Blog Archives

Invitation to the Future: We’re ready.

Last year enough was spoken about my 50 years in business to spur me on for another 50 years.  Thank you to longstanding colleagues, clients, candidates and industry stalwarts who were in touch and recalled our times together. (Eating carnations from the vases on the tables after a big boozy dinner  in the 1980s was one I’d forgotten, but the year we hired over 50 executives for the one organisation was one I still remember – long days and satisfying results.)

Other than to sit and watch some good footy on the weekends, I’m a restless soul; thinking, adapting and staying abreast of sector trends and new ways of working. Celebrating the first 50 years gave me time to reflect, but my mind is clearly focused on the future.

In this blog I thought I’d share the fact that in recent years we’ve restructured the broader business and set ourselves up for future success. In doing so my Advisory Board and I considered a number of points:

  • The future of recruitment and the balance between technology, people, systems and processes
  • National and global trends
  • Shifts in market expectations
  • Shifts in employee trends
  • Future proofing a professional services model for a new economy
  • Succession planning (as none of the four Slade children is likely to come into the business)

We now have four discrete businesses, and whereas I was once the sole proprietor across the group, the future for professional services firms lies in distributed ownership and partnerships. I first stepped carefully into a new way of thinking (for me) and now three of the four businesses have equity partners and we’re seeing the growth and stability that comes from this model.

Yellow Folder was the first partnership I entertained five years ago, with Julian Doherty, Slade Group’s previous Director of Research.  Now working with many in the ASX 200 and across education and also Government, it is a research-based management consultancy that delivers corporate knowledge advantage, providing clients greater agility in business planning and talent acquisition strategy.

The service offerings are:

  • Competitor Profiling & Business Intelligence Analysis
  • Talent Investigations & Capability Search
  • Remuneration Benchmarking
  • Talent Pools & Candidate Pipelining

TRANSEARCH.  Most of us now agree with Peter Drucker’s comment “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. For many years, what I saw missing from the Executive Search landscape was an assessment tool or process that could untangle the knotty issue of culture fit at a senior executive level.  Canadian Organisational Psychologist Dr John Burdett and Orxestra©, developed the tools that TRANSEARCH International uses to provide a unique perspective regarding culture, performance, leadership, and team ‘fit’.

As the result of a formal partnership agreement between TRANSEARCH International and Slade Partners, four years ago I brought two long standing executive search leaders Bill Sakellaris and Sandra Brown into the TRANSEARCH International Executive Search partnership.  Recently Di Gillett has become a Partner of this global alliance with Grant White leading our Finance Practice. TRANSEARCH International is one of the foremost international Executive Search firms; a Top 10 in the sector by reach and reputation. TRANSEARCH is pivotal in identifying and securing Board members, ‘C’ suite executives and senior functional experts who have led the growth of global organisations.

Slade Group. My name’s still on the door and I hope will be for many more years.  Securing high performing talent at the professional, specialist, middle management and senior levels has been the mainstay of Slade for years.  The development of technology, AI, Boolean searches, job boards and social media have for the most part been a blessing, but sometimes also a curse. There is so much happening in the HRIS space that it’s sometimes hard not to be distracted by the next ‘tech start up offering’.   We decided a few years ago that we would, until Artificial Intelligence finally eats our lunch in 40 years or so, wisely invest in systems, and even more wisely in our people.

This year, for the first time, I’ve also welcomed the first equity partner into the Slade Group business, Chris Cheesman.  Chris, in his mid-30’s, is the future of recruitment and new ways of working.  He has a very different leadership style to mine and his team of mainly Gen Y and Millennials work to a new work order – together with our clients who are also now mainly Gen Y and Millennials in that space.

We’re very focused on knowing particular industry sectors and talent really well. If I could sum up our strengths it would be in the following areas:

  • Consumer, Digital and Entertainment
  • Education
  • HR
  • Industrial
  • Professional and Business Support
  • Superannuation and Fin Services
  • Technical and Property/Construction

The Interchange Bench. The name says it all. For the last few decades the business, then known as Slade Temps, placed mainly short and long term temps in administrative support roles.  Two years ago that changed and a huge up lift in demand for digital, technical, marketing communications, events, accounting and payroll staff,  as well as payrolling teams of casuals, meant we no longer felt the name served the business.

The Interchange Bench not only attracts premium talent for short term assignments but works with the 121 Modern Awards that cover the 1000s of roles our temporary and contract talent are asked to do. The team runs all day ensuring clients can secure talent on and off the ‘bench’ and into their workplaces for short and long contract periods.  We’ve invested heavily in systems and processes and also reduced the risk for organisations who want to outsource their payroll as well as trusting us with their FairWork and the Modern Awards compliance.

When I recap where the business is right now, I feel we’re right sized, focused and structured for the immediate future. It will be interesting for me to re-visit this blog in five years and report back on how the business has continued to change and evolve.

What are you doing in your world @work to set yourself up for future success?

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Become a Dementia Friend like us and make a positive difference

Article image: Become a Dementia Friend like usWe all want to make a positive difference at work, home and in the community.

Being part of a supportive and compassionate workplace can make a positive difference and can influence our society. One way is to increase our awareness of other people’s lives and their challenges.

An estimated 425,000 Australians are living with dementia. People with dementia can find it challenging to participate actively in the community, often due, in part, to a lack of knowledge or understanding by the community about their condition.

In fact, a recent survey by Dementia Australia found people living with dementia and carers reported experiencing embarrassing situations, feel strongly disconnected, feel less competent and sometimes feel useless.

Thanks to our friends at Dementia Australia, they’ve created a program – the Dementia Friends program – that aims to transform the way we think, act and talk about dementia.

Registering to become a Dementia Friend means that you can increase your understanding of dementia. Every day, you can make a difference to someone living with dementia or make a difference to the carers and families of those people living with dementia.

When registering to become part of the Dementia Friends program, participants can utilise a free online learning tool, through which they can increase their understanding of dementia, and be empowered to do small, everyday things that can make a big difference to a person living with dementia.

What can your organisation do to be dementia-friendly?

  • Offer accessible services, including having staff who understand dementia and know how to communicate effectively with people who have dementia
  • For people with younger onset dementia, provide employees with the option of being supported to stay at work
  • Allow time away from the workplace to participate in volunteering opportunities to assist people with dementia
  • Sign up to become a dementia friendly organisation

Look for the signs. Allow extra time for inclusion in a conversation, or offer assistance if someone appears disoriented or confused. It will make all the difference. Empower someone living with dementia and make them feel safe, accepted and involved.

Become a Dementia Friend today. Visit dementiafriendly.org.au and start making a difference.

 

 

Photo left to right: Aged Care Minister The Hon. Ken Wyatt AM MP, Dementia Australia Ambassador Jessica Origliasso (The Veronicas), Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe, Dementia Australia Ambassador Lisa Origliasso (The Veronicas) and Dementia Australia Ambassador Ita Buttrose

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Bankers aren’t all bad.

“All businesses experience growth,” says Cindy Batchelor, Executive General Manager – NAB Business. “It’s in their nature – at some stage in their life, they must grow to survive.” In the following article by Nigel Bowen, written for NAB Business View magazine, Geoff Slade credits a longstanding relationship with the bank as having an important part in the growth and success of his business enterprises over the years.

 

Fifty Years of Business Wisdom Distilled into Seven Truths

After half a century in business, Geoff Slade has learnt a thing or two. Here he shares seven truths about what it takes to make it in the business world.

Back in 1967, aged 21, Geoff Slade began his first recruitment agency. A couple of decades later he received an offer for the company he couldn’t refuse and sold it, moving on to become HR Director at Pacific Dunlop. In 1992 Geoff launched another recruitment business, Slade Group. In recent years, with the likes of Seek and LinkedIn affecting the recruitment industry, he’s adapted by moving away from commoditised services and launching business intelligence services, such as Yellow Folder Research, which harvests and sells talent intelligence. Here, the 72-year-old shares what he’s learnt after half a century of launching, building and selling businesses.

  1. Your level of success correlates with how well you understand your customers

Whether it’s recruitment or any industry, you’ll usually find that 10 to 20 per cent of companies are doing well, 50 per cent are doing okay, and the rest are on their way to going broke. What separates out the 10 to 20 per cent? I’d argue it’s that they put the effort into truly understanding what their customer wants. Of course, often the customer doesn’t fully understand what they want. That just makes it more important to spend time with them, ask them searching questions and help them formulate what their real needs are.

  1. Change is a fact of life, so concentrate on staying ahead of the game

I remember buying my first IBM golf ball typewriter and marvelling at the advanced technology! No matter what technological, economic or social changes are occurring, the two questions to keep asking yourself are: “What can I do to differentiate myself from the competition?” and “What can I do to enhance my relationship with the customer?”

  1. Be discerningly persistent

It took me seven years, living on the smell of an oily rag, to make my first profit. People seem to want things quicker these days – to reap all the rewards before putting in the hard yards. Of course, you need to make a judgement about whether the industry you’re in is growing or contracting, and whether your efforts will pay dividends. But even in the most favourable of conditions, you should accept that you’ll need to work hard for a long time.

  1. Don’t get hung up on working for yourself

I launched my first business because a job offer fell through, not because I had an issue with being an employee. After selling that business I worked for a big company for a couple of years. There are things you learn as a business owner that make you a better employee, and vice versa. For example, business owners often don’t pay enough attention to collecting and analysing financial data. A stint in a corporate role is useful for learning that discipline.

  1. Be businesslike in your attachment

I had no intention of selling my first business, but a buyer asked me to name my price. I thought of a figure, doubled it, and sold when they accepted that price. That meant I’d achieved financial security by my mid-forties. Whether it’s your company, your house or anything else, you shouldn’t be so emotionally invested that you pass on a great opportunity to sell.

  1. Focus on selling – but don’t be too eager

Two pieces of business advice have always stuck with me. The first is: “Nothing happens until someone sells something.” That’s very true. The second is: “When you negotiate, you have to care, but not too much.”

  1. Don’t forget there’s more to life than business

After my first marriage ended, I realised I was guilty of not paying enough attention to my family. When I got remarried, I was determined not to make the same mistake. Thankfully, I haven’t. That’s involved decisions such as limiting the number of offices I open, which might have resulted in the business making less money than would otherwise have been the case. It also helps if you have a bank that is supportive during the tough times. I value the good relationships I now have with my children, my wife and my ex-wife. I lead a full life and have all the money I need to do what I want to do. Another $10 million, or even $100 million, isn’t going to make me any happier.

 

This article was originally published in Business View, the business magazine of NAB, Issue 24 Summer 2017.

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A view from Berlin

As a detox for work addiction, in late 2016 my wife suggested it was time we took a sabbatical. And now in September 2017 that rhetoric is well and truly a reality. Like many business owners and leaders, it’s taken me many years to move from taking two weeks off at a time to three, so the idea to go ‘cold turkey’ and take three months took a while to settle. Anita was always going to study to improve on her rusty conversational German, but what was I going to do during endless months in Berlin?

I thought I would pen my impressions of this city before returning home. Steering clear of any sort of meeting that doesn’t include a wine or a bike path, my observations are more cultural than business, but still, from my day-to-day interactions and observations, I think I am building up a picture of their world @work, and life in general.

Visible history

Berlin’s history is fascinating and also highly visible. Everything from the Brandenburg Gate to the Holocaust Memorial to the Reichstag (seat of government), Museum Island, Eastside Gallery, Tempelhof Airport, the Tiergarten, the 1936 Olympic Stadium, Alexander Platz and even the palaces at Potsdam and Charlottenburg tell a piece of German, Prussian, Nazi and post WWII history. What is also impressive is that so many of these places were rebuilt after 1945 (a guided bicycle tour over five hours provided a brilliant overview).

Getting around

Even more impressive is the warmth of the people here and their apparent willingness to embrace foreigners; visitors and refugees alike. Of particular note is that with literally millions of bikes on the roads (only 30% of Berliners own cars), the patience and courtesy extended by road users has to be seen to be believed. I’m riding around 20 km a day on my bike, every trip, everywhere and I feel a freedom that one doesn’t experience driving a car. It’s many years since I rode a bike with any regularity, and the no lycra, everyday, every trip form of transport, with a road system that puts bikes and pedestrians first, means we could take a good look at Berlin. Now, what a good idea for a parliamentary study tour…

Daily life (and death)

I’m a proud Melburnian, but I have a lot to learn from a city like Berlin. I haven’t seen one display of road rage and everyone just seems to get on with life in a cool, calm, and dispassionate way, whilst giving due regard to their fellow human beings. Statistically there’s a 50% less chance of being murdered in Berlin than Melbourne (but by the number of people I see smoking, they probably die in less obvious circumstances)!

German efficiency

With a nod to German efficiency all forms of public transport seem to run on time. They’ve also turned their mind to creating efficiencies in hospitality: with two of my sons in town last week, we went to Klunkerkranich, a unique and vast rooftop-on-a-carpark bar. The 1 euro deposit on every glass and bottle means patrons return their glasses, the bar saves on labour costs and the tables essentially self-clean compliments of patrons. In fact all forms of recycling seem to be light years ahead of Australia. The other thing that has particularly struck me has been the relative cost of living compared to Melbourne. Most of the essentials seem to be about half to two thirds the cost of the same items in Melbourne and dining out is much the same – food is great too, although it’s with a bit of schadenfreude that I think eating out in Melbourne is better.

Over and out

The facts and fallout of Germany’s modern history are confronting, but a history raked over, and over, and over, is better than one swept away.

Lastly, Berlin seems to be a place where creativity is fostered, resourcefulness encouraged and originality embraced. It’s a young city, vibrant, cosmopolitan, and on the go. Ich liebe Berlin – but looking forward to being home again too.

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Slade Group clocks 50 years in recruitment

Continuing the theme of reflecting on our milestone achievement, Slade Group has been looking back on our 50 year journey from the early days back in 1967, to present day and beyond. In 2017 we are reshaping our vision for the future and anticipating what challenges may lay ahead for our business, the broader landscape of Australian organisations, and people @work. We present the following article, which was published on recruitment industry news site Shortlist.

Slade Group celebrates its 50­ year anniversary this month, founder and chair Geoff Slade reflects on the demise of generalists and where recruitment is headed.

“The day of generalists has pretty much passed. I will willingly admit I’m a generalist myself, but that’s something that’s happened over the evolution of time. The future consultants will be very focused; they’ll have a vertical talent community to look after,” he told Shortlist.

Slade Group, which employs 40 staff, hasn’t dramatically changed its approach to recruitment since it first started in the industry in 1967 as GW Slade and Associates, he notes.

Trust remains the most valuable currency in the industry, and will become even more important for consultants who will have to build a community of perhaps 100–120 people, he says.

“There’s been some big challenges with the advent of Seek and LinkedIn in particular, but I think the key to [surviving] it has been the ability to adapt.”

Client and candidate one and the same

Many recruiters “have missed the boat” in terms of understanding the candidate is as much a client as the organisation paying the fee, says Slade. “That [understanding] is something that has served us well over the 50 years.”

He says the company’s emphasis on building relationships has resulted in lasting staff tenures – with some consultants working at Slade for 10 or 20 years – and long-term client retention.

“If you look at the professional services end of the market, we’ve got a lot of contracts with universities – some going back over 10 years – where we’ve had to fight off competition every three years when they’ve put it out to tender.”

The company aims for a mix of experienced consultants and those with background in their specialisation, along with fledgling recruiters, and it devotes resources not just to coaching and developing staff as consultants, “but as people”, Slade says.

“On­boarding is important. We don’t just say ‘here’s your desk, here’s your phone, you’re a consultant now go to it’.”

Education, healthcare, and property are Slade Group’s fastest­ growing sectors, he says, but expanding into other areas depends on the calibre of people it can attract to drive growth.

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Born in 1967, still growing up: Slade Group celebrates 50 years

In the following article by Maggie Chen, which appeared in the Autumn 2017 edition of the Victorian Chamber of Commerce & Industry Business Excellence magazine, Slade Group Chairman Geoff Slade shares his story and the insights he has developed over decades in business, in an industry he is proud to be a part of.

Geoff Slade began GW Slade & Associates 50 years ago, in a small office in Melbourne’s CBD. Before that, he worked as an assistant HR manager at an oil refinery at Western Point Bay. After almost taking up a job in consulting, at the age of 21, he decided to start his own employment agency in 1967.

His father had doubts, but his mother took a leap of faith and lent him $300 – all the money she had in the bank. It just covered his first month’s rent. “I had to make a placement in the first month; otherwise I couldn’t have paid the second month’s rent,” Slade recalled.

That he did, and for about 21 years, he built the business – by then called Slade Consulting Group –  to be, by 1988, “the biggest executive recruitment company in the country”, spanning seven cities in Australia and New Zealand.

A UK-based multinational approached Geoff and bought the business from him. In 1989, he commenced a two-year stint as HR Director at Pacific Dunlop.

When the multinational exited the Australian market a few years later, Slade re-established Slade Group in 1992. This time, as a 43-year old with four kids, he decided he would only have offices in Melbourne and Sydney so that he could spend more time with his children and less on planes.

Starting from scratch again at Slade Group was “great”, he said. Pacific Dunlop, which at one stage had 45,000 employees, retained him as a preferred supplier for over 20 years.

Secrets to longevity

How did Slade manage to build and maintain such a successful recruitment company that has already outlived most businesses?

Building trust is crucial, according to Slade. “Companies don’t build long-term relationships with you unless they perceive you’re doing the right thing by them and they trust you,” he said. “The same goes with candidates. I’ve had candidates who I didn’t place, who came back to us to give us work when they were hiring, because we built a significant trusting relationship.”

Secondly, he suggests that persistence really does pay off. Recruitment is an industry with plenty of ups and downs. “When the economy’s going well, business can be very good. When it’s not going well, you can really struggle. And a lot of people bail out when things start to get tough.”

Thirdly, for a long-term business in HR, you need to really understand customer needs. “You have to understand what their culture is like to provide them with quality people that will fit into that culture,” said Slade.

Finally, for business sustainability, it’s important to stay in touch – and that means some ‘face time’. One issue Slade sees today is that young people tend to communicate by email or text and don’t actually go out to meet the customer and really get to know them.

The recruitment industry has faced some challenging times. Seek and LinkedIn both changed the game, as did the global financial crisis, said Slade. A lot of work went to internal recruitment teams. In the face of this, he set up a company with Julian Doherty called Yellow Folder Research, which sells information on talent.

Slade’s wife, Anita Ziemer, Executive Director of Slade Group, took over running the Slade business about five years ago, when Slade became Chairman of the group. He says this allowed him to spend more time developing Yellow Folder Research, which now provides research to public companies and multinationals around Australia. It has also freed him up to focus on the Slade Group-affiliated executive search practice TRANSEARCH International Australia, which is part of a global practice. Slade points out that particularly in the case of senior positions, you really need to understand your client and their needs, and the personalised filtering services that recruitment companies can provide can be invaluable.

Slade is keen to mention his wife and family. He “wouldn’t have survived if it wasn’t for them”, he said.

A healthier era

Slade has seen attitudes to health and wellbeing in the workplace change significantly over the decades. “As late as the 1980s, we would regularly walk into offices where there were ashtrays on desks, smoke in the air and meetings held amongst cigarette smoking executives,” he recalls. “Now, of course, you’ll be hung, drawn and quartered if you’re caught smoking on the forecourt.”

At Slade Group, there have been many individuals who have been proud and passionate about their sporting and athletic pursuits. And since early last year, they’ve been taking steps, led by General Manager Chris Cheesman, to create a company-wide healthy culture, Slade said. “We’ve had people in to give us talks and information emphasising a holistic approach: the value of good sleep, e-downtime, and agile work practices. We’ve introduced standing desks, removed the soft drink vending machine, encouraged walking meetings and provide bi-weekly healthy breakfasts.”

Finally, Slade adds, “A healthy workplace is more than just the physical and mental – it’s also the emotional connections and working relationships built on camaraderie.”

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It’s all about culture

The A to Z of Organization CultureThe future ain’t what it used to be. Continued globalisation, wide-scale disruption, uncertainty, exponential change in technology and a new generation joining the workforce are changing how business does business. To compound the challenge, the organisation we created in the last century – a veritable engine of wealth creation – is out of step with the emerging reality.

Tomorrow’s organisation will be fast, flat, focused and built around followership. If how you do business is pretty much the same as it was three years ago, you are already losing ground. If you are not fully invested in tomorrow’s conversation, you are being squeezed out of the game! If you are “dancing” as fast as you can and discover that the competition has stolen a march … it’s fruitless to try harder. You have to change the game!

Traditional management thinking is that strategy drives culture. Figure out the strategy and then make the culture fit. In a steady state world, it’s thinking that makes perfect sense. Except, we don’t live in a safe, predictable environment. In a world of uncertainty the only thing that is predictable is that your strategy will be “subject to correction”.

A scenario approach helps but that only makes the notion that strategy drives culture even less meaningful. Strategy clearly can’t drive multiple cultures. Even with scenario thinking, long after the strategy has shredded, what will endure is the culture. The new reality – culture enables strategy.

Based in Canada, John Burdett’s research and the work of others suggest that only about 20% of organisations manage culture. Organisations put culture on the back burner because of an attitude to change that is best described as “cultural drift”. Cultural drift is the misplaced belief that even if we fail to invest quality time at the top of the house on culture, somehow the secondary initiatives unfolding in the organisation (e.g., six sigma, process improvement, town hall meetings, an emphasis on safety, engagement surveys) will get us where we need to be. Are you managing your culture?

John’s new book, The A-Z Of Organization Culture, is a compelling playbook outlining how to leverage culture for competitive advantage. It draws on his extensive international work on culture with some of the world’s biggest multinationals, mid-size organisations, successful start-ups and not-for-profits.

Look for … how to have the “culture conversation”; breakthrough learning strategies; why your culture is your brand; working at the level of mindset; “re-engaging the middle kingdom”; and measuring culture. The latter will enable you to, literally, chart the
“roots” (where you are today) and “wings” (where you need to be) of culture in your organisation. If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it!

Accessible and wonderfully illustrated, The A-Z Of Organization Culture is a unique “road map” that will enable you to make tomorrow’s culture come alive in your organisation, today.

An advisor to TRANSEARCH globally, we are delighted to say we are bringing John out to Australia in late March. We will also be launching his new book at that time.

Read more about the theme of John’s visit: If you’re not managing your culture, someone else is

 

This article was originally published on TRANSEARCH Executive Leadership Insights.

Republished with kind permission from TRANSEARCH International Australia.

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‘Finish Before You’re Done’

This summer I heard a great story from Davor Miskulin, a Slade Group ‘alumni’ now working with Burning Glass in Canada, but who visits us regularly when he’s in Australia.

At a Toronto saxophone masterclass last year, which Davor attended with his sax-playing daughter Iva Mari, David Liebman told the story about jamming with Miles Davis. It was many years ago when Miles was already the complete legend and David was building his reputation. As anyone who has followed Miles Davis knows, he was a man of few words.

At that session with David Liebman and Miles Davis the band of musicians played and played and played. Towards the end when musicians ‘downed tools’ and started packing up their instruments, Miles walked past David Liebman and said just four words… “Finish before you’re done.”

As Liebman told the master class, he mulled over that line for years, thinking about how it applied to his music. Davor and I mulled over those four words during a lunch before Christmas, and considered all the different ways that phrase applies to work and life.

Finish Before You’re Done.

It’s knowing when to quit. Knowing that you’ve given it your best, but leaving ‘them’ wanting more, not less. And leaving yourself room to do other things too.

John Key finished before he was done. Nico Rosberg finished before he crashed. Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg address in 278 words. Shirley Temple quit at 22.

How many of us are tempted to go on and on – beyond the moment when we should quit? Our speeches, our board tenure, the emails we write, the presentations and reports we present, the…?

When have you wished you’d finished before you were done?

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