#Blog: Thank You For The Thankless Jobs!

Thank you for the thankless jobs!

Article by Richard Evans. 

Earlier this year I came across an article that highlighted the most in-demand jobs in Australia for 2017. This list of top jobs stimulated a lot of discussion amongst our team here at Talent Nation. In particular we found one job, a Payroller, a little left of centre.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely believe that the role of a Payroll Officer is crucial and, having worked in payroll for a number of years, I know how challenging and critical the role can be. But it is a ‘thankless job’. Think about it. When was the last time you called Payroll to say; “Hey, I just wanted to let you know that my pay arrived in my account and was absolutely correct, thanks!” Unfortunately the calls a Payroller receives are generally when things go wrong, usually to no fault of their own, but they bear the wrath of the caller.

I am a Telstra customer and have been for many years as I rely on good network coverage to be able to take calls whenever I am on the road (hands-free of course). There is no doubt that Telstra have had a few challenges in recent times with outages which, although inconvenient, are not the end of the world. However the individuals operating the call centres again bear the brunt of angry customers that have been wronged. I wonder how many callers in these moments are conscious of how they are speaking to the individual on the end of the phone and whether it is justified. The employee didn’t cause the outage, they are handling queries and putting in the hours helping Australians. When we have a problem however all that seems to be forgotten and, when people ‘finally get to speak to a person’, it’s not usually the most polite of conversations. The employee knows you have been on hold for 30 minutes, they know you are frustrated and I think we have to consider how we would feel if someone spoke to us in that tone, or to one of our family members or friends.

I’m guilty of making these calls when I am frustrated and it takes a great deal of self-control to keep things polite when I am told that there is nothing that can be done or that they are bound by policy. I have found myself on occasion apologising for my frustration because I know it is not the employee’s fault and I appreciate that they are trying to help. The times I have done this I could actually note the lift from the individual on the phone. Sometimes they have even thanked me for acknowledging that this is no fault of their own. I have asked a few times how many of ‘these types of calls’ are received and have been told that it is the majority. I also ask how often they get calls thanking them for sorting out an issue and I’m sure you can guess the answer to that one.

This led us to think about other roles that fall into this ‘thankless’ category:

  • Road workers – Yes it may take a bit longer to get to work, but the next month you’re in a wider lane, on a safer road. Beeping horns won’t speed this up!

  • Your IT provider- I don’t imagine they receive many calls telling them the connection is strong and the whole team is connected to the server?

  • Rubbish collector – Every week the rubbish disappears from the nature strip. How often have you stepped out at 5am to give them a thumbs up?

The list goes on.

So I would like to say thank you, to the thankless worker for taking our calls when we are cranky, for sorting out our payroll issues as we take leave and go on holiday, and to the operator who reconnected our internet when we thought the bill was on our direct debit… but actually we’d failed to set it up in the first place.

Admittedly I’m not quite in the space to thank the parking inspector for booking me when I was 6 minutes over the time limit last week; but I will try to remember this when I am able to find a parking spot in the same area next time.

We would love to hear about other ‘thankless jobs’ you might know of. If there is a story you’d like to tell, or someone in particular you would like to thank, go ahead!

#Reflections: Being Bold for Change – An Evening with Tracey Fellows

Reflections by Maxine Bazeley.

Last night I attended the CBRE offices in Melbourne for an International Women’s Day event organised by the YAICC. This group of young professionals had gathered to hear insights from the CEO of REA Group, Tracey Fellows. The interview led by YAICC’s Jodi Weinberg, began with some quick preference questions designed to get right to the important things, such as Melbourne over Sydney, Australia over Canada and Hilary over Trump. With politics out of the way, the conversation delved into Tracey’s career path, balancing family and executive life as well as sage advice for aspiring women leaders and those seeking to support them.

Tracey’s first job as a graduate was at IBM and their yearlong internship program instilled strong values around servicing the customer, this has remained a thread for Tracey throughout her career. She admits she hasn’t been very clear on her career path, and doesn’t advise not having a 1, 2 or 3 year plan but has always operated with the belief that doing an exceptional job would get her noticed and lead to the next opportunity. This way of working has certainly served her well with progression to Senior roles within IBM and then Dell before joining Microsoft as a Product Lead then becoming a Director.

Despite this Tracey still suffers occasionally from a lack of confidence. She said ‘No’ at first when she was offered the top job with Microsoft in Australia. Why? Because she was listening to her own insecurities telling her she couldn’t do the job. Luckily, Tracey was given the weekend to think about it and after unpacking her reasons, realised she was basing her decision on blocks she was creating herself. Her advice in situations where someone else believes you can do something, is to take their word over doubting yourself.

After taking the job she was assigned a mentor, the Microsoft country head of Italy, who gave her the best advice anyone could. Umberto Paolucci said over the phone – ‘It’s all about love’. This conversation taught Tracey that allowing people to ‘know what’s in your heart’ will lead them to follow you. She still maintains that business is from the heart and leading from this space is what got her through one of her more challenging leadership roles at Australia Post. Tracey says maintaining a strong culture is most difficult when you’re shrinking. ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’ she says, and straight away humbly qualifies that she’s likely quoting someone else.

For Tracey, culture is the most important thing and when hiring she evaluates whether the person is going to detract from the culture more than add to it. She admits she has an aversion to ego so can be quite sensitive to it and has learnt the hard way to trust her instincts in the hiring process. ‘Hiring people is the most important thing you do as a leader’ Tracey says and understandably the 4 stage interview process at REA is thorough.

The same goes for doing business with other companies. When selecting suppliers, Tracey looks for cultural alignment too. This is how she came to the final decision in signing the recent home loan agreement with NAB. It came right down to the people they would be working with. “Everything in business is as simple as the people’ Tracey says, stating that we spend too much time at work to be at battle while we’re there.

On work life balance, it’s about limiting contact to during the week. Tracey is strict about keeping her personal time and mostly sticks to the rule of not checking work messages on the weekends and holidays. This would be difficult for someone who is so clearly energised by her work. Her excitement is glaringly obvious when she talks through her Friday appointments as an example of how a work day might be. Within it she has 1:1s, informal client and internal meetings but is most looking forward to hearing the pitches from the REA Hack day.

One of Tracey’s regrets is where her biggest piece of advice comes from. She wishes she had the strength to speak up more when she was the only woman in the room. She advised the best way anyone can help in this situation is scan the room for who isn’t being heard, and give them a chance to voice their opinion. This goes for promotions too where people who don’t ask for them are often overlooked. Women have been more likely not to mention their ambitions and hope their dedication and work attract the reward of progression. Tracey says regularly checking in with people around their goals can help uncover an aspiring executive and perhaps a future CEO.

International Women’s Day is on March 8th and the 2017 theme is #BeBoldForChange.

For information about events in your area and how to be part of the change, check out the International Women’s Day website.


#Blog: The SDGs and You.

The run into Christmas seems to be getting busier by the year and the phrase “limping to the finish line” rang true with a majority of people we were chatting to in 2016’s final weeks. We were no different at Talent Nation and it was a welcome relief when 5:30pm on December 23rd came around and we were able to ‘down tools’ for the year.

January has become the month of reflection for many people as the year does not seem to start in earnest until after Australia Day. Over the break, as I reflected on the year that was 2016, I reviewed my notes from the Sustainable Development Goals Australia 2016 Conference (SDGA16) and the Banksia Awards. In doing so I was reinspired by the stories told and the purposeful and positive work that people were undertaking around the globe.

However, one of the biggest challenges that arose was that people were struggling to identify what they could do with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as individuals. While we applauded the Banksia Award winners and the representative speakers from the organisations who had embedded the SDG’s into their business plans, it was still difficult to distinguish what someone could do on a personal level.

It is difficult to know where to start. We do need guidance and foundations in place around us so that our efforts have direction, and don’t get lost in the jumble. Yet in saying that, we can’t just sit around and wait for them to be built around us.

The following points are taken from the final session at the conference and I felt they summed up how we are sitting in both of these areas.

What we need from others:

  • The underlying ethical foundation and the movement of the narrative (to communicate in a way that is powerful)
  • Leadership and frameworks from the Government
  • Tools and information to make it easier for people to do the right thing
  • Monitoring, reporting and data; and accountability
  • Our actions enabled through policies and the private sector through climate finance
  • Need for partnerships, connectivity and alliances

What we can do ourselves:

  • Map what we can personally do with the influence already in place
  • Use the Sustainable Development Goals to guide personal decision making
  • Think long- term; even when there may be a quick fix and it may seem it is not in your best interest to do so
  • Be prepared to give some things up
  • Don’t be afraid to start small

Further details on the Sustainable Development Goals can be found here.

The thing that most resonated with me was the closing remark from Professor David Griggs (Monash Sustainable Development Institute) – ‘if we fail on any one goal we fail on them all’. This highlighted the absolute interconnectedness of the goals.

The list above is clearly a small sample; I would be interested to hear of any other actions people are taking to support the goals.

Richard Evans, Talent Nation.

Market pulse: Talent Nation reveals the sustainable job hot spots

Property infrastructure, energy and social enterprises are hot spots in sustainability, according to sustainable, environmental and energy recruitment specialist Richard Evans.

Evans, who is managing director of Talent Nation and chair of the Banksia Foundation, says the consultancies are currently very busy.

“They have been recruiting pretty heavily over the last six to 12 months and it’s still growing,” he says.

“We’re seeing quite a bit of activity around property infrastructure. The energy companies are busy at the moment because they are looking at disruption and how do they transform themselves, and then there’s lots of start-ups, social enterprises.”

Talent Nation splits its time between recruiting for the large corporates and not-for-profits or social enterprises.

“The thing with sustainability is there’s always pockets of activity, so you go through various waves where some areas are really busy and others are quieter.”

Evans says Sydney’s infrastructure boom is starting to flow through into Victoria with a number of major road and rail projects in the design or feasibility stage.

“Once they are awarded they will flow onto more work there.

“The Victorian government has flicked the switch on a number of different areas, so they’re looking at climate change, they’re looking at infrastructure projects, they’re looking at a raft of different areas all at once, and that’s meant that the consultants have been really busy.”

Alternative models of employment emerging

Some sectors have enjoyed mammoth growth – one engineering firm growing by 400 per cent – and it’s not uncommon.

However, employers are mindful that these things go in waves.

“A lot of them are looking at alternative models as well – so how do they engage with people. Do they bring them on as sub-contractors? Or as associates? Or permanent employees? And what does that mean if there is a downturn? Because from a morale perspective it’s never great to bring people on to then let them go. People still haven’t forgotten the GFC.”

Evans says employers are considering alternative models to enable them to flex up and down.

“I think these days people are less concerned with a job for life. So they [workers] are open to looking at alternative arrangements or engagement models.”

Resilience is a hot issue

Climate change resilience is on the agenda, particularly in Melbourne.

“Certainly the appointment of the CROs [chief resilience officers] in Melbourne and Sydney have really put it on the radar.”

According to Evans, the City of Melbourne’s chief resilience officer Toby Kent has done a good job of encouraging action on resilience.

“He’s done a really good job of bringing the local councils together to try to get a single view of what to do around this,” he says.

WA and Queensland recovering

Talent Nation focuses on the job market predominantly in Melbourne and Sydney.

“We do some work in Brisbane but the market in Brisbane and WA has been particularly quiet for the last couple of years within the space,” Evans says.

“The fall-off in resources did a lot of damage to those markets so it’s been predominantly NSW and Victoria where our focus is. But we are seeing a bit more activity – there’s more positive noises coming out of WA and also Queensland as well.”

Near enough isn’t good enough

While in the past a company would hire a candidate who fulfils most of their requirements, many companies will now hold off hiring until they find the perfect recruit.

“These days, people don’t want to make the wrong hire, which is fair enough,” Evans says. “And so they’d rather wait to get the perfect person than find someone who is 70 per cent there.”

This may be because workers are changing jobs more regularly.

“People don’t stick around in roles for as long as they used to and people are open to moving every couple of years,” Evans says. “So if you bring someone on board, and it’s going to take you 12 to 18 months to bring them up to speed, you are going to be understandably a little apprehensive about bringing them on and training them up and then potentially losing them.”

Source: The Fifth Estate

The Search for Purpose.

Now more than ever people are looking for more out of their careers. Employees want to work for purpose-driven organisations who are socially, environmentally & economically responsible and companies that value their people and their purpose, as well as their profits, are pulling ahead of the crowd.

Every day we are seeing this more and more in the work that we are doing. The applications & cover letters that fill the Talent Nation inbox, and the conversations we are having with candidates and clients are all evidence of the energy that is building around this. People at all levels, in a range of industries, want to know that they’re contributing to something bigger than a bottom line and are striving for a purpose-driven career.

The 2015 Deloitte Millennial Survey revealed that 77% of highly connected Millennials stated that their company’s purpose was part of the reason they chose to work there and 75% of Millennials believe businesses are too focused on their own agendas and not focused enough on helping to improve society. The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey affirms this again, ‘Millennials very much believe that business success is built on a foundation of long-term sustainability rather than pursuing short-term profit maximization’.

At the ‘Elevating Purpose in Business’ event last month Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS shoes, talked about his journey. What started off as missing out on the million dollar prize on The Amazing Race (by 4 minutes!), led to him founding an organisation that has given away over 30,000,000 shoes. It is a great story about how a flourishing business has grown from a concept of giving back. Everybody who buys the TOMS shoes wants to tell their story, and everybody who works for TOMS is proud to be part of that. With regard to employees, Mycoskie made the comment that “the best way to attract amazing people is to give them a purpose not just a pay check”.

Another member of the B Corp community, Harwood Andrews Lawyers completed their graduate intake program towards the end of 2015 and they too found that a large majority of applicants cited the B Corp status of the firm as a key motivator for them wanting to work there.

But the idea of making a positive impact through one’s employment is not unique to graduates or millennials. Regularly Talent Nation receives enquiries from people across a range of roles and industries who want to use their skills in positions of purpose, where they are adding value to their local communities, connected to people, groups, and organisations that have their back.

And there are many ways you can find purpose in the work that you do; take me for example. I have worked in the recruitment industry for 18 years both in the UK and here in Australia. The recruitment industry does not have the greatest reputation for ethics and values and certainly early in my career it was all about numbers and individuals were viewed as a revenue generation tool. Fast-forward to 2012 and the launch of Talent Nation. I had been operating in the Environmental recruitment space for several years however it still had a focus on revenue generation. I sold my stake and during my ‘gardening leave’ I completed the Centre for Sustainability Leadership fellowship program which gave me exposure to a range of people who thought like I did.

We still operate as recruiters however the roles we work on all centre around purpose  whether it be purpose-driven roles in organisations (Environment, Sustainability) or purpose-driven organisations themselves (social enterprise, NFPs and B Corps). We are the first and only recruitment company in Australia to achieve B Corp certification and enjoy being an active member of the B Corp community. Individually I have the pleasure of working with the team at the Banksia Foundation in a voluntary capacity and apply my business skills to the Board.

So, the search for purpose does not necessarily mean the search for a new job. There are many ways that you can find purpose in the work that you are doing:

  • Add to your current role – take on internal initiatives.
  • Become an internal sustainability champion.
  • Get involved with community volunteering.
  • NFP Board appointments and corporate/ skilled volunteering.

And if you are looking to find a company that is purpose driven, the B Corp community is a great place to start.

We would love to hear other ways that people have found purpose in the work that they do.

Job Profile: Sustainability Manager

Firstly, what is a Sustainability Manager?

Responsible for the development, management and implementation of an organisation’s sustainability strategy and agenda, a sustainability manager’s role is pivotal in understanding how an organisation has an impact on the world around them through business practice. This can be in terms of an organisation’s impact on the environment, resource consumption, supply chain practices, community engagement, employee engagement and the impact of their business practices or products and services in general.

The Sustainability Manager is also involved in technical support, education and business development, ensuring sustainability is integrated seamlessly into all elements. They play a crucial role in driving consistency and transparency, ensuring the organisation’s core sustainability commitments are maintained and ultimately exceeded.

At Talent Nation our experience and understanding of the sustainability sector enables us to bring together a range of knowledge from roles we have previously recruited as well as additional research and information from position descriptions we have sourced externally. Therefore we have created a general guide of how to get there:

Every role is slightly different however most have a common set of skills and attributes required:

the qualifications

  • A university degree or equivalent is essential with post graduate studies desirable.

the industry experience

  • 7-10+ years of experience in a professional sustainability environment.
  • Previous experience and active participation in various sustainability programs.
  • Experience managing projects in challenging and sometimes national or global scale environments
  • Management & leadership experience.

the skills and knowledge

  • A strong and up to date theoretical understanding of sustainability.
  • Strong data management, budgeting and sustainability reporting skills
  • Ability to build personal and organisational credibility and build beneficial internal and external relationships.
  • Ability to manage external contractors to meet deadlines and goals
  • Ambitious with a high level of energy and commitment
  • Decision maker and solutions oriented
  • Able to adapt quickly to changes
  • Excellent written, verbal communication and influencing skills
  • Sustainability reporting bodies and indexes