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This article was originally published by Sarah Morgan as “The Godfather of Recruitment” in The Brief, the magazine of the RCSA.

Geoff Slade - Godfather of Recruitment

They say it’s not what you know, but who you know that matters and when it comes to the biggest influencers in the recruitment industry, there are few better known and respected than Geoff Slade.

In fact, he is so well known and so influential, there might as well be a saying “all roads lead to Geoff” such is the broad reach of his connections.

And, when you are affectionately known throughout the industry as “the godfather of recruitment”, it goes without saying that your opinion on the industry as a whole, as well as the mistakes of the past and opportunities and threats for the future, are ones worth listening to – or reading about.

It’s been more than 50 years since Geoff began his career in recruitment and while an awful lot has changed in that time, his successes and widespread influence are a testament to his ability to play to his strengths, adapt and make key decisions based on merits and not just the traditional “rules”.

Geoff remains grounded about his achievements and influence during his five decades in the industry – including being the first president of RCSA – acknowledging the support and guidance he has received as his career has evolved, as well as the abilities of the people he employed.

“I always liked to think outside the square,” he says. “I liked to employ not just people who have worked in the industry.

“In fact, some of the most notable people I have employed had never worked in recruitment before.

“Four standouts were Andrew Banks, Louise Craw, Peter Tanner and Nanette Carroll, none of whom had a background in recruitment.

“Louise managed our office support business for over 25 years and was a rock on which the company could rely. She is now on our board. Peter moved on after six years to found Tanner Menzies.

“Nanette worked for me for 10 years and ended up being awarded the 1996 Queensland & Australian Telstra Business Woman of the Year. Andrew’s background is of course well known.

“It’s satisfying to know that not only people who worked in our industry, but people we have influenced and found jobs for have gone on to bigger and better things than we could have dreamed.”

Geoff admits he may also be known in the industry as a “tough and unreasonable” operator, acknowledging there have been many changes in leadership styles from his formative years in the 1960s.

“I would like to think that I’m regarded as hard but fair,” he says.

“Recruitment is enormously satisfying, but it’s bloody hard work.

“It’s not an exact science and demands focus and self-management and what I call purposeful productivity, strong listening and comprehension skills. When I talk of comprehension, I’m talking about what is now tested as verbal and inductive reasoning.

“A good recruiter can probe and follow questions to the end with both clients and candidates. A good recruiter can dig beneath the surface.

“One of the biggest issues I have with the current day recruiters is they think they can build relationships by phone or email. They don’t get out to meet and know their customer.

“I think good recruiters build relationship with a client – like getting married. You have to be able to talk to them about other things than where is my next assignment coming from.”

HOW IT ALL BEGAN

Geoff started out in accounting before moving into human resources in 1964 and then, finally, recruitment in 1967, but it could all have been so different if his dream of being a VFL footballer had been realised.

Despite being told by Melbourne Football Club that he wasn’t quite good enough, three years after he moved to the city from the country to pursue a football career, Geoff feels he “really lucked out”, albeit in a slightly unconventional way, after being thrown in at the deep end twice, and for two very different reasons.

“I returned to the country at a time a major refinery was being built on the western portside of the Mornington Peninsula and I applied for a job with the major construction company,” he says.

“I was lucky to be offered a job as assistant to the HR manager and it provided a very quick learning curve. He turned out to have a major health project and I was his only offsider, so I was left with a lot of responsibility.

“It ended up providing great experience for me: there were 1500 men on the site and there was a stop work or strike every day for three years. I had to deal with unions pretty much every day in a very volatile and aggressive environment, which taught me to try to use common sense and to solve problems.

“At the end of the project I was one only of two people offered a job at head office, and the offer came with a promise for me to be the HR manager on the next project.”

But, despite the promise, and because the company won no new tenders Geoff ended up doing everything for the business except HR. Looking for an alternative, he applied for a job through the biggest executive recruitment firm in Melbourne at the time.

“I was told I was too young for a job they were recruiting for, but they wanted to offer me a job as a consultant,” Geoff says. “The owner gave me his word that the job was mine if I wanted it. I just had to tell him when he got back from an overseas trip.

“Four days later, he was unfortunately killed in a car accident.”

As a country boy with “no idea what to do next”, Geoff took note of the fact that he took the most enjoyment out of the recruitment side of his HR role. So he approached his parents to ask for a loan so he could start up his own employment agency.

“Dad said ‘what is an employment agency’?” Geoff recalls. “I told him what I thought it was, and he said he wouldn’t lend the money to me even if he had it. Mum was softhearted though – she had $300 in bank and said she would lend it to me as long as I paid it back.

“So I borrowed the money and rented a space, knowing I had to make a placement in the first two weeks so I could pay the rent.”

So began the 21-year life of Slade Consulting Group before its sale in 1988 to British multinational Blue Arrow.

For the first seven years, Geoff says he lived “on the smell of an oily rag” before he turned any meaningful profit, which came about in 1974 after he took back management of the recruitment agency after a stint working in London working with executives looking to migrate to Australia on the £10 Pom scheme.

After a few successful years, around 1981, Geoff decided to shake up Slade Consulting Group, which saw him focus more on management and less on day-to-day recruitment.

“I went out and hired three young people all in their mid-20s: Andrew Banks, Richard Weston and Greg Fish,” Geoff says.

“We sat down and did a SWOT analysis of the industry – how it would run and how we could grow the business quickly.

“At the time, Chandler McLeod and PA Consulting were both huge in terms of executive recruitment. We researched and discovered they were taking 10-12 weeks to fill jobs. That’s a very expensive situation for clients.

“For a company, that could be very inefficient and very expensive, so we went to their clients and said ‘we believe we can do as good a job as either of those companies; we believe it’s costing you a lot of money to have jobs vacant for so long. If we can’t do it within four to six weeks – we’ll do it for free’.”

That approach helped to guide Slade Consulting Group to a turnover of $10 million by 1984.

By 1987, it was the biggest executive recruitment company in Australia, with offices in five cities, as well as two in New Zealand, with a staff of 135.

At the end of that year, Geoff was approached by a representative of Blue Arrow – at the time the biggest recruitment company in the UK – who said he was “prepared to make me an offer too good to refuse”.

“He told me to think of a number to see if he would be prepared to meet it,” Geoff says.

Needless to say, the offer was good and Geoff sold the business, but it didn’t work out as had been promised.

Geoff felt compromised by what Blue Arrow was asking him to do and left the company and caught up with his long term client – Pacific Dunlop – which had made up 40 per cent of Slade Group’s business.

Geoff says that Pacific Dunlop has been “very influential in my success”, thanks to a long-term relationship spanning 20 years, but without some creative thinking on behalf of its then managing director, Philip Brass, he might have found himself “watching grass grow on the farm for the next year or two” as he served the term of a two-year non-compete clause.

“I went to Philip to tell him I could no longer be a consultant to him, nor could I consult in any way, shape or form,” Geoff says. “He told me he had a solution and offered me the role of HR Director for Pacific Dunlop.

“I said I would do it, but for two years only and provided I did a good job asked him if he would offer me a preferred supplier agreement when I went back to business.

“When I returned, it became the first preferred supplier agreement done in Australia.”

Geoff’s return to consulting came with Lyncroft Consulting Group, which was named after his country property, but in 1992 it changed back to Slade Group as Blue Arrow sold out of Australia.

Slade Group quickly moved to the forefront of recruitment in Australia, where it remains today.

THE BIRTH OF RCSA

In 1998, Geoff and others identified that it was “industry critical” to create a national industry body for the sector.

“There were a lot of people very unhappy as to how it was all going, with the NAPC and IPC being run through state bodies, because they were independent and there was no cohesion to move things forward,” he says.

“So we got together with senior members of the industry and agreed this had to change and we formed RCSA to represent Australia and later New Zealand. I’m really proud of the history and my involvement in RCSA.

“One of things I really love about the industry is its ability to have positive impact on people’s lives. It’s now very rewarding to see it evolve into the association it is today.”

Continue reading on the RCSA news website…

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Who you hire today, determines what is possible tomorrow!

Slade Group through its sister company TRANSEARCH International Australia, recently brought Dr John O. Burdett to Melbourne for a series of seminars on topics such as “How to measure culture”, “Tomorrow will be different – Will you?”, and “Why hiring the best candidate may be the biggest recruitment mistake you will ever make”.

On the last topic John says there are 3 undeniable truths about executive hiring – they are:

  1. The continuing lack of top talent is a major impediment to business growth.
  2. Far too few of those who make key selection decisions have been fully trained (or trained at all) in the hiring process.
  3. If you don’t know what you are looking for – only an optimist standing on stilts would believe that they might actually find it.

Considering the business risk involved – some recruitment decisions amount to betting the business – this is no small matter. Even if the hiring decision doesn’t amount to “betting the business” 20x annual salary is a good benchmark for the cost of getting it wrong.

Seven statements that (if any are true) strongly suggest that you need to revisit your approach to talent acquisition.

  1. Although we have a general sense of the culture we are moving towards, a more disciplined approach, e.g., a systematic assessment of where we are and where we need to be, is not something we have access to.
  2. Role-specific leadership competencies do not figure prominently in our hiring process.
  3. We have a job description and develop a specification for the position, but rarely do we build a robust scorecard.
  4. Few of those who make hiring decisions have been trained in conducting the evidence-based interview.
  5. We recognise the importance of the team but, for the most part, lack the tools to unbundle what sort of team we are hiring into.
  6. Rather than validate statements made during the interview, the reference check simply follows up on referees provided by the candidate.
  7. We invest time and effort in executive integration. What we lack is an integration workbook allowing leaders, who are new to the business, to take ownership of their own integration.

Who you hire today, determines what is possible tomorrow!

If you would like to discuss any of the above with me – please give me a call on 03 9235 5100 or email me at gslade@sladegroup.com.au.

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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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Become a Dementia Friend like us and make a positive difference

Article image: Become a Dementia Friend like usWe all want to make a positive difference at work, home and in the community.

Being part of a supportive and compassionate workplace can make a positive difference and can influence our society. One way is to increase our awareness of other people’s lives and their challenges.

An estimated 425,000 Australians are living with dementia. People with dementia can find it challenging to participate actively in the community, often due, in part, to a lack of knowledge or understanding by the community about their condition.

In fact, a recent survey by Dementia Australia found people living with dementia and carers reported experiencing embarrassing situations, feel strongly disconnected, feel less competent and sometimes feel useless.

Thanks to our friends at Dementia Australia, they’ve created a program – the Dementia Friends program – that aims to transform the way we think, act and talk about dementia.

Registering to become a Dementia Friend means that you can increase your understanding of dementia. Every day, you can make a difference to someone living with dementia or make a difference to the carers and families of those people living with dementia.

When registering to become part of the Dementia Friends program, participants can utilise a free online learning tool, through which they can increase their understanding of dementia, and be empowered to do small, everyday things that can make a big difference to a person living with dementia.

What can your organisation do to be dementia-friendly?

  • Offer accessible services, including having staff who understand dementia and know how to communicate effectively with people who have dementia
  • For people with younger onset dementia, provide employees with the option of being supported to stay at work
  • Allow time away from the workplace to participate in volunteering opportunities to assist people with dementia
  • Sign up to become a dementia friendly organisation

Look for the signs. Allow extra time for inclusion in a conversation, or offer assistance if someone appears disoriented or confused. It will make all the difference. Empower someone living with dementia and make them feel safe, accepted and involved.

Become a Dementia Friend today. Visit dementiafriendly.org.au and start making a difference.

 

 

Photo left to right: Aged Care Minister The Hon. Ken Wyatt AM MP, Dementia Australia Ambassador Jessica Origliasso (The Veronicas), Dementia Australia CEO Maree McCabe, Dementia Australia Ambassador Lisa Origliasso (The Veronicas) and Dementia Australia Ambassador Ita Buttrose

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An interview with Business Essentials

Along with Michael Schildberger, the former ABC anchor in the 774 morning time slot, now occupied by John Fayne, Geoff Slade was a founder of the popular Business Essentials in 1984, the audio magazine which plays a role as virtual business mentor to 1000s of Australian business leaders and owners. Business Essentials recently interviewed Geoff about the truths he’s learned in business along the way. In this audio file you’ll hear about his ups, downs and lucky moments,  the rewards and challenges of business life, including the supremely important role of trust and long term meaningful relationships. He takes Heather Dawson back to the early days. It was 1967, he was 21 years old and had just opened the doors to his first employment agency. What did it look like?

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Bankers aren’t all bad.

“All businesses experience growth,” says Cindy Batchelor, Executive General Manager – NAB Business. “It’s in their nature – at some stage in their life, they must grow to survive.” In the following article by Nigel Bowen, written for NAB Business View magazine, Geoff Slade credits a longstanding relationship with the bank as having an important part in the growth and success of his business enterprises over the years.

 

Fifty Years of Business Wisdom Distilled into Seven Truths

After half a century in business, Geoff Slade has learnt a thing or two. Here he shares seven truths about what it takes to make it in the business world.

Back in 1967, aged 21, Geoff Slade began his first recruitment agency. A couple of decades later he received an offer for the company he couldn’t refuse and sold it, moving on to become HR Director at Pacific Dunlop. In 1992 Geoff launched another recruitment business, Slade Group. In recent years, with the likes of Seek and LinkedIn affecting the recruitment industry, he’s adapted by moving away from commoditised services and launching business intelligence services, such as Yellow Folder Research, which harvests and sells talent intelligence. Here, the 72-year-old shares what he’s learnt after half a century of launching, building and selling businesses.

  1. Your level of success correlates with how well you understand your customers

Whether it’s recruitment or any industry, you’ll usually find that 10 to 20 per cent of companies are doing well, 50 per cent are doing okay, and the rest are on their way to going broke. What separates out the 10 to 20 per cent? I’d argue it’s that they put the effort into truly understanding what their customer wants. Of course, often the customer doesn’t fully understand what they want. That just makes it more important to spend time with them, ask them searching questions and help them formulate what their real needs are.

  1. Change is a fact of life, so concentrate on staying ahead of the game

I remember buying my first IBM golf ball typewriter and marvelling at the advanced technology! No matter what technological, economic or social changes are occurring, the two questions to keep asking yourself are: “What can I do to differentiate myself from the competition?” and “What can I do to enhance my relationship with the customer?”

  1. Be discerningly persistent

It took me seven years, living on the smell of an oily rag, to make my first profit. People seem to want things quicker these days – to reap all the rewards before putting in the hard yards. Of course, you need to make a judgement about whether the industry you’re in is growing or contracting, and whether your efforts will pay dividends. But even in the most favourable of conditions, you should accept that you’ll need to work hard for a long time.

  1. Don’t get hung up on working for yourself

I launched my first business because a job offer fell through, not because I had an issue with being an employee. After selling that business I worked for a big company for a couple of years. There are things you learn as a business owner that make you a better employee, and vice versa. For example, business owners often don’t pay enough attention to collecting and analysing financial data. A stint in a corporate role is useful for learning that discipline.

  1. Be businesslike in your attachment

I had no intention of selling my first business, but a buyer asked me to name my price. I thought of a figure, doubled it, and sold when they accepted that price. That meant I’d achieved financial security by my mid-forties. Whether it’s your company, your house or anything else, you shouldn’t be so emotionally invested that you pass on a great opportunity to sell.

  1. Focus on selling – but don’t be too eager

Two pieces of business advice have always stuck with me. The first is: “Nothing happens until someone sells something.” That’s very true. The second is: “When you negotiate, you have to care, but not too much.”

  1. Don’t forget there’s more to life than business

After my first marriage ended, I realised I was guilty of not paying enough attention to my family. When I got remarried, I was determined not to make the same mistake. Thankfully, I haven’t. That’s involved decisions such as limiting the number of offices I open, which might have resulted in the business making less money than would otherwise have been the case. It also helps if you have a bank that is supportive during the tough times. I value the good relationships I now have with my children, my wife and my ex-wife. I lead a full life and have all the money I need to do what I want to do. Another $10 million, or even $100 million, isn’t going to make me any happier.

 

This article was originally published in Business View, the business magazine of NAB, Issue 24 Summer 2017.

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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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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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