Merry Career-Mas!

JustineI love this time of year, late December, just before Christmas, end of year exhaustion and running on adrenalin. The new year is just around the corner, and despite your fatigue from a busy year, the new year heralds promise and opportunity. You tell yourself all those things you didn’t quite achieve or get to this year – will be nailed next year. And – maybe they will – I am after all an eternal optimist.

For many people I talk with, it has been a particularly tough year – personally and more so professionally.  A change of government, a dip in the resources sector, international economic uncertainty, redundancies, restructures, rationalisations…

It seems to me that when we are under constant pressure to perform or deliver we can sometimes lose perspective. We switch to our emotional rather than rational behaviour, say things we regret, react quickly without consideration. It gets worse towards the end of the year, when we are tired, stressed and in need of a break. It doesn’t help either, when every time you walk into a public space, bad Christmas carols are playing.

I believe it is important to take time out, particularly when you feel you are getting to this point. And if you notice your change in behavior, pat yourself on the back for your high level of emotional intelligence and self-reflection.

I recently booked myself into a top end health spa. I systematically worked my way through the spa treatment menu, the staff there thought I had become a permanent fixture. I left feeling balanced, cleansed and happy and better placed to take on the world.

When I got back, I remember someone saying to me how lucky I was to have been able to go. At the time I thought, it was more due to better planning than luck, but I guess having the means and time at my disposal has a bit to do with luck.

If we are to cope and perform at a high level, we have to take time out, whether just to sit outside and listen to the birds, walk on the beach, swim in the ocean or hang out with loved ones eating great food…

Work, career, business… These are just aspects of our lives, not the entirety. Sometimes they tend to blow out of proportion and cloud our vision. We are multidimensional and need many facets in life to make us happy and fulfilled.

So – take some time out, spoil yourself in whatever way works for you.  Get perspective, take control and seek out the opportunities you deserve.  The new year is the perfect time to put in place the building blocks to your happiness…

Making the Move from Government to Commercial

Linda ParkerHave you recently taken a redundancy from the State Government and considering the move into a commercial organisation?

You are not alone.

In the current market more and more candidates are attempting the transition from the public sector to the private sector.

Unfortunately there is a ‘public servant’ myth, which can hinder your ability to even get an interview. So how do you convince the hiring manager of a successful blue chip organisation that you have what it takes to work in a fast paced environment?

Tips to bear in mind when presenting your application to a commercial organisation, or through a recruitment agency, is to highlight the ‘commercial’ aspects of your previous roles and have a clear plan in mind.

Do your research!! Going into an interview without any prior knowledge of the company and its operations or strategic vision is a sure fire way to not get the job!

In recent years, Government organisations have been recruiting candidates with commercial experience in order to change the culture and drive greater efficiencies and performance. This argument can be used to flip the public servant perception on its head.

Private sector employers who fail to recruit the most talented employees, and prejudice themselves against people with different career backgrounds are unintentionally exposing their own management weaknesses. Their inability to recognise that public sector workers have an enormous amount to offer suggests a lack of foresight on their part and can potentially make them appear narrow minded.

There are so many strengths that you can bring to a role in the private sector including your ability to manage change and varying levels of bureaucracy, not to mention multi-million dollar budgets!

Take the time to think about what you can offer, and sell it!

If you’re currently preparing your CV, or would just like to enhance your current one, this article from Business Insider offers some great advice on what to avoid putting in your resume.

Culture Fit or Bigotry?

As discussed in the blog ‘Technical Skills VS. Cultural Fitthree weeks ago by Tom from our office, Culture Fit is an important part of the selection criteria when searching for an employee. However, the lines between culture fit and bigotry can tend to become blurred, often despite the best efforts of the employer.

The term ‘culture’ when used in this context does not refer to a person’s race, sex or religion – it is used to describe the overall mentality and atmosphere of a particular workplace. If you are rejected for a role because of culture fit concerns, it has nothing to do with your country of origin, your gender or your beliefs and everything to do with your demonstrated attitude and it’s incongruity with the potential workplace.

Are you tearing at your hair in frustration and crying out:

What does it all mean, Basil?!

Then look at it this way – you apply for a role, which, on paper, is you all over. You’ve got the right skills, the money looks good and you’d be comfortable performing the duties. You interview briefly but excellently, dazzling the panel with your technical skills, rich experience and musky odours, and succeed in obtaining the role.  Then, several weeks into your new role, you find yourself at odds with your colleagues and disagreeing with the company ethos. You continue to do your work superbly, but there’s a growing dissatisfaction in you and suddenly, you want out. Why work for someone or something you don’t agree with?

It’s not okay because if they take my
stapler then I’ll set the building on fire…

You resign, leaving your employer with an empty role and the prospect of another lengthy recruitment process, and you with a worrying blip on your resume that you have to explain to the next company you apply to.

The above scenario is not ideal for either party, and could have been avoided, had culture fit been taken into account during the recruitment process. Despite this, there is a belief floating around that ‘culture fit’ is just a convenient way for employers to disguise rampant discrimination in their hiring policies. This could very easily be true, and in some cases, sadly is. But if a company chooses to discriminate against candidates because of race, gender or religion, they are doing damage solely to themselves. Bigotry and bias in a recruitment process can make employers miss out on the perfect candidate for the role, leaving a person who has the ‘right’ skin colour but second rate skills to perform the work. And if a company is found to be actively discriminating against persons, then all hell will certainly break loose.

However, if a company does not discriminate and also chooses to recognize culture fit as a key selection criterion, then they will wind up with a technically ideal employee who also enjoys their work environment and co-exists happily with their colleagues. These combined factors lead to increased employee satisfaction, higher staff retention rates and open collaboration between staff members.

Adapt or Perish

The ageing population, generational incongruities in the workplace and the redefinition of
work life are all topics that have been the source of much coverage and heated debate over the Internet and in boardroom meetings across the world lately. Different strategies to deal with ‘problem’ generations Y and Z, theories on how and why conflicts arise between different age groups and large quantities of statistics and research abound in an effort to understand and manage these issues. There is a surfeit of information out there that’s being gobbled up by workers desperate to put things into perspective and understand and control what’s going on around them. This is a response to a sudden, behemoth dawning of change.

Despite the fact that these things have been brewing for some time, it appears that they have caught a lot of organisations and workers off-guard. So how do you deal with these seemingly monolithic changes?

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” – Charles Darwin

With a beard that impressive, this guy obviously knows what he’s talking about.

Key to success is fluidity of mindset and a desire to understand, especially when it comes to the human side of business. While rapidly evolving technology has been the catalyst for many dramatic changes in business, the most profound come from the force behind these advances – people. To simplify things, think of the beloved slogan of the NRA “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. While this may be a logical fallacy when it comes to vitriolic gun-law debates, it holds a tiny grain of truth underneath its oversimplification. Business and technology are human creations, and are only as good as the people behind them, which is why it is critical to endeavour to understand and adapt to our changing sociology.  

The Numbers
Ageing Population
The median age of an Australian in 1976 was 28.3, whereas it is 37.9 years today[1] and in 2016, it will be 40.1[2].

In 2002, people aged 65 and over made up 13% of the population, and that figure is projected to increase to around 25% by 2042 and the proportion of the population aged between 15-64 years (labour force age) will decline from 67% (2004) to roughly 59% by 2051.[3]

Population composition by Generation
Builders (born before 1946) comprise 17% of the population
Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964) represent 26%
Generation X  (1965-1979) represent 21.5%
Generation Y (1980-1994) represent 20.5%
Generation Z (1995-2009) represent 15%[4]

The above numbers are just a quick snapshot – for more detailed information, visit the ABS website.

As the older generations are, for the most part, already in roles, it is important to focus on retention strategies. If you have valuable staff that are edging towards retirement age, keeping them on board will be reliant upon the development of alternative work arrangements (part time work, ‘grandparent leave’, leave buy back), the ability to provide work satisfaction through innovative channels (such as mentoring arrangements with younger workers, creating opportunities for staff contribution, training on new technologies) and a genuine interest in the retirement process and what it means for employees. However if you’re seeking rather than trying to retain, how would you go about it? Every company has a different strategy that is suited specifically to them, because every organisation has different things to offer workers. Incorporate knowledge and understanding of mature workers, including their wants, needs and professional outlooks, into your recruitment strategies to ensure effectiveness. For instance, some skills are concentrated to a particular age group, so do your research when recruiting for a role and target that demographic – don’t get caught up in trying to win over a younger audience with a high powered dynamic show of culture that sets Gen Y’s salivating, because you’ll end up missing out on attracting the older candidates with the right experience.

I often hear grumblings (whether it be on the street or in the office) like “Those bloody Gen Y’s, they’ve got a terrible work ethic and an awful attitude” or “Those grumpy old Boomers are stuck in their ways and they’re taking me down with them”. It doesn’t matter who I hear this coming from – young, old, short, tall – I always have to swallow my rage before I go and say something silly. Yes – there are differences between people born in different cohorts, we’ve all experienced dramatically different things in our formative years, so there’s bound to be variances. But instead of just writing them off as generational attitudes that are set in stone, make the effort to understand them and respond to them in a way the ensures the best outcome for both parties. Think your Gen Y staff have commitment issues? Offer incentives to retain them – find out what it is that would keep them around and work out a way for them to get what they want, while giving you what you need. It can be as simple as allowing a younger staff member to reach outside the parameters of their role and attempt something new – different people want different things from their job.

Maybe you’re asking, “Why should I have to do these things? It’s my business and I’ll run it how I see fit”. If you are asking that –

SHAME, SHAME, SHAME.

For shame indeed. The workplace is rapidly changing, things are evolving and the world isn’t going to stop turning, no matter how hard you try or how loud you grumble. Adapt and survive.

Does Size Matter?

Linda ParkerWorking for a large organisation is widely perceived as a vehicle for providing you with career progression as well as learning and development opportunities that smaller companies simply could not provide.

That is not always the case.

Sure, a large corporation will have a different hierarchy and structure to the team that could allow for future opportunities. On the flip side, it can also depend on whether the workforce plan and strategy of the organisation is to promote from within or whether they continually recruit from outside i.e. their competitors. Consider this… how long would it take you to actually get that promotion?!

Working for a recognised brand certainly has it’s benefits, your family friends and former colleagues will be impressed, and you may get opportunities for travel, which is all very exciting in the beginning.

In a smaller company you are not just a number, as can be the case for many large corporates.

In a smaller organisation the work you do is valued, and your achievements are very visible to management and the rest of the team and your hard work is appreciated. This can be both a positive and negative, as you can quickly become relied upon to do more work than others! The rewards can be more forthcoming in a smaller company, where there is less red tape to push through in order to show appreciation to staff for their hard work. On the negative side, there may not be the opportunities for travel or other benefits that a larger company can offer.

At the end of the day, whether you work in a large corporate or for a small business, you still have a job to do, and you may still have to work within a team, and report to a superior. The figures may be significantly different if you are an accountant managing the balance sheet, but the principles are the same.

You have to decide whether you are the sort of person that enjoys the prestige of working for a well known corporation with national or global operations, but where you may be considered a small fish in a big pond… or whether you prefer working in a smaller environment where you create a family like atmosphere and where there is less hierarchy and red tape, and you can be truly valued.

So what does it take to be a great Project Manager?

Managing projects can be a complex and difficult task. So what is it that allows great Project Managers to build reputations people that will deliver results on time and within budget?

After discussions with a number of successful and senior Project Managers recently, there is a general agreement on the key attributes that successful project managers possess.

1) They understand the business! They have the patience and communication skills to listen to the key stakeholders and understand what the business is trying to achieve from the project. There is no point in delivering a product or service that will not fit the requirements of the organisation.

2) They are Problem solvers! Projects can vary in size and complexity and it is important that project managers are able to think outside the box to come up with solutions to overcome obstacles.

3) Flexibility! Some projects can change on almost a daily basis and thus, project managers need to be flexible when approaching a project. Project management methodologies are a great way to set the direction for the project but they are not strict procedures. Project Managers must have the flexibility to alter their approach to overcome any obstacles that arise.

4) They are delivery focussed! The reputations of project managers are made or broken on their ability to successfully deliver outcomes to the business. It is imperative that project managers liaise with key stakeholders to set the desired outcomes and do everything they can to achieve them!

5) Outstanding communication and leadership skills! Project managers must be able to engage with key stakeholders to get support from senior management. They also must be able to bring out the best in their teams. This means supporting and delegating to team members to make the most of project resources.

6) Ownership!! Project managers have to take complete ownership of their projects and have the drive and passion to do everything they can to ensure that the outcomes are achieved within time, budget and resource constraints. This is where project managers build their reputations as someone who will get the job done!

Do you have what it takes to be a great Project Manager? With so many large projects kicking off, the industry is booming in South East Queensland. It is certainly an exciting time to be involved in project management!!

How’s Your Morale?

It’s easy to stand out in the current climate as a smart employer.  Ok the GFC has ripped the market around from candidate short to being job short, and businesses are cost cutting and shedding staff, but there is an opportunity to critically look at how happy (or not!) your team are.

Know who your best performers are, mentor, train and develop them, communicate and keep them informed of broader business strategies, get their feedback and input.  None of this costs a lot, but the pay back is guaranteed.

Employees are nervous about job security, they need to know how the business is tracking, they value hearing about the future plans and how that impacts on them.  If you want to keep your best people when the market turns, you need to invest in them NOW.

How you approach the market when you recruit new people is also a key aspect to building favourable impressions with employees.  With social networks booming, the world is getting better connected and information flows abundantly.  People readily share their impressions and gripes, with poor recruitment processes at the top of their list of complaints.

When you take a job to market – be READY.  This sounds silly, but we are seeing so many poor approaches to the current market.  Yes it’s an employers market, but your reputation is still important in any market!  Have the go ahead to actually recruit, update the PD, be able to put time aside to interview, be prepared to make a selection – don’t stall.  And induct!

All simple stuff, we know, but you’d be surprised at how many employers aren’t doing this!