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A thought provoking start to 2016

For insight into the talent challenges facing businesses today and tomorrow, today’s blog is an edited excerpt from the Business Excellence interview with Anita Ziemer, Executive Director of Slade Group. Business Excellence is the publication of the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, a member of the Australian Chamber of Commerce.

A candidate who is a 70 per cent fit for a role is more effective than a perfect-on-paper candidate. “Bearing in mind that many things you learnt 10 years ago are now redundant and the majority of skills are learnt on the job, what’s important is how you’ve learnt and adapted,” Anita explains. “One of the partners at a top-tier law firm says he feels guilty inducting new graduates with the highest grades because he knows much of what they have learnt can be downloaded with the a click of a button in the form of ready-made contracts. Those applicants need to find new ways to add value; it’s about what you build around your job description that’s important,” she adds.

As degree-level qualifications become the norm, and job suitability is governed less by where you live or the schedule you work, soft skills become more important differentiators. Anita says: “We’re hearing from many organisations that graduates are theoretically and academically prepared, but face a big shock when it comes to managing their working day, which is why we like to see a range of part-time jobs on young people’s résumés.” She adds: “Businesses across all sectors are looking for employees who can use their intellect to join the dots, be creative and deliver value that cannot be outsourced.”

The role of a recruiter may have changed dramatically in the last 20 years as companies moved away from hiring homogenous groups of people. “The key qualities of a good hire almost never change in that No. 1 is being passionate about the role and No. 2 is sharing the values of the organisation,” says Slade Group’s Anita Ziemer. “But in this fast-changing environment, flexibility and adaptability are also very important traits,” she adds. “It’s out of date to say ‘that’s not my job’ or ‘that’s not how we do things around here’; you have to be able to work with ambiguity, within a fluid workplace and fluid job description.”

Technical operations, construction, education and healthcare employers are among those keeping Slade Group’s recruiters busy for the foreseeable future. Anita says nursing, a profession that requires nurturing skills, may be one of the more reliable occupations to be in and recruit for, while automation and the globalisation of the workforce is redefining the meaning of talent in many sectors. “It is still common for the education system to push students towards so-called middle-class security roles in accounting, medicine and the law, but much of that can be offshored,” she suggests. “So back-end accounting goes to the Philippines, low-level legal work goes to India and – it’s a scary thought – if a surgeon has conducted a routine procedure hundreds of times why does your operation need to happen in Australia?”

On the positive side for jobseekers who are able to upskill or cross-skill, new and more interesting roles can be created in this flux. Anita points out: “People talk about manufacturing flattening out but the flip side is that we’re seeing new roles in the bespoke side of the market. A tailored approach to manufacturing continues to be something that Australia and particularly Victoria does well, which is why to lose those manufacturing skills would be a tragedy.”

The prerequisite for all of today’s recruits is digital expertise, as revealed in the results of Slade Group’s Australian Digital Skills and Salary Survey 2015. Anita explains: “The survey of 150 organisations showed that rather than looking for single candidates with a broad digital skill set, employers are expecting all staff to have the digital expertise related to their role. While 70 per cent believe a digital skills gap is taking a moderate or heavy toll on their business, a quarter said they find it difficult to source digital employees and attribute this to a lack of talent.” The survey results also indicated, however, that internal human resources teams are ill-equipped to accurately assess the digital skills of applicants and are relying too heavily on existing employee feedback to identify areas requiring development.

Another core attribute of the ideal hire, says Anita, is a “broad view of the world”. Professional services firms in particular are placing increased emphasis on cross-cultural awareness and communication as the business world becomes borderless. “Not having a broad view of the world is why some academically successful employees find themselves confined to the backroom technology roles while those who can engage, network and create strong links climb the ladder,” she adds.

In contrast to popular representations of millennials as entitled narcissists, Anita insists aptitude for hard work is just as likely to exist in a twentysomething as a baby boomer. She says: “Some argue there’s a trend among millennials to expect reward and promotion almost immediately, but maybe that has always been the case and people just sucked it up because workplaces were so regimented and hierarchical.” She adds that employers should not beat themselves up when an employee in their 20s moves on after a year, but should nevertheless review the opportunities they offer for internal progression to meet the craving of today’s employees for lifelong learning.

Of course there is no single, correct approach to recruitment, as reflected in Slade Group’s own workforce of experienced recruitment consultants and sector specialists who have retrained for a second career in recruitment. The layers of candidate assessment undertaken by TRANSEARCH International, the Group’s executive search division, take into account far more than a job description can encapsulate to help businesses meet their future talent needs.

One of the key growth areas for the company is in temporary staffing, and Anita sees this trend as far from the nightmare painted by some social commentators who see us all becoming lonely, disenfranchised contractors. “Casualisation makes sense for both employers and employees, in that the former can work with fixed costs and employees can work across their portfolio of interests,” she says.

“About 15 years ago I remember broadcaster Phillip Adams talking about how by the end of the century the employment model will have flipped and 70 per cent of us will not be in full-time work, leaving society with the challenge of how to occupy its citizens,” she continues. “But while it’s likely that teams will look very different in the future than they do now, we’re still social animals and want to learn from each other – you only need to look at the growth of co-working.”

As for emerging occupations that businesses are expected to need recruitment support for, Anita says digital security looms large. “One of the great opportunities we see is in the technological dark arts, in that employers are going to want to hire the 22-year-old boffins who can hack their system and know how to test the integrity of software, but those are the people who fly under the radar and are hard to find,” she explains.

While employers are busy embedding innovation into day-to-day operations, a fresh perspective on the personalities and skill sets that your team needs to power its success is perhaps something that only an external recruiter can provide.

Anita says: “Experts say we’re still 40 years away from artificial intelligence in its truest form so the human overlay of recruitment experience is still much needed; an algorithm cannot do this yet.”

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Still just a country boy

Which recruitment executives have inspired you on a professional level? Recently industry news site Shortlist asked me to nominate them. Recruitment blogger Ross Clennett also devoted several articles this year to the subject, including What You May Not Know About Recruitment’s Top 16 InfluencersThe 5 Most Influential People in the Recruitment Industry in past 60 years (has it been that long?), and a who’s who of the 15 most influential people in the industry.

Common traits amongst those nominated at the top of Clennett’s lists (John Plummer, Greg Savage, Geoff Morgan & Andrew Banks, Julia Ross – and somehow I squeezed in there too) are the ability to build businesses, develop people, contribute to enhancing the industry and a vision for the future. Those same qualities I’ve observed in industry leaders in every sector, which as Clennett says, have all been recognised by their peers as “individuals that have significantly shaped our industry for the better”.

About 50 years ago, I knew nothing about recruitment. I was a country boy who started my career in an HR role at a global construction business at age 19. Then in the late 1960s I was bold (read lucky) enough to start-up a recruitment business, GW Slade and Associates, with some help in the form of a loan from my parents. This later became Slade Consulting Group and was sold in 1988 – with offices in all major cities in Australia and New Zealand. Fast forward a couple of decades, Slade Group began in 1991.

Many of today’s leaders were highly active members of our industry associations. Before the days of the Recruitment and Consulting Services Association (RCSA), there was the National Association of Personnel Consultants (NACP) and the Institute of Personnel Consultants (IPC), which I was heavily involved with. We later merged the two together with the appointment of Julie Mills (now at ITCRA – the Australian and New Zealand Information Technology Contract & Recruitment Association), who was fundamental in pulling it all together. I was the founding chairman of the RCSA and later its President. It was a fairly interesting time because not everyone was keen on the merger. Julie spent many years as the executive director of the RCSA, and I think without her, the industry wouldn’t be in such a strong position as it is today.

People like the aforementioned were all inspirational in one way or another. Greg Fish was an outstanding young man too who unfortunately never got to 40, but he was also an inspiration.

I’m lucky to have worked with a number of inspirational women, not the least of whom is my wife, Anita Ziemer. Certainly some of these are Louise Craw, who managed Slade Group’s Professional Support business for some 27 years and Nanette Carroll, who actually bought part of the Slade business after Blue Arrow (a UK listed Group who bought my original company) pulled out of Australia. Nanette was awarded Telstra Businesswoman of the Year in 1996. In our current business Maria Cenic, our GM Finance & Shared Services who has been with us for well over 10 years, keeps the ship on course and trims the sails appropriate to the forecast.

Work and accolades aside, I grew up in Bittern on the Western Port side of the Mornington Peninsula and still spend most weekends in the region. I’d say I’m still just a country boy.

Which executives have inspired you on a professional level in your industry?

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How to triage CV applications in the War for Talent

In his own way, the great Napoleonic surgeon Dominique Larrey has influenced the progress of your career! Over 200 years ago he halted the practice of treating ranked officers ahead of foot soldiers, and instead introduced the modern rule of triage of casualties; that is treating the wounded according to their level of injury and urgency for medical care. We’re saluting a long departed hero of another time and in a very different field, but whose legacy also affects us all. Read on and join the dots.

“Dominique Larrey knew that those with critical injuries would stand a good chance of survival if they were operated on within the first hour of their trauma occurring. Those with minor injuries were made to wait, while the more seriously injured were attended to. Those deemed to be mortally wounded were put aside, often with alcohol to comfort them until they passed away, whilst resources were concentrated on those who could survive.

This process of systematic evaluation became known as ‘triage’, a French word meaning ‘to sort’.

No one dared to question Larrey’s triage system for fear of being deemed aristocratic  – a status that would almost certainly attract the attention of the dreaded Committee of Public Safety, the ruling council in Paris.”

Recruiters have to be adroit ‘sorters’ of CVs and we’ve taken a few tips from Larrey. It sounds harsh that sometimes the hours you’ve put into preparing a CV can be scanned and assessed in all of 10 seconds by a recruiter. But that is the task and fortunately we’ve moved well beyond previous prejudices that were blinkered by creed, culture and colour, the Queen’s English and postcodes.

So what is that we’re looking for in terms of (i) ‘Not for this job’, (ii) ‘Maybe for this job’ and (iii) ‘Yes, I want to meet’?

Every role is different, but here are some of the 10 fast-as-lightening assessments that have to be made in ‘the War for Talent’.

Triage Language: Won’t Survive.  Slade Group: Not for this job

 

  • Too many moves
    Once you’ve grown through your 20s, we’re looking for ‘stickability’. If you’re ‘out looking’ every one to two years in your 30s and 40s, then sadly your career is heading for the morgue.

 

 

  • Failed English
    If you can’t spell, then use spellcheck, and if you can’t draw together a reasonable sentence, then getting ahead is going to be hard.

 

 

  • Completely irrelevant experience or skill set
    Don’t waste our time.

 

Triage Language: Serious Injuries.  Slade Group: Needs more time to assess

 

  • Some relevant experience
    Interesting related experience; might not have worked in the same sector or similar role but has related experience that could add real value.

 

 

  • A succinct career statement
    Makes it enticing to invest more time to understand what this candidate could bring to an organisation.

 

 

  • Relevant qualifications
    A technical role often requires relevant qualifications; think accounting, engineering, the law, medicine and IT. Not always the case, but often the case.

 

 

  • Concise and easy to read
    This simple tip puts yours ahead of CVs that have to be read twice, that are filled with paragraphs and lengthy narrative.

 

Triage Language: Minor Injuries.  Slade Group: Almost perfect, get them in for interview

 

  • Achievements
    A CV with real cache will highlight respected career achievements to excite a recruiter and your next employer.

 

 

  • Career Trajectory
    Several internal promotions at a number of long stay roles, and/or successive, successful career steps will shape a blue chip CV.

 

 

  • Blue chip qualifications, employers and documented achievements
    Hard to beat the trifecta.

 

If you haven’t been getting to interview, perhaps review the roles you’re applying for and check in with your own CV to make sure it’s not working against you.

That’s our world @work on this our 100th Blog. What’s your point of view?

Please keep up the feedback, comments and input.

Featured image: Wounded arriving at triage station, National Museum of Health and MedicineCreative Commons licence

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A President, a CEO and a journalist were in a room together…

On the last Wednesday in August, Slade Group hosted its annual Footy Lunch. As usual there were meaty titbits from Caroline Wilson and plenty of differences of opinions about teams most likely, players least likely and coaches unlikely.

As MC, Laurie Serafini fuelled some good natured debate, but when it came to matters of football governance, the guest speakers were in heated agreement. This year’s panel comprised Caroline Wilson, Chief Football writer for The Age, radio and TV commentator, and Walkley Award winning journalist; Peggy O’Neal, Richmond Club President; and David Stevenson, the Western Bulldogs’ newly appointed CEO.

It didn’t take long for the audience of senior business leaders to join the dots: the best performing football clubs are no different from the best performing organisations.

Just like non-sporting organisations, AFL clubs are taking a good hard look at themselves.

  • The panel sent packing the idea that old football stars make the best coaches. Plenty of us in business have found that star performers in the field or on the floor don’t necessarily make the best leaders and managers.
  • The panel laid down the fact that gender diversity leads to better performance – in clubs and non-sporting organisations alike. Taking the lead from David Stevenson, ex Senior Nike Executive now boss of the Bulldogs, there were some sighs from both men and women in the audience when David said he couldn’t believe, on returning to Australia, that gender inequity is still so evident Down Under.
  • And whilst there aren’t any teams with elephant or gazelle mascots, it’s these two animals that are often cited as being reflective of the two ends of the corporate spectrum; large global giants and smaller nimble organisations. There is a prevailing view that perhaps AFL House has become a bit of a lumbering elephant, whereas AFL clubs are responding to new ways of thinking much more quickly than the ‘parent company’ and in turn have much closer community alignment.

Our panel concluded the clubs are better champions for change than the AFL itself on a range of current issues. It seems the gazelle has trumped the elephant and those old bulls are a little slow when it comes to learning new tricks.

That’s our world@sport this week. What are the similarities and differences you see?  We’d love to hear.

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A call out to all the great Union Leaders! Who are you? Where are you?

In the June 20 edition of the UK Financial Times I read the third article that week covering the plight of Uber drivers. No one knows how their new ‘co-dependent employee’ label came about, but travelling across the US, UK and Europe, I could see a clearly accelerating legal discourse on the impact of the shared economy on the labour market. A week earlier, the plight of Silicon Valley wunderkinds and their concerns about being pawns in a race to the top between their masterful employers was all over the US media.

In contrast, the week I got back to Australia, Kathy Jackson and her blatant rorting of the Health Services Union was front and centre of the news.

What an extraordinary contrast in focus. The realities facing the new labour market vs the archaic model of traditional union operations.

We’re undoubtedly grateful for the past hardships endured by workers in their battles for better conditions and for the legacy value that Unions negotiated on our behalf such as the 8 hour work day. But where is the leadership thinking in Unions today?

The market is seemingly light years ahead and has left them behind. And what informs the union leadership of today? In fact, what is the profile of professionals employed by the unions? Where are the Bob Hawkes, the Rhodes scholars, the best and the brightest? Or is the fast pace of industry in this new century just so much more tantalising than old school union organisations? And given that the union movement has traditionally offered a vital pool of talent for future ALP candidates, what does that say about the forthcoming political talent on the left?

Step up union leaders! Re-create your relevance in a shared economy. The world has changed and so has the agile, flexible and fluid expectations of a large share of the labour market. Smart organisations and their employees, the strategists, academics, scientists, technology experts and educationalists are recreating the future world of work.

Are unions futilely fighting a rising tide, or can they spot a good swell and redirect their efforts in order to be relevant in the rapidly changing world of work?

What’s your view of unions in our present world@work?

Featured image: Vintage Tobacciana Advertising – Union Leader Smoking Tobacco by Joe Haupt, Creative Commons licence and copyright

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9 chilling facts about your workplace and this digital economy

You’re not alone – we’re all alert and slightly alarmed. Just take a look at the summary findings from The Australian Digital Skills and Salary Survey 2015, and our original article below.

Where digital skills fall short:

  • 80% of managers describe staff as being weak in some or several areas of digital expertise; 70% believe a digital skills gap is taking a moderate or heavy toll on their business.
  • Even though over two thirds of respondents say it’s critical that new employees are able to demonstrate digital expertise, only 12% conduct internal or external testing during recruiting.
  • Only 9% think recent university graduates are equipped to undertake digital role requirements.
  • A quarter (25%) of the 150 businesses surveyed find it difficult to source digital employees because they believe not enough talent is available.
  • Respondents believe that 40% of senior managers in their organisations have ‘only a moderate understanding of the importance of digital skills’ while 20% had ‘little understanding’ at all.
  • Over 30% of respondents have brought in digital staff from overseas and will do so again, despite higher costs associated with sponsorship and relocation. Another 26% will consider it.
  • Over half (56%) of businesses surveyed anticipated hiring more digital specialists over the coming 12 months.
  • Mobile devices took over PCs for the first time in 20141, but only 9% of organisations believe they are ahead of the competition in mobile/SMS marketing today.
  • 98% of respondents feel it’s important to continually train their digital staff, yet over 60% rely on employee feedback and ‘observation’ to identify areas requiring development.

Since last month when we reported Digital Skills Fall Short the news media is all over it too.

We’ve linked the current commentary for your interest:

What are implications for us in the new digital economy, if “Australian businesses lag behind US and UK in competitive digital skills,” as International Business Times says? Locally, a skills crunch is a threat. It’s confirmed by a report in The Australian. And addressing that skills gap will be a challenge.

We’re not making it easy for ourselves either. CMO Magazine highlights a common conundrum: “Australian employers under-invest in skill development even as they struggle to find talent.”

The recruitment and training industries concur. According to training.com.au, “Australian businesses are struggling to match digital business needs with adequately skilled employees.”

Shortlist observes it’s “funding issues, not skills shortages”, which “stymie digital recruitment”, endorsing our prediction that the demand for digitally savvy executives will grow.

For a full copy of the report, please contact Slade Executive Recruitment on +613 9235 5100.

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