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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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Posted in The world @work

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

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

Australian manufacturing – alive, and thriving!

Last week on a beautiful sunny Melbourne winter morning our Technical & Operations team hosted the latest in our series of boardroom briefings. Over breakfast, David Chuter, CEO of Innovative Manufacturing CRC (IMCRC), led the discussion around challenges for leaders in the sector, Industry 4.0 and its transformation imperative.

Attendees included a diverse range of senior manufacturing executives; Ruby Heard, recently awarded the Victorian Young Professional Engineer for 2019 by Engineers Australia, was an active contributor, especially from a younger person’s perspective.

With the demise of the Australian automotive manufacturing sector, we are constantly reminded that the manufacturing sector is in decline. It was refreshing to hear David refuting the state of manufacturing in Australia, providing examples of many of the exciting innovations that are being developed locally that are at the cutting-edge internationally. David is passionate about innovative manufacturing and the role that it will play over the next decade. He firmly believes transformation will be achieved through “collaboration by inspired leadership”.

Speaking about transforming Australia’s manufacturing industry, automation and AI (Augmented Intelligence, rather than Artificial intelligence, in David’s view) the concept of Industry 4.0 is not particularly new. Such technology, including robotics, has already been in use for many years, especially in automotive production. The group observed that what has changed, is that the barrier for entry has dropped significantly, meaning manufacturing technology is no longer limited to well resourced multi-national operations.

While Industry 4.0 is not limited to a specific sector, one of the challenges in Australia is our proliferation of small businesses: 90% of manufacturers employ less than 20 people and only 15% of manufacturers turn over more than $2M per annum. With so many SMEs invested in manufacturing, collaboration between companies can be difficult too. IMCRC estimates less than 40% of manufacturers have an appropriate business strategy to meet current and future requirements.

One of the positive initiatives David has taken with IMCRC is to bring industry, educators (universities) the CSIRO and other resources together to support SMEs in manufacturing and help foster collaboration. CSIRO’s recently released Australian National Outlook showed a massive and unprecedented opportunity for the future growth and prosperity of manufacturing. It predicts manufacturing’s contribution to GDP growth will be more than two and half times that of any other sector.

When looking for transformative projects that will create commercial outcomes for local manufacturers to take Australian products and service to the world, we also need to seek out opportunities to develop the project management, technical and leadership skills that cannot be simply solved through education. Governments have a role to play in supporting manufacturing with investment – for example, here in Victoria our trains are built with 60% local content and some trade-based TAFE courses are government funded. Industry also needs to lead by providing opportunities for technical specialists and professionals to further and diversify their experience, which will upskill its workforce.

Overall, we need to be braver and bolder, if we wish to become a world leader in advanced manufacturing. We need to change the perception that we are limited by market size or geographical distance, and focus on establishing smart tech hubs with a global focus, where the emphasis is less on production, and more on invention, design and value.

I’m looking forward to seeing what the next generation of manufacturing in Australia looks like.

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Posted in Technical & Operations, The world @work

How HR won in the West

Why head out west to talk about HR?

Slade Group recently facilitated our first Western Hub HR Discussion Group, hosted by Kubota at their Australian office in Truganina in Melbourne’s west. Presenting at the event were Christina Tsakiris, Senior Associate and Annabelle Uebergang, Employment Lawyer from Macpherson Kelley’s Employment, Safety and Migration team.

This forum was planned and brought to life by Slade Group’s Practice Manager – Business Support & Shared Services, Shaunagh McEvoy, who recognised the number of sizable organisations that operate in the West and who are often unable to travel into the CBD for events.

Macpherson Kelley shared important updates about recent developments in employment law, and senior HR Managers shared battle scars and victories and other professional insights based on their workplace experiences. A flurry of business card swapping was a sure sign of value at the end of the luncheon.

Significant debate focused on Casual Conversion – particularly as these changes have been applied to 85 different Modern Awards. It was also interesting to hear how different participants have managed this with their organisations, and the legal viewpoint from our experts on myriad grey areas. For example, did you know that Casual Conversions are now enforceable by law? Employers are obliged to offer it as an option to casuals who have been on regular and systematic rosters for 12 months or longer. You wouldn’t be alone if you weren’t aware of these changes, which is why it’s so important to conduct regular HR Health Checks to make sure nothing has slipped through the gaps.

Our HR Discussion Groups provide an ideal forum for like-minded HR professionals to speak freely and swap stories in a safe and confidential environment. We are proud and excited by the success of our newly established Western Hub Group and would like to extend our thanks to all who attended for sharing their experiences. Thank you to our presenters Christina and Annabelle from Macpherson Kelley, as well as Liz Cameron, Human Resources Manager Kubota Australia and NZ for opening up the Kubota boardroom to accommodate our group. A special shout out to Candice Lewis, our Temporary & Contract Talent team Manager at the Interchange Bench, for helping us out on the day.

We hope you saw the value in our vision to create an extended network for HR professionals. If you would you like to join our group and receive more information about future events, please contact me via the details below.

How do professionals in your industry network?

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Posted in Business Support, The world @work