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This article was originally published by Sarah Morgan as “The Godfather of Recruitment” in The Brief, the magazine of the RCSA.

Geoff Slade - Godfather of Recruitment

They say it’s not what you know, but who you know that matters and when it comes to the biggest influencers in the recruitment industry, there are few better known and respected than Geoff Slade.

In fact, he is so well known and so influential, there might as well be a saying “all roads lead to Geoff” such is the broad reach of his connections.

And, when you are affectionately known throughout the industry as “the godfather of recruitment”, it goes without saying that your opinion on the industry as a whole, as well as the mistakes of the past and opportunities and threats for the future, are ones worth listening to – or reading about.

It’s been more than 50 years since Geoff began his career in recruitment and while an awful lot has changed in that time, his successes and widespread influence are a testament to his ability to play to his strengths, adapt and make key decisions based on merits and not just the traditional “rules”.

Geoff remains grounded about his achievements and influence during his five decades in the industry – including being the first president of RCSA – acknowledging the support and guidance he has received as his career has evolved, as well as the abilities of the people he employed.

“I always liked to think outside the square,” he says. “I liked to employ not just people who have worked in the industry.

“In fact, some of the most notable people I have employed had never worked in recruitment before.

“Four standouts were Andrew Banks, Louise Craw, Peter Tanner and Nanette Carroll, none of whom had a background in recruitment.

“Louise managed our office support business for over 25 years and was a rock on which the company could rely. She is now on our board. Peter moved on after six years to found Tanner Menzies.

“Nanette worked for me for 10 years and ended up being awarded the 1996 Queensland & Australian Telstra Business Woman of the Year. Andrew’s background is of course well known.

“It’s satisfying to know that not only people who worked in our industry, but people we have influenced and found jobs for have gone on to bigger and better things than we could have dreamed.”

Geoff admits he may also be known in the industry as a “tough and unreasonable” operator, acknowledging there have been many changes in leadership styles from his formative years in the 1960s.

“I would like to think that I’m regarded as hard but fair,” he says.

“Recruitment is enormously satisfying, but it’s bloody hard work.

“It’s not an exact science and demands focus and self-management and what I call purposeful productivity, strong listening and comprehension skills. When I talk of comprehension, I’m talking about what is now tested as verbal and inductive reasoning.

“A good recruiter can probe and follow questions to the end with both clients and candidates. A good recruiter can dig beneath the surface.

“One of the biggest issues I have with the current day recruiters is they think they can build relationships by phone or email. They don’t get out to meet and know their customer.

“I think good recruiters build relationship with a client – like getting married. You have to be able to talk to them about other things than where is my next assignment coming from.”

HOW IT ALL BEGAN

Geoff started out in accounting before moving into human resources in 1964 and then, finally, recruitment in 1967, but it could all have been so different if his dream of being a VFL footballer had been realised.

Despite being told by Melbourne Football Club that he wasn’t quite good enough, three years after he moved to the city from the country to pursue a football career, Geoff feels he “really lucked out”, albeit in a slightly unconventional way, after being thrown in at the deep end twice, and for two very different reasons.

“I returned to the country at a time a major refinery was being built on the western portside of the Mornington Peninsula and I applied for a job with the major construction company,” he says.

“I was lucky to be offered a job as assistant to the HR manager and it provided a very quick learning curve. He turned out to have a major health project and I was his only offsider, so I was left with a lot of responsibility.

“It ended up providing great experience for me: there were 1500 men on the site and there was a stop work or strike every day for three years. I had to deal with unions pretty much every day in a very volatile and aggressive environment, which taught me to try to use common sense and to solve problems.

“At the end of the project I was one only of two people offered a job at head office, and the offer came with a promise for me to be the HR manager on the next project.”

But, despite the promise, and because the company won no new tenders Geoff ended up doing everything for the business except HR. Looking for an alternative, he applied for a job through the biggest executive recruitment firm in Melbourne at the time.

“I was told I was too young for a job they were recruiting for, but they wanted to offer me a job as a consultant,” Geoff says. “The owner gave me his word that the job was mine if I wanted it. I just had to tell him when he got back from an overseas trip.

“Four days later, he was unfortunately killed in a car accident.”

As a country boy with “no idea what to do next”, Geoff took note of the fact that he took the most enjoyment out of the recruitment side of his HR role. So he approached his parents to ask for a loan so he could start up his own employment agency.

“Dad said ‘what is an employment agency’?” Geoff recalls. “I told him what I thought it was, and he said he wouldn’t lend the money to me even if he had it. Mum was softhearted though – she had $300 in bank and said she would lend it to me as long as I paid it back.

“So I borrowed the money and rented a space, knowing I had to make a placement in the first two weeks so I could pay the rent.”

So began the 21-year life of Slade Consulting Group before its sale in 1988 to British multinational Blue Arrow.

For the first seven years, Geoff says he lived “on the smell of an oily rag” before he turned any meaningful profit, which came about in 1974 after he took back management of the recruitment agency after a stint working in London working with executives looking to migrate to Australia on the £10 Pom scheme.

After a few successful years, around 1981, Geoff decided to shake up Slade Consulting Group, which saw him focus more on management and less on day-to-day recruitment.

“I went out and hired three young people all in their mid-20s: Andrew Banks, Richard Weston and Greg Fish,” Geoff says.

“We sat down and did a SWOT analysis of the industry – how it would run and how we could grow the business quickly.

“At the time, Chandler McLeod and PA Consulting were both huge in terms of executive recruitment. We researched and discovered they were taking 10-12 weeks to fill jobs. That’s a very expensive situation for clients.

“For a company, that could be very inefficient and very expensive, so we went to their clients and said ‘we believe we can do as good a job as either of those companies; we believe it’s costing you a lot of money to have jobs vacant for so long. If we can’t do it within four to six weeks – we’ll do it for free’.”

That approach helped to guide Slade Consulting Group to a turnover of $10 million by 1984.

By 1987, it was the biggest executive recruitment company in Australia, with offices in five cities, as well as two in New Zealand, with a staff of 135.

At the end of that year, Geoff was approached by a representative of Blue Arrow – at the time the biggest recruitment company in the UK – who said he was “prepared to make me an offer too good to refuse”.

“He told me to think of a number to see if he would be prepared to meet it,” Geoff says.

Needless to say, the offer was good and Geoff sold the business, but it didn’t work out as had been promised.

Geoff felt compromised by what Blue Arrow was asking him to do and left the company and caught up with his long term client – Pacific Dunlop – which had made up 40 per cent of Slade Group’s business.

Geoff says that Pacific Dunlop has been “very influential in my success”, thanks to a long-term relationship spanning 20 years, but without some creative thinking on behalf of its then managing director, Philip Brass, he might have found himself “watching grass grow on the farm for the next year or two” as he served the term of a two-year non-compete clause.

“I went to Philip to tell him I could no longer be a consultant to him, nor could I consult in any way, shape or form,” Geoff says. “He told me he had a solution and offered me the role of HR Director for Pacific Dunlop.

“I said I would do it, but for two years only and provided I did a good job asked him if he would offer me a preferred supplier agreement when I went back to business.

“When I returned, it became the first preferred supplier agreement done in Australia.”

Geoff’s return to consulting came with Lyncroft Consulting Group, which was named after his country property, but in 1992 it changed back to Slade Group as Blue Arrow sold out of Australia.

Slade Group quickly moved to the forefront of recruitment in Australia, where it remains today.

THE BIRTH OF RCSA

In 1998, Geoff and others identified that it was “industry critical” to create a national industry body for the sector.

“There were a lot of people very unhappy as to how it was all going, with the NAPC and IPC being run through state bodies, because they were independent and there was no cohesion to move things forward,” he says.

“So we got together with senior members of the industry and agreed this had to change and we formed RCSA to represent Australia and later New Zealand. I’m really proud of the history and my involvement in RCSA.

“One of things I really love about the industry is its ability to have positive impact on people’s lives. It’s now very rewarding to see it evolve into the association it is today.”

Continue reading on the RCSA news website…

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Why not a Pre-New Year Career Resolution!

Taking the next steps to advance your career can be a stressful and lonely experience.

Slade Group is proud to partner with Renata Bernade who has developed ‘Job Hunting Made Simple’, a 7-week online course and group coaching programme that will show you how to plan and advance your career that is intentional, inspiring and fun.

Job Hunting Made Simple was created for people who are:

  • serious about their future career progression, but unsure how to achieve their goals;
  • in-between jobs and not knowing if they’re putting their time and effort into the right strategies.
  • returning to work after an extended break, not knowing how the market will perceive them; and
  • ready to look for new job opportunities, but just can’t find the time or focus to do it!

The program is opening soon and is accepting interest now! Job Hunting Made Simple will start in January 2020 and registrations open on Thursday 19 December. Go to renatabernarde.com/sladegroup or reply to this blog post to request more information.

Towards the end of the programme you’ll be hosted by Slade Group in a networking session, meet your fellow course participants, catch up with your favourite recruiters and receive direct ‘word on the ground’ employer feedback.

We’re delighted to finish our year on a high, and wish you a very happy festive season, and a wonderful New Year.

If you or someone you know would like to start 2020 with refreshed career ambitions please let us know and we’ll put you in touch with Renata Bernade.

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5 steps closer to a winning team in 2020

After a fantastic year with a double up from the Tigers and Springboks, I got to thinking about how the business sector builds ‘winning teams’. How do they go about finding and securing their talent, and critically, how do they decide whether new employees will be a positive addition to the overall team dynamic?

We all know how quickly one bad apple can ruin the entire barrel…

For most businesses, their people (or human capital) represent a significant investment. Therefore, considering both the cost and non-financial impact of a poor hire, it always intrigues me that a lot of business leaders still don’t perceive value in a solid and robust search process.

If you look ahead at what you envisage your team will look like as you adapt to changing conditions, will you pay credence to talent pooling? Or is your hiring mostly reactionary? The best teams I’ve worked with are constantly looking ahead and assessing their strengths and weaknesses with an eye to plugging the gaps.

Do you try to do your own hiring to save the cost of a recruitment fee? Even if you have an outstanding internal recruitment team, there will be instances where the pure breadth of their focus may mean a lack of exposure to a particular talent stream.

There is no doubt that the war for truly exceptional talent is increasing, and I believe that more than ever, hiring managers are starting to realise the value of a search partner with proven results in their sector. I am consistently finding that more organisations and internal recruitment teams are aligning themselves with a trusted and proven search partner – not for every role, but certainly where they want to ensure the best results in a highly competitive and skill short sector.

With all of this in mind, the real issue becomes how to select the right executive recruitment firm for your needs? Here are 5 points to consider when evaluating the right partner:

  1. Legacy – a firm with good history and reputation
  2. Results – a firm that can demonstrate success through past work and client references
  3. Partnership – a team of consultants who not only excel at what they do, but also genuinely have your and your organisation’s best interests in mind
  4. Research capability – there are varying degrees of quality when it comes to research; true research capability involves much more than LinkedIn
  5. Value – a lower fee doesn’t necessarily signify the best value; a thorough process, good consulting, and the best possible hire (and post hire care) will deliver greater returns

It sounds daunting (and it can be), which is why you need to engage the right partner. Nothing beats the feeling and the results of securing an outstanding addition to your business. I look forward to helping you build a high-performance team who will be kicking their goals into the new year and beyond.

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Posted in Accounting & Finance, The world @work

Why is it even a contest? Roads and Rail vs Tech and Digital.

It makes us feel we’re a nation on the move seeing the worker bees in High Vis vests bringing impressive infrastructure spending to life. Cities and populations are growing and we need improved roads and rail services. Great. But what happens at the end of the line?

Building roads and rail doesn’t, in and of itself, add to our GDP. It creates jobs for now, on the tax payer’s dime, filtered through major construction companies. It’s a centuries old model that makes sense and is understood by the electorate as a necessary and valuable addition to our cities and regional centres.

But all this visible ‘concrete’ activity means we risk a drift into the ‘also-rans’ of world economies if our Federal and State Governments don’t get more critical workforce planning sorted. We’re far from being known as global leaders in technology and digital. Consider the following recent observations:

  • John Durie in The Australian wrote that Israel’s ‘start-up nation’ success is built in part on a model of generous government incentives.
  • What should an accountant say to a successful early stage start-up who asks the question, “Why don’t we move to Singapore, where the tax incentives are very attractive?”
  • At the Rampersand Investor briefing on November 11th, two of the growing tech businesses lamented the lack of government grants and incentives, in spite of the fact that they are the future big employers governments need to realise their ‘jobs jobs jobs’ rhetoric.  
  • In the next three years alone the Robotic Data Automation Services sector is forecast to grow by $2B globally (HFS Research, 2018).  Where is Australia in this growth?
  • Ginnie Rometty, IBM’s CEO says we need to change our approach to hiring, as 100% of jobs will change in the future and AI is coming at us fast.
  • How will Australia attract more global tech players to our shores if our tech and digital talent has to go abroad to build their own stellar careers?

The cry of Jobs jobs jobs has become a hollow call out if we don’t Work work work on being future ready. Industry can’t do it alone, universities can’t do it alone. This requires high level resolve at a government level to create an environment to supercharge the virtual traffic routes of tomorrow. And if that means employer and employee incentives and grants, the short-term costs will be Australia’s gain in the longer term.

Am I the only Jo Public who is alarmed by our collective Federal and State Governments’ lack of vision?

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

An erudite lesson in global politics

On a wet Oaks Day in Melbourne I backed a lunchtime invitation to hear Lord Chris Patten speak at the State Library of Victoria ahead of the races. He reflected a little on Brexit ‘psycho-mania’ (now my new favourite term) and a lot more on Hong Kong and China.

Christopher Patten, Baron Patten of Barnes, CH, PC served as the 28th and last Governor of Hong Kong from 1992 to 1997 and Chairman of the Conservative Party from 1990 to 1992. He was made a life peer in 2005 and has been Chancellor of the University of Oxford since 2003. 

Self-deprecating one minute and giving Cambridge University some Oxford one-upmanship in the next,  he also spoke at length of China and Hong Kong’s ‘one country – two systems’.   Unexpectedly, what really struck me, and other guests, was how he spoke without fear or favour.  He appealed again for China to stand by the one country – two systems commitment that was made in 1997.  He articulated his own democratic and faith based personal values. It was striking in Australia, where this year we’ve become more and more aware of a real or perceived threat of surveillance, to hear some speak so candidly in a public forum.

How is it that I have become conscious in 2019 of self-censoring, something that has never crossed my mind before? Would Lord Patten be turned around at the Beijing Airport?   In business, judiciousness and confidentiality are part and parcel of our work, but not until this year have I sensed the heightened influence of China across industry, academia and government in Australia.

Lord Patten’s gently-paced, candid and humour speckled delivery was a rare treat. His ability to be in the moment with his audience was captivating.  There were neither weasel words nor vanilla platitudes and the State Library guests enjoyed an unquestionable win on Oaks Day.

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MMXIX (that’s 2019, or Mixed Media and I with two kisses)

Let’s talk about being a Graduate student in the 21st century. Finally getting that piece of paper – saying you’ve completed a degree! It’s exciting, a huge sense of relief, finally all your hard work has paid off. Then it dawns on you and the flush off questions start to power your mind. What do I do now? I need to find a job! How do I get a job? How do I compete with everyone?

Not knowing your career future is overwhelming and intimidating. Being a graduate myself I can safely say the thought of not getting hired for a job that is within the field you want to work in is daunting.

I recently had my graduate exhibition at RMIT University. Titled MMXIX, the event was designed to showcase a piece of work from each student from the graduate class of Digital Media. The exhibition was filled with amazing talent from my fellow classmates. It was a celebration of achievement and hard work. The night ended on a high, but as we all started to pack up our mixed media installations from our various projects, I felt bitter sweet that it was all over. I couldn’t believe how fast three years had gone by! What next? What is my next chapter going to look like?

Prior to graduating I had already spent hours scrolling through the pages of every job seeking website Australia had to offer. Perfecting and reworking my website portfolio an obscene amount of times. Writing countless cover letters, redrafting my resume and updating my LinkedIn profile. Yet after all the preparation in the world, I was still hesitant about finding a job – What if no one wants to hire me? It can be imitating knowing how many grad students are competing for the same opportunities, especially in 2019 where searching for work is already a minefield. Wanting to be the best candidate possible for an employer plays on your mind a lot.   

Having the opportunity to be able to gain work experience at Slade Group and working alongside such an amazing group of staff has taught me entering the industry is motivating. It is what we have been working towards our whole degree! We should feel overjoyed about entering the workforce not nervous.

A wise woman once told me – my mother to be exact, you need to back yourself! And what I mean by that is, is be proud off your achievements, flaunt what you can bring to the table. You can do all the preparation in the world, but I believe the key is to be proud and back your accomplishment and the work will come to you. #backyourself

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What are the myths (and facts) on ageing and work?

The Australian population is ageing. This has led to a lot of public policy and debate around the need to reduce welfare costs and respond to projected shortfalls in labour as older workers retire in large numbers.

Prolonging the working life in an inclusive way, and promoting solidarity of different employee life stages, are key issues in the workplace.

To help [organisations] with this, Professor Philip Taylor from Federation University Australia and DCA are tackling some misconceptions around age and work.

Myth #1: Age discrimination towards older workers is endemic
Reality: Age discrimination is potentially faced by all workers

While it is often characterised as a problem solely experienced by older people, in fact, young people experience age discrimination too. Age discrimination manifests in many forms – a lack of employment, under-employment, during recruitment, lack of career opportunities, and stereotyping.

Myth #2: Different generations have different orientations to work
Reality: It is employee life stage (e.g. school leaver, working parent, graduating to retirement) that makes a big difference – not generation

Generational constructs such as ‘Millennial’ or ‘Boomer’ are caricatures which provide a poor basis for making employment decisions. Instead, providing age inclusion over the entire employee lifecycle is key – from school leavers looking for their first work experience, to people seeking return to work after raising children, through to older workers wanting to transition to retirement.

Myth #3: Older people are a homogenous group
Reality: Older and younger people have intersectional parts of their identity which impacts on how they experience inclusion at work

People aren’t one-dimensional. Whether people are older or younger, it is how the multiple aspects of their identity intersect that impacts on how they experience inclusion at work.

Myth #4: Older workers outperform younger ones in terms of their reliability, loyalty, work ethic and life experience
Reality: Performance is not linked to age – except in very rare instances

These are age stereotypes. A better starting point for managers would be to not assume correlation between age and performance. Age-based decision-making is not only discriminatory, it also has no competitive advantage.

Myth #5: Older people have a lifetime of experience that managers should recognise
Reality: Relevant experience, is more valuable than experience, of itself

Life experience may sometimes be valued for a given role, but not always. It is better to consider what relevant experience people have and what, if any, gaps may need to be filled.

Myth #6: Younger workers are more dynamic, entrepreneurial, and tech savvy than older workers
Reality: Older people have a lot to offer the modern workplace

It should not be assumed that people have a given quality just because they are older or younger. Workplace policies should instead be built on a foundation of age neutrality.

Myth #7: Younger workers feel entitled and won’t stick around
Reality: Younger workers are more likely to be in insecure employment and to experience unemployment

Research shows that there is little link between age and someone’s commitment to work. This is just another example of an unfounded ageist stereotype.

Myth #8: Older people who stay on at work are taking jobs from younger people
Reality: Increasing the employment of older workers does not harm, and may even benefit, younger people’s employment prospects

Actually, research demonstrates that, across the OECD countries, increases in rates of older people’s employment are associated with higher youth employment rates or demonstrate no relationship at all. While young and old are sometimes characterised as being in conflict, the reality is that we are all in this together.

This article was written by Professor Philip Taylor. DCA members can read the full myth-buster on the Diversity Council Australia website.

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More than a lucky break: How Maitham and others have achieved a better life through the power of a professional career.

Over the past two years I have had the privilege of pairing with a number of participants in the CareerSeekers program. This is a non-profit organisation supporting Australia’s refugees and migrants fleeing war-torn countries, and support them with language, interview and CV skills to assist them to settle into Melbourne.

Last year I met Maitham Abonassrya, an intern in the CareerSeekers program who completed his undergraduate Engineering degree in Iraq. Through CareerSeekers Maitham secured an internship in January this year, and after three months, was offered a 12-month contract.

Maitham received in-depth support as one of many refugees or asylum seekers who have so much to offer and to contribute back to Australia life through their working career. Some are currently studying at university or are looking to restart their professional career in Australia.

CareerSeekers partners with leading organisations to create paid internships, which provide valuable local experience and networks not readily available to new arrivals, which allow participants to build their careers and to settle faster and better in Australia.

What has always impressed me is how grateful participants are to be in Australia, and the passion they exhibit in wanting to contribute to our country and embrace the opportunity they have been given.

Maitham’s success and others like him are wonderful examples of how CareerSeekers has changed the life of people who have come to Australia seeking a better life.

To hear the stories of other CareerSeekers and to find out more about how you can participate in the program as an employer, go to careerseekers.org.au.

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Posted in Technical & Operations, The world @work