Blog Archives

Nowadays, flattery will get you nowhere

How the pendulum has swung! Just ten years ago when making approaches to potential candidates by phone, I could virtually hear their flattered voices. In 2018 those potential candidates are fielding calls from numerous consultants for multiple roles, and in those voices I now sometimes detect the sound of annoyance.

The market is as tight as ever with organisations needing top technical talent yesterday. The ever-expanding landscape in Victoria and NSW particularly driven by major infrastructure projects, means that technical specialists and executives are constantly in high demand.

As a recruiter, change is something we encourage. One of the reasons I am proud of the brand we have at Slade Group, is that we thrive on our ability to swim upstream in an industry where it can often be easier to go with the flow… We work with our clients and candidates so that even though we’re headhunters, nobody we work with ever feels they have been randomly targeted to end up as ‘professional roadkill’.

How do we break away from the pack?

We don’t expect candidates to move quickly. Would you? If someone called you out of the blue asking if you wanted to look at another job, would you blindly give your details? I wouldn’t. We take the time when we reach out to candidates to get to know them, their career aspirations, their likes and dislikes, and what they do for fun. We figure out if the candidate is the right fit for an organisation’s culture, and if a certain company culture is the right fit for the candidate. It goes both ways for the candidate and the client. Success and growth should be attainable for both parties, and it’s the long-term picture that we look at when we’re recruiting for a role.

We retain our work. Slade Group work with a large majority of our clients on a retained assignment basis, which is when we take a part payment from engagement to placement of the candidate. I know, you’re probably wondering why someone would pay up-front for a service they can get from a number of others, but it’s because when we take a retained assignment we see it as a project: If you paid someone to do your homework, you’d expect to receive an A+. This is exactly how we approach our retained assignment projects.

We take a thorough brief from the client, we take the time to understand what they need and don’t just guess what they need. We commit our reputation, time and effort just as much as we ask the client to commit to us, and with that commitment we do it properly. We have the best research team in the business who we engage to map the market to help establish your strategy. We want to get this right for you, as if we worked at your company.

We set realistic expectations. When we engage with our clients, we set expectations and we don’t take an assignment we can’t fill. We work with you and guide you through our shared journey. You receive a detailed schedule on what to expect when, and we leave you to get on with your day job.

If you’ve been headhunted, what was the experience like? What would you look for when considering the best way to recruit for your business?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

7 business and life lessons we can draw from Roger Federer’s #20grandslamwin

I’ve done a quick survey around the office and the streets at home, and guess what? I can honestly say I can’t find anyone who doesn’t love Roger Federer (or who isn’t pleased he just won the Australian Open last weekend). Can the Swiss tennis maestro do no wrong?

Federer’s probably the best known sportsman in the world right now. He’s just won three of the five last grand slams aged 36, which contradicts those who assume he should be too old, too slow, or simply past it. No way!

Who knows what has led to the incredible renaissance of this elite superstar? If we wind the (Swiss) clock back a little, Federer had a four year drought up until last January (2017), where he didn’t win one major at all… zero, nada, niente.

Well, this got me thinking… What can we learn from the great man’s rebirth over the past twelve months, and can these learnings have a place in the office and our lives generally?

Working in the ‘people business’ – I am an executive recruitment consultant, and a communications coach, trainer and facilitator – I’m constantly observing behaviours. Here are my observations on Roger Federer:

  1. Federer has a rock solid self-belief system. Experts say sport is played 70% above the neck. Federer’s self-talk must be awesomely positive. What do you say to yourself about yourself at work?
  2. Maintaining fitness (and winning) at 36 years of age in international sport is a massive achievement. Mentally and physically Federer works so hard. I’m told the dictionary is the only place where success comes before work. What do you need to be doing more of in your life?
  3. Federer surrounds himself with family and has a great team to train and support him. We can’t do it all by ourselves. Who have you chosen to be on your team, in your inner circle, both at work and socially?
  4. Even with #20grandslamwins, Federer still has a coach (Ivan Ljubicic). Why? He never stops learning. You could seek out a couple of wise heads to act as your business mentors or engage professional coaches.
  5. Be Smart. Federer won’t be playing every ATP tournament anymore. His body just can’t handle it. Are you making smart choices when prioritising the time you spend with clients, colleagues, family and friends?
  6. Plan B. You must have one. Federer could have crashed out after Cilic steamrolled him in the fourth set. But no, he switched it around with a better serve and a few different shots to win the fifth set. Last year against Nadal he was down a service break. Again he had to switch things around. Have you got a Plan B (or C) for when something important isn’t working for you? Think “change it up”.
  7. In post-match interviews Federer joked with commentator Jim Courier and enjoyed a laugh with comedian Will Ferrell. He said when he’s having fun, he plays better. Allowing yourself some light stress relief can enable you to keep winning – try that in the office. “Keep it classy” though!

Yes, Federer reminded me that the little things done well, done often, can get you there in the final set. As for the other big question, why does everyone love him so much? You will have to help me to explain that one (I bet he stole a block of chocolate when he was ten, but no one’s fessing up back in Switzerland)!

What have you seen when you were watching Roger Federer play? How can you apply your observations to the world @work?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

Can I make it? I should know.

I often get asked by people who are looking for their next challenge, Can I make it?  As an executive recruitment consultant, candidates approach me for all sorts of reasons: seeking career inspiration, to reinforce their self-belief, knowing I’m well networked and as a champion of diversity or, in the likelihood I can provide a fresh job opportunity.

How should I know if you can make it? Well, several years ago I made the decision to alter my own journey by embarking on a new career. In the past I had enjoyed successes as an executive in the Consumer & Retail market, as well as performing at the top of my game in hockey as an elite sportsperson and Olympic athlete. I have coached others, but hadn’t taken time out to reassess my own goals and priorities.

I think we reach a stage in our lives where something is missing – it could be your current vocation, work-life balance or that the culture of the environment you work in is no longer fulfilling. People talk about wanting more… More time to spend doing what we love… More authentic personal connections… More opportunity to make a real difference… More than just the status quo…

Aspiring to more can be challenging, but also leads you on a path to finding internal satisfaction.

Due to my love of making personal connections and coaching, a consulting role had immediate appeal. It’s one of the reasons I began sports coaching, because the relationships you make overseeing an athlete’s daily routine become quite personal. Professional development mixed with my sales achievement orientation in business seemed to resonate.

When the time was right to make my next career move I was still scared, unsure and hesitant, but also excited, curious and focused. The result – well, here I am alive and blogging!

So now a few tips for those looking for more in their careers:

  1. Be adaptable – how can you apply your skills and experience?
  2. Be open-minded – opportunities may come from left field
  3. Learn more about yourself – what drives you, what makes you tick?
  4. Come with something to offer – your unique value to a prospective employer
  5. Take ownership – it’s up to you to be the driver of change

Allowing yourself the space to breath, think, focus and act will bring results. It did for me.

If you’d like to explore more, let me know.

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

The art of leaving a good voice message

At a time where text, email and other messaging apps dominate our communication habits, have we lost the art of leaving a good voice message? As we rely more and more on text-based communications, you may have noticed it’s becoming harder for people to verbalise complex thoughts, or even articulate simple information.

While I still receive numerous voice messages on my work phone, it surprises me that few contain a clear and concise message.

The purpose of a voice message

You want to let the caller know that you have called and that you would like to be called back. So what information does a person need to call you back?

  1. Your first and last name, and if appropriate, the organisation you are calling from
  2. Your contact phone number
  3. In brief, the reason why you are calling and the information sought from a return call

It sounds simple enough, however there are other important things to consider when leaving a message:

  1. Length of message – keep it to 10-20 seconds if possible (some voicemail services will cut you off after 30 seconds)
  2. Pace of speech – remember the person receiving your message may be unfamiliar with your voice and needs to capture the information, so slow down and speak clearly, especially when saying your name and your phone number
  3. Tone of your voice – it may be the first time you have made contact, so it’s important to leave a good first impression

Be ready for the call back

Now that you have left your message, it’s important that you are ready for the call back, especially if you have initiated contact with the person receiving the message. This is your opportunity to make the most out of the conversation.

Tips for jobseekers

Many professionals send and receive hundreds of messages every day. As a consultant, I prefer to pick up the phone when replying to candidates – it’s more personal than a text or an email and allows me to return calls efficiently. Here are my tips for successful voice messages:

  • Make sure you have your voice message service activated
  • Have a professional or standard voice message greeting on your phone to receive messages
  • If you’re restricted to talk to text or a shorter message service, consider changing to a full voicemail service
  • Speak clearly, be prepared and leave a good impression
  • Return your messages as soon as possible

I’m hoping for better voice messages in the future… and it’s not too late to add this one to your list of New Year’s resolutions!

What other tips or stories do you have to share on voice messaging?

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Degrees for unicorns… where are all the category management experts?

I’ve been told I’m a “unicorn”. At first I didn’t get it (I actually had to google what it could have meant?). Then as years passed by, I’ve become acutely aware that I’m not a mythical creature, and that people with my unique combination of skills, qualifications and experience do actually exist. If that sounds arrogant, it’s not my intention. It can be lonely being a rarity in the market at times. But rest assured there is a small unicorn population out there, just like me… we’re called category management experts.

What is category management?

Category management is a collaborative process adopted by retailers and suppliers in FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) to help drive business performance, by better understanding how to deliver value to customers [1].

In a nutshell, this means selling products by category rather than by brand. There is a functional and logistical element to the process, and there also is a relational and human side to the process. The PhD I’m currently undertaking is exploring these dynamics from both a qualitative and quantitative research perspective, with the aim of trying to understand competitive retail environments. Ideally category management can be a win/win for suppliers, retailers and customers, but if that turns out to be unachievable, at least I’ll discover through my research why it’s not possible.

Learning about category management

Considering the Australian retail sector makes the highest employment contribution to the Australian economy, with 1.3 million people and 11% of the workforce[2], you may expect there would be a focus on category management as part of many popular courses studied. While I completed three degrees through one of Australia’s leading universities (in business and psychology), I didn’t learn a single thing about category management or market insights through any of them! Everything I’ve learned has been either on the job (working inside a retailer, supplier, agency and now a private consultancy), or through presentations by industry partners.

My PhD results

Four years into a six year part-time PhD journey whilst juggling two companies and a family, it’s safe to assume that achieving work/life balance is not my area of expertise (try me again in two years). However I can vouch for this: if you’re passionate about finding out the why behind something, a PhD is a pretty good vehicle to help you achieve that.

Wearing my supplier hat, I want to know why the retailers aren’t accepting our new products in development (NPD)? The generic answers provided just aren’t constructive enough. As a retailer, I question why suppliers aren’t sharing holistic category insights, instead of a tunnel-vision brand-driven sales pitch. The conversation can’t be strategic or collaborative, and simply shows they aren’t on the same page. As a research consultant I want to know why both retailers and suppliers trust me more than they trust each other? The undercurrent of past politics can block all hope for future joint business planning and innovation.

The results thus far have been fascinating, if not a little concerning for the future of our retail economy. I’m still in the midst of analysing the data, but if you’re interested in learning more when I’m able to share, send me a message on LinkedIn. Until all is revealed, here are my thoughts on what we need to do in the category management and the insights space.

A unicorn’s guide to the future of category management and customer insights

  1. Bridge the current gap between academia and industry
  2. Even better, educate our young graduates before they go into industry
  3. Better still, train and support the rare skillset of CM managers and analysts on the job
  4. Rebuild the bridge between retailers and suppliers to encourage collaboration
  5. Upskill the entire industry on category management and insights
  6. Teach the value (and difference) between big data and actionable insights
  7. Identify who to hire – are they a unicorn or just a horse with a carrot?
  8. Work together on solving this industry problem.

Soon I’ll be able to tell you the why… my next job is to figure out how.

 

Rebecca Rees presented at Slade Chats in partnership with Females in Food on Thursday 19 October 2017. Contact Stuart Carruthers, Practice Leader Consumer, Retail & Sport at Slade Executive for further information about our events, if you need assistance when hiring in these sectors or are seeking career advice.


References

  1. Gooner, Morgan & Perreault, 2011; Blattberg, Fox & Purk, 1995.
  2. ABS 2015-16, cat. no. 8155.0

 

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Challenging questions about change

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor E. Frankl

Have you ever wondered why the subject of change can provoke strong emotions?

Back in the fixed-line age of last century(!) when timed local calls were first floated by our national carrier, there was a tsunami of public rejection. Just five year later when Motorola and Nokia were offering us the new-new thing, that same ‘public’ jumped on board without questioning the fact that they would be billed on the basis of timed local calls.

I’ve heard individuals describe themselves in interviews as either good or bad at handling change. Typically it’s not as black and white as that, as we all respond to change differently, and how change per se is introduced to us, can impact our emotional and cognitive response.

  1. Do you understand your response to change?

When reflecting on your past responses to change, both in your personal and professional spheres, are you aware of what underpins your behaviour? A move interstate, a teenager pushing back, a new housing development going up next door, a relationship breakup, a new boss, a bad accident? In ‘work speak’, I’m alluding to our motivators, those forces that drive our individual and team responses to change that impact productivity.

This is a great question to ponder separately, not only when you’re interviewing a potential candidate for your organisation. Consider how you personally affect change in your organisation, how change affects your team, or broadly others in your workplace.

I often challenge candidates by asking: “When you do decide to embrace change, are you pretty loyal to that change… particularly when you are convinced it is the right decision?” I might also pose a behavioural question such as, “What is your best example of a time when you have embraced a significant change, only to discover that you might have been better off taking a more measured approach?” This is a great way of helping an individual recognise that of course, whichever way they manage change, it’s likely they handle it differently to others.

When you challenge yourself on this question, you might also find it helpful to consider how your motivations are orientated. For example, are they past, present or future orientated? What impact might that have on how you embrace change and help others embrace it as well?

  1. Talk it over or lose the advantage

When we remember that we each hold different motivators, it helps us to understand how we respond to change differently. Research such as that presented by Abraham Maslow and Deci & Ryan, also tells us that what you expect and believe are critical to your ability to embrace or reject change. Your experience, skills, knowledge and sense of self-esteem are also important factors.

Do you know what truly motivates you when it comes to change? What about your team members? Most of us think we know what motivates our behaviour and therefore, how to motivate others we work with. I wonder if we do really know, or just think we know.

Having insight into your own personality, in turn helps you to understand others, particularly on the subject of adaptability to change. At the senior leadership level it goes much deeper than personality profiling; research by Edward Deci and Richard Ryan suggests personality informs approximately 30% of how we are motivated at any given moment. Context is ‘king’ when we talk about change, which means deeply exploring the situation in our conversations with candidates or colleagues.

How do others rate you and your team when it comes to leading or embracing change? What assumptions might you or others be making, and how do these impact the wider organisation?

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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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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