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Young people entering the workforce

The Boardroom Podcast in conversation with Anita Ziemer, Managing Director of Slade Group, about young people entering the workforce and the future of industries with the presence of automation.

The Boardroom Podcast is a series of engaging podcasts discussing the journey of and lessons learnt from many insightful industry leaders guests with a focus on having real and authentic conversations.

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Posted in Slade Business Support, The Interchange Bench, The world @work

Bench and the City

A Working Holiday Visa doesn’t have to mean charity mugging other professionals on Collins Street. It can literally turn your world upside down (if you’re from the northern hemisphere, like me). Currently residing in Melbourne – one of the top destinations for Brits on working holidays – I’m originally from Liverpool in the UK. As the newest member of the Interchange Bench team, I am delighted to share my Aussie story (so far) and provide some insight into the seemingly chaotic world of a traveller working in the professional services industry.

Back in early 2018 I was a wide-eyed, fresh-faced, slightly less tanned 20 something who had just touched down, eager to explore what Australia had to offer. Some would say I was living VERY vicariously (using pay pass in any country is just too easy – keeping track of your spending, not so much).

Fast forward two months of living life to the fullest… my finances considerably diminished, I was almost royally f#&$@d! I knew it was time to stop fantasising about never ending holidays and return to the real world, which meant I would have to secure a full time job!

I had previous experience in Healthcare Recruitment and Law in London, so securing a role that would stimulate me, as well as further develop my skills and experiences, seemed like a reasonable expectation. Yet after scanning numerous backpacker pages on Facebook and applying for hundreds of jobs on SEEK, Indeed and various other job boards, I was at a loss as to why I was unsuccessful.

I’d already tried the standard traveller’s juggling act: two hospitality jobs with unsociable hours that were not only underpaying me, but I was travelling the length and breadth of the city just so I could eat and pay my rent. Over the course of 6 months I realised it was very easy to fall into the trap of an unbalanced working lifestyle… and once you’re in it, it can be very hard to get out.

Horror stories abound about the 88 days of regional farm work we travellers do to extend our time here. I appreciate that fruit picking would be an anathema to many city folk, so you may be surprised to know I found it rewarding. The location wasn’t too bad (I worked at a renowned winery in the Margaret River region, just a few hours south of Perth on the beautiful WA coast). My labouring pushed me in ways I didn’t think it would (mentally, not physically, the monotonous nature of the work meant you had a LOT of time to reflect). Battling Mother Nature in the peak of winter for 8 hours wasn’t on my bucket list, but it had to be completed and I’m so happy I did it. During my three month period in Western Australia I met characters from all different walks of life. I spotted kangaroos, explored majestic jewel-caves, surfed for the very first time, took selfies with the smiling quokkas in Rottnest Island (officially the world’s happiest animal, according to the WWF) and even had the sheer luck to see a Great White shark at Busselton (from a safe distance).

With the epiphany that upon my return to Melbourne, I’d solely apply for positions that would offer me fulfilment and career development, I now look back on my first approach to job hunting and understand the errors in my ways. I didn’t have my recruitment head on: my cover letters were generic, the emails I sent to hiring managers were longwinded and I’d left all traces of my personality somewhere back on the road. No wonder I received hardly any responses!

Thankfully things changed when I fell in with a recruitment consultant. Job searching in general is hard work, but much tougher in a foreign country, even when you speak the language (no comments on my accent please). Hand on heart, recruiters are the glue that bind candidates to jobs in the market. They provide insight and guidance regarding career progression, pay rates and much more. But most importantly, working with someone that’s on your side helps alleviate some of the stress that comes with a job search, as well as being a fish out of water in an ocean on the other side of the world.

Things began to change and opportunities arose. With the support of my consultant at the Interchange Bench, I navigated the storm of the Australian job market, and here I am on the other side of the desk, ready to do the same for you.

Have you ever taken a working holiday? I’d love to hear about your experiences as an expat in the world @work.

Look out for more Bench and the City posts on the Interchange Bench blog or follow us on Instagram

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The “self-made” myth: Why hard work isn’t enough to reach the top

Compliments of The Hustle, this blog is a 100% lift from Zachary Crockett’s post this week. If you’re not already, we highly recommend becoming a subscriber to The Hustle. Here he’s in conversation with Professor Robert Frank economist with Cornell University.

Zachary Crockett

The ultra-wealthy often claim they earned their riches through hard work and perseverance alone — but luck is just as important.

A toxic myth pervades the business world: Hard work and perseverance are the only things required to achieve immense success and reach the top of your field.

It’s a mantra championed by everyone from Wall Street titans to our sitting US President (“I built what I built myself,” Trump told Charlie Rose in 1992. “I did it by working long hours, working hard and working smart!”).

This idea is staunchly rooted in the very foundations of America — a nation built on the cornerstones of rugged individualism, picking oneself up by the bootstraps, and accruing riches through sheer determination. Those who do make it big often fancy themselves to be “self-made.”

But these stories overlook a crucial ingredient of success: Luck.

In his book, Success and Luck: The Myth of the Meritocracy, Cornell University economics professor Robert Frank makes a compelling case that we often dramatically underestimate the role of luck in our success.

Our conversation, lightly edited for clarity and length, is transcribed below.

ZC: To start us off, certain successful folks — so-called “self-made” businesspeople — believe they’ve earned everything in life due to hard work and self-determination. But you argue they’re forgetting an important factor.

RF: Luck plays a far greater role in life outcomes than successful people like to admit. When you suggest that luck played a role in their success, they tend to get very defensive.

[Polls have shown that people in high-income brackets are far more likely than low-income earners to say that success mainly comes from hard work. Similarly, wealthy people are far more likely to attribute their own success to hard work rather than good fortune.]


High-income earners (those who often benefit most from luck) are less likely to acknowledge the role of luck in success (Zachary Crockett, The Hustle)

How do you define ‘luck’ and ‘success?’

I consider luck to be anything that you’re not responsible for. Something brought about by chance rather than your own actions. For success, I focus narrowly on material success [i.e. the people with the most money — those at the very top of the chain].

And are you saying that hard work and talent don’t matter?

Not at all. Hard work and talent are absolutely necessary for success.

The market — especially in a space like tech — is extremely competitive. So you’re probably not even going to be in the position to compete without the right mix of hard work and talent. But the point of my argument is that these things are not enough on their own. 

Most of the time, the hardest-working and most talented people aren’t the ones who experience the most success. There are a ton of people who are nearly as talented and nearly as hard-working as those people who probably just got a little luckier.

Imagine a meritocratic contest where 98% of a job candidate’s success is based on talent and hard work and the other 2% on luck. You can run this a thousand times and the most talented or hardest-working person will very rarely win. To win, you have to be talented and hardworking — but you also have to be incredibly fortunate.


Zachary Crockett, The Hustle

You write about something called the Winner Take All market. Can you explain what this is?

When you get into the top ranks of any profession, there are so many people who are so good that the difference in skill level is almost imperceptible.

A Winner Take All market is a market where someone who is maybe only 1% better than another person gets a disproportionately high share of the rewards.

Usually, the #1 person and  #10 person in a profession aren’t that far apart. The most well-known soprano singer might only be a tiny breath better than the tenth best. But in this market, she gets a huge premium and the other one might end up being a 3rd-grade music teacher somewhere in New Jersey.

Does luck begin from the minute we’re born?

It begins way before we’re born. The mere fact that you were conceived is such a long-odds phenomenon: If one of a trillion things happened differently, you wouldn’t exist at all.

If you’re smart, inclined to work hard, have ambition — these qualities are all some unknown mixture of genetics and environmental factors. You didn’t choose where to be born, you didn’t raise yourself, or provide the genes that made you who you are. So, when you say you’re “self-made,” it’s kind of hard to lay claim to those qualities.

On that note, what are your thoughts on Kylie Jenner being dubbed the youngest “self-made” billionaire?

[Laughs] At the very least you have to give her credit for starting a successful company.

Was she lucky? Of course! She began with a lot of money and name recognition, so that title is a bit of an overblown claim. To say anyone is a “self-made billionaire” — that she earned the entirety of her wealth through merit — is nonsense.


Zachary Crockett, The Hustle

It seems like even tiny little things you’d never think about — factors out of our control — can dramatically impact your chances of success.

If you were born in June or July, you’re less likely to be a CEO. You’re probably one of the youngest in your class all the way through school, so you’re less likely to hold leadership positions. [This is called the relative age effect.]

You don’t choose your own height, but that can make a big difference too. [The average Fortune 500 CEO is 2.5” taller than the average American man. Overall, 58% of top CEOs are 6’+, compared to 14.5% of the US population. It’s also worth noting that women only make up ~5% of Fortune 500 CEOs.]

All these little events that are out of our control might seem like they don’t matter, but they do. They can change your entire career path.

A lot of people say things like, “You create your own luck,” or “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” Do you agree?

Those sayings are valid, in my opinion.

If you’re not prepared when an opportunity comes along, what the hell difference does it make? If you’re not prepared, you won’t be able to capitalize on an opportunity if one happens to come along. But you still have to be lucky to get that opportunity.

Why do people get so defensive when you tell them luck played a role in their success?

When people look back on their lives and think about why they were successful, they more readily remember all the hard work — not the chance events. [This is called hindsight bias.]

The best metaphor for this is headwind and tailwind. If you’re battling an obstacle, you’re conscious of it; you have to work hard to overcome it. But if something is pushing you along, you don’t notice it as much and you’re less likely to credit it in the narrative of your success.


Zachary Crockett, The Hustle

Can good things come out of admitting that part of your success was due to dumb luck?

People tend to like you better when you attribute part of your success to luck instead of saying you’re self-made. [In an experiment, subjects were presented with multiple versions of a CEO bio: One credited luck and skill, the other just skill. Subjects who read the luck version responded more favorably to the CEO.]

Those who acknowledge luck in success are also more generous. [One study showed that people prompted to recall instances in which luck led to a positive outcome were 25% more likely to donate money to charity than those who were asked to recall an instance where their own actions led to a positive outcome].

If people could just learn to recognize they were fortunate, they’d be happier. It’s a missed opportunity.

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Posted in The world @work

Lessons from Mother Nature for human nature and Human Resources

Most organisations today are aware of their environmental impact and responsibility. But beyond any legislative requirements, are there lessons from nature that may boost resilience among employees?

And before you cynically dismiss this thought as too ‘touchy-feely’, think of scientist Albert Einstein’s comment “Look deep into nature; then you will understand everything better”. Recruiting and HR professionals appreciate that there have always been (and probably will always be) the darkest of disasters in both Mother Nature and human nature.

Thankfully few of us will ever face tragedy that strikes with the strength and speed of tornadoes and tsunamis, or with the ferocity of floods and forest fires. Yet most of us do indeed confront crises that can instantly change the course of our lives, eclipsing not only our dreams but also our desire to carry on.

I know because I’ve been there.

Misfortune strikes everyone sooner or later. In my case, it was long before I was HR Manager for IBM’s Asia Pacific headquarters in Tokyo. I started life in an orphanage, lost both adopted parents to cancer the year I graduated from university, faced that dreaded disease myself long after my divorce, and fractured a vertebrae to be told I’d never play sport again. Shift happens!

Although the ‘f’ is often omitted, shift happens not only in fault-lines of the Earth but also in the faults and frailties of its inhabitants. Budget cuts, redundancies and takeovers may not be life-threatening for some but rather paradigms shift in both our personal and professional lives. And whether change is referred to as disruption or transformation, it still creates stress that everyone from the CEO to the most junior employee must deal with.

We need to re-charge not just our devices but ourselves.

My own energy always seemed boosted amidst nature. Climbing in the sublime silence of the Antarctic, strolling along a beach or gazing at a beautiful garden all offered their inexplicable breath of fresh air for my soul.

Only while writing my latest book, The Gift of Nature; Inspiring Hope & Resilience, did I discover why. Research from leading universities now offers scientific evidence that time spent in nature does indeed contribute to better mental well-being.

Employees who are mentally and physically healthy are surely happier. And there is little doubt that happy employees yield happier customers, which in turn yield better returns and stronger organisations. And whether you’re a CEO or just joined the organisation yesterday, you can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself!

So here’s a few simple nature-related tips to help cope with that feeling of being overwhelmed those of us working in HR have all felt from time to time:

Don’t make mountains out of molehills, play the blame game or make excuses. It might not be fair and it might not be your fault – but it is still your responsibility to deal with it. For perspective ask yourself this: will this matter in five or 10 years’ time?

Do get moving and stop moping. You don’t need to scale the Himalayas but never underestimate the rejuvenating powers of getting out in nature for a walk on a beach, in a park or in your own garden.

Do re-charge your high tech world amidst the high touch world of nature. We’re so busy being busy that we overlook the importance of balance and unless you’re an emergency worker, you don’t need your phone on 24/7.

Do get eight hours sleep a night and sleep on it before making any major life decision. Take time to breathe in fresh air as you inhale the future and exhale the past.

Do talk to a trusted friend or health care professional. A problem shared can be a problem halved and never be too proud to ask for help.

Do fill your mind with positive thoughts. We are bombarded with the worst aspects of Mother Nature (typhoons, tsunamis, drought etc) and human nature (bullying, abuse, corruption, violence etc). So if a beautiful quote or photo from books, music or art resonates with you, put it on your fridge or bathroom mirror as a daily reminder to soothe your battered soul.

When you’re embroiled in the many faceted and increasingly complex world of recruitment and HR, when you can’t see the forest for the trees, when everything under the sun seems bleak and when you think no one else understands or has been there, think again. And know that lessons from Mother Nature can help you weather the inevitable storms of life. Such is the power of nature amidst the random nature of being alive.

And remember, life does indeed mirror nature – some of its tragic but most of its magic!

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Welcome back to adult conversations

I had a fabulous conversation with a client this week, she was so encouraging, reassuringly telling me that returning to work “is like riding a bike”. To switch your brain back on in a business environment, challenge yourself and test your capabilities is such a liberating and empowering feeling.

As a newly minted return-to-work-er, my typical day starts the night before. Preparation is key in our house. Day care bags packed, husband’s shirts ironed (truth is he does his own, with encouragement) and deciding what to wearing the night before. It’s certainly more of a military operation, no time for fashion shows at 6.30am!

With my own family – a wonderful supportive husband and two bright and amazing little girls, each with their own shining personalities, it’s time for me to set a strong example for my girls – they are my motivation and my “WHY”. We have to work hard for things in life, value ourselves, find the right employer, be strong, and be happy! There is something to be said for an army of working Mums with a whole different set of priorities; we’re a force you don’t want to mess with.

Husband and girls packed off for the day, it’s time to inhale my coffee and toast, and race to the station to begin my day. Starting a new job and joining a new company and team is nerve racking, but exciting and exhilarating all the same. This time I really feel I have landed on my feet. The Interchange Bench and Slade Group have been so welcoming, supportive and encouraging. I really do believe it is essential to find the right work family, to really change your perspective on going to work. No fear…more excitement, less anxiety…more motivation, less solo…more collaboration, a real ambition to create something better.

Eat your heart out Dolly Parton…“Working 9 to 5”… everybody needs a theme tune right? Nothing could be truer of the last few weeks to get me pumped and ready to go back to work.

In my recent experience of looking for the right role I have been seriously surprised in the shift that employers are taking to secure the right talent. Of particular surprise is that I need to work part time, and most employers have been flexible with negotiating days and hours worked. It just shows that it’s important to ask these questions and think outside the box. If anything there is a stronger focus on temporary, contract and part time roles. At the Interchange Bench we really “get it”; we appreciate that people have lives, drop offs, pick-ups, concerts, parents evenings… Just because you have different hours or less days, it doesn’t make you less of an employee, you have negotiated and agreed those terms, own it… but the onus is on you to deliver!

Now let me help you. Are you looking for a temporary or contractor as an addition to your team, or maybe you’re a professional seeking a contract role? We would love to hear from you. Call the Interchange Bench on 03 9235 5103 or me, Jen Schembri on 03 9235 5152.

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Posted in The Interchange Bench, The world @work

Outdated office routines: How to manage the top 5 workplace traditions we love to hate!

While the world @work has evolved significantly over the last 30 or so years, some of the quirks of the office remain pervasive. Here is my take on some of the Most Hated Office Traditions as surveyed by CV Library and reported by HRD Editor Australia. You can read the full list here.

Survey says…

9-5 working hours (53%)

I once worked in hospitality and despite the unsociable hours, early mornings, late nights and ever-changing shifts that included weekend work, it was never boring or predictable. Many organisations now offer flexibility, with core hours that allow employees to manage their own start and finish times whilst working the same number of hours over a week.   

Long meetings (34.6%)

When you work on projects, meetings can be useful for sharing ideas, setting strategy, technical problem solving and quick decision-making. However, they can also be disruptive to workflow, unproductive and eat into the time available for the tasks required for delivery. Schedule meetings on the same day(s) where possible and allocate blocks of time in your schedule for focused work on specific projects. 

Professional dress codes (30.6%)

I’m split on corporate attire. As a guy, I find it’s like wearing a school uniform: An easy decision process when getting ready for work, but it can be pretty uninspiring wearing suits every day. On the other hand, the call centre workers in our building take relaxed to the extreme. You never know what they’ll be wearing when you see them in the lift, but you certainly know where they work! Our workplace has casual Fridays once per month, some professional services firms do them weekly, while other businesses have redefined the dress code altogether. For men, this could mean chinos, polo shirts or jeans and a smart jacket.

Having to work in the office every day (29.7%)

If you’re regular reader of this blog you’ll know we’ve written plenty about flexible work – currently the top response on a candidate’s wish list. If you have the option to work from home or another office, use it as I do to focus on those steps in a project where you need to work without distraction, then come back to the office during the collaborative phases.

Set lunch hours (17.8%)

While many workers don’t take lunch breaks (you should) or eat properly (ditto) during the day, others are constrained by set hours that don’t suit them. If the operational needs of the business don’t allow you to set your own schedule, try mixing it up by arranging swaps with colleagues. Personally I’m not a big coffee drinker (only one per day), but I don’t mind doing a tea round (7.7%). It’s an opportunity to take a short break, walk away from my desk and get some fresh air.

I will be taking this question to my colleagues Family Feud style at our next team meeting, survey responses to be provided on notice.

What aspects of your workplace work well for you? Which ones do you love to hate?

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Posted in The world @work

6 quick facts to bring you up-to-date on the Australian labour market and contract talent.

For your interest, we’ve collated a snapshot of current headline employment data.  It may help us to all make better sense of some unusual pressures you may be seeing regarding attraction and retention of high performers and why supplementary contract specialists are the new norm.

  1. Yes, high performing talent is getting harder to find. The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data shows that full-time employment increased 11,800 to 8,697,600 and part-time employment increased 11,200 to 4,014,000. Contractor and temporary talent can fall into both these categories.
     
  2. More people are working: monthly hours worked in all jobs increased 1.3 million hours to 1758.9 million hours.
     
  3. ABS data collection shows that there are approximately 1,000,000 independent contractors – nearly 10% of the Australian workforce. (Depending on their portfolio of assignments in any one year, contractors and temporary staff can choose to be employed through the Interchange Bench directly, or through their own company.)
     
  4. Casual employees – that is employees who work without regular or systematic hours, or an expectation of continuing work – account for over 20% of the Australian workforce. (The Interchange Bench works closely with employers who have a large casual workforce to ensure that they comply with tightening restrictions on the definition of ‘casual’. Call us if you have any queries.)
     
  5. Trending: contract and temporary employees continue to offer employers great flexibility in resourcing, enabling organisations to hire right for skill, special projects, fixed-term or budgetary and headcount provisions.

  6. Business as usual in most organisations now includes temporary and contract specialists working alongside permanent staff.
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6 savvy Employee Retention strategies

The world of construction and engineering in Melbourne is booming, which means skilled professionals are in high demand. And in turn, they’re always being tapped on the shoulder by people like me telling them there’s a better opportunity elsewhere. The truth is, there usually is. 

With companies desperate to employ good people, they often over pay and price out the person’s current employer. Other factors play into why people move, but if you were offered a 25%+ pay increase, I’m sure you would find it hard (as I would) not to take it.

I think people entering the workforce now look at employment as a lifestyle rather than a job. It’s not enough to be financially rewarded for their work, they want to learn new skills, make new friends, have fun and experience fulfillment whilst being environmentally sustainable! So that’s what employers have to give them, if they want the person to stay at the company for many years.

So how can employers retain talent?

  1. Obviously remunerating the employee in line with the current market, which usually means a pay increase. Ask yourself what you’d be prepared to pay to replace your best employees and then give that amount to them before they look elsewhere. 
  2. Develop a years of service/rewards program that motivates your workforce to stay on with the company. 
  3. Provide your employees with challenges and make sure they experience different opportunities at work to prevent them seeing their work as ‘just a job’. 
  4. Offer flexible working arrangements. Numerous studies have shown employees are more productive and engaged when able to balance work with other aspects of their lives.
  5. The best thing you could do for the person and your company is to train them. Give them access to different learning courses. Reward them for achieving a new certificate or qualification. Not only will it benefit them personally, but your business will gain from the added knowledge. 
  6. Talk to your employees. Ask them what they want to do, what they want to achieve. Ask them if they’re happy in their current role. And if they’re not, discuss the possibility of a change in role and see if your business can provide a new career pathway.

Your people are your biggest asset (not your clients or your projects), they’ll spend more time working for you than doing anything else.

What’s working for you in your world @work?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work