Blog Archives

‘Bitty Learning’ overtakes MBAs as the new Career Cache.

Why would The Wall Street Journal report that MBA applications across the world are down three years running? Isn’t an MBA a sure ticket to a high paying and interesting career?

At Slade Group we’re very interested in labour market trends and skills matches, but it’s been a long time since we’ve heard the phrase ‘an MBA would be highly desirable’ as a criteria for hiring.

There seem to be three indicators for the decline in the attraction of MBAs:

  1. Follow the money
  2. Currency of skills
  3. ‘Value Added Ratio’

Follow the money: The money’s left Wall Street, Collins St, Pitt St etc and is headed for wherever the Technology sector lives. While MBAs are useful in the tech sector, software engineers, mathematicians, systems engineers, machine learning skills are in more demand.

Currency of skills: Big jobs data tells a rich global story. At the recent Nous Group forum, Burning Glass Technologies’ Matthew Sigelman, joined the data dots to build the picture for skills, education and employment.

Skills are the unit of currency and they’re on the move. Traditional degrees can now carry less weight than relevant skills based learning like Lean Six Sigma or PMP Certification.

The big question raised at the Nous forum was how do we, as individuals, employers and governments reskill more often, and take charge of our future? Read more here.

Value Added Ratio: MBAs cost a great deal so when the ‘added value ratio’ doesn’t add up for someone who failed or nailed their GMAT, the attraction to an MBA course also declines. In lockstep, huge hikes in course costs have matched flat lining and declining salaries for MBA graduates. From 4:1 first year salary to course cost to a 1.8:1 ratio, the MBA flavor has soured.

The fact is that an MBA can now be worth less than the sum of its bitty parts.  It all trends towards upskilling for in-demand expertise throughout our careers as a pathway for growth and success. In response universities are finally starting to unbundle their degrees and allow for macro and micro learning programmes.

We’re in the middle of interesting times!

What is your experience in your world of learning @work?

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Spoiler Alert. You can’t always get what you want.

We’re again experiencing a real shortage of capable talent at every professional level and if I could tag this post with ‘High Importance’ I would. For those who weren’t around, or who have already forgotten what it was like nearly a decade ago, here’s a story and some hot tips.

Always keen to innovate, we started Final5 as a shortlisting service in 2005; employers could brief us on a role, detail the five critical SKEs (skill, knowledge and experience) and receive a shortlist of five people in around 5 days. Five was the magical number. And it worked beautifully for around 5 years; that was until we couldn’t find 5 people who fit in five days. We couldn’t even find them in 50 days.

Embarrassingly we had to change our Terms of Business to say an acceptable shortlist from Final5 would comprise a Final 3+! And ultimately we changed our name to NextHire. Those were the years of critical shortages of capable talent. The term ‘War for Talent’ was in every second article we read.

Peeps, we think those days are back and we all have to respond accordingly.

Six Recruitment Tips for 2018.

  1. Different numbers

It may take 2x longer that than you expected to source high performers and you may only interview ½ as many candidates as you expected.

  1. Be clear up front

What are the critical capabilities and skills? What are the absolute ‘must haves’ vs what can be taught and learned?

  1. Don’t target 100% skills fit

Skills can always be learned and even better, your new hire will be trained in the latest best practice rather than relying on what they learned 10 years ago, or picked up by osmosis. It’s as true for a Claims Clerk as it is for a CFO.

  1. Do target culture and values

Improving self-awareness is hard to achieve once we’re adults. Spend time making sure the person will fit the organisation. If they’re smart and have an aptitude for learning they’ll quickly meet their accountabilities.

  1. Follow your instinct and act fast

You’ll know when you meet a good candidate. And so will everyone else she’s interviewing with. Don’t wait until you’ve met five more candidates before you make your decision. By then she’ll have three offers on the table and as you weren’t that interested early on…

  1. For specific expertise don’t overlook contractors

A Spot Market does exist for skilled employees – but it’s an interim/temporary solution rather than permanent. Our spot market is via interchangebench.com.au which has candidates with specific skill sets for fixed periods of time across most roles and industries.

How are you managing the talent shortage in your world@work?

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3 ways poor parenting plays out for employers

Have you ever thought “I wonder who parented you!” when you think about some of the more ‘difficult’ colleagues at work? Given that EQ is often pretty well cooked by the age of seven, (just like the Jesuits said) how much easier might our working lives be if we didn’t have to spend time working around the EQ gaps of some colleagues.

It starts early, so here are three tips from the experts on how to build self-aware, confident, kind and resilient adults.  Today’s children are your future employees and colleagues!

  1. Constructive Feedback

A few years ago I gave some constructive performance feedback to a colleague in her mid 20s.  I’d prepared a pretty gentle approach because she was a pretty gentle kinda ‘gal, but I was taken aback when she burst into tears half way through the conversation. She caught her breath, wiped away the tears but the chat was over. The next day she asked to see me behind closed doors. She told me that she was deeply hurt by our conversation as it was the first time anyone had ever said anything negative about her performance. “What about when you were growing up?” I asked. She replied “No I’m an only child and my mother, father and I have always been best friends.  I’ve never been told off in my life.”

Ouch.

  1. Entitlement be damned

When my own children were growing up and the inevitable “It’s Not Fair, she’s got more strawberries than me’ was trotted out over dessert, or “He got more Christmas presents than me”, my stock standard reply was “Life’s not always fair, so get used to it”. Disappointment is a part of life, and managing early disappointments help build resilience. There will always be people smarter and dumber, greater haves and greater have-nots, healthier or sicker, etc etc. The more we allow children to think that life owes them something, the greater their disappointment in life will be, and the lower their self-agency becomes.

Fair is fair, but greed and entitlement are ugly.

  1. Do as you say

One of the perennial hallmarks of great employees is reliability. Such a boring word, but such a powerful performance indicator. Great employees Do As They Say They Will Do. These are habits and patterns built in childhood, and they relate to trust and integrity. If you say it, own it. What happens when a child makes, but doesn’t deliver on promises such as “I’ll put the bins out” or “I’ll empty the dishwasher”? Do we shake our heads and silently do the job instead? Or do we let them experience the consequence of having to do all the overflow dishes by hand, hose and clean out the smelly bins, or deduct something from their pocket money?

Actions and consequences are a great way to prepare for life as a trusted colleague.

A little bit of tough love in childhood goes a long way towards building a great employee.  So what do you see in your world @work or your world @home when it comes to the great and not so great colleagues?

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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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Daniel Goleman explains why Eco-intelligence is a thing

There’s EQ, there’s IQ, and now there’s Eco Intelligence. Except the ‘now’ is 10 years old and I’m late to the party.

How did I even hear about this? A few weeks ago, a bunch of us were rabbiting on about the relative EQ and IQ of a recent senior appointment, and our visiting international expert added, “And of course you’d have taken into account their Eco-Intelligence.

I nodded in zealous agreement, Yes, of course, Eco-Intelligence, at the same time my mind was shooting blanks.

Since then, I’ve done my homework. If like me you didn’t know Eco-intelligence was a thing, then let me bring you up to speed in 2 minutes.

The term, first coined by Daniel Goldman is the title of his 2009 book Ecological Intelligence. It has gained traction through consumer action, apps and websites such as GoodGuide. Where it has still to gain traction is in the hiring of senior managers who can embed eco values and an eco-culture.

Explaining it in his compelling straightforward style, Goleman has a 90 second video that’s worth viewing.

Daniel Goleman Connects Emotional and Ecological Intelligence

Daniel Goleman explains Ecological Intelligence

In it, he explains the rapport we build with other humans is ‘I-to-You’. Or we might fail to build mutual rapport because we use a command and demand approach, which is ‘I-to-It’. And that’s how we can also understand Eco-intelligence. Namely, if we are mindful of our rapport with the earth, respectful and open to giving and taking, then that’s high Eco-Intelligence. If we strip the earth of its potential, command, demand, and show no respect, then that’s low Eco-intelligence.

At a consumer level, Eco Intelligence has been brought to life with Apps and websites such as GoodGuide. GoodGuide’s mission is to provide consumers with the information they need to make better shopping decisions. Consumers can choose products that contain ingredients with fewer health concerns, while it gives retailers and manufacturers compelling incentives to make and sell better products. There are also environmental impact assessment tools too that help corporates and individuals assess their production, distribution and consumption decisions.

How do you create eco values at your world @work, and how do you embed Eco intelligence in your decision making?

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Born in 1967, still growing up: Slade Group celebrates 50 years

In the following article by Maggie Chen, which appeared in the Autumn 2017 edition of the Victorian Chamber of Commerce & Industry Business Excellence magazine, Slade Group Chairman Geoff Slade shares his story and the insights he has developed over decades in business, in an industry he is proud to be a part of.

Geoff Slade began GW Slade & Associates 50 years ago, in a small office in Melbourne’s CBD. Before that, he worked as an assistant HR manager at an oil refinery at Western Point Bay. After almost taking up a job in consulting, at the age of 21, he decided to start his own employment agency in 1967.

His father had doubts, but his mother took a leap of faith and lent him $300 – all the money she had in the bank. It just covered his first month’s rent. “I had to make a placement in the first month; otherwise I couldn’t have paid the second month’s rent,” Slade recalled.

That he did, and for about 21 years, he built the business – by then called Slade Consulting Group –  to be, by 1988, “the biggest executive recruitment company in the country”, spanning seven cities in Australia and New Zealand.

A UK-based multinational approached Geoff and bought the business from him. In 1989, he commenced a two-year stint as HR Director at Pacific Dunlop.

When the multinational exited the Australian market a few years later, Slade re-established Slade Group in 1992. This time, as a 43-year old with four kids, he decided he would only have offices in Melbourne and Sydney so that he could spend more time with his children and less on planes.

Starting from scratch again at Slade Group was “great”, he said. Pacific Dunlop, which at one stage had 45,000 employees, retained him as a preferred supplier for over 20 years.

Secrets to longevity

How did Slade manage to build and maintain such a successful recruitment company that has already outlived most businesses?

Building trust is crucial, according to Slade. “Companies don’t build long-term relationships with you unless they perceive you’re doing the right thing by them and they trust you,” he said. “The same goes with candidates. I’ve had candidates who I didn’t place, who came back to us to give us work when they were hiring, because we built a significant trusting relationship.”

Secondly, he suggests that persistence really does pay off. Recruitment is an industry with plenty of ups and downs. “When the economy’s going well, business can be very good. When it’s not going well, you can really struggle. And a lot of people bail out when things start to get tough.”

Thirdly, for a long-term business in HR, you need to really understand customer needs. “You have to understand what their culture is like to provide them with quality people that will fit into that culture,” said Slade.

Finally, for business sustainability, it’s important to stay in touch – and that means some ‘face time’. One issue Slade sees today is that young people tend to communicate by email or text and don’t actually go out to meet the customer and really get to know them.

The recruitment industry has faced some challenging times. Seek and LinkedIn both changed the game, as did the global financial crisis, said Slade. A lot of work went to internal recruitment teams. In the face of this, he set up a company with Julian Doherty called Yellow Folder Research, which sells information on talent.

Slade’s wife, Anita Ziemer, Executive Director of Slade Group, took over running the Slade business about five years ago, when Slade became Chairman of the group. He says this allowed him to spend more time developing Yellow Folder Research, which now provides research to public companies and multinationals around Australia. It has also freed him up to focus on the Slade Group-affiliated executive search practice TRANSEARCH International Australia, which is part of a global practice. Slade points out that particularly in the case of senior positions, you really need to understand your client and their needs, and the personalised filtering services that recruitment companies can provide can be invaluable.

Slade is keen to mention his wife and family. He “wouldn’t have survived if it wasn’t for them”, he said.

A healthier era

Slade has seen attitudes to health and wellbeing in the workplace change significantly over the decades. “As late as the 1980s, we would regularly walk into offices where there were ashtrays on desks, smoke in the air and meetings held amongst cigarette smoking executives,” he recalls. “Now, of course, you’ll be hung, drawn and quartered if you’re caught smoking on the forecourt.”

At Slade Group, there have been many individuals who have been proud and passionate about their sporting and athletic pursuits. And since early last year, they’ve been taking steps, led by General Manager Chris Cheesman, to create a company-wide healthy culture, Slade said. “We’ve had people in to give us talks and information emphasising a holistic approach: the value of good sleep, e-downtime, and agile work practices. We’ve introduced standing desks, removed the soft drink vending machine, encouraged walking meetings and provide bi-weekly healthy breakfasts.”

Finally, Slade adds, “A healthy workplace is more than just the physical and mental – it’s also the emotional connections and working relationships built on camaraderie.”

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Bright young old things!

“To be a genius, think like a 94-year-old.”

If you’ve ever worried about your declining IQ, take heart from this fascinating profile of 94 year old John Goodenough who, together with his team at University of Texas, has filed a patent application on a cheap, lightweight and safe battery to revolutionise cars.

How does a man born in the 1920s outsmart the millennials?

The masterful application of knowledge and problem solving is behind Goodenough’s patent. And there’s a name for it – it’s called Crystallized Intelligence. The good news: as we age Crystallized Intelligence continues to increase (whilst our IQ shows a gradual decline). Crystallized Intelligence is accumulated information and vocabulary acquired from school and everyday life. It encompasses the application of skills and knowledge to solving problems.

Fluid Intelligence (also called native mental ability) is the information processing system. It refers to the ability to think and reason. It includes the speed with which information can be analysed, and also includes attention and memory capacity.

Neuroscientists at MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) suggest that the details on our mental acuity are far more complex than previously thought. The researchers gathered data from nearly 50,000 subjects and found a very clear picture showing that each cognitive skill they were testing peaked at a different age.

There’s little doubt that aptitude testing is prized in profiling new hires. What is less clear is the weighting we should apply to Crystallised and Fluid Intelligence for various roles, different industry sectors and on a hierarchy of leadership.

What’s becoming evident:

  • IQ peaks between 25 and 29 years old, then drifts down through the working years, with decline becoming more steep after age 70.
  • If you’re Under 25 – you should be feted for your raw speed in processing information, logic, numeric and verbal reasoning.
  • Until around age of 25, short-term memory continues to improve, when it levels off and then begins to drop around age 35.
  • Different components of fluid intelligence peak at different ages, some as late as age 40.
  • For the ability to evaluate other people’s emotional states, the peak occurred much later, in the 40s or 50s.
  • While data from the Weschler IQ tests suggested that vocabulary peaks in the late 40s, the new data showed a later peak, in the late 60s or early 70s.

Professor John Goodenough refers to himself as a ‘turtle’ who has kept on walking and meandering through life looking and picking up clues along the way. There was no ‘Big Bang’ moment for him, even though at 30 he was probably an intellectual giant. Rather, the collected wisdom and observations over his turtle life have led to that new battery patent.

“Last but not least, he credited old age with bringing him a new kind of intellectual freedom. At 94, he said, ‘You no longer worry about keeping your job.'”

Where do you think Crystallised Intelligence fits into your world @work?

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Lovers and Haters

Why do we delight in maligning people in a particular chosen profession? Why not celebrate their strengths, their contributions, and the economic and social good that results from people in work across myriad different sectors? And, if there are inefficiencies in an industry, isn’t that an opportunity for transformation?

The staffing sector has its detractors like other sectors have theirs. Teachers have too many holidays, bankers are wankers, lawyers are bottom dwellers, and journalists are hacks or reds or fascists. Farmers are whingers and council workers are slackers.

Recruiters are evil middle men and women who rip everyone off.

I just read this message again in the business pages of the Australian Financial Review. The quote came from the Chairman of a newish job board, recently floated on the ASX, seeking some press in the business pages. He was gloating that he was going to run out of town the no-good recruiters with his ‘Direct Employer Jobs, No Agencies’. I remembered the founder of LinkedIn once referenced to the staffing sector as one to be destroyed – all the while taking recruiters’ sign up fees with glee…

In fact job boards per se don’t solve hiring dilemmas. Hiring good people is often fraught with huge challenges and unexpected disappointments during and post getting a new recruit on board.

What we’re waiting for is improved Artificial Intelligence and on towards that end we’re loving those creating learning machines that can help make better hiring decisions. Take for example predictivehire.com: large volume recruiters can overlay predictive talent analytics to increase hiring performance.

And then there’s seek.com.au. SEEK was the first technology disruptor in the recruitment market, and the recruiters, way back in the late 1990s, were scared. SEEK was smart, they partnered and supported recruiters as they got used to a new way of doing business. The founders were whippet smart and could see room for everyone in a market, notwithstanding there would be winners and losers resulting from the ease of online efficiencies. Timely and needed.

The rest, as they say, is history. In spite of LinkedIn and a plethora of crash and burn attempts by competitors such as One Page, Jobs Jobs Jobs, CareerOne, My Career and others, such as our friend quoted in the AFR,  SEEK has continued its growth path. SEEK is now crawling with smart management consultants, analysts and strategists. No longer ‘first to market’, its ‘best to market’ product development mantra is paying dividends.  Job boards per se are now just a tool, but SEEK’s innovations in candidate searches are proving valuable to recruiters and employers alike.

Job boards are just one of many tools used to source, identify, screen and assist talented employees, but no longer the most important. So good luck with launching a ‘new’ Old School Job Board… While SEEK’s shares have a BUY attached today, let’s see what happens to the others –  less smart, less strategic and small minded.

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