Blog Archives

Resourcing the new Infrastructure State. A challenge for Victoria?

Victoria – The Infrastructure State. It could be a number plate. The Melbourne Metro Rail project is underway, level crossings are being replaced, plans for ‘sky rail’ continue to cause controversy and an airport train could be back on the agenda. For roads, the Tulla freeway is being widened, the West Gate and Bolte will get improvements, and the Victorian Government is considering a proposal to build the ‘missing link’ Western Distributor.

Last December at the Engineers Australia Transport Year in Review, I listened with interest to Corey Hannett, Coordinator General, Major Transport Infrastructure Program on the current infrastructure program of works scheduled for Victoria. From a project resourcing point of view, the Government’s main concern is the lack of skilled project leaders to deliver this ambitious program of works.

Key themes presented were:

  • Ensuring the right balance between public and private resources to manage multiple, overlapping projects within optimum timelines
  • Sourcing skilled project leaders across different disciplines, including CEOs, Project Directors, and Senior Project Managers
  • Diversity in the Construction sector

From an executive recruitment perspective, these concerns certainly mirror our experience when consulting with organisations in building, construction and engineering over the last 12 months: Demand for experienced, diverse and specialist talent is at a premium. As the momentum for construction work Australia-wide continues to gather pace, the question remains how do we address this to help the immediate needs of Victoria?

There are serious concerns about poaching staff being felt across the sector, which is experiencing significant problems with retention (a fact that’s not lost on us when headhunting). Here are three points that were raised to consider when hiring, which also resonated with me:

  • When considering a candidate’s abilities, look for transferable skills, taking the time to consider all of their work history, not just the first page of the CV
  • You don’t need someone who has done the exact same job, you need someone who can do the job
  • Victorian employers may benefit from staff attrition with the completion of major projects interstate or could source talent from other sectors where demand has subsided, such as mining (particularly in WA and QLD)

I will be a keen observer over the next few years to see whether we have the appetite to meet the talent demands of the Infrastructure State.

What measures do you think are needed to address talent shortages for major infrastructure projects in your state? Share your point of view to continue the conversation.

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

‘Trump’s wall’ can’t stop talent fleeing the US

At 6:41pm Eastern Australian time on Wednesday 9 November, within half an hour of the calling of the US Presidential election result, in came an email with a request to chat from a very highly regarded Assistant Professor at a major Californian university.

“I have been quite fulfilled at (the) University,” she said, “but the results of our election have made me seriously concerned about the future of environmental science research in the US. I now want to consider something new and somewhere new.”

In our tightly interconnected world we are vulnerable to global shockwaves: the prospect of a Trump presidency may seem ominous for the global economy, but it could also throw up opportunities. We expected that Brexit would see some international professionals seeking opportunities in Australia to the benefit of business and universities here, but this week’s US election result could have an even bigger impact.

I have been recruiting academic roles for a major Australian GO8 University of late and our search for three of that University’s schools has involved contacting academic leaders all around the world. A number have been interested to talk further, and perhaps will apply, but most prospective candidates were happy where they are.

It’s not surprising. Given the new President’s comments on climate change in the lead up to the election, further concerted action on climate change appears unlikely in the US. But what really struck me was that this academic was ready to act on her convictions and back her professional experience, to up stakes and head to ‘warmer’ climes that hopefully (we’ve also seen some of our leading scientific minds looking abroad for a more welcoming political climate) will be more compassionate and supportive of her work.

Not everyone can move countries at will of course. The Assistant Professor is fortunate that there are career pathways within her professional community that facilitate knowledge sharing amongst academics. If she is able to continue her work here, her research will lead to a better understanding of climate impacts, from changes to wetlands, arid and other landscapes (highly relevant considering the environmental challenges we face in this country), then we will all benefit from her expertise.

So while some nations are talking about building walls that may prevent workforce mobility, Australia could be holding a winning hand if we maintain open-minded policies. From an executive search perspective and as a regular international traveller for senior appointments, I’d love to be able to refer more talent both ways.

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Hiring the whole person (not those gingerbread men or women)

“I recommend that you hire someone with a less-conventional story if you want the people on your team to innovate and collaborate in the way this new-millennium workplace requires.”

– Liz Ryan, Forbes.

Next time you’re hiring, challenge your thinking about who would be ‘right’ for the job by asking yourself a few simple questions:

  • Does the candidate really need a defined career history or specific qualifications?
  • Are their skills and capabilities more important than their attitudes and values?
  • Do they have valuable experience outside of work, such as involvement with community, sport, arts, family etc, which they could bring to role?

When looking for the ‘right’ candidate, hiring managers often take the cookie-cutter approach: they select an obvious match to the skills, experience and career path of the incumbent or job description. Liz Ryan, a former HR Senior Vice President in a Fortune 500 company, has written in Forbes about why this is a bad idea. “Cookie-cutter candidates who have the exact experience detailed in the job ad and who have perfectly linear, manicured and stepwise career paths are seldom the best hires, in my experience,” she says.

Working on a recent assignment got me thinking along the same lines: We need to look at the whole person, not a tick sheet of have they finished this, completed that, and moved from one role up the ladder to the next.

The role I was recruiting was for quite a traditional market, so I was pleasantly surprised when the employer hired the candidate who had a more varied background than other candidates. When providing feedback, the employer explained that their chosen candidate demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit and a growth mindset, which they valued highly in comparison with other candidates (who were all equally capable of doing the job).

Ryan’s advice rings true in this case, where more rounded life experience has paid dividends. Top candidates are also looking for employers who have an open-minded approach. Over the years in business I have observed successful leaders often held a variety of roles across different sectors. This has enabled them to take the best from each experience and contribute to their evolution as visionaries. LinkedIn has compiled some inspiring lists of its Top Voices, which include diverse examples of influencers, entrepreneurs, management and organisational culture experts, as well as those organisations who rank as Top Attractors for talented individuals.

Encouraging diversity within your team will help shake-up your current thinking, bring new dynamics, and offers a variety of perspectives – or as Ryan says, “When in doubt, hire the quirky candidate.”

Have you ditched the cookie-cutter? What are some of the innovative qualities you look for in candidates for when hiring?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

A brand new box on the org structure

In a global survey of 500+ business leaders conducted by IIC Partners, three out of four respondents (76 percent) said they didn’t have a Chief Digital Officer (CDO). While a majority of organisations might not have a CDO, it’s becoming critical for businesses of all sizes to consider digital when recruiting any leadership roles.

Digital transformation began long ago in the corporate sector and has an even longer lead in industrial environments – just consider the history of robotics in manufacturing (circa 1955) or computer assisted design and engineering (1970s). Driven by PC, communications and database technologies, digital has successfully worked its way up the chain from IT to the back office, through administration to the front of house, via marketing.

Slade Executive is recruiting senior executives in digital right now, and we’re seeing an international trend in key digital appointments as part of the overall organisational strategy. Charting digital alongside traditional C suite roles, such as finance, operations and human resources, recognises its strategic importance. Along with information and marketing, we’ve seen that digital has the capacity to radically influence the competitiveness of an organisation in the present climate and will no doubt be essential to the survival of many industries in future.

In smaller businesses or those with more modest resources, a cross functional hybrid is the model for CDO. Agile executives who can work across a combination of digital, marketing and information technology are already highly sought after. As industry background becomes less relevant and a diverse CV looks more appealing, digital acumen is now one of the most commonly requested attributes when hiring leaders.

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Lovers and Haters

Why do we delight in maligning people in a particular chosen profession? Why not celebrate their strengths, their contributions, and the economic and social good that results from people in work across myriad different sectors? And, if there are inefficiencies in an industry, isn’t that an opportunity for transformation?

The staffing sector has its detractors like other sectors have theirs. Teachers have too many holidays, bankers are wankers, lawyers are bottom dwellers, and journalists are hacks or reds or fascists. Farmers are whingers and council workers are slackers.

Recruiters are evil middle men and women who rip everyone off.

I just read this message again in the business pages of the Australian Financial Review. The quote came from the Chairman of a newish job board, recently floated on the ASX, seeking some press in the business pages. He was gloating that he was going to run out of town the no-good recruiters with his ‘Direct Employer Jobs, No Agencies’. I remembered the founder of LinkedIn once referenced to the staffing sector as one to be destroyed – all the while taking recruiters’ sign up fees with glee…

In fact job boards per se don’t solve hiring dilemmas. Hiring good people is often fraught with huge challenges and unexpected disappointments during and post getting a new recruit on board.

What we’re waiting for is improved Artificial Intelligence and on towards that end we’re loving those creating learning machines that can help make better hiring decisions. Take for example predictivehire.com: large volume recruiters can overlay predictive talent analytics to increase hiring performance.

And then there’s seek.com.au. SEEK was the first technology disruptor in the recruitment market, and the recruiters, way back in the late 1990s, were scared. SEEK was smart, they partnered and supported recruiters as they got used to a new way of doing business. The founders were whippet smart and could see room for everyone in a market, notwithstanding there would be winners and losers resulting from the ease of online efficiencies. Timely and needed.

The rest, as they say, is history. In spite of LinkedIn and a plethora of crash and burn attempts by competitors such as One Page, Jobs Jobs Jobs, CareerOne, My Career and others, such as our friend quoted in the AFR,  SEEK has continued its growth path. SEEK is now crawling with smart management consultants, analysts and strategists. No longer ‘first to market’, its ‘best to market’ product development mantra is paying dividends.  Job boards per se are now just a tool, but SEEK’s innovations in candidate searches are proving valuable to recruiters and employers alike.

Job boards are just one of many tools used to source, identify, screen and assist talented employees, but no longer the most important. So good luck with launching a ‘new’ Old School Job Board… While SEEK’s shares have a BUY attached today, let’s see what happens to the others –  less smart, less strategic and small minded.

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The money or the holiday?

Welcome to the annual leave game show: The Australian Fair Work Commission has recently changed various modern awards to allow for the cashing in of annual leave under specific conditions. How would you feel if this trend extends to non-award employees in the future?

At first glance, the freedom to choose annual leave time or its monetary equivalent seems like a great win for employees. Who wouldn’t love the flexibility to select whichever option suits their personal situation? Unfortunately, there’s the potential that those who need a break most won’t take it.

Australia is recognised internationally as a hardworking nation. A global survey by online travel site Expedia, as reported by Moira Geddes for news.com.au, reveals over 50% of Australians feel vacation deprived. In an interview with Geddes, George Rubensal, Managing Director of Expedia ANZ says Australians are not taking enough holidays, with 11% of us taking no vacation at all. Even though we have the right to time off, employees feel constrained by an obligation to work, with a staggering 17% of workers saying their bosses don’t allow them to take leave!

News.com.au reports that business leaders supported changes to allow for more flexible working arrangements, but unions are concerned about annual leave becoming a commodity, rather than an entitlement. Finding that you really need the respite afforded by taking annual leave when you’ve already cashed in your leave benefits puts additional pressure on employees to negotiate with their employers and compounds the problem. The same principle applies to those calls to allow low income workers to access their superannuation.

ACTU secretary Dave Oliver makes the point that employers should be encouraging a work environment where employees feel secure to take the leave they have earned. It’s also important to remember that more hours worked does not necessarily lead to greater productivity.

Here are some ways the scenario could play out:

  1. Employees perceive that they are indispensable to their job, so they don’t take leave and risk burnout in the process
  2. Employers try to achieve higher output by encouraging their employees to work rather than take leave
  3. Employees working under financial stress take the cash, even though they really need the break
  4. Employers who recognise that holidays contribute to increased productivity find it difficult to convince staff to take leave
  5. Employees spend more time at work and less time with family and friends, which also affects relationships with colleagues and business performance

In the always online, connected digital age, taking time out to allow our minds and bodies to recharge is more critical than ever. Our annual leave provisions allow us to do that.

Would you take the money or the holiday?

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Every temporary tells a story

Why do people like to temp? Over the years as a consultant filling temporary positions, I have met all kinds of candidates. Each one has a unique story and a different reason as to why they want short-term work. The obvious ones who we expect to find in temp roles are students, travellers, working mums (and dads). Less recognisable, but often highly proficient, are the part-timers, in-betweeners and career temps.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, at last count part-time employees made up 40% of the Australian workforce, with almost 22% employed in casual roles. From my experience placing candidates in Professional & Office Support roles, I’ve profiled the most common traits of temporaries and categorised them into four groups.

The Part-timer: They’re trying to fit work around lectures or day care. Whether it’s a few days per week or peak hours, Part-timers are always in high demand. Students and working parents rule in these working situations. Finding the right job match for someone with a fragmented schedule is sometimes a challenge, however there’s always a client with an equally demanding brief. Recently I had an aspiring actor in need of 2-3 days per week to work around her auditions. Due to various scheduled audition times, she needed flexibility. After proving her value to the company, they were able to accommodate her. They love her so much, they have booked her for another 6 weeks in July.

The Traveller: Here for a good time, not a long time, they’ve arrived in Oz most often from the UK or Europe with only a backpack. Not afraid of a bit of hard work to fund their next adventure, our Travellers are highly motivated, ready to start work right now. I once had an Irish chap who was willing to do anything – I’m not joking… After a two week assignment document shredding, he had made such a great impression with his friendly and positive attitude that my client offered him a three month assignment working in their customer service team. He couldn’t believe his luck!

The In-betweener: They’re prepared to wait for just the right permanent role and they’ll temp while they hold out. That’s our In-betweeners. One candidate who comes to mind was working as an Executive Assistant for a CEO for many years. She felt it was time to move on and was looking for a career change. Temping completely re-energised her. She was able to request assignments where she could utilise her significant experience, testing new working environments without a long-term obligation. She enjoyed it so much she became a regular on my availability list, eventually settling again in a permanent role in an organisation suited to her skillset.

The Career Temp: Repeat assignments are their bread and butter and our clients will specifically request them for an assignment, over and over. Career Temps, will have a deep and meaningful relationship with us. I can think of a candidate in particular who I’ve been working with for over five years who just loves the lifestyle temping affords – the flexibility, the variety of work, the people she meets and the different industries she has been exposed to. It certainly works well for her. She’s competent and reliable, I couldn’t ask for more.

All sorts of people temp for all sorts of reasons. And most people have a story about temporary work from some stage in their career. We’d love to hear about your experiences.

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A boomerang with many happy returns

“For employers, hiring former employees who left on good terms is a no-brainer: They know their past experience and assume they picked up some new skills to bring to the table during their time away.” – Robyn Melhuish, Business Insider.

What brings a former employee back to an organisation? I’m about to rehire a team member who left our business about a year ago. We parted on good terms: She gave appropriate notice, maintained a strong work ethic, designed and delivered a transition plan, which assisted me to replace her with a new hire who is now one of my top performers.

While there will always be a need to source externally and same role/same needs/same company vacancies are relatively unusual, we’ve had a number of people return to Slade Group at various times in their careers, myself included.

As reported in Forbes, people move on for all kinds of reasons: to further their career, to take advantage of an opportunity or to accommodate a change in personal circumstances. That said, there’s nothing wrong with welcoming back someone who left your company after a long period of service simply because they wanted to try something different.

It might surprise you that in a US Workplace Trends Survey of 1800 HR professionals, “While only 15 percent of employees said they had boomeranged back to a former employer, nearly 40 percent said they would consider going back to a company where they previously worked.” And why wouldn’t they if you’ve got a strong employer brand, a clear employee value proposition (EVP) and the culture of the organisation is a good fit?

Here are the key benefits to boomerang hires, as identified by careerrealism.com:

  1. They’re a known entity – boomerang employees have a well-known track record with your company
  2. They’re easier to train – if they’re already familiar with your company’s operations and its unique processes, they can start contributing and producing sooner
  3. Their turnover rate is lower – they know what to expect from you and your company and knowing what else is out there, they chose to come back
  4. They provide a competitive advantage – they may have gained significant insights from their time working at another company in the same industry or a different market sector

If you choose to rehire, career site Monster recommends taking the time to introduce a boomerang employee to your business as if they were a new staff member. Whilst it might take a little while to get re-accustomed to the flow of things, you can counter some of the initial awkwardness on both sides by briefing them on new projects and establishing clear expectations from the start.

I’m looking forward to our ‘new’ starter.

Have you successfully boomeranged someone as a hiring manager? Have you made a successful return to a previous employer?

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