The following article was originally published on Shortlist, 30 January 2020 and I’m in total agreement with Charles Cameron. Australian employers don’t know how good they’ve got it when compared with other Western countries. It’s time our industry stood up to be counted.
Time to push back on bad business terms: RCSA
A rising number of recruitment companies are pushing back against ‘bad business’, but the issue requires a stronger response, says RCSA CEO Charles Cameron.
“We’re even seeing the larger players – the Manpowers,
the Adeccos – making decisions to get out of certain markets and have greater
confidence not to supply just for the sake of top-line revenue,” he tells
This should apply with PSAs and large-scale contracts, or
indeed any arrangements with clients where recruiters take on a
disproportionate amount of risk and costs, or the margins “are so razor
thin that there is no room for any form of error or significant event”.
In the ACT, for example, some government employers are
trying to push the cost of candidates’ security clearances – which can be
upwards of $10,000 – on to recruitment suppliers, Cameron says.
Many Australian agencies have historically agreed
to business terms and conditions they shouldn’t really allow, he
says, and in his travels to the UK, Europe and the United Sates, Cameron finds
industry leaders are “horrified” by what their local counterparts
Recruiters shouldn’t fear saying no, he adds, because
“in many circumstances those clients will actually come back to them and
say ‘all right, we will do the business on your terms’, because
they can’t find alternative suppliers who can actually find the talent”.
RCSA is planning a campaign to encourage more recruiters to
reject commercially unviable business, he adds. “We need to give
confidence to each and every firm to be able to say no.”
What makes a ‘good’ client?
The profile of a good client, says Cameron, includes a willingness to engage suppliers with clarity and transparency – by setting clear business objectives and budgets at the onset of the relationship.
It also means working with clear and consistent performance expectations and evaluations, along with transparency and accountability around legal issues and risks…
This excerpt is reproduced with permission from Shortlist, and the full article has been temporarily unlocked for access without a subscription.
This article was originally published by Sarah Morgan as “The Godfather of Recruitment” in The Brief, the magazine of the RCSA.
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
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
“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
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
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
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 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
“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
“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
“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.”
Trust (noun) firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of
someone or something; (verb) to believe that someone is good and honest and will not harm you, or that something is safe and reliable.
Does it ever cross your mind when you are ordering lunch that it
may not be made with the freshest ingredients, or that the strictest hygiene
may not be observed behind the kitchen doors? I suppose it depends where you
buy your lunch, but generally you don’t question these things unless you see a
warning sign… is that a cockroach scurrying around to its next hiding place?!
We put trust in people in both our personal and work lives –
sometimes without realising that we are doing it.
It may come as no surprise that the following professions were the
most trusted in a 2017 Roy Morgan survey: Nurses, Doctors,
Pharmacists, Dentists, School Teachers and Engineers. We put trust in these
professions because our health, education and city’s infrastructure depend upon
them, and all are very important to us.
Individually we may rate them well, but collectively and of
concern, the least trusted professionals work in Car Sales, Advertising, Real
Estate, Insurance and Politics.
Why should we be concerned? Well, think about what these
professions represent – some of the biggest purchases you make – a house, car,
insurance, home/personal loans, and our democracy and general amenity. It’s
unfortunate that the reputations of some professionals have been tainted by
others in their industries, and typically it’s been tough for those who are
reputable to change public perception. The big banks and aged care operators
will have some tough PR challenges to overcome well after the Royal Commissions
And where do recruiters sit on the continuum of most to least
Recruitment is an industry which has no technical barriers to
entry. After 12 years in recruitment, working across New Zealand, Japan and
Australia, I’ve seen a broad array of styles, commitment to service, due
diligence and adherence to process within our industry.
As employees or employers, career moves and hiring new team members are big decisions. You’ll need information about the job market, someone to help you design a robust recruitment process, guide you through the legal requirements, make an independent assessment of your shortlisted candidates, or job offers, and assist with final negotiations and onboarding once you have made, or have been made an offer. HR Business Partners and Recruitment Consultants (whether internal or external) are those trusted advisors.
It’s in our nature to trust each other, but you usually only get
one shot at it. At Slade Group we are experienced consultants who have either
been working in recruitment for a number of years or we have gained consulting
experience from the industries we recruit in, often both. Every day we ask
clients and candidates to trust us, and we don’t take that trust lightly. No
matter what it is in life, don’t let one person ruin your experience or the
reputation of that profession, brand or service.
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?