Blog Archives

COVID-19 continues to change how we work. Could it be for the better?

Living in Australia and having experienced the Stage 4 lockdowns in Victoria, it is apparent that this pandemic has changed how we work. The question now is, could it be for the better?

Last month our team joined the SEEK Insight & Innovation 2020 digital event, a seminar which was informative and well executed.

Some of the ideas presented really stem from taking the time to be considerate of the massive upheaval experienced by many people across the world, and I am pleased to say Slade Group has been carrying them through: increasing employee engagement; adapting to new ways of working, primarily working from home (especially for those who are in roles that are not usually accustomed to working from home); investing in new technology; innovating our service delivery and diversifying our service offering.   

While at this stage ‘Covid Normal’ is still being defined, according to the statistics presented by SEEK, a massive 41% of people are rethinking their careers. The cycle of travelling to work, working long hours, travelling home, rushing the family meal, ferrying children to sports and other extra curricular activities, spending the whole weekend doing the same things… and then starting it all over again – isn’t appealing anymore.

Covid has given us the capacity to explore what we may be able to achieve without the usual routine we have just accepted as ‘life’, which statistics are saying isn’t desirable anymore.

It used to be cool to be ‘super busy’ because you were ‘successful’ and didn’t have time for anyone or anything. With the benefit of lockdown hindsight, we can recognise a few home truths: You may not be suited to the role you are doing, or you may have had too many roles (paid or unpaid) with too much on your plate. Were you making excuses not to catch up with someone you would really have liked to spend time with or to take time out for yourself?

With just over one month left in 2020, what are the insights for next year? I think most would agree taking care of our health is much higher on the agenda. Working from home in some capacity is here to stay. If your current role doesn’t provide the flexibility to reset the balance or you’ve had a break from the workforce and are looking to get your career back on track, what would be challenging and stimulating?

My team at Slade Group are assisting our client organisations to develop the culture and strategies that will allow them to be successful in a post Covid world @work. At the same time, we are helping candidates to reinvent themselves and find their perfect role, not simply because it’s our job, or to do our part to reduce the unemployment rate (since the pandemic, the highest in over 20 years) and rebuild the economy. We are looking forward to a new normal where personal life and business life happily coexist, so you may need to find another reason to not catch up with that person you have been putting off. 😊

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Posted in Technical & Operations, The world @work

Project: Core Strength

Project Core Strength Report
Project Core Strength Report

It’s no longer candidates who are nervous at interview; it’s now hiring managers who are anxious about identifying the character traits they’ll need to survive and thrive beyond the impact of COVID-19. This is as true for Boards and CEOs as it is for recruiters and line managers.

In this report we provide you with the results of our Project: Core Strength study. We commenced this research in the early stages of Lockdown Mark 1, and over the course of the next four months, sought feedback from 100 trusted respondents.

Beyond simply filling in a form, many of the respondents also provided deeply thoughtful written responses, and excerpts of these are provided along with the data.

In this report you will see the break down of data, a summary of the results, an interpretation of the results by Andrea Brownlow – our highly regarded Consulting Psychologist, and then some interview and performance management questions that are designed to help us sort the talented from the less capable.

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Posted in Interchange Bench, Slade Executive, The world @work

Work ethic and the M word

Over the years as an HR professional I have seen several generations at work. Putting people in boxes goes against the grain with me – most workers defy categorisation, let me tell you!

So when people start talking about Boomers and Xers, Ys and Zs (or broadly Millennials, if you’re trying to capture those at the end of the alphabet) as clearly defined cohorts, I’m naturally suspicious. We’ve been battling the unfair assumption that those new to the workforce expect the world or don’t seem to be aware they have to earn their stripes for millennia. I have always been someone to give credit where credit is due, so I wanted to share a couple of feel-good stories to counter those stereotypes.

The chicken or the egg

Life for graduates is certainly not easy. With the number of students in higher education in Australia on the up and up, more and more are graduating, and those with similar qualifications are often finding themselves vying for the same positions. Many companies prefer to hire someone with experience, but how do you get experience if no one is willing to give you a job to get it? Sometimes it takes a little bit of creative thinking, so I’m always happy when I see graduates really taking ownership of their careers by thinking about different ways they can gain experience.

Recently I was speaking to a graduate who was desperately trying to find work to get started in their career. Like many others, they were having trouble getting a foot in the door. What about volunteering? they asked me. What a great idea! I said. Because I work with a number of Not-for-Profit organisations, I was even able to find them volunteer work in their field of expertise (IT). This graduate is now gaining valuable on-the-job experience in their field while giving back to the community. And who knows, in recruitment we often see candidates in temporary roles offered a permanent position.

Going the extra mile, or the long commute

A former colleague of mine asked me if they could introduce me to a talented HR graduate, even if it was just for a coffee and a chat. I was more than willing to do this, as you never know who you could meet. I found her to be a bright and ambitious candidate, willing to try anything to get a break. While she was impressive, I didn’t have any suitable positions I could help her with at the time.

As is often the case, a few weeks later I was speaking to a client who needed HR administration support. I arranged an interview for the candidate. The outcome – she was offered a job with the company. It sounds easy and perhaps a bit too good to be true, but when I informed the candidate that one of the details about the role was that it would be over an hour drive each way, she did not flinch. I admire that dedication. She has stuck with the company despite a long commute, which has obviously paid off – she loves her new job!

A positive work ethic means different things to different people. The next time you hear someone go off on a negative my generation vs your generation rant, don’t be afraid to challenge their perception. I’d love to hear about some of the creative approaches you have seen from jobseekers and employers to meeting current challenges in the world @work.

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

‘Bitty Learning’ overtakes MBAs as the new Career Cache.

Why would The Wall Street Journal report that MBA applications across the world are down three years running? Isn’t an MBA a sure ticket to a high paying and interesting career?

At Slade Group we’re very interested in labour market trends and skills matches, but it’s been a long time since we’ve heard the phrase ‘an MBA would be highly desirable’ as a criteria for hiring.

There seem to be three indicators for the decline in the attraction of MBAs:

  1. Follow the money
  2. Currency of skills
  3. ‘Value Added Ratio’

Follow the money: The money’s left Wall Street, Collins St, Pitt St etc and is headed for wherever the Technology sector lives. While MBAs are useful in the tech sector, software engineers, mathematicians, systems engineers, machine learning skills are in more demand.

Currency of skills: Big jobs data tells a rich global story. At the recent Nous Group forum, Burning Glass Technologies’ Matthew Sigelman, joined the data dots to build the picture for skills, education and employment.

Skills are the unit of currency and they’re on the move. Traditional degrees can now carry less weight than relevant skills based learning like Lean Six Sigma or PMP Certification.

The big question raised at the Nous forum was how do we, as individuals, employers and governments reskill more often, and take charge of our future? Read more here.

Value Added Ratio: MBAs cost a great deal so when the ‘added value ratio’ doesn’t add up for someone who failed or nailed their GMAT, the attraction to an MBA course also declines. In lockstep, huge hikes in course costs have matched flat lining and declining salaries for MBA graduates. From 4:1 first year salary to course cost to a 1.8:1 ratio, the MBA flavor has soured.

The fact is that an MBA can now be worth less than the sum of its bitty parts.  It all trends towards upskilling for in-demand expertise throughout our careers as a pathway for growth and success. In response universities are finally starting to unbundle their degrees and allow for macro and micro learning programmes.

We’re in the middle of interesting times!

What is your experience in your world of learning @work?

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Posted in The world @work

How to attract ‘in demand’ talent in a candidate short market

Highly capable jobseekers always have options when deciding who they want to work for, but now it’s more important than ever for your organisation to sell its benefits to prospective employees.

If you’re serious about attracting the best talent, the days of the “It’s a privilege to work here” mentality are long gone.

What’s changed?

In Australia’s major cities, professionals are lifestyle conscious and a significant portion of the working population fall into a demographic with an established career who don’t have to take a job out of desperation and can afford to be selective when deciding where to work.

Companies that candidates are currently employed in have adapted, adopting flexible working arrangements and they are expecting their new company will be as progressive as the one they are leaving. The 2017 Deloitte Millennial Survey showed that 84 percent of millennials reported some degree of flexible working in their organisations.

Here are my five top tips to land the perfect candidate:

  1. Ensure you are familiar with your EVP and leverage it at each stage of the hiring process.
    HR and Recruitment teams have been working hard to implement Employee Value Proposition (EVP) programs to further enhance the brand and jobseeker experience.
    Update yourself on everything on offer that makes your organisation attractive to prospective employees (you never know there might be something that you are unaware of, and can take advantage of yourself).
  1. What are the other benefits of working with you and your team?
    If you are a hiring manager, think about some of the other selling points you can use to attract the best candidate to your company and team… social activities (sports teams, team events), technology, fruit box, interesting projects, etc.
  1. Be a brand ambassador
    Being a brand ambassador for the organisation should be part of your personal branding in your day-to-day business activities anyway, but it is critical to share that vision with a prospective employee when you have the opportunity to do so face-to-face, at interview. Don’t forget the employer branding can have an effect on future perception and sales of the business.
  1. Don’t be surprised if candidates are forthright with their requirements
    Candidates may ask you about flexible working hours, working from home options, career progression, along with learning and development opportunities. Five years ago these questions were less likely to be asked; fast forward to 2018 and these are the commonly asked questions, which you must be prepared to talk about with candidates.
  1. Corporate social responsibility is high on the millennial agenda
    Younger generations are socially aware, so working for an organisation that helps to give something back to the community is appealing and will attract talent to your team.

If you are struggling to find good talent to join your business, maybe it is time to revisit your EVP so you can ‘sell the company’ more effectively. Be more flexible in your thinking on working hours and consider hiring on potential, rather than current skills and experience.

How has your organisation evolved over time to the changing nature of the world @work? What are some of the features of your EVP?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

Nowadays, flattery will get you nowhere

How the pendulum has swung! Just ten years ago when making approaches to potential candidates by phone, I could virtually hear their flattered voices. In 2018 those potential candidates are fielding calls from numerous consultants for multiple roles, and in those voices I now sometimes detect the sound of annoyance.

The market is as tight as ever with organisations needing top technical talent yesterday. The ever-expanding landscape in Victoria and NSW particularly driven by major infrastructure projects, means that technical specialists and executives are constantly in high demand.

As a recruiter, change is something we encourage. One of the reasons I am proud of the brand we have at Slade Group, is that we thrive on our ability to swim upstream in an industry where it can often be easier to go with the flow… We work with our clients and candidates so that even though we’re headhunters, nobody we work with ever feels they have been randomly targeted to end up as ‘professional roadkill’.

How do we break away from the pack?

We don’t expect candidates to move quickly. Would you? If someone called you out of the blue asking if you wanted to look at another job, would you blindly give your details? I wouldn’t. We take the time when we reach out to candidates to get to know them, their career aspirations, their likes and dislikes, and what they do for fun. We figure out if the candidate is the right fit for an organisation’s culture, and if a certain company culture is the right fit for the candidate. It goes both ways for the candidate and the client. Success and growth should be attainable for both parties, and it’s the long-term picture that we look at when we’re recruiting for a role.

We retain our work. Slade Group work with a large majority of our clients on a retained assignment basis, which is when we take a part payment from engagement to placement of the candidate. I know, you’re probably wondering why someone would pay up-front for a service they can get from a number of others, but it’s because when we take a retained assignment we see it as a project: If you paid someone to do your homework, you’d expect to receive an A+. This is exactly how we approach our retained assignment projects.

We take a thorough brief from the client, we take the time to understand what they need and don’t just guess what they need. We commit our reputation, time and effort just as much as we ask the client to commit to us, and with that commitment we do it properly. We have the best research team in the business who we engage to map the market to help establish your strategy. We want to get this right for you, as if we worked at your company.

We set realistic expectations. When we engage with our clients, we set expectations and we don’t take an assignment we can’t fill. We work with you and guide you through our shared journey. You receive a detailed schedule on what to expect when, and we leave you to get on with your day job.

If you’ve been headhunted, what was the experience like? What would you look for when considering the best way to recruit for your business?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

EOFY – trivia, observations and reflections

I’ve just finished an interview with an accountant… (insert your joke or comment of choice)… for a Financial Controller role. Actually it’s a great opportunity with a small private investment company.

I generally start an interview with an easy general question like, “How’s work?” In this case the response was, “Flat-out! I’m super busy because of EOFY (End of Financial Year).” Makes sense and I’m sure there are thousands of accountants around Australia who are saying the same thing.

According to that font of all modern wisdom, Wikipedia, Australia is one of only a small list of countries that use 1 July to 30 June as the financial year. Others include New Zealand, Japan and Egypt. In comparison the US use 1 January to 31 December and the UK is more unusual, being 1 April to 31 March for government. UK businesses can choose any 12 month period.

Given that much of Australian law and business practices have British origins, you might expect that we would have a similar EOFY. Some sources suggest that our reverse seasons compared to the Northern Hemisphere mean more Australians are on holiday in January and at work in the winter months. I’m not a Mythbuster, so I’ll just say that is plausible.

In my patch of the recruitment world, financial services, three out of four major Australian banks have changed to 30 September as their EOFY. Most other financial services organisations that I work with ie. industry superannuation funds, fund managers, smaller banks, investment consultants and private wealth managers, use 30 June as EOFY.

What I’ve seen in the last few months is lots of strategic planning for next financial year and establishment of budgets. Generally I’d say recruitment intentions are quite positive.

For many of us EOFY is a busy time, trying to complete work. Now is a chance for a quick spot of reflection and strategy refinement: What worked, what didn’t and how can we improve?

OK reflection done, there’s calls to be made!

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Posted in Accounting & Finance, The world @work

The changing face of the CEO

You may think you know what a CEO looks like – those of us who regularly work with senior people in other organisations or at a strategic level within our own – can picture some of the qualities common to those individuals who have been successful in business leadership roles. Yet it strikes me as an executive recruitment consultant who is regularly engaged in the hiring process for C-Suite roles, how the expectations for a CEO’s capability has changed in recent years.

Of course there are underlying leadership behaviours that have not changed: setting the vision, developing a daily dialogue, being clear about expectations… What I’m really talking about is the changing marketplace of the consumer – customer behaviour is forcing companies to do things differently, while evolving work styles have put pressure on CEOs to alter their tack.

Looking at trends in the C-Suite over the last 20 years, PWC reports, “Another interesting trend is that disruption is increasingly prompting boards to turn to external hires, rather than internal candidates, to fill CEO positions. They hope to capitalise on the experience and skills that these individuals bring from another organisation, or even another sector.”

While that’s good news for those of us in the recruitment business, it’s a timely reminder of the need to constantly reassess our hiring practices. Here is a sample of the types of questions that are (or should be) on the table, from my recent discussions with selection panels for senior hires:

  • Can this person build relationships with stakeholders to prioritise our key objectives for the next 12 months?
  • What digital, social media and other technology capability can this person bring to the role?
  • What exposure has this person had to gender equality and other diversity initiatives when acquiring talent and team building?
  • What global network do they have to drive capability within the organisation?
  • What recent experience does this person have in engaging, managing and motivating a high performing team?
  • How much does this person know about modern performance management processes?

In the current market, intangible qualities are increasingly highly valued. As organisational culture expert John Burdett reminded me in a seminar I attended earlier this year, successful CEOs need to be effective communicators. They must be authentic, engage the whole organisation in a meaningful way, not just report at Board level. They are storytellers who can articulate how things will be achieved in detail – jargon old or new, simply won’t cut it. Enthusiasm for the job and a sense of humour won’t go astray either.

What changes have you observed in the face of senior leadership in recent years in your world @work?

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Posted in Consumer, Sport & Entertainment, The world @work