least likely and coaches unlikely.

As MC, Laurie Serafini fuelled some good natured debate, but when it came to matters of football governance, the guest speakers were in heated agreement. This year’s panel comprised Caroline Wilson, Chief Football writer for The Age, radio and TV commentator, and Walkley Award winning journalist; Peggy O’Neal, Richmond Club President; and David Stevenson, the Western Bulldogs’ newly appointed CEO.

It didn’t take long for the audience of senior business leaders to join the dots: the best performing football clubs are no different from the best performing organisations.

Just like non-sporting organisations, AFL clubs are taking a good hard look at themselves.

  • The panel sent packing the idea that old football stars make the best coaches. Plenty of us in business have found that star performers in the field or on the floor don’t necessarily make the best leaders and managers.
  • The panel laid down the fact that gender diversity leads to better performance – in clubs and non-sporting organisations alike. Taking the lead from David Stevenson, ex Senior Nike Executive now boss of the Bulldogs, there were some sighs from both men and women in the audience when David said he couldn’t believe, on returning to Australia, that gender inequity is still so evident Down Under.
  • And whilst there aren’t any teams with elephant or gazelle mascots, it’s these two animals that are often cited as being reflective of the two ends of the corporate spectrum; large global giants and smaller nimble organisations. There is a prevailing view that perhaps AFL House has become a bit of a lumbering elephant, whereas AFL clubs are responding to new ways of thinking much more quickly than the ‘parent company’ and in turn have much closer community alignment.

Our panel concluded the clubs are better champions for change than the AFL itself on a range of current issues. It seems the gazelle has trumped the elephant and those old bulls are a little slow when it comes to learning new tricks.

That’s our world@sport this week. What are the similarities and differences you see?  We’d love to hear.

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A call out to all the great Union Leaders! Who are you? Where are you?

In the June 20 edition of the UK Financial Times I read the third article that week covering the plight of Uber drivers. No one knows how their new ‘co-dependent employee’ label came about, but travelling across the US, UK and Europe, I could see a clearly accelerating legal discourse on the impact of the shared economy on the labour market. A week earlier, the plight of Silicon Valley wunderkinds and their concerns about being pawns in a race to the top between their masterful employers was all over the US media.

In contrast, the week I got back to Australia, Kathy Jackson and her blatant rorting of the Health Services Union was front and centre of the news.

What an extraordinary contrast in focus. The realities facing the new labour market vs the archaic model of traditional union operations.

We’re undoubtedly grateful for the past hardships endured by workers in their battles for better conditions and for the legacy value that Unions negotiated on our behalf such as the 8 hour work day. But where is the leadership thinking in Unions today?

The market is seemingly light years ahead and has left them behind. And what informs the union leadership of today? In fact, what is the profile of professionals employed by the unions? Where are the Bob Hawkes, the Rhodes scholars, the best and the brightest? Or is the fast pace of industry in this new century just so much more tantalising than old school union organisations? And given that the union movement has traditionally offered a vital pool of talent for future ALP candidates, what does that say about the forthcoming political talent on the left?

Step up union leaders! Re-create your relevance in a shared economy. The world has changed and so has the agile, flexible and fluid expectations of a large share of the labour market. Smart organisations and their employees, the strategists, academics, scientists, technology experts and educationalists are recreating the future world of work.

Are unions futilely fighting a rising tide, or can they spot a good swell and redirect their efforts in order to be relevant in the rapidly changing world of work?

What’s your view of unions in our present world@work?

Featured image: Vintage Tobacciana Advertising – Union Leader Smoking Tobacco by Joe Haupt, Creative Commons licence and copyright

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9 chilling facts about your workplace and this digital economy

You’re not alone – we’re all alert and slightly alarmed. Just take a look at the summary findings from The Australian Digital Skills and Salary Survey 2015, and our original article below.

Where digital skills fall short:

  • 80% of managers describe staff as being weak in some or several areas of digital expertise; 70% believe a digital skills gap is taking a moderate or heavy toll on their business.
  • Even though over two thirds of respondents say it’s critical that new employees are able to demonstrate digital expertise, only 12% conduct internal or external testing during recruiting.
  • Only 9% think recent university graduates are equipped to undertake digital role requirements.
  • A quarter (25%) of the 150 businesses surveyed find it difficult to source digital employees because they believe not enough talent is available.
  • Respondents believe that 40% of senior managers in their organisations have ‘only a moderate understanding of the importance of digital skills’ while 20% had ‘little understanding’ at all.
  • Over 30% of respondents have brought in digital staff from overseas and will do so again, despite higher costs associated with sponsorship and relocation. Another 26% will consider it.
  • Over half (56%) of businesses surveyed anticipated hiring more digital specialists over the coming 12 months.
  • Mobile devices took over PCs for the first time in 20141, but only 9% of organisations believe they are ahead of the competition in mobile/SMS marketing today.
  • 98% of respondents feel it’s important to continually train their digital staff, yet over 60% rely on employee feedback and ‘observation’ to identify areas requiring development.

Since last month when we reported Digital Skills Fall Short the news media is all over it too.

We’ve linked the current commentary for your interest:

What are implications for us in the new digital economy, if “Australian businesses lag behind US and UK in competitive digital skills,” as International Business Times says? Locally, a skills crunch is a threat. It’s confirmed by a report in The Australian. And addressing that skills gap will be a challenge.

We’re not making it easy for ourselves either. CMO Magazine highlights a common conundrum: “Australian employers under-invest in skill development even as they struggle to find talent.”

The recruitment and training industries concur. According to training.com.au, “Australian businesses are struggling to match digital business needs with adequately skilled employees.”

Shortlist observes it’s “funding issues, not skills shortages”, which “stymie digital recruitment”, endorsing our prediction that the demand for digitally savvy executives will grow.

For a full copy of the report, please contact Slade Executive Recruitment on +613 9235 5100.

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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

We rate hotels, restaurants and airlines. Why not our office towers?

Would it strike fear into the heart of developers and employers if we publicly rated the work spaces in which we spend so many waking hours? Rate My Office comes up with an architect’s survey form, but it doesn’t ask you to name your floor, your building or your city. Why not?

We’re not insisting on working in some Architectural Digest-worthy cool as Corbusier office, but let’s make a stand for a little more respect and improvement in work environments. Imagine a rating standard for the commercial building industry that’s more than energy efficiency related. What would you rate and how would you rate your office experience?

I’ve heard that a scathing restaurant review can bring down a chef, an entrepreneur and a charlatan in a single post. How would you rate your office building?

My rating systems would start off with something like this:

Lifts/Stairs
Are you able to access the fire stairs if you want to exercise, rather than take the lifts? Are the lifts smart lifts so you don’t have to waste time stopping at all floors?

Lobby
Are you proud to meet guests in the lobby?

Windows
Is there plenty of natural light and can you open a window?

En Plein Air
Is there a balcony/terrace/outdoor/green space you can easily access?

Noise
Is there good sound insulation for ambient noise inside and outside?

Accessibility
Easy access to public transport, ample car parking and disability access? Can you get out of hours access?

Green Space
Is there any green space in, above, surrounding, in view or nearby?

Green
Is the power generated by green energy or is it coal fired? Can different offices separate out their power usage? For example as I sit at my desk in my office on a Saturday, I notice the whole building’s air-conditioning is on. I certainly didn’t turn it on and I haven’t seen anyone else come or go. Can you open a window? Can you sit at your desk with natural light or do you have to turn on the power?

Services
Do you have concierge services such as dry cleaning, parcel drops offs, postage, food and beverage.

Lavatories
Are they clean, well maintained, well lit and safe?

Cleaning
Are the external windows regularly cleaned? Are the cleaning contractors paid award wages, are they the best providers? Are the common areas polished and well maintained?

Landlords
How would you rate the landlord or agent?

I’ll make a start.

Level 7, 15 William St Melbourne
On the tick side: good lobby, good access to services, disability access, reasonably green, clean lavatories, close by public transport, and good light. On the down-side: can’t use the fire stairs for everyday access, can’t open a window, there’s no green terrace or outdoor sunny spot.

Score out of 10? Probably 8.

If this worked, the army of Davids could outfox the Goliaths. The pressure placed on developers and building owners to meet the demands of tenants and employees, employers and office buyers would make for a better working environment.

Featured image: HOK/Vanderweil Process Zero Concept Building

Posted in The world @work

I feel like singing from the roof top!

It’s interesting for an organisation to articulate its unique culture values. And it’s always a bit of argy bargy to settle on just four ‘cultural values’, or in plain English “the way we do things around here”.

Let me recall a planning meeting some eight years ago, and then you’ll understand why reading Lucy Kellaway’s article in the Financial Review on 14th October, made my day.

A dozen of us were moving picture cards around a boardroom table in a ‘Values and Attributes’ session. You know the drill, you whittle down 50 choices to twenty, ten then just four. Between ten and four, I retired hurt because I couldn’t get up the one critical value that I felt covered so many bases for this particular organisation. Clearly my persuasion and negotiation skills had failed me, and I also recognised that ‘Values’ (not in the general vernacular or in HR speak) are far less likely to make it as a final Organisational Value card.

So why the rejoicing when I read the Fin Review article? My word has finally become de rigueur. Conscientiousness. Happy days.

“Researchers at Washington University in St Louis have spent the last five years studying married couples, most of whom both work, and matching the success of each against five personality types: extraversion, openness, agreeableness, neuroticism and conscientiousness. They found that the last one – conscientiousness – had a large positive effect… the world belongs to conscientious people. They take out the rubbish, they make sure there’s food for supper, they turn up on time, they do what they’re meant to do, are reasonably motivated, good at planning and refusing to eat that marshmallow just now.”

The article covers both the personal and professional wins that conscientiousness delivers.

“On LinkedIn in Britain only 92,000 of its 15 million members admit to being conscientious. In contrast 12 million claim to have people skills – whatever those are. At the time of writing, EY was trying to hire a passionate IT forensics associate while JP Morgan wanted a passionate oversight and controls officer when they ought to have been looking for conscientious ones instead.”

Lucy argues that what is needed is a great re-branding of the trait and I agree. Conscientiousness is certainly not cool or sexy. Yet.

What’s your point of view?

Posted in The world @work

We’re curious.

What’s your experience with Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) and Hot Desking?

As Slade Group is about to reconfigure its Melbourne office and move to part hot desking, we’re interested in your experiences. Here are the pros and cons we’ve been able to uncover so far.

ROWE
Results Only Work Environment is a management strategy where employees are evaluated on performance, not presence.

PROs CONs
People can manage their work time according to demands on their total time Lack of ‘together-in-the-office’ time can translate into diminished team and cultural and values
People focus on results not presentee-ism and personal accountability takes a front seat. Employees who can’t self-manage, will fail to manage the liberties
Optimisation of office space and resources Poor quality control because of isolated work practices can be a negative for the organisation
People feel privileged to manage their work and personal time allocation and engagement increases. ROWE demands highly capable leadership because of the rare time together and that activity can slip between the cracks
Less commuting time equates to better financial and health outcomes and further productivity. ROWE doesn’t work for all, as some roles require time and attendance – this may be seen as a negative for those who can’t participate

 

HOT DESKING
Workstations are available for use by multiple employees who work from multiple locations not just ‘the office’ during fixed periods of time.

PROs CONs
Productivity focus Other than a ‘locker’ there’s no defined personal space
It often goes hand in hand with more flexible work attendance guidelines  Difficulty for people to settle into a new spot every time 
A sense of modern work practices although time and attendance remains critical for some roles and careers such as GPs, teachers, cleaners, receptionists Desks left unclean, ergonomic re-adjustment
Employees mix with more people than their own previous pod of colleagues

 

We’d like to know your thoughts and experiences as both an employee and a leader.

Posted in The world @work

Do we have to use ‘part-time’ in the pejorative?

Amanda Milledge wants to hear your story.

Amanda Milledge, lawyer, NED and writer argues that part-time per se has to be viewed not as a second tier, second grade working title, but the new normal.

Recently I’ve spent time listening to her describe the book she’s authoring about the men and women who have found new ways of working without compromising success.  Engaged powerful part-timers is how she envisages work cultures developing.

She is also occupied with a project identifying tertiary qualified people who have carved out successful careers working in ways that depart from the traditional ideal worker.  That may include flexible, part-time, telecommuting or some other way that enables them to live a balanced life, in particular to do an equitable share of the domestic load.

Amanda Milledge’s argument is that a balanced life leads to more productivity and better decision making.

Right now, this argument has divided thinking, and the battle lines are drawn.

So why the fight and what is the coveted territory over which the battle is fought?

On one side of the territorial dispute stands Anne-Marie Slaughter who argues that it’s our inherent workplace structures and cultures that exclude very capable women who have sought to balance family life with working life. On the other side of the battle-line, the likes of Sheryl Sandberg  (COO of Facebook and Author of Lean In)  sees the lack of women in senior roles as a consequence of their reluctance to show ambition and put themselves forward for promotion.  She’s asking women to ‘man up’ rather than waiting for the tap on the shoulder, or compromising their careers by spending more time with their families.

Mary Matalin, who spent two years as an assistant to Bush and the counsellor to Vice President Dick Cheney before stepping down to spend more time with her daughters, wrote: “Having control over your schedule is the only way that women who want to have a career and a family can make it work.”

Yet the decision to step down from a position of power — to value family over professional advancement, even for a time — is directly at odds with the prevailing social pressures on career professionals in most western countries.

If you’d like to contribute, Amanda’s email address is amanda.milledge@internode.on.net.  She’d enjoy hearing from you if you have a point of view, or particular experience on either side of the battle lines. She’s looking for male, female and organisational /cultural perspectives.

We’re also looking forward to hearing your point of view.

Posted in The world @work