JENNIFER GUTWENGERJennifer Gutwenger is Principal Consultant at #HR and draws upon aseasoned background and credentials in corporate HR, deep workingknowledge of best practice and an inclination to muse. She is the driver of#HR’s game-changing service offerings and the principal generator of itsunique content and thought leadersh...ip.Jennifer is an author at Smallville and writes for the Chamber of Commerceand Industry QLD – platforms where top professionals share their ideas,advice and knowledge with business owners and entrepreneurs everywhere. More

Diversity in the Workplace - How to Attract The Right Kind of Talent! (PART 2)

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One of my recent posts Diversity in the Workplace - How to Attract The Right Kind of Talent! was an interesting piece that seemed to strike a chord with many readers.

The article focussed on encouraging small business owners to keep an open mind when recruiting – to actively engage with potential employees who present special and different abilities. It mentioned in particular those on the Autism spectrum whose mindset may see them achieve brilliance in particular areas where neuro-typical employees would be stumped.

A good stereotypical fit for a role is not always the best one. Today’s solutions are increasingly about thinking of diversity and the different skillsets different individuals can bring to a business, including those who sit just outside society’s perception of ‘normal’.

With all the interest in this article, it seemed noteworthy to explore this idea a little more. And to share with small business owners everywhere, the value of looking beyond difference to see the true potential of a person’s smarts - what new ideas, fresh thinking and exceptional abilities can bring to any business table.

On Australian shores, President of Chief Executive Women Diane Smith-Gander explains ‘… the challenge is not to find who’s best for the job. Rather look for the best team for the task. If your team is not diverse then “being different” needs to be part of the selection criteria.’ She continues, [Recruiting on] ‘merit is a concept that has been hijacked to justify lack of diversity by applying a “best person for the job” principle.’

Unfortunately, when applied dogmatically as it often is, that ‘best person for the job’ principle often leads not to creativity, great dynamics and good business, but to stagnation.

When recruiting, it’s not unusual for managers and business owners to go through the same process and jump through the same hoops without thinking, replicating the same mistakes again and again. They might tweak things here and there in the interests of recruiting smarter, but un-interrogated thinking limits the talent search, and the same problems often manifest all over again.

Three years ago, Penny Andrews showed that autism didn’t hold her back. She became a library graduate trainee at Leeds Metropolitan University, having beaten 200 applicants to the job and proving that different smarts count. "Sometimes I feel people think I should be grateful that I have a job but I'm performing a useful task and doing it well, so they should be grateful to me," she said.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports enormous growth in the number of people with autism, with data it collected in 2009 and again in 2012 through its Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers. This represents a vast pool of untapped talent within our communities. As small business owners we are ideally placed to think laterally, rethink the way we conduct our business and our recruiting, and potentially change both lives and our future fortunes.

Autism Speaks has already cemented in some of the groundwork, making it easier for small business owners to embrace new thinking, and access new expertise. Their Employment Toolkit: Employer’s Guide to Hiring and Retaining Employees with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) is the go-to for any employer wanting to gain further insight and experience in recruiting, hiring and supporting with diversity.

As a society, it’s time to be mindful. What makes a difference within any workplace is not just professional knowledge, but different viewpoints and life experience. The enhancement this rationale brings is not just a benefit but a core element in a business’s survival and success. That’s a rationale worth adopting. All we have to do is recruit diversely, creatively and daringly. For both parties, there is nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

Standing on our principles here is a matter not of charity or social responsibility but rather the empirical benefit of taking on unique skills and diverse minds.

To view the initial article, which sparked over 600 social media shares, click here.

 

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Diversity in the Workplace - How to Attract The Right Kind of Talent!

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Whether you favour baby boomers or millennials when it comes to recruiting, most employers feel some pressure to revolutionise their workplace as new generations seep into the workforce. Today, ‘normal’ is at least three generations bundled together and working cooperatively, making for a truly diverse workplace.

The tricky part is not falling back on our perception of stereotypes, when it’s time to recruit again, in how we perceive and subconsciously categorise applicants. Maybe we make judgments without realising it about ear piercing or age, education or lack thereof. Even worse, our shutters come down when we see the ‘wrong’ suburb on a resume, or hear an accent different from our own.

Giving credence to stereotypes and our expectations of them can be damaging, in that it can set unfavourable limits to a small business’s growth capacity.

At #HR, we applaud leaders who look beyond stigmas and don’t mind breaking the mould to recruit on merit. Best practice is to create a culture of diverse minds, where employees engage with each other not because they are all the same, but because they see their business being stimulated and enhanced by others who think differently.

In such a culture, looking different has little to do with a person’s smarts.

Brett Davies, a computer design technician from County Durham in the UK, was the victim of just such misconceptions. After being turned down for hundreds of jobs, his hidden genius for all things visual finally landed him a two-week trial at Peacocks Medical Group. Coincidentally, the BBC was filming a documentary series featuring Davies at the time. They recorded his journey, in securing the trial position, and then landing his dream job – by solving a technical problem that had defeated every other employee who’d tried.

Davies, who had been out of work for eight years said, “I have autism. There isn’t anything different about me, I just think differently. Somehow the unwritten rules of social communication have eluded me.”

Stereotypical perceptions are often unfounded, such as those which the phrase ‘Autism’ inspires. To be a progressive business owner in progressive times, it can pay dividends to front up and get some understanding of how best to leverage qualities that are different from our own.

De-stigmatising and challenging stereotypes is proving beneficial for many companies, as their willingness to break ground brings them not only enlightenment, but profitability – and a highly motivated and fulfilled workforce.

Dave Kearon, Director of Adult Services with Autism Speaks, says...

‘This is not about charity or about what businesses can do for people with autism; it’s about what individuals with autism have shown they can do for businesses’

Research by Autism Speaks suggests that companies employing people with autism consistently give reports of extremely dependable and loyal employees, who follow company rules, arrive on time and are absent far less. Other strengths mentioned include intense attention to detail and a desire to get things right – perfectly right. One employer noted that the turnover rate of his employees with Autism was one third of his neuro-typical workers.

Challenging the status quo – although the status quo is fluid these days - takes grit, for sure. But all the research suggests that for those running a small business in today’s market, thinking openly and diversely offers many opportunities.

Employers who are on the hunt for employees with specialised skills are increasingly wise to the benefits of diverse minds. They remember that no-one is perfect and believe that looking beyond a stereotype can bring something truly unique and highly valuable to a workplace.

 

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What You Need to Know About First Aid Compliance in the Workplace

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When in the thick of productivity, small business owners tend to get caught up in day-to-day core business and urgent affairs - it can take some grit to get the ball rolling on those other stickier, more time consuming tasks. The tasks we put on the back burner and bank for another day. Confidence can get in the way too, hoping that unlikely events don’t occur and hedging bets that luck is always on side.

Managing a workplace in this way can be really risky business. It’s no surprise that this type of mindset doesn’t stand well when things go wrong. Especially, when it has much to do with keeping people safe at work.

Let’s take first aid as an example.

According to Australian Bureau of Statistics data, the Work-Related Injuries Survey, Australia, 2009–10 reported the average annual injury rates are 57.9 per 1000 workers. The top industries who were markedly higher than the overall average were accommodation/food services industry at 83 and manufacturing at 76 per 1000 workers.

The implication of these numbers for businesses – big and small - is huge. Lost time, reduced productivity, increased stress and anxiety are just a few. Of course, there are other much larger pitfalls too. Breaches to legislation or codes of practice quickly come to mind.

In February, 2016 Safe Work Australia released a Code of Practice on first aid in the workplace. This Code of Practice was approved under section 274 of the Work Health and Safety Act (the WHS Act). A big piece of legislation that is relevant to any business with a duty of care.

As an employer, this Legislation makes it pretty clear that your duty of care in relation to first aid goes beyond band aids in the lunchroom or an incident log at reception.

Following, are the top three things employers must consider for first aid risk management and meeting compliance standards – how well does your business stand up against these?

 

FIRST AID KITS

All workers must have access to a first aid kit. Its contents should provide basic equipment for providing first aid for injuries like cuts and scratches, burns, broken bones and shock. Some workplaces are assessed as high risk, so it’s best to check-in with Safe Work Australia to have a full understanding of your requirements.

St John Ambulance Australia says, “Treatment in the first five minutes after a first aid incident can dramatically change the outcome. Workplaces should have the appropriate equipment and signage in place to allow for a quick response and ensure the safety of workers.”

 

FIRST AID TRAINING

Duty of care includes training all employees in basic procedures and protocols to follow in the event of a first aid emergency. Training should include information on the location and composition of first aid kits, communication channels to use in an emergency, and the identity and location of accredited first aiders. Yes, that’s right, accredited first aiders – every business requires at least one.

The statistics say that less than one in three Australian employees (31%) currently feel confident to perform first aid in an emergency, reasons ranging from ‘a lack of training’ through to feeling ‘personally responsible’ if something went wrong.

 

AWARENESS

This is key. Sure, we must work through the Code of Practice, order first aid equipment and head off to training providers like St John Ambulance, but the final step is always to communicate protocol to staff. Best practice implementation should be done through procedural documents, regular first aid drills and instigating mock emergencies.

Don’t feel over-whelmed, there are many resources available to help employers implement best practice and meet compliance. Safe Work Australia is an excellent place to start looking for on-line resources governed by Australian legislation, as well as St John Ambulance Australia for documentation that’s useful when compiling procedures, purchasing compliance equipment and meeting legislative training requirements.

It’s about tackling the hard stuff early – managing first aid related issues in retrospect, with no supporting policy or go-to guide, is complex, stressful and costly. Being proactive and having best practice in place from start-up onwards is most certainly the way to go.

Making these arrangements a priority might seem daunting and quite rightly so. But it’s best to be wise and not run a risky business – the law counts on us to get it right from the get-go!

First aid compliance is important to your business. Ensuring that you meet the requirements make your workplace safer for your employees and avoid hefty legal WHS fines. We have first aid resources that you can use in your workplace. It has first aid signs and posters (all downloadable and print-ready), how-to guides to workplace emergencies all for FREE!

 

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Business Networking and 3 Simple Tips From our Heroic Farmers

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Small businesses touch many lives, whether they’re in one of our great Eastern seaboard cities or in a remote location across our big dry land.

Workplaces and commodities might vary, but there’s usually a champion or two in place – either at the helm with the vision and the drive to carry it out, or pushing production and making things happen behind the scenes.

Across Australia, those in business deliver goods, serve them, buy and sell commodities and properties and create, build and facilitate in the digital world and the built environment.

Nowhere other than on the land has the army of workers keeping the wheels oiled, the workers fed and the livestock tended been at the heart of their sector and their community.

Recently in Tasmania, a long-standing group of hard-working agricultural women celebrated a milestone in their history – the twentieth anniversary of Tasmanian Women in Agriculture, a group which came together to support one another in the mid-1990s when times were really tough.

Their stories were documented in a book to celebrate the anniversary, and capture the journey of those farming women and the contribution they have made to agriculture in their state - changing the culture of farming, and the way in which farming women were perceived. Their stories are the journey from invisibility to acknowledgement of the roles they have played, carrying the baton on from their hard-working predecessors.

Fiona Stocker, author of the book A Place in the Stockyard says, ‘These women farmers were called the invisible farmer and classified as ‘unproductive’. There were no photographs of women on the land in government archives and no mention of them in the media.’

The stories told in the book document the myriad ways in which the farming women of Tasmania changed that in their state: getting off their farms and meeting with others, sourcing courses to educate themselves, taking key roles on industry boards, running farm safety campaigns and foundations, winning funding and lobbying government on issues affecting them.

I spoke with the author Fiona Stocker about what she learned from the stories she has brought together for the book, and the top three lessons any small business owner might take away from the experiences of this heroic bunch of women farmers. This is what she said.

 

1. THE NUMBER ONE LESSON IS DON’T DO IT SOLO

Get a network around you. Get out and meet people running similar operations to yours, and learn from them, be inspired by them, take succour and encouragement from them when you need it, and give it back when you can. Women particularly are amazing at generating what it takes to run a business, but we’re not wonder women, and it’s not good for us to do it alone.

 

2. GET BACK TO YOUR ROOTS

The connection between grass roots and those in power is vital, whether you’re talking business or government. It’s vital that those representing us in Parliament stay in touch with what’s happening on the land at grass roots level. You can see the mighty fall when it’s perceived that they don’t genuinely have the best interests of ordinary working people in mind! The same principle, that of leaders needing to have an authentic connection at every level, applies in the business world too.

Before moving to rural Tasmania, Stocker worked for one of the world’s top executive search companies placing CEOs in major national and multi-national corporations. The best candidates were always those who had the ‘common touch’, who could relate to anybody at any level of the business. They had real understanding of what drove people to turn up every day. Only then was that leader perceived to have the deep understanding they needed to be truly effective in the Boardroom or as a strategist.

 

3. ALLOW FOR DIFFERENCES

Some in your sphere of influence will want to work quietly and diligently in a role they’re good at, make their contribution and gain a working lifetime’s worth of satisfaction from that. Others will want to move upwards, challenge and educate themselves, take on new responsibilities, perhaps represent their industry. You’ve got to allow for all comers, and recognise that what everybody puts in must be cherished.

 

Through their endeavours together, she adds, these women gave meaning to and gained energy in their working lives, and eased the way for younger women moving up through agricultural education and into roles in the sector today. By any account, it’s an incredible legacy.

 

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How to be a Great Manager and Keep Your Tribe in a Safe Circle and Why

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Charlie Kim is an unusual guy. One of those standouts who starts something in their college dorm and grows it quickly and exponentially. That dorm-room startup was Next Jump, the New York based mentoring platform that is dedicated to ‘changing workplace culture’. Not just his own workplace culture, you note. Yours and mine too. Everybody’s.

As CEO of Next Jump he leads his company in exceptional ways. Crazily, his 200-some employees are offered a Lifetime Employment Policy – they will stay with Next Jump for life. Performance related issues related issues are countered with coaching and skills training, and termination for under-performance is unheard of.

“Think about when you adopt a child,” says Charlie. “You don’t give the child away when she turns truant or has problems. You work with her to fix them. We treat each hire the same way.”

By taking away the threat of termination, he says, we create a safety net of openness and trust - a platform in which misgivings and inexperience can be owned and faced up to. Employees in this environment are more likely to challenge themselves and take risks, ask for help and be authentic.

Protocol like this can’t exist without an exceptionally considered and well-thought-out recruitment process, as well as innovative follow-through in all the company’s policies. It’s a game-changing commitment – but according to Charlie Kim it brings results. The profitable kind.

Simon Sinek, author, speaker, and leadership consultant, supports this kind of innovation. When an employee feels safe and has a deep sense of trust for an organisation, he says, they are more likely to be collaborative – joining their talents and strengths with colleagues, and working tirelessly to face external dangers together.

This form of behaviour can be traced back 50,000 years to the Paleolithic era, Sinek believes, when the world was full of danger – literally. When things were out to kill us. ‘Nothing personal,’ he says, ‘whether it was the weather, lack of resources, maybe a sabre-toothed tiger, all of these things working to reduce our lifespan. And so we evolved into social animals, where we lived together and worked together in what I call a circle of safety, inside the tribe, where we felt like we belonged.’

That sense of belonging was built on inherent trust and safety. Inside the circle was a tribe of social creatures collaborating for survival – pitching in with all their skills and instincts to keep the cohort thriving.

Modern day is no different, Sinek says. ‘The world is filled with danger, things that are trying to frustrate our lives or reduce our success… It could be the ups and downs in the economy, the uncertainty of the stock market. It could be a new technology that renders your business model obsolete overnight. Or it could be your competition that is sometimes trying to kill you.’

The passage of time has not changed our inherent need to feel safe, to collaborate for survival, to belong to a tribe that works together to protect every individual from danger. The only difference is that when you work in an organisation, it’s the leader who matters the most. It’s the leader who defines the culture, who drives those strong systems of engagement, safety and trust.

Just as Charlie Kim is doing at Next Jump.

Kim’s exceptional approach works because his employees feel safe. The elimination of a very real danger – that of termination - allows his staff to feel secure and protected. There’s an atmosphere of trust. When things are going not well, the support is there to guide employees through – not weed them out.

To Sinek, great leadership is about looking out for the person to your left while supporting the person to your right, and not forgetting about the people above and below. These are the leaders that stand-out. Those who make you feel safe, who are aware of the instinct for a circle of safety. We trust them inherently because they give us no reason to feel otherwise.

They’re the ones who understand that we’re a tribe, and we want to belong.

 

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How to Revitalise Your Brand in 2018! The 6 Things You Need to Know Now!

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With every new year or calendar marker, most of us try and take a break don’t we? Whether it’s for a laid back holiday by the pool, a mud bath and exfoliation, or an all-out sense of enlightenment with a super-chic Balinese ritual at a mountain resort.

Whatever form your recharge pleasures take, eventually it’s time to rise from the yoga mat and get back down to business.

If you’re looking for means of re-entering the management world with strategies that will keep your people engaged, happy and loving your brand in 2018, here are six quick, free and slightly out-of-the-box strategies that bring a holistic rejuvenation to your pursuits.

 

1. SAY THANK YOU

All those things your mother told you about the magic words are true. A Podium Designs survey found that only 16% of employees had heard the words ‘thank you’ from their boss in six months. Not a great statistic! Saying thank you is a meaningful and powerful strategy. It motivates people and lets them know they’re appreciated. A small gesture that goes a long way.

 

2. PUT DOWN THE DEVICE

Human relationships are what make people truly happy. Great leaders know how to send subliminal messages to their employees which indicate, ‘I am listening to you and I am completely engaged with what you have to say.’ Body language is key. When your phone pings, buzzes, flashes or beeps, this subtly says that your device is eventually going to take precedence over the flesh-and-blood person vying for your attention. So don’t hold it or have it beside you while you’re in conversation. Remove it completely. Put it on silent, and place it well out of reach. Be seen to do so! Hell’s bells, you could put it in a drawer. This way, all temptation to be distracted by or fidget with it disappears, allowing you to be completely attentive to the person in front of you.

 

3. GET SOME SLEEP

Whether you’re the CEO of a multi-million-dollar company or the administrator of a 24hour distribution plant, the psychological demands of running a business are equally exhausting. Our bodies each have the same basic needs. And sleep is a big one. Every element of our lives is enriched if we get enough of it. Nurture yourself and don’t be afraid to start pushing up more zeds – you may find that this makes you far more interesting and engaging!

 

4. KINDNESS

Authentic and consistent kindness is a truly powerful thing. Grow the ability to be nice without expecting something in return – or calculating the leverage you’re gaining! Kindness has to be habitual and firmly felt. Strangers are important too, and niceness shouldn’t be reserved for only those you know. Treat every person you meet as if they are the most important person in the world - because they are. If not to you, then maybe to someone else.

 

5. FRIENDLINESS

Friendly behaviour involves smiling, giving encouragement, conversing and laughing - attributes that studies have shown are appreciated, respected and often admired by those we work with. Friendliness requires neither agreement nor approval and is rarely offensive if it is authentic. Best of all, most people have learnt this skill well before they have met you. So friendliness is something you need only role-model, rather than teach. ‘Don’t wait for people to be friendly, show them how.’ Wise words, if anonymous.

 

6. PERSUASION

Building agreement when points of view differ around the table can be tricky. Sure, sometimes an authoritative approach or executive decision may be required, but simply insisting it’s your way or the highway without bothering to get buy-in from your team can be really unsettling. To get others to buy into the way you see things, you’ll need to ask the right questions. Asking your colleagues to think about things - by asking the right questions – often allows them to arrive at the same conclusion themselves. This is the art of persuasion.

 

Building good relationships with the people around you is guaranteed to achieve great results. Favouring a natural blend of professionalism and humanity brings a new lightness and enjoyment to our workplaces year in, year out and creates something truly magical.

You need only keep it kind and simple and you will soon find that you are fostering an awesome platform for that deepest workplace joy - employee engagement.

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How to Motivate Your Staff and Increase Productivity in the Workplace

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In the throes of a new role, new-starters can be depended upon to burst onto the scene with a bucket load of excitement. Meeting new people, gaining exposure to fresh ideas and new challenges, it’s incredibly exciting and pumps us up.

Recently, I caught up with a chap who was in just this zone. With a spring in his step and a jovial demeanour, he oozed the energy that we all wish we felt every day on the way to work, and which our employers would like us to feel too.

This guy had more bounce than Tigger. So what accounted for it? Well he’d changed jobs and was past the drone of on-boarding. A project manager, the serial contract nature of his career means he changes employers more often than most. And as a top performer, there’s never any shortage of high profile companies lining up engage him on their next big development.

Having worked with the best on contemporary and ground-breaking projects, he always has insights to spare and share, and this time was no different. His new employer was leading big changes in the Australian market, he said, launching innovative concept stores across the nation. A small business doing big things. The job, he said, was awesome. But it was everything that went with it that put the spring in his step.

Here’s his top 6 of why this job stands out from all others:

 

1. ACCOUNTABILITY

When recruiting, the CEO asked every new starter a very direct question. ‘Will you let me down?’ His directness and ambition made it crystal clear from the on-set that he preferred his people full of grit and prepared to take accountability for their actions. My friend liked that. It gave him a pleasingly high benchmark to reach for.

 

2. CLARITY

Job title and seniority was paid scant regard by his new employer. From CEO to administrator, everyone sat on the same chair, typed into the same technology and wrote with the same kind of pen. No one was precious about anything and anyone suffering a momentary ego outburst was swiftly reminded to pull their head in.

 

3. FUEL

With only super-expensive café-style choices available in the company’s locale, my friend had opted for the supermarket for cheaper lunchtime choices. Ready-made salads and other heathy snacks – paleo, organic, no sugar, low fat – all the staples were there, in a battery of choices, good to go and ready to eat. Lower carbs and sugar put paid to the 2pm slump many of us experience, and he no longer needed an early afternoon caffeine pick-me-up.

 

4. LOCATION

A small, cramped workplace made him more likely to head outside at lunchtime. Since the office was opposite a beautiful iconic beach, this meant he was straight into the freshest air in the southern hemisphere. The excuse to get away from his desk and out of the office was a golden opportunity, and sent his afternoon productivity levels soaring.

 

5. TRANSPORT

The out-of-city-centre location changed his commute from train to bus. Such a small thing, he said, but with surprising impact. Dedicated bus lanes and express services were surprisingly efficient. There was always seat, and a chance to relax and catch up on podcasts and the newspaper - a novel change from strap hanging on a city commuter train.

 

6. INTELLIGENCE

Every person in the team was hand-picked. Not just in how they fit the job criteria or for their technical skill, but for their outlook. As a team they were all very different, he said, but the difference worked for them not against them. Good solutions were arrived at fast. They all came at things from different perspectives and sometimes there were odd viewpoints on the table, but there was also no pretence – and all opinions counted.

 

Six simple things. Unremarkable in isolation, but collectively they made a tangible and refreshing difference in both pleasure and productivity. My friend was engaged and relaxed, and completely satisfied that he was in the right job with the best group of people.

Sure, some of these changes were self-led, others the result of solid leadership. What that demonstrates is that engagement is a partnership. Both employer and employee need to get it right. That’s the springboard from which amazing things can happen.

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Want to Be More Successful in the Office? You Need to Get More Sleep!

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There is perhaps nothing more captivating than a sleeping baby. Watch their perfect face relax, see the rosebud lips twitch and their delicate chest rise and fall with each tiny, delicious, languorous breath. As that brief moment of adoration passes and the demands of the day still remain, your mind turns to envy.

Yes, envy - as you push that same infant around in a stroller through endless supermarket aisles, ducking and weaving, your basket overflowing and your burden increasing! Every so often you glance down to see your tranquil companion is still enjoying the ride and cooing at the bright lights and sounds. If only the experience were as restful and restorative for you!

As infants, we’re nurtured and cared for. Sent to bed after a day of play, and fed well so our legs grow long and our brains grow healthy. Time passes. We lose our milk teeth and pass through puberty, maybe graduate with a cap and gown. Then begins the slog of a career, and if we’re lucky we squeeze in a partner and family. A remarkably common feature amongst all the variables here is that slippage occurs, and we do much less of one particular thing. Sleep.

Two-and-a-half years ago, Arianna Huffington fainted from exhaustion. She hit her head on her desk, broke her cheekbone, and had to have five stitches in her right eye. ‘And I began the journey of rediscovering the value of sleep,’ she says.

Huffington, the founder of The Huffington Post, CEO of Thrive Global and author of 15 books, is not surprisingly the go-to on many subjects, However, driven from her own personal experiences of utter exhaustion and lack of sleep she is extremely passionate about sending one very specific message…

‘When you’re burned out and exhausted, it’s much harder to see clearly the dangers or opportunities ahead.’

Huffington knows that whether you’re the CEO of a multi-million-dollar company or the administrator of a 24hour distribution plant, the psychological demands are equally exhausting. Our bodies each have the same basic needs. And sleep is a big one.

 

HOW DID IT GET SO LATE, SO SOON?

Two things stood out in Huffington’s research. One, every element of our lives is enriched if we get enough sleep. And secondly, our biggest mistake is in measuring our success by the time we invest in it, rather than the quality of work we put in. Bill Clinton, who was renowned for sleeping only five or six hours a night throughout his presidency, observes…

‘Every important mistake I have made in my life, I’ve made because I was tired.’

If only he’d been thinking more clearly that day in the oval office with the cigar. Of course, getting more sleep is easier said than done - especially when our culture thrives on 24-hour data streaming and play-on-demand TV.

 

SLEEP - YOUR NEW STABLEMATE

The tricky part is finding the golden number – how many hours of sleep do we need to be mindfully present and completely engaged in our day? Everyone is slightly different, so once you have found yours, it’s time to get committed.

Here are three strategies Huffington has lived, breathed and made work:

  1. Tell people – own up to it. If everything you do could be done better on a really good night’s sleep, be candid about it. Let those around you know that you will be far more interesting and engaging tomorrow if you have the right amount of zeds.
  2. Schedule a meeting – it’s simple. A fee-paying client would find tardiness completely unacceptable. Treat your sleep the same way. Here’s the formula – the time you need to wake up minus your magic hours of sleep. BAM. This is the time you need to go to bed. Set a really annoying reminder if you have to.
  3. Stop temptation – turn all devices off. No beebs, blings, horns, swooshes or sweeps. Not only does this give your body a physical signal that it is ‘shutting down’, it prevents any middle-of-the-night temptation to check devices or be woken by their alluring vibrations.

There’s no doubt that Huffington is onto a good thing with her ideas on sleep, and we all know in our hearts that she’s right. It’s good to be reminded that as the years advance, we may not be as captivatingly beautiful while sleeping like a baby, but our need for rest has not changed. Nurture yourselfyourself and don’t be afraid to start pushing up more zeds!

 

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The Most Effective Leadership Changes you Need to Make to be Successful

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To say that Marshall Goldsmith knows a thing or two about leadership is understating on a truly epic scale.

Rated #1 Leadership Thinker and one of the Top Ten Most Influential Business Thinkers in the World. Top-ranked Executive Coach at the 2013 biennial Thinkers50 ceremony, and twice a New York Times best-seller. 

Appearing in Australia this year, he gave a series of media interviews – all highly compelling and motivating. There was no shortage of insights for all types of heads - for anyone keen to learn how the world’s top CEOs achieve positive change and continue to achieve great things for themselves and their brands.

Here are just three of his top insights – because even the briefest moment of understanding can change things for you for good. And curiously, that’s one of his points.

 

DON’T BECOME A HAMSTER ON A WHEEL

Goldsmith shares the advice given to him very early in his career by Dr. Paul Hersey, co-creator of the highly influential management model Situational Leadership™. “One day he told me that I was very good at what I did, selling days and speaking, but that I was making too much money and complacent in my success,” Goldsmith says. 

“He told me that I was just a hamster on a wheel not going anywhere, that I would probably make lots of money and have a good life, but if I continued doing what I was doing I wouldn’t become the person I could be.”

Goldsmith was quite comfortable coasting on his success. People were happy and business was lucrative. So he ignored Hersey’s advice. Fast forward twelve years, and he finally got it. To go from good to great, you can’t rest on your laurels, even if you are dancing with a cash cow. You have to be truly engaged with the things that get you most excited. Ultimately, Goldsmith realised this was original thinking, writing, creating and research.  

His gold nugget was “I would never have known that coasting on our achievements can be one of the biggest flaws of very successful people!”

 

IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU

The trickiest part of transitioning into leadership is managing your ego.  It’s tough, says Goldsmith. You dedicate your entire career to winning, but as you get promoted and move up the ladder, winning should no longer be about you - it should be about the team. This, he says, can be a very hard transition for many leaders to make.

For those who are brave enough to put their ego aside, Goldsmith says the rewards are prolific. We all have wisdom: we know a lot, have great qualifications and a desire to help. A good leader has the capacity to put their own over-confidence on the bench, and look to others for answers.  They’re inclined to listen to what the others are saying and recognise that by doing so they understand all perspectives and not just their own, and become a well-rounded leader – and person – with authenticity and the backing of those around them. Self-awareness, says Goldsmith, is critical to success. 

 

YOU HAVE TO WANT IT

Counter intuitive it may be, but the clients Goldsmith spends the least time with are the ones who improve the most, he says, and those he spends the most time with often improve the least.  Great leadership emerges in a person not when they are told they have the potential to be better, but when they realise it for themselves – and want it.  You need drive and self-awareness to create change in yourself.

This is probably one of the reasons, Goldsmith jokes, that he will never be asked to coach Donald Trump!

As leaders of teams and small businesses, we have much to learn from Goldsmith’s approachapproach, valuable lessons which are simple but highly effective. ‘The less we focus on ourselves the more we benefit. It’s an interesting equation: Less me. More them. Equals success. Try it.’  So says Goldsmith and it’s hard not to agree!

 

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Enjoy the Benefits of Getting Friendly in the Workplace

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Good business is not a quiet thing. It hums. Healthy banter between colleagues is a sign that your workplace has a balanced culture - of productivity, friendliness and candour. It’s a place where employees share, float ideas and contribute. And it has a natural energy all of its own – generated by motivated people working together. 

Historically, this type of banter happened in the nooks and crannies of our office spaces - between partitions, over the water coolers. But as workplace design has evolved, the engagement we now experience with our colleagues hasn’t necessarily kept up.   

Sadly, the statistics say that meaningful engagement isn’t happening as often as it should. Only a few organisations truly know how to connect employees and create great environments that balance productivity, natural energy, motivation.

Getting along and liking each other seems to have become a really tricky business. 

 

STATS OF ENGAGEMENT

Gallup research shows that only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged in their jobs. – they’re interested in working for you and they love your brand.  The other 87% are not engaged. At worst, they’re completely indifferent. Quiet, inattentive and highly likely to move to another brand that they perceive will offer them more.

Gallup tells us it’s difficult to create environments where people can connect with each other, understand your brand and engage beyond set tasks.

Although our clever-selves might intuitively know that employee engagement is what drives real business outcomes, it’s clear that even the big guns are struggling to do this well. 

 

TRICKY BUSINESS

At #HR we know that engagement is unique to every business. What may work for one may not work for another.  It’s about doing many things in the right way and at the right time.

Stay with us over the next few weeks as we roll out posts which tackle the basics – and get your people and your business really, authentically engaged.

 

LET’S BE FRIENDLY

Let’s not brush over the simple things. 

Mark Horstman, co-founder of Manager Tools and author of The Effective Manager writes about being friendly.  There is, he says, a distinction between being friendly and being friends. 

Friendly behaviour involves smiling, giving encouragement, conversing and laughing.  ‘They are things that are appreciated, respected and often admired by those who struggle to get along well and easily with others.’

Friendly behaviour is not about building a sense of obligation or favouratism.  

Friendliness requires neither agreement nor approval and is rarely offensive if it is authentic.  Best of all, most have learnt this skill well before they have met you.  So friendliness is something you need only role model, rather than teach.

‘Don’t wait for people to be friendly, show them how.’ Wise words, if anonymous. 

Horstman has a really neat set of rules rules for friendliness with staff:

  1. You can’t be friends with anyone you employ;
  2. You can be friendly to everyone you employ;
  3. You can’t be friendly to some without being friendly to all.  Be consistent.

Once you benchmark these behaviours and begin to use them, they build the kind of engagement that really makes your workplace stand out from the crowd. 

For those who need more convincing, it turns out that kindness is fuel for our brains.  Judith Glaser, the CEO of Benchmark Communications explains its benefits through neuroscience.  'When someone is kind and respectful to us,' she says, 'our brains produce more oxytocin and dopamine, which helps us relax, feel open to others, and be more sharing and cooperative.'

Friendliness is just one element of employee engagement. Yet it plays a big part in how well your staff get along with each other - and a pivotal role in office dynamics and productivity.

‘Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.’ So says Richard Branson. We’re with him. Let’s get friendly.  

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How to be a Successful Entrepreneur in 3 Easy Ways

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Taking the helm of any business is a leap of faith and a little like strapping yourself in for a roller coaster ride. As you head up the first rise born aloft on a stream of ideas and energy, you feel the wind in your hair and the euphoria of healthy business growth.

Cameron Herold, business coach to successful entrepreneurs calls this the ‘uninformed optimism’ stage – when you’re bursting with excitement, aware there are challenges ahead, but not really able to see what’s beyond that first big rise. A tower of terror or a smooth cruise to early success?   

As you continue to round corners and defy the force of gravity, it can turn out to be a wilder ride than you anticipated. Sure you get to enjoy the euphoric highs. But you’ve got to endure the lows as well.

These twisters can come at you right out of the blue. The moments when you revisit the high start-up costs against the low early revenue. The days when programming or development efforts are unproductive. The time when your partner’s positivity is on the wane and it’s up to you to keep things on the up.

On days like this it’s hard to visualise a smooth road ahead. Clear thinking is gone with the wind. You’re pinned to your seat, paralysed and screaming all the way down.

The way Herold tells it, the roller coaster of entrepreneurism has a one-way ticket and there’s no getting off. And how you weather the highs and lows will determine your success.

So let’s talk strategy:

 

1. BREATHE 

Grab the safety rails and remember the basics. When your mind is whirling with misgivings, your anxiety levels are heightened too. This affects your ability to make smart choices.  So take time out for a breather. A walk in the park, pounding it out with boxing gloves - whatever your chosen medium is. All the science shows that connecting with nature and taking a short burst of exercise are essential for resetting that mind, reducing stress and staying healthy.

It helps you reconnect with your inner adventurer – the one that got you started on this voyage.

When your calm, centred-self returns, revaluate any decisions you made. Make sure they were meaningful, sensible and insightful. The secret to weathering the ups and downs is staying on track.

 


2. CONNECT

With your feelings.  Strange advice for a business owner? Not so. Understanding your feelings and being ready for them when you round a corner and see what’s ahead, is essential. 

Talk to your team, partner, spouse. Identify the scary moments, and be open to feedback about managing them. Bring people inside the volcano and get them to support you. You’ll find out who’s got the strengths to last the distance, and ultimately, it will build resilience in those around you.

Herold asserts that highly driven episodes are a normal part of the entrepreneurial journey – they drive growth and makes things happen.  However, times like this must be managed efficiently and used to an advantage, or crisis is unavoidable.  

 

3. JOIN A FORUM

The feeling that you’re ultimately alone on your journey is one familiar to many entrepreneurs. Share those moments with like-minded individuals and you offset the force-of-gravity vulnerability this loneliness can turn into.

Choose the right forum – one that’s less about advice and more about sharing experiences on the road travelled. Mo Fathelbab, angel investor, corporate culture advisor and Founder of the Forum Resources Network, believes that forums are an important tool in dispelling feelings of isolation and learning from your peers.

Forums connect you with people you can confide in, trust and turn to. If direction is what you need, they can link you with services - legal, financial, planning and support.  These can help you put the brakes on or accelerate as required - reducing risk and guess work, getting the pivotal business moments right.

Membership is generally free, so this becomes a cost neutral exercise with big impact!

And when you get back in the front seat, keep in mind that the thrills and spills are part of the ride. It’s a blast one moment, and a dead-stop the next. Your responses will help you stay on track.

Surround yourself with people who can help you tame the beast, and keep your strategy fixed in place. That way, whether you’re racing downhill, pulling out of a lull, or cresting a rise, you’ll stay in motion.

Then put your hands in the air and wave! Because it’s all about enjoying the journey.

 

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How to Manage Stress in the Office in Two Easy Ways

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The cut and thrust of business can feel like a high octane trip round a race track some days. There are the long straights and the pacey chicanes. By the time you make it to the chequered flag, you’re exhausted!

So how to make it seem more like a leisurely Sunday afternoon drive every day? The sort your granny and grandpa used to take. But with better outcomes and higher profit margins.

Stress can be the element that pushes you across the finishing line on a tank of pure adrenalin. It’s not all bad. But you definitely need a map of the route fixed in your head, plus a safety belt and a five point harness.

 

1. SHOW ME THE SCIENCE

When we’re stressed our body releases hormones that provide a highly powerful boost in energy. Cognitively, you’re ultra-sharp, you think fast and you remain alert. All of your senses are switched on and heightened, and you react swiftly.

This stress-response system is self-limiting. Once the perceived crisis has passed, hormone levels return to normal, lowering your heart rate and blood pressure. You go back onto cruise control, and the rhythmic hum of your business resumes.

There’s plenty of research telling us that harnessing the stress response can be highly valuable. Here are two strategies on how to leverage this super-fueled state.

 

2. FORESIGHT

Jack Dorsey knows about stress. He’s the co-founder and CEO of Twitter and Square. His opinion is that stress only becomes unmanageable when things that are unexpected. ‘The more you can set a cadence around what you do and the more ritual and the more consistency you can build in your schedule, the less stress you are going to have’

Foresight is what helps us plan for the unexpected – and manage stress well. People who get good at strategic planning tend to notice the unexpected sooner. And they’re prepared.

When a crisis arises, such people take advantage of the hormone rush. Rather than react to the event negatively, they shift up a gear – smoothly – using their increased energy to manage the crisis meticulously, as planned. Once the crunch time is past, a performance review can take place and plans can be changed according to what worked.       

Crises managed this way tend to be temporary and brief, and handling them becomes effortless over time.

 

PREPARED IN MIND AND BODY

John Howard, former Australian Prime Minister (1996-2007) is a man of habit. After taking office as Prime Minister, he made a point of walking almost every day, whether at his residence or in a bustling foreign capital.  He believes the ritual of exercise was a boost to his mind as well as his health. And he’s not the only one.  President Obama also credits morning exercise for his ability to keep a calm demeanor in high-stress environments.

Research from Princeton University in New York shows that walking briskly or jogging calms you, sparking nerve cells in the brain that relax the senses the senses. Professor Elizabeth Gould says physical activity re-organises the brain so that anxiety is less likely to interfere with normal function.

You’d always wear a helmet on the race track, right? And your brain needs protection in the workplace too! Regular rhythmic exercise can minimize many symptoms of stress. Nurture your brain with fresh air and a brisk walk, and your ride will be smoother next time a challenge looms around the bed.  

Hardwiring foresight into your business, and keeping thing fresh with regular exercise – two simple measures that can be implemented at any time and cost very little.

Your granny and grandpa would have appreciated the wisdom.

 
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The Dangers of Drug and Alcohol Abuse in the Workplace

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Drugs, alcohol and work are not a cocktail we recommend. In your small business, we suggest you keep things clean from the very start with a suite of procedures and best practice in place.

If you’re a numbers person, you’ll be interested and not a little alarmed at the statistics released this month by the Australian Institute for Health and Welfare (AIHW), telling us that around one in two-hundred people in this country sought treatment for alcohol and drug use in 2014–15.

For the last ten years alcohol, cannabis, amphetamines and heroin have been the drugs causing most concern. The Institute’s spokesperson Tim Beard advises that for their clients seeking treatment aged thirty and over, alcohol was the most commonly used drug, while for clients aged twenty-nine and under, it was cannabis.

Some of those people work. It’s possible they work for you or might do so at some point. Are you ready to handle the consequences?

Let’s not be naïve. This is clearly an issues that touches workplace culture both directly and indirectly.

The Australian Drug Foundation reports that alcohol and drugs cost Australian workplaces an estimated $6 billion per year in lost productivity, with 2.5 million days lost annually.

The cost to co-workers is just as significant. One in ten workers say they have experienced the negative effects of a co-worker’s misuse of alcohol. That might include reduced capacity in doing their job, causing an accident or near miss. There can be an expectation that colleagues will cover for them, even extending their own hours of work to do so.

Whatever the size of an organisation, all employers have a legal obligation to address alcohol and drug related issues in the workplace. Reasonable or practicable steps must be taken to ensure the health and safety of all staff, as well as contractors or clients.

Which brings us back to our recommendation that you keep things clean from the start.

Managing alcohol or drug related issues in retrospect, with no supporting policy or go-to guide, is complex, stressful and costly.

At #HR we know that being proactive and having best practice in place from start-up onwards is most certainly the way to go.

There are many resources available to help employers implement best practice. Safe Work Australia is an excellent place to start looking for on-line resources governed by Australian legislation, as well as the Australian Drug Foundation for documentation that’s useful when compiling your procedures.

If you have any doubts at all, contact a professional like #HR, who will be able to support you through this process. We are an influence upon whom you should be counting.

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How to Create Strong Visual Marketing - Online and in the Office!

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We think about office design a lot at #HR. And we’ve noticed that small business owners tend to shy away from innovation and creativity.

What kind of impression are you creating in your space?

Research about visual imagery in content marketing has us all convinced of the power of visuals. An active consumer will be swayed to your brand once they are visually stimulated. If what they see and feel is compelling, they will remember you. Best of all they will share their experience with others.

BAM! Free marketing.

In her article ‘The Power of Imagery in Content Marketing’, commentator Savannah Louie cites the findings that people remember just 10 percent of what we hear.

Yada yada.

What we read is only incrementally better – we remember 20%. There’s a lot of waffle being written, and read.

But of what we see and do we remember a staggering 80 percent.

So doesn’t it pay to design the space your people see daily, where they do a great job for you with this in mind?

Imagine the scene through a new recruit’s eyes. They arrive at your office to find a fit-out dragged into this millennium from the ‘80s. Mix-and- match furniture, clunky partitions and colour schemes far from on-trend. How is this making your recruit feel? Excited to be joining you?

Take the scales from your eyes, we say! And get visual!

Your target recruitment pool – the millennials - will be less than interested in such a space. Depending on your market segment you might be limiting your sales capacity too if the hackneyed feel of your surroundings extends to your branding.

Bye-bye, free marketing.

Sure, the Baby Boomers may still be satisfied with your traditional approach. That’s because it fits them like a tatty old slipper.

But Gen X and the Millennials may not even step through your door, let alone consider a good position you have vacant.

Great news! It doesn’t take a big budget to make simple changes and turn things your way. It’s about planning first and executing smartly.

It takes imagination and creativity. And that one clever individual who knows what they’re doing, to pull it together effectively.

 

 

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Just Say Thank You! How to Manage Employees Effectively

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Are you saying goodbye to your staff too often?

Worse still, have you got a revolving door where staff are concerned? And are those still with you looking fidgety? These are signs you shouldn’t ignore!

Often it’s the simplest of things. The things your mother taught you.

A new survey in the UK found that only 16% of employees had heard the words ‘thank you’ from their boss in six months. Podium Designs did research with 750 workers to find out about workplace satisfaction.

Ask yourself: when did you last say thank you, and mean it? If you value your staff, how do you show it?

It’s easy to keep it simple and let your employees know they’re appreciated. You know it. Your mum knew it. Here’s three off the top of our head:

  • Leave a post it note on someone’s computer saying ‘thanks for that report – top job!’
  • Better still, stick your head round their door and say it in person.
  • Next time you send out an email to everyone about a win you’ve had, thank one or two people who made a difference.

But beware! Don’t leave anyone out. If it helps, be methodical. Write yourself a list of names and tick them off as you thank them. Don’t do it too often. That would be weird. And don’t write it on a whiteboard in your office.

But get that revolving door to stop turning. (And don’t leave anybody trapped inside.)

If you start to notice gaps in the list, ask yourself what’s going on. Is someone not pulling their weight? Or are you ignoring them?

We get it, we get it. You don’t want to feel as if your mum is trailing you round the office telling you to mind your Ps and Qs and say thank you. How boring is that?

So, get more adventurous! Saying thank you doesn’t have to be a chore. Develop a cunning plan around staff motivation – and get known as the way coolest and most welcoming place to work.

We love this post from 6Q blog with 40 great ways to say thank you to your employees.

The writing’s on the (office) wall. Leaders who say thank you have more motivated staff, better rates of retention, and a better reputation as an employer.

So get onto it! Say thank you! And when you’re done saying thank you, talk to your staff. Talking is free and the outcome could be profitable.

Got a unique or favourite way of thanking your staff? Leave us a comment below!

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Recruitment Strategies - Why you need to Think Differently

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In small business your focus is so often on operations - building, marketing and delivering product. The business grows, time passes and market needs are catered for. All good.

More business means you recruit more staff. And there’s the rub. Because replicating success doesn’t necessarily mean replicating your people.

Unlikely though it sounds, to build on the success you’ve achieved so far, you need people who think differently from you.

There are typically six different ways of solving a problem and they’re all equally valid, says Juliet Bourke, Partner of Consulting at Deloitte, in her Ted Talk on human capital.

It seems we each think in just a couple of those ways. A staggering 93% of those surveyed in Bourke’s research said that Outcomes and Options were the factors most important to consider when making a decision.

That left the four remaining factors of People, Process, Evidence and Risk deliberated by a mere 7%.

This is dangerous stuff, says Bourke. If you’re sketchy on Process, People, Evidence and Risk, you ask fewer questions about different ways to solve problems. You listen less when someone gives you an idea that’s different. And frankly, you may not care.

Even more worryingly, she says, 75% of senior leaders who were surveyed focused entirely on Outcomes and Options, at the expense of the four other vital factors.

Bourke points to leaders and thinkers who actively engage with people whose perspective differs from their own. Obama, President of a world superpower. Warren Buffett – the world’s most successful investor. Charles Darwin, father of evolutionary theory.

We should learn from these guys. Because whatever your politics, none of them are Muppets.

Bourke suggests that for business to be smarter, it’s vital we don’t give in to the ‘bias of sameness’ when recruiting. Don’t clone your point of view. Do something to rebalance the conversation.

When it’s time to recruit, think differently. Think laterally and smartly. Diversify.

Recruiting differently will not cost you any more. It simply requires you to have an open mind. And if your craft is not recruitment, ask for help. Don’t expect to be able to do it as well as a specialist - outsource!

 

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How To Write A Great Blog! Copywriting Secrets Revealed

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Bangers and mash.  Strawberries and cream.  Chocolate and orange.  Somethings are just made to go together, no? Individually they taste great, but together they’re mouth-watering. 

Business partnerships are just like bangers and mash. True, there are some tasks best done alone, or individuals who work well independently. We all know a few of those. But occasionally a pairing of like minds puts something really special in the can. Think Ben and Jerry.

Blogging is a dish which can cook up a storm with the right partnership. Many small businesses have got the recipe right and adapted their business stream to generate regular, readable content about their specialised field.  They know the stats and realise it’s one of the best marketing tools to direct traffic back to their website. 

Blogs are now proven to be a great appetiser for the consumer. A whopping 61% of US online consumers have made purchases based on recommendations from a blog. Companies that blog achieve a 126% increase to their lead growth compared to those that don’t.

Many thought leaders suggest that any old Tom, Dick or Harriet who’s used to writing emails or marketing content is capable of mastering blogging.  Content, they say, is king, implying that if you know the business, the art of writing it up can be taken as read.

It reminds us of when David Beckham retired and announced he might become an actor. Just as your or I might decide to become a premier league soccer player. Or a gifted wordsmith.

You might know your business and your industry inside out and in your bones. But developing writing or blogging skills on the job, while continuing to deliver on your other obligations, is not going to result in your cake rising.

A quick Q and A session with Fiona Stocker, copywriter and Principal of Fiona Stocker Boutique Communications, indicates why. She’s been copywriting, ghostwriting and editing in small business and the corporate sector for years. There’s nothing she likes more than to take our content, have a good snort over it, and then make it shine.

 

Question 1: How does partnering with a copywriter get your message across?

Answer: A great copywriter takes your material to another level. The business world is full of writing (copy, to be technical) that is tawdry, stuffed with jargon, puts people to sleep and makes one company sound exactly like another. Thankfully, it’s also full of great material written by copywriters.

Think of any advertisement you’ve seen that grabbed your attention, made you laugh, or made you think. That wasn’t written by a marketing manager, or by a CEO. It was written by a copywriter. Ironically, that person might not give a flying fruit bat about the business. What they are bothered about is words, and how to make them fly off a page and imprint themselves on the consumer’s mind.

 

Question 2: Can a copywriter make a difference to the bottom line?

Answer: A copywriter can do whatever you want. If you want them to create sales or queries, make that clear, and look for a specialist. If you want someone who can write specifically for your target market, find a writer with the gift of crafting copy that appeals directly to them. If you’re selling top end travel to life-long-learners, you speak in a different voice than if you’re selling shorts to surf dudes. Copywriters are the original multi-taskers. They do what they do with their brain, their heart and the seat of their pants, and they know instinctively when the mix is right.

 

Question 3: Is blog content different from other content?

Answer: Absolutely. You wouldn’t write your annual report in the same style as a blog post. But more importantly, your blog should be replete with rich SEO material. You might know your keywords from working with your web designer, and you’ve probably built up an instinctive understanding and repertoire of keywords based on what’s trending in your industry.

Where a copywriter can help is in weaving those words into great copy – and a catchy headline - that is readable and enjoyable – but not obviously stuffed with them.  If you’re looking to boost sales directly through your blog, look for an SEO Copywriter. If you want to differentiate your business with an original style, just look for a great writer and someone you’d enjoy working with. If you’re going to create blog magic together, there should be chemistry between you. 

 

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Success in Business - A Choice or Just Good Luck?

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What do best-selling authors John Grisham, J K Rowling and Theodor Geisel (creator of childhood favourite Dr. Seuss) all have in common?

Beyond their literary success and award winning feats of imagination, they each faced multiple professional rejections before making it big.

Grisham’s manuscript A Time to Kill was rejected by twenty-six publishers.  Dr Seuss went one better with And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street, and was turned down by twenty-seven. And the first Harry Potter was shown the door by nine. 

Each of these acclaimed writers backed their work, refined it and persisted. Their determination was finally rewarded with publishing success and much loved books - and the rest is literary history.

That’s lucky for us, but it was more than luck that made the difference for them.

In his book The Drunkard’s Walk, Leonard Mlodinow tells his readers that hard work and persistence matter – because these are the factors that increase your chances of success when good luck, chance or a random act comes your way. 

 ‘A lot of what happens to us – success in our careers, in our investments, and in our life decisions, both major and minor – is as much the result of random factors as the result of skill, preparedness, and hard work.’ - Leonard Mlodinow

 

SUCCESS IS A CHOICE

According to the United States’ Pew Research Center, those in higher income brackets are far more likely to believe that individuals get rich primarily from working hard. Wealthy people overwhelmingly attribute their own success to hard work rather than factors like luck or being in the right place at the right time.

American non-fiction author and finacial journalist Michael Lewis agrees.  'People really don't like to hear success explained away as luck, especially successful people.  As they age, and succeed, people feel their success was somehow inevitable.  They don't want to acknowledge the role played by accident in their lives.'

Success, those who enjoy it believe, stems mostly from application to task - and a simple, dogged determination not to give up.

History too suggests that extraordinary dedication is what lays the groundwork for that moment when random chance plays its hand. 

Marie Curie was a Polish-born physicist and chemist and one of the most famous scientists of her time. Together with her husband Pierre, she was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1903, and she went on to win another in 1911. She led her educational life in miserable conditions, without food or any home comforts, but her hard work determined her luck and that is why world remembers her today.

 

LESS PERFECTION, MORE AUTHENTICITY

From authentic endeavour comes authentic success – and those who are pretenders to the throne risk being found out. In 1989, performers Fab Morvan and Rob Pilatus gained international acclaim as R&B duo Milli Vanilli. Their debut album “Girl You Know It’s True” earned multi-platinum success and the group sold more than 30 million singles worldwide. A year following their meteoric rise, the duo came under scrutiny after it was revealed that they did not sing any of the vocals heard on the recording.  They returned their 1990 Grammy Award for Best New Artist.

Their chance encounter with stardom quickly spiraled, leading to a career demise and public outcry over lip-syncing.  Attempts to re-launch their careers in a more authentic way were tarnished by the scandal. 

Eight years later, Rob Pilatus was found dead after allegedly ingesting a mixture of pills and alcohol. He was just thirty-two years of age. 

It was already a heavy load to carry the secret for years, and it literally took my brother [Rob] six feet underground. I feel very lucky and blessed that I’m still here today able to breathe and reinvent myself. - Fab Morvan

Rowling submitted another manuscript after an eighth knock-back. Madam Curie chose her pioneering work in radioactivity over personal comfort and warmth. If only Milli Vanilli had been given the chance to make similar choices. 

Success is won, but with endeavour rather than luck. That’s not to say that drive and determination can’t be coupled with an open heart and acceptance of chance good fortune. It’s a golden pathway and the narrative of many a success story – in business, in love, in interests and in friendship.

 

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How Effective Are Your Management Skills? - 4 Ways to Lift Your Game

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Ever been to the doctor, been prodded and poked, clamped, scraped, sampled, screened, diagnosed, prescribed and pronounced all better, only to wish they’d met your eye and said ‘G’day and how are you?’

In management and business we focus on strategy and outcome. The softer skills – managing the people who implement the strategy and bring us the outcomes - are often learned on the job. We acquire them though our own personal fumbles or, if we’re lucky, a mentor who imparts their wisdom. And we don’t see them as part of our core business. Big mistake.

You’re not alone if you find great people management, for all its perception as a ‘softer skill’, one of the trickier to master. But it’s essential if you want your people to feel – and perform - better.

Books, podcasts and even social media are great platforms for sourcing expertise. The methods you’ll read about are tried and tested, which takes away the guesswork and gets you up to speed quickly.

Mark Horstman author of The Effective Manager and podcaster of The Management Tools  is a go-to influencer on this subject. ‘Regardless of how long you’ve been managing or how many people report to you, statistics show you probably aren’t getting the most out of your team,’ he says.

So let’s run our hands under the hot tap, slip behind the consulting room curtain and examine how you could build better relationships and drive performance. There are four critical behaviours.

GET TO KNOW YOUR PEOPLE - 'SO BE FRIENDLY'

 

It’s simple: get to know the people who work for you and look to you for influence. Understand each of them, and know what they do well and not so well.  Your primary responsibility might be to achieve results, but giving the right tasks to the right people makes all the difference.

 ‘People and their behaviours are what deliver results to your organisation – not systems, not processes, not computers, not machines.’ - Mark Horstman

The best way to get to know your people, says Horstman, is to talk to them. Fancy that!  Fact: smiling, giving encouragement, talking and laughing are all behaviours that people absorb and appreciate. They’re the behaviours that encourage others to like you and be open with you. So being friendly, in a natural and authentic way, really is an insider’s ticket to knowing your staff well – with all that promises. Who knew?

TALK ABOUT PERFORMANCE - 'POLITELY AND PROFESSIONALLY'

 

It’s okay to share your thoughts about an individual’s performance – provided you have the skills to do it politely and professionally. Feedback shouldn’t be reserved for when things are going badly. Just as you might expect your boss or clients to communicate often with you, your direct reports are hoping for the same. 

If you’ve made the effort to connect with your staff, delivering feedback gets easier with time. Better still, once this kind of open communication is part of your culture, it’s a seamless, easy and cost-free way to achieve results and retain your team.

 

ASK FOR MORE

Raise the bar. Keep everyone within their comfort zones and you’re nothing more than a caretaker for the business, says Horstman. Team performance has to evolve at the same pace as the business grows. Everyone has to meet demands and it’s your role as manager to make that happen.

‘To be an effective manager means encouraging and inspiring all of your directs to higher performance even when they say they don’t want to – because you know that the organisation needs that to stay competitive’ - Mark Horstman

Horstman is clear on the need to challenge the status quo and keep average performers moving. That way, when the bar is raised, they’re less likely to become worrisome under-performers.

 

PUSH WORK DOWN

If there’s a task you can do but the same can be done by one of your direct reports – then push the task down. Sure, they might not do it as well as you, but if the quality will be close enough, enable them and hand it over. It’s empowering for them, and here’s the rub: it’s good for business too.

Once you’ve done that, turn your attention to what’s being pushed down to you – whether it’s from your boss or your clients. Show your employees that work is best shared not siloed. It’s a great tip for increasing productivity and creating capacity in your organisation.

That’s it in four. Know your people, talk to them, ask more of them and push work down. So-called soft skills which we prefer to see as a recipe for organisational health – and a way to lift your management game all round.

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Gender Equality in Recruitment and Avoiding the Merit Trap

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It would be impossible, and pointless, to pick who’s smartest between the Australian Chief Executive Women - 400 of Australia’s most senior and distinguished women leaders - and the Male Champions of Change - a coalition of decent, powerful men stepping up beside women to create a more gender equal world.

Why, they’re equal in their smartness and their greatness, of course.

Between them, the members of these two initiatives hold the top CEO jobs in the country. Collaboratively, their latest dispatch firing the synapses of the business world is In the Eye of the Beholder – Avoiding The Merit Trap, a 15 page report packed full of ideas which are gaining traction everywhere – and rightly so.

When we talk about engagement in the workplace and building teams which gel and are productive, often what’s perceived to make things work well is similarity - in gender, ethnicity, taste. Such characteristics and qualities have a potential to cluster within organisations. When we recruit unconsciously, we replicate patterns over and over again.

While we might believe that we’re recruiting on merit, and not factors like gender, un-interrogated thinking limits the talent search. And our business suffers from that ‘bias of sameness’ we’ve talked about in our earlier posts.

This is the Merit Trap.

President of Chief Executive Women Diane Smith-Gander explains. ‘Too often, decision-makers think they're selecting the best person for the job on the basis of merit, but in fact they're favouring people who look like them or think like them and ignoring the organisation's future needs,’ she says. ‘When this happens, they've fallen into the merit trap.'

Elizabeth Broderick AO, former Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner and founder of Male Champions of Change in 2010, says. ‘If women make up 50% of this population in Australia, indeed 60% of the most educated people, why are we not seeing them in equal proportions in organisations?  That tells me there is something other than merit operating in the environment.’

Put bluntly, as only we can, the upper echelons of our business world just might be continuing to recruit based on gender sameness. But they’re calling it merit.

 

AVOID THE TRAP

Avoiding the Merit Trap means setting out deliberately to create a culture of diverse minds. Employees engage with each other not because they’re able to cluster together comfortably with people who think along the same lines as them, but because they see their business being stimulated and enhanced by others who think differently.

Hard-wiring this new thinking into our strategic planning is a big and brave step – but an essential one. It takes a collective acknowledgement at the uppermost level that future challenges might not be answered in the same way as past ones – relying on the same minds, and the same answers.

 

ADOPT DIVERSITY

Jayne Hrdlicka, CEO of Jetstar Group is an early adopter of such thinking. ‘We make small changes to the system because no one believes it’s broken. But if we only tweak, we never get change. To move 180 degrees we have to have someone holding up the mirror at every stage of the process asking ‘why do we think that?’

 

THE FILTER DOWN EFFECT

The Merit Trap is usually a systemic problem, and it takes authentic and innovative leaders and innovative leaders to bring about real change. And here’s what happens. Once our business leaders are thinking about diversity as a means of keeping employees engaged, that thinking filters down through the organisation. Different viewpoints, life experiences and professional knowledge bring a bucketful of enhancement that creates – you guessed it - big impact.

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