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Resourcing the new Infrastructure State. A challenge for Victoria?

Victoria – The Infrastructure State. It could be a number plate. The Melbourne Metro Rail project is underway, level crossings are being replaced, plans for ‘sky rail’ continue to cause controversy and an airport train could be back on the agenda. For roads, the Tulla freeway is being widened, the West Gate and Bolte will get improvements, and the Victorian Government is considering a proposal to build the ‘missing link’ Western Distributor.

Last December at the Engineers Australia Transport Year in Review, I listened with interest to Corey Hannett, Coordinator General, Major Transport Infrastructure Program on the current infrastructure program of works scheduled for Victoria. From a project resourcing point of view, the Government’s main concern is the lack of skilled project leaders to deliver this ambitious program of works.

Key themes presented were:

  • Ensuring the right balance between public and private resources to manage multiple, overlapping projects within optimum timelines
  • Sourcing skilled project leaders across different disciplines, including CEOs, Project Directors, and Senior Project Managers
  • Diversity in the Construction sector

From an executive recruitment perspective, these concerns certainly mirror our experience when consulting with organisations in building, construction and engineering over the last 12 months: Demand for experienced, diverse and specialist talent is at a premium. As the momentum for construction work Australia-wide continues to gather pace, the question remains how do we address this to help the immediate needs of Victoria?

There are serious concerns about poaching staff being felt across the sector, which is experiencing significant problems with retention (a fact that’s not lost on us when headhunting). Here are three points that were raised to consider when hiring, which also resonated with me:

  • When considering a candidate’s abilities, look for transferable skills, taking the time to consider all of their work history, not just the first page of the CV
  • You don’t need someone who has done the exact same job, you need someone who can do the job
  • Victorian employers may benefit from staff attrition with the completion of major projects interstate or could source talent from other sectors where demand has subsided, such as mining (particularly in WA and QLD)

I will be a keen observer over the next few years to see whether we have the appetite to meet the talent demands of the Infrastructure State.

What measures do you think are needed to address talent shortages for major infrastructure projects in your state? Share your point of view to continue the conversation.

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

4 ways an Olympic triumph translates into success at work

It’s a simple formula for athletes in elite sports: focus, preparation, practice and teamwork. Recently I attended a lunch with the Victorian Chamber featuring Australian Olympians Michael Klim, Nicole Livingstone, James Tomkins and Craig Mottram. For them, achieving a lifelong dream by representing Australia and competing at the Olympic Games was secondary to their gold medal winning performances. But the most interesting part of their stories was how they had found new passions post retirement outside of the sporting arena.

  1. Preparation and process

It is very important to keep an unwavering attention to detail during a time of high stress and pressure. Klim spoke of the 1998 Olympics in Atlanta, where he was favourite for the 200m freestyle event. He missed the bus on the way to the pool, couldn’t find his coach and was only able to complete a brief warm up swim – he didn’t qualify for the final. In business, it’s critically important during stressful times that we stick to our defined processes, don’t rush hires or deviate from the norm just to fill a gap.

  1. Challenge and stretch

Tomkins mentioned that he and the other members of the Oarsome Foursome constantly challenged each other to come up with new, innovative ideas that could separate them from the challengers. However it wasn’t up to the athletes alone. They challenged their coach, nutritionist and psychologist to always come up with new ideas. Sometimes all it takes is a fresh set of eyes on a project to change the delivery model, reworking a central piece to pull together all the essential elements of a project. Businesses shouldn’t be afraid to hire from outside their sector or industry if a candidate has an open mind. New talent may give your organisation a ‘shakeup’, offering innovative solutions with the potential to benefit all teams.

  1. Don’t settle

So what happens when you’ve realised the dream and the celebrations are over? Since hanging up his togs, Klim has created the men’s skincare range Milk (a clever anagram of his name) with his family company, Milk & Co. Livingstone has enjoyed a media career as a well-known television host and sports commentator. Mottram recently completed the London Marathon (the competitive bug still bites) and has started his own consultancy business, Elite Wellbeing. Tomkins has worked for nearly 30 years in Banking & Finance, a career he maintained alongside rowing.

  1. Conscientiousness beats lucky

We can all relate to thrill of a win or the inherent disappointment when we fail to reach our goals. Livingstone says athletes make good recruits because they are by nature hardworking, dedicated and committed. I think you’d agree those are common leadership traits too. It’s a buoyant time in the Victorian infrastructure market, so I’m championing the lessons of these Olympians in my approach to executive recruitment.

What have you learned from successful people in your industry? Do you have a success story you’d like to share?

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Is your hiring process being managed by tortoises or hares?

There is a quote from Richard Pratt that has always stuck with me throughout my recruitment career: “Always hire the best person for the job, not the best available. If they’re available they’re not necessarily the best.”

One of the most costly decisions an organisation can make is hiring the wrong candidate. There have been numerous studies on the exact cost of hiring the wrong person. According to a survey by The Australian, a bad hire can cost a business 2.5 times the employee’s salary. No one can deny that it comes at a huge expense. Factors include hiring costs, wages and disruption costs, but no doubt the greatest expense attributed to a bad hire is the lost business opportunities and the effect this employee can have on a company’s brand. There is also the impact this employee can having on your existing workforce’s morale even long after they have left the business.

How often is it in business that we receive a phone call from a colleague or a customer who says they needed something yesterday? When we’re talking human capital for the property and construction sector, it’s often as a result of new business or a major project win, when there’s an urgency to hire someone to start working on the job right away.

What Pratt’s saying is that many of the best candidates are not looking for jobs; they are not applying for jobs because they are well looked after, and are too involved in their current work to be distracted by LinkedIn or other social networks, which may refer new opportunities. So if the best talent are firmly engaged in their current roles, performing at the top of their field with their current employers, why consider them as prospective candidates at all? You need the right approach, but it can take time.

The Melbourne construction industry is reaching boom time levels again. With the increased activity in the building sector comes a heightened demand for recruitment. So the temptation is to rush key hiring decisions, which can often result in poor decision-making in the recruitment process. In a buoyant market hiring the right executive is critical – it’s unlikely you’ll get a second chance to acquire key people from the same talent pool. Therefore, hiring decisions backed-up by a robust search and selection methodology, which allows time to properly evaluate all potential candidates and their suitably, will lead to better outcomes regardless of the urgency of the role.

Next time you think about racing to hire because you have a need, remember executive recruitment is not a hare sprint. Be the patient tortoise who plans for the journey ahead, does their due diligence, paces themselves through the search and selection process and knows when to pause to take a breath. It’s the way forward for effective senior appointments.

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