Monthly Archives: May 2014

The old, the new and the art of education

The cavernous gallery echoes with distant voices. I stare, mesmerised by an angelic face, still and perfect. A girl with alabaster skin and golden locks, lying encased as if she were asleep, only with vacant, dead eyes. Paralysed mice surround her fragile form. The scene is at the same time repulsive and captivating – a reaction not uncommon to the artwork on display at the Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart, known as MONA. The Mice and Me is the latest work from New York based artist Meghan Boody. According to Boody it represents self-transformation – a poignant theme to consider as we move to the conference dinner in the restaurant upstairs.

Earlier this month I attended the Australian Higher Education Industry Association (AHEIA) conference in Hobart. The theme for the event: Shaping Workplace Culture. Key decision makers from Universities all over Australia joined together to share their collective experience and collaborate on strategies to address contemporary challenges faced by the sector. For me, the overriding theme that emerged over the three days was a transformation in the education sector – AHEIA couldn’t have chosen a better venue than MONA to reflect that.

In recruitment, timing is everything. The AHEIA conference coincided with the release of what is now being touted as the most unpopular budget delivered by an Australian government in the last 20 years. So while Universities and TAFE colleges have suffered the pain of funding cuts and associated internal budget pressure only recently, the higher education sector is now sitting on the brink of some of the most fundamental changes since the inception of the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) in 1989.

Reduced funding with fierce competition amongst institutions for a smaller share of it is disturbing. The Abbott government’s plan is to alleviate these pressures by uncapping the fees that institutions can charge students. At the same time, the government will be reducing its contribution to course fees. If successful, “these reforms will fundamentally alter the shape of Australian higher education,” says Belinda Robinson, Chief Executive of Universities Australia in a recent press release.

While there are concerns on both sides of politics about disadvantaged students and the implications of the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP), it looks like there’s no stopping the transformation to a new culture of deregulated course fees, reduced government investment and further privatisation. Certainly the tertiary sector is about to undergo some of the most significant change it has faced in decades, and there’s no doubt these changes will continue to generate lively debate.

Professional gambler and entrepreneur David Walsh created a legacy when he built MONA. It’s controversial and confronting artwork caused a sensation, rejuvenating cultural tourism to Tasmania. But the highly awarded museum would not exist without a bold vision. Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” Observing the thought provoking interactions which took place at the AHEIA conference, it’s clear to me that the stage is set for some potentially exciting reforms within the higher education sector.

Featured image: MONA Museum by Rob Taylor, Creative Commons licence and copyright

Posted in Professional Support, The world @work

Opening the door to the boardroom

When Tim Boyle talks about celebrity chairs, dogmatic drones and dead debates, you might think he’s describing prime time television. In fact it’s the language of the boardroom. As an expert advisor with a Doctorate in Board Performance and Risk, and a partner in the specialist board advisory group Blackhall & Pearl, Tim is well qualified to identify its behaviours.

Last week when Slade Partners Technical & Operations practice opened its boardroom to senior industry executives, we all gained valuable insight into what Boards are really looking for in NED appointments. Tim Boyle revealed, “The world of Directors has changed since the GFC… you actually have to work quite hard and you’re exposed to a lot of criticism, and if something goes wrong, it’s absolutely your fault… it’s probably the worst time in human history to be a director from a liability perspective, and from a workload perspective.”

In fact more people than we could fit into our boardroom (and our boardroom table is big) wanted to be involved. Why? Since confidence is returning to the market, as reported last month in Green Shoots Feed Job Confidenceexecutives are thinking more strategically about professional development and their career future. We attracted broad interest from colleagues in the infrastructure, property, construction, and manufacturing sectors.

While many think about Boards through a compliance lens, a Board’s real focus is strategy. Tim went on to say that a Board position can be very rewarding and engaging; it can extend your skill set, as well as your network. It takes a unique combination of executive experience, industry knowledge, and director skills, as well as personal qualities such as integrity, teamwork, leadership and commitment. Finding the right person for the task is challenging. “The single most important determinant of an effective board is the culture in the boardroom,” he says.

Slade Group Chairman, Geoff Slade, has sat at many boardroom tables. Founding Chairman of the RCSA, Former Chairman of Young President’s Organisation and Regional Chairman Elect (Australia–New Zealand) WPO, Geoff was until recently a Non-Executive Director of Alzheimer’s Australia VIC and has held NED appointments on the Melbourne Football Club Board and the Sydney Swans Football Club Board. With his considerable Board experience, Geoff shares the following tips for executives considering NED positions:

  • Ask yourself what do I have to offer, what can I contribute as a Board member?
  • Make sure you have time to commit to a Board position, that the additional responsibilities will fit in with your schedule, workload, and your current employer is supportive.
  • Consider what you will learn from the appointment. How will it advance your career, will you have professional development opportunities, and more importantly, will it be enjoyable?
  • Finding the right Board position takes time. Use your network and identify organisations that interest you. Consider not-for-profit and unpaid positions as a starting point.
  • Do your due diligence, find out what the culture of the organisation and its Board are like and make sure you will receive an induction (onboarding).

What’s your experience of finding a Board position? We’d like to hear your Point of View.

Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

Headhunting Indiana Jones

Headhunting for a senior project director with a love of adventure to work on a major infrastructure project in an exotic developing nation sounds like a job for Indiana Jones. But the task of attracting the right person has more challenges and pitfalls than you might expect.

Liaising with myriad client stakeholders in multiple continents often meant navigating complicated multi-regional structures. Maintaining a clear path through the search assignment sometimes became analogous to avoiding an avalanche; innumerable stakeholders all keen to be involved sometimes caused confusion within the client’s own organisation. Concurrent and multiple direct approaches from unwarranted headhunters also added to the rough terrain.

Not only did the candidate have to be willing to relocate to an isolated workplace in a developing country with poor existing infrastructure and challenging working conditions – there were also highly demanding criteria for technical skills, knowledge, qualifications and experience. This assessment scorecard made finding the Lost Ark seem like an easy task.

While some of the assessment criteria commonly applied in such developing regions would raise eyebrows in Australia, these are generally accepted as normal by those working in the sector’s international community. This demanded a highly diplomatic approach when making approach calls to both candidates and referral sources to ensure correct protocols were followed and managed with necessary care.

Under these strict criteria it was immediately clear that finding and securing suitable candidates would require extensive networking from an equally extensive pool of candidates and industry sources from across the globe. An exhaustive research assignment was performed, consisting of an initial talent map of over 100 potential candidates and sources, subsequently screened down to 50+ identified targets across 13 countries in 6 continents – of which all were contacted. Time zone calls at midnight and dawn to suit target candidates and referral sources based in remote locations in developing countries were further challenged by poor access to reliable internet and telephone networks; it was tough going at times.

Ultimately a stellar shortlist was delivered, the successful candidate located over 12,000km from my office here in Melbourne. The assignment was finally completed, through carefully managed negotiation of remuneration and living conditions (including bullwhip, fedora, and leather jacket) and ‘Dr Jones’ mobilised soon after. This placement certainly strengthened my client’s bidding position for future projects within the region.

While I would love the chance to visit the location of this exciting project, it is highly unlikely I’ll get a leave-pass with a baby due in October!

What’s the greatest challenge you’ve faced sourcing talent for a remote posting? I’d love to hear about it.

Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

Playing for keeps

Think back to your last recruitment project. It probably involved telephone screening, interviewing face-to-face and some form of psychometric testing. But I bet you didn’t consider inviting your candidates to compete in a World of Warcraft like simulation? No matter which of those elements your company utilises, Gamification is becoming a serious tool to consider when it comes to designing a recruitment process that’s more than just child’s play.

Like many emerging talent sourcing trends, confusion and hype surround Gamification. As the focus on gaming for recruitment purposes continues to grow, what exactly is the practical application for assessment activities that are based on game playing?

First, let’s get a clear understanding of the opportunities and limitations. As reported this month in The Wall Street Journalenterprise architecture expert Brian Burke explains, “Games primarily engage players on a whimsical level to entertain them; Gamification engages players on an emotional level to motivate them.”

Companies have evolved from initially using these Gamification platforms as branding vehicles to leveraging them across the entire HR value chain — attracting, engaging, onboarding, training and retaining candidates. This is where Gamification can add value.

As the name suggests, the concept selectively engages the brain mechanics that bring out people’s natural desires for achievement, status, self-expression, humanity and competition when faced with a real life situation in the form of a game. Specifically designed to elicit a range of behavioural characteristics, analysing the way candidate’s play a game can help hiring managers gain valuable insights similar to more traditional forms of candidate assessment, such as when group activities are used as part of the recruitment process.

While Gamification can make a task more fun, an entertaining user experience still requires purpose. To be successful, Gamification needs to consider how to engage people in meaningful activity, which is dependent on factors such as site usability, design and invariably human psychology. One company who has successfully utilised Gamification for recruitment purposes is cosmetic and beauty giant L’Oréal, whose online selection program secured a number of industry awards including the UK National Graduate Recruitment Award for the Most Innovative Way of Attracting Graduates.

L’Oréal partnered with communications specialists TMP Worldwide and Cubiks, an international online assessments consultancy, to develop Reveal — a web 2.0 multi-site game that allows global candidates to experience a number of scenarios in a virtual L’Oréal office. Prospective candidates are given the opportunity to learn about various aspects of the business, then match themselves to the company’s requirements by completing a series of online tests and compete with other prospective candidates by sharing their scores via social media.


L’Oréal’s Reveal

Gamification may seem gimmicky right now. However, forward thinking organisations realise that existing HR practices based on the ‘one size fits all’ approach may be preventing their business from improving its quality of hire. I predict innovative companies looking for new ways to aid the institutionalisation of their corporate culture, enhance employee productivity and ultimately grow customer satisfaction will incorporate Gamification, if they haven’t begun so already.

Beyond the hype and confusion, Gamification in an HR context is about humans. So the next time you’re deeply emerged in a multi-player online fantasy universe, battling Orcs for the Frozen Throne, you may well be practising the skills that will take to closer your next professional appointment.

Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work