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From Temporary to Team Leader

Many moons ago I walked through the doors of Slade Group to register as a temporary candidate. I had just come off a self-imposed two month work break and I was finally done with lounging in pyjamas and drinking wine at midday.

I decided to register for temp work, as I had no idea what industry I wanted to be in, or even what I wanted to do. You see, I have a varied career past. I’ve been a business manager, office manager, payroll manager, purchasing officer, loan writer, accounts payable, accounts receivable, executive assistant, personal assistant, receptionist, cat wrangler, Jill of all trades…

Whilst it may seem that I have jumped from job to job, I’ve actually only worked for five companies in my entire career (of, cough, 18 years, cough). I’ve been lucky enough to secure roles with privately owned businesses who have allowed me to work my way through the ranks. I’m the type who wants to learn everything I possibly can about an organisation, trying on as many hats as I can during my time. Fortunately the companies I have worked for have allowed me to do just that.

Meeting with a wonderful consultant here at Slade, who was very happy to hear about my journey and understand my need to find my next challenge, I was recruited for an internal vacancy to provide annual leave cover, starting the following week. That was five years ago!

I’ve also been very lucky to have opportunities to grow and expand on my skills by working in different roles. I’ve supported the Chairman and Managing Director, which gave me amazing insights into how Slade ticks. I’ve been a consultant for both temporary and permanent placements, allowing me to see both sides of the recruitment process. Most recently I got to spend 18 months in the role of Operations Manager. This gave me in-depth understanding about quality, compliance and procedures – all of the back-of-house functions that affect everything my colleagues on the frontline do. I am inquisitive by nature, so this was right up my alley. I thrived in an environment where I could really sink my teeth into our systems and processes, and most importantly, improve on them to create a better experience for our clients, candidates and internal staff.

Fast forward to July this year where I took on the challenge of leading The Interchange Bench. I AM LOVING IT! I love that my team and I get to spend our days placing candidates in roles that, although they may start off as temporary, can lead to permanent positions. We enjoy making good matches, which are also the right matches, not just a body to fill a chair. In fact we won’t place someone at all if they are categorically not the right fit for the job. I think that’s why we love our jobs so much, we are matchmakers and home-finders. In some ways recruitment can be like RSVP, but that’s another conversation altogether.

Am I busy? Sure. Do I still have loads to learn? Most definitely. It certainly helps that I’m surrounded by a supportive management team who are here to see me grow, learn and excel. I’m excited for things to come here at The Interchange Bench – our team is growing, the company is evolving and I’ve got an important part to play in steering us in the right direction. I’ll be team Interchange Bench for a while… After all of my previous abodes, I think I am home.

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Posted in The Interchange Bench, The world @work

Would you get up early on a Sunday to see a house you couldn’t buy?

Image: Elgin Stree Residence, Sonelo Design

Elgin Street Residence – Sonelo Design Studio, photograph by Peter Bennetts

Like many real estate obsessed Australians, I’m fascinated by other people’s property, but I’m also passionate about good design. So while the opportunity for a lie in on the weekend is always appealing, I’ve been waiting some time for a spot to join modern and contemporary design expert Stephen Crafti, on one of his popular Melbourne architecture tours.

It’s an uncharacteristically sunny winter morning, the clear blue sky is enticing and while somewhere between five and ten degrees depending on your distance from the city, we couldn’t have asked for better weather. From the conversations around me at the meeting point cafe, off Toorak Road in South Yarra, our ‘small’ tour group (about 50 strong) is a quirky mix of architects, students, arty types and industry professionals. They’re at various stages of their careers or retired and the fashions as we board the tour bus, range from low brow to South-of-the-Yarra glamour, reflecting the diversity of those drawn to Crafti’s events.

Crafti himself, a successful author and regular contributor to The Age, as well as other newspapers, local and international design magazines, is as much a draw card as the open houses we are going to be seeing. His personal style (he’s sporting signature thick rim black glasses and a fedora today), enthusiasm for the subject matter and witty running commentary are also part of the experience.

Our first house at 15 St Helen’s Road, Hawthorn East, was built by Davey Architecture Studio in 1982, and John Davey lived and worked here for 25 years. Featured in the August 2017 edition of the The Boroondara Bulletin, Crafti describes it as 80s brutalist. Testament to Crafti’s literal ability to open doors, we’re met at the property by Davey, as well as current owners Phillip Schluter and Liz Wu. While the exposed concrete blocks, dark yellow corrugated columns and black steel framed windows (likened to the Pompidou modern art museum in Paris) no doubt appeared radical set amongst the neighbouring heritage homes at the time , ironically the whole back garden including the pool is now overshadowed by a two storey faux Georgian monstrosity. We’re told the original colour scheme had a fuchsia palette. Inside over split levels you can still find bright blue benches, but the pink carpet is gone and accent colours are now olive green. Some later additions are also eye catching: there’s two giant calligraphy prints hanging in the living room and a red peg board coat rack that work for me. Crafti has offered to redecorate with 80s furnishings. He’s both good natured and deadly serious.

We cross town to Kensington to see Tim Hill of TANDEM Studio’s own True North house at the corner of Eastwood and Parsons Street. Built in 2016, it has a just finished quality enhanced by the shiny corrugated façade and the deliberate absence of window coverings (still a point of contention between Hill and his partner). Privacy has nonetheless been considered in the siting of the building. Set on a triangular block that tapers from double front to a single room, it references the boomerang shape popular in 1950s design. Built-in seating and dare I say an almost caravan style dining table were made necessary by the rounded walls. With its bright inner courtyard, pin spot LEDs, light timber panelling walls and ceiling and exposed wardrobes, it has a contemporary Scandi feel. Hill has rescued a historic cottage and stables (heritage listing pending) at the rear, adding to the holiday feel. And yes, it’s occasionally rented out on AirBnB. TANDEM won a Commendation for the project in the 2017 Victorian Architecture Awards.

Back on the bus, Crafti says while some notable property owners are prepared to give him personal access to their houses, he’s only interested in those who feel benevolent to share their homes with the public. All of the places we visit are well lived in, certainly not display homes. Our hosts greet us with their partners, children, housemates and dogs. They’re wearing their weekend clothes, carrying their groceries or doing whatever they happen to be doing when we call on them, like visiting relatives. Although the mood is casual, months of planning goes into these tours. After lunch back in Toorak Road, we head Northside again.

Next is a tiny Victorian terrace on Elgin Street, Carlton, normally entered via a discreet doorway from a laneway behind Canning Street. Its façade blends with the period from the front; it’s disguised amongst a series of commercial use conversions at the rear. Architect Wilson Tang from Sonelo Design Studio has contrasted dark (dark timber window slats and black mirrored walls) and light (a bright loft bedroom and internal lightwell courtyard) in this small space. There are some clever modern touches, including folded steel stairs and folded metal shelves, perforated acoustic panels and a dining table on wheels that slides away for greater floor space. Contemporary light fittings also contrast with the older style front rooms, while wide timber floors and flush horizontal lines on the brick feature walls serve to anchor the high ceilings. Owner Arya Triadi is from Indonesia, bringing aspects of Bali style to create a shady space that anticipates the summer heat. The project is a strong example of Crafti’s argument that good design can make small spaces richer and more meaningful.

Our last stop is a real showstopper. From the street, 26 Hampden Road is a private enclosed bunker, a cross between fortress and art gallery, not quite what you might expect to find in the quiet streets of Armadale.  Designed by BE Architecture and featured in Australia by Design’s Top 10 Australian Homes, the build took 60 tonnes of granite. The tough exterior gives way to a luxurious interior where no detail has been spared. Hard surfaces extend to stainless steel kitchen benches and cupboards (repeated in a butler kitchen bigger that’s almost bigger than my apartment), which are softened by exquisitely crafted curved tiles in the laundry and bathrooms. Even the granite basins are textured from smooth to coarse. There’s a feast of contemporary artwork, including a MONA-esque LED screen installation (a video of fluorescent tubes). A brass balustrade leads up to an oculus skylight and a Japanese inspired garden off the master bathroom, complete with freestanding granite bath and a cute outdoor shower. Of course there’s a beautifully integrated swimming pool, overlooked by a Julliette balcony from the living room. The automatically controlled upper storey window shutters and underground car parking (accessed by a lift) could be triumphs of engineering. Owners Russell and Ros are unobtrusively present while architect Andrew Piva takes final questions from our group.

We finish the tour with a drive by of some extraordinary Holgar & Holgar Toorak mansions from last century (vulgar and vulgar to some, Crafti points out), each suitably OTT. While he’s carefully avoided making his architecture tours into Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous and the experience has been both authentic and entertaining, the one thing missing has been a beautiful garden – none of the properties we’ve seen has really had one. As the day concludes I’m hankering for what Crafti will have to show us on the next tour… perhaps a stunning home with landscaping to match or an inner city pad with a carefully curated balcony that’s overflowing with greenery, like my place.

Are you a subject matter expert on a creative industry with a unique Point of View? How have you turned your creative passion into a successful career in the world @work?

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Posted in The world @work

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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Thinking of asking for part-time hours? Read this first!

Having spent the last eight years working three days per week, I have firsthand experience of the benefits of part-time working arrangements, particularly when raising three young children. Those pesky medical, tradesperson and personal appointments can be slotted into my ‘off’ days, I save on childcare and travel costs and it’s great to only have to wear corporate attire for three days!

BUT there are key considerations when contemplating a move to part-time hours, which often are only realised after you’ve already moved to a part-time role.

You are likely to still need to ‘check-in’ on your non-working days

This is particularly relevant if you are providing a service to clients (internal or external) and/or you perform a time critical function that requires a timely response to achieve the desired outcomes. Even if you job-share your role, unless you have airtight handover discussions with your job partner on a weekly basis, expect the inevitable calls or emails. Often the fact that work emails and phone messages still accumulate on your ‘off’ days means that you may need to check-in spasmodically, at least to alleviate the workload when you return.  People considering part-time hours may fantasise about switching off their mobiles when they leave and having a clear break (similar to an Easter long weekend), but given that work still comes in, the reality is quite different.

You are unlikely to get promoted

Like a Faustian-type bargain, most part-timers that I have met have reported that career advancement chances have reduced in favour of their permanent counterparts, particularly if they work less than four days per week. A fellow part-time peer was told by their manager that leading teams, especially if they are full-time predominantly, was better suited to a full time manager. Whilst agile working practices and technology have started to change perceptions that employees always need to be present in the office to be productive, from a leadership and promotion perspective, there is still a long way to go.

For those individuals who do hold key leadership roles and work part-time, has it been easy or difficult to achieve? I’d love to hear from you to gauge whether there are any trends arising across sectors or numbers of days worked.  

Time will not be your friend

Unless you job share, squeezing all your work into your shortened week will be a constant consideration. On a positive note, you will (hopefully) evolve to be more efficient in your work practices, but the casualty can often be the casual interactions that you have with your work colleagues, which help build personal relationships and can improve the team culture. You are likely to be moving from one appointment, obligation or deadline to another with minimal downtime, which can also result in burnout and forfeit the benefits of part-time work in the first place.

Events and functions won’t always suit your schedule

Unfortunately, it is highly likely that there will be events, conferences, training, company meetings and/or team building events that won’t fall into your set work days. There will be a need to attend some of these functions and you may not get paid for your attendance.

All-in-all, I’m still a fan

Despite the above, I am a strong advocate of the benefits of part-time work, as it does facilitate quality time with family, whilst still balancing a stimulating role and work environment. Whilst generally people reflect on the financial repercussions and broad work/lifestyle aspects of part-time employment, consideration needs to be given to the above factors when determining whether it is truly your own employment nirvana.

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

Mindfulness @work

I was at a workshop recently where the facilitator talked about Humans being descendants of the Nervous Apes, because all the Chilled Apes did not survive. He was referring to an evolutionary skill we have all developed, which is to perceive threats more acutely so that firstly we can survive and then if we can learn to deal with these threats, thrive.

And thrive we have – over the last 50 years we have made huge progress to fill our lives with conveniences and technology has played a big part in making our lives more comfortable.

But despite all this progress, we are still working harder than ever.

At work, we are driven by results and in many organisations, performances are linked to quarterly and half yearly performance targets. To achieve these results, we focus on process, optimising and streamlining the process to get the biggest bang for the buck. Our mobile devices keep us constantly connected to huge amounts of information, which adds to the feeling of pressure and time becomes the shortest of commodities. We wait for our holidays to de-stress, but there again we can’t switch off as we carry these mobile devices with us. A recent article talked about us using our mobile devices for approximately 2.5 hours in a day, and that 50% of the people surveyed claim to check their mobile devices when they wake up at night.

This way of life is creating significant health issues – the latest Time magazine article talked about 300 million people world-wide who suffer from depression. In the US approximately 12% people are taking some form of anti-depression medication on a regular basis.

Here are some other interesting facts: Did you know our Minds wander 47% of the time and that 70% of leaders regularly report not being attentive during meetings? And yet only 2% people do something to address this issue of mind wandering.

So what can we do about this?

Ariana Huffington has talked about this problem in her book called Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder. She believes we have focused too much attention on the external world of “Money and Power” as the key factors of success and have neglected the third key metric, which is our “Well-being or our Inner World”.

Since we can’t change the pace of the external world, we need to find better ways to build up our “Inner Space and Capacity” and find ways to “Pause and Reset”.

The good news is that neuroscience research has now confirmed that we can build up our emotional capacity and resilience by adopting some mindfulness practices which enables new pathways in our brain to be established, referred to as neuroplasticity.

Mindfulness exercises can help us increase our concentration and focus which can help reduce the wandering of our minds. With other simple techniques, such as attentive listening, we can build our empathy and compassion, not just to others but also to ourselves. There are other mindfulness exercises which can help us build our emotional resilience, which would make us better at handling stressful situations and relationships. In short, mindfulness helps us build up our emotional intelligence, which is the key to more effective leadership, decision making and well-being.

The other great news is that mindfulness practices have now been adapted to suit the corporate world that we executives live in, so let us take this opportunity to bring mindfulness @work and bring a greater focus to the third metric, our well-being.

 

This article was originally published on TRANSEARCH Executive Leadership Insights.
Republished with kind permission from TRANSEARCH International Australia.

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EVP now means a partnership, with flexibility and the opportunity to contribute to a bigger picture

We’ve moved on from the Employee Value Proposition (EVP). Certainly a great working environment, progressive organisation culture, and the right level of remuneration with associated benefits are attractive to highly talented individuals. However, more and more I am seeing both organisations and candidates searching for the ultimate partnership between employer and employee.

Organisations want talent who can deliver, no matter what the situation. At executive level, there’s an expectation of availability (or at least to be contactable) 24/7, no matter what time zone and what time of the year… my New Year’s Eve phone calls are still ringing in my ears! Top performers are keen to have greater flexibility and accountability, including the hours, locations, scope of work and the projects they have the opportunity to work on. Working together embraces all of these ideals and both parties have a critical responsibility to adapt their approach to work in today’s marketplace.

Increasingly our life is more about want-want-want – just ask my teenage kids who want more than I can provide! As a consumer society, we often lose focus on the importance of empathy, compassion and giving. Nevertheless I believe we all want something that we can connect with, whether that be emotional, spiritual, financial or another reason. Going to work every day for a higher purpose is fulfilling. I am literally hearing from candidates the need to work in an environment where “I know I can make a difference”. To facilitate this, you must have an environment that places the bigger picture at the heart of its purpose, right?

Last year Salesforce was awarded the highest honour of #1 Best Place to Work in Australia. It’s worth asking, what do they do differently? The company adopts the Hawaiian spirit of Ohana (meaning ‘family’), which obviously resonates if you’ve ever met someone that works there or read some of their employee testimonials. Along with their 1-1-1 Corporate Philanthropy Model, where 1% of tech staff are allocated to supporting not-for-profit enterprises in Australia, Salesforce has also taken a stand on social issues, including gender equality and marriage equality.

Let’s not forget that understanding the customer is also paramount. We should aspire to achieve great partnerships with our clients, as well as our colleagues and our employer. Observing an organisation who values both the needs of customers and its own people will attract like-minded talent who are also a good cultural fit. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

If you’re a candidate, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there on what your real EVP looks like (I’m hinting it’s probably not a slide in the office). Employers, give and you shall receive in spades.

What’s unique about your value proposition as a candidate or an employer? How has your organisation adapted to these changing dynamics in the world @work?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

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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The nuances of effective feedback

When Robyn, a great candidate referred by a trusted source, crashed and burned in an interview, I asked if she might be open to discussing how she felt about the interview. “Yes please!” This led to a great two-way conversation. But what if I had said, “You were terrible at interview and you have to take on the feedback I’m about to give you.”?

One of the most important skills we can all acquire is the gift of masterful feedback, both giving it and receiving it.

Instructive feedback encompasses both constructive feedback and informative feedback. The most useful feedback is both mindful and effective in empowering and influencing others. It is honest, unbiased and requested, rather than being thrust upon you. When you receive effective feedback, with no personal attachments and no hint of persuasion, it is all the more credible and importantly, able to be embraced and or even acted upon.

Uninvited feedback on the other hand, resulting from a reaction or response, can interrupt thoughts, kill motivation, learning and/or be annoying or even destructive, as it erodes trust and builds barriers. It can be particularly hurtful when it is directed at the other person’s values and beliefs or their judgements.

“The only fully legitimate feedback we can give a speaker is information about the state of our own cage.” – Mackay (1994)

Uninvited feedback can come from well-meaning friends, family or work colleagues, who believe it’s somehow their duty to tell you their observations or opinions to help you. Consciously they are trying to change you or maybe even communicate something about themselves, how they feel, think or respond. Subconsciously they may also be trying to sell their ideas, their experiences or get you to like them and be influenced by them.

It’s hard to accept uninvited feedback and take stock of the messages people dish out.  Receiving effective feedback is very different.

Effective feedback is provided in the most appropriate way so other person finds it useful and beneficial. A leader coaching their team or a peer, may use effective feedback to project back a particular perception, emotion, word, or experience observed. This could simply entail repeating back a certain word or phrase using active listening and recording a conversation.

When we clarify to capture meaning it also assists in the feedback process. It’s a bit like having another set of eyes and ears to help you gauge the message behind your words, your tone and feelings. Science tells us that we tend to operate more in the subconscious mind, than our conscious mind.  It’s clear that many of us go through life not being very aware of how we are perceived, the power of our thoughts and words, or their translation by others.

Successful executive coaching is underpinned by the use of effective feedback for this very reason; it creates increased clarity, trust, confidence and support. When a leader is able to regularly engage with feedback that is positive, that’s acknowledgement. When a leader is relaying feedback that has a negative effect, this can be referred to as feedback with judgement, which can often be received as criticism.

The more you pay conscious attention to how you and others provide effective feedback (clarification and or questioning without a tone of judgement) the further you empower others and yourself in your role. When you create a positive mindset for ongoing feedback in all its forms, you create greater synergy, trust and awareness.

How are you engaging in effective feedback in your world @work?

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Posted in Slade Education, Slade Executive, The world @work