Blog Archives

Why good service is good business

How often do you get frustrated as a customer? Working part-time in hospitality to put herself through university, Catherine DeVrye had a customer centric work ethic drilled into her. Later in her professional life working at IBM in Japan, she became totally ingrained in a culture where she lived and breathed service quality every day. Over the last 25 years in her career as a best selling author and motivational speaker, Catherine has helped organisations on five continents to become more globally competitive by embracing continual improvement.

In today’s competitive talent market, a job isn’t enough for most employees; they want to make a living and make a difference. These days Catherine says she seldom speaks just about customer service. Taking a holistic approach, providing a good service also means the service you provide to your team, your community and to yourself. In this video, she explains how to develop relationships for long-term repeat business and why you can’t take care of your customers, if you don’t take care of yourself.

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Posted in The world @work

Why critical thinking, is critical.

What do you think is the most watched Ted Talk of all time? It’s Sir Ken Robinson’s Do Schools Kill Creativity? It challenges us to rethink our school systems, to acknowledge there are multiple ways to learn successfully.

In my career as a teacher I made the very deliberate decision to transition from teaching the VCE (Victorian Certificate of Education, formerly the High School Certificate – simply known as the HSC in Australia) to VCAL – the Victorian Certificate of Applied Learning.  For those who aren’t au fait with the nuances of VCAL, essentially the curriculum is geared towards a more hands on (applied) approach to learning, and assessment is focused on outcomesrather than traditional grades or results.

What I loved about VCAL assessment was that it was based on life skills and employability. Nowadays those same skills are referred to as 21st century skills, which includes skills such as verbal communication, problem solving, time management, leadership and teamwork. While the traditional ways of learning are still addressed through assessment, more emphasis is placed on creative and critical thinking in order to solve a problem.

Sir Ken’s fundamental message was that children (and adults too) should be encouraged to use their imagination!

In Australia, education is changing. Task-based learning, working in teams, appointing students to leadership roles amongst peer groups… these are all things that we can benefit from later in life, both personally and professionally. Not all lessons are learned in books – a cliché, but true.  As educators we need to encourage all learners to read widely, to search out subject matter that isn’t enforced by a standard curriculum and to be guided by their intrinsic motivators. Put simply, allow students to go away and learn something they want to learn.

While we’re here, let’s update our definition of text to include digital publishing and non-traditional modes of reading and learning. In the electronic age, it’s also timely to remind ourselves that education is not only about how you remember facts, because anyone with a smartphone has a virtual encyclopedia of reliable information at their fingertips. However, the power of information and how we choose to use it continues to be a defining question for our societies in the future. In an environment where fake news has become a real thing, knowing the facts has become less important than being able to deconstruct the message – an important skill broadly taught across many university degrees.

When I look back at that decision I made nearly 10 years ago, it’s interesting to see what the motivators were that have brought me on a journey into the professional services industry. Working in recruitment, our brief often identifies the hard (technical) skills sought in candidates. Recognising those soft 21st century skills that, along with appropriate knowledge and experience, ultimately determine whether a candidate is a good fit for a particular role, is something I’m proud to say I now specialise in.

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Posted in Education, The world @work

Young people entering the workforce

The Boardroom Podcast in conversation with Anita Ziemer, Managing Director of Slade Group, about young people entering the workforce and the future of industries with the presence of automation.

The Boardroom Podcast is a series of engaging podcasts discussing the journey of and lessons learnt from many insightful industry leaders guests with a focus on having real and authentic conversations.

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Posted in Business Support, Interchange Bench, The world @work

Outdated office routines: How to manage the top 5 workplace traditions we love to hate!

While the world @work has evolved significantly over the last 30 or so years, some of the quirks of the office remain pervasive. Here is my take on some of the Most Hated Office Traditions as surveyed by CV Library and reported by HRD Editor Australia. You can read the full list here.

Survey says…

9-5 working hours (53%)

I once worked in hospitality and despite the unsociable hours, early mornings, late nights and ever-changing shifts that included weekend work, it was never boring or predictable. Many organisations now offer flexibility, with core hours that allow employees to manage their own start and finish times whilst working the same number of hours over a week.   

Long meetings (34.6%)

When you work on projects, meetings can be useful for sharing ideas, setting strategy, technical problem solving and quick decision-making. However, they can also be disruptive to workflow, unproductive and eat into the time available for the tasks required for delivery. Schedule meetings on the same day(s) where possible and allocate blocks of time in your schedule for focused work on specific projects. 

Professional dress codes (30.6%)

I’m split on corporate attire. As a guy, I find it’s like wearing a school uniform: An easy decision process when getting ready for work, but it can be pretty uninspiring wearing suits every day. On the other hand, the call centre workers in our building take relaxed to the extreme. You never know what they’ll be wearing when you see them in the lift, but you certainly know where they work! Our workplace has casual Fridays once per month, some professional services firms do them weekly, while other businesses have redefined the dress code altogether. For men, this could mean chinos, polo shirts or jeans and a smart jacket.

Having to work in the office every day (29.7%)

If you’re regular reader of this blog you’ll know we’ve written plenty about flexible work – currently the top response on a candidate’s wish list. If you have the option to work from home or another office, use it as I do to focus on those steps in a project where you need to work without distraction, then come back to the office during the collaborative phases.

Set lunch hours (17.8%)

While many workers don’t take lunch breaks (you should) or eat properly (ditto) during the day, others are constrained by set hours that don’t suit them. If the operational needs of the business don’t allow you to set your own schedule, try mixing it up by arranging swaps with colleagues. Personally I’m not a big coffee drinker (only one per day), but I don’t mind doing a tea round (7.7%). It’s an opportunity to take a short break, walk away from my desk and get some fresh air.

I will be taking this question to my colleagues Family Feud style at our next team meeting, survey responses to be provided on notice.

What aspects of your workplace work well for you? Which ones do you love to hate?

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Posted in The world @work

6 quick facts to bring you up-to-date on the Australian labour market and contract talent.

For your interest, we’ve collated a snapshot of current headline employment data.  It may help us to all make better sense of some unusual pressures you may be seeing regarding attraction and retention of high performers and why supplementary contract specialists are the new norm.

  1. Yes, high performing talent is getting harder to find. The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data shows that full-time employment increased 11,800 to 8,697,600 and part-time employment increased 11,200 to 4,014,000. Contractor and temporary talent can fall into both these categories.
     
  2. More people are working: monthly hours worked in all jobs increased 1.3 million hours to 1758.9 million hours.
     
  3. ABS data collection shows that there are approximately 1,000,000 independent contractors – nearly 10% of the Australian workforce. (Depending on their portfolio of assignments in any one year, contractors and temporary staff can choose to be employed through the Interchange Bench directly, or through their own company.)
     
  4. Casual employees – that is employees who work without regular or systematic hours, or an expectation of continuing work – account for over 20% of the Australian workforce. (The Interchange Bench works closely with employers who have a large casual workforce to ensure that they comply with tightening restrictions on the definition of ‘casual’. Call us if you have any queries.)
     
  5. Trending: contract and temporary employees continue to offer employers great flexibility in resourcing, enabling organisations to hire right for skill, special projects, fixed-term or budgetary and headcount provisions.

  6. Business as usual in most organisations now includes temporary and contract specialists working alongside permanent staff.
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Posted in Interchange Bench, The world @work

6 savvy Employee Retention strategies

The world of construction and engineering in Melbourne is booming, which means skilled professionals are in high demand. And in turn, they’re always being tapped on the shoulder by people like me telling them there’s a better opportunity elsewhere. The truth is, there usually is. 

With companies desperate to employ good people, they often over pay and price out the person’s current employer. Other factors play into why people move, but if you were offered a 25%+ pay increase, I’m sure you would find it hard (as I would) not to take it.

I think people entering the workforce now look at employment as a lifestyle rather than a job. It’s not enough to be financially rewarded for their work, they want to learn new skills, make new friends, have fun and experience fulfillment whilst being environmentally sustainable! So that’s what employers have to give them, if they want the person to stay at the company for many years.

So how can employers retain talent?

  1. Obviously remunerating the employee in line with the current market, which usually means a pay increase. Ask yourself what you’d be prepared to pay to replace your best employees and then give that amount to them before they look elsewhere. 
  2. Develop a years of service/rewards program that motivates your workforce to stay on with the company. 
  3. Provide your employees with challenges and make sure they experience different opportunities at work to prevent them seeing their work as ‘just a job’. 
  4. Offer flexible working arrangements. Numerous studies have shown employees are more productive and engaged when able to balance work with other aspects of their lives.
  5. The best thing you could do for the person and your company is to train them. Give them access to different learning courses. Reward them for achieving a new certificate or qualification. Not only will it benefit them personally, but your business will gain from the added knowledge. 
  6. Talk to your employees. Ask them what they want to do, what they want to achieve. Ask them if they’re happy in their current role. And if they’re not, discuss the possibility of a change in role and see if your business can provide a new career pathway.

Your people are your biggest asset (not your clients or your projects), they’ll spend more time working for you than doing anything else.

What’s working for you in your world @work?

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Posted in Technical & Operations, The world @work

Five simple steps to make 2019 your year!

We are one month down in 2019, and I (like most) am striving to achieve my new year’s resolutions. Sounds simple in theory, however lately I’ve found myself experiencing a lack of oomph. Whatever the cause may be, I want to nip it in the bud and reclaim my enthusiasm!

Below I have reflected on five surefire ways to turn up the dial on your motivation:

  1. What are your goals and why?  Understand what you are trying to achieve and why. Once you have a clear understanding of your goals, set little reminders to keep you on track – this could be a symbol, a quote, a photo etc. 
  2. Breakdown your goals. Do you ever feel overwhelmed looking at the mountain of tasks sitting in front of you? Break down the goal into smaller manageable steps! This may free your mind to focus on the task at hand.
  3. Preserve a positive outlook. This can have an immense impact on your motivation levels. You can’t always control external events, however you do have some control/responsibility of your head space. So try your best to reframe any negative thoughts into positive ones.
  4. Surround yourself with motivated people and look to them for inspiration – not competition!
  5. Get started! Sometimes it is just a matter of taking the first step to activate the flow.

What’s are some of your tips to stay motivated this year in your world @work?

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Posted in Business Support, The world @work

Don’t call me maybe, call me now!!!

It’s out there on social, online, for the whole world to see, but surprisingly only a handful of people call my direct phone number. If only they knew how much difference a phone call can make!

“Hey, I just met you…”

I recently placed a candidate in his first professional job, and it’s a fantastic role with a promising career. Having only just completed his studies, with no industry experience, you can imagine the challenge for him to get a foot in the door in the corporate sector, where graduates are competing with experienced candidates, as well as each other, at this time of year.

“…and this is crazy”

Applying for a graduate position in Food Science when you’ve studied Finance is daring. If this guy had simply responded to the role I had advertised, his application probably wouldn’t have stood out amongst others that were a closer to match to the ideal educational background and technical knowledge for that position.

But he went a step further, introducing himself via email with a note to follow-up on his application. No stalking required, I’m like a real estate agent – my email address (and photograph) is all over our website, LinkedIn, below this article – you get the picture. People aren’t hard to track down these days. I responded by thanking him for the contact and letting him know that I would be reviewing his application within the next few days.

“But here’s my number, so call me maybe.”

A couple of days later, this same candidate did in fact call me; his phone manners, his attitude, his energy, were remarkable. Unfortunately he hadn’t progressed to interview for the graduate job he applied for – it’s disappointing for me too when a candidate with good potential is unsuccessful. Nevertheless he politely thanked me for my time and asked me to keep him in mind if anything else suitable should come up.

I did. And a couple of weeks later, when I was considering suitable applicants for another graduate job with a different organisation, I thought of him immediately. Why did I remember of him? Not for his resume, even though I had thoroughly screened it. It was the phone call.

Long story short… the candidate was successful, started work last month, loves his new job and the company I placed him with agrees he has a promising career.

So my advice, when you see a phone number on a job add, take the opportunity to stand out and grab the phone. Introduce yourself with enthusiasm and energy and most importantly have a smart question to ask. Maybe that’s not so crazy, after all.

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Posted in Business Support, The world @work