Blog Archives

Our time in the sun: Dynamic infrastructure development

Last week Slade Group hosted Mark Bartoli – Founding Director, ATEC Solutions along with other Civil Infrastructure Construction & Engineering Leaders for a boardroom lunch.  Up for discussion were the next wave of mega projects, renewables and energy security, skill shortages and innovation.  There was great conversation and perspectives around the table with leaders from rail, road, water and energy, all contributing.

We started with the Treasury’s budget allocation; 84% of it on an “Infrastructure Blitz”, with only six percent and seven percent allocated to Healthcare and Education respectively. 

  • Has the government weighted that correctly?  
  • Is enough of this investment being spent on regional development to encourage a decentralised CBD approach?  
  • The $100 billion to be invested in Australia’s infrastructure over the next 10 years is excellent news for Construction and Engineering sector, HOWEVER,
  • Wage growth and consumer spending have confoundingly continued to stagnate. 

The conversation moved on to Renewable Energy.  Consensus is that this should be championed by Australia, as our vast land mass relative to population size provides the opportunity to make excess energy to sell to foreign countries.  With 21% of electricity being generated by renewables last year in Australia, there were questions including:

  • Has there been a big enough shift in general sentiment towards renewable energy?
  • Should Australia be looking to create huge off-shore wind farms? 

One problem with wind and solar is that the power system in Victoria was not designed for non-synchronous generation.  In layman’s terms, as the power produced by wind and solar is irregular, this can weaken the strength of the local area and have knock-on effects for the whole power system.  One way of stabilising this is through Pumped Hydro and with work commenced on Snowy 2.0, and the Australian government identifying other areas for Hydro Generators, it looks as though this sector will show strong growth over the coming years.

A huge topic of conversation for anyone in the infrastructure sector at the moment is skill shortages.  With massive infrastructure projects in play across Australia means we simply don’t have enough engineers for all the projects.  Questions raised:

  • Can Australia attract engineers from overseas?
  • Are there enough visas for overseas engineers to move here?
  • How can we assist them in adapting to new cultures and working environments? 
  • Should the governments, both federal and state, take more responsibility for forward planning of these infrastructure investments to avoid the current skills shortages being experienced?

Many are seeing an increase in a contingent workforce, but the drive is actually from Generation X’ers, who can now contract themselves out to various companies not only bringing financial reward but allowing them to work on a multitude of projects without being tied down to a single employer.

The overarching theme throughout all the different topics was policy.  Too much policy seems either outdated, absent or having limited meaning, resulting in hindered investment in innovation and talented engineers becoming frustrated with unreasonable constraints.  Policy needs to be changed to encourage the current and next generation of engineers to improve quality of life, enhance the efficiency of infrastructure and create new industries.

If you’d like to hear more, please give me a call or, continue the conversation by posting a comment on this blog or feel free to send through a question for me to refer on to Mark Bartoli.

If you would like to be a facilitator at one of our Slade Group quarterly boardroom lunches please contact me directly, details below.

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Posted in Uncategorized

The rewards of a good hire are amplified for SMEs

I have a hypothesis: mid-sized and smaller companies (remember, SMEs comprise the majority of Australian businesses) can benefit most from professional recruitment services. While smaller companies have less experience and fewer available internal resources to identify and attract top flight talent, a great senior level hire will generally have a measurable impact on the growth and success of a smaller company. And rather than relying on informal networks, job boards, and other indirect methods, I would argue a senior appointment in an SME is best served by an experienced Executive Search and Selection provider.  

Of course, senior level hires are made less frequently than more junior roles so naturally many companies are ill-prepared when they arise. Internal HR departments (or individuals) may be very good at handling the company’s ongoing recruitment needs, but these internal resources are usually not experienced in managing the recruitment of senior level or one-of-a-kind positions.

Unfortunately, there is a perception in the business community that the executive search process is only relevant for large companies. Most related articles involve the appointments or searches for executives for well-known ASX 200 companies, or of key government departments and authorities, where the emphasis is on the remuneration attached to the role, rather than the level of difficulty involved in placing a suitable candidate.

We know the cost of hiring the wrong person goes well beyond the time and effort involved in recruitment. Negative results, including loss in profit, reduced income, the impact on customer goodwill and company morale, can be a significant blow.

Deciding to engage a consulting firm, then finding the appropriate consultant to partner with, can be similarly overwhelming, so make sure you choose a professional who understands your needs. As an executive specialist in engineering, I am always interested in getting to know as much about the company’s culture, workflow, plans for growth and vision for the future. It’s part of my due diligence before commencing any assignment, and knowing your business before you set out to attract others to work for you is something everyone can afford — whatever your size.

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Posted in Technical & Operations, The world @work

How Technical & Operations professionals in the Property & Construction industry are influencing the Australian economy.

Continuing our series of boardroom luncheon events with influential people in Technical & Operations, Slade Group recently hosted Kate Bailey, Associate Director – Head of Logistics and Retail Research at CBRE.

Focusing the conversation on how the Australian economy will perform in 2019 and beyond, we discussed the impact of e-commerce on the industrial property market, looked at how increasing vacancies and slowing retail sales impact the retail sector, and considered infrastructure challenges in the face of fast delivery.

Kate had some interesting statistics about how our online shopping habits have contributed to land fill. For example, I didn’t know that 30% of all goods sold online are returned, with a staggering 2billion kg in the US going to landfill waste annually. While many retailers no longer build their businesses with bricks and mortar, the space required for warehousing goods bought online is having a significant impact on urban planning. With parcel delivery now their major activity, services like Australia Post have had to completely change their business model. Yet it’s still often cheaper to purchase a book from Amazon, which is shipped from the other side of the world, than to buy the same item from local bookshop. Kate says 30% of customers will pay more just for faster delivery.

Kate highlighted that omni-channel shoppers, those who buy online as well as in physical retail stores, typically spend up to 30% more than traditional shoppers. Sneakerboy in Melbourne is an example of how an innovative business has successfully integrated the concept of omni-channel retail. Its Flinders Lane store has 96% floor space for maximum storefront efficiency – they only stock a single pair of shoes in each size. Customers try on the shoes then purchase via an iPad in store. The shoes are shipped directly to the customer from Hong Kong.

Convenience is becoming more and more a part of the building design of both commercial and residential buildings. We’re starting to see features like hot food vending machines for time poor (couldn’t-be-bothered-cooking) professionals on the go. Driverless cars, soon to be a reality, are further evidence of convenience led product development, but what will happen to the existing infrastructure?

We had a great chat around the table, with everyone from retail, construction, land development, engineering, architecture, interior design and those of us involved in the recruitment of these industry professionals, contributing to the discussion.

Continue the conversation by posting a comment on this blog or feel free to send through a question for me to refer on to Kate. If you would like to be a facilitator at one of our quarterly boardroom lunches please contact me directly, details below.

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Posted in Technical & Operations, The world @work

Is your hiring process being managed by tortoises or hares?

There is a quote from Richard Pratt that has always stuck with me throughout my recruitment career: “Always hire the best person for the job, not the best available. If they’re available they’re not necessarily the best.”

One of the most costly decisions an organisation can make is hiring the wrong candidate. There have been numerous studies on the exact cost of hiring the wrong person. According to a survey by The Australian, a bad hire can cost a business 2.5 times the employee’s salary. No one can deny that it comes at a huge expense. Factors include hiring costs, wages and disruption costs, but no doubt the greatest expense attributed to a bad hire is the lost business opportunities and the effect this employee can have on a company’s brand. There is also the impact this employee can having on your existing workforce’s morale even long after they have left the business.

How often is it in business that we receive a phone call from a colleague or a customer who says they needed something yesterday? When we’re talking human capital for the property and construction sector, it’s often as a result of new business or a major project win, when there’s an urgency to hire someone to start working on the job right away.

What Pratt’s saying is that many of the best candidates are not looking for jobs; they are not applying for jobs because they are well looked after, and are too involved in their current work to be distracted by LinkedIn or other social networks, which may refer new opportunities. So if the best talent are firmly engaged in their current roles, performing at the top of their field with their current employers, why consider them as prospective candidates at all? You need the right approach, but it can take time.

The Melbourne construction industry is reaching boom time levels again. With the increased activity in the building sector comes a heightened demand for recruitment. So the temptation is to rush key hiring decisions, which can often result in poor decision-making in the recruitment process. In a buoyant market hiring the right executive is critical – it’s unlikely you’ll get a second chance to acquire key people from the same talent pool. Therefore, hiring decisions backed-up by a robust search and selection methodology, which allows time to properly evaluate all potential candidates and their suitably, will lead to better outcomes regardless of the urgency of the role.

Next time you think about racing to hire because you have a need, remember executive recruitment is not a hare sprint. Be the patient tortoise who plans for the journey ahead, does their due diligence, paces themselves through the search and selection process and knows when to pause to take a breath. It’s the way forward for effective senior appointments.

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work