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A lot to think about beyond 2020

February already and we’re fully back into the swing of work, with the Australia Day long weekend gone and kids back to school.

Companies and employees everywhere are returning to significant challenges to the Australian economy and their industries within it, especially retail, agriculture, and tourism amongst others. My industry focus, superannuation and wealth management, has been experiencing the pain of change for some time now, and there is a high level of executive movement as the ‘war for talent’ heats up further.

This is great if you’re an executive or specialist in demand, but there’s some awful, somewhat hidden or understated, numbers for many Australians.

According to a recent article by Jack Derwin in Business Insider, there are now three unemployed Australians for every job vacancy. Based on this fact we know that the 250,000 or so job ads listed every month just don’t match up with the 725,000 Australians without jobs who want them, and the 1.15 million under-employed Australians who are working less hours than they’d like.

Reading this, I wondered whether the majority of us currently in professional employment are even aware of these numbers… three unemployed people for every single listed vacancy!

Yes, many vacancies aren’t listed, but typically they will be filled by ‘people who know people’ as they are already employed and referred through trusted conduits.

The other big associated issue is underemployment, and when combined with the unemployed, means nearly 2 million Australians cannot find as much work as they want or need.

Let’s keep this in mind before we start labelling people as ‘lifters or leaners’ or with other simplistic clichés.

Further, in an ABC Business Report published recently, Oxfam concludes, “Australia’s concentration of wealth in the hands of the super-rich is occurring, while the share of wealth of the bottom half of our community has decreased over the last decade and workers’ wages continue to stagnate.”

“The top 1 per cent of Australians have more than doubled the wealth of the entire bottom 50 per cent – or 12.5 million people.”

Read that again. It warrants an expletive or two when you think that 240,000 of our ‘mates’ hold 100x the individual wealth held by half of all Australians.

How have we, as a society, let it come to this (and seemingly, it’s getting worse)? 

Economic liberalisation has raised millions of people around the world out of abject poverty, and certainly Australia benefitted from deregulation and the encouragement of the private sector, from what was a troubled economy in the 1970s and 80s. But have we gone too far, and is the idea of a ‘fair go’ in Australia and looking after your ‘mates’ just a slogan?

This country has shown with the recent bushfires and current drought that we still believe in pitching in to help others. It seems however, with death by a thousand cuts over 30 years, that we have become numb to the unemployed, immune to the increasing homeless on the street, and resigned to the gargantuan wealth and therefore political influence of ‘the few’.

Ok, easy for me to criticise, but what do we do? 

I don’t have the answers but I don’t believe Australia (and the world) can continue down this path of the few haves and many have-nots, with a large middle ground too busy to care because they’re just getting by. The workforce is changing and unless we come up with new ideas and products, the wealth disparity will continue to grow. Add in climate change, whether exacerbated by humans or not, the year, decade and century ahead will deliver some tremendous challenges for many Australians.

There’s a lot to think about in 2020 and beyond.

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Posted in Accounting & Finance, Superannuation, The world @work

Compare the pair indeed!

Q. What’s in the news every day and the first topic of discussion whenever I sit down with clients or candidates?

A. The Hayne Royal Commission and, to a much lesser extent, the recent Productivity Commission report into Superannuation.

Where the draft Productivity Commission report identified areas for improvement within superannuation, namely multiple accounts and insurance premiums eroding those accounts, the Hayne Royal Commission has given us a sorry list of poor systems, poor compliance and behaviors that could be described anywhere from lazy, greedy or criminal.

I don’t need to be more specific, we all read the news and know what and who I’m referring to.

Sadly, in these client and candidate discussions, no-one is surprised. The constant stories from candidates from within these organisations clearly tells me that sales, profits and bonuses are  priorities number 1, 2 & 3, and anything else is a long way behind. As a result, the culture of these organisations are often toxic, and that’s why I’m seeing more candidates from those organisations than from anywhere else.

For political reasons the Industry Superannuation sector was added to the Royal Commission. I wonder if the Minister regrets that now. Not only did the Productivity Commission highlight the superior overall performance generally of the Industry Superannuation Funds as compared to the Retail Superannuation Funds, but so far the Royal Commission has further highlighted the difference in culture from the top down. The $67 million in fees begrudgingly refunded and fees to dead people versus a few million dollars on an advertising campaign (A fox in the henhouse? – I doubt they even knew just how right they were) or $240,000 in client entertainment expenses for a $35 billion fund.

Compare the pair indeed!

Why mention all this as a recruiter? Right now, employee sentiment is strongly in favour of ethical and moral corporate behaviour. Candidates want to work for organisations that genuinely make a difference, and demonstrate their strong cultures in their corporate behaviours. Good candidates want to work for strong organisations that are profitable and dynamic, but who also care about their staff and their customers, not just their profit or share price or bonuses.

Without doubt, one part of the financial services sector is winning ‘the war for talent’ based on values, ethics and behaviour.

What have you seen in your world @work that has shaken your values?

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Posted in Accounting & Finance, The world @work