Blog Archives

The Great Resignation is Coming (and an invitation to you)

Australian businesses, brace yourselves. According to all the data coming out of the USA (a trend very likely to be followed here in the first half of next year), almost half the workforce are gearing up for the sort of change we have never witnessed before… the ‘Great Resignation’ is coming!

Looking at the latest McKinsey Quarterly report “more than 15 million US workers have quit their jobs and counting, since April last year” and many are unlikely to return, as the pandemic brings about a new realisation of what is really important in their lives.

When this is combined with the fact that most employers don’t really understand why their people are planning to resign or leaving in the first place, it adds up to a talent shortage like we have never seen before.

The research tells us that employees are tired and many are grieving, most of them are seeking a renewed sense of purpose, and a need to feel valued by their employers. In other words, employers have to connect with the “hearts and minds” of their employees – not just treat them as expendable or transactional. Those that fail to do so, will find themselves on the wrong end of this great resignation in my view.

If companies don’t make a concerted effort to better understand why employees are leaving, and take meaningful action to retain them (and no, it’s not just about money), then I’m afraid they will be the big losers.

It doesn’t have to be this way though, and much will depend on the quality of management in most companies. Those who recognise the problem and do something about fixing it, have a unique opportunity to gain an edge in the race to attract, develop, and retain the talent they need in order to thrive.

I recently had the privilege of listening to a couple of extraordinary Australian Leadership Consultants: Michelle Rushton from People of Influence, and Anthony Sork of SORK HC, both of whom had interesting points of view,  somewhat different but overlapping, and in my opinion, provided very sound advice on life and leadership post pandemic.

Michelle talked about how all of us have the opportunity to lift ourselves into a leadership role within our organisations, whether that is formally recognised or not, and how that adds enjoyment and interest to the job you do, as well as to the company.

Anthony focussed on how employers need to create an attachment to their staff – by building trust, value, acceptance, and a feeling of belonging – and how these perceptions are influenced by their direct managers.

We at Slade Group and TRANSEARCH Australia have invited both Michelle Rushton and Anthony Sork to speak to our own staff, and our clients, as part of our Breakfast Zoom series of HR webinars. If you are interested in attending, please call Fiona Lewis-Gray on 03 9235 5116 to register your interest. 

Event dates:

Michelle Rushton
Thursday, 28 October 2021
8.00am – 9.30am
Online via Zoom

Anthony Sork
Thursday, 25 November 2021
8.00am – 9.30am
Online via Zoom

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

I’m also Covid collateral.

Remember 2019? It was late that year when I took the Melbourne-based role of General Manager for Slade Group and the Interchange Bench. I’d come fresh off an extended break, including giving myself the time to do the Camino De Santiago Trail, to find some ‘me time’ for reflection after 25 years working full time, living in Perth and raising a family of three girls, now young women.

At that stage I had every intention of travelling regularly back to Perth where my young adult children live. That was pre-Covid, when people travelled freely within Australia, often part of any national role.  Our old world @work seems like an alternate universe, with remote working, remote meetings and WFH all part of the 2021 nomenclature.  

With Melbourne and Sydney both in ongoing lockdowns, and continuing border restrictions in place between States, it became very difficult to catch up in person with colleagues, clients and candidates. While I certainly missed those professional relationship building opportunities, on a personal level the relationships I cherish with family and friends suffered the most. While as an organisation, Slade pivoted to a hybrid working model and adapted well to the online environment, it’s a whole other ball game to be separated for long periods from your loved ones.

Imagine having to factor in two weeks of quarantine for a one weekend flying visit! And that’s ONLY if very lucky in the timing to even be granted a travel pass.

From the get-go my dream job had challenges and achievements I had never imagined. Early in 2020, having just begun working on business improvements, we caught a whiff of a new virus, and then in March COVID-19 hit us hard. The important thing at that point was to ensure we minimised costs with a staffing level that was sustainable. The Board and senior management were vital in this journey. We all worked hard, which was very rewarding, developing a strong team focus that saw us through some really tough times. Fortunately, a well-established company with 50+ years in business, a diverse temporary and permanent client portfolio (including essential workers) and risk spread across commercial and government contracts held us in good stead for the remainder of the hardest years on record. Thank you also to the powers that be in Canberra for JobKeeper which kept us going through the darkest months.

But I was unable to make easy trips back and forth to Perth see ‘my girls’.

When the market improved, our brands’ strength really shone. We saw the benefit flow through job orders, whilst also attracting quality consulting talent. Covid fluctuations aside, our attention to building longstanding client and candidate relationships meant we were there for employers when the market for talent opened up again. The culture at Slade Group is mature and results oriented. The people are great to work with – diligent, smart, and they value themselves and each other. And through the tough Covid year(s) now we also had fun. Behind the scenes I had the support of Maria Cenic, our wonderful GM of Finance and Shared Services, together with her incredibly dedicated team, and my senior colleagues and a Board who are forward thinking and growth oriented. 

And now at the end of my Melbourne Camino Trail, I’ve reflected and dug deep to make the right decision: I have decided to return to Perth because in the end, without close family and friends there’s a gaping hole in my heart which just can’t be filled by the joy and satisfaction of work. Melbourne, I loved every minute!

And so, for the future record when someone reads Samantha Cotgrave, Reason for Leaving: Covid.

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

Building trust to achieve maximum potential: A 6-point framework for high performance at work

I see trust as a currency. Each one of us starts with a certain amount when we initiate a professional relationship. Whether it be with colleagues or customers, you either build on it or lose it. And building trust requires consistent effort. Any gains in efficiency can be decimated if you lose trust. Focusing on the dynamic between employer and employee, building the relationship is a two-way activity, but the onus falls on the employer if they want to achieve the high levels of engagement, productivity and retention that are characteristics of successful organisations.

Being a consistent performer at work not only achieves great outcomes for your employer. It’s deeply satisfying when we know we’re on top of our game. However, working to your full potential relies on your ability to perform at a level that results in a feeling of achievement. It is self-driven and allows us to move faster across our ‘to-do’ list, and attain quantifiable and positive outcomes for the organisation. Since it is self-driven, everyone has different motivators specific to their needs. An overarching critical factor that precedes all others is trust. The more I talk about it, the more I think people relate to it. Every possible factor of influence on performance spans from a level of trust. 

Now that we know trust is a key variable and a direct relationship exists with performance levels, I have developed a 6-point high-level framework that employers and employees can use together to build trust, increase performance and achieve positive outcomes.

  1. Financial – An employer needs to provide an opportunity for a stable future and advancement, without causing unwarranted economic stress to the employee; an employee needs to be trusted to look for the best financial outcomes and revenue opportunities for the business.
  2. Emotional and mental wellbeing – A feeling of positivity is extremely important amongst the people in a company. This helps foster camaraderie with all of the teams and individuals that interact with them at work.
  3. Physical – A positive mental and emotional state supports good physical health. Additional perks such as end of trip facilities for cyclists, discounted gym memberships, etc materially help to maintain a state of wellbeing.
  4. Social – A positive mental state supplements a sense of belonging, inclusion and an ability to build relationships beyond work. All of which play a key role in building trust.
  5. A sense of purpose – Making a positive difference is beyond just making profits or fulfilling the needs of oneself. Emotional fulfilment derived from purposefulness increases trust in the organisation and drives the people to be better.
  6. Employable – Enabling and assisting employees to build in-demand capabilities and skills to advance in their careers also builds trust. Professional development rewards employers by upskilling their workforce and nurturing innovation.  

Here some practical ideas for employers and employees to help implement this framework:

  • Policies and processes – support workforce well-being, foster equality and diversity & inclusion.
  • Openness and transparency – be accountable, take part in intentional conversations, adopt an open and transparent approach by default, use a merit-based decision-making process, involve everyone in the business.
  • Technology and innovation – flexible working, enabling technology, nurture creativity, bring together hybrid and dispersed workforces. This usually unleashes the best performance from people.
  • Information sharing – real-time data where it matters, empower employees at the frontline, thinking not from top to bottom, but from grassroots up.
  • Open and continuous learning – access to the citadels of industries and specialisations, ongoing professional development, a future-ready workforce that can shift at scale.

While all the 6 points are critical, finding the right balance depends on the nature of the people within the organisation. Identifying distinct groups, understanding their motivations and required trust level, then building standard policies with tangible benefits is key to building trust. These work wonders on performance.

Which business practices would you establish using my 6-point framework?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

Unravelling the Spaghetti Matriciana (aka the crazy labour market)

Three steps to hiring the best talent and at the right price.

Confused? It’s not just you. Right now the whole labour market is like a bowl of starchy spaghetti and you need to be super dextrous to unravel the threads to sate your appetite. You want the talent, but you and countless others can’t afford the premium. In this blog, we’re setting out the three fundamental steps to beating the competition in order to hire the talent you need. We suggest you don’t even try and make sense of the macro data – we’ve been listening to the economists too and none of them has nutted out the strange equation of the current Australian labour market.

Step 1.

Understand the value of high performing and high potential talent.

These two categories of employees are gold. Make sure you identify what you are looking for in a new hire – do you want this person to perform in the same capacity for ever after, or step up in the future? High performers are shown to deliver up to 4x the productivity of your lower average performers, but will your organisation be able to create the culture for a repeat of that high performance, or to bring out the high potential in an almost there candidate? Sort this out so you know what gap you’re filling.

  Low Potential High Potential
High Performers Regularly exceed benchmarks
Lack skills to perform at a higher level
Set standard of behavioural excellence
Model leadership and cultural values
Low Performers Little-to-no aptitude
Repeatedly fail to deliver
Have above-average aptitude
Show inconsistent performance

Step 2.

As we’re back in the war for talent, have a co-ordinated hiring (attack) strategy agreed and set.

Take it from the troops on the ground – too many hiring organisations are losing out on good talent because of one simple fact – disorganised, muddled hiring processes. Hope and winging it will not land you high performing talent. Time delays, poorly prepared interviewers, managers who don’t understand the current labour market, and poor engagement will set you back in the bunker time and time again while the good talent is signed up to your competition. Take extra time up front to prepare your approach and timeline. If you’re the Commander, bring your internal Officers in on your approach early, and then make military-style moves.

Step 3.

The salary package you have on offer is important but for some organisations, top quartile compensation isn’t an option. What to do? Our advice is have the remuneration and benefits conversations early on – it saves time, money and heart-ache when late on in a negotiation it’s a deal breaker. And again, salary is only one part of the equation – make sure you’ve identified all the attractive benefits of working with your organisation – some of which you may take for granted, but which are great attractors. What else do you offer? Extra paid leave days, a good workplace and amenities, tailored professional development, culture and values alignment, wellness benefits, clear career paths, flexibly work schedule, recognition and rewards etc. Write them down and share with enthusiasm.

Bring them in and they will build!

What is your world @work?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

Tough. Love. Tough Love or Tough, Love.

Why leading with empathy is so important.

In Slade Group’s Core Strength research about most sought-after employee attributes through COVID-19, empathy took a back seat to ‘here and now survival’ skills.

Make no mistake, empathy has jumped back into the driver’s seat in 2021.

Daniel Goleman in his recent article, speaks to the importance of self-awareness. This includes a highly developed sense of empathy that allows you to see a situation from the other person’s point of view; this enables you to present your position in a way that makes a person feel heard, or that speaks to their own interests.

Post COVID in Australia, organisations need managers and leaders who can respond to the changed work environment with competencies beyond those traditionally sought. It is now recognised that one of those skills is empathy: successful leaders will have the ability to engage and work with people across a broad spectrum of skills, backgrounds and cultures.

It is important to recognise that there are three different kinds of empathy, and each resides in different parts of the brain.

  1. Cognitive: I know how you think
  2. Emotional: I know how you feel
  3. Concern: I care about you

There are managers who are very good at the first two, but not the third, without which they can be easily used to manipulate people. We see this in many overachieving bosses in command-and-control cultures who tend to be pacesetters – often promoted because they have very high personal standards of excellence. They are great at pushing people to make short-term targets; they communicate well because of the cognitive empathy and know their words will carry weight with their employees because of their emotional empathy. However, because they lack empathetic concern, they care little about the human costs of their actions. This can lead to staff suffering emotional exhaustion and burnout.

How can a manager demonstrate empathy in the workplace?

  1. In this post COVID environment, recognise signs of overwork before burnout becomes an issue; many people are finding it difficult to separate work from home life. Spend some time each week checking in.
  2. Take time to understand the needs and goals of staff, who are more likely to be more engaged if their manager is seen as taking a sincere interest in them.
  3. Keep open lines of communication, encourage transparency and demonstrate a willingness to help an employee with personal problems.
  4. Show compassion, genuine connections and friendships at work matter; act empathetically and let your people know they are supported.  

Fortunately, like all Emotional Intelligence competencies, empathy can be learned and managers can develop and enhance their empathy skills through coaching and training and by organisations encouraging a more empathetic workplace.

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Posted in Slade Executive, Technical & Operations, The world @work

Project: Core Strength

Project Core Strength Report
Project Core Strength Report

It’s no longer candidates who are nervous at interview; it’s now hiring managers who are anxious about identifying the character traits they’ll need to survive and thrive beyond the impact of COVID-19. This is as true for Boards and CEOs as it is for recruiters and line managers.

In this report we provide you with the results of our Project: Core Strength study. We commenced this research in the early stages of Lockdown Mark 1, and over the course of the next four months, sought feedback from 100 trusted respondents.

Beyond simply filling in a form, many of the respondents also provided deeply thoughtful written responses, and excerpts of these are provided along with the data.

In this report you will see the break down of data, a summary of the results, an interpretation of the results by Andrea Brownlow – our highly regarded Consulting Psychologist, and then some interview and performance management questions that are designed to help us sort the talented from the less capable.

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Posted in Interchange Bench, Slade Executive, The world @work

Video meetings and interviews – Tips and Tricks!

There’s no doubt that a video interview has become an acceptable step in the hiring process. It has proven positive results, as well as delivering tangible time and cost savings for all involved. So whilst we’re anticipating a return to Real Life interviews, candidates are advised to master the virtual interviews – they’re here to stay.

For candidates preparing for TZ (Teams/Zoom) interviewing, we’re sharing some insiders’ tips to ensure the unfamiliar becomes familiar and less unnerving.

Here’s a pocket guide to online interviews and meetings.

The key is preparation.

AS ALWAYS: Do your research on the company, gather information on its history, culture, key employees and recent performance. Prepare 2-3 questions you can ask at the end of the interview. Is it about to embark on major growth and expansion? What is their policy regarding flexible working arrangements? This will demonstrate your interest in the job and that you have done your due diligence.

Before the interview identify the activities and accomplishments in your background that would demonstrate you are the most qualified candidate for the position.

SET UP: Establish a space where you are facing an open window or light. Ideally, that means your computer screen sits between you and the source of light. In this way your face will be well lit and you won’t be a dark shape against a strong backdrop of light.

Make sure your are seated, or standing in such a way that your face is well centred on the screen and your screen isn’t pointing up to the ceiling, but rather projects a line of sight parallel with the floor.

As with all meetings maintaining eye contact is essential to ensure you are engaging with your audience and especially if this a job interview. Nothing is more distracting than to be constantly looking down at your notes. One solution is to place post it notes around the perimeter of your screen or immediately behind it. These should be key points not a script; if you have done your homework these act as prompts.

DRESS: Dress appropriately for the role as if you were going to a physical interview and check the background behind you.

LISTEN: Listen carefully to the questions, you want to be able to address questions succinctly and clearly; if it is not clear, ask for clarification to ensure you are providing the information required. Nothing is more off putting than a rambling answer. If it takes you more than two minutes, you have probably gone off script!

THE MUTE BUTTON: Don’t panic, we all do it, but make sure you ask people to repeat themselves if you didn’t hear them, or be comfortable to repeat yourself if you forgot to unmute or you have a poor connection.

FOLLOW UP: On completing the interview email your thanks and ongoing interest in the position; this will most likely ensure you stand out from other candidates.

Finally and most importantly, breathe!

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Posted in Slade Executive

Did you fall into recruitment?

If we don’t see ourselves as Professional Services Consultants, then why should our clients?

I finished my tertiary study as an Economics Graduate with many options for a career, yet can’t imagine any other role could have given me the sense of purpose and satisfaction that my 20-year career as a recruiter and industry leader has given me. 

As a professional recruitment consultant, I use my IQ, EQ, deep questioning and listening skills and develop a sound knowledge of my sector.

I must understand the perspectives, and work in the best interests, of both my clients and candidates.

My interpersonal, negotiation and influencing skills are utilised through all parts of the job.

I must apply my analytical skills to address problems and partner with my clients to find an effective solution. 

I must use my knowledge of the market and the needs and drivers of the talent within it to truly consult.

I need to offer different solutions, have a Plan B (and C and beyond) and recognise that no two people or companies are the same. 

This is a tough gig requiring insight, creativity and originality to consistently deliver results. 

As a recruiter, I do not ‘sell’ a tangible product. I work with people, on both sides of the process; the client and the candidates.

Human beings are far more complex than any product. Unlike widgets, candidates don’t stay on the shelf whilst I negotiate a deal for them; I can’t audit a set of numbers, rely on physics, contract law, design principles of any other empirical facts.

I can’t manufacture another candidate to be just like the last candidate I ‘supplied’ to my client and we certainly can’t re-engineer a person (nor should we want to), if they don’t quite ‘fit’.

High performing people are still the critical determinant of workplace success. I clearly remember the words from a speaker at a conference I attended about 15 years ago; ‘By 2020, Executive Search and Selection will be ranked as one of the Top 20 jobs.’ Why? Because to secure high performing talent is the mission of every high performing organisation.

What we do may not be ‘rocket-science’, but sometimes it seems like it’s more difficult than getting a person to the moon.

To build and maintain a career in this industry, I’ve had to have a genuine interest in the long-term success of the people I am working with; my colleagues, my clients and my candidates.  

The best recruiters make it look easy. Underneath it there is a huge amount of skill and effort and when the deadlines roll in it can become stressful very quickly.

As our understanding of human psychology, workplace culture and performance have evolved, so have the challenges and skills of a recruiter evolved.

As a naïve graduate I couldn’t possibly know how my career would turn out.

I’m grateful that it’s turned out the way it has, even in the face of what the COVID-19 shock has delivered to recruitment, and the workforce, in 2020.

I don’t know what’s ahead in the next few months, or years, but I am confident that everything I have learned from my career as a recruiter has given me the best possible chance to thrive and to help my colleagues, clients and candidates thrive as well.

Bring it on. 

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Posted in Interchange Bench, Slade Executive, The world @work