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  1. Active v passive job candidates: what’s the deal?

    November 30, 2016 by Alison Hill

    Truth or fiction? When you are looking to fill a position you should look for a passive candidate – somebody who is not looking for a new opportunity – because they will be better at their job. Or you should always fill the position with a person who is actively looking for a job because they will be more motivated, ambitious and ready to make a move.

    Many hiring managers and recruiters have passionately held opinions about whether active or passive candidates are best, so we thought we would look at the arguments. Is one ‘better’ than the other? As with most endeavours that combine art and science, as recruiting does, the conclusion seems to be ‘it depends’.

    Here are the rather simplistic arguments made for preferring either active or passive candidates. You can probably come up with a counter-argument for each of them. For a start, active candidate does not mean unemployed candidate; passive candidates are not all uninterested in pursuing an opportunity if the circumstances are right.

    They say you should employ an active candidate because…

    Recruiting them is easier. They are easy to find and ready to start when you need them. Easier and available also means less expensive.

    People who actively look at job opportunities are younger and better educated. Research for Indeed by Harris Polling in the US in 2015 showed that those who ever looked at job opportunities were mostly between 18 and 44, and graduates.

    They are actively looking for a challenge. They are more likely to want to move on because they want to learn, work in a larger organisation or earn more, and an ambitious candidate is more likely to succeed.

    They say you should employ a passive candidate because…

    You won’t have to compete with other employers to get them to work for you. You know that they are not sending out resumes and attending interviews, so negotiating with them will be straightforward. Most likely, you will not have to compete with other offers.

    They won’t inflate their skills or qualifications in their resume. There is no need for them to exaggerate their accomplishments or overstate their education and training, as they are not putting themselves out there.

    They will be loyal and stable employees. If they are not looking, they are engaged and happy in their job, making it more likely that they are a good team player and an all-round great employee.


    None of these arguments stand up under any real inspection. An active candidate might be leaving due to a poor performance review. They might be job-hopping and take any opportunity until the right one comes along, leaving you to repeat the recruitment process not too far down the line. A passive candidate may be a great fit with their current organisation, but a lousy fit with yours, or be hard to convince to consider your organisation, take up days of your time, and then ultimately say no – proving to be no less of a gamble than an active candidate.

    Other models have come up with the idea that there are four categories of active/passive candidates, or a continuum. LinkedIn reports that its 2014 research found that 75% of full time workers internationally consider themselves passive candidates, and about 15% aren’t actually applying for jobs but are preparing to move.


    To find, recruit and hire the best candidate for a particular role is ultimately what is important. Understanding that active and passive candidates are different, motivated and attracted in different ways, means that a single recruitment strategy is unlikely to work for all potential employees out there, ranging from 100% active to 100% passive. Active candidates can be reached through job boards, advertising and a good website; to an extent, they will come looking for you. Passive candidates are harder to reach, and you must go out and find them, wherever it may be, from social media to networking events and referrals.

    In the end, these sure-fire ways to attract both active and passive candidates should be the bedrock of your recruitment strategy:

    • Promote your organisation as a great place to work (and making sure it is one).
    • Run an employee referral program, particularly to connect with passive candidates.
    • Offer video interviews (e.g. Skype), after-hours interview times and flexible, discreet arrangements for discussing the position.
    • Use an executive search practitioner to be on the lookout for senior staff.
    • Create a fast and agile recruiting processes so that good candidates don’t withdraw in frustration.
    • Work with a recruiter who will maximise your sourcing capability and ensure the process keeps moving.

  2. How to create an elevator pitch that takes you to the top

    November 22, 2016 by Alison Hill

    ‘What do you do for a living?’ ‘So, what’s your business all about?’ ‘Tell me about yourself.’ If you’ve ever stumbled over a response to these enquiries, you need to craft yourself an elevator pitch.

    It’s called an elevator pitch because it should take no longer to deliver than the trip in the lift (or elevator, as they say over there) ­from the ground floor to the boardroom ­– about 30 seconds or so.

    In essence, your elevator pitch is a brief, interesting statement about who you are and what you do that makes the recipient care and want to know more. Whatever your purpose, the steps to take to create your elevator pitch are the same.

    Define your goal

    Why do you want to tell people about yourself or your organisation? You might want to make a career move, explain your start-up idea or sell your organisation as a great place to work. You might want to pitch a great idea to an exec, meet like-minded people at a networking event or create interest in your new product. Being clear about what you want to achieve is the first step, because it will shape what you say in your pitch.

    Explain what you do

    This is the simple, most obvious part. ‘My company handles corporate insurance’, or ‘I am a social worker and I work with young people with a disability ’. However, this is only the start. The more interesting part comes next.

    TIP: Don’t use jargon or excessively bureaucratic language. You run the risk of sounding insincere, or of your audience not understanding what it is you do at the end of it.

    Explain how you do it

    To stand out from the other insurers, or social workers, or whatever it is you do – because you will most likely never be the only one – include your ‘unique selling proposition’ or USP, to use some advertising jargon. What makes you different? What is your story about why you do what you do, and how do you do it in a way that makes you unique? This is what will make your audience remember you, so include it in your pitch in a way that is memorable.

    Use words such as ‘I have a knack for…’ or ‘I’m an effective…’ in your USP. They convey your ability and self-confidence without sounding conceited (yes, many of us struggle with that).

    Engage the recipient with a question

    At the end of your 30 or so seconds, have an open-ended question ready for the other person, such as ‘How does that relate to what you do?’ Your pitch can then move into conversation mode. (Unless you really are in a lift, in which case stop there.)

    TIP: Keep some business cards readily accessible so that you can hand them to the person at the end of your pitch or conversation.

    Practise your pitch until it is perfect

    You might well feel a little awkward, but practise saying your pitch out loud. Do it several times over. Time it, and perhaps even record yourself, and make sure it is not too loud. Say it to another person who will give you honest feedback about both your content and your delivery.

    TIP: Be natural in your speech patterns and in the words you choose. Your elevator pitch should be an authentic representation of you. Watch your body language – make sure it reflects what you are saying. Telling people how compassionate you are in a stilted voice with your arms folded will not come across as convincing.

    This is a real example of a suggested pitch: ‘I’m currently working as Human Resources Manager at [insert company]. My supervisors frequently commend me for being able to weigh and consider multiple perspectives and negotiate conflicting perspectives.’ Would you really speak that way? If you would, that’s fine, but if not, rather say something like  ‘My bosses often tell me I’m good at weighing and considering a lot of perspectives  and negotiating in conflicts’.

    Be prepared to tweak your elevator pitch both for the occasion and as your skills and experience evolve. At the end of it, the listener should have a really clear idea of the value you can deliver. Perhaps most importantly, your fire and excitement as you deliver it should be obvious, and infectious. It could just be the 30 seconds that changes your life.

  3. Resilience: not just bouncing back, but bouncing forward

    November 15, 2016 by Alison Hill

    Nothing could be more important than education, experience and training in determining who succeeds, right? Wrong. It turns out that the quality of resilience – the ability to rise above and bounce forward from adversity – is the biggest factor determining success and failure. 

    Josie Thomson, coach, presenter and change leadership expert, explains that when we are faced with adversity, some of us adapt and transform while others do not. If we are able to bounce forward when we have been challenged, we will grow our resilience and increase our chances of success. We can learn to build resilience by using adverse experiences as stepping stones for the future.

    ‘We determine whether an  experience makes us bitter or better’, says Thomson.

    So how can we build the resilience that will make us successful in work and in life? Thomson drew on her own experience as a two-time cancer survivor and on her masters degree in neuroscience to create a strategy involving two things not to do and five things to do to build resilience.

    HOW TO BOUNCE FORWARD: What not to do

    DON’T immediately express your feelings or react just because you feel something. Allowing ourselves to experience the emotion, but not to ‘vent’, builds resilience. We are unlikely to learn a positive lesson if we react in the moment; in fact, we are likely to make the situation worse.  If a colleague is dragging their heels on completing part of a project or your manager is not explaining a vital part of a piece of work clearly, it’s tempting to express your irritation – but that doesn’t mean you should.

    DON’T suppress the feeling either. Doing so elicits the ‘fight or flight’ response in the brain. If you walk into a meeting feeling angry, and a colleague says, ‘how are you?’, instead of answering ‘fine’ when clearly you are not, and this becomes obvious to everybody in the meeting, it is better to say, ‘not too good thanks, but I’m not going to talk about it now’.  Suppressing feelings can cause us to ‘argue with reality’, explains Thomson, and that leads us to suffer rather than to bounce back.

    HOW TO BOUNCE FORWARD: Five things you should do

    You didn’t get the promotion you really wanted, and you want to crawl under your desk in despair. You were depending on a colleague to give you this month’s figures, and they’re not ready for your meeting in 10 minutes time. What would a resilient person do? How can you learn from these apparent disasters?  Here are Thomson’s five tips for what you should do in a situation that threatens to derail you.

    1. Name the feeling. Thomson explains that the brain finds certainty when you label the feeling: ‘I’m frustrated’, for example. This allows you to move on. She warns against rumination, however, stressing that you should name the feeling and then move on.

    2. Reappraise the threatening situation. How we assess a negative event depends a lot on our ‘hard wiring’, which in turn is based on our experience. But, says Thomson, this is not the complete picture; it is only a version of reality based on what you know. ‘Step back and see the whole picture’, she suggests, ‘and ask how you can see this as an opportunity and not a threat.’ For example, if you didn’t get a position you applied for; rather than seeing this as a failure, reappraise it and see it as a step in the right direction that allowed you to practice your interview skills.

    3. Distance yourself. Take a break and put some distance between you and the trigger, and do something to distract yourself, such as going for a short walk. ‘Do something that is both good to you and good for you’, advises Thomson. ‘If it’s a big trigger, observe the 24-hour rule – sleep on it’, she counsels. This gives the ‘threat response’ in your brain and nervous system time to damp down.

    4. Practice calming techniques and mindfulness. Once the preserve of hemp-clad hippies with a penchant for chanting, mindfulness and meditation are becoming more and more mainstream. With good reason – they are scientifically proven to work in reducing stress and anxiety. There are many apps and websites that offer mindfulness meditation instructions and exercises, including Josie Thomson’s own site and Headspace, which offers a free 10-day trial of its app.

    5. Show gratitude and appreciation. Appreciating what we have trains our brain to look for positive messages in everything, a fundamental ingredient for resilience. This can be hard, as it seem our brains are inherently biased towards the negative and being grateful means we are working against our hard-wiring. When we learn to acknowledge this and move on, Thomson says, we can begin to be grateful. ‘ Happy people are not necessarily grateful’, she explains, ‘but grateful people are certainly happier.’

    Josie Thomson’s final message about resilience is this: ‘Pain in life is inevitable. It’s how we learn and grow. Suffering is optional, while growth is intentional.’


  4. You have six seconds to make an impact with your résumé. Here’s how

    November 8, 2016 by Alison Hill

    By Alison Hill

    The world of work is changing fast, and the recruitment process is changing with it. A few years back, we reported that employers filter out 90 per cent of all résumés they receive in about 10 seconds. Now new research shows us that recruiters spend only six seconds reviewing an individual résumé. Here’s how to make your résumé grab a recruiter’s attention in this very short time.

    1. An organised layout is essential

    With so little time to make an impact, organising your information clearly is the number one priority. Most recruiters will scan the top third of the page when looking at a résumé, so make sure this area presents a snapshot of your best self. Outline what you can offer in specific terms – your ‘elevator pitch’ – rather than writing about your own career objectives.  Tell the recruiter what you are good at and what you love doing, and explain why you’re qualified to do it. Then summarise your core competencies, using active words such as ‘managed’, ‘initiated’ and ‘exceeded’. Your professional experience is best summarised in bullet points that draw the reader’s eye. One recruiter explained this as ‘bullet point equals bragging point’.

    1. Customise your résumé for each job application

    You may be qualified for a range of positions or be interested in different career options, but a one-size-fits-all approach will generally fit nobody very well. Customise your résumé just as you would your cover letter (please say you do that, don’t you?) so that the information you send is targeted and specific, leaving out everything that is irrelevant to the job description and skills and attributes the employer is looking for. Make sure all information you include is objective fact, rather than your own opinion of yourself. Recruiters want to see what you have done to demonstrate the traits that are important to them. Your opinion that you are a ‘great leader’ doesn’t count – tell the recruiter that your team exceeded its targets and was recognised as the best performing team in the business.

    1. Pay attention to how you write and who you are writing for

    Recruiters read hundreds and hundreds of résumés, so put yourself in their position. The same tired clichés and well-worn phrases are not going to capture their attention, no matter how much they really do apply to you. You’re a ‘hard worker’? Sure you are, but don’t use those words; instead, show that you have met every deadline even when it meant sometimes staying back to do so. We’re all ‘team players’ these days, so find a fresh and original way to express how you pitched in to meet a collective goal even when it wasn’t strictly your job to do so.

    1. Check and re-check your final draft for errors

    Being a good communicator is an almost universal requirement in the workplace today. Don’t undermine your claim to meet this prerequisite by overlooking spelling errors, typos and grammatical mistakes in your résumé. Many recruiters for professional organisations will discard a résumé at the first spelling mistake. Also make sure all your dates and facts add up, and absolutely never, never make up qualifications or positions held (it happens, even the CEO of Yahoo lied about the details of his degree). After all, if you can’t get this important document right, what are the chances your reports will be readable or your instructions clear to others? Have a professional proofreader, or at least somebody with considerable writing experience, read your final draft for errors.

    Using a professional résumé writing service can be helpful. Challenge People Services’ professional consultants with extensive recruitment experience can work with you to ensure your résumé showcases your skills, experience and background and is designed to deliver results.

    See more about our résumé writing service at Challenge People Services.

  5. You can’t ask that! Or can you? Questions to pose and avoid in an interview

    November 1, 2016 by Alison Hill

    When hiring managers interview a candidate for a role, there are plenty of questions they should NOT ask. Some are unhelpful (like the perennial ‘What is your greatest weakness?) and others are just silly (‘Are you more of a hunter or a gatherer?’ – yes, that was an actual question asked by a big tech company). Others are breaking the law because they are discriminatory, being irrelevant to the person’s ability to do the job. Here are some questions that may not be asked – and a couple that may – in line with federal and state anti-discrimination laws.

    Employers may not discriminate on the basis of race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion, national extraction, social origin, age, medical record, marital or relationship status, impairment, mental, intellectual or psychiatric disability, physical disability, pregnancy, nationality, sexual orientation or trade union activity, writes Nathan Luke of law firm Stacks.

    If employers may not discriminate when hiring, it stands to reason that if they were to ask questions about these matters and a candidate did not get a position, he or she could argue that asking the question was discriminatory. The Australian Human Rights commission or a state-based anti-discrimination board would consider a complaint from the candidate.

    ‘Even if the applicant cannot prove that the answer they gave to your question is the reason they didn’t get the job, they will still have a valid complaint on the basis that you asked the question. Insisting that you simply gave the job to another candidate who was more suitable will not help in your defence’, writes Luke.

    Some attributes are plain to see and no questions need to be asked. A racist interviewer can see immediately if a candidate is of a race or background they reject. Somebody who wants to employ a strong-looking 25-year-old man can rule out others without asking questions. The law cannot entirely protect against bias, conscious or unconscious. But generally, if the answer is irrelevant to the person’s ability to do the job, don’t ask the question in any form.


    How old are you?

    While we are generally well aware of gender and race discrimination, age discrimination is still prevalent, with assumptions that older people have fewer tech skills and are more inflexible (tell that to Bill Gates).

    Are you married? Are you gay? Do you have children?

    You can’t rule a person in our out of a position because of their relationship status or family situation, so don’t ask the question. If you do, the candidate is entitled to assume you placed weight on the answer in making your decision.

    Are you pregnant?

    Making assumptions about a pregnant woman’s ability to do her job is not only unwise, it could be considered discrimination. Sure, it’s difficult to think you may hire a person only to have her take extended leave a few months later, but if she is a good fit for your business hiring her is worthwhile in the long run.


    Religious organisations, including religious schools, are exempt from anti-discrimination laws in a range of defined circumstances. The discrimination must be in line with its doctrines, beliefs or principles, and must be reasonably necessary to not offend its followers. So a religious school may ask candidates about their religion and sexual orientation, for example.

    It is legal to ask candidates if they smoke, and to undergo a medical check as a condition of employment. It’s isn’t strictly illegal to ask a candidate at an interview if they have a criminal record, but it’s not the best way to discover this information. Have the recruiter or HR department run a background check if necessary. In general, if the conviction is relevant to the person’s job then it is not discriminatory to ask. So a person interviewing a candidate for a position as a driver is entitled to ask about convictions for driving offences.

    As with most laws, there are exceptions. When a particular attribute may be relevant to the inherent nature of the job, an interviewer may ask a question that would otherwise be discriminatory. An interviewer may ask about disability if it would affect the person’s ability to do the job, such as when filling a job that may involve danger to themself or the public. Asking about physical disability may be relevant for a job as a tree lopper or an ambulance driver, for example, but not for a call centre operator.

    When interviewing candidates, the best course of action is to approach the process with an open mind and treat all candidates fairly. Becoming aware of your unconscious biases and not acting on your conscious ones is not only legally essential, it also might lead you to a star candidate you would otherwise have overlooked. There is plenty of evidence that diverse workplaces perform better, too. That, however, is the topic for another post.


  6. Why you should take stock of your transferable skills

    October 18, 2016 by Alison Hill

    It was heartbreaking to read about the despair some workers felt when car makers closed down their factories earlier this month. Workers were on average 50 years old, had spent 20 years working for one company, and felt they did not have the skills to find work elsewhere.

    While it is true that manufacturing in Australia is in decline, everybody has transferable skills – those that are developed across the lifespan in both work and non-work settings. Being able to use those skills in a different setting can open up a host of job opportunities, but first you must identify them and value them as much as a prospective employer might.

    You definitely have transferable skills

    Doing any job involves many skills over and above those required to accomplish core tasks, and some skills are useful in almost every job.  Skills are different to attributes, and the good news is that you can learn and develop them. You may have acquired transferable skills by participating in the health and safety committee in your office, or by being a member of a social committee. Putting on a great Christmas party, for example, could help you into a career in events if you are able to connect the skills you learnt to an employer’s requirements.

    Outside of work, you may have played a sport, or belonged to a school or community organisation, or be involved in a hobby. These will have given you transferable skills that you can bring to the workplace in a new role. Anybody who has kids will know that being a parent teaches many skills, such as patience, perseverance, and negotiation, to name just three. A parent returning to the workforce can name these skills to increase their likelihood of success.

    Some things you might have learnt to do, such as fixing a computer or coding your own website, are technical skills, while others are ‘soft’ skills that will always be in demand, like the ability to communicate well, delegate tasks or resolve conflicts. Whether you have learnt these on the job in another workplace or in your non-working life, they are valuable skills that will give you the edge in any job application.

    Why transferable skills matter

    Your set of transferable skills will help you in different ways at different points in your career. When you are starting out, your time as netball captain or bass player in a band can show your prospective employer that you have good team skills and can co-operate with others. Your part-time job in a supermarket demonstrates that you know about customer service, and even the hours spent playing DOTA will have taught you about teamwork and cooperation.

    For those who are looking to change careers, transferable skills are crucial. Being able to research and analyse, for example, transfers well from an academic job to a range of roles in a commercial enterprise.

    Anybody re-entering the workforce after a break will need to call on their transferable skills as many occupation-based skills will have become obsolete. Even if all the organisation’s billing is now automated or outsourced, the ability to work magic with a spreadsheet still has a range of applications.

    What are your transferable skills?

    Take some time to make a list of your transferable skills and how they can be helpful to you in your future career. Do you know a second or a third language? That can be a huge advantage in today’s globalised workplace. Are you a writer in your spare time? Or are you really good at setting goals and motivating people in your running group?

    Once you have listed them, think about how you can use them. It may be to help you write a good resume, or to identify career opportunities you hadn’t considered. Your list might reveal gaps in your skills that you could address with a short course or on-the-job training.

    When you are applying for a job, the position description will contain a list of the skills the employer is looking for. Match your transferable skills to the requirements of the position, with a specific example. If, for instance, you co-ordinated the fete at your child’s school and you are applying for a role involving project management, link the skills you used to run the event with the requirements to be able to lead a team, communicate and manage risk. Use your cover letter to explain how your transferable skills match the requirements of the job description.

    Here are some of the most in-demand transferable skills. How many do you have?

    Interpersonal skills: relate well to others • motivates others • good at resolving conflict • team player

    Organisational skills: setting and meeting goals • time management • following up • meeting deadlines • planning

    Leadership skills: team building • delegating • innovative • motivating • decision-making • strategic thinking

    Communication skills: presentation • simplifying • writing and editing • persuading • teaching

    You can work at the skills you have and learn new ones, either by informal learning in your free time or with a mentor, or by enrolling in short courses, webinars and workplace learning programs.

    Managers can support their teams by encouraging and sponsoring members to take courses in areas that will both add to their transferable skills and make them more effective team members.

    Document what you learn and how it might transfer into a different role than the one you have now. And be ready to use your transferable skills in a new setting when the time is right.

  7. Why our efforts to tackle workplace bullying are failing (and how we can do better)

    October 11, 2016 by Alison Hill

    Almost half of Australians will be bullied at work, and our attempts to deal with workplace bullying are failing. That is the finding of research conduced by the University of Wollongong for mental health charity beyondblue. Beyondblue’s CEO, Georgie Harman, explains that the tendency for  organisations to target the individuals involved in bullying, rather than the organisation as a whole, as perpetuating the problem.

    ‘Strategies and policies tend to target individuals, including the perpetrator and the victim, not the organisation that allows the bullying to occur,’ Harman told the ABC. ‘We need to be targeting the organisations where there is a culture of bullying and empowering employees through communication.’

    Bullying most frequently happens in the early stages of a person’s career, and young males are most likely to be victims, the research found. This correlates with the weekend’s revelations that young male police officers from Newtown police station have alleged to the NSW Civil and Administrative Review Tribunal and the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board that they have been bullied and singled out for drug testing because they are gay.

    Not only is discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, race, religion, political views, disability, family responsibilities and other grounds illegal, the Productivity Commission found in 2010 that workplace bullying costs organisations between $6 billion and $36 billion a year in lost productivity.

    Tackling workplace bullying at an organisational level is challenging. A recently published book, Workplace Bullying by Vice President of the Fair Work Commission Joseph Catanzariti and clinical psychologist Keryl Egan (LexisNexis 2015) sets out the legal and psychological consequences of bullying and will help those who are dealing with education, identification and risk management in relation to bullying at work. The authors state that ‘Only those leaders that are committed to dealing with workplace bullying will be able to effect the cultural change required in the workplace to effectively combat workplace bullying.’

    After defining what constitutes bullying, and what does not, the book looks at the legal and risk aspects, including work health and safety laws and criminal and anti-discrimination laws. There is an extensive section on the Fair Work Act 2009.  Since 2014, workers have been able to apply to the Fair Work Commission for orders to stop workplace bullying. Catanzariti and Egan outline the legal arguments and the process, including explaining the ‘reasonable management action’ exception, by which managers can allocate work and give feedback on poor performance in a ‘reasonable manner that takes into account the circumstances of the case and do not leave the individual feeling (for example) victimised or humiliated.’

    The psychological explanations of bullying and the descriptions of the mechanisms bullies use are fascinating. The book argues that despite our diversity, we have a ‘shared understanding about what it is to be human and how relationships and society work’, and when people are bullied, their core sense of self is weakened at its deepest level.

    The chapter on intervention and prevention begins by stating that ‘Managing the risk of psychological injury requires a strategic decision to invest in the corporate culture with the ultimate aim of maintaining employee engagement, reducing staff turnover and preserving the reputation of the organisation as an employer of choice. Bullying is increasingly recognised as a threat to business that now approaches epidemic proportions globally.’

    The book includes an extensive reading list, a detailed description of the role of the Fair Work Commission and possible outcomes of proceedings brought before it, relevant extracts from the legislation and forms. A list of resources for the prevention of bullying will be extremely useful for hiring mangers and HR departments. It includes assessment tools, development tools, and resources to help develop communication and influencing skills. An extensive index makes it easy to find information.

    The authors express the hope that the next edition of the book will be different as workplaces improve their ability to deal with bullying. It is certainly in the best interests of companies and their workers to do so.

    The book is available in ebook format and in hard copy from LexisNexis.

  8. Learn and grow during Mental Health Month in October

    October 4, 2016 by Alison Hill

    October is Mental Health Month. Even if you are not one of the approximately 45% of Australians who will suffer from a mental health problem at some stage, you are bound to know somebody who does – very likely including a colleague.

    Work is becoming ever more complex and demanding. The scope, scale and speed of businesses is constantly accelerating, as and IBM study in late 2015 found. Over 5000 executives in 70 countries reported that work was always busy, and at times frenetic, and related this to technological disruption and radically different business models as business becomes more competitive.

    It’s no wonder that the World Health Organization describes stress as the ‘global health epidemic of the 21st century.’ Three-quarters of us report feeling moderately to highly stressed by work, according to a Global Corporate Challenge survey of over 4,500 companies, and 36% of employees said they felt ‘highly or extremely stressed at work’.

    Mental Health Month is the ideal time for organisations to focus attention on this problem. Talking about mental health issues is a great way to start, so if your organisation has not put it on the agenda, make this the month you do so. It’s proven to lower health care costs, absenteeism and turnover, and leads to higher productivity. PwC research in 2014 calculated that programs that fostered resilience and a mentally healthy workplace returned $2.30 for every dollar spent.

    Mental health organisation Wellness at Work is offering an online program, which they describe as ‘an easy and inexpensive way for people to build the fundamental skills for facing mental health challenges at work, without needing to disclose their challenges to anyone at work if they don’t wish to.’ The program runs all month, with both paid and free options for participating.

    Here’s a taste of what the program has to offer.

    How to move from functioning to flourishing at work & in life

    Positive psychology expert Michelle McQuaid  presents this talk about how a growing body of evidence is finding that there are small, practical, excuse-proof steps you can take to improve your chances of consistently flourishing.

    Managing work intensity – how to maintain your wellbeing in a fast-paced workplace

    This one acknowledges that work can become too busy and too intense. Psychologist Nicole Plotkin will share some simple strategies for staying calm, managing your stress and keeping a clear head – even when there’s chaos all around you.

    This one looks like a winner: Difficult people made easy: how to handle challenging interpersonal situations at work.

    Hear Eleanor Shakiba, author of Difficult People Made Easy explain three simple tools for handling toxic team dynamics, challenging customer behaviours or emotionally fraught conversations.

    Psychologist, bullying expert, author and speaker Evelyn Field OAM  talks about Understanding workplace bullying… and how to deal with it. Hear why it occurs, the damage it causes to employees and organisations, and what employees, managers and organisations can do to prevent bullying and manage it respectfully when it occurs.

    Also from Wellness at Work is How to build resilience to job burnout. Adele Sinclair explains that burnout is a distinct condition, different to stress and exhaustion. In this talk, Adele will share what she has learned from her own multiple experiences of job burnout and how you can protect yourself from having similar experiences.

    See the full program at

    Of course there are many ways to learn and grow your awareness of mental health issues at work. There are many websites, books and apps that can help with stress, particularly those that present structured approaches to mindfulness.  Read Fully Present: The Art, Science and Practice of Mindfulness by Susan L. Smalley and Diana Winston, or Mindfulness: An Eight Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Danny Penman and Mark Williams. Useful apps include Headspace and Simple Habit. Find more on the Dummies website.

    The challenge is to go further than this, argues Carlo Caponecchia, Senior Lecturer in the School of Aviation at UNSW. He writes on The Conversation that ‘Workplaces need to move beyond promoting mental health awareness and start changing the way work is designed to prevent psychological harm… By all means raise awareness, support people, and show them where to get further help. But re-design a policy, consult about new supervision practices, challenge a long-held cultural belief, and maybe everyone’s mental health at work will improve just a little.’


  9. Measuring the quality of a hire: key metrics for hiring managers

    September 27, 2016 by Alison Hill

    Hiring is one of the most important thing team leaders do, yet few are trained and experienced in the hiring process. A good HR department will educate hiring managers about he importance of their role in the process and show them how to work together to recruit and retain the best people.

    Once a new hire is up and running, HR will ask the hiring manger to help assess the success of a new hire. It’s easy to know when you have hired the wrong person, but how to you know when you’ve hired the right one? And overall, how do you measure whether a hire is ‘successful’ or not?

    Clearly, it takes more than answering, ‘Is this position filled?’

    Hiring mangers must use the right recruiting metrics to understand where the process is succeeding and falling short. There are several measurements that can be used. The first step is for the organisation to agree what to measure.  Most often, performance and quality of hire are measured at six months and at 12 months from the time the person starts in the position.

    Here are some of the metrics you might be asked to use.

    Time to hire

    This is a measurement of how long it takes from the time a vacancy is advertised to the time the successful candidate starts – not acceptance of the offer, but until they are installed at their new desk. Companies with strong processes have faster hiring times than those who do not.

    Why it matters:
    As well as negatively impacting your productivity and revenue generation and possibly annoying your customers,  your competition will snap up great candidates if you are not prepared to move fast.

    Cost of hire

    Some costs, such as recruiters’ fees and advertising, are obvious and straightforward, but others are easily overlooked. How much time did the hiring manager take to interview candidates? Did they spend time in negotiation? Did they spend time on social media accounts in relation to the hire? Were there travel costs?

    Why it matters:
    Knowing the cost per hire helps to ensure that the organisation’s recruitment processes are feasible and match those of others in your industry, location and size of business.

    Retention rate

    How long do people stay at your organisation and in your team? The costs are not only those associated with the expenses associated with hiring a new person, but include loss of productivity when a person resigns or a position is open, and the costs of rehiring and retraining.

    Why it matters: The cost of replacing somebody is estimated at anywhere between 30 and 400 per cent of annual salary, so making sure you hire people who stick around is really important to the business and to your team.

    Time to productivity

    How long did it take the new hire to to get up to speed and be fully productive? How did this compare to their peers and to the person who had the role before them? Did they reach their performance targets within a reasonable time?

    Why it matters:
    Clearly there are financial and revenue implications, but this measure matters to the whole team and may reflect on the hiring manager too.

    Offer: acceptance ratio

    How many offers did you have to make before you filled the role? If the candidates you choose are not ultimately coming on board, you may have a problem. They might perceive that the organisation does not meets their expectations, or a competitor may have made a more attractive offer. Track where you lose candidates and find ways to improve those areas.

    Why it matters:
    If a candidate turns down your offer, you will have to begin the process again or choose a less preferred candidate.

    Engagement and satisfaction

    Is the hiring manager satisfied with the new hire at 6 moths and at 12 months? Did the new hire have a good experience of the recruitment process? Are they happy in their role?

    Why it matters:
    Measuring engagement and performance helps not only the new employee, it also lets you make improvements to your processes as needed. None of the other things you measure will be completely effective if your new hires are not satisfied with their experience.

    There are a number of other ways to measure hiring success and all the data that is gathered from them is helpful in different ways. The important thing is to use them to improve processes by translating the measurements into strategies for action to improve the quality of your hires and make the most of your resources.



  10. Happiness at work – ideas for spreading some love

    September 20, 2016 by Alison Hill

    What makes the difference between an okay workplace and a great one? Often, it’s the cumulative effect of small things that have a big impact on the happiness of your people.

    There are the tried and tested features, such as a culture that fosters learning and development, generous benefits and a comfortable and well-equipped work space, and then there are the less tangible things that make us feel good about checking in every morning.

    You can make your office happy and spread the love a little too with a bit of thought and planning. Here are some simple ways to create a happy workplace and make the world a little better at the same time.

    Good eats

    Collaboration and teamwork benefit when there is a space set aside for relaxed working and conversation. Make it comfortable by filling it with good things that also do good.

    Most organisations would come to a standstill without the coffee machine.  Switching to a Fairtrade supplier will make sure that your beans are from source where farmers are paid fairly. And with coffee now the second-most traded commodity in the world, it makes a difference to many families in less fortunate parts of the world. Buying Fairtrade coffee is a good start and you can find plenty of suppliers at the Fairtrade website.

    You can have your biscuit from Aussie Biscuits  and help support House with No Steps, an organisation that creates employment opportunities for people with a disability and bakes superb choc chip, macadamia and Anzac biscuits

    When next you cater for an event, think about using the services of a catering company that employs new migrants and refugees in the community. Not only will you be helping people to find work, learn English and overcome isolation, you will also discover some pretty delicious cuisines from around the world. In Sydney, try Mazi Mas or Parliament on King and from 2017, ASRC catering in Sydney. This not-for-profit social enterprise of the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre has been running successfully in Melbourne for years.

    The bottom line

    Even office supplies as mundane as toilet paper, tissues and paper towel can do good. Social enterprise Who Gives a Crap will deliver high-quality environmentally friendly products to your office and donate half the profits to Water Aid to build toilets for those in need. They will also make you laugh with their special brand of toilet humour. Their ‘Roll model’ range is specifically for businesses.

    Who Gives a Crap use parcel delivery service Sendle  to deliver your paper. They are a cost-effective alternative to post and couriers and are Australia’s first carbon neutral delivery service. You could try them for your day-to-day deliveries.

    Create your own goodness

    Little street libraries are springing up everywhere, and the office is a great place to start one. Participants can donate favourite books, which are then shared without being checked in or out.  You simply borrow the book and bring it back when you’re done. Not only does this make for more interesting commute time, it also builds friendships  and trust as conversations happen around the library. A word of warning, though: try to set some rules and expectations around the type and condition of books that are okay so that it doesn’t become a dumping ground for books that have failed the remainder bin test.

    A friend told me about a great initiative at their office – the happiness jar. It stands in the kitchen, with paper and a pen for staff write their messages for colleagues to and staff are encouraged to anonymously thank or congratulate a colleague who has gone above and beyond for the team. They are read out at a monthly celebration and have done a lot to boost people’s sense of being appreciated. The fact that they are anonymous and given by peers adds to their impact.

    These are just a few ideas, and you can no doubt come up with those that suit the size, structure and organisational culture of your workplace. Leaders have a huge influence on the way corporate culture evolves. Strong leaders use their position to model values and set expectations for how things are done in your organisation. Why not choose a way that benefits others too? You have the power to influence your organisation’s culture for the better.

    We would love to hear from you if your workplace has great ideas that benefit the community. Share your ideas for happy offices with us.

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