HR the key to retain restless workers

Posted in Articles on May 14th, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

Employers are under increased pressure to engage and retain their employees following research that reveals one in six workers have applied for a new job in the past six months.

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Skills shortage hits IT and construction as employees look for greener pastures

Posted in Articles on May 12th, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

Monday, 10 May 2010 11:32
Patrick Stafford

Businesses are set to pay thousands more in salary increases as they attempt to hold onto key staff who intend to leave as a result of feeling undervalued and underutilised during the financial crisis, key surveys have revealed.

About 24% of businesses say their biggest concern is a growing skills shortage, according to a new survey from recruitment company Randstad.

The Randstad survey of about 2,330 companies has revealed 78% of companies in the IT and education sectors expect difficulty in finding skilled staff. In the construction sector, about 77% of companies expect skills shortages, while shortfalls are also expected in the mining industry.

A separate survey from Leadership Management Australasia confirms this expected shortfall, revealing a 135% increase in the number of Australian employees since September actively searching to change jobs.

The LMA survey, which questioned over 4,500 employees, shows a 64% increase in the number of employees actually applying for new jobs.

LMA managing director Grant Sexton says these two surveys reveal there will inevitably be further pay increases this year as desperate companies prepare to pay thousands more for key staff to stay on.

Sexton says the amount of employees looking for new work opportunities exceeds the number recorded in 2006-08, when employers were paying salary increases up to 30% in order to keep staff.

This time around, the salary increases could be even higher, putting pressure on company profits.

“We saw in 2006-08 that companies would pay ridiculous amounts of money to keep people on. Now the increase in people looking for new jobs is 135% since September, a jump like that is unheard of.”

Sexton says this is a reflection of disillusionment in the workplace. He says that during the financial crisis, companies demanded sacrifices from employees such as nine-day fortnights, ordering holidays to be taken early and a drop in working hours.

“As a result of this, companies came through the crisis exceptionally well. But as employees have come out the other side, they haven’t received any type of consideration or catch-up. There is no “thanks for your support”. Companies have been negligent about this.”

“Three or four years ago you were getting all types of incentives, including companies offering an extra $20,000 for people to stay. It was just so difficult to get good quality people, and now… the possibility is that you will see price hikes in wages over the next six to 12 months. Companies could have avoided this if they were smarter.”

Already, evidence of demand for pay increases missed out on during the GFC is already starting to be seen.

Aged care workers under the Liquor, Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union will take advantage of new IR laws to bargain with multiple employers at the one time, asking for a 60% wage claim for half of the 110,00 non-nursing workforce.

It is understood the union will look for wage claims between $7-$10 an hour. LHMU national secretary Louise Tarrant has said workers will be looking for wage rises traditionally enjoyed by other industries.

Sexton says all employees want is a little bit of recognition. Instead, most businesses forget to thank workers for their extra efforts during the financial crisis, and will suffer through a skills shortage as a result.

“If employees feel they are being recognised and looked after, they won’t move. The survey shows 87% of all employees would prefer to advance their career with their current employer, so there is an opportunity there.”

“Companies must recognise they have survived because of a talented workforce. Workers understand the issues facing the business, but companies haven’t communicated their appreciation to employees. They must do this in order to stop a problem before it escalates.”

Managing an Ageing Workforce – The Exit “Conversation”

Posted in Articles on May 10th, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment


Wayne Bishop, Managing Director, Activetics

A recent article in the Economist indicated that employers will soon be confronted with a wave of retirements as baby boomers exit the workforce in droves.

Most companies are remarkably unprepared for this “silver tsunami”- and the subsequent loss of talent, networks, knowledge and wisdom that will be leaving their organisation in the next few years. As one plant manager recently reported “how do you replace a 36-year veteran who can tell by the sound of a machine if it is not working properly”?

Thought leaders, demographers and Government agencies such as Treasury and the Productivity Commission have attempted to raise awareness re ageing workforce for some time. There was a flicker of interest a few years ago, but that was virtually snuffed out by the global financial crisis.

In my travels around the country I have witnessed very little affirmative planning to address these demographic challenges – let alone the skill shortages that will surface in the next decade. Most companies still appear to be operating from a reactive point of view, demonstrated apathy, complacency and a lack of urgency around these business risks.

The “not on my watch” syndrome is alive and well in Australia.

Blind Spots and Human Capital Risk
Why is there such a “blind spot” around this issue?

One school of thought is that leadership is centred (and measured) on the short-term goals – allowing little time (or breathing space) to build a business case relating to human capital risk. 

Another relates to the complexity of the issue. An ageing workforce impacts on a range of business functions – Human Resources, Employee Relations, Workers Compensation, OH&S, Remuneration and Benefits, Learning & Development, Workforce Planning, Knowledge Management – so who takes ultimate responsibility?

A common response from CEO’s and C-level executives has been that “this is HR’s responsibility”….interesting comments when we witness the diminishing presence of HR at the leadership table!

One of the more honest responses we got was from a CEO in the manufacturing sector who stated “we don’t have an answer …the issue is so complex we simply do not know where to start”. This is a fair call – ageing workforce is a complex issue and requires an integrated approach that embraces all of the above functions.

This raises some important questions:

• If HR is not represented at the leadership table – who is taking responsibility for this issue…and who is taking the business case “upstairs”?

• Who is driving the talent/succession strategy?

• Regardless of the size of business, who is ensuring there are protégés in place and knowledge-sharing relationships in business-critical functions?

• What do you do about high-performing mature workers?

• Who is conducting the exit conversation?

The Exit Conversation
In working with our customers, our simplistic response to these issues is to “do something”!

Start small. Indentify and work with a champion (preferably in senior management) and above all, gain some insights into the retirement intentions of your mature cohort.

From our experience with most employers there is NO proactive dialogue around exit or transition to retirement with mature employees. 

Managers/team leaders (regardless of age) have spoken of feeling intimidated or uncomfortable bringing up the subject with older workers. They are concerned with privacy issues or feel that they might be conveying a wrong message or impression – in some instances with long-serving peers.

We have found that these sensitivities are eliminated if the “conversations” are conducted by external players. 

This is precisely what we do! We conduct “conversations” (group and one-to-one) with mature workers to determine their attitudes and expectations towards work and retirement.

We use experienced third party coaches – many of whom have recently retired from senior positions in business and industry – to ask the important questions and provide mature employees with a pathway or purposeful strategy for life beyond work.

This process works! With third party facilitation employees are more than willing to contribute in conversations, workshops and focus groups centred on work and retirement.

Aggregated data from these activities often contributes to policy development. A number of our clients are now including Transition to Retirement in the EBA/Benefits frameworks.

The qualitative data also provides a foundation for workshops/coaching with Managers and Team Leaders e.g. handling requests for alternative work arrangements – or more importantly, how to conduct the “exit conversation”.

I would also welcome your comments on “blind spots” and how you approach the “exit conversation” 

Please contact me if you would like more information on our approach to an ageing workforce

Wayne Bishop
Director Activetics Pty Ltd; Mobile: 0418 175 612 Email:

How to break bad news (without breaking faith)

Posted in Articles on May 10th, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

By Martha Finney on May 7, 2010 |

So much of an HR executive’s day is made up of announcing good news (“You will receive an offer letter by the end of the week.”) and really bad news (“We’ll be closing the plant by the end of the month.”).   Offer letters mark the beginning of a relationship, but bad news doesn’t have to mark the end of one. In fact, deliver bad news well and you can actually strengthen the relationship.

Here’s how:

  • Be prompt. Naturally some bad news must be kept quiet until the time is right. But don’t delay any longer than necessary.  Rumors are already flying (you can count on that), so no amount of putting off the painful will actually stifle the tongues.  What you’ll be doing is not breaking bad news; you’ll be correcting the record. So, the sooner the better.
  • Be quick about it. No long preambles, please.  No mini-MBA course transparently designed to send out the message, “It’s not our fault.”  Or worse: “It’s your fault.” Just spill it.
  • Deliver the news in the context of what it means to your people. Yes, they are eventually going to want to know whose fault it really is.  But right now what they really want to know is, “What’s this news going to do to my mortgage payment and my kids’ education?”
  • Don’t talk down to your people. Maybe it’s just me but nothing gets my back up faster than the expression, “What you need to understand is…” second only to the close cousin, “What you don’t understand is….” I’m assuming you didn’t hire children.  They haven’t regressed into children while in your employ. Don’t treat them like children now.
  • After you’ve broken the news (see point 2), go back and explain exactly how you arrived at this difficult decision. Studies have shown that the more employees understand how a decision was arrived at, the more they’ll support it — even if they don’t like it. Show that the way you arrived at this terrible news was at least consistent with your company’s values, practices and culture.  Demonstrate that there was no favoritism in the way you made your choice.  This is the time for that mini-MBA course.
  • Make sure that the seniority of the bearer of bad news is commensurate with the weight of that bad news. The worse the news, the higher up the org chart the unfortunate announcer must be.  It’s unpleasant, to be sure, but that’s one of the reasons why they’re being paid the big bucks.

Hopefully we’re coming out of the latest economic emergency. And one of the results of what we’ve just been through is a wiser employee population — people who really want to be partners with the prosperity of your enterprise.  The advantage to you is that you’ll have individuals who are more entrepreneurial in the growth and prosperity of your business.  And they no longer expect that cushy berth for life.  But in return, they deserve to be kept up to date with the developments of your operations.  The good news to you here is that you can (and should be) more forthcoming, all the while keeping those essential relationships healthy and intact.

Martha Finney, president and CEO of Engagement Journeys, helps companies build authentically engaging workplace cultures.  She is the author of more than 15 books, including “The Truth About Getting the Best From People.”

The Art of the Elevator Pitch: 10 Great Tips

Posted in Articles on April 19th, 2010 by admin – Be the first to comment

Written by Audrey Watters


The elevator door opens. And there stands your ideal investor. It’s the chance of a lifetime. But that chance only lasts as long as the elevator ride – you have less than a minute to make an impression. Hopefully, you’ve got a well-crafted elevator pitch ready to give.

The elevator pitch is not the hurried presentation of a full-blown business plan. It’s an introduction, an overview and a pitch – and a short one at that – meant to capture the attention of a potential investor. Of course, an elevator ride is a short one. Guides for elevator speeches that say you have one minute surely overestimate the amount of time it takes for an elevator to move from floor to floor. Of course, an elevator speech isn’t restricted to elevators. Rather, it comes in handy for any occasion where a concise presentation is appropriate.

When crafting your pitch there are two key things to keep in mind: its content and its form. In other words, it’s not just what you say but how you say it. Here are a 10 tips to keep in mind as you craft your elevator pitch.

1. Keep it short. Be succinct. According to Wikipedia, an adult’s attention span is eight seconds, so be sure to give just enough information (and more importantly perhaps the right information) so that after only hearing a sentence or two, someone knows what you do – and if it’s a pitch, what you need.

2. Have a hook. As Mel Pirchesky advises, “The objective of the first ten or fifteen seconds is to have your prospective investors want to listen to the next forty-five or fifty seconds differently, more intently than they would have otherwise.”

3. Pitch yourself, not your ideas. As Chris Dixon writes, “The reality is ideas don’t matter that much. First of all, in almost all startups, the idea changes – often dramatically – over time. Secondly, ideas are relatively abundant.” Instead of talking about ideas, highlight what you’ve done – the concrete accomplishments or skills – rather than some intangible concept or a future goal.

4. Don’t forget the pitch. It’s easy to get so caught up in the details of who you are that you neglect to mention what you need. What amount of financing are you seeking, for example?

5. Don’t overwhelm with technical or statistical terminology. While being able to tout one or two amazing and memorable phrases or figures can be useful, don’t fill your elevator speech with numbers or jargon.

6. Practice. Rehearse your elevator pitch so that when the opportunity to give it comes, you can deliver it smoothly.

7. Use the same tactics for print. You can hone your elevator skills by practicing them in writing. Babak Nivi describes the email elevator pitch here.

8. Revise. As your startup moves through various stages, be sure to update and refresh your pitch.

9. Be involved in the startup community before you pitch. Business Insider suggests “Engaging in online discussions, writing insightful blog posts, and participating in the relatively small startup community can earn you a ‘strong presence’ that gets you noticed by potential investors.” Building relationships with investors before pitching to them will help your success.

10. Listen. When seeking to build strong networks, remember it can be just as important to listen as it is to talk.

Have you an elevator pitch prepared for when the Lift door opens?

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