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What the winners are investing in: Their Employees

What the winners are investing in: Their Employees

Is your organisation investing in your greatest asset? As the global marketplace shifts, organisations are attempting to find new ways to remain competitive and innovative. Recent trends have seen Australian employers investing more in their human resources than ever before, despite the advancement of automation and robotics. By investing in their people, Australian companies are able to better manage change, encounter difficulties, and leverage new technologies.

The Future of Work: Harmony between Robots and Humans

As the current labor force generation retires, employers are going to see labor shortages. Populations are decreasing, work perspectives are changing and though work remains the same, there are fewer employees available to fill the open slots. At the same time, many industries are also moving towards an increase in automation and robotics — the future of work lies in automated services, artificial intelligence, and robotic controls. Yet these automated services are going to need to be controlled, fine-tuned, and optimised by someone.

While low-level work is likely to be automated, higher-level work is going to become more important than ever. Employers are going to need to court the best talent to be competitive, and they may find themselves selecting from a smaller pool of sought-after candidates.

Here are some ways in which successful companies are adjusting to this new market.


  • Named the third best ‘large workspace’ in the Asia-Pacific Region
  • Uses physical exercise to reinforce teamwork and company culture
  • Encourages innovation even when the innovation isn’t profitable

Employees at some offices of the Atlassian begin their day with a Pushups and Planks workout schedule: a physical testament to the company’s strong culture. Meanwhile, company ‘ShipIt’ days give employees the opportunity to innovate on any project they want. These initiatives are designed to encourage employees to work together, build camaraderie and teamwork, and improve each employee’s relationship with the business.


Food is where the heart is. Canva brought in its own executive chef to cook meals for its 80-staff members, at a cost of approximately $10 a day. With vegan and vegetarian options available, Canva hopes to fuel their employees’ energy and productivity through better tasting, more nutritious food. Many companies are paying more attention to employee health, with the idea that a healthy employee is more likely to be focused and effective.


  • Continually cited as one of the best places in which to work in Australia
  • Provides flexible working arrangements to its employees
  • Intentionally hires only those who fit into its company culture

Envato’s employment strategy is quite unique. Employees are allowed to work from anywhere they want for up to three months a year. This is apart from the many tech-friendly amenities Envato provides, such as milk bars, game tables, and consoles. By letting employees work from anywhere in the world, they get happier, more satisfied employees who are likewise willing to work harder.


  • Named the ninth best workplace in Asia
  • Builds on a foundation of six core values
  • Committed to diversity, inclusiveness, and charity

Rackspace focuses on what it calls a purpose-driven culture, encouraging employees to give their time through volunteering and going the extra mile for their customers. Rackspace employees have 24 hours of paid volunteer time that they can use to make a difference, which contributes to the company culture of meaningful change.

Rackspace itself also maintains Racker Resource Groups, which offers employees networking opportunities and support. An example is RackParents, a group in which new parents can connect. These efforts foster a relationship with employees that goes beyond a company, turning it into a community.

What Can We Learn from These Companies?

Organisations such as Atlassian, Canva, Envato, and Rackspace are investing in their employee health and satisfaction, improving their work-life balance, and creating strong company cultures. The above companies encourage camaraderie between team members and foster a strong relationship between the company and its employees. All of this combines to create an environment that is happier and more productive, with greater levels of employee retention and the ability to procure even greater talent.

Creating Stronger Businesses through Employees

With the modern workforce shifting, it will become imperative for companies to find the best talent. Organisations must engage the C-suite when creating a stronger workplace environment, with the understanding that the workforce is about to change. Prior generations will retire and companies need to consider that newer generation workforces prioritise a feeling of meaning and well-being in their environment. Though artificial intelligence and robotics will fill some gaps, it won’t be able to fill everything.

From digital transformation to the new workforce, modern business is changing and it can be difficult to keep up. If you want to learn more about supporting your business in this new landscape, you need to connect and network with others within your industry. To learn more, contact TEC.

The employee retention strategies used by Australian CEOs


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32 percent of CEOs now believe that talent is harder to retain. Businesses are now competing for the top talent, both acquiring it and retaining it. CEOs must focus not only on obtaining staff but also retaining them. Not only do talented employees add value to the organisation, but the costs of rehiring and retraining employees can be considerable. Replacing an employee costs, on average, six months of salary for the position in question. Investing in employee retention can be an excellent way to improve profitability.

To that end, CEOs are attempting to make their businesses more attractive to their employees. Their strategies include:

  • Improving training

Many employees find themselves leaving otherwise fulfilling positions because they feel that they don’t have any opportunities for growth. Improved training along with a transparent process for promotions can give an employee goals to consider. 33 percent of CEOs believe that improving training will lead them to the right path towards drawing the right talent.

  • Adding benefits

Benefits can be added as an employee gains seniority to reward them for their loyalty. Employees with the company for a long time could be rewarded with additional vacation days, health benefits, or flexible working hours. 32 percent of CEOs are adding benefits, compared to 17 percent who are increasing wages.

  • Increasing wages

A regular increase in wages is often necessary to keep the best employees, especially in industries where they may be considered by competitors or where salaries are advancing quite quickly. Salaries aren’t the only way to retain employees, but a lack of salary increase can make employees feel undervalued even if they otherwise enjoy their work.

  • Company culture

Employees often find it easier to work with a business if they identify with its culture. Businesses should establish their company culture quickly and make it a point to invest in employees that are a good fit.

  • Acknowledgement

In addition to salaries and benefits, there are many employees who simply want to be acknowledged for their contributions to the business and their hard work. Setting up employee reward systems and regularly acknowledging employee input will show employees that they are appreciated by the business and that their work is not going unnoticed.

A business that is able to retain its employees will have lower churn and a greater sense of stability. Not only will it reduce its hiring and training expenses, but it can build upon employee knowledge to develop more innovative and well-optimised business processes.

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Does paying the price lead to winning the war for talent?


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As companies look towards improving their profit pictures, many CEOs are considering the adoption of leading talent. Talent reduces the cost of business processes, improves customer satisfaction, and perhaps most importantly — drive innovation. But procuring the right talent isn’t always easy. CEOs in 2018 are considering:

  • Higher wages

Higher wages aid in employee retention, which reduces training costs. Higher wages may also lead to the hiring of better talent — and since 23% of CEOs are considering higher wages, it may become a way to remain in step with the competition. Nevertheless, higher wages can also be seen as throwing money at the problem, and ultimately, may not actually retain talent. Higher wages don’t necessarily lead to a better working environment, which is a critical aspect of employee acquisition and retention.

  • Social and online channels

Networking is one of the leading ways to find top talent, as many talented employees are not actively looking for new positions. Word-of-mouth, active social media channels, and industry-related groups can provide the business with excellent leads on talented professionals who may be interested in new opportunities.

  • Additional and non-traditional benefits

If companies cannot compete based on salaries alone, they can compete in terms of benefits. Traditional benefits such as retirement funds and medical plans can make a substantial difference when employees are comparing positions. Non-traditional benefits such as flexible time and work-from-home can attract those looking for work-life balance.

  • Advanced training

Modern employees are looking for ways to build upon their careers. Advanced training and seminar programs add to their value as employees, not only making them more useful to the business but also drawing in the most motivated and driven employees.

  • Employee referral programs

Employees can often identify talented individuals who would excel in a working environment. Many times, they have already established a network with others in their industry. An employee referral program can bring these talented individuals directly to the business with limited time invested.

38 percent of CEOs believe that hiring is getting harder. A formalised talent management process can make it easier for businesses to attract and secure the right talent. With increasing wages and benefits, CEOs must also consider their cost-benefit analysis, identifying each hire’s direct value to the organisation. Through a structured talent management process, CEOs will be able to identify and secure the employees most beneficial to their organisation’s bottom line.

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How to manage your star employees

Employees are what drives a business — and that’s why businesses are always competing for the best talent.

Industry professionals have estimated that up to 90% of an enterprise’s value is driven by its intellectual capital, but you don’t need to rely upon such abstract estimates. It’s already known that the average employee costs six to nine months of their salary to replace.

With all this in mind, it becomes necessary for CEOs and managers to focus on both acquiring and supporting their best employees. Unfortunately, model employees tend to disappear beneath the problem employees, making them feel unwanted and undervalued.

It’s a CEO’s job to ensure that all employees feel satisfied and recognised — especially the ones that are doing the most for the business.

Foster your team relationships

The Pareto Principle tells us that the top 20% of our employees will complete 80% of the work. By the same token, the bottom 20% of our employees will take up 80% of our time. This is what can cause a solid employee to disappear under a morass of more difficult ones. But when you manage a business, you aren’t managing just the top employees or just the bottom employees; you’re managing them all as a team. There will always be overachievers and underachievers, but you need to work with all of them effectively.

When employees work together, they are more likely to feel rewarded by a task successfully completed. Team-building exercises and corporate events can be used to further deepen and build upon these relationships, in addition to the foundation that a strong sense of company culture provides. A sense of camaraderie and team spirit is often enough to make employees feel like a valuable member, but the danger is that they may also feel as though they aren’t being rewarded for their direct and unique contributions.

Recognise and reward individual employees

Creating a company culture of recognition is important. But rewards don’t necessarily need to involve money. In fact, both public and private recognition are often rated more highly. Employees don’t just want to feel directly recognised; they also want to feel as though they have a future with the organisation and that they will continue to develop their career. What’s more, while 24% of employees found recognition from their CEO the best, 28% found recognition from their direct managers preferable.

Communicate with your employees through bi-weekly meetings

Regular one-on-one meetings, even quick stand-up meetings to check in, are a great way to tell your employees what they’re doing correctly and to get any feedback on what managers may be doing wrong. Many companies are blindsided by employees who appear to leave suddenly, when the departure really wasn’t sudden at all. The employee was simply never given the opportunity to directly address their concerns. When given a chance, most employees will be straightforward about their own goals with the organisation and what the organisation could be doing to better serve them.

Training and development opportunities

Employees today are not loyal to their companies; they are loyal to their careers. If they feel as though their careers aren’t advancing at the rate they expected, they’re more likely to jump ship. The solution is to offer a steady stream of training and development opportunities. Employees want to be able to do their jobs well; this gives your top-performing employees their time to shine.

Training and development directly benefit the organisation itself. As employees become more effective, they become more efficient at their tasks and more capable of operating autonomously. Though the company may need to invest directly in these training and development opportunities, they will ultimately achieve a substantial return on their investment.

Employees may also be given the opportunity to engage in transfer of learning, through which skills are diversified and employees are able to cross-train in different fields. Employees who are able to train in multiple fields are far more likely to be effective, as they are able to quickly adapt to the positions that the company requires. Transfer of learning is how some of the top CEOs are able to be so effective. It is also instrumental in grooming top-performing employees for management positions.

By improving your employee retention, not only can you reduce your hiring costs, but you can also boost your employee satisfaction by up to 22%. Though this isn’t an easy task, it can be achieved by building a company culture of employee recognition from the ground up. As a CEO, managing your employees is a balancing act; you need to be able to reward your outstanding performers while still managing the employees who are struggling. Mentorship and advisement can help. Through TEC, you can connect with other entrepreneurs and CEOs who are facing the same hurdles and developing their own employee management strategies. For more information, contact TEC today.

How to have difficult conversations with employees

In an interview with 200 executives, it was discovered that 53% of executives admitted to avoiding difficult conversations because they felt they didn’t have the training or the experience to handle them. Of those who avoided conversations, 97% did so because of the stress that it caused them — and 80% were concerned that the conversation would escalate into anger. The role of a CEO is no different; difficult conversations with employees are stressful. Unfortunately, they are still necessary.

Being able to tackle difficult situations in the workplace is a defining characteristic of a CEO. A true leader doesn’t just manage difficult conversations; they excel at turning difficult conversations towards a positive goal. But all of that takes experience and self-awareness. Here are some of the key factors to mastering difficult conversations with employees.

Set the right tone 

It’s important to start any conversation with a positive tone — otherwise, you can easily put your employee on the defensive. Handling a difficult conversation is very much about reducing the emotions that are in play. An emotional person will not be receptive to your feedback and your direction. There are many things that can influence the tone of a conversation:

  • Environment. Being ‘called into the office’ can be stressful in and of itself, and it’s important to understand that your employee is already going to have their guard up. Consider an alternative approach, such as walking up to your employee and asking them, ‘Would you mind having a talk with me in the conference room?’ For difficult conversations, neutral territory may be best.
  • Body language.It can be difficult to control your body language, especially if you yourself are upset or frustrated. As a CEO, your employees are going to take their cues from you; if you seem agitated and upset, they will be as well. Keep your body loose and relaxed, avoid any aggressive movements, and take some time to just breathe.
  • Mindset. What is your ultimate goal for this encounter? If it’s a combative one, then the encounter will probably be combative. Your mentality going into a difficult conversation should be to ask about the other person’s point of view and to work together to find a solution.
  • Opening. Your opening sentence should be inclusive rather than, ‘I need to talk to you about something,’ say ‘May we talk about something?

It’s important to align yourself with your employee so that you can work together during the conversation. While you may feel that the employee themselves is a roadblock or that they have caused a situation, it is still true that you and the employee are going to need to work together and resolve it. As a CEO, this bigger picture will override any smaller frustrations.

Be clear about the issue, but don’t oversimplify the problem

Effective leaders are able to convey complex topics in simple terms, but that in itself can be an art form. When describing an issue, CEOs need to achieve a balance between being concise and being clear. There can be a temptation to oversimplify an issue — either to get the conversation over with or to gloss over some of the negativity. Unfortunately, that gives the employee an incorrect perception of the issue. They may not treat it appropriately or even take it seriously. Eventually, this leads to frustration, as the leader perceives a problem that the employee still does not.

  • Don’t go into unnecessary detail. When describing an issue, discuss only the facts that are pertinent to the employee — and only give enough for the employee to both understand the issue and understand the desired outcome. The employee doesn’t need to know the intricacies of the situation. They need to know what to do to complete their work more effectively.
  • Ask questions to determine whether the employee fully understands the issue. What is clear to you may not necessarily be clear to the employee; after all, you have more data to work with regarding the situation than they do. Rather than assuming that the situation has been resolved at the end of the conversation, ask the employee questions — such as what they will do next to resolve the problem.

Communication is all about clarity, and clarity often requires brevity. Complex situations should be distilled into a few concise statements; this will ensure that the employee will understand the issue and be able to appropriately tackle it.

Prepare for the meeting, but do not rehearse

As a CEO, it’s likely that quite a lot of your life involves preparation. The more prepared you are, the better the outcome. Having difficult conversations is no different. Before you tackle a difficult conversation, you need to have as full an understanding of the situation as possible. You should understand the facts of the situation, be able to articulate why it is an issue, and have suggestions for moving forward.

But preparation is far different from rehearsal. When you’re concerned about a conversation, it would be easy to go over it many times in your head. But eventually you would end up developing a script — and scripting can be dangerous. When you operate from a script, you stop listening to the other person. You are no longer able to effectively communicate with them and answer their questions. Instead, you’ll find yourself going back to your script, again and again.

Avoiding rehearsal will make it easier for you to connect directly to your employee and to listen to them. Remember: your prior knowledge may not always be accurate, and you may not always have a full picture of the situation. Being open to your employee means that you can be open to changing your preconceptions and open to solutions that may differ from the ones that you had previously devised.

Know your objectives, stay positive and future focused

It’s easy to get derailed through the course of a conversation, especially a difficult or defensive one. This may involve becoming bogged down in arguing details rather than looking at the bigger picture. Rather than seeking to position themselves at an indefensible point (such as whether or not a project was delivered late), defensive employees may begin to argue finer points (such as who was responsible for delivering a specific part of the project late).

This can be avoided by remaining positive, staying on track, and focusing on the future. It’s always possible to argue what has happened in the past; it is less possible to argue about what needs to happen going forward. Practically speaking, the major concern is not who was guilty or culpable; it’s being assured that the situation will not occur again.

Regardless of the content of the discussion, it must always end with a clear, concise goal for the future. This is what gives your employee something to focus on moving forward.

Master the art of conversation

As a leader, you have to be able to tackle difficult conversations head-on. Developing this talent will serve you well throughout your career, and will lead to better business outcomes throughout your organisation.

It can be difficult to face frustrated or aggressive employees, especially when you are perceived as opposition rather than help. Luckily, you’re not alone. TEC’s network of experienced, knowledgeable CEOs can help give you tips that have served them well throughout their tenure, developing your social skills and building up your network. Contact TEC today to find out more.

How to manage employee retention: Lessons from Marsh & Partners

More than 75% of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies were promoted from inside of the organisation. Whether they were promoted on the basis of a family dynasty, through merit, or a combination of both, CEOs have an average of 16 years of experience within their organisation. In fact, approximately one-third of these CEOs are ‘lifers’ — individuals who have worked from the bottom up within their company.

Regardless of industry, people are a company’s most valuable asset and investment. The best CEOs don’t just have prior experience with their companies — they continue to grow, learn, and self-analyse within them. These CEOs will be true leaders; they will be able to inspire loyalty and consistently acquire the best work from their employees.

Bronwyn Condon, managing partner of Marsh & Partners, has worked with the firm since her graduation from college. As managing partner of the accounting firm, she has focused both on developing a strong team and fostering individual relationships with her employees. By focusing on employee development, mentorship, and opportunities for growth, she has been able to build a company culture of trust and loyalty, and she has been able to deliver the best in talent to her firm’s clientele.

Analyse your turnover 

Australia has seen increasingly high staff turnover rates in the last few years. In fact, staff turnover rose 29% year-over-year in 2016 alone. Modern employees have more options, which is leading to more job-hopping and more job-hunting. Not only is high staff turnover inefficient and expensive, but it can also disrupt the continuity of service that customers have come to expect. Employers need to be able to procure and retain the top talent: otherwise they will only find themselves caught in a ceaseless treadmill of employee training.

Every time a business needs to replace an employee, it costs approximately six to nine months of that employee’s salary. A significant portion of this is wrapped up in training, during which time the new employee will need to adapt and grow into the role. But that isn’t the only cost of high turnover. Companies with high turnover rates also lose their best employees — the employees who are most likely to build value for the business.

Business leaders need to be willing to analyse their turnover rates and identify areas in which the business may not be performing to its full potential. A significant portion of employee turnover is due to management; when management styles conflict when an employee’s goals, the employee will often leave. Marsh & Partners has devoted itself to the hiring of individuals who fit into their people-centric business model. To that end, they have focused on hiring individuals who are proactive self-starters and who can align with the company’s culture.

Support each staff member

Every staff member is unique. They have their own career goals and personal desires. It isn’t only the responsibility of the employee to support the business; it is also the responsibility of the business to support the employee. Employees will leave when they feel that their career is at a standstill, when they aren’t able to devote enough time to their personal lives, or when they feel ignored or unrecognised by their management. It is your job as a leader to resolve these issues to avoid losing talents.

To that end, Bronwyn was able to create a comprehensive mentorship program at Marsh & Partners to ensure that the goals of her employees aligned with the goals of the business. By helping her employees reach their own personal goals, she ensured that they were able to dedicate enough time to producing the best.

Employees will put much more into their work when they feel valued — and building this type of relationship with an employee starts with empathy and self-analysis. Mentorship programs cut both ways, by giving newer employees access to expertise and guidance whilst ensuring that senior employees remain connected and engaged.

Find a peer network

True leadership requires constant improvement. Just as new staff members may need senior mentorship, business leaders often need expert feedback in order to continue to grow. Connecting to a peer advisory network gives a leader the opportunity to see things from a different point of view. Peer networks can offer key insights into the strategies of other industries and can offer vital third-party, neutral analysis. By being exposed to different management styles and business strategies, a leader will be able to develop beyond the confines of their own company.

Through TEC, Bronwyn was able to further her development as a leader and partner in Marsh & Partners. One-to-Ones with Bronwyn’s TEC mentor fulfilled a valuable need for her own mentorship, through which her concerns and issues could be voiced to an experienced third party. Through this partnership, Bronwyn was able to work through many solutions for her business, make better decisions and personally develop her own leadership skills. Self-analysis is incredibly important for all leaders. No one is infallible, and every leader serves as an example for their employees.

Through TEC, leaders can begin transforming themselves and, in so doing, transforming their businesses for better results. Contact TEC today to begin your own journey.

Coming up to the next fork in your career road

There you were – engaged, challenged and fulfilled in your work that made the most of your innate talents and spoke to your passions and beliefs. You might have spent years developing a fully committed relationship with one of your closest friends – your job!

And now it is time for you to say goodbye to that friend forever. You have arrived, not necessarily for the first time in your life, at a point of self re-invention.

So often defined by our job title, we are poorly prepared for a walk in the desert to find new directions and meaning in our careers.

Out of touch

As a result of being fully committed to your job – you probably didn’t make a point of staying in touch with your old contacts as well as developing new ones outside of your company and industry. It’s a symptom that develops from being too far enclosed in your comfort zone and doesn’t really rear up to bite until you find yourself with nowhere to go – and by then it’s far too late.

It’s also likely most of your LinkedIn network is made up of people within your own company or those who do business with it. Your existing network is a good place to start but it needs to grow into something far more diverse if it’s going to have any value to your career aspirations. Otherwise it becomes a roadblock, rather than a passage to greener pastures.

You probably didn’t attend networking functions either, nor make the most of development opportunities when they were on offer. There are a number of excuses people use to justify this, but they can’t continue to burn through social and professional capital by being in love with their job at the expense of so many other things.

Preparing for your walk in the desert

Without de-constructing yourself completely, it is important to take time to reflect on how you will decide on your next career step. You will most likely have infinite options but finite financial resources to fund your walk – but it is important that you allow yourself time to be prepared for the walk and think about what is the right amount of change you need in your life right now.

Research suggests that successful career transition self-management involves being clear about what makes up your iceberg of needs, which splits up your demands and desires into different sections, both of which require unique management.

Your visible drivers – those that are above the water line – are stated seeds such as your desired position, company, money and level of job security.

On the other hand, you have your invisible drivers – those that exist below the water line. These drivers aren’t static. They move around based on circumstances and context.

What are they for you right now or moving forward? Here are some examples:

  • Reputation
  • Recognition
  • Respect
  • Status
  • Acceptance
  • Security

Beyond that, there are a range of questions of varying difficulty you can test yourself with. I regularly talk to people who are all approaching the fork in their career path, and these queries can help bring certainty and direction at a difficult time.

  • Do you know what it is you want to do with the next seasons of your life/career?
  • Are you clear about what you love to do, what you are good at and what values drive you?
  • Do you have a general sense of direction for yourself professionally from this point?
  • What is the best possible job, role or portfolio of gigs you could imagine for yourself right now? (One that would feel custom made for you.)
  • If you had to find a middle ground between focusing on a few specific paths or options versus opening up lots of diverse opportunities – what is clear and what is fuzzy?
  • Who are your career champions? (The people who will help you most in your career steps)
  • What kind of track record do you need to create for the subsequent steps in your career – not just the next one?
  • In what ways might different opportunities open up further career opportunities or narrow them down?
  • What’s the right amount of risk to take at this point in your career?

Then, consider these traits as an action plan of sorts that can help you get moving.

  • Having a clear sense of your strengths and weaknesses
  • A broad sense of life purpose
  • Analyse your executive career to identify key critical competencies and critical success factors that are the basis upon building your next phase of your career and for developing your unique personal value proposition
  • Achieving a reasonable degree of clarity about what you do and do not want – and what you will and will not choose to consider
  • Shaping how influencers and decision makers will assess your potential and categorise you
  • Being clear about your personal brand
  • Having a sense of what your personal business model might need to be (e.g. multiple sources of income)
  • Planning the stages and steps to evolve into your next stage career
  • Critically assessing your network and then strategically putting it to work
  • Developing your social proof beyond ‘LinkedIn’
  • Finding a middle ground between focusing on a few specific roles versus opening up lots of diverse opportunities
  • Designing a personal activity and development plan
  • Building a next stage career and track record with both depth and breadth
  • Regularly assessing and adjusting your portfolio of business interests, roles or gigs
  • Create a plan for personal and professional growth

Where are you now?

Before you can move on, you need to develop a clear idea of where you currently are. Everyone’s circumstances are different – but realistically – what age are you expecting to work until?

Is your industry and job type under threat of digital transformation, artificial intelligence, robotics etc. that might beat you to that age?

If you have an idea they might, you need to start doing something about it now, such as retraining or relearning in preparation for a shift to a new industry.

How long have you been in your current role and company? Is the assumption that you can and will stay there until you are ready to leave the correct one?

Life is one big decision making process and is full of trade-offs, often having to be made on the run, using intuition (with fingers crossed) rather than having a definitive answer or set guidelines to follow.

Career choices used to carry the luxury of plenty of time in an ordered world, with you always in the driver’s seat considering all options completely. It just isn’t the case anymore, the pace of the modern world demands that you be proactive so you can react to changes as they occur, not weeks or months down the road.

There are new paradigms now and if you are facing a fork in the road of your career – take time to consider how you would purposefully drive change rather than be a victim of it.

Mark Twain spoke into existence one of my favorite quotes of all time, ‘The two most important days in your life are the day you were born, and the day you find out why.’

Make your decisions based on what is best for your life, personality and career.

By: TEC Alumni Chair, CEO mentor and coach Trent Bartlett

Is it time to quit your day job and become an interim manager?

Is it time to quit your day job and become an interim manager?

We all know how the traditional career path played out. People took time getting an education to boost their employment prospects and then spent years – if not decades – building their career through jobs in their chosen industry. The idea was to build up a sustainable pension and retire comfortably, not long after their 65th birthday.

One look at the way younger generations are approaching the world reveals that this is no longer the case, as people are happy to jump between different roles and have more than one career over their working life. But these opportunities aren’t just unique to people the workforce. In fact, the idea that people can now create and live from a portfolio of work, rather than a continuous string of jobs, is perfectly suited to leaders and other executives who are looking to change their working lifestyles.

How will a portfolio of work change the way people make money?

The concept of jobs is now out of date, according to strategist and author Heather McGowan. She stated that the new world of work is comprised of income generation as opposed to just work.

The lines between education, career and retirement are now blurring. Overlapping fields are replacing set stages of a person’s life. As people focus on lifelong learning and jobs as we know them the idea of a developing a career through one job has become an outdated concept.

A portfolio of income generation, therefore, is usually made up of short-term employment opportunities and the ability to monetise assets. This last point is made possible with services such as Uber and Airbnb, both of which give private individuals the ability to earn money from their vehicles and property, respectively.

It’s not just people who are changing

The rise in short-term engagements and the need to create an income portfolio is brought on by the fact that the nature of jobs is also changing. Thomas Friedman found that it’s not a simple change either, as different roles are moving in unique directions, forcing people to adapt accordingly.

According to ideas from Friedman’s ‘Next New World Summit,’ jobs are moving in three directions. Some are moving up, meaning they demand higher levels of education and technical ability. A selection are moving down, becoming obsolete as technology takes over or they simply become irrelevant. Finally, others are moving across, fragmenting into more nuanced rolls or falling solely into the realm of short-term appointments. This where income generation portfolios begin to make sense for executives and business leaders.

What does this mean for management professionals?

So far, the idea of income generation sounds more targeted towards younger generations. However, it’s actually something that’s just as relevant to senior executives, especially those who want to move from full-time hours to more flexible arrangements.

These people have a wealth of experience and qualifications which they can draw from – skills which make them the perfect fit for businesses that need management expertise for short periods of time. Alternatively, people between jobs who want to build up their portfolio in the meantime are able to take on short-term assignments as they see fit.

The most important thing to remember, however, is to not equate this lifestyle with contracting. There are similarities, but interim management possesses its own unique qualities.

Defining interim management: Is it your next lifestyle?

While traditional management roles are associated with longevity, some business challenges only need short- to mid-term solutions. In other cases, especially for smaller entities, they simply may not have the budget to permanently appoint certain managers or executives.

If a business is rolling out a major new initiative and their current leadership team is lacking certain skills, interim managers are a cost-effective way to meet these challenges, especially if executives are already stretched.

In many cases, these people will be overqualified, boasting experience in roles as CIOs, CEOs and CFOs, and will be able to hit the ground running while delivering outcomes. They aren’t consultants, and shouldn’t be treated as such, because they’re there to do a job, deliver on outcomes and provide some mentoring along the way.

The major difference between interim managers and contractors is that they aren’t just there to do the job as per a brief. It’s about integrating with a team and pulling everything together as only someone with their experience will be able to do, while also  guiding others.

Interim managers can also be brought in while a company goes through a hiring process for permanent member of the executive team. This means the initial role isn’t neglected in the meantime – new hires can join the team seamlessly.

Richard ApplebyBy Richard Appleby, TEC Chair

How to establish business and individual KPIs to monitor performance

How to establish business and individual KPIs to monitor performance

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are a standard feature in any business environment, but it’s not always easy to create measures for success that are actually valuable to an organisation.

Creating meaningful and achievable KPIs is particularly challenging for smaller organisations. In these cases, owners are busy working in the business, and don’t have to time to manage unnecessarily complex KPIs.

The solution is an easy one to give, but not necessarily an easy one to implement, as managers need to balance simplicity and complexity, and individual and team performance to create effective KPIs.

The base traits of effective KPIs

Broadly speaking, KPIs need to be simple and measurable. If employees don’t understand them and managers don’t have the time to analyse the results, they’re essentially meaningless. To make it easier to create performance measurements, KPIs can be categorised into two main groups.

The first, and probably most traditional are those that focus on outcomes, such as sales targets and overall productivity. The major benefit of these KPIs is that they are easy to understand and simple to measure. However, the major downside is that if the results are negative, they’re reflecting actions and mindsets that can be anywhere between six and 12 months out of date.

So, while it’s still worth keeping track of outcome-based KPIs, they don’t hold all the answers when it comes to managing employee performance. This leads into the second category of KPIs which are those that measure activity.

What are the actions employees take to achieve their outcome-based KPIs? Carrying on the example of sales targets mentioned above, meeting these goals may depend on relationships between employees and clients that develop over time. The activity of the salesperson in these cases, even before they close a deal, may lead to business enquiries going up. It’s possible to measure this activity and the different stages of these relationships and craft these into KPIs of their own.

This is not just beneficial to a company’s bottom line, but to employee well-being also. In reality, it’s much more satisfying for employees to measure their activity successfully rather than getting themselves down over missing their sales targets.

Individual vs. team KPIs

The next problem a business owner will face when creating KPIs is whether to focus on individual or team performance metrics. The answer is that there’s no right or wrong choice, but rather a delicate balance that ensures not only an individual is performing well, but also their efforts support the overall success of the team too.

Broadly speaking, both activity- and outcome-based KPIs apply to individuals and their wider teams. The challenge lies in ensuring that individual performance isn’t supported at the expense of the team and vice versa.

For the individual, it’s important they have goals they can set themselves which guide their performance and offer moving targets. If the KPIs that focus on activity are well-guided, simple to understand and easy to measure and execute, individuals are likely to achieve positive outcomes as well.

If individual KPIs have the potential to make people act selfishly or create an environment where people won’t share, something needs to change.

Ideally, a proportion of these KPIs will focus on what individuals can do within the business, and another set will encourage team success, a balance that is difficult yet essential to achieve.

The science of focus

While there’s no set KPI that will work for every business, there are a few key principles managers can keep in mind to ensure whatever they do create is valuable for their teams.

I’ve recently begun to investigate focus, what it means for businesses, and how human limitations impact the way KPIs are formed. In the business environment, I’ve found that the concept of the top five offers important direction for individuals. This refers to the top five activities or goals an individual or team should direct their attention to.

Whether these five activities or outcomes occur over a day, a week or a month, the idea is that they don’t overload a person, and represent the maximum amount of tasks they can focus their attention on.

However, I’ve also heard of a similar mantra in the sporting environment which focuses on the top three. Same concept, smaller number of key tasks and outcomes. This reinforces the value of keeping things simple by limiting the important points employees need to worry about or act upon.

This mindset underpins what it takes to develop great good KPIs. They need to be easy to understand, simple to measure and execute, focus on both activity and outcome and encourage both individual and team success.

It’s a delicate and difficult balance, but businesses that get it right stand a much better chance creating successful employees.

Andrew DickBy Andrew Dick, TEC Chair 

Building a Winning Organisation. Why is it so hard

Building a Winning Organisation. Why is it so hard?

Every business leader wants to lead a winning organisation, so how come so many fail?

A great line is ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’. The point being that a poor culture will kill stone dead the very best strategy. A Bain and Company survey has shown that 68% of leaders believe their culture is a source of competitive advantage, 81% believe that an organization that lacks a high performance culture is doomed to mediocrity – yet fewer than 10% actually succeed in building a winning culture.

So where is the disconnect and what makes for a winning culture?

Guess what, it starts at the top.

The culture of an organisation follows the CEOs personality and values.

If you have a CEO who is dominant, tough, and financially savvy with a win at all costs approach then that leader will surround themselves with people who share the same values. These are the values that will become the culture and norms across the organisation. Organisations that have these values in extreme have been some of the most spectacular business failures . However there are plenty of examples where these attributes are spectacularly successful over the longer term and underpin great organisations.

If you have a CEO who is a classic level 5 leader, as per Jim Collins, then that person will surround themselves with an appropriate mix of talent and values that reflect the values of the level 5 leader. The results are the long term outperformance that Collins has made himself famous for discovering and writing about in his many books.

If you have a CEO who is not very good with people, avoids difficult decisions, does not have a clear aspiration for the enterprise, and tolerates mediocre, then that’s precisely the culture that the organisation will reflect (weak, lacking performance, poor place to work, not so happy customers).

Most leaders I work with are well aware that a great workplace culture will be strong, performance-oriented and accountable. They also know that staff satisfaction is the lead indicator of customer satisfaction which the lead indicator of organisational or financial performance. It is pretty well documented that a leader needs to create a vision, and inspire the team towards achieving the vision (see Simon Sineks great work on “Why”). Leaders also need to turn the vision into a strategy and in turn that strategy into action through the executive team and the organisation. Ultimately it is getting the right people lined up in pursuit of a common purpose, having the jobs split into bite sized pieces that individuals and small teams can chew on and deliver to on agreed time frames.

Easy? Of course not.

The what to do is easy – we pretty much all know it and try to practice it with different levels of success and failure.

The gold is actually in the how rather than the What.

This hit me a couple of years ago after a session with my TEC group. We had a level five leader in as a guest speaker for the day. Under his leadership the company had grown from a market capitalisation of $30million to well over $3 billion over 12 years (since he retired it has continued to thrive and is continuing to outperform). Everyone wanted to know how he had done it and what was the secret to success. The group all listened intently and engaged for four hours. After this legend left a member said how disappointed they were. All the things our speaker talked about were the things we ordinarily talk about- there seemed to be no gold at all- was it pure luck?

Another member said you missed the entire point ‘didn’t you hear him talk about HOW he engaged with the people, HOW he treated them, HOW he valued all of them and HOW he valued his customers ensuring that from the top to the bottom the people all valued the customers and served their needs. It was all in the HOW not the WHAT’.

This leader had a very clear vision, was very ambitious, financially savvy and great  with people. People loved him. Why? Because he genuinely cared and it reflected across the business. He cared about the janitor as much as he cared about the chairman of the board and he showed that care by engaging with each person at their level on issues that mattered to them, whilst not losing site of where he was taking the organisation. He managed to build an enormous reservoir of trust from his people and that trust became the heart of this enterprises success over a very long time.

This trust factor is a common theme in successful organisations.

The people at the front line feel that they trust their leaders and the organization and so are willing to work hard for the greater good and go the extra mile rather than just turn up for the pay cheque.

A recent speaker suggested that it is our job as leaders to give our people winning experiences,-show them how to win and enjoy winning through their everyday jobs.

Most people do take pride in a job well done- whether it is driving a tractor and creating straight furrows, building a tank that is properly formed, nursing a sick patient, keeping the peace, or trading bonds.

If you as a leader find someone doing their job well it is incredibly powerful to notice this, and say well done in a sincere way. It is amazing how this builds trust however if it is disingenuous ,people see straight through the phony and the trust factor is diminished.

This works better than well formed bonus schemes in most organisations.

However there is much more in building a winning culture than trust. People are employed to do a job and create some kind of output. There must be performance and accountability for jobs well done and not done or done poorly. A clear set of expectations driven from the top with clear consequences for non or poor performance is also a major element in creating a winning organisation. The reality is that people respect and expect clear guidelines for what’s expected of them. If they know exactly what they are expected to do and are held to those expectations consistently then morale will increase and a winning edge will be enhanced. Careless guidelines which do not require top performance will erode a winning attitude.

There are times when the leader needs to be quite directive in their approach and other times when the style should become supportive. Having the self and situational awareness as to when to be supportive and when to be directive is something that sets the really good leaders apart from the ordinary and ultimately this leads to a performing organisation and culture which drives customer satisfaction and in turn drives shareholder returns and value.

When taking an organisation through a period of change it is highly unlikely that a supportive leadership style will succeed. What is needed is strong direction to get a failing organisation moving in the right direction- only when it is moving can any thought be given to using a more supportive style of leadership.

Creating a winning organisation starts with the leader. The culture is a pure reflection of the leaders’ personality, values. True care for the people will engender loyalty and trust. This, together with a clear set of expectations and positive direction (including vision, plan and details to be delivered- who does what by when) will help build a winning culture.

The HOW is just as important as the WHAT.

Ian NealBy Ian Neal, TEC Chair