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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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Posted in The world @work

Why not a Pre-New Year Career Resolution!

Taking the next steps to advance your career can be a stressful and lonely experience.

Slade Group is proud to partner with Renata Bernade who has developed ‘Job Hunting Made Simple’, a 7-week online course and group coaching programme that will show you how to plan and advance your career that is intentional, inspiring and fun.

Job Hunting Made Simple was created for people who are:

  • serious about their future career progression, but unsure how to achieve their goals;
  • in-between jobs and not knowing if they’re putting their time and effort into the right strategies.
  • returning to work after an extended break, not knowing how the market will perceive them; and
  • ready to look for new job opportunities, but just can’t find the time or focus to do it!

The program is opening soon and is accepting interest now! Job Hunting Made Simple will start in January 2020 and registrations open on Thursday 19 December. Go to renatabernarde.com/sladegroup or reply to this blog post to request more information.

Towards the end of the programme you’ll be hosted by Slade Group in a networking session, meet your fellow course participants, catch up with your favourite recruiters and receive direct ‘word on the ground’ employer feedback.

We’re delighted to finish our year on a high, and wish you a very happy festive season, and a wonderful New Year.

If you or someone you know would like to start 2020 with refreshed career ambitions please let us know and we’ll put you in touch with Renata Bernade.

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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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Why is it even a contest? Roads and Rail vs Tech and Digital.

It makes us feel we’re a nation on the move seeing the worker bees in High Vis vests bringing impressive infrastructure spending to life. Cities and populations are growing and we need improved roads and rail services. Great. But what happens at the end of the line?

Building roads and rail doesn’t, in and of itself, add to our GDP. It creates jobs for now, on the tax payer’s dime, filtered through major construction companies. It’s a centuries old model that makes sense and is understood by the electorate as a necessary and valuable addition to our cities and regional centres.

But all this visible ‘concrete’ activity means we risk a drift into the ‘also-rans’ of world economies if our Federal and State Governments don’t get more critical workforce planning sorted. We’re far from being known as global leaders in technology and digital. Consider the following recent observations:

  • John Durie in The Australian wrote that Israel’s ‘start-up nation’ success is built in part on a model of generous government incentives.
  • What should an accountant say to a successful early stage start-up who asks the question, “Why don’t we move to Singapore, where the tax incentives are very attractive?”
  • At the Rampersand Investor briefing on November 11th, two of the growing tech businesses lamented the lack of government grants and incentives, in spite of the fact that they are the future big employers governments need to realise their ‘jobs jobs jobs’ rhetoric.  
  • In the next three years alone the Robotic Data Automation Services sector is forecast to grow by $2B globally (HFS Research, 2018).  Where is Australia in this growth?
  • Ginnie Rometty, IBM’s CEO says we need to change our approach to hiring, as 100% of jobs will change in the future and AI is coming at us fast.
  • How will Australia attract more global tech players to our shores if our tech and digital talent has to go abroad to build their own stellar careers?

The cry of Jobs jobs jobs has become a hollow call out if we don’t Work work work on being future ready. Industry can’t do it alone, universities can’t do it alone. This requires high level resolve at a government level to create an environment to supercharge the virtual traffic routes of tomorrow. And if that means employer and employee incentives and grants, the short-term costs will be Australia’s gain in the longer term.

Am I the only Jo Public who is alarmed by our collective Federal and State Governments’ lack of vision?

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Posted in Slade Executive, Technical & Operations, The world @work

An erudite lesson in global politics

On a wet Oaks Day in Melbourne I backed a lunchtime invitation to hear Lord Chris Patten speak at the State Library of Victoria ahead of the races. He reflected a little on Brexit ‘psycho-mania’ (now my new favourite term) and a lot more on Hong Kong and China.

Christopher Patten, Baron Patten of Barnes, CH, PC served as the 28th and last Governor of Hong Kong from 1992 to 1997 and Chairman of the Conservative Party from 1990 to 1992. He was made a life peer in 2005 and has been Chancellor of the University of Oxford since 2003. 

Self-deprecating one minute and giving Cambridge University some Oxford one-upmanship in the next,  he also spoke at length of China and Hong Kong’s ‘one country – two systems’.   Unexpectedly, what really struck me, and other guests, was how he spoke without fear or favour.  He appealed again for China to stand by the one country – two systems commitment that was made in 1997.  He articulated his own democratic and faith based personal values. It was striking in Australia, where this year we’ve become more and more aware of a real or perceived threat of surveillance, to hear some speak so candidly in a public forum.

How is it that I have become conscious in 2019 of self-censoring, something that has never crossed my mind before? Would Lord Patten be turned around at the Beijing Airport?   In business, judiciousness and confidentiality are part and parcel of our work, but not until this year have I sensed the heightened influence of China across industry, academia and government in Australia.

Lord Patten’s gently-paced, candid and humour speckled delivery was a rare treat. His ability to be in the moment with his audience was captivating.  There were neither weasel words nor vanilla platitudes and the State Library guests enjoyed an unquestionable win on Oaks Day.

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

MMXIX (that’s 2019, or Mixed Media and I with two kisses)

Let’s talk about being a Graduate student in the 21st century. Finally getting that piece of paper – saying you’ve completed a degree! It’s exciting, a huge sense of relief, finally all your hard work has paid off. Then it dawns on you and the flush off questions start to power your mind. What do I do now? I need to find a job! How do I get a job? How do I compete with everyone?

Not knowing your career future is overwhelming and intimidating. Being a graduate myself I can safely say the thought of not getting hired for a job that is within the field you want to work in is daunting.

I recently had my graduate exhibition at RMIT University. Titled MMXIX, the event was designed to showcase a piece of work from each student from the graduate class of Digital Media. The exhibition was filled with amazing talent from my fellow classmates. It was a celebration of achievement and hard work. The night ended on a high, but as we all started to pack up our mixed media installations from our various projects, I felt bitter sweet that it was all over. I couldn’t believe how fast three years had gone by! What next? What is my next chapter going to look like?

Prior to graduating I had already spent hours scrolling through the pages of every job seeking website Australia had to offer. Perfecting and reworking my website portfolio an obscene amount of times. Writing countless cover letters, redrafting my resume and updating my LinkedIn profile. Yet after all the preparation in the world, I was still hesitant about finding a job – What if no one wants to hire me? It can be imitating knowing how many grad students are competing for the same opportunities, especially in 2019 where searching for work is already a minefield. Wanting to be the best candidate possible for an employer plays on your mind a lot.   

Having the opportunity to be able to gain work experience at Slade Group and working alongside such an amazing group of staff has taught me entering the industry is motivating. It is what we have been working towards our whole degree! We should feel overjoyed about entering the workforce not nervous.

A wise woman once told me – my mother to be exact, you need to back yourself! And what I mean by that is, is be proud off your achievements, flaunt what you can bring to the table. You can do all the preparation in the world, but I believe the key is to be proud and back your accomplishment and the work will come to you. #backyourself

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How to follow your passion and be successful: 7 wise words from a former Olympian

It was sensational to have triple Olympic Gold and multiple world swimming champion, Australia’s own Grant Hackett, join us for a Slade breakfast recently. Grant shared some of his personal journey as an Olympian and his thoughts about what creates high performance behaviours.

Here are my seven takeaways from Grant’s talk with our team:

  1. Goals: As a young teenager, aiming for the Sydney 2000 Olympics, Grant started writing down his goals on the bedroom wall, spelling out what he wanted to achieve across all his main swimming events.
    Takeaway: Think and ink your goals

  2. Purpose: A strong sense of purpose will help you find true meaning in what you do.
    Takeaway: Be really clear within yourself about why you are doing, whatever it is that you do, particularly when planning your career

  3. Benchmark: Grant recorded and gauged his performances against the then world king of the 1500 freestyle, Kieren Perkins (coincidentally his team mate). He compared Kieran’s achievements at various milestones, including age, distances, times and winning results, analysed them against his own performance and set himself targets.
    Takeaway: Compare yourself to the best in your field and set approachable goals

  4. Passion: Doing something you are passionate about involves pushing yourself beyond the ordinary boundaries, sometimes suffering, not always enjoying it and can often lead to disappointment. When you absolutely love something, you will want to be successful, no matter what.
    Takeaway: Passion is what gets you through the challenges

  5. Success: What would success (or failure) look like for you? For Grant, qualifying to wear an Olympic blazer wasn’t enough, he had to win gold, to be number one. While we can’t all be world leaders, we can certainly model others’ successful behaviours at work.
    Takeaway: With clarity over your objectives, you determine your own success

  6. Sportsmanship: Competing with the same people internationally, year-round, Grant made lasting friendships with some of his team mates, as well as his competitors.
    Takeaway: While competition is healthy, developing collegiate relationships with your coworkers, customers and competitors also helps bring out the best in you

  7. Self-talk: It’s the talk that you have with yourself, that voice inside your head, which can be more hinderance than help. Paradoxically, winners sometimes have more negative self-talk than others.
    Takeaway: Some self-doubt is normal, so take stock of yourself and the situation, then get on with it

As a specialist recruiter in Leisure & Sport, I have seen many former athletes go on to leadership roles, where these behaviours translate to business and career success. Grant is continuing to apply his learnings in his current role as CEO of Generation Development Group, where he is building a team with a high performance culture. Use our world class takeaways to get you started and go for gold!

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Posted in Consumer, Sport & Entertainment, The world @work

4 reasons to look beyond the obvious candidates

Some clients still hold fast to working with candidates within their industry, while progressive organisations understand that fresh skills and thinking can deliver high performance.

Most candidates like to move from one industry to the next, to continue learning and broadening their skill sets. This naturally lends itself to an employee who is someone that is hungry to achieve, ambitious, flexible and openminded to new challenges. It’s the perfect profile to add to your team.

It is important that both recruiters and employers can identify the transferable skills a candidate brings to the role, and for us to encourage employers to look beyond the obvious. It’s also important that any jobseeker can confidently speak about their abilities.

Here are four reasons why you should consider candidates from outside your usual network:

  1. Innovation – Candidates from other industries can bring innovations and best practices. Think of this as an insight into other businesses; other sectors often do things differently.
  2. New culture – your new staff member will affect the dynamic of the team anyway, but imagine if they are fresh, optimistic and energised by landing in a new industry. The immediate effect across the greater business and culture can be hugely positive. It can gently move a stale team to a re-invigorated way of working.
  3. Continuous improvement – a person from outside your industry will enter your organisation  without legacy or pre-conceived ways of working. They may query a process and assist in creating changes and process improvements. Think efficiency and cost savings!
  4. Build your brand – by bringing on a new hire from outside your industry, you are sending a clear message to candidates and competitors while building your EVP at the same time. You’ll be known as a progressive organisation that is flexible, operating from a contemporary approach to the market and opportunities.

When you are next looking to recruit, try to look beyond industry experience and look for transferable skills – measure them against your key criteria, and add some fresh thinking to your team.

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Posted in Business Support, The world @work