Author Archives: Susan Rochester

About Susan Rochester

BSc MHRM FIML Susan Rochester has been managing director of Balance at Work since 2006. According to her Harrison Assessment, Susan has a natural tendency to balance analytical thinking with an optimistic outlook to set direction and solve problems. She is an effective facilitator and constantly creates new and more effective ways of doing things, motivated by helping others to achieve their goals.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

5 easy ways to boost staff morale over the holidays

staff morale

Nothing kills a sale faster than grumpy or disinterested staff. Whatever type of customer-facing business you run, you can’t afford to have the morale of your staff turn away customers during the peak holiday season.

Here are five ideas to keep your staff motivated while they’re working hard.

1. Communicate

Let staff know what to do, how they should do it and by when. Have clear goals that are easy for all employees to understand and rules that are easy for them to follow. For example, they should know if you value efficiency above customer care or if both are a priority.

Set goals for sales figures, but remember to notice when they are going above and beyond your expectations to please your customers.

2. Educate

It’s frustrating for customers when your staff don’t appear to know their jobs or your products or menu, and it’s embarrassing for your employees. Investing time in training will result in more confident staff and better sales figures.

When you train on the job, constantly observe and assess new team members and give them constructive feedback. If you notice something wrong, correct them in private, let it go and move on.

3. Challenge

Your staff are at the frontline, so they know better than anyone what is and isn’t working. Ask them for their input and ideas. This simple form of recognition can be a big morale booster because it shows you value your employees as partners in the process. You can reward the best suggestion with a prize if competitions and contests motivate your staff.

Asking for their input also helps them to feel part of a team that is working towards a common goal — even if that goal is simply surviving the rush!

4. Appreciate

You can let your employees know that you appreciate the extra effort they put in over the holidays by rewarding them in ways additional to simply paying them.

A simple, genuine ‘thank you’ or other verbal recognition of a job well done can help them go the extra mile when needed. Other low-cost ways of showing your gratitude and keeping them energised include providing free snacks and coffee or paying for their parking.

5. Motivate

When thinking of rewards such as higher commissions or bonuses, consider how you will measure success. If you run a sales contest, for example, will all the team receive a bonus when the business meets the overall target? Consider a grand prize for the top performer in sales, customer service, teamwork or ideas — or all. One business we know even gives a prize for the person showing the most Christmas cheer on their busiest days.

Finally, if you know your team well, you can make your rewards more personal and, therefore, more motivating. Some may appreciate ‘gold class’ movie tickets over a party or public recognition. Others may get a real boost out of seeing their achievements complimented on your Facebook business page. Your cheerful, friendly and helpful staff are the key to reaching your holiday sales targets — and staying sane. By aligning business goals, personal motivation and rewards, you ‘ll find the winning combination for high staff morale.

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

 

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

5 tips to manage your staff during the holiday rush

career help

For many businesses, including retail and hospitality, the holiday season brings many opportunities. Increased traffic, a higher turnover of stock and – if all goes to plan – higher profits. One of the challenges, however, can be managing your staff.

If the holiday season means increased traffic for your business, here are some tips to help you manage the needs of your staff – and keep customers happy so you can make the most of the holiday spending spree.

1. Plan ahead

While you probably know from past experience when to expect a rush, determine what specific days and times will likely be the busiest. Consider checking other variables, such as the schedule for nearby events or the weather forecast if they could affect your rush times.

When planning, also review the employment rules in your industry and make a list of good sources of casual and temporary staff. (Tip: Ask your current employees.)

2. Manage all leave in advance

Determine, communicate and stick to your criteria so you are not only fair but also transparent.

As far as possible ensure that:

  • Leave is taken before or after the holidays.
  • You give staff a closing date for leave applications.
  • You base the leave priorities on pre-set criteria that might include seniority, need, performance and reasons for the leave. For example, a senior level employee who wants to attend a close friend’s wedding would probably receive priority over a junior employee who asks for time off to see a concert.

3. Let your stars shine

Instead of keeping your best staff busy on tasks that don’t directly contribute to higher sales, arrange the workload to maximise their customer interaction. Chances are they’ll be happier and more productive, too, if customer service is their strength.

This may require you to rethink when and how routine tasks get done so you don’t take your stars away from serving the customers. For example, we spoke to a hairdressing salon manager who hires extra cleaning help during the busy pre-holiday rush so the stylists can focus on the clients and not on cleaning up. This has the added benefit of keeping the salon look neat and clean, even on the busiest days.

4. Make breaks easy

Your employees need their breaks – especially when it’s busy – so they can continue to provide the level of service your customers expect. Make sure you’re clear with them about how and when breaks will happen. It’s critical that you manage breaks so that your key customer contact points are never understaffed.

If you rotate breaks and encourage employees to return on time, staff will feel they’ve been treated fairly and haven’t been overworked. You can make things easier for your staff by, for example, organising food supplied to your premises during the busiest periods so employees don’t have to spend time fighting crowds.

Remind your team always to take their breaks out of sight of customers, so you avoid the unwelcome situation of customers waiting for service while they can see your employees on a break.

5. Expect the unexpected

Even the best-laid plans can fall apart in the pressure of the holiday season, so it helps to have some contingency plans when it comes to staffing. Ahead of time, work out what could go wrong and what you could do about it if it did. Even if you’ve only rehearsed a situation in your head, you are less likely to panic when things go off the rails, making it easier to get back on track when needed.

It would be great to be able to say ‘Wave my magic wand and you won’t have any problems’ but real life doesn’t usually work that way. However, by planning ahead and using your imagination, you may find can have both happy customers and happy staff this holiday season!

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

How to reward and keep your best employees — for free

career help

It’s tempting to say that your best employees don’t require rewards because they are probably already highly engaged. I’m sure some businesses operate that way, but it’s certainly not sustainable.

When you have employees you would like to keep, there are a few simple — and free — measures you can take to both reward and retain them.

1. Share your vision

Unless they know what they are working towards, it’s difficult for even the most highly motivated team members to stay enthusiastic and productive in the long term. On the other hand, if they expect their efforts to result in them being part of a team (or leading the team) that excels at what they do, they will work hard to get somewhere they can be proud of.

More money in their pockets — or your pockets — is not a sustainable reward and retention strategy. There’ll always be someone else who will pay an employee more if they’re a top performer. As Simon Sinek reminds us in his book Start with Why, profit is an outcome; it is not a purpose. Like you, your team want to know why they’re doing what they’re doing.

2. Keep them in the loop

How often have you set KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for staff based on your business plan, then not referred to them until their next performance review?

As a business owner or manager, you are constantly monitoring results. Are you keeping the people who are responsible for achieving those results up to date with their progress against their targets? Of course, this involves sharing the bad news as well as the good.

While it seems to come naturally to be careful about what information we share, it’s just as important to be mindful of how you share information. It’s your job to communicate. You are responsible for doing as much as you can to ensure your message is clear and appropriate for the person receiving it.

3. Challenge them

Your best employees often have the capacity to offer more, so don’t be afraid to ask them, provided the two steps above are already in place.

A sense of mastery is experienced when a new and challenging task is equal to the person’s ability to complete that task. By providing new opportunities, you are providing your best employees with the chance to experience mastery and ‘flow’ at work. This is an intrinsic reward task that can’t be counted in dollars and cents, but it will certainly have an impact on your bottom line.

Rewarding and keeping your best employees requires giving them purpose, a sense of belonging and a chance to shine. These are covered in the points above, but there is one more thing — and it’s probably the most important of all.

Your best employees achieve that status because they know their job, know your business, know your industry and know your market. By asking for their input and really listening to them, you will not only learn a lot, you will also uncover the secret ingredient to engagement and retention.

Acknowledgement and recognition are basic human needs. We can believe these needs are satisfied with a bonus, pay rise or award. To some extent, they are. However, recognising your best employee’s value by seeking and respecting their opinion can be a much more powerful reward.

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

New recruitment tools for small and growing businesses

recruitment

You need to recruit new staff, you have the budget and you have a plan. What’s next? In the past, you’d go straight to advertising or briefing a recruiter. Both are going to take time and cost money. New recruitment tools give you more control and streamline your sourcing and selection processes, even if you use a recruiter.

Sourcing

Job search databases: List your job on a service like Jobbed (free) OneShift (fee), Glassdoor (fee) or Jobseeker (free) instead of advertising through traditional channels to connect with candidates who have already listed their job search criteria. You can also search their databases to contact suitable recruits, for a fee. Some also provide apps for posting jobs and viewing candidates.

Applicant tracking systems: Love the idea of free postings but too time poor to set them up? There is an easier way! Services such as JobAdder or Adlogic make it easy for you to post your job on multiple free (and paid) platforms, including social media, and centralise all your applicant data for a monthly fee. Both these services include a mobile app to make recruitment even easier.

Social media: With a recent survey by recruitment agency Randstad showing that one in three jobseekers are using social media to find work, it can’t be ignored as a source of candidates especially if you are recruiting for tech-savvy employees. Facebook and LinkedIn are the main platforms for recruitment. At a minimum, you should ensure your personal and company profiles are attractive to potential new recruits. Just as networking in the real world can be a great source of good staff, networking in the virtual world is a very good way to locate candidates who might not yet be actively looking for a new job.

Selecting

Video interview software: Perfect for remote or first round interviews, services such as Vieple and TalentVX allow your candidates to record a video introduction or answers to questions you have listed for them. One advantage is the easy review and sharing of interviews to help you in your decision-making, allowing multiple stakeholders to have input without needing to be present at an interview.

Psychometric assessments: The options available to small and growing businesses are too numerous to list here, and your choice of tool will depend on where you want it to fit in your process and how much you want to spend. When selecting an assessment, look for a customisable, workplace research-based tool designed for recruitment that will answer the most important question: ‘Is this person the best fit for the job and our culture?’ Always keep in mind that a test result is just one part of your overall decision.

Background checks: Although checks on qualifications, previous employment and police records can certainly be outsourced (see Verify and PeopleCheck for example) I am not aware of tools that will fully automate this process for you. But I do recommend you check out Rapportive, a Google Chrome app, as a way of finding candidates’ social profiles and any connections you might already have to them, based on their email address.

No matter which tools you choose to use, you still have to put in time and effort to hire the right person. As in every other business activity, successful recruitment depends largely on having a clear picture of what you want before you start. None of the tools above can save you from this core business task. But they may just mean you make the right decisions along your recruitment path.

This article was originally published on MYOB’s blog, The Pulse. For more business news and tips, visit www.myob.com/blog.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Employing Apprentices: A new resource for business

succession

We are delighted to be part of the following initiative, announced today:

New tool to match employers and apprentices for better completion rates

Strategies to match apprentices with employers and ultimately reduce the current high levels of apprentice attrition will be the focus of a new online tool being launched today.

The web-based resource, Employing Apprentices, is designed to help employers understand what is involved in taking on apprentices, and provide information about recruiting, managing and communicating with apprentices.

Developed by Group Training Australia (GTA), and funded by the Commonwealth Department of Education and Training, the tool is aimed at overcoming some of the key obstacles to successful apprentice completion.

“Much of the blame for drop outs typically falls on apprentices, but we know that this is a two way relationship and that improved matching and shared expectations are vital,” said the Chief Executive of GTA, Jim Barron.

“Around half of all trade apprenticeships are not completed and most of those are because of problems in the workplace,” he said.

The interactive, online tool provides access to a range of resources to help in effectively recruiting, matching and supporting apprentices.

It will particularly assist intermediaries such as group training organisations, Australian Apprenticeship Support Network (AASN) providers, and Job Active Employment Service providers. It will also be useful for careers advisors and VET in schools co-ordinators.

The new website has a range of resources, including good practice guides, tools and templates, as well as a number of self assessment checklists to identify best practice and address any gaps.

The site was developed by a team at Ithaca Group, based on their research and their extensive understanding of factors relevant to apprentice completions.

Professor Rod McDonald, Managing Director of the Ithaca Group, says that apprentices who don’t complete their training impose a high cost on organisations and a negative experience for both employers and apprentices, which, in turn, impacts future apprenticeship opportunities.

“It is important for employers to understand all that is involved in taking on an apprentice and determine whether they can engage with young people and provide the necessary learning environment,” he said.

He said that the latest approach puts a priority on ways of improving the match between apprentices and employers and on developing a range of learning opportunities that will help address apprentice retention and completion.

See the Employing Apprentices website: http://employingapprentices.com.au

Click on ‘A Good Match’ then ‘Testing and Profiling’ to get to our contribution, ‘Job Fit Analysis’.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Why your workshops aren’t working

workplace training

As a (sometimes) trainer, I’m surprisingly cynical about the value of training workshops in changing behaviour. I know I’m not alone in this, and I think I now understand why.

Typically, a client comes to us with a problem in their organisation that they feel training can solve. It might be an issue such as bullying or poor productivity. They have the budget and we design a program for them. We deliver the training but only rarely get to know if it has any impact in the longer term. My experience of human behaviour tells me a short workshop is highly unlikely to have solved the problem it was meant to address in the first place. This is why…

1. We are only treating the symptoms

If I have a headache, I can take some painkiller but unless I change what caused the headache, the pain relief will only be temporary.

If you have poor time management skills, I can teach you a range of techniques. They might help you get more done, but if your real problem is not being assertive enough to say ‘no’ when someone wants you to do something, all I’ve taught you is a smoother route to burnout.

Similarly, we could run a session on bullying, but if your managers lack the emotional intelligence to read their impact on others and know when they are being a bully, not much will change.

2. The wrong people are in the room

Early in my consulting life, I conducted a series of half-day workshops on bullying and harassment for an organisation with around 300 staff. We knew bullying was endemic and it needed to be stopped. We also knew this toxic culture was coming from the top as is, sadly, often the case.

As you may have guessed, although they were scheduled and rescheduled into the workshops, the executive were always too busy and didn’t make it to the training. In this case, we didn’t even get the change to share the basics with them, let alone contribute to a wider cultural change – which is what was really needed.

3. Not monitoring return on investment

On numerous occasions, we’ve been called in to deliver a program for a specific purpose. This is well and good: a need has been identified and it is being addressed. But often there’s something missing.

That something is data. Without knowing how bad the problem is and the evidence that supports our assumption a problem exists, it will be very hard – if not impossible – to know how effective the training intervention has been.

Quite often, organisations choose to save money upfront by not doing a good analysis of their needs. Unfortunately, this attitude guarantees they will have no way of knowing – apart from feelings – if they’ve just thrown more money away on a pointless training exercise.

How do you avoid these traps?

1. Do your homework

Know what you want to achieve. Make sure you have current data that will allow you to track progress over time, and clear goals of what outcomes you would like to see in the future.

2. Choose wisely

Sometimes a workshop is not the best way to achieve your desired outcome. For example, poor morale may be due to one person. Then your decision is to keep or let go, and if you decide to keep the person your next choice is about how to manage their behaviour.

3. Monitor closely

While feedback on the day is essential, usually people are basking in the glow of new information or a day out of the office. What matters more is long term change.You must work out how you will measure this change, it could be anything from fewer incidents to feedback after one month.

By following the steps above, you will be on your way to more effective training in your business.

If you have any further insights or tips, please share them below.

 

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Career Reality Check: Pilot

Germanwings prompts pilot review but industry must also deal with workplace stress

Geraint Harvey, University of Birmingham and Peter Turnbull, Cardiff University

This article was originally published in The Conversation UK 

Following the tragedy of Germanwings flight 4U9525, the US Federal Aviation Administration has said it is launching a study into how pilots’ mental health is monitored. It follows on from Lufthansa’s announcement of spot checks, much like dope testing in sport.

The deliberate downing of the flight in March 2015 by co-pilot Andreas Lubitz led to 150 deaths and prompted calls for safeguards such as a requirement for two people to be present in the cockpit at all times and greater sophistication in the screening of pilots.

However, this tragedy also highlighted the potential dangers of precarious employment contracts and the anxiety such contracts can cause. Murder-suicide is a rare and extreme act, but there was much speculation about Lubitz’s mental health and what may have led or exacerbated his situation. We know that he was “signed off” work on the day of the disaster but still chose to fly. Also, it would seem that he was under considerable pressure at work – Lubitz’s girlfriend was quoted by the BBC as saying: “He became upset about the conditions we worked under: too little money, fear of losing the contract, too much pressure”.

Setting aside the speculation, this experience of work as described by Lubitz’s girlfriend chimes with the results of studies carried out by us on behalf of the European Cockpit Association and the European Transport Workers’ Federation.

The studies show that precarious work (by that we mean low paid and uncertain work), leading to insecurity is becoming widespread across the European civil aviation industry. For instance, in response to a questionnaire survey completed by more than 2,700 pilot and cabin crew respondents in 2014, barely one half of respondents agreed that their work gave them security. Of the 2,700 respondents around 70% were in permanent full-time employment.

In terms of pay, legacy airlines have used low-cost subsidiaries, such as Germanwings (Lufthansa), Iberia Express (Iberia) and Transavia (AirFrance/KLM), in order to reduce labour costs. Terms and conditions of employment can be as much as 40% lower for employees at the subsidiary compared with counterparts who work for the mainline carrier.

Benefits and zero hours-style contracts

An alternative strategy adopted by British Airways has been to develop BA Mixed Fleet – new staff within the mainline operation employed on inferior (low-cost) terms and conditions. The idea is to grow this fleet of staff to service short-haul and long-haul flights if and when possible. It’s not a case of directly cutting benefits for Worldwide and Euro fleet staff, but gradually reducing the average staff costs.

In response to the 2014 survey, fewer than 10% of respondents employed as cabin crew on Mixed Fleet contracts agreed that the pay and benefits were adequate to support their current lifestyle, while none agreed that these were adequate to support future life plans. Shortly after the survey was completed, the Guardian reported that Mixed Fleet staff were reliant on working tax credit (state benefits) to supplement their income. In effect, the government was subsidising BA’s operations.

As for uncertain work, precarious contracts are perhaps most widespread at what have become known as the “ultra-low cost carriers”. Pilots at Ryanair, for example – whose current business strategy is “not to unnecessarily piss people off” – are predominantly hired on “self-employment” contracts. In 2013, around 70% of pilots were hired via these contracts and agencies such as Brookfield Aviation International (which hires the vast majority of Ryanair pilots), with no obligation on the part of the agency to offer work.

This arrangement is tantamount to a zero-hours contract – one crucial difference between the Brookfield contract and a zero-hours contract, however, is that the former imposes obligations on the pilot to provide three months’ notice of contract termination. In 2013, a Ryanair pilot won a test case that found that the firm could not impose a €5,000 “penalty” fee for not serving a full three-month notice period.

Ryanair is not the only airline to use “atypical” arrangements, a report from the University of Ghent in February 2015, based on a survey of 6,600 European pilots, found that Norwegian also hired many pilots in this way. Easyjet and Germanwings, however, used more traditional contracts.

Current business strategy is to be nice.
Juanedc, CC BY

In the UK, the process of qualifying as a commercial pilot can take around three years and cost up to £100,000. Saddled with such a debt, a newly qualified pilot undoubtedly experiences considerable anxiety about finding and retaining a first officer job at an airline. The combination of precarious work (and the attendant insecurity) and the need to retain one’s job may influence decision-making processes and lead to poor judgement, for example reporting for work when unwell/unfit for duty.

Aside from poor judgement, precarious work also has the potential to impact on safety in other ways. Alarmingly in our 2014 survey, only at two of the eight airlines included in the study did the majority of participants agree with the statement: “Employees feel comfortable reporting safety concerns to management”. One respondent commented of their colleagues that: “they are scared to report safety issues as our employment guide allows crew to be fired very quickly”.

One consequence of the tragedy of flight 4U9525 has been the consideration of factors that may have contributed to the tragedy and possible means of preventing such an incident in the future – the deteriorating conditions of employment faced by flight and cabin crew should not be overlooked.

The Conversation

Geraint Harvey is Senior Lecturer in Industrial Relations and HRM at University of Birmingham.
Peter Turnbull is Professor of Human Resource Management Labour Relations at Cardiff University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Recruitment: The Hunt

assessments for recruiting

This post first appeared on Heather Hankinson’s As Good as Her Word blog. When we saw it, we wanted to share it here and Heather kindly agreed. We think you’ll appreciate her down to earth approach to finding the right candidates...

Finding new staff is really, really difficult. It’s difficult for multinational corporations with entire HR departments, it’s difficult for long-standing businesses, it’s difficult for start-ups, it’s difficult for Bill Gates. Everyone knows that people are a key factor in success but it’s easier said than done when that means attracting the right person, realising they are the right person amongst all the candidates, and then managing their expectations to get them off to the right start.

How do you start the hunt? The culture of your organisation that I’ve spent the past five weeks banging on about is a good starting point: is your business somewhere with an attractive personality, GSOH, who likes walks on the beach? Because if you’ve grown an authentic and unique culture then over time I’ll wager you’ll have applicants come to you.

But you already know how important I think culture is and even if you have it, when you do decide that you can’t manage everything in your business yourself and need to take the scary plunge of employing someone, start by brainstorming the places your perfect employee might hang out. Instead of paying Seek or CareerOne for a pretty generic ad, first ask yourself:

  • Where do they shop? Where do they eat out?
  • What do they like to do on their days off?
  • How do they like to portray themselves?
  • What are their habits?

You may think this is all irrelevant and will narrow your field so completely that you’ll miss most of your potential candidates but what you are really doing is increasing your efficiency and sticking to your cultural values. Say you need to hire a new estate agent for your team, for example: are you a ‘family values’ business or are you aiming for a swanky, boutique feel? For the first, you might put up posters in the local park or family-friendly cafe, for the latter you might ask to leave brochures in a fashionable clothing store.

Once you’ve spent at least 20 minutes scribbling ideas on an A4 piece of paper, see if any of these resources might be a way to reach out to that perfect candidate:

  • Ask your employees if they know anyone, or their friends know anyone, or their kids know anyone. If each employee roughly knows a few hundred people in the area and you have more than one employee, then friends’ of their friends would be a circle of thousands of potential referees. Simple but surprisingly underutilized,
  • Gumtree – for trades or uni student roles in particular, usually so cheap that it’s always worthwhile,
  • Local media – not TV, I’m talking school or church newsletters, cafe or gym bulletin boards, even a local market stall,
  • Client email update or your business’ Facebook page – even if you don’t get any referrals, phrased correctly, it’s an advert of your business itself because the traits you are looking for should be why your customers use you,
  • School career advisor – if you need a weekend casual or junior, I strongly recommend contacting the local schools to see if you can spend 5 minutes in one of their assemblies outlining why your business rocks and what type of stella employee you are after. You’ll be surprised how enthusiastic most schools are, especially near the end of a school year.
  • Consider holding a free seminar or open evening and inviting local professionals to network, mingle, have a beer, and obviously at some point in the evening make sure it’s clear (but not tacky) that you have a position to fill. Please make sure the evening reflects your business: there’s no point creating an illusion and attracting the wrong sort of people,
  • Facebook! I highly recommend that you have a play with Facebook ad manager (use the boosted post function) and search for your perfect candidate using their extremely fine-tunable parameters. It’s scary how much information they have on people, you may as well use it to your advantage. And you can set the budget as low as you like.

Above all, be creative. It might take more leg work but an ad online can set you back $300 and won’t show your business’ personality half as well.

Of course, all this goes hand in hand with knowing what type of employee you want, so three guesses what I’m writing about next week?

PS. If you are still tempted by a regular old online ad, remember: businesses generally get the staff they deserve. If you think you deserve brilliant, committed and sincere staff then start by being brilliant, committed and sincere in your hiring process.

Read more of Heather’s thoughts on recruitment, culture and a whole lot of other stuff on her blog!

Let us know what you think below

Have you tried any of these ways of hunting for the right candidate? How did it work for you?

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

What’s your story? #3: Chris Page

What's your story?

Today’s career interview with Chris Page, National Manager – New Projects at Napier & Blakeley, clearly illustrates there is more than one way to get where you want to be!

One thing that is clear from the discussions I’ve had at recent conferences about the future of work is that many of Australia’s issues with education and employment stem from our relatively recent focus on getting a university education. Aspiring to a degree is not a problem in itself, except that this goal may be at the expense of other forms of equally valuable forms of education for school leavers – both in terms of individual skills and the economy as a whole.

We first ‘met’ Chris in Group Training Australia‘s Network Magazine (March 2015):

Excerpt

Here’s what Chris had to tell us about what he’s learnt on his career journey…

What’s your current position and what do you do?

This is actually a complex question. My title is quite vague and for good reason – to not put boundaries on my internal function here at Napier & Blakeley. To describe my role I initially look to my CV and LinkedIn profile and which says

As head of the new projects department in the National Tax Business Unit I am responsible for the growth of the National Property Tax Business throughout Australia.

I’m also concentrating on growing the Napier & Blakeley brand internationally, and increasing recognition throughout the Property Development, Construction and Investment Industry sectors as the leading provider in Transaction, Asset & Development Advisory, Quantity Surveying, Sustainable Property Solutions and Property Depreciation and Insurance Assessment Advice.

Putting what I do into a simple sentence is hard simply because my role here at Napier & Blakeley is really quite diverse. I do a lot of Business Development in varying sectors in the Property Industry, continuously growing the Napier & Blakeley brand.

I’m also responsible for the growth of a new Tax Business Unit within the company which we’ve been working on for nearly a year – it is being launched and goes to market this coming July. All very exciting – and of course keeps me busy.

What other activities are you involved in?

Outside of work – well not as much as I’d like – I’m rather time poor.

I try to keep it simple. I have a strict gym routine, attending the gym religiously regardless where I am travelling, or staying, at a minimum of 6 days a week. This for me is probably the most important part of my day. Not only because there is no better stress relief other than sweating it out on the gym floor but also because entertaining clients often means eating and drinking far too much – all of which would go straight to my waist if it weren’t for gym!

I am an avid rock climber – yet another form of keeping fit, but also mind clearing. Climbing a wall requires constant problem solving – keeps my brain active in an unusual and physically active way.

Let’s not forget my passion for wine and food – this is something I spend a great deal of time enjoying.

Inside work – LOTS.  Too much even.  I tend to take on more than I should. It’s the price of absolute career commitment. 

Is this what you expected to be doing when you were at school?

Absolutely not. Nowhere near it.

I finished school quite young – and at the time I had no idea what I wanted to do – apart from the typical high school dreams. Great job, lots of travel, lots of money, all the glory.

Unfortunately something we don’t quite understand as teenagers is the iceberg theory. When it comes to successful careers generally people outside only ever see the top of the iceberg – the success and glory. And as we know with icebergs, the bigger portion is under the ocean hidden from view.  Stress, responsibility, sacrifice, risk, persistence regardless of challenges or failures on the way. Endless hard work.

But it’s all worth it, for that small bit of super white bright ice soaking in the sunshine at the top.

I think I learnt rather quickly – by being thrown in the deep end in the early years of my career that there is more hard work than there is reward.

I had more work than I did have hours in the day. But I fought through it – always taking on more than I could handle. Biting off more than I could ever chew – but I chewed through it all. Perhaps at great personal and social expense. But if you want it bad enough – you will do whatever it costs to get it done. Success is by no means easy – it wouldn’t be rewarding if it were.

When I finished school I thought eventually I’d end up in Construction Management or something related to it. And I have done that, from Contracts Administration on hundred million dollar construction sites, to being project manager and development manager on sites just as big. Then on to acquisition and development management in the global property market – something I never even dreamt of doing, let alone before the age of 30.

And now I’ve jumped fence to the consultancy side – working with a great deal of developers, asset and fund managers across the country as well as Southern Asia. A lot of my work these days is within the Property Tax sector. Tax is definitely something I never ever considered being remotely involved in – however property tax is one of the good taxes – it’s the one of the few taxes that gives back!! It’s nice to work in a business unit that helps property investors make more money!!!

When you remove common boundaries or as I call them, our comfort zones, and you let your career take the wild paths without fear of the ‘what if’ then this is when your career will take you to places and heights you never expected.

What was your first job?

I was 13 – far too young to have a legal job, but I was tall and looked older than 13 so managed to sneak my way into my first ever job.

Living on the Gold Coast – when I wasn’t at school or at home I was mostly likely found on one of the two ice rinks ice skating and playing ice hockey. Naturally I started working at one of the rinks. It was, at the time my ideal dream job – being paid whilst getting to skate. Loved it. I worked at ice rinks on the Gold Coast and then down in Melbourne (after a family move at 15) up until the last possible moment when university and my apprenticeship took all my time.

Can you tell us about a significant turning point in your career/life?

This is a hard question. There are a couple of turning points.

Spending a few weeks in Canberra at the GTA  (Group Training Australia) ‘Today’s Skills, Tomorrow’s Leaders’ program was definitely an eye opening event. It lifted my ideas of what is possible to a whole new level.

I think travel is also something that can help us grow, or act as a turning point. When I moved to London – my entire life was shaken upside down. New job, in a new country, new everything – it challenged me to a new way of thinking. Primarily because it exposed me to a whole new level of success. Success you don’t see too often in Australia. The abundance of successful multi-millionaires and billionaires that I was lucky enough to learn from in the UK really taught me that success is not something you get or are given (well for those lucky to be born into it perhaps this is the case).

Success is something you sacrifice for, something you dedicate your whole life to earning. It’s the reward that we are lucky to earn after a life time of effort, hard work but most of all smart business decision making.

But let’s not forget success is not only wealth – it’s family, and life in general. I think it was a turning point meeting people who had obtained great wealth and success at the sacrifice of much else. Family, friends – time.

Learning that success is more than just wealth and power – this teaches us that we need to work hard towards a happy balance. And that will be something different for everyone.

 Who do you admire? Who has inspired you?

I admire a great many people. Kerry Packer is someone I grew up admiring, he was born into wealth, but he grew up in an era where you worked for it. He lived life to its fullest – made good and bad decisions, but regardless of outcome continuously fought to better himself and his businesses.

Aurelio Peccei, an Italian scholar and industrialist of the 20th century is probably one of my all-time most admired individuals to read about and more importantly learn from. He is perhaps best known as the founder of ‘The Club of Rome’ but for me, he was a man who survived imprisonment, torture and very nearly execution during WWII, he is the one man who turned post war Fiat Corporation into the mighty international beast of a company that it became in the late 20th century.

When Aurelio founded The Club of Rome, he introduced the world to the idea of an international think tank. A forum for scholars of all nations to come and think aloud – to present the world with ideas of how to better humanity for the greater good.

 

If there were no limitations, what would be in the future for you?

Limitations? What limitations? By simply thinking ‘if there were no limitations’ you’re already placing them upon yourself. There are no limitations!

As I’ve always said, people who tell you to pull your head out of the clouds simply say it because they themselves are too scared to see what’s above them.

Limitations are something that generations before us were guided by. People were born poor and were to stay poor, or they were born into wealth and it was their ‘birth right’ to remain wealthy throughout life.

Thank god for the industrial revolution.

Today people can be born anywhere in the world, from any family, any race, any religion, any anything and become wealthy, successful and powerful. The only limitation we have are those which we lock ourselves into.

If you truly want it – you will do whatever it takes to get it – or die trying. If you want it that bad that is.

Finally, what would you tell your younger self about work and careers?

This question makes me laugh. Because the only thing I would say is “slow the F**k down Chris”. (Excuse my French!)

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a career. We’re placed under so much pressure these days that we forget to stop and smell the roses.

So simply put, the only think I would advise myself on is time. Slow down, the one thing we learn with age is that the journey is where the fun happens. The destination is death so why limit our journey?

Take risks, have fun, work hard and enjoy where life takes you without worrying about ‘what if’!

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Your future workforce

Predicting the future is always a risky business, but it is also a fascinating exercise!

Here’s some data from McCrindle Research that gives us a taste of who you will be dealing with in your workplace soon, if not already. To read the original article, click here.

Gen Z infographic

 

What have you noticed about the generation entering the workforce now?

We’d love to read your observations, so please share them below.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Hiring? Data beats intuition

workplace training

This article comes via Harrison Assessments International. You can read more articles about Harrison Assessments here.

Can an algorithm beat the experts at hiring?

The Scientific American Article: How Data Beats Intuition says,

“When we make selection decisions – whether it is choosing a date, a potential business partner or a job candidate – we try our best to make accurate judgments about the potential of the people we are considering. These decisions, after all, have long-term consequences. A first date could turn into a long-lasting romantic relationship; a potential business partner could be a lifelong colleague; a job candidate could be someone we work with for years to come.

Yet, too often, we find ourselves asking, ‘What went wrong?’ We may have spent a lot of time with the person and conducted multiple interviews and assessments to then realize, a few months later, that the person we chose is just not right. This is no rare event. For instance, data shows that traditional hiring methods produce candidates that meet or exceed the expectations of the hiring manager only 56 percent of the time — about the same result one would get tossing a coin.”

This is a very good article and true according to Harrison Assessment International’s experience and research. The biggest reason that data works better is that there are many factors that relate to job success.

Each of these factors should be systematically weighted and scored. Job interviewers don’t tend to systematically analyze the job and formulate the key factors. In addition, interviewers don’t have a strategic and effective means to measure the factors. Consequently, their subjective judgments will be less effective.

You can see the importance of job analysis by looking at the difference between structured interviews and unstructured interviews. Structured interviews have been proven in nearly every study to be far more effective. The difference is that someone took the time to consider what was important related to the job and base the interview around those factors. This greatly improves the results.

Assessments are a systematic means of weighting and measuring the qualifications and behavioral competencies that relate to job success. However, to be effective, an assessment must be tailored to the job and not simply measuring general factors.

Another important factor is the degree to which an assessment is comprehensive. An effective assessment must weigh and assess all the factors related to job success including education, experience, technical or business skills, interpersonal skills, leadership tendencies, and motivation. There must be a sufficient number of factors measured. Unrelated factors should not be included in the analysis to avoid confusing the recruiter. An effective assessment should also measure engagement and retention issues by assessing employment preferences, task preferences, and interests. Otherwise, the assessment will not be comprehensive. To the degree that the assessment includes all the factors related to job success and only the factors related to success for the specific job is the degree to which it will be effective.

The Harrison Assessment can include strategic mechanisms that identify deception that are far more effective that an interviewer attempting to determine the degree to which a person is telling the truth related to each factor.

If the data is tailored for success in the specific job the results are likely to be more relevant. For example measuring a few general personality factors and allowing the interview to guess at which factors are important for a job is not more effective than a structured interview. The factors measured and the weightings given should be based on performance research rather than guesswork. In that case there is real data and a much greater chance of predicting job success.

BALANCE AT WORK BLOG

Future of Work Conference 2015

At the end of April 2015, I was fortunate enough to attend two days of inspiring sessions at the Future of Work conference

There was so many ideas shared, which I’m sure you will see reflected in future posts on this blog. For now, a summary provided by the organisers, the Centre for Workplace Leadership.

If you’d like to know more, please ask!

In total, there were 367 attendees at the conference, plus 35 speakers, and around 30 staff and volunteers. In the two days of the conference, we managed to fit in 17 sessions, consume 1000 cups of coffee, write thousands of tweets, and the hashtag (#2015FOW) was trending on Twitter.

The conference taught us to get ready for Uber working, identified the key issues facing business, highlighted the need to promote innovation (and throw out our management textbooks), explored what was holding us back as entrepreneurs, and much, much more.

"The last couple of years at batyr has seen incredible growth and the Balance at Work team has supported us along the way. They have helped us improve leadership skills across the team by helping us source and manage mentors, and even engaging as mentors themselves. As a young and fresh CEO Susan has also supported me personally with genuine feedback and fearless advice to achieve great things. "
By Sam Refshauge, CEO, batyr
"We used the Harrison Assessment tools followed by a debrief with Susan, for career development with staff, which then allowed us to work with Susan to create a customised 360 degree review process. Susan has a wealth of knowledge and is able to offer suggestions and solutions for our company. She is always ready to get involved and takes the time to show her clients the capability of Harrison Assessments. "
By Jessica Hill, Head of People and Culture, Choice
"Balance at Work are the ideal external partners for us as they completely get what we are trying achieve in the People and Culture space. Their flexibility and responsiveness to our needs has seen the entire 360 approach being a complete success. The online tool and the follow up coaching sessions have been game changers for our business. The buzz in the organisation is outstanding. Love it! Thanks again for being such a great support crew on this key project."
By Chris Bulmer, National GM Learning and Development, ISS Australia
"We use Harrison Assessments with our clients to support their recruitment processes. We especially value the comprehensive customisable features that allow us to ensure the best possible fit within a company, team and position. Balance at Work is always one phone call away. We appreciate their valuable input and their coaching solutions have also given great support to our clients."
By Benoit Ribe, HR Solutions Manager, Polyglot Group
"The leadership team at Insurance Advisernet engaged Susan from Balance at Work to run our leadership development survey and learning sessions. Susan was very professional in delivering the team and individual strengths and opportunities for growth. Susan's approach was very "non corporate" in style which was refreshing to see. I can't recommend Balance at Work more highly to lead employee and team development sessions."
By Shaun Stanfield, Managing Director, Insurance Advisernet

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