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  1. What every manager must know about building a great employer brand

    December 6, 2016 by Alison Hill

    Employer branding as a recruitment tool has become too big to ignore. Once the preserve of big consulting firms and global brands, it is now mainstream enough to have a day of its own – 27 April 2017 is World Employer Branding Day.

    Although HR departments and recruiters have been on board with the concept of employer branding for the past 10 years or so, senior leaders have been harder to convince. Now, new ways of measuring the impact of employer branding on the cost of hiring lets managers create a business case for employer branding that will convince even the most hardened CFO that creating a distinctive employer brand is a worthwhile investment.

    What can mangers do today to build an appealing employer brand that will attract the best talent to their business?

    1. Analyse where employer branding fits into your recruitment strategy (because its not the whole story). The best, authentic employer brands are built when HR, management, PR, marketing and employees work together to create a consistent message about what it is like to work for the organisation.

    Make sure that candidates’ experience with your organisation is stellar. Is it easy to apply for a position? Are you communicating effectively with candidates during the process? When a candidate has a bad experience, they will not only not apply for other positions with you, they will also tell others.

    2. Make sure your strategy is not exclusively employer-led. Employees are critical to developing brand image. What your employees communicate with people outside the organisation is far more important than the organisation’s own communications, research has shown. If employer branding is left to the marketing and PR functions only, it is not going to ring true.

    Including the voice of your employees and communicating their experience is vital. Define why people work for your organisation: is it to advance their careers as quickly as possible? To learn and grow? To make a positive difference to the world? An employee referral program can be a valuable part of a company’s recruiting strategy and reinforces your brand.  Knowing what percentage of your employees would recommend you as a great place to work, and why, gives you a good indication of how your brand is perceived right now.

    3. Amplify. Spread your message far and wide with content marketing and other forms of communication. You need to be where your prospective employees are, on social media, at trade fairs, community events, awards ceremonies and in the media. Tell the story of your company. What are you about? What do you stand for? Your vision and mission statements, your blog posts, intranet, public website and social media pages should all reflect the same values and story. This should be true both internally and externally, reinforcing why people want to stay with you as well as attracting them in the first place.

    4. Be real. No organisation is perfect, and no workplace is ideal for everybody. As well as promoting the strengths of your organisation, share the realities. Prospective employees will be more trusting of your employer brand if you are realistic about the work environment. This can be done in a positive way, such as by emphasising that you value work-life balance even if you don’t pay the highest rates in your industry.

    5. Measure. You will convince the bean counters that the strategy works if you have the numbers to back it up. Things to measure and track are number of applicants, cost per hire, quality of hires, retention rate and employee engagement score.

    A strong employer brand enhances the organisation’s brand overall, as well as adding value by building a recruitment pipeline through having a sharp and defined brand message. A strong employer brand  makes recruiting high-quality candidates who will be a good fit with the organisation a reality for every organisation.


  2. What makes a good mentor?

    August 2, 2016 by Alison Hill

    Mentoring is a buzzword in today’s workplace, with over 70 per cent of Fortune 500 companies offering their employees professional mentoring programs. The concept is ancient, however – the term ‘mentor’ comes from Homer’s Odyssey, which dates back to the end of the eighth century BC.
    Mentor was left in charge of Odysseus’s son, Telemachus, when Odysseus left for the Trojan war, and later, the goddess Athena disguised herself as Mentor and encouraged Telemachus to stand up to his mother’s suitors and go searching for his father, who had not returned from the Trojan War. (Yes, it’s complicated. Reading the whole work is a deeply rewarding experience and is highly recommended.)
    Mentoring is not the same as coaching, which we wrote about here. It is also not the same as training, which is formal and structured, and designed to teach particular skills and competencies.
    Dr John Kenworthy of Leadership AdvantEdge defines mentoring as: ‘A working relational experience through which one person empowers and enables another by sharing their wisdom and resources’.
    At a recent session at the Australian Institute of Management (AIM) mentoring trainer Toni Greenwood said that the best mentors know about the specific company, the industry it operates within and the big-picture issues of strategic importance to both. They have a range of great interpersonal skills, including active listening, the ability to give good feedback and the courage to have difficult conversations – and then let the issue go. They will be good at challenging the person who is being mentored and reframing the issue they are facing to allow them to find their own solution. Emotional intelligence is crucial; they must show empathy, resilience and the ability to read emotions in others.
    Let’s turn again to the Odyssey for some ideas about what a mentor does.
    1. A mentor is a more experienced person who shares their wisdom with a less experienced person.
    As Mentor did for Telemachus, a mentoring relationship provides a safe space for the person who is being mentored to share the issues that are holding them back with somebody whose experience is greater. Creating a long-term relationship over time, so that both people can learn about one another, build trust and feel secure, is a foundation of the mentoring process. While there is no perfect time for the mentoring relationship to last, generally around a year is recommended. In Deloitte’s Emerging Leaders Development Program, mentoring relationships last at least two years.
    A connection with a mentor can help a high-potential employee to learn from a leader, making them ready to take on a leadership position in the organisation more quickly, and with more organisation-specific knowledge than if only skills training or coaching were offered.
    2. A mentor works alongside the person who is being mentored.
    A mentoring relationship may start out with specific goals and set competencies to achieve, but its scope usually grows beyond the initial issues to encompass anything that impacts success, such as dealing with work–life balance or developing self-confidence. Nevertheless, agreeing on areas of focus, adopting a mentoring model and the all-important business of choosing a mentor are vital in setting up the relationship and deciding on its strategic purpose.
    3. A mentor encourages the person being mentored to step outside their comfort level
    Because an important part of the mentoring relationship is directed at the person’s future in the company and not only for the immediate job, it is different to the role of manager. Companies use mentoring programs to develop leaders and to keep star performers engaged, increasing retention rates. The mentoring relationship is most productive when it is separate to the manager–employee relationship (unlike in the coaching relationship where the manager can play a more direct role).
    Just as Mentor became Telemachus’ teacher, coach, counsellor and protector, developing a relationship based on affection and trust, organisations can adopt mentoring programs to build leaders and create organisations that engage and retain top talent.


  3. Use the onboarding process to build a positive culture in your organisation

    May 10, 2016 by Alison Hill

    If part of your strategy in making the new hire is to change corporate culture, grab the opportunity – and do it right. The first 90 days – that critical period for onboarding a new hire – are crucial in allowing the positive traits of the new employee to take hold in the organisation.

    Stephen Crowe, Managing Director of Challenge Consulting, explains: ‘When a new person joins a team, other team member’s senses are in a heightened state. People are more tuned in to changes. This sensitivity wears off over time, and as it does, so does the opportunity to effect change.’

     Two decisions have a large bearing on how successful you will be.

    1. Choose the right mentor for your new hire

    The right mentor must have more than just a good understanding of the job requirements. Pick somebody who embodies the culture you want to instil. ‘This person will have a large initial influence not just by what they say and do, and what they choose to focus on with the new employee, but also by how they conduct themselves while they do it’, explains Crowe. ‘Their vocabulary, their body language, the respect or otherwise they show for others and the emphasis they put on different aspects of the role will strongly affect the new employees’ understanding of acceptable behaviour.’

    This applies not only while the mentor is working with the new hire. ‘They will be strongly affected by how their mentor deals with co-workers, clients and others in day-to-day situations.  The new employee will be watching – often unconsciously – how their mentor behaves with others when they are not with the new employee’, says Crowe.

    I was told about a friend’s first day at what turned out to be a nightmare workplace. She was being shown around on her first day by her new manager, who talked up the friendly workplace culture with its breakout areas full of beanbags, Friday drinks and casual dress code. She was therefore taken aback when the manager snapped at a co-worker about preparing for a presentation and cut him off mid-sentence when he tried to respond. The manager’s body language, arrogant behaviour and disrespect was totally at odds with her words. It soon became clear this was not a friendly, laid back place to work, and she left after three weeks.

    1. Allow the positive traits of the new hire to take hold

    ‘Pinpoint which desirable new practices, suggestions and behaviours the new employee brings’, says Crowe. ‘Allowing their traits to take hold in the organisation is an opportunity to shift the culture, and has the highest chance of success during the first ninety days of the person’s employment.’

    The change in direction is not achieved by pushing those traits on the others in the team. ‘That will more likely result in resentment, explains Crowe.  ‘It is done by not standing in the way when the person presents something new, or suggests doing something in a new way, or displays behaviour that is different but is in line with the culture you are trying to build.  By allowing the behaviour but not imposing it on others, the organisation gives the signal that this is acceptable. By not forcing it, you are allowing a subtle change of direction’, he says.

    Crowe stresses that using the onboarding process as an opportunity to change workplace culture is a subtle process that comes about by a nuanced mixture of reinforcing the desirable aspects of company culture with the new hire and allowing their new, positive traits to hold sway. ‘It’s not  a game for the heavy handed, as any company culture is a complex and nuanced mixture of practices, beliefs and emotions’, he says.

    Have you had any experience – good or bad – of a new hire influencing company culture in their first 90 days? We welcome your comments.

     

     

     

     


  4. Not quite toxic but a little bit poisonous: How to deal with difficult people at work

    April 19, 2016 by Alison Hill

     

    With any luck, your company has a robust hiring process and has managed to follow the first rule for working with toxic people: don’t hire them in the first place. But if they haven’t, or if you have to work with somebody who is difficult but not instantly recognisable as a toxic personality, here are some ways to smooth the journey.

    You’re likely to feel bewildered, used and manipulated by a co-worker at some time in your career. It may be a manager who expects you to work overtime or at weekends with no warning to complete a project – and who then takes the credit for it on Monday morning. It may be a colleague who belittles you in a team meeting by betraying something you told them in confidence, or who gossips about others in a way that is uncomfortable and makes you wonder what they say about you behind your back.

    These people are not diagnosable psychopaths or sociopaths for the most part, although they might display some of the characteristics used in psychiatric diagnoses.

    Steven Booker, Challenge Consulting’s Principal Psychologist explains that there are differing levels of toxic behaviour: ‘Extremely psychopathic or narcissistic people are often unable to get or hold onto long-term employment  because their extreme selfishness, lack of empathy, intolerance, anger and aggression are incompatible with the strongly team and values-oriented culture of most employers’, he says. ‘However, there are a group of people that we might call “subclinical psychopaths, sociopaths and narcissists” whose personalities are no so extreme that although they can be quite selfish, aggressive or toxic, they are still able to be effective in some organisations, especially those that have a culture which values only results without any emphasis on values, teamwork and having empathy for clients, staff and customers. These people can often be misperceived as successful and high functioning because of their confidence, cold-blooded nature and lack of fear’, Booker says. ‘The real challenge when recruiting is to identify people with the drive, ambition, confidence and competitiveness to get strong results while also ensuring that they have sufficient empathy and care for others to be able to work as part of an effective team. Psychological assessment is one of the best tools available to select people with this combination of traits and help organisations reduce the risk of hiring toxic people.’

    According to business journalist Gregory Bresiger, the difficult people most commonly found in the workplace are these:

    • Gossipmongers: They spread fear by spouting hearsay.
    • Bullies: These employees repeatedly put others down by verbally humiliating them.
    • Saboteurs: These are people trying to gain an advantage by hurting fellow workers.
    • Spotlight stealers: They take credit for others’ work and hoard the limelight in team projects.

    Dealing with difficult people takes special skills. Luckily, some of these can be learned. Here are a few ideas that work.

    1. Know yourself. Know what presses your buttons. When you are going to be in a situation with the difficult person, such as a one-on-one meeting or a project planning session, prepare by focusing on what is important to you and the outcome you want. What would be unacceptable? Then think about what the difficult person might say or do, and plan how you might react.
    2. Take a step back. When a person is being difficult, it is easy to either give in or get angry. I remember working with somebody who would persist with an idea long after everybody in the team had already nixed it. More than once, the rest of the team gave in and let her run a project her way – often with the predictable negative outcome. On one occasion a team member got visibly angry. If only we’d known better. Removing ourselves from the situation – either by mentally taking a time out or by actually adjourning the meeting – and looking at the dispute objectively to plan a rational response would have been more productive and more likely to lead to the outcome we wanted.
    3. Let them experience victory. Many difficult people like to win, and to feel they ‘have the last word’ on an issue. You can refuse to give in to them while simultaneously helping them to save face and preserve their dignity. William Ury, author of the influential 1991 book Getting past no: Negotiating with difficult people, calls this ‘building a golden bridge’. As Ury says, ‘if you want him to acknowledge your point, acknowledge his first.’ Helping a difficult person to save face and feel they are getting their own way, at least some of the time, can help to neutralise their effect.

     


  5. From pocket money to retirement income: how women are systematically paid less (and what you can do about it)

    March 8, 2016 by Alison Hill

    By Alison Hill

    Happy International Women’s Day. As it turns out, it could be a lot happier for women in the workforce.

    It starts young – inequality applies even to girls’ weekly pocket money, as reported by the Australian Council of Trade Unions’ Gender Pay Gap over the Life Cycle report. Apparently girls start out with 11% less pocket money than boys and this continues with women graduates with a bachelor’s degree earning $1.5 million less over a lifetime than men with the equivalent qualifications.

    A report by Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre and the government’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency released last week, Gender Equity Insights 2016: Inside Australia’s Gender Pay Gap, outlines the following:

    • Women key management personnel (KMP) working full-time earn on average $100,000 a year less than male KMPs.
    • Gender pay gaps lead to significant earnings shortfalls for women across their careers. Women moving through managerial positions at the same pace as men, working full-time and reaching a KMP role in their tenth year, earn $600,000 less.
    • Male managers working in female-dominated organisations can expect to earn considerably more than their female colleagues.
    • More women on boards is associated with significant reductions in gender pay gaps.
    • Part-time roles are dominated by women and are significantly lower paid (on a full-time equivalent basis) than full-time roles.
    • Men consistently earn more additional remuneration than women. The average male ‘bonus’ premium is almost 8 percentage points for full-time workers, and is highest in the financial and insurance services industry, at 15 percentage points.

     

    Is it simply a case of gender pay gap = direct discrimination? The gap can be explained in part by differences in how men and women work, the industries they work in and their level of skills and experience. My own experience in publishing, a vastly female-dominated industry, is that average pay is low and many people work part-time and on short-term contracts.  The same goes for teaching and nursing, both overwhelmingly female dominated. The report tells us that a startling 75% of part-time workers are female.

    But the gender pay gap can also indicate more subtle bias within workplaces, where preferential treatment is given to certain workers for career advancement and pay. The report notes,

    ‘Gender pay gaps can be a sign of both direct and indirect biases, both of which are problematic for a number of reasons. They signal inequity in a society that has been built on the concept of a ‘fair go’. They result in poorer outcomes for women in terms of economic and personal freedoms. They impair and stunt economic growth for nations looking to remain competitive on a global scale. Furthermore, they represent a lost opportunity in human capital investment and potential.’

    So what can the average manager do?

    Employers generally don’t intend to pay men and women differently. Gender pay gaps are not good for staff attraction, retention or engagement. We know that gender equality is better for both individual performance and company productivity. But perhaps unintended biases are creeping into hiring, pay, promotion and performance decisions. A payroll analysis can uncover this.

    The Workplace Gender Equality Agency and the Australian Institute of Management have produced a Manager briefing, Gender pay equity guide for managers, outlining steps that can be taken at each stage of the employment cycle to address unconscious biases and practices in the recruitment, promotion, performance and remuneration stages.

     

    Identifying the causes of gender pay gaps: Some quick tips for managers

    • Check your job descriptions. Are women doing similar jobs to men but with different job titles and pay?
    • Analyse starting rates in your team. Are these monitored by gender? If an employee starts on a higher rate, is this based on evidence and recorded, with reasons?
    • Compare the organisation’s pay rates to market rates. Are variations applied consistently? Or do lower rates favour roles dominated by women?
    • Check superannuation rates. Is the rate of employer-paid super consistent across levels? Are all employees, including those on parental leave, treated in the same way?
    • Investigate bonuses and discretionary pay. Is one gender more likely to be in roles that attract bonus payments? Is discretionary pay more likely to be paid in a traditionally ‘male’ role?

    Managers can show leadership on gender pay issues and are well placed to develop a plan to address them. It begins with finding and analysing the data, and then addressing the gaps and their causes. As the Manager briefing points out, ‘the removal of bias in pay and performance decisions requires a medium to long term strategy and cultural change’.

    Be in it.


  6. Once the cash is in the bank, what makes the job you do really satisfying?

    September 22, 2015 by Alison Hill

    By Alison Hill

    Research has shown that for most of us, the ideal job combines meaning – the idea that doing our job makes the world a better place – with a decent income. The emphasis on one or the other depends on our values, priority, career stage, and individual factors such as our family situation and spending habits.

    The evidence about the link between money and happiness is confusing and even contradictory. Some studies have shown that more money only brings a certain kind of happiness, others that once our lives are relatively comfortable, more money makes little difference to our level of happiness. The amount of money that brings happiness in the US has even been quantified: US$75,000 per year.

    It’s even been suggested that happiness buys money, as studies have shown that happy people are better at earning more.

    And then there’s the downside: generally, better paid jobs bring with them longer hours, more responsibility, less leisure time and more stress. A marketing executive who moved cities several times with his family in pursuit of the highest-paying job recounts how once he had reached his target income and moved for the fourth time in as many years, his job with a company in the manufacturing sector almost immediately came under threat. The long hours and the daily commute were exhausting him.  It took years of upheaval for him to realise that money can’t buy you job love.

    Job satisfaction, in the sense of your work feeling meaningful to you and making a difference in the world, may well be easier to pursue, and more within your control.

    1. Work for an organisation with values aligned to your own

    First understand your own values: family? Career progression? Spirituality? Health? Then explore the values of any organisation you might work for. Do they offer generous parental leave? Are religious holidays observed and respected? Is there a mentoring program in place? Is going for a run at lunch time facilitated and encouraged? It will increase your satisfaction if not only the role, but also the culture is matched to what you find important in life.

    1. Understand why you work (other than for the money)

    Of course being paid is crucial. But there must be other reasons to drive you out of bed in the morning. Is it the challenge and the opportunity to prove yourself? Do you need to be with other people, cooperating to get things done? Do you need to be creative, or to help others? Look for the motivating forces behind the job itself. If your urge is to be creative but you spend most of your day managing people, you are less likely to be satisfied.

    1. Place value on the work you do

    Almost invariably your work will add value to the lives of others. The trick is to see it. An insurance salesperson reported finding no meaning in her job until a client pointed out to her that the recommendations she had made saved his business and his livelihood when a fire destroyed his takeaway shop.  Take time to seek out the value in your work if you feel it may have little, and you may well be surprised.

    So who are the most satisfied workers? It depends who you ask, but the occupation that most consistently scores the highest in surveys is clergy, with around 98% of clergy members of all faiths reporting that their work makes the world a better place. Farmers and fitness instructors did pretty well too. This is not to suggest that you move to the country or give it all up for a position in your local gym, but it’s well worth looking more closely at what job satisfaction means to you.


  7. Great teams need great players

    August 4, 2015 by Alison Hill

    Search any employment site using the keyword ‘teamwork’ and you will find hundreds of hits. In today’s workplace, we are all assessed on our ability to work in a team. Teams may form to work on a specific project, or may be where the day-to-day work of the business happens. Teamwork is highly rated by employers and job applicants should always show off their teamwork skills. So what makes a great team? And what does it mean to be a team player?

    ‘A successful team is a group of many hands
    but of one mind.’ – Bill Bethel

    The best teams have a defined, shared goal and purpose

    Teams that are put together with a common purpose and a well-articulated goal are able to reach a solution and achieve an outcome. Everybody on the team should know what the objectives are and how to get there.

    High-performing teams have a great captain and a motivating coach

    An inspiring team leader does more than just coordinate tasks and see that goals are met. They will also be a great communicator, an adept facilitator and a skilled mediator. A good leader models desirable team behaviour and prioritises team goals over individual ones.

    A great team is much more than the sum of its parts

    When they run well, teams accomplish more and give back more to their members than working alone can ever do. (And when they run badly, they can be detrimental to both the business and the individual team members.) Teams offer an amazing opportunity to learn from others, share skills and knowledge, and to work more productively.

    Communication is the key to great teams

    A study by MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory and reported in HBR found that the best teams learnt how their members communicated and then shaped and guided the team to follow successful communication patterns. This mattered more than selecting the team based on individual talent and reasoning skills.

    Open communication and contributing ideas and information to the group are the foundations of teamwork. The best performing teams have clear rules about how and when communication will happen. This must include deciding how the team will share its progress and success with those outside of the team.

    The MIT Human Dynamics Laboratory study found that successful teams communicate by:

    • Talking and listening in roughly equal measures
    • Keeping contributions to group discussions short
    • Facing members of the team when speaking to them
    • Speaking and gesturing energetically
    • Connecting directly with other team members, and not only with the leader

    The best team members avoid negativity and set a good example

    The most valued members of teams set standards that others want to follow. They do this both through their work and in how they conduct themselves. Jealousy, sabotage, unproductive criticism and negativity have no place in a team. On the other hand, suggesting new ideas, participating fully, working towards the team’s target and respecting the contributions of others are behaviours of a valuable team member.

    According to this survey, over 90 per cent of people find that one of the best things about work is being part of a team. Has teamwork always been a positive experience for you? Is it one of the things you look forward to in your next role? Let us know in the comments below, or on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.


  8. Return of the Intergalactic Admin Manager

    September 9, 2014 by Kate Dass

    Several years ago, Challenge Consulting’s Organisational Psychologist Narelle Hess, who happens to be a die-hard NRL fan, took it upon herself to create a NRL staff tipping competition. “YAY” no-one said. But, when the incentives of a Jurlique gift pack for the winner and, even better, an actual wooden spoon for the loser, were dangled in front of us like the proverbial carrot, we were all in.

    Of course, this required selecting tipping comp aliases. I chose the subtle “Intergalactic Admin Manager”. The tipping comp is still going though, I must admit, having only returned to Challenge on a temporary basis after an absence of two and a half years, I am a less-than-enthusiastic participant (or is this just a cunning ploy to get my hands on the until-now elusive wooden spoon?)

    The point in all this is that I am back. Why am I back? How am I back?

    Let’s start at the very beginning.

    People are generally astonished that, until I resigned in late 2011, I was Challenge Consulting’s Administration Manager for 11 years. The common question is: why did I stay that long?

    The co-founder and original Managing Director, Elizabeth Varley, is, quite simply, the number one reason. I worked directly and closely with her, literally and figuratively, and was given more and more professional development opportunities as the years went by. As my skills and competencies expanded, I was challenged to expand them further. I learned how to manage payroll, the company banking, staff superannuation, website management, social media communications. I became a qualified Career Guidance Counsellor and Psychometric Testing Administrator. I ran workshops and wrote business proposals. I was trusted, I was encouraged, I was challenged, I was made to feel like my duties made a genuine difference to the success of the company.

    Another key component was Elizabeth’s uncanny ability to select the right people for her company’s culture. Every time she took even the slightest risk and went against her instincts, the person never lasted long. This rarely occurred, however, and this meant that the team working for her and, crucially, with her, was happy, supportive and willing to work hard and with excellence as its standard.

    Thirdly, Elizabeth’s willingness to be flexible in the working arrangements of her staff members meant that when, in September 2008, I left to have my first baby, she left me in no doubt that there would always be a place for me in the Challenge team, in whatever capacity suited my new responsibilities as a mother. In early 2009, I returned to work first one day per week, then, two, then three. The balance between work and family was perfect. When, in 2011, I discovered that another little person had decided to join our family, Elizabeth was the first person, other than my husband, I told. As her employee, I wanted her to be able to plan for my successor (I did not envision being able to return to work as quickly as the first time, so I made the decision to resign). As her friend, I had no hesitation in sharing my news with her, knowing that she would be nothing less than overjoyed. I left with sadness but no regret in December 2011 and threw myself into mummy-ness once again.

    Now, I adore my children. But, something no-one ever mentions for fear of being placed in front of a firing squad for daring to suggest that motherhood is not always a complete joy, it can be somewhat lacking in intellectual stimulation. Astonishing, I know. What, you mean you can’t understand why changing your seven thousandth nappy and watching In The Night Garden ad infinitum might be, I don’t know, a tad boring?

    I needed to do something. Anything.

    I did bits and pieces of casual work during 2013 and early 2014. And then – the aforementioned Narelle celebrated her 10th Challenge Consulting anniversary in July. Whilst nibbling on a piece of excellent cheese and sipping on a glass of fizzy wine, I silently sidled out of the boardroom and took a wander around memory office. It was all familiar, yet different. It was also somewhat, ahem, disorganised. My reputation as the Office Cleaning Nazi remains to this day. No-one has yet dared to remove my whiteboard reminder, written I don’t know how many years ago. Challenge’s current owner and Managing Director, Stephen Crowe, approached me with, was it fear?, and said, “I bet you hate that state of the office.” I replied, “It didn’t have look like this in my day.”

    The team repaired to a very nice dinner washed down with quantities of wine. Maybe it was the wine, maybe it was my innate need to clean and apply order taking control of my brain, but I said to Stephen, “You know, I’d love to come in and sort things out for you.” We met the next week and had a (sober) chat about what I could and would do. Our current Administrator / Social Media Coordinator, Jenna, just happened to be departing for a month in Canada the very next week. And so here I am, just for the time being, looking after things at Challenge Consulting once again, every Tuesday.

    I love it. Things have changed, of course, but I still feel comfortable, welcome, and capable of making a difference, even in a small way.

    Here are some key words and phrases to take away from this personal perspective on staff retention and why people stay, and even return:

    – Professional Development Opportunities

    – Making a Difference

    – Team Spirit

    – Challenged and Trusted

    – Selecting the Right People for the Company Culture

    – Management’s Willingness to be Flexible

    – Facilitating Work/Life Balance

    – Feeling Welcomed, Valued, and Trusted

    [Thank you, Stephen, for this opportunity. I cannot express how much I appreciate it.]


  9. Losing the Losers – Is Employee Turnover Always a Bad Thing?

    September 2, 2014 by Jenna

    Typically, the term ‘employee turnover’ has negative connotations, usually related to cost: the cost to re-hire and the cost to re-train.

    However, is an organisation with low or no turnover really a good thing? Perhaps it is due to one of the following reasons:

    • Lack of employment opportunities within an organisation.
    • Financial constraints preventing employees from moving.
    • Bad company image that keeps recruiters away.
    • A high concentration of older workers reluctant to change jobs later in their career.

    Dr John Sullivan, the internationally known HR thought-leader, writing on ere.net, classifies employee departures into desirable, neutral and undesirable outcomes. Below are some of his key points for consideration:

    Desirable Turnover
    Studies show that at least 25% of turnover is desirable. Situations where this may occur include:
    • A low-level performer leaves on their own accord (therefore avoiding the need to terminate them).
    • An average or lower level performer gets replaced by someone that becomes a superior performer (referred to as a talent swap).
    • An employee with key skills working in a non-critical job/business unit transfers to a strategic job/business unit.
    • A lower-level employee is replaced by promoting someone inside that needed more challenge or growth to develop (thus improving the organisation, increasing internal movement).
    • The exiting employee is a retiree who led a fulfilling career and has agreed to consider ‘fill-in’ work during retirement.

    Neutral or OK Turnover
    Such situations include:
    • Turnover of an employee or contractor who was hired to provide short-term coverage.
    • Turnover by an employee who provided sufficient notice, enabling an exceptional replacement to be sourced, hired and trained prior to the employees exit.
    • Turnover by an employee leaving a more generic role with a short learning curve.
    • Turnover of a top performing employee who has a high probability of returning in the future.
    • Turnover of an employee who left as a result of major illness or something that could not be predicted or prevented.

    Critical or Highly Undesirable Turnover
    This is the key area upon which focus retention efforts on. Situations falling under this category include:
    • Turnover of a top performer with little or no advance notice.
    • Turnover of a critical team leader or manager.
    • Turnover of an employee that possesses the only knowledge or experience in a critical field in the organisation.
    • Turnover of an employee in a revenue generating or revenue impact job.
    • Turnover of a top performer or a key individual that goes to a direct competitor.
    • Turnover of a high-potential individual who left due to a lack of development opportunities.
    • Turnover of an employee who subsequently files a credible government or legal complaint against the organisation.

    Labelling turnover ‘good’ or ‘bad’ depends primarily on the business impact caused by the departure of the employee. If employee turnover means losing an individual who is a ‘bad actor’, the impact can be beneficial to your company. For the remaining staff members, the departure of an employee with a negative attitude can seem like a breath of fresh air. For the business owner, it means no longer having to deal with the problems that employee caused. Employee turnover can also have a positive impact if it means replacing a long-term employee who is simply going through the motions or biding their time until retirement.

    By regarding turnover as an opportunity, employers can rest easy knowing that new staff will ultimately bring new life to their businesses, nurturing its growth and development.


  10. How Recruitment Has Changed In The Last 10 Years

    August 26, 2014 by Jenna

    I started my career in recruitment in 2004, in the days when skills shortages and low unemployment dominated the airwaves. SEEK was without question the online job board of choice, although CareerOne was in a desperate re-branding phase to attract us all back to their stable. Newspaper advertising was also still a key attraction tool especially for Senior Executive and regional roles. There was no Facebook, there was no Twitter, and there certainly wasn’t LinkedIn.

    But there were people. The most important thing about recruitment, and the essential key to effective recruitment, is and always will be the people. The ability of a recruiter to identify a strategy to attract potential candidates to a job is the first step, the second step is the ability to quickly identify that candidate’s skills, abilities, and motivations to most effectively match them to the right job and right company, and of course the most important step; effectively manage the negotiations of this match-making process between candidate and company to ensure a long-lasting partnership for all.

    Some of the candidates Challenge Consulting placed in 2004 are still in those roles today. Some have moved up into higher level roles with the same or other organisations. Others have made a complete career change. I can still name most of those people I had the good fortune of meeting 10 years ago, I’m not so good at faces – but for me the names tell a story. A story of change of country, change of state, celebrating 10 year wedding anniversary with a surprise trip to Hawaii, babies, marriages, and fresh starts in a brand new role filled with possibilities. I was so lucky to work with these people when they often were stepping outside of their comfort zone and at their most vulnerable, making a job change.

    All those years ago the thing that surprised me most about recruitment, was not the process itself, it was the reputation of recruiters. To many the profession of the recruitment consultant was closest to a used-car salesman – slimy, arrogant, and only in it for the money (apologies to the used-car salesmen). But the truth is the best recruiters do not fit this stereotype. The best recruiters are not chucking CVs at an inbox hoping one will fit. The best recruiters are not scouring the online job boards and cold calling with offers of the best candidates without any idea what your requirements are. The best recruiters are not cold calling you endlessly full stop. Because the best recruiters are too busy meeting people and developing a talent pipeline for your company. They are networking at industry events so they best understand what is happening in your industry and sector. They are meeting with you, between job hires, to understand the current strategic priorities for your business now and into the years to come.

    An ironic shift in the industry happened in 2008; I was at the time travelling overseas enjoying the best that Europe had to offer, but when I returned it was clear that although Australia was not in recession, the Global Financial Crisis had just hit us hard. It was at this time that many of those bad recruiters went out of business. It would be mistaken to suggest that the GFC did not have an impact on Challenge Consulting, because even for the best recruiters business diminished, but like the other great recruitment organisations we looked at other ways to partner with our clients, who too were struggling with the uncertainty of what next.

    Fast-forward to now and what frustrates me the most is that the bad recruiters are starting to re-dominate the landscape. I know this because I now work in the area of career transition with individuals whose positions have been made redundant and they tell me the incredible horror stories.  Recruiters that advertise jobs that do not exist. Recruiters that do not return their calls after a SECOND INTERVIEW with the client company. Recruiters that chuck their CVs at jobs without their permission. Recruiters that do not return their calls full stop. How is it that in 2014 this is the standard of recruitment practice that we accept? How is it that these companies even exist?

    They exist because someone is paying them to exist. Every time a company says, “I will just throw this job out to a couple of recruiters and see what comes back”. They are rather saying: “it is OK to send CVs without a thorough attraction and screening process. We don’t want the best match for our requirements.” Every time a company says: “I will not pay that rate because this other recruiter will do it for less than that”, they are saying “we don’t want good recruiters; we want bad recruiters that will waste our time and ruin the reputation of our company in the marketplace”. Every time a company lists a job with more than one agency, they are saying “we support bad recruitment practices based on competition rather than collaboration and quality”.

    Of course recruiters can do better. We all can, we are all people. But we need to demand that they do better and not pay for those services that breed a profession that burns people out. We need to empower a profession to be the best that it can be by paying for quality partnerships with the best recruiters. Those great recruiters that will partner with you and help you build that talent pipeline that will lead to your future success, because at the end of the day, that’s what it should be about. Your most important asset = your people.




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