Monthly Archives: May 2022

The Dream vs Reality

My lived experience of part-time work, parenting, and working from home

Three years ago I was looking to return to the workforce after having children. I really wanted to cut out the dreaded commute time to the office, as well as those rushed pickups from school and childcare. Who wants that stress in their lives every day? I thought about how wonderful it would be if I were able to work part-time, and from home, without all the logistical pressures… Surely I wasn’t the only one who dreamed about this?

Well, dreams do come true, but not quite in the way we might have expected!

I secured my ideal three-days-per-week job, with the option to work from home, just as the pandemic was starting to hit here in Victoria. I set up my perfect working space by the window. The garden became my daily view. This was going to be bliss.

However, within weeks I would realise this was not going to be quite so blissful after all. With lockdowns in place, both schools and childcare centres were closed and things changed dramatically. The children would now be home for the foreseeable future. Not only was I a recruiter, I had the added roles of teacher, carer and boredom reliever/entertainer whilst fulfilling my day job. Family life once again became a juggling act, trying to fit in work calls around setting up my young son – who was only new to the education system, with his daily tasks – trying to stop the other child from having too much screen time versus drawing on every surface of the house. It was a nightmare.

While my WFH dream had faded, the world @work carried on. Not exactly normal or new normal, just in a slightly different way. Catching up for coffee with a client or candidate was shelved for meeting on Teams or Zoom, and our recruitment process adapted to interviewing and onboarding candidates online, not knowing when they would meet their employers in person. Even my husband started a new role during Covid – it took him nine months to finally meet his colleagues in person.

Like so many people here in Australia with family and friends abroad, I am heading overseas in a couple of months to see my own family after a long absence. It has been tough for everybody, especially missing out on the special times together. As for me, this time I have decided it’s not going to be a working holiday and I am grateful that Slade Group supports that.

It’s been great to see flexibility occurring more broadly in the market. Progressive companies are supporting their employees by considering extended leave, career breaks, boomerang hires and other forms of engagement – all of which I have benefited from over the years, which enables them to retain the talent they have invested in. These are also the companies attracting that coveted top talent, not only here in Australia, but globally. I am not just talking about the hybrid model or simply working from home. Think about employees working across different times zones. I think we have proven that all of these can be done, and be done successfully.

As some of the old normal starts to return, my dream is growing bright again. I get to keep on doing what I wanted to do, which is return to work (minus the deputy teacher and childcare jobs on the side), in a role I love, connected and productive, at my home office with my desk next to the window overlooking the garden. I truly feel like one of the lucky ones. To all those parents that are looking to return to the workforce – finally we have far more options and flexibility than we ever did before, and I would not want it any other way.

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Posted in Business Support, The world @work

The fundamental aspects of culture that schools must address to attract more teachers

A 40 per cent reduction in graduates going into teaching, coupled with the fact that about one-third of new teachers leave the profession within their first five years, means there are far more fundamental cultural and societal issues at play, particularly in regards to teachers in Secondary schools.

Recent financial inducements as part of the Federal election campaign to attract more graduates into school teaching are no doubt welcome. Teachers have never been paid sufficiently and certainly not in relation to the importance and value they have towards a society’s future.

Quality teaching and quality schools add immeasurably not only to economic success, but so importantly to social harmony and a society’s progress.

In Australia, the value of teachers has never been properly valued and respected. Now, more than ever, that needs to be rectified. To advance teaching as a profession, the voice of educators and school leaders needs to be heard and respected loud and clear.

However, the greatest reward and energy quality teachers get from teaching lies in seeing and participating in the learning by their students: seeing them grow and develop in their learning and understanding, and rejoicing in helping guide those students towards exciting futures.

So, apart from the importance of societal recognition of the value of teaching, the culture within schools (like any organisation) is integral to a renewed sense of value and reward within the profession – particularly given the added pressures associated with the past two and a half years of the pandemic.

Here are four fundamental aspects of culture that I believe schools must address in the current candidate short environment:

  1. Wellbeing and support: Is the culture within the school one that provides strong wellbeing and support for teachers? Is it one that recognises the demands of the profession and puts in place wellbeing measures that are customised to the needs of individual teachers?
  2. Student care: Is there a culture within a school where each teacher feels able to support the wellbeing needs of their students, needs that were already considerable pre-pandemic and seem to have grown exponentially in recent times?
  3. Learning and development: Is there a learning culture within the school that listens to the voice of educators and other staff and provides relevant, personalised professional learning that empowers staff in their fundamental purpose – to enhance the learning by their students?
  4. Coaching and mentoring: Is there a culture of coaching and mentoring within a school so that all teachers, from relatively inexperienced to those more experienced, believe their growth and development as professionals is enhanced by collectively and collaborating working with others?

Peter Drucker was famously quoted as saying, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” He didn’t mean strategy was unimportant, rather that an empowering culture was critical to organisational success. Strong culture in an educational environment needs great strategy, but the latter won’t work without reflection and action on key measures to support teacher wellbeing and growth.

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Posted in Diversity & Inclusion, Education, Slade Executive, The world @work

Definition of Success = The Human Factor

What defines a successful person? Embedded throughout my secondary education was that elusive end of year score, which for some reason was going to determine our success in life. However, success has many faces. Even those who reach great heights in academia need to have a balance of social awareness, connection with others, an empathy that supersedes intelligence and a touch of commercial reality.

The challenge of continuously competing with other students who were more intellectually inclined weighed heavily on my shoulders throughout my secondary and tertiary education. I felt demoralised knowing that my chosen career path, whatever it may be, could be in jeopardy due to the fact my brain was wired differently. I shouldn’t have. There is a litany of brilliant people throughout history who failed to win popular support for their ideas, as well as many arguably not-so-clever people who were smart enough to succeed.

My life experiences have been a bit different to my peers in my generation: travelling to third world countries and dedicating more of my time focusing on the needs of those less fortunate. Unlike those with a more limited world view, my volunteer work abroad – teaching English, providing food and essential supplies to children and families in the local community in The Philippines, Africa and Fiji – enabled me to empathise with people from other cultures and relate to people from different walks of life on a whole new level. It enabled me to grow and mature. I became more confident in my abilities and started to believe that I did possess unique skills that could take me anywhere in life. It was a defining moment for me that reshaped my understanding of who I am.

Aren’t we all more inclined towards repeat business if we are greeted kindly and treated respectfully, like a friend, rather than a customer or a number?

Before I joined the recruitment industry, I spent seven years working in retail, specifically women’s fashion. I saw many eager faces wanting to achieve managerial roles, believing that their ability to meet arbitrarily high KPIs was the key to becoming a great leader. However, running a successful business requires more than reaching budget. The true leaders of the organisation were the team members who demonstrated empathy and made it a priority to listen, and not just make our customers feel welcome, but also established an inclusive work environment for all employees. I, for one, loved working in an environment where my feelings and ideas were valued and acknowledged, ultimately boosting my work performance and productivity. In turn, we did our best to make our customers feel like they were the only person in the store.

Austrian pianist, author and composer Alfred Brendel famously said: “LISTEN and SILENT are spelled with the same letters – coincidence? I don’t think so.”

Everyone wants to speak and be heard, yet it appears that few people can sit quietly and really listen.

My experience in recruiting hasn’t been long yet, but in the short time I’ve been with Slade Group and the Interchange Bench, I’ve been able to observe a few things. Through my interactions with colleagues, clients and candidates I’m learning key skills that not only make a great consultant, but help ensure successful recruitment outcomes. People often talk about trusting your gut instinct and following your intuition, but there’s a lot be said for learning to listen. Our capacity to grasp how others feel and think may indeed be our most valuable asset in the workplace.

So, whether it is facilitating temporary and contract work, permanent career changes or helping organisations grow by sourcing the best talent, I’ll be listening carefully to what clients and candidates are looking for. Recruitment often presents us with sliding door moments – opportunities that might have been missed if we were too focused on what we may think success should look like, as opposed to what we can achieve.

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Posted in Interchange Bench, The world @work