Exactly one year ago to the day,
Covid got real for me. I was attending a Formula 1 Grand Prix breakfast at
Albert Park when the shock announcement was made: the race had been cancelled. We
filed dumbstruck out of the function, directed into busses that were waiting to
remove us from the venue. It was a surreal experience as we made our way back past
angry fans who were being turned away at the gates. No doubt they (like myself)
hadn’t fully grasped the enormity of worldwide events that were unfolding
beyond the boundaries of Melbourne and the F1 GP.
I sympathise with everyone who
has suffered through the pandemic, especially those who have lost loved ones.
Now I find myself reflecting on the craziest twelve months of my life (so far, and
hopefully for the rest of it).
We all remember talk of a new
virus in Wuhan, but some of the more naïve of us (i.e., me) didn’t believe for
a second that it could, and would, affect everything about life as we knew it.
There is so much of the last year
that has caused copious suffering and pain, but through it all there have been
things that I have been very grateful for. So, without further ado, here is my
silver lining to the year that was cancelled.
Although many of us haven’t been
able to visit or see family or friend’s interstate or abroad, I am reminded of
how much I depend on those relationships, and how many special people I have in
my life. I live in a fantastic country filled with resilience, tolerance and a
real ‘can do’ attitude. Through hard work and a tough response to the outbreak,
we have largely been spared what many of our loved ones outside of Australia
have had to endure. I have been very fortunate to work for an outstanding
organisation that has been supportive throughout (and we all know that we
remember how we are treated during tough times). I have also learnt that it is
critical to work with people whose values you align with. Those relationships with
clients, candidates and colleagues have been so encouraging, and even though many
of them have been hurt, we have still been there for each other and look
forward to better times ahead.
There is also a lot to be said
for the recruitment market during this time, and what we envisage ahead. From
my perspective, it has been highly segmented with many parts of the economy
flourishing. Innovation has been impressive, as has our ability to adapt to
changing market conditions. Recovery seems to be trending much faster than
expected, and we are seeing a lot of positive sentiment. Hiring certainly has
increased, with Medical Technology/Advanced Manufacturing, FMCG, and anything
to do with home improvement and maintenance leading the field.
What are the big issues for the year ahead? Firstly, workplace flexibility, and whether employers need (or can get) their people back into offices full-time. We are certainly seeing a large number of employers starting to request staff back in the office full-time. Secondly, stronger loyalty to current employers has developed in Covid times, so it may be a while longer before we see a growing trend in people seeking new opportunities. Finally, in the discussions I’m having with candidates, many feel that they’ve been poorly treated by employers. Those who remained in roles due to the uncertainty of changing jobs during a recession are certain to become a flight risk as the market warms up.
Without a doubt, the war for talent will be back. Now is absolutely the time to ensure that you stay ahead of the curve when it comes to talent attraction. We are already seeing a significant number of counteroffers as organisations try to retain their best people. However, as you know, by the time it gets to that, it is often too late.
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. 😊
This article was originally published by Sarah Morgan as “The Godfather of Recruitment” in The Brief, the magazine of the RCSA.
They say it’s not what you know, but who you know that matters and when it comes to the biggest influencers in the recruitment industry, there are few better known and respected than Geoff Slade.
In fact, he is so well known and so influential,
there might as well be a saying “all roads lead to Geoff” such is the broad
reach of his connections.
And, when you are affectionately known throughout the industry as “the godfather of recruitment”, it goes without saying that your opinion on the industry as a whole, as well as the mistakes of the past and opportunities and threats for the future, are ones worth listening to – or reading about.
It’s been more than 50 years since Geoff began his
career in recruitment and while an awful lot has changed in that time, his
successes and widespread influence are a testament to his ability to play to
his strengths, adapt and make key decisions based on merits and not just the
Geoff remains grounded about his achievements and
influence during his five decades in the industry – including being the first
president of RCSA – acknowledging the support and guidance he has received as
his career has evolved, as well as the abilities of the people he employed.
“I always liked to think outside the square,” he
says. “I liked to employ not just people who have worked in the industry.
“In fact, some of the most notable people I have
employed had never worked in recruitment before.
“Four standouts were Andrew Banks, Louise Craw,
Peter Tanner and Nanette Carroll, none of whom had a background in recruitment.
“Louise managed our office support business for
over 25 years and was a rock on which the company could rely. She is now on our
board. Peter moved on after six years to found Tanner Menzies.
“Nanette worked for me for 10 years and ended up
being awarded the 1996 Queensland & Australian Telstra Business Woman of
the Year. Andrew’s background is of course well known.
“It’s satisfying to know that not only people who
worked in our industry, but people we have influenced and found jobs for have
gone on to bigger and better things than we could have dreamed.”
Geoff admits he may also be known in the industry
as a “tough and unreasonable” operator, acknowledging there have been many
changes in leadership styles from his formative years in the 1960s.
“I would like to think that I’m regarded as hard
but fair,” he says.
“Recruitment is enormously satisfying, but it’s
bloody hard work.
“It’s not an exact science and demands focus and
self-management and what I call purposeful productivity, strong listening and
comprehension skills. When I talk of comprehension, I’m talking about what is
now tested as verbal and inductive reasoning.
“A good recruiter can probe and follow questions to
the end with both clients and candidates. A good recruiter can dig beneath the
“One of the biggest issues I have with the current
day recruiters is they think they can build relationships by phone or email.
They don’t get out to meet and know their customer.
“I think good recruiters build relationship with a
client – like getting married. You have to be able to talk to them about other
things than where is my next assignment coming from.”
HOW IT ALL BEGAN
Geoff started out in accounting before moving into
human resources in 1964 and then, finally, recruitment in 1967, but it could
all have been so different if his dream of being a VFL footballer had been
Despite being told by Melbourne Football Club that
he wasn’t quite good enough, three years after he moved to the city from the
country to pursue a football career, Geoff feels he “really lucked out”, albeit
in a slightly unconventional way, after being thrown in at the deep end twice,
and for two very different reasons.
“I returned to the country at a time a major
refinery was being built on the western portside of the Mornington Peninsula
and I applied for a job with the major construction company,” he says.
“I was lucky to be offered a job as assistant to
the HR manager and it provided a very quick learning curve. He turned out to
have a major health project and I was his only offsider, so I was left with a
lot of responsibility.
“It ended up providing great experience for me:
there were 1500 men on the site and there was a stop work or strike every day
for three years. I had to deal with unions pretty much every day in a very
volatile and aggressive environment, which taught me to try to use common sense
and to solve problems.
“At the end of the project I was one only of two
people offered a job at head office, and the offer came with a promise for me
to be the HR manager on the next project.”
But, despite the promise, and because the company
won no new tenders Geoff ended up doing everything for the business except HR.
Looking for an alternative, he applied for a job through the biggest executive
recruitment firm in Melbourne at the time.
“I was told I was too young for a job they were
recruiting for, but they wanted to offer me a job as a consultant,” Geoff says.
“The owner gave me his word that the job was mine if I wanted it. I just had to
tell him when he got back from an overseas trip.
“Four days later, he was unfortunately killed in a
As a country boy with “no idea what to do next”,
Geoff took note of the fact that he took the most enjoyment out of the
recruitment side of his HR role. So he approached his parents to ask for a loan
so he could start up his own employment agency.
“Dad said ‘what is an employment agency’?” Geoff
recalls. “I told him what I thought it was, and he said he wouldn’t lend the
money to me even if he had it. Mum was softhearted though – she had $300 in
bank and said she would lend it to me as long as I paid it back.
“So I borrowed the money and rented a space,
knowing I had to make a placement in the first two weeks so I could pay the
So began the 21-year life of Slade Consulting Group
before its sale in 1988 to British multinational Blue Arrow.
For the first seven years, Geoff says he lived “on
the smell of an oily rag” before he turned any meaningful profit, which came
about in 1974 after he took back management of the recruitment agency after a
stint working in London working with executives looking to migrate to Australia
on the £10 Pom scheme.
After a few successful years, around 1981, Geoff
decided to shake up Slade Consulting Group, which saw him focus more on
management and less on day-to-day recruitment.
“I went out and hired three young people all in
their mid-20s: Andrew Banks, Richard Weston and Greg Fish,” Geoff says.
“We sat down and did a SWOT analysis of the
industry – how it would run and how we could grow the business quickly.
“At the time, Chandler McLeod and PA Consulting
were both huge in terms of executive recruitment. We researched and discovered
they were taking 10-12 weeks to fill jobs. That’s a very expensive situation
“For a company, that could be very inefficient and
very expensive, so we went to their clients and said ‘we believe we can do as
good a job as either of those companies; we believe it’s costing you a lot of
money to have jobs vacant for so long. If we can’t do it within four to six
weeks – we’ll do it for free’.”
That approach helped to guide Slade Consulting
Group to a turnover of $10 million by 1984.
By 1987, it was the biggest executive recruitment
company in Australia, with offices in five cities, as well as two in New
Zealand, with a staff of 135.
At the end of that year, Geoff was approached by a
representative of Blue Arrow – at the time the biggest recruitment company in
the UK – who said he was “prepared to make me an offer too good to refuse”.
“He told me to think of a number to see if he would
be prepared to meet it,” Geoff says.
Needless to say, the offer was good and Geoff sold
the business, but it didn’t work out as had been promised.
Geoff felt compromised by what Blue Arrow was
asking him to do and left the company and caught up with his long term client –
Pacific Dunlop – which had made up 40 per cent of Slade Group’s business.
Geoff says that Pacific Dunlop has been “very
influential in my success”, thanks to a long-term relationship spanning 20
years, but without some creative thinking on behalf of its then managing
director, Philip Brass, he might have found himself “watching grass grow on the
farm for the next year or two” as he served the term of a two-year non-compete
“I went to Philip to tell him I could no longer be
a consultant to him, nor could I consult in any way, shape or form,” Geoff
says. “He told me he had a solution and offered me the role of HR Director for Pacific
“I said I would do it, but for two years only and
provided I did a good job asked him if he would offer me a preferred supplier
agreement when I went back to business.
“When I returned, it became the first preferred
supplier agreement done in Australia.”
Geoff’s return to consulting came with Lyncroft
Consulting Group, which was named after his country property, but in 1992 it
changed back to Slade Group as Blue Arrow sold out of Australia.
Slade Group quickly moved to the forefront of recruitment
in Australia, where it remains today.
THE BIRTH OF RCSA
In 1998, Geoff and others identified that it was
“industry critical” to create a national industry body for the sector.
“There were a lot of people very unhappy as to how
it was all going, with the NAPC and IPC being run through state bodies, because
they were independent and there was no cohesion to move things forward,” he
“So we got together with senior members of the
industry and agreed this had to change and we formed RCSA to represent
Australia and later New Zealand. I’m really proud of the history and my
involvement in RCSA.
“One of things I really love about the industry is its ability to have positive impact on people’s lives. It’s now very rewarding to see it evolve into the association it is today.”
It was sensational to have triple Olympic Gold and multiple world
swimming champion, Australia’s own Grant Hackett, join us for a Slade breakfast
recently. Grant shared some of his personal journey as an Olympian and his thoughts
about what creates high performance behaviours.
Here are my seven takeaways from Grant’s talk with our team:
Goals: As a young teenager, aiming for the Sydney 2000 Olympics, Grant started writing down his goals on the bedroom wall, spelling out what he wanted to achieve across all his main swimming events.
Takeaway: Think and ink your goals
Purpose: A strong sense of purpose will help you find true meaning in what you do.
Takeaway: Be really clear within yourself about why you are doing, whatever it is that you do, particularly when planning your career
Benchmark: Grant recorded and gauged his performances against the then world king of the 1500 freestyle, Kieren Perkins (coincidentally his team mate). He compared Kieran’s achievements at various milestones, including age, distances, times and winning results, analysed them against his own performance and set himself targets.
Takeaway: Compare yourself to the best in your field and set approachable goals
Passion: Doing something you are passionate about involves pushing yourself beyond the ordinary boundaries, sometimes suffering, not always enjoying it and can often lead to disappointment. When you absolutely love something, you will want to be successful, no matter what.
Takeaway: Passion is what gets you through the challenges
Success: What would success (or failure) look like for you? For Grant, qualifying to wear an Olympic blazer wasn’t enough, he had to win gold, to be number one. While we can’t all be world leaders, we can certainly model others’ successful behaviours at work. Takeaway: With clarity over your objectives, you determine your own success
Sportsmanship: Competing with the same people internationally, year-round, Grant made lasting friendships with some of his team mates, as well as his competitors. Takeaway: While competition is healthy, developing collegiate relationships with your coworkers, customers and competitors also helps bring out the best in you
Self-talk: It’s the talk that you have with yourself, that voice inside your head, which can be more hinderance than help. Paradoxically, winners sometimes have more negative self-talk than others. Takeaway: Some self-doubt is normal, so take stock of yourself and the situation, then get on with it
As a specialist recruiter in Leisure & Sport, I have seen many former athletes go on to leadership roles, where these behaviours translate to business and career success. Grant is continuing to apply his learnings in his current role as CEO of Generation Development Group, where he is building a team with a high performance culture. Use our world class takeaways to get you started and go for gold!
Last week on a beautiful sunny Melbourne
winter morning our Technical & Operations team hosted the latest in
our series of boardroom briefings. Over breakfast, David Chuter, CEO of
Innovative Manufacturing CRC (IMCRC), led the discussion around challenges for
leaders in the sector, Industry 4.0 and its transformation imperative.
Attendees included a diverse range of senior manufacturing
executives; Ruby Heard, recently awarded the Victorian Young Professional
Engineer for 2019 by Engineers Australia, was an active contributor,
especially from a younger person’s perspective.
With the demise of the Australian automotive manufacturing
sector, we are constantly reminded that the manufacturing sector is in decline.
was refreshing to hear David refuting the state of manufacturing in Australia,
providing examples of many of the exciting innovations that are being developed
locally that are at the cutting-edge internationally. David is passionate about innovative
manufacturing and the role that it will play over the next decade. He
transformation will be achieved through “collaboration by inspired leadership”.
Speaking about transforming Australia’s manufacturing
industry, automation and AI (Augmented Intelligence, rather than Artificial
intelligence, in David’s view) the concept of Industry 4.0 is not particularly
new. Such technology, including robotics, has already been in use for many
years, especially in automotive production. The group observed that what has
changed, is that the barrier for entry has dropped significantly, meaning
manufacturing technology is no longer limited to well resourced multi-national
While Industry 4.0 is not limited to a specific sector, one
of the challenges in Australia is our proliferation of small businesses: 90% of
manufacturers employ less than 20 people and only 15% of manufacturers turn
over more than $2M per annum. With so many SMEs invested in manufacturing,
collaboration between companies can be difficult too. IMCRC estimates less than
40% of manufacturers have an appropriate business strategy to meet current and
One of the positive initiatives David has taken with IMCRC is to bring industry, educators (universities) the CSIRO and other resources together to support SMEs in manufacturing and help foster collaboration. CSIRO’s recently released Australian National Outlook showed a massive and unprecedented opportunity for the future growth and prosperity of manufacturing. It predicts manufacturing’s contribution to GDP growth will be more than two and half times that of any other sector.
When looking for transformative projects that will create
commercial outcomes for local manufacturers to take Australian products and
service to the world, we also need to seek out opportunities to develop the
project management, technical and leadership skills that cannot be simply
solved through education. Governments have a role to play in supporting
manufacturing with investment – for example, here in Victoria our trains are
built with 60% local content and some trade-based TAFE courses are government
funded. Industry also needs to lead by providing opportunities for technical
specialists and professionals to further and diversify their experience, which
will upskill its workforce.
Overall, we need to be braver and bolder, if we wish to
become a world leader in advanced manufacturing. We need to change the
perception that we are limited by market size or geographical distance, and
focus on establishing smart tech hubs with a global focus, where the emphasis
is less on production, and more on invention, design and value.
I’m looking forward to seeing what the next generation of
manufacturing in Australia looks like.
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
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.
A couple of times lately, younger professional women have come to seek my advice on some situations they’ve found themselves in in their work life… Anything from discussing appropriate work wear, or how to handle a tough conversation with a client or colleague, correct ways to entertain clients and how to be confident. And believe it or not, just plain feeling comfortable ‘being themselves’ in a business setting rather than ‘being an exemplar businesswoman’.
It got me thinking about the times when I went to my more experienced peers seeking advice (and I still do), and the positive impact of those conversations on me and how they shaped my career decisions.
The truth is, I feel really honoured to be a person that other women trust. Whether it’s to discuss a situation and seek my advice (somewhere along the track I may have experienced something similar or I am familiar with the circumstances) or to see how I would handle a situation. I help them make up their own mind about how to tackle it, and in most instances they just need a sounding board.
Experience in business, and the confidence that you gain as you encounter different situations, comes with time. Dealing with those difficult meetings, standing your ground on a decision, knowing when to negotiate and even knowing when to walk away from a deal, all come with time.
As a recruiter, I see many candidates who are starting out in their career and have aspirations of taking over the world – their enthusiasm for their work is palpable! It’s something I find quite inspiring and probably something that makes me enjoy working with people daily.
I think those of us with experiences over time have a responsibility to guide and mentor others who are starting their professional life or making a change in their career. When the going gets tough and someone less experienced doesn’t know how to handle a situation, it’s up to us to listen. We should take time out to talk with them about how to handle that situation, so that once resolved, they can add it to their collection of experiences, to one day pass on with their experience gained with time.
Are you part of a mentoring program or have you benefited from being mentored at any stage of your career? What advice would you give to other professionals who are just starting out or are new to the industry in your world @work?
What’s been debated, outsourced, digitalised and recorded… but in the end come full circle?
Yes, the answer is those essential in depth candidate Reference Checks that have stood the test of time.
Talking with my colleagues and clients, we all agree they form part of the recruitment process that demands more than a nod and a tick for due diligence. Thorough reference checking is due diligence and meets some tick the box compliance needs, but more than that, it’s a gold plated step on the path to finding out more about a candidate, such as areas for development once on-boarded with your organisation.
Here are my 3 ‘Insider Tips’ as a seasoned ‘Referencer’:
Asking for references from your candidate Do it at the start of the recruitment process – it will give you an indication of how serious the candidate is about the position. At interview I cross-check to verify the referee names and ensure that those provided are direct managers – if not, I’ll ask why. If a candidate is hesitant to provide referee details, it could be a red flag. Without referees there’s also a high possibility the candidate will withdraw from the process.
Ask for the referees you want, not the friendliest manager/colleague they want to give Don’t settle just for first named referees as candidates tend to provide referees who they know will say good things about them. Obtaining in-depth information is important and can be challenging so make sure you ask to reference them with their last manager, not their last ‘friend’ at work.
Conducting the reference check Ideally I conduct reference checks over the phone or even face-to-face. At Slade we give referees the opportunity to provide detailed information, as opposed to collecting graded responses (yes, no, good, ok etc. don’t tell us very much). It’s important the referee isn’t rushed and is able to talk about the candidate at length. This conversation often takes 15 – 30minutes and you’ll be looking to confirm and complement the information gleaned from earlier candidate interviews.
References are an ideal time to get clarification on any question marks about a candidate. In addition to standard reference questions about past performance, we gather insight into how best to induct the new employee into the organisation, as well as key areas of focus when managing the new hire.
I’ll ask follow-up and probing questions to uncover the full story, counter any bias, and provide all the information to make the best hiring decision possible.
References are a gift, not a bore!
What have you learned from reference checking? Have you changed your approach to references recently?