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Published 23 August 2012 04:58, Updated 23 August 2012 05:00
The second of the Momentum series focused on how to improve talent management Russell Barton
If there’s one topic that will get a vigorous response from a breakfast audience in Perth it’s that of flexible working. That’s what BRW found at a BRW/GE Capital breakfast on talent management in the Western Australia capital earlier this month.
When a woman in the audience remarked that the debate about flexibility centred on working mothers rather than fathers or non-parents, almost everyone in the audience – and on the stage – agreed.
Simon Winfield, senior regional director of Hays, was one of the breakfast speakers and he agreed that there weren’t a lot of examples of flexible working arrangements for men.
“It does seem the preserve of working mums – it’s not a topic that we come across very often. Even in our own business, it’s not a subject that has really ever been broached,” he says.
It’s not impossible for fathers to get flexible arrangements. At IT group OBS – the winner of the BRW Best Place to Work this year – another breakfast speaker managing director Andy Neumann says a senior member of the team is a part-time working dad in the Melbourne office.
“He’s more productive on a three-day-a-week basis than he was five days a week when he worked for us years ago before [the baby],” Neumann says.
However, he warns that accommodating flexibility isn’t easy. He says it requires the right job and the right environment to work properly. “It’s about having the support of the organisation,” he says. “I’ve worked in places where it’s been a challenge.”
There’s no doubt that flexibility is a perk that more often is afforded to high performers in order to retain them.
Speaker Kym Illman, founder and managing director at marketing group Messages on Hold, says he affords flexibility to some workers but “it boils down to how good an employee they are. If you think that you are not going to get the best out of them, you will be reluctant to allow flexibility.”
Apart from retaining talent, another issue is finding talent. An number of companies now use social media as a talent finding tool.
At Hays, Winfield says that he’s seeing an increased use of LinkedIn. “Technology has had a significant impact on not only how our clients recruit but how we recruit as well,” he says.
In a recent survey by the recruiter, 70 per cent of clients and candidates referred to LinkedIn as a source when they were looking for a new job. “For the candidates, it wasn’t just a case of looking for a new job but they also looked to LinkedIn and Facebook for insight into that company and the person that they were going to work for. They are investigating your business.”
At OBS, Neumann says the company uses LinkedIn to find and qualify talent.
“If a candidate comes across your desk you can pop them up on LinkedIn and see who they are connected to,” he says. He sees this as a way of finding out things that don’t come through on a CV, such as working style.
Hiring people from overseas is particularly relevant in the WA market where talent is thin on the ground. Illman has noticed that only 20 per cent of new candidates are now Australian. The rest are from overseas. Currently there’s a deluge of Irish talent in the market.
According to Winfield, people’s attitudes to moving for a job have changed since the GFC. “People are far more willing to move for a job,” he says. However, many firms struggle with cultural issues. Winfield notes that a recent Hays survey shows that 26 per cent of companies would not consider hiring someone from overseas.
It’s worth remembering as companies struggle to get staff in a tight market that money is never seen as the main reason that people stay in jobs. “It’s important but it’s not the driving factor,” says Illman. He’s recently had to shore up a couple of key positions with higher remuneration. “It put smiles on their faces but it’s a short-term thing. Day to day enjoyment is the thing that keeps people coming back.”
For Neumann, pay is about demonstrating to people that they are valued at work.
“You’ve got to pay people fairly, give them something that makes them feel good when they go home and see their pay cheque,” he says.
A gap between what companies say about their workplace and what people actually experience when they start to work there has led to a certain level of employee dissatisfaction.
A Hays survey shows that 35 per cent of people say that what they were told in the recruitment process was nothing like what they experienced when they started. “You have to do what you say you are going to do,” says Winfield.
“You cannot fake it,” agrees Neumann. “You’ve got to commit to what you are doing, be consistent and do it with a sense of clarity.”
He says one way to check if a company is doing well is noting whether your staff will advocate for you on social media forums.
For more events in the Momentum Series, see www.brw.com.au/events for details.