Blog Archives

Dipping my toes in the ocean: A celebration of my first 10 years in Australia

In November I celebrated my 10 year anniversary as a proud Melbourne resident. My arrival here from South Africa coincided with the GFC, which has given me pause for thought around the 10 year economic cycle, and what I’ve seen in the local recruitment market during this time.

In my first year here, my beloved Tigers (yes, I have an AFL team) came second last to the Demons (substantial improvement since then). In my other passion, the Springboks had just won the World Cup (not so much improvement). I was also working from a small office in Mount Waverley recruiting Accountants in the South East (nothing wrong with that, but most would agree Collins Street is a substantial improvement).

The recruitment landscape has changed drastically in the last ten years, with some substantial players downsizing and others disappearing, while a number of newcomers quickly established themselves and continue to go from strength to strength. The market for talent continues to become ever more competitive, with the top-drawer operators demonstrating the value in building strong relationships, providing exceptional service and reducing hiring risk with a robust methodology.

Recruitment trends

Other trends have been the evolution of internal recruitment capability within medium to large organisations and conversely, the rise of the RPO (recruitment process outsourcing) model, with an increasing number of organisations ramping up this function. Whereas talent acquisition was previously limited to larger corporate organisations, increasingly SMEs and smaller businesses have added recruitment to their HR functions. This has delivered mixed levels of success. With no clear winner between the internal team and an outsourced or RPO model, a number of businesses have sought to return the function in-house. In the mix, professional recruiters like me have enjoyed the opportunity to partner with internal recruitment teams, especially on senior assignments and hard to source specialist roles where exploring the passive talent market is essential.

Sector trends

The industry landscape has seen some other big shifts, with sectors like Manufacturing and Print taking a massive hit. Technological change, including AI, robotics, automation and digitalisation is one of the factors at play, but the impact of globalisation and government policy on a whole range of issues, from tariffs and trade to employment regulations, has suited some more than others: Ecommerce, Education, Advanced Manufacturing, Engineering, and Food & Agribusiness are all growing well.

In the recruitment sector, a trend towards higher volume/lower level recruitment activity was obvious over the last decade. What is becoming increasingly clear, however, is that there will always be tremendous value for organisations in developing meaningful relationships with talent and the consultants who have access to diverse professionals across broad as well as niche industry networks.

I have been extremely fortunate to have met some outstanding people in the last ten years – clients, candidates and colleagues – and have thoroughly enjoyed watching their careers develop. In many instances they have become valued connections who continue to inspire me and others with their achievements. It has been an exciting ride!  Now working with Geoff Slade and the team at Slade Group (Geoff recently celebrated 50 years in business), I realise that the last ten years is just a drop in the ocean. Here’s looking forward to the next ten years in the world @work. Thanks to all of you for your valued support and friendship over the last decade.

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Posted in Accounting & Finance, The world @work

Compare the pair indeed!

Q. What’s in the news every day and the first topic of discussion whenever I sit down with clients or candidates?

A. The Hayne Royal Commission and, to a much lesser extent, the recent Productivity Commission report into Superannuation.

Where the draft Productivity Commission report identified areas for improvement within superannuation, namely multiple accounts and insurance premiums eroding those accounts, the Hayne Royal Commission has given us a sorry list of poor systems, poor compliance and behaviors that could be described anywhere from lazy, greedy or criminal.

I don’t need to be more specific, we all read the news and know what and who I’m referring to.

Sadly, in these client and candidate discussions, no-one is surprised. The constant stories from candidates from within these organisations clearly tells me that sales, profits and bonuses are  priorities number 1, 2 & 3, and anything else is a long way behind. As a result, the culture of these organisations are often toxic, and that’s why I’m seeing more candidates from those organisations than from anywhere else.

For political reasons the Industry Superannuation sector was added to the Royal Commission. I wonder if the Minister regrets that now. Not only did the Productivity Commission highlight the superior overall performance generally of the Industry Superannuation Funds as compared to the Retail Superannuation Funds, but so far the Royal Commission has further highlighted the difference in culture from the top down. The $67 million in fees begrudgingly refunded and fees to dead people versus a few million dollars on an advertising campaign (A fox in the henhouse? – I doubt they even knew just how right they were) or $240,000 in client entertainment expenses for a $35 billion fund.

Compare the pair indeed!

Why mention all this as a recruiter? Right now, employee sentiment is strongly in favour of ethical and moral corporate behaviour. Candidates want to work for organisations that genuinely make a difference, and demonstrate their strong cultures in their corporate behaviours. Good candidates want to work for strong organisations that are profitable and dynamic, but who also care about their staff and their customers, not just their profit or share price or bonuses.

Without doubt, one part of the financial services sector is winning ‘the war for talent’ based on values, ethics and behaviour.

What have you seen in your world @work that has shaken your values?

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Posted in Accounting & Finance, The world @work

EOFY – trivia, observations and reflections

I’ve just finished an interview with an accountant… (insert your joke or comment of choice)… for a Financial Controller role. Actually it’s a great opportunity with a small private investment company.

I generally start an interview with an easy general question like, “How’s work?” In this case the response was, “Flat-out! I’m super busy because of EOFY (End of Financial Year).” Makes sense and I’m sure there are thousands of accountants around Australia who are saying the same thing.

According to that font of all modern wisdom, Wikipedia, Australia is one of only a small list of countries that use 1 July to 30 June as the financial year. Others include New Zealand, Japan and Egypt. In comparison the US use 1 January to 31 December and the UK is more unusual, being 1 April to 31 March for government. UK businesses can choose any 12 month period.

Given that much of Australian law and business practices have British origins, you might expect that we would have a similar EOFY. Some sources suggest that our reverse seasons compared to the Northern Hemisphere mean more Australians are on holiday in January and at work in the winter months. I’m not a Mythbuster, so I’ll just say that is plausible.

In my patch of the recruitment world, financial services, three out of four major Australian banks have changed to 30 September as their EOFY. Most other financial services organisations that I work with ie. industry superannuation funds, fund managers, smaller banks, investment consultants and private wealth managers, use 30 June as EOFY.

What I’ve seen in the last few months is lots of strategic planning for next financial year and establishment of budgets. Generally I’d say recruitment intentions are quite positive.

For many of us EOFY is a busy time, trying to complete work. Now is a chance for a quick spot of reflection and strategy refinement: What worked, what didn’t and how can we improve?

OK reflection done, there’s calls to be made!

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Posted in Accounting & Finance, The world @work

Transitioning from Executive to the Boardroom – 6 key factors to consider

In my regular meetings with business leaders from the financial services sector, we nearly always discuss their ongoing challenges for the recruitment and retention of key staff. In this context it can seem inappropriate to discuss their own career plans in the same conversation, especially if it means leaving their current employer.

So, when I invited those same executives to discuss adding ‘Board Director’ to their career accomplishments at a Slade Executive Boardroom Lunch, I wasn’t surprised that spaces at the table filled quickly.

Led by experienced Director and Boardroom consultant, Nicholas Barnett, we discussed Australian boardrooms now and moving into the future.

While Boards are still heavily populated with older white males who have been approached directly through their own network, we are definitely seeing changes to this long established practice. More progressive Boards are recognising the value of greater diversity amongst Directors, challenging gender, generational and sociocultural norms. Nor are successful companies promoting diversity simply to achieve compliance or a feel good factor. Numerous studies have shown that best results are achieved where there is greater diversity in the Board of Directors and Executive team. The Australian Institute of Company Directors publishes regular research and reports on board diversity.

Board recruitment processes are changing too. Nicholas, through his company InSync, is regularly being engaged by Board Chairs to undertake Board reviews to identify strengths and capability gaps. From these reviews new Directors are being appointed. Yes, the traditional networks are still prevalent, however, we’re encouraged to see that the trend towards a structured and independent recruitment process for Board positions, facilitated by engaging external consultants such as an Executive Search firm, is becoming standard practice.

If you’re considering adding a board role to your executive responsibilities or transitioning your career to the Boardroom, here are the key factors to consider:

 

  • Board positions are highly competitive. According to Nicholas, the number of people interested in joining a Board has increased significantly, whilst the number of roles has remained largely unchanged over the last ten years. Therefore, you must be able to articulate what you can bring to the Boardroom and how you can make a positive contribution.

 

 

  • As in any role you’ve had in your career, you will be more engaged within an industry or company that you are passionate about. Your network or an Executive Search consultant can help you to identify suitable organisations that align with your interests, as well as your knowledge and experience.

 

 

  • Do your due diligence. You want to be part of an effective Board, and Boardroom culture is often set by the Chairperson. Insist on meeting other directors, as well as the Chair, to evaluate whether others are engaged.

 

 

  • A Board position involves a significant time commitment – can you fit it in with your other responsibilities?

 

 

  • If it’s your first time looking for a Board role, consider Not-For-Profits or unpaid roles, keeping in mind that many NFPs have high profile Board members who have a number of Directorships. Over time, opportunities to be considered for Corporate Board positions may present through this wider network.

 

 

  • Don’t leave it until you are at the end of your executive career. Consider your first Board appointment in parallel with your current role to see if it’s really for you. While establishing a track record as a Director, you’ll build a network of fellow Directors, which can lead to a growing portfolio of Directorships as you wind down your executive career.

 

What are your key considerations for a boardroom position?

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Posted in Accounting & Finance, The world @work