Sunday, 20 November 2016

For an innovative edge, use this secret and hire your best recruit yet!

By Bridie Walsh
There’s a secret to recruiting team members who will help your business succeed beyond your imagination. This secret will bring you people:
  • who give your business cutting-edge insights
  • who comprehensively review your problems and provide solutions
  • who know your untapped target or niche audience (who, by the way, are dying to get their hands on your product or service), and
  • who have the skills you knew you needed and some that you didn’t know you needed (but you absolutely do).
The answer is: diversity. And the big guns are cottoning on.
“Google, Intel and Apple have an active program to increase diversity and inclusivity in their organisations,” says Trang Du, founder of expert job matching platform Two Square Pegs. Along with Baqir Khan from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) and human resources practitioner Jill Sears from the Equal Employment Opportunity Network (EEON), Du spoke at the Diversity: The X-factor event at co-working space Inspire9. The event was sponsored by Kooks Wine as part of the Small Business Festival.
Deloitte Australia Partner, Human Capital, Juliet Bourke has written about the benefits and trend toward diversity in her book Which two heads are better than one? It’s worth getting your hands on it. She talks about “how diverse teams create breakthrough ideas and make smarter decisions”.
But how can you get more diversity on your team? And what does diversity look like?
“Diversity is the new catch phrase because researchers have identified that it is important for business,” explains Du. “It impacts product development, marketing, problem solving, and increases profits. Yet, diverse teams are not easy to build.”
Conflict or the fear of conflict is one hurdle to overcome. But even like-minds disagree, and conflict is an everyday part of business Du points out. The confidence to hire diversity is proportionate with the confidence in your people to find solutions – which experts say is exactly what diversity brings a business, better problem solving abilities.
“We tend to have one way of thinking – one narrative – that carries culture, or our way of seeing and behaving in the world,” says Khan who runs a volunteer program at the ASRC. His advice is to “take the time to learn from the person in front of you”. What they know or who they are connected to could open up an entirely new market for your business.
He is all too familiar with placing people who have incredible work experience and life skills developed in their birth country, only to be overlooked here in Australia. Khan says there’s a missed opportunity.
Bias is another hurdle. “It’s one of the many barriers to employing diverse people,” explains Sear who was a diversity and inclusion manager during her career at Telstra. She worked on the disability employment program during a time when there was government funding for organisations to increase the participation of people with a disability.
“There’s an opportunity to market your business to different groups by having them in your organisation,” she says. Plus, people with different skills often bring new insights.
Sear once placed a visually impaired woman into a finance team that used graphs and visual aids in their work. The group didn’t think a visually impaired person could work effectively in their team but they were all willing to give it a go anyway. Because the woman had to approach the work differently, her perspective quickly identified inefficiencies. Everyone agreed and they were able to improve the way the entire team worked in a way that was better for everyone.
Over time, what became more apparent was the increased collegiality of the team. A colleague learnt that the woman’s passion was to finish a marathon. He trained hard so he could eventually run alongside her as her guide. The day they crossed the finish line, every single person from the team was waiting for them to cheer them over the line.

Diversity promises big wins for businesses. The experts agree – smash your diversity gaps to guarantee your business a healthy future.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

What's your Bias?

By Bridie Walsh
We prefer young people – a lot. And if you don’t believe it, take the implicit association test (IAP) developed by Harvard University.
The way you get treated at work, how you are perceived and the opportunities you receive are all dependent on implicit biases. This isn’t such great news when you look at the stats. In short, Harvard has uncovered that we are biased.  Our bias means we generally prefer people who are similar to us. We also prefer people who are younger.

Why is this a problem? For starters, if we only ever employ people ‘like us’, we miss out on the benefits of diversity. Diversity brings alternative perspectives, new ideas, and fosters understanding and compassion. Research tells us that diversity is instrumental in innovation. Something every business is chasing to make sure they have a competitive edge.
The second problem is, well, we are all growing old and increasingly living longer. Many middle income earning Australians will live to one hundred. Try the Abaris life expectancy calculator to find out how long you will live.
We can expect our retirement to be as long as our working life, or, as government policy changes, our working life to be much longer than it currently is. If we bias youth, we are simply cutting ourselves out of the opportunities we deserve, are skilled for and the diversity benefits age brings to a team.
So how can we stem our own personal bias against age and other categories of diversity? Understand that it is there, and that it exists. Bias is often subconscious. Bias betrays a belief system that we often don’t own up to publicly, even to ourselves, so acknowledge it. And when you need to recruit your next staff member make conscious choices about the diversity gaps in your team, whether that be gender, race, sexuality or age – and yes, it can even include skills, sectors and specialisations.

Take action against bias

  1. Take the IAP test to know what your bias is. The implicit association test measures reaction time to capture responses to images. This gives you access to your hidden beliefs. (It also examines biases toward gender, weight, sexuality and disability.)
  2. Use a blind approach to recruitment. Remove all signifiers of gender, age and name and simply gather the cover letter and resume for selection.
  3. Take a collaborative approach to interviews. Use a diverse team on the recruitment panel to diminish prejudice. Plus the additional perspectives will provide a well-rounded consideration of the business’ needs – and who will be the best person for the job.
Hiring the next best ‘you’ isn’t going to solve your business problems. But uncovering bias and making different decisions will be the most important step you take.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Tips from: Diversity the X-factor in Innovation July Workshop

Running your own business can be a challenge, that’s why getting expert advice is key.
This is why we held the Diversity the X-factor in Innovation workshop on July 14th at Inspire9 as part of the Small Business Festival.
Two Square Pegs brought together a range of experts that aptness spanned from
management, operations, sales, marketing and communications and digital.

In the workshop, new business owners were matched with experts in rotating breakout groups so they could get a taste of what it’s like to bring their business problem or issue to the table and receive expert advice.

What great advice can do for your business

After meeting with the experts each business owner had excellent take-away actions they could apply to their business straight away.
“One of the struggles I am having is how my members are communicating with each other,” says Sam Kurikawa who runs Give Get, an exchange service for entrepreneurs and freelancers where people provide value instead of cash transactions. “I want to make more instantaneous connections with them easier, whether through Facebook or a Slack channel.” The value for Sam was the power of bouncing ideas that sparked new ideas for her own business.
“I’m a big believer in diversity and diversity of ideas,” she says. “I thought it would be great to chat to people who had walked down a similar or different path and who can give me different perspectives on my business.”
The question on ‘how to do things better’ in his business brought Chris Kemp to the Diversity the X-factor workshop. His business, Melbourne Plant Sales, run pop up stores and bring the best plants from the outer suburban nurseries to the people in the city.
“We think we are onto a good idea and we just wanted to get the policies and procedures in place to keep growing,” Chris explains. “Today I received great marketing tips for our website, about how to create a call to action. We looked at planning out our future, creating a spreadsheet and crunching some numbers.”
Zoran Radicic is an IT specialist who provides a personalised service for small businesses. “I just realised I am basically an outsourced IT department for small business. I never thought about it from that angle until this moment.”
The new perspective has given him momentum for how he can market himself to small businesses, something he had been struggling with. He says, “I always try to learn things. Another set of eyes on your business or program always helps. It changes your way of thinking and opens up opportunities for improvement.”
“I had a great takeaway about how to communicate and simplify my message,” says lawyer Meldon D’Cruz. He was focused on the day-to-day legal aspects of his business service but was struggling to get his website and IT up off the ground. The marketing and digital advice he received helped shape his communications strategy. “Instead of giving all my content to my customers at the one time I will give clients three clear key points. I’m going to put that into my action plan straight away.”
Thanks to those who joined us both speakers and participants. The business advice, inspiration and connections for each business owner was invaluable.

Register now and get results for your business by joining the next Two Square Pegs event on 8 September 2016: The City of Yarra Speed Networking for Businesses.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Small business could be your best career move

Fortysix percent of jobs in Australia are in small business.
“It’s new small businesses that create jobs, adding around 1.4 million jobs every 3 years,” says Trang Du, founder of job matching platform Two Square Pegs.
Two Square Pegs partnered with the City of Yarra via an Annual Yarra Grant to help locals learn more about opportunities in the small business job market.

The What’s it like working in a start-up or small business workshop ran on 14 July at the Yarra Library with careers coach Naishadh Gadani from the Victorian Skills and Jobs Network and a panel of small business owners from the Yarra area.
“Small business is driving job growth and is a great place to look for work, but the owners often use more informal recruitment processes based on relationships and ‘cultural fit’ not just on skills” says Du
“You will work very closely in a small team, people have to get along,” says Onur Ekinci, founder of online learning platform Peer Academy.
“We use a prototyping approach to get to know our new recruit.” That means starting the working relationship on project-based tasks with set objectives. He hires based on the success of that project and describes the recruitment process is much like dating and searching for the ideal match. In the business community there is a lot at stake and business owners want to be sure they’re making the right decision.
Small businesses don’t tend to have HR departments or IT help desks. Vikky Gallagher, residential broker for local business Bruce Brammall Financial discovered working in a small business means wearing a lot of hats and having to learn on the go. She is a trained financial broker who also does the social media for her small business employer.
Gadani says, “We are now in a world where we will have a career portfolio”. He encourages people to rethink their career, rather than rely on traditional concepts of working in one organisation for your entire career.
The future worker’s career portfolio might look like part-time work alongside freelancing or consulting; or, if you are older and experienced, working in an advisory role with equity arrangements.
There are a range of industries in the City of Yarra. The Yarra Joblink site helps City of Yarra residents discover jobs with local small businesses. Being flexible and reaching out through informal networks as well as using local online platforms like Yarra Joblinks and Two Square Pegs is key to finding opportunities. Small businesses provide a great place to work with opportunities to learn and grow in a role.
Join the next City of Yarra and Two Square Pegs events on the 4 August with Diversity the innovation X-Factor in business and 8th of September with Speed networking for businesses and experts.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

5 Tips for Getting Shit Done in Your Business

As a small or growing business, planning and prioritising can quickly become overwhelming. The never ending to-do list of short and long term tasks doesn't just seem daunting, it can actually prevent real progress from taking place as team members begin to lack clarity about where to focus their energy and efforts.

There is a method to controlling the madness, and as a small business owner, compulsive multi-tasker, and lead facilitator of the Hub Melbourne Getting Shit Done accountability group, I've learned a lot over the years about productivity. Here are my personal top tips for clearing your to-do list day after day.
1) Don't let your day-to-day and long-term goals collide and cancel each other out.
There is always something to be done when you're running a business or leading a team, and it can be easy to miss the forest for the trees. It can be frustrating to see your long-term goals neglected because of the daily grind, so make sure that you attend to both sets of tasks individually and collectively.
The key is to do the planning outside of your work hours. First, divide your year into chunks of time that are manageable, such as three months. Then, schedule special time with the other team leaders to determine what accomplishments you want to celebrate at the end of the term. If you were to throw a party or take everyone out for a dinner, what do you want to each be raising your glass to?
Weekly, review the long-term task list and make an executive decision about what needs to be done during the following week. Then, divide and conquer.
2) Don't let your daily planning get in the way of productivity.
Hit the ground running each morning. Leave 15 minutes at the very end of your day to map out your tasks for the following day. Leave it visible at your "work station" to dive directly into the next day. Select a couple of pens in your favorite colors and mark the hell out of your list each time you complete a task.
3) Utilise digital forms of organisation as they suit you and your team members, but keep a physical and hand-written to-do list at your work station to be seen at all times.
Take the time to assess how your team best communicates and what is easy for them. What software are they already familiar with? How is your team utilising the current systems that you have in place? Are they doing more harm than good, is there room for more utilisation, or is it time to start from scratch? Project management applications such as Asana and Basecamp are great tools, but only as much as the team benefits from them.
In our day and age it is important for teams to find a digital system that all team members can readily access and use. Make sure that you are always evaluating your current systems and adjusting when necessary, while also giving everyone the chance to adjust to new software.
All this being said, always keep a physical to-do list near you while you're working. Mentally, as you cross things off the list you will gain energy to see the rest of the list through.
4) Use the buddy system.
Sure, writing down your goals may up your chances of accomplishing them, but what about writing them down and then sharing it with one, or even five other people?
If you don't have a coach, mastermind group or accountability partner, now is the time to start. From helping you to clarify your objectives to throwing around ideas to kicking your butt if you don't do what you say you're going to do, the power of even a "plus one" is something you will constantly feel as you grow.
Possibilities abound for accountability. From online forums to international groups that hold weekly calls to fellow-business owners, it isn't hard to find support, if you ask for it. To get started, you may want to consider asking someone with a similar project or who is on a similar journey to do daily or weekly check-ins via phone, email, Facebook, etc. Tell this person everything, and let them hold you to your goals.
5) Reward good behavior.
It's Friday, the to-do list is clear, now what? Will you just sleep in Sunday and then start again on Monday, all the while checking and responding to emails without taking a breath? That's hardly sustainable. Create a reward for each day and week that you will gladly give to yourself once the work has been done. Daily, this reward may be as simple as turning everything off after 7pm (there are few things that can't wait until the next morning at this point). Weekly, a full day to unplug or a weekly Friday happy hour with your other hard working friends (or the other members of your team) may keep you pushing hard through your to-do list during the week.
Never underestimate the power of positive reinforcement!

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Confessions From a Stay-At-Home Dad

The baby monitor on my bedside table comes to life and jolts me out of my deep sleep. I check the time. Dawn is still an hour away, but I silently cheer a full night’s sleep. I have a phone interview for a part-time role scheduled for this afternoon, so I have planned a busy morning for my son in the hope that he will have a long afternoon nap.

My wife and I have recently swapped roles - she has returned to full-time work and I resigned from my marketing communications role to stay at home with our 18-month-old son. I love the change, but it’s not without its challenges. Epic sleep battles, tantrums in public, long waits in the doctor’s office, nappy changes in the boot of my car, and that could be just one morning.

I am currently looking for part-time work to help supplement our household income, keep one eye on my career progression and have something of my own to achieve other than being a dad. My son is in day-care two days a week, which allows me to attempt to juggle work with my dad responsibilities. To date I’ve had a few hours of freelance work here and there, but most of my time has been devoted to actually finding work opportunities.

What is a Career path?

I am not overly enamoured of the traditional job recruitment market. It often seems that if your CV doesn’t include local experience in a role very similar to the one they are hiring for you simply won’t get an interview. Frequently I wonder if a consultant has actually read my CV, or do they simply spin it through a keyword search software program to assess whether it’s a perfect match with a role’s Key Selection Criteria. There is very little time invested in discovering a candidate’s unique qualities, skills or experience; and as such there is a lack of innovation in the industry.

I have not followed a ‘traditional’ straight and narrow career path, but instead opted for a winding route seeing me work in roles in event management, marketing communications, and social media. I have also gained international experience working in the Middle East. I believe my experience provides a diverse perspective; however, where I see versatility, passion, and discovery, recruiters tend to only see limitations.

Online recruitment sites are basically more of the same too. Seek can be a fantastic resource, but at times it’s really seems like one big gigantic black hole that sucks that amazing application you spent hours slaving over into oblivion.

Attempting to find part-time work through the traditional recruitment avenues has been a challenge. At the same time, I am also well aware that this challenge can be significantly harder for people who do not share my “privilege”. Privilege being the idea that certain demographic traits - white, male, middle class, young (ish), able-bodied, for example – give people specific benefits in society. Many organisations appear to be taking steps to create a diverse workforce, but in reality Australia still has a very long way to go. The recruitment industry must play a significant role in this process.

The industry is ripe for significant disruption and innovation. I have had more luck to date discovering roles through my personal network and a number of non-traditional recruitment businesses than traditional methods like Seek. These companies are trying to harness the power of informal networks and highlight difference over uniformity. They recognise that there is a significant market of diverse professionals with untapped skills and experience, and a fast growing demand from small businesses for affordable and flexible expertise. Both these groups need to find ways to connect with each other. This is where the challenge lies and where my job search continues.

My son has finally gone off to sleep and I have three minutes to spare before my phone interview! If only I could use that as an example of my strong planning and operational skills. I sit down at my desk with my notes open, glass of water on one side, baby monitor on the other. I say a little prayer to the sleep Gods and wait for my phone to ring (on silent of course).

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

7 Reasons why working for free pays

By Imogen Coles

We’re constantly hearing it, “it’s a tough job market out there.” They aren’t wrong. The fact is unemployment and underemployment is at 19.7%, which is an all time high.  That means 1 in 5, or approximately 2.6 Million Australians actively looking for more work. With only 1 job available for every 14 people looking for work, that's only 172,900 job vacancies in Australia - it’s harder than ever to find your dream job.
To make matters worse the job market for many 9-5 traditional corporate roles is shrinking and this trend is predicted to continue, possibly even increase. In addition, we’ve seen no growth in small businesses, which account for more than 4.4 million jobs. That’s half of all jobs. No small business growth translates to stagnation in the job market because it is small fast growing businesses that create the most jobs.
Unfortunately, almost half of small business will fail within the first 3 years of operation because of poor strategic management, inadequate cash flow, or trading losses. Many experienced job seekers could help address these issues in a voluntary, mentorship or internship capacity for a small business or charity.
Here are 7 reasons why volunteering, mentoring or working in an internship pays off:
1.              Increase your employability and upskill - It takes on average at least 38 weeks for a person to find full-time employment and increases to an average of  65 weeks of unemployment for those aged 55 and over. That’s 38 to 65 weeks of learning and development that you could be getting for free to add to your resume. Ever heard the people say, “you’re never more employable than when you’re employed”?
2.              You can try before you buy - An internship, mentorship or volunteer role is a great way to see if a company is the right fit for you before you commit or explore another career avenue. Trail new skills and even learn what it takes start your own business if you have a skill or service that is in demand.   

3.              It’s an investment in your wellbeing - Mental health is one of the major factors affected by long periods of unemployment. An individual is three times more likely to have a mental health condition such as anxiety or depression if they are unemployed long term. Long term is defined as being unemployed for more than a year.

Staying actively involved in your industry with an internship, mentorship or volunteer role will help you avoid this. It’s an investment in your wellbeing. This is particularly relevant to mature workers who face longer periods of unemployment and higher rates of long-term unemployment.
4.              Alternative compensation - Don’t get stuck on the idea that you need to be paid a salary, especially if it’s only short term. Negotiate equivalent alternative types of compensation with the small business or charity for your time. Compensation in forms other than money, might include exchanging or bartering skills, products or services; performance based or commission based pay as well as negotiating referrals and introductions to new key people or networks.

5.              You’ll expand your network - Volunteering, interning and mentoring are great opportunities for skills-based networking. Rather than telling someone your value this demonstrates and proves your value. Focus on being generous when expanding and connecting with an entirely new network of professionals.

6.              Pay it forward - Sharing your skills to help a small business or charity grow will not only help to build the organisation's ability to succeed but will also boost the economy and subsequently create jobs that weren’t there previously. More jobs mean more opportunities for everyone, we are all in this together.
7.              Create your own dream job - Can’t find the role you want? Take charge of your career and create that role. There may not be an opening currently, but they could be open to creating one. Through interning, mentoring or volunteering you will be in a position to create your own dream role as the small business or charity grows.

Sunday, 28 February 2016

What the experts say about diversity and innovation

By Bridie Walsh

Do you have diversity in your workplace? I don’t mean the token variety. 

If you walk into most businesses today you will meet a collection of cardboard cut-outs – people who look, act, dress and even think the same. What’s the deal? 

“For a lot of employers it is how they see the world,” explains Matt Lambelle CEO of WISE Employment – an organisation set up for people excluded from jobs because of their disadvantage and background. It’s a phenomena that can creep into recruitment – like hires like. 

Lambelle joined the diversity panel discussion run by job matching business Two Square Pegs at PauseFest in February 2016. He explains, “They hired Johnny, Johnny was good. They hire another Johnny.”

The problem is, not only do hierarchies of employability exist, largely based on stereotypes, but it affects a business’ opportunity to innovate, reach their customer base effectively and impacts profits. 

“Research and statistics show that organisations that have diversity on their boards have a better return on investment,” says Jacinta Carboon co-founder of Taking Care of Business and Me, women in the workforce advocate and former executive with 30 years’ of corporate experience. 

Research also indicates that creative projects or business issues that require innovation benefit from a diverse and collaborative group of workers.

In short, we need diversity in the workplace. So how do we get unstuck?

We need to bust myths and stereotypes and look at the research evidence says Philip Taylor, Director of Research at National Seniors Australia. 

Stereotypes run thick and fast. Women aren’t interested in technology, they’re too emotional, and uninterested in leadership. The disabled will take a lot of sickies and be unreliable. Older workers resist change. These attitudes permeate our culture. We often don’t critically evaluate them or even examine if they are true. 

“We’re a society obsessed with age,” he says. “Stereotypes are trotted out as fact. But we shouldn’t be recruiting based on age.” Nor should we exclude because of age Taylor argues.

A common stereotype related to ageism is that older people are more reliable than younger people. Employers agree, but their behaviour shows that they don’t recruit based on reliability. 

“Why do we define people according to generational categories like X, Y and boomers?” Taylor adds. “I find it deeply depressing that we compartmentalise people like this. They don’t even agree on the age ranges.”

“Age categories don’t matter,” Taylor says. “They simply aren’t predictive of behaviour.”

Lambelle’s organisation WISE Employment also has hard evidence that shows productive benefits for business with lower sick days, and lower workers compensation costs who hire people with a disability or mental illness.

As the manager at the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre, Baqir Khan says, “We need to transform the frameworks in which we think.” The people he meets on a daily basis are highly skilled but can’t get a job. 

“I run the volunteer program, recently we had a man come in to volunteer. He’s a helicopter pilot.” 

He adds, “We often evaluate people on their ability to speak English not on their intellect.” 

“A person-based approach to address the inequity is much more appropriate than a problem-based approached,” he says.

Evidence also supports the assumptions we make about people are often wrong. Jan Owen is CEO of the Foundation for Young Australians. She works to create opportunities for young people.

In a bid to provide opportunities for youth in the workplace she attended a meeting with 20 CEOs of leading companies.  “One company described blind interviewing. They de-identified gender, age, name – everything except the actual letter and CV,” explains Owens. 

The difference in their hires compared with the past 20 years was outstanding. “It changed the diversity in their company almost immediately,” Owen says. Blind interviewing has now become a practice in that organisation. It castrates our unconscious biases. 

Owen argues another issue undergirds the problems we experience to create a truly diverse workforce, and it’s structural.

“We know that in Australia 17 percent of young people are unemployed,” says Owens. “There are 30 percent underemployed – people with a degree or two working in hospitality or similar roles.”

What lies at the heart of this issue is that Australia is 136,000 jobs short.

We need to generate more jobs. Therefore we need to be more innovative. To be more innovative requires diversity. Diversity in skills, roles, ages, experience, know-how and perspectives.