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.


A new way to recruit

You sense the new person you need for your business is ‘out there, somewhere’.  But how do you find them?

While researching an article on new recruitment tools for SMEs, I was talking to our client and friend, Jo Muirhead. Coincidentally, Jo had just posted a new vacancy on Facebook. Instead of a traditional Facebook advertisement, this was a normal post with a link to a page on her website containing a video of Jo talking about the job plus details of how to apply.

This innovative approach has some key benefits

  • Jo started by being crystal clear about what she wanted – and equally clear about what she didn’t want.
  • Facebook is the perfect medium for reaching her target candidates: anyone looking for a part-time PA role in their local area.
  • Using video allows the potential candidates to see Jo and get a real sense of what it might be like working with her, giving them the chance to screen themselves out if they don’t think they’re a good fit.
  • Applicants were asked to include a video of themselves explaining why they think they’re suited to the role. This would require a level of confidence that matches what’s needed to perform well in the role.
  • The post and video leave little room for doubt, saving time on both sides of the recruitment equation.
  • Promoting the role via Facebook is free and Jo’s Facebook friends and followers were able to easily share the job with their connections.

Did it work?

Jo kindly gave me an update this week (4 May):

I had two applicants only, which meant I didn’t need to wade through 100’s of resumes and pay someone to review all that wrong and poor job application information. The video was certainly the test of courage that kept people away.

That being said, both applicants were incredible and if only 1 had applied I would have been more than happy. Having to choose between the two was tough but it came down to skills and teachability.

What do you think?

Would you be willing to give something like this a try?

You can find more tips on using social media in our e-book ‘Successful Recruitment: Transforming Your Business Through Best Practice’.

Perhaps you already have experience using social media in your recruitment process. How has it work for you?



What’s your story? #2: Libby Bleakley

What's your story?

Libby Bleakley is the co-founder and project manager of the Sentru Formasaun Ba Juventude (Centre of Learning for Youth) in Timor-Leste.

Libby recently agreed to share her career story here. Read on to find out how a girl who didn’t like the Police came to build a career as a police officer – and where that career has taken her.

Libby BleakleyWhat’s your current position and what do you do?

I am a Federal Police Officer currently working in Crime Prevention. I had spent 19 years as a NSW Police Officer working in general duties and then specializing in working in child abuse, domestic violence, sexual assault, victim support, youth issues, indigenous issues and crime prevention.

I then joined the Australian Federal Police and spent 6 years in the International Deployment Group – I was posted to the Northern Territoty for 7 months to live and work in a remote Indigenous Coommunity, then to Sudan to work as a peace keeper with the United Nations for 8 months and then to Timor-Leste for 1 year with the United Nations living in the jungle and a further 2 years on the AFP mission teaching in the Timorese Police Academy.

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

No – I didn’t even like Police! I had no real idea what I wanted at school.

What was your first job?

I studied a 2 year Child Care Certificate course at TAFE and taught in pre-schools and early childhood centres for 8 years.

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

I was a victim of a violent assault and was lucky to survive. I wanted to join the Police to make a difference in other victim’s lives and I successfully implemented and co-ordinated the first Victim Support Unit for the NSW Police Service.

Who do you admire? Who has inspired you?

Many people in my life and many people I have crossed paths with all over the world. People with strength of human spirit that survive no matter the adversity. People who genuinely love others and care for them no matter what walks of life they are from.

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

I would open thousands of community centres all over the world – especially in war torn and traumatised countries. I am currently building a youth and community centre in Timor-Leste . This project has been developed to establish a facility for the Timorese youth and community that will develop skills, character and leadership through educational workshops; crime prevention workshops; language courses and fitness training – to build strong social foundations and to prevent crime within the community.

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

Always have respect – but be able to push the boundaries in what you dream and believe in. Be creative and adventurous – surround yourself with positive like minded people and move on from the negative ones. Always have time to look after others on this planet – not matter how small your action may appear to you, it may be life changing to the recipient. Be honest and fair and open minded.

Life is what YOU make it, no matter what you are presented with in your life you have the choice to be a victim or to take control of your own destiny.

But most of all, remember  – “There is no such thing as a bad day. There are only rainy days, sunny days, wet days, cold days but never a bad day” (as told to me by a wonderful old Indigenous Elder).

If you feel inspired by Libby’s story and would like to help her build the first youth and community centre, please email and I’ll be happy to send you more information.


• My 14 months leave from the AFP has come to an end and I return to work on 2 March and I am happy to say that I have achieved everything I set out to do and more during this year in Timor-Leste. I feel confident the Centre will continue to run well under the management and supervision of our staff, Dede and Atisis Da Costa.

• Dede and I spent several days at SOFPOPE and the Ministry of Justice registering our Centre as a Private Centre. We should receive our Certificate within the next 2 months.

H.E Xanana Gusmao and H.E Ilidio Ximenes with Manager Dede and Libby Bleakley

Our Plus Fitness gym was opened on 10 October and we now have 300 members with more than 200 members on a waiting list. We are happy to have several females now attending as well as many rival gang members (Kork, Kerasakti and PSHT), who are working happily together training and forming positive relationships.

Each member of the gym is required to donate 1 hour a week to work as volunteer security on the front gate. All members are responsible for cleaning the gym and gardens at the end of the day. At this stage cleaning is going well but security needs more work, although it has improved with members taking initiative to encourage volunteers.

Our Manager for our Sewing Centre, Silvia has been training Tina and Domingas for the past 4 months and we now have a new member from our English class joining them 2 days a week – they are making DFG kits, gym bags and towels. We do not sell our DFG Kits but we do sell gym items – 50% of money made goes to the individual who made it and 50% to the Centre for ongoing running costs.
I submitted a funding proposal to the Department of Foreign Affairs (Australian Embassy) in relation to funding for our new project on “sustainable kitchen gardens”. Our Manager Dede and I met with Johannah Leay in January, who is looking into funding us $15,000 (yet to be confirmed) to commence the program.
We shall employ the 3 women in our sewing Centre to produce the heavy felt bags – make the organic coffee ground compost on site and grow vegetable seedlings to fill the bags prior to selling them.
We are in the process of extending our front fence of the property giving us an extra 3 metres of land to set up our composting bins.

This past month we were fortunate to have Tammy Chu and Anna Barletta from the Rotary Club of Nth Sydney and the World Computer Exchange (WCE) attend our Centre. The women have been working for the past 12 months on raising funds and putting together 12 laptop computers incorporating English and maths educational modules along with “Jolly Phonics”, used in our English curriculum. They identified our Centre as an ideal recipient that WCE can add significant value to.
WCE is a 15-year global education non-profit organization whose aim is to connect youths in under-privileged communities to the skills, opportunities and understanding of computers that have various education modules, including English and math.
Tammy and Anna worked hard for the week they were in our Centre and we have now successfully started our computer English courses. We will have 3 x 10 week semesters in a 12 month period – Basic English 1,2 and 3. We have a total of 120 students in our English classes that commenced on 6 February, 2017.

Tammy and Anna from WCE (Rotary Nth Sydney)our teachers and Manager
We have continued working with Simon Krieg from the “Centre of Human Development”, who has kindly donated the TESOL courses to us as well as assisting us with the English curriculum and Jolly Phonics modules.
Dede and I attended INDMO this week, which is a National Institute for Labour Force Development – it is the national regulator body who regulates the development of national qualification or national certificates and accreditations. We are seeking to have our English course accredited this year.
We interviewed several applicants for the head English teacher position and decided to employ Gido Feliz for the 24 hrs a week teaching students and supervising our 5 volunteer teachers. We are very happy with his professionalism and teaching skills.

H.E Xanana Gusmao has attended our Centre a few times in the last 2 months. He brought his 3 son’s from Australia to train at our Plus Fitness gym and visited on other occasions. He is so impressed by our members and the fact that rival gangs are making peace and friendships at our facility that he asked us to run an afternoon tea for our members which he assisted in catering for.
Libby Bleakley and Dede Da Costa greet H.E Xanana Gusmao
On Friday afternoon 10 February, we had 250 members attend our afternoon tea catered for by Mana Nina catering. I conducted a fitness and bodybuilding/weight lifting seminar.
The following Ministers were also in attendance –
Minister of Social Solidarity – H.E Isabel Amaral Guterres
Minister of Tourism – H.E Francisco Calbuadi Lay
Minister of Defence – H.E Sirilio Cristavao
Minister of interior – H.E Longinos Monteiro
Secretary State SOFPOPE – H.E Ilidio Ximenes
Vice Minister Administration and Statal – H.E Tomas Cabral
National TV and Educational TV (National) also came to film the event – airing it on both channels as news headlines.
H.E Xanana Gusmao and H.E Ilidio Ximenes spoke at length to Dede and I in relation to us building 2 more Centres in Timor-Leste as ours is so successful.

MEDIA – Timor Learning Centre FB page
In January we were so fortunate to have a film production company from New York attend our Centre. 3 wonderful film producers were touring the world making humanitarian films about “the gift of giving” and chose our Centre to make a promotional film to assist us in raising funds. His Excellencies Xanana Gusmao and Ilidio Ximenes were also in attendance. The film will be in virtual reality and people all over the world can view it on their smart phones when they download the free apt. This will be available sometime later this year.

FINANCES – The WCE women, Tammy and Anna raised enough funds to not only install our 12 laptops and systems but to also pay for a permanent teacher for our English class for 1 year, with extra funds for stationery etc.

Although we have now paid our lease until January 2018, we still require more funds for the ongoing running costs each year (approx. $30,000 AUD)

We are currently in the process of designing our small traditional house that shall be our library room (Dede our Centre Manager is also an architect). We shall then source some quotes and concentrate on fundraising early next year.


It is evident that we have the total support of H.E Xanana Gusmao, H.E Ilidio Ximenes and many other Government Ministers that support our Centre. They have been impressed that this was created by 2 off duty AFP women with the help of Rotary, family, friends and other companies and groups. They have stated that it is definitely the first of its kind in Timor-leste and has already proved to be a success – changing communities and decreasing violence.

I am proud to say that in the next 2 years we should see 2 more Centres emerge within this Nation and I would like to take the opportunity to say a huge thank you to all of those people who have made our dream for Timor-Leste come true. Please don’t forget us as we continue our quest to support the beautiful communities in this country.

Although I return to the AFP to continue my work on 1 March, 2017 my intention is to continue to travel to Timor-Leste and work at our Centre for a month every few months. I liaise most days with our Centre Manager and receive weekly reports from him, allowing me to be informed of our Centre activities.

I have been personally invited by H.E Xanana Gusmao to assist him in showing our virtual reality film in Timor Plaza on 20 May and shall return around this time.

Libby Bleakley
Rotary Club of Blackheath
District 9685 Australia
Sentru Formasaun Ba Juventude no Comunidade
Centre of Learning for Youth & Community
RAWCS Project: 33-2014-15
Phone: +61411032961


The one question you should be asking your staff

“At work, do you have an opportunity to do what you do best, every day?”

Gallup has asked this question of more than 1.7 million employees in 100 companies from 65 countries. Rather disappointingly, only 20% felt that their unique strengths were being used every day at work. Even more shockingly, the longer an employee stays in an organisation, the less likely they are to feel they get to apply their strengths. 

What does this mean for you?

Top performers in any organisation are those who get to do more of the things they enjoy and less of the things they don’t. This is so obvious, we sometimes miss the need to be more proactive in making sure all employees have the opportunity to experience more of the joy of using their natural talents at work.

If we are serious about improving productivity and performance, we need to be asking how we can be improving the number of people who can answer ‘yes’ to the question above.


The link between enjoyment and performance

Enjoyment and performance are linked because the level of enjoyment an employee has while performing a particular activity is directly related to the level of their performance in that activity.

When people enjoy a task, they tend to do it more and get better at it. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, good performance creates acknowledgment and positive self-regard which then causes people to enjoy the task even more. And so on…

This elegantly simple concept underlies everything we do with Harrison Assessments. Most behavioural and personality assessments fail to measure work satisfaction and are therefore limited to predicting personality, whereas Harrison Assessments go beyond personality to identify a wide range of traits linked to job fit and performance.

The link between enjoyment and engagement

Engagement survey after engagement survey tell us that employees in many workplaces are feeling they are lacking a connection with their jobs and their organisations. If this is happening in your organisation, go back to this single, simple question:

“At work, do you have an opportunity to do what you do best, every day?”

When you take the time to listen to the answers and understand how you can change your results, you’ve taken a big step to realising the full potential of your business.

Download ‘Engagement is a Shared Responsibility’ Whitepaper


Career Reality check: TV Presenter

Do you know someone who thinks they’ve got what it takes to make it on television?

If you think they haven’t quite grasped what it would really be like to do that job, perhaps you could try showing them these tweets:


Traps for young (and old) players

Killing the business you love

At the moment I’m helping a small business with a recruitment campaign. (This is another way we use Harrison Assessments.)

In the process, I’ve been reminded of some of the dumb things people do that make it much harder for them to get a job. Here are just a few I’ve noticed this week. Please feel free to add to my list by commenting below.

1. Not selling yourself in your cover letter or resume

It’s astounding how many CVs come through where the employment history is simply a list of duties in each role. A potential employer doesn’t want to know what you were supposed to do, they want to know what you actually achieved. So tell them!  And if you don’t have a long work history, tell us about other things you’ve done that are relevant and demonstrate why we should interview you.

2. Applying for jobs for which you’re clearly not qualified

If you don’t think you’re a perfect fit, then don’t waste your time, or anyone else’s, by applying. Do you expect an employer or recruiter to see some hidden quality or potential you haven’t been able to identify yourself? Of course they won’t! That’s not their job, it’s yours.

3. Making life hard for the person reading your CV

Employer have lots to read and they don’t want to work to find the information they need. If you think your story is worth 9 pages, you’re probably wrong. Would you read more than 5 pages about someone you don’t know, just because that’s what they sent you? Probably not! Keep it concise and clear if you want it to be read.

4. Using a novelty email address

There is no excuse for having an email address like You will not look professional (or cute). You will look like someone who doesn’t think it’s worth getting a proper email address for job applications. You may think you shouldn’t be judged on something so trivial but I guarantee you will be.

5. Being rude or condescending to staff

Yesterday we were about to let a candidate know he’d been short-listed. Being proactive, he called us first, to follow up on his application lodged late last week. On the face of it, this was a good thing.

Unfortunately, he spoke in such a condescending tone to the person taking his message that we decided to remove him from the short list. This probably sounds harsh, but if he had been successful in getting the job he would be managing staff and dealing directly with clients so we weren’t prepared to take the risk. Mind your manners, even when you think it doesn’t matter.

Are you being your own worst enemy?

It’s not easy being unemployed (I’ve been there) and it’s not easy applying for job after job. So it really disappoints me when applicants make it even harder for themselves. What unnecessary hurdles are you creating?

For more tips on job applications, get a copy of ‘It’s Not Just a Job It’s Your Career’ and download our free ‘Career Strategy Toolkit’.

And if you’re currently sitting on the other side of the table ‘Successful Recruitment’ can definitely help!


What’s your story? #1: Dr Howard Bell

What's your story?

The first volunteer in our interview chair is Dr Howard Bell OAM, Principal Solicitor at WorkCover NSW.

When I first met Howard Bell, he was my boss and we were working in the chemistry department at the University of Sydney. That was 35 years ago and a lot has happened since then! We hope you enjoy reading his story.

Howard BellWhat’s your current position and what do you do?

Principal Lawyer at WorkCover. It’s the best job in the world. I love it because it helps to build a safer and healthier New South Wales. WorkCover, as a regulator administers the State’s work health and safety laws. We provide legal services to WorkCover and also other agencies within Safety, Return to Work and Support. I am also an elected Health and Safety Representative.

What other activities are you involved in?

I am also a part-time officer in the Australian Army Reserve where I have been an instructor, project officer, company commander, the Executive Officer of  University Regiment and had lots of interesting and rewarding roles in the Reserves, including having deployed overseas peace keeping in East Timor. I have, addition  been a part time teacher at TAFE NSW and taught at various universities – most recently at Charles Sturt supervising post graduate doctoral students. I have also enjoyed an active volunteering life with community organisations including Amnesty International, the St Vincent de Paul Society, Cana Communities, music and folk festivals, the trade union movement and other great organisations that strive to make the world a better place especially for battlers,  the homeless community and people who need help with their struggles.

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

No. When I was at school I wanted to go out and become the world’s greatest chemist – but a later interest in Law and social justice led me towards my current career choices.

What was your first job?

Laboratory assistant and landscape gardener.

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

Becoming a dad. And becoming a grandad. These events have inspired me especially.

Who do you admire? Who has inspired you?

My children and grand-children. And people who follow their hearts and pursue their dreams. And people who live to love, to be happy, to build peace and kindness in the world.

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

I would build 105,000 homes across Australia so that all our homeless Australians would have a safe, loving and happy home in which to live.

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

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams” (Eleanor Roosevelt). And the world is your oyster.

Do you know someone whose career story belongs in our ‘What’s your story?’ series? Please let us know!


When negotiating, who should make the first offer?


Originally published on The Conversation 10 March 2015

By Matthew Shepherd, University of Technology, Sydney

We all negotiate every day. Whether you’re discussing dinner options, seeking a pay rise or striking an international business deal, most of our daily interactions with each other involve joint decision-making.

A fundamental issue in any negotiation is who should make the first offer. What does the psychological research and negotiation theory say?

Opening offers matter

Let’s say your next door neighbour, Kath, announces she is moving to New York. She has to get rid of her 1973 yellow Chrysler Valiant Charger, which you have secretly envied for years. You check, where prices for similar era Chargers range between $17,000 and $100,000. Should you make Kim an offer or instead ask what she wants for it?

Professors Max Bazerman and Margaret Neale of Northwestern University, Illinois, say in their classic text Negotiating Rationally that “final agreements are more strongly influenced by the first offer than by any subsequent behaviour of the parties particularly when issues under consideration are of uncertain or ambiguous value.”

High opening demands lead, on average, to more favourable outcomes than moderate opening demands. Why is this?

An initial offer is an anchor around which the subsequent negotiations pivot. The other party responds to the anchor by suggesting an adjustment to it, thereby giving the anchor credibility. The tendency is to insufficiently adjust away from the anchor set by the opening offer.

German social psychologist Thomas Mussweiler researches how people’s comparisons of options influence decision making. He says that negotiations “typically involve a great deal of uncertainty on both sides.” It is difficult to assess the intrinsic value of something and we instead use the most immediately available information – such as the other side’s opening offer – to consider a response.

Behavioural economist Professor Dan Ariely of Duke University, author of Predictably Irrational, offered products such as computer accessories, wine and books to the subjects of a 2003 experiment. Each subject was first asked if they were willing to pay a price determined by the last two digits of their social security number. The subjects were then asked the maximum price they were prepared to pay. Subjects with above-median social security numbers were prepared to pay amounts over 57% more than subjects with below median numbers. The anchors (the subjects’ social security numbers) were totally random but still affected the price the subjects were prepared to pay.

Why do humans make irrational decisions?

Prime time

The anchoring process also applies in non-monetary assessments. In another study conducted by Mussweiler, participants were asked about Mahatma Gandhi’s age at his death. One group was asked if Gandhi was 140 years at death and another group if he was nine. All members of both groups correctly indicated he was neither age. They were then asked how old he actually was when he died. The group who were initially asked if he was 140 gave estimates which, on average, were 17 years older the estimates of the second group. The subjects used the initial ludicrous suggested ages as anchors from which they adjusted (Gandhi was aged 78 when he was assassinated in 1948). Nobel Prize winning economist Daniel Kahneman describes this as a “priming” process by which the subjects search their minds for information as to Gandhi’s real age which is consistent with the suggested ages.

How to handle the anchoring effect

First, consider if it is a single issue negotiation – like buying Kath’s Charger – or a multi-issue negotiation.

In single issue negotiations, as a general rule, negotiators should utilise the anchoring effect by making the first offer. Care needs to be taken to not make the first offer so high or low as to be in the “insult zone”. The tendency of the other person to walk away will partially depend on what alternatives they may have. The less acceptable their alternatives, the more aggressively you can pitch the first offer.

How to deal with Kath’s news that she needs to sell the Charger? One option is to prime Kath by offering $5000. The anchoring effect suggests that Kath will calculate a counter-offer by adjusting away from $5000.

Knowledge is power

Making the first offer, however, can be a mistake when you lack information about the real value of the subject of the negotiation – both to yourself and to the other party. How would you feel if Kath immediately accepts your offer of $5000? Perhaps the car is a lemon, or Kath would have accepted a lower price just to offload the car before it is due for reregistration and reinsurance next week.

If you do not have any information as to the real value of the car to Kath, do not make the first offer. Instead, ask her what she wants for it. Perhaps she says $200,000. Remember the anchoring effect and consciously resist using $200,000 as an anchor from which you just adjust. You could try to set another anchor of $5000 but Kath may walk. Another option is to not make a counter offer but ask about Kath’s reasoning in offering $200,000. You might be able to point out alternative information or factors to cause Kath to adjust her anchor before you even need to make a counter-offer. You might learn information about her real needs.

In multi-issue negotiations, it is harder to construct a single anchoring price. Consider beforehand what the relative value of each issue is to each party. You can trade off one issue (of lesser value to you but greater value to the other party) for an issue of greater value to you. Separate anchor points could be used for each of the separate issues. Consider making a number of alternative offers at the same time. Multiple offers utilise the anchoring effect whilst also appearing to be flexible. The different reaction of the other party to each alternative can be useful information in ascertaining how they prioritise the different issues.

Ask yourself: how much do I really need the deal? Where else can I satisfy my needs? And don’t forget, there are plenty of other yellow Chrysler Valiant Chargers out there.

The Conversation

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


How to make the most of your 360 degree feedback reviews


In the process of assisting clients with 360 degree feedback surveys, we are often asked ‘What comes next?’. The three videos below explain simply how to get real results from any feedback survey.

The Real Goal of the Feedback Review

Using the ‘5 Whys’

Make Sure Employees Take Action

Have your say…

What has worked well for you? Do you have any other suggestions for making feedback more effective? Let us know in the comments below.




Australia’s vocational training system continues to deliver jobs

NCVER media release  ·  3 December 2014

The results are in for Australia’s major survey of students for rating the nation’s vocational education and training (VET) system. It shows 77.6% of graduates are employed after training, with those employed full-time earning on average $57 400 per year. Those who train as part of a trade apprenticeship or traineeship fare particularly well with 91.4% employed after completion.

Published by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), Student outcomes 2014 provides information on VET students’ employment outcomes, and satisfaction with their training.

The survey also identifies the benefits for VET graduates:

  • 72.5% of those employed after training gained at least one job-related benefit resulting from their training.
  • 59.7% improved their employment status after training.
  • 44.4% of those that weren’t employed before training are employed after.
  • 14.8% of those who already had a job are employed at a higher level after training.

The results are positive for student satisfaction. 87.6% of graduates are satisfied with the overall quality of their training, and 90.2% would recommend their training provider.  While 77.9% of graduates find their training relevant to their current job.

All data in Student outcomes 2014 is derived from the Student Outcomes Survey which is conducted in the first half of each year on behalf of Australian, state and territory governments.

Over 42 000 students who completed their training with government funding or with a government supported VET provider in 2013 participated in the survey.

Copies of Australian vocational education and training statistics: Student outcomes 2014 are available from


Back to basics: Work environment matters

Visits to several different workplaces during ‘Sydney Open‘ started me thinking about how the place we work – the physical surroundings – can have a big impact on our enjoyment and therefore our performance.

I know you’ve thought about this before and you know how you’re affected by where you are.

But when you’re advising people on their future careers, do you always give the potential work environment the attention it deserves?

Of course, it’s easy to assume certain environments for certain professions, industries or jobs. We know that usually a finance worker will be working indoors, for example. But as workplaces change, so do the factors that impact job fit.

Banking and related roles are a good example. The photo below was taken inside 50 Martin Place, once the Commonwealth Bank (yes, the money box building) and now the global headquarters of Macquarie Bank. In the past, we might have safely assumed that this type of work would be carried out in a relatively quiet, calm and contained environment.

I wonder what it’s like to work on one of these open floors?

2014-11-02 14.42.55

(The ‘industrial chic’ trend has me wondering if in 150 years’ time people will be pondering our primitive ‘workhouses’ of the information age. What do you think?)

How has the work environment changed for you since you started your career?

Has it changed in ways that enhance your enjoyment of the tasks you need to complete, or the opposite?

Could you have predicted the changes when you started in this career?

To get the full picture of how a person will ‘fit’ a particular type of work, we need to know exactly how the work environment will be. And we also need to know what will suit them.

There is no point in matching a person to a job or career on the basis of all the great stuff like values, personality, motivation and skills, if we are putting them into an environment they will ultimately find intolerable because of basic physical factors that can’t or won’t be adjusted to suit them.

How thoroughly do you check on environmental factors before you start a new job or advise others on their careers?

Can we assume too much about the potential workplace – and about the preferences of the individual?

We have all met people who – through just not knowing – aim for a role that is completely unsuitable because of the work environment. Finding this out early on can save a lot of heartache. I recently met a man with a young family who had decided he wanted to be a train driver – and was prepared to give up a job in an IT company – but hadn’t considered the reality of shiftwork, commuting and being alone on the job. (He also wanted to get out of IT because he thought his workplace was too political. I recommended he do some more research before joining the railways!)

My guess is that most people reading this will know their work will be mostly indoors, but even there the variations can be immense. Consider things such as noise levels, standing or sitting all day, the need to travel for work.

Knowing what you and your clients or staff prefer is a key factor in career engagement that may be easily overlooked due to the assumptions we make. Unlike other assessments, Harrison Assessments do not assume, they measure. Here’ are some of the work environment factors included in the questionnaire and reports:

  • Noise
  • Driving
  • Sitting
  • Outdoors
  • Travel

Contact us if you’d like us to send you a full list of the traits we can measure.

As usual, I’d love to hear your feedback on this post. Please share your stories below how you’ve notices work environment having an impact on engagement and performance.


"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