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Work ethic and the M word

Over the years as an HR professional I have seen several generations at work. Putting people in boxes goes against the grain with me – most workers defy categorisation, let me tell you!

So when people start talking about Boomers and Xers, Ys and Zs (or broadly Millennials, if you’re trying to capture those at the end of the alphabet) as clearly defined cohorts, I’m naturally suspicious. We’ve been battling the unfair assumption that those new to the workforce expect the world or don’t seem to be aware they have to earn their stripes for millennia. I have always been someone to give credit where credit is due, so I wanted to share a couple of feel-good stories to counter those stereotypes.

The chicken or the egg

Life for graduates is certainly not easy. With the number of students in higher education in Australia on the up and up, more and more are graduating, and those with similar qualifications are often finding themselves vying for the same positions. Many companies prefer to hire someone with experience, but how do you get experience if no one is willing to give you a job to get it? Sometimes it takes a little bit of creative thinking, so I’m always happy when I see graduates really taking ownership of their careers by thinking about different ways they can gain experience.

Recently I was speaking to a graduate who was desperately trying to find work to get started in their career. Like many others, they were having trouble getting a foot in the door. What about volunteering? they asked me. What a great idea! I said. Because I work with a number of Not-for-Profit organisations, I was even able to find them volunteer work in their field of expertise (IT). This graduate is now gaining valuable on-the-job experience in their field while giving back to the community. And who knows, in recruitment we often see candidates in temporary roles offered a permanent position.

Going the extra mile, or the long commute

A former colleague of mine asked me if they could introduce me to a talented HR graduate, even if it was just for a coffee and a chat. I was more than willing to do this, as you never know who you could meet. I found her to be a bright and ambitious candidate, willing to try anything to get a break. While she was impressive, I didn’t have any suitable positions I could help her with at the time.

As is often the case, a few weeks later I was speaking to a client who needed HR administration support. I arranged an interview for the candidate. The outcome – she was offered a job with the company. It sounds easy and perhaps a bit too good to be true, but when I informed the candidate that one of the details about the role was that it would be over an hour drive each way, she did not flinch. I admire that dedication. She has stuck with the company despite a long commute, which has obviously paid off – she loves her new job!

A positive work ethic means different things to different people. The next time you hear someone go off on a negative my generation vs your generation rant, don’t be afraid to challenge their perception. I’d love to hear about some of the creative approaches you have seen from jobseekers and employers to meeting current challenges in the world @work.

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Posted in Slade Executive

Call out for a call back!

Something I learned a number of years ago… always follow through with what you say you are going to do in business. Close out the deal, finish the process, you get the drift. If you say you are going to do something, then do it. If something is going to stop you from delivering on your promise, then face up to it, and come up with a solution.

In recruitment, sometimes we hear people say that recruiters don’t call them back when they have applied for a job. I understand this happens, and I’d like to think our processes are strong enough at Slade Group, that it is not a frequent occurrence with our candidates.

Whether it be an email to say that, unfortunately, you have been unsuccessful with your online application or a phone call to provide feedback after you have interviewed with a prospective employer, it’s the least we can do to be honest with candidates. It’s also the least we want to give – we often provide career advice, referrals to other employment opportunities and build lasting relationships with candidates who in turn become clients over the years. Slade Group is also an ISO 9001 Quality Accredited executive recruitment firm, our reputation with our customers (both clients and candidates) is on the line, so we really do want to get back to you.

For good measure, I always ask every candidate I have met to ensure that they keep in touch with me as well, within a timeframe we have agreed.

It makes sense in business (in fact any relationship) that you’re likely to be more successful if you endeavour to build rapport with the people you are dealing with. For a candidate, the recruitment process typically means taking a big step in their career. For the organisations we represent, there is an element of risk to taking on a new employee and we do our utmost to ensure the candidate we refer is the right fit.

So it’s a little puzzling when, well into negotiations with a candidate, I have put forward a great offer from the company I am representing and then there is… silence, crickets! You begin to wonder what has happened?

Giving the elusive candidate the benefit of the doubt (maybe they are sick or maybe they are caught up in a meeting?) it’s OK to excuse a couple of hours. However, if the candidate is a person who is usually on top of returning calls it can certainly be disconcerting.

Recruitment can be like dating, sitting around waiting for someone to call you… after a while you get the drift, and you know they aren’t going to call. You have most likely experienced it or may have even done it yourself. (Why don’t they call???)

If you are dealing with a recruiter who has put you forward for a role and being a highly sought after talented individual, you receive an offer, I encourage you to act with integrity and finish the process. Talk to your consultant about why you have reservations about taking the role. A good recruiter will listen, see if there is something they can do to help, and if not you can still walk away. Leave a good impression, be professional, finish the process. Regardless of the outcome. It’s polite, courteous and the very least you could do.

 

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Posted in Slade Executive

The agony and the ecstasy

It’s the last week in September – one of the most eagerly awaited weeks in the Australian sports calendar… AFL finals fever is palpable! Recently Slade Group and the Interchange Bench were fortunate enough to get our own Aussie Rules footy fix, hosting well-known football journalist Caroline Wilson, CEO of Geelong Football Club, Brian Cook and Marc Murphy, Captain of Carlton FC at our annual Footy Lunch.

Our panel (with me as MC) rapidly covered off: Who can beat Richmond this year? (Collingwood); Can the West Coast Eagles win at the MCG? (I think so); How long will it take Carlton FC to make the final eight? (About 3-4 years!); And why are players leaving the Suns? (Global warming??)

Seriously though, what was most interesting about our panel discussion was Marc Murphy’s take on the current state of player welfare.

Back in the 80s, when I was playing, the big question was how do we get into Chasers nightclub and the Underground (without queuing, and a drink card would be nice too, thanks)? Innocent times in comparison.

Seriously though, Marc got everyone’s attention when he identified health and wellbeing as the top issue facing current AFL players. As someone who works in the people capital business, I was really interested.  Let’s talk about them here:

Mental Health

This is a massive issue, so much so that the AFL Players Association (AFLPA) has established a specialised in house Mental Health and Wellbeing team to provide counselling to current and past players. Statistics from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reveal that up to one in five Australians will experience a mental illness in their lifetime – AFL players are no different.

Stress

All of us have work pressures – present stressors that can lead to mental health issues. However as AFLPA Head of Mental Health and Wellbeing Brent Hedley wrote, the current stressors for players include: performance anxiety, public scrutiny, media attention, injury and being away from the family. The public spotlight simply magnifies these stressors.

General Health and Wellbeing

Other common health issues amongst AFL players may include: depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol problems, eating disorders and gambling, side effects from injuries such as concussion, not to mention a whole range of other physical injuries related to contact sport. They may appear to be super human on the field, but often spend more time off field recovering.

Social Media

Social media can be a frenemy, especially for high profile footballers. Hedley’s advice is “Social media can be a confronting environment for players and cause significant stress, but it can also be one that gives players a chance to express themselves and show their human side.” This highlights the importance for players in having a strong network away from their sporting identities, which can support them when football is causing them stress.

Our Footy Lunch was a great event – we even picked a winner for Saturday (that’s right, your tip’s the one)! Yet Marc’s comments really hit a nerve with me. Footy players are like you and me (well, perhaps a bit more like me)… They win, they lose, they struggle, they laugh and they cry. The major difference is for a sports star, it’s all played out on an open stage for everyone to see. Players need help in the workplace from time to time, just like us. I think it’s great to see through the AFLPA that they’re getting it.

How do you manage stress and other pressures in your workplace? What are some of the strategies you have used to help improve the health and wellbeing of others @work?

 

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Posted in Slade Executive

There’s an Engineering skills shortage. Here’s one way to solve it.

It might not be news to some, but the current shortage in engineering skills is widening. While there have been many reports on this topic, I haven’t seen one that provides an adequate solution to the ever growing problem.

So what’s the answer, introduce more science and mathematics learning at an early stage? This might be easier said than done, as we are also facing a huge shortage of specialist maths and science teachers. Independent sources attribute a range of factors, including the failure to attract new teachers (particularly men) to the profession, imminent retirements and poor retention rates.

Whether it’s teachers or engineers, recruiting highly skilled migrants in Australia is costly.

One option that has worked for me is re-employing retired engineers into positions where they can add significant value.

Recently I organised a successful meeting for a candidate who had left the workforce with a company that had a short to medium-term contract opportunity.

The mutual benefits were clear: the company hired a highly qualified candidate (an engineer with over 40 years of experience in the Civil/Structural Engineering field) at short notice who could resolve their issues within the timeframe; the candidate enjoyed the flexibility of working on a stimulating project without a long-term commitment.

Employing professionals returning to the workforce has the following benefits for your organisation:

  • Fill short-term roles with an experienced candidate quickly
  • Retirees are more likely to consider a short-term opportunity than a candidate who is ultimately seeking permanent full-time work
  • Older employees can pass on valuable sector knowledge and transfer sought after skills to less experienced employees
  • 40 years + in the workforce brings with it well-established industry networks, and can provide introductions and mentoring opportunities for future leaders
  • Depending on skillsets and recent technical knowledge, minimal training or upskilling is typically required

Returning to the workforce also has benefits for retired and semi-retired candidates:

  • Feeling valued through their work by continuing to contribute to innovation, benefit society, and be involved in the business or the broader community Keeping your mind active, which could be beneficial to longevity[1]
  • Financial benefit

Overall, hiring older professionals in any field helps break down the stigma of ageism and reminds people that age should not be a barrier to work performance. In areas such as engineering, where chronic skills shortages have been identified, it makes perfect sense to reemploy when hiring for project-based roles and short to medium-term opportunities in particular. I’d like to see more employers jump on board and give it a go.

Have you employed a retired professional or do you know someone who has recently returned to the workforce after retirement? What was the experience like for both parties?

 

[1] There have been a number of studies to support this. In 2010 paper by economist Susann Rohwedder of RAND and Robert Willis of the University of Michigan (both were at Age Boom Academy). Looking at data from the U.S., England and 11 European countries, they concluded that retirement had a significant negative impact on the cognitive ability of people in their early 60s. They speculate that retirement can lead to a less stimulating daily environment. The researchers also wonder if people nearing retirement are less mentally engaged in their jobs (source Chris Farrell, Next Avenue Contributor).

 

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

Invitation to the Future: We’re ready.

Last year enough was spoken about my 50 years in business to spur me on for another 50 years.  Thank you to longstanding colleagues, clients, candidates and industry stalwarts who were in touch and recalled our times together. (Eating carnations from the vases on the tables after a big boozy dinner  in the 1980s was one I’d forgotten, but the year we hired over 50 executives for the one organisation was one I still remember – long days and satisfying results.)

Other than to sit and watch some good footy on the weekends, I’m a restless soul; thinking, adapting and staying abreast of sector trends and new ways of working. Celebrating the first 50 years gave me time to reflect, but my mind is clearly focused on the future.

In this blog I thought I’d share the fact that in recent years we’ve restructured the broader business and set ourselves up for future success. In doing so my Advisory Board and I considered a number of points:

  • The future of recruitment and the balance between technology, people, systems and processes
  • National and global trends
  • Shifts in market expectations
  • Shifts in employee trends
  • Future proofing a professional services model for a new economy
  • Succession planning (as none of the four Slade children is likely to come into the business)

We now have four discrete businesses, and whereas I was once the sole proprietor across the group, the future for professional services firms lies in distributed ownership and partnerships. I first stepped carefully into a new way of thinking (for me) and now three of the four businesses have equity partners and we’re seeing the growth and stability that comes from this model.

Yellow Folder was the first partnership I entertained five years ago, with Julian Doherty, Slade Group’s previous Director of Research.  Now working with many in the ASX 200 and across education and also Government, it is a research-based management consultancy that delivers corporate knowledge advantage, providing clients greater agility in business planning and talent acquisition strategy.

The service offerings are:

  • Competitor Profiling & Business Intelligence Analysis
  • Talent Investigations & Capability Search
  • Remuneration Benchmarking
  • Talent Pools & Candidate Pipelining

TRANSEARCH.  Most of us now agree with Peter Drucker’s comment “culture eats strategy for breakfast”. For many years, what I saw missing from the Executive Search landscape was an assessment tool or process that could untangle the knotty issue of culture fit at a senior executive level.  Canadian Organisational Psychologist Dr John Burdett and Orxestra©, developed the tools that TRANSEARCH International uses to provide a unique perspective regarding culture, performance, leadership, and team ‘fit’.

As the result of a formal partnership agreement between TRANSEARCH International and Slade Partners, four years ago I brought two long standing executive search leaders Bill Sakellaris and Sandra Brown into the TRANSEARCH International Executive Search partnership.  Recently Di Gillett has become a Partner of this global alliance with Grant White leading our Finance Practice. TRANSEARCH International is one of the foremost international Executive Search firms; a Top 10 in the sector by reach and reputation. TRANSEARCH is pivotal in identifying and securing Board members, ‘C’ suite executives and senior functional experts who have led the growth of global organisations.

Slade Group. My name’s still on the door and I hope will be for many more years.  Securing high performing talent at the professional, specialist, middle management and senior levels has been the mainstay of Slade for years.  The development of technology, AI, Boolean searches, job boards and social media have for the most part been a blessing, but sometimes also a curse. There is so much happening in the HRIS space that it’s sometimes hard not to be distracted by the next ‘tech start up offering’.   We decided a few years ago that we would, until Artificial Intelligence finally eats our lunch in 40 years or so, wisely invest in systems, and even more wisely in our people.

This year, for the first time, I’ve also welcomed the first equity partner into the Slade Group business, Chris Cheesman.  Chris, in his mid-30’s, is the future of recruitment and new ways of working.  He has a very different leadership style to mine and his team of mainly Gen Y and Millennials work to a new work order – together with our clients who are also now mainly Gen Y and Millennials in that space.

We’re very focused on knowing particular industry sectors and talent really well. If I could sum up our strengths it would be in the following areas:

  • Consumer, Digital and Entertainment
  • Education
  • HR
  • Industrial
  • Professional and Business Support
  • Superannuation and Fin Services
  • Technical and Property/Construction

The Interchange Bench. The name says it all. For the last few decades the business, then known as Slade Temps, placed mainly short and long term temps in administrative support roles.  Two years ago that changed and a huge up lift in demand for digital, technical, marketing communications, events, accounting and payroll staff,  as well as payrolling teams of casuals, meant we no longer felt the name served the business.

The Interchange Bench not only attracts premium talent for short term assignments but works with the 121 Modern Awards that cover the 1000s of roles our temporary and contract talent are asked to do. The team runs all day ensuring clients can secure talent on and off the ‘bench’ and into their workplaces for short and long contract periods.  We’ve invested heavily in systems and processes and also reduced the risk for organisations who want to outsource their payroll as well as trusting us with their FairWork and the Modern Awards compliance.

When I recap where the business is right now, I feel we’re right sized, focused and structured for the immediate future. It will be interesting for me to re-visit this blog in five years and report back on how the business has continued to change and evolve.

What are you doing in your world @work to set yourself up for future success?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

A case of a Blinding Flash of the Obvious

Only last Saturday, I was settling in to read the weekend paper while sipping a long black at my local cafe, when I was again reminded of the world famous BFO principle… that’s a case of the Blinding Flash of the Obvious!

I was reading Greg Callaghan’s entertaining piece in The Saturday Age #GoodWeekend Magazine where he interviewed Sydney psychologist Dr Tim Sharp, an adjunct professor at both UTS and RMIT University, about “the importance of small, daily face-to-face interactions”.

What a timely reminder. These exchanges contribute to people’s overall wellbeing, longevity, and even improve mental health.

Here in the Southern Hemisphere, as we bunker down for what is predicted to be a long  winter with endemic colds and flu, it’s been scientifically proven we can actually draw a lot of energy – and in fact warmth, by reaching out to others. Getting out of your headspace and talking to friends, family, colleagues or even strangers on the street, releases endorphins – your wellness hormone, which can actually be good for you.

Dr Sharp, who is also the founder of the Happiness Institute in Sydney, went on to say that, “Brief, micro interactions on a daily basis can have amazing benefits, leading to even reduced rates of depression.” Who would have thought?

While this may have been going on since Moses walked the Earth, I challenge you this week have a chat and reach out to someone new. Whether it’s at your next business meeting, a job interview, the train station, on the street corner or at your local… You can tell them I sent you!

Social media doesn’t count. No Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or texting… You gotta go live.

Experts call it positive wellbeing. Others may say it’s a BFO. Whatever, I think it’s fantastic and those little interactions really work. Everyone’s a winner, if you’re up for it. Just use your judgement when approaching others, keep it safe.

Let me know what happens when you have a ‘small talk’ with someone new.

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Posted in Slade Executive

How to attract ‘in demand’ talent in a candidate short market

Highly capable jobseekers always have options when deciding who they want to work for, but now it’s more important than ever for your organisation to sell its benefits to prospective employees.

If you’re serious about attracting the best talent, the days of the “It’s a privilege to work here” mentality are long gone.

What’s changed?

In Australia’s major cities, professionals are lifestyle conscious and a significant portion of the working population fall into a demographic with an established career who don’t have to take a job out of desperation and can afford to be selective when deciding where to work.

Companies that candidates are currently employed in have adapted, adopting flexible working arrangements and they are expecting their new company will be as progressive as the one they are leaving. The 2017 Deloitte Millennial Survey showed that 84 percent of millennials reported some degree of flexible working in their organisations.

Here are my five top tips to land the perfect candidate:

  1. Ensure you are familiar with your EVP and leverage it at each stage of the hiring process.
    HR and Recruitment teams have been working hard to implement Employee Value Proposition (EVP) programs to further enhance the brand and jobseeker experience.
    Update yourself on everything on offer that makes your organisation attractive to prospective employees (you never know there might be something that you are unaware of, and can take advantage of yourself).
  1. What are the other benefits of working with you and your team?
    If you are a hiring manager, think about some of the other selling points you can use to attract the best candidate to your company and team… social activities (sports teams, team events), technology, fruit box, interesting projects, etc.
  1. Be a brand ambassador
    Being a brand ambassador for the organisation should be part of your personal branding in your day-to-day business activities anyway, but it is critical to share that vision with a prospective employee when you have the opportunity to do so face-to-face, at interview. Don’t forget the employer branding can have an effect on future perception and sales of the business.
  1. Don’t be surprised if candidates are forthright with their requirements
    Candidates may ask you about flexible working hours, working from home options, career progression, along with learning and development opportunities. Five years ago these questions were less likely to be asked; fast forward to 2018 and these are the commonly asked questions, which you must be prepared to talk about with candidates.
  1. Corporate social responsibility is high on the millennial agenda
    Younger generations are socially aware, so working for an organisation that helps to give something back to the community is appealing and will attract talent to your team.

If you are struggling to find good talent to join your business, maybe it is time to revisit your EVP so you can ‘sell the company’ more effectively. Be more flexible in your thinking on working hours and consider hiring on potential, rather than current skills and experience.

How has your organisation evolved over time to the changing nature of the world @work? What are some of the features of your EVP?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

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