Career Management Masterclass – Part 1

Identifying your talents and turning them into a career.

In this first part of the Career Management Masterclass, I want to share with you an exercise that can act as a catalyst for major change in the direction of your career. The exercise will help you:

– Identify your TALENTS

– Understand what REALLY MATTERS to you

– Align your INTERESTS AND PASSIONS to your career

Figuring out what actually matters to you

The biggest mistake I see people make when deciding on a change in job or career, is that they ask themselves really ordinary questions.

When it comes to identifying what we want, most people tend to focus on job title, sector, culture and salary.

By asking better questions you have more chance of unearthing what you are truly looking for.

We have entered the most exciting time in the history of mankind – making NOW the most exciting time to be thinking about your career. There are unprecedented, realistic possibilities for people to harness their talents and turn them into a career or careers.

If you take only one piece of advice from our Career Management Masterclass, please take the time to do this exercise.

So print off the question sheet below, head to the beach with a pen and your question sheet, switch off the mobile, slow it down and write down your thoughts. And remember, be honest with yourself. This is for no one else but you.

In the next part of the masterclass we will show you how to take those answers and turn them into the most comprehensive career plan you’ve ever had.

Download the Identify your talents questions list below.

Identify your talents

Superstar CEOs no substitute for diverse leaders

Nigel Martin, Australian National University and John Rice, University of New England
ceo mug

This year’s Australian reporting season has seen the return of some triumphant and amply remunerated CEOs.

Though not the highest paid in Australia, Qantas chief Alan Joyce reportedly received A$11.8 million for helping the airline turnaround its financial results. Joyce did so by cutting costs and routes, restructuring the international operations and freezing pay – and together these actions have led to significant financial improvements.

However two things that Joyce had nothing to do with – cheaper oil prices and a lower Australian dollar – provide the real context in which Qantas’ transformation has occurred.

A central question in business research – which is indeed the subject of much debate – relates to how much CEOs really matter to firm performance. Empirical research from the US suggests that perhaps 38% of performance variation at the firm level can be attributed to CEOs’ decisions and influence on their firms’ performance.

This is quite a move upward from earlier research that had suggested perhaps 20% of the variance in performance of firms can be attributed to CEOs’ and their decisions. One problem with the research is the impossibility of separating firms, their leadership teams and the organisation as a whole. Nonetheless, a consensus has emerged that senior leaders can and do have an important influence on firms’ financial performance.

Other factors, beyond the CEO and beyond the organisation itself, clearly matter. Indeed external factors seem to matter quite a bit more than the CEO herself or himself. These other factors include the firm’s financial health prior to appointment, industry and economic conditions and the general unpredictability of business life. However CEOs that wield their organisational authority to make bold strategic decisions, to shake up organisational design and to imbue a way of operation through daily leadership actions create performance change (for both better and worse).

Not all CEOs had the same stellar year as Alan Joyce. Both the CEO and Chairman at Woolworths are leaving the company, and life at Australia Post for Ahmed Fahour remains challenging. In both of these instances, however, it has been significant pressure from outside – for Woolworths it has been the rise and rise of Aldi and for Australia Post is has been the terminal decline of letters – that has driven what have been disappointing results.

In each of the cases there have been internal and arguably avoidable problems – for Qantas its Hong Kong foray was a disaster, for Woolworths there has been Masters and for Australia Post there was the Digital Mailbox – but in each instance these isolated problems only go far in explaining what has gone well, and what has not.

More than one person

Both research, and common sense, tell us that if we seek to better understand performance we need to think about the nature and behaviour of organisational leaders and how they “fit” both the organisation and its environment. A great leader in one organisation can be a disaster in another if this alignment is not achieved. It is this three way contingency – the person, organisation and context fit, that is vital.

We can best see this by looking at how difficult it is for long-term leaders to adapt to changing organisational and external realities. A work in progress in relation to this will be the leaders at Fortescue Metals – Australia’s third largest iron ore producer. Founder Andrew Forrest and his executive team were great at doing the deals to rapidly finance growth, leading to a share price peak close to $11 in mid-2008 as the iron ore price soared.

As iron ore prices have tanked, and Fortescue’s share price has declined to less than $2, the new organisational and competitive reality requires a very different organisational agenda and skill set. Transforming Fortescue from a high growth start-up to a low cost producer will likely be a challenge for the existing leadership team.

It’s a lesson well worth remembering – personalising leaders as “good” or “bad” rarely captures their capacities, and often leads to spurious and destructive mis-attributions.

In all organisations, it is important to consider the importance of diverse skills within senior management teams, of rotating leadership and consensus approaches to big decisions and their implementation. De-personalising the role of the “big boss” and acknowledging a variety of leadership styles are necessary in large and complex organisations will lead to less superstar CEOs, but probably better organisational performance.

The Conversation

Nigel Martin, Lecturer, College of Business and Economics, Australian National University and John Rice, Professor of Management, University of New England

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

CEO pay is high, but it’s inequity that warrants attention

Raymond Harbridge, University of Melbourne

Excesses of CEO pay make headlines during annual company reporting season, particularly at a time where pay increases for the general population have been fairly static. Yet CEO pay levels in Australia have yet to reach the astronomical “eye-popping” levels experienced in the United States.

While CNN has identified 15 CEOs who are picking up salaries between $156 million and $40 million, here in Australia, our outrage is unlikely to prevent any CEO pay increases being turned back by shareholders using the “two-strike” rule. We are a pretty tolerant lot. Expect however there to be some discussions regarding income inequity.

CEO Ian Narev earned $8.32 million in the 2015 financial year, an increase of nearly 5%. Or as the Herald-Sun (pay-walled) puts it, Narev earned double the average annual Australian wage every week over the past year.

Departing Woolworths CEO, Grant O’Brien’s very generous package has already featured in media reporting – O’Brien doesn’t formally finish until July 2016, enabling him to access his defined benefit superannuation entitlement of a percentage of his $2.35 million base salary for the rest of his life.

And although former Telstra CEO David Thodey stepped down on 30 April, Telstra’s annual report revealed his base salary as $2.65 million, plus a short term cash bonus of $3.4 million and $7.5 million in long term bonuses linked to share price. Fairfax reports this as 163 times the average full time earnings for a worker in that sector.

Thodey doesn’t attempt to justify his salary – on retiring he stated “there’s a real issue with income disparity”. Australia Post CEO Ahmed Fahour is another highly paid executive – in 2014, his $4.6 million pay packet was criticised amid large scale redundancies taking place at Australia Post.

In 2014, there were slightly fewer than 100 CEOs earning $3 million or more, which is 88 times more than the minimum wage and 38 times the average full time earnings. David Gyngell from Nine Entertainment led the pack at $19.5 million. Fellow media CEO Robert Thompson from News Corporation came in third with a package of $13.2 million.

But consider the other end of the scale. In Australia the minimum wage is currently $17.29 per hour or approximately $34,000 per annum. The full time adult average weekly total earnings are around $1500 or approximately $78,000 per annum.

As John Wright pointed out last year, Australians have a greater degree of tolerance for CEO pay inequity than do those in the United States, France, Germany and Japan. (Interestingly the US Securities and Exchange Commission in August is about to introduce a requirement that companies start disclosing the pay gap between their top executive and workers, in response to the Dodd-Frank reforms.)

Partly that is because Australians grossly underestimate CEO pay levels. Notwithstanding, Australian tolerance may be because pay inequity is less extreme in Australia than in the US, where the CEO-to-worker compensation ratio has bloomed from 20-to-1 in 1965 to 303-to-1 in 2014. (It peaked at 376-to-1 in 2000).

Transparency of CEO pay has been tackled by “Say on Pay” (SoP) rules, giving shareholders the right to have a say on executive pay have been adopted in non-binding and binding formats in countries including the UK, US, Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, and Denmark. In 2011, Australia adopted a binding “Say on Pay” rule. This gives shareholders the right to vote for or against executives’ remuneration packages.

If at two consecutive meetings over 25% of shareholders vote against the remuneration packages, there is a “spill” of directors who have to stand for election again in 90 days – the so-called “two-strike” rule. Writing in The Conversation in 2013 Julie Walker pointed to evidence elsewhere that companies with a first strike improved their pay-performance linkages.

Ricardo Correa and Ugur Lel’s 2013 analysis of SoP laws with 100,000 firm-year observations over 39 countries found:

SoP laws are associated with 1) a lower level of CEO compensation, which partly results from lower CEO compensation growth rates and is related to CEO power, 2) a higher pay for performance sensitivity suggesting that SoP laws have the greatest effects on firms with poor performance, 3) a lower portion of total top management pay awarded to CEOs indicating lower pay inequality among top managers and 4) a higher firm value, which is related to whether the CEO’s share of total top management pay was relatively high before the laws are passed.

Rejection of bonuses (or donating them to worthy causes) may ease some of the embarrassment of CEO pay but there are other more practical ways of addressing income disparity.

In April 2015, Dan Price, co-owner of Gravity Payments in Seattle, US, announced he would take a personal pay cut (from his million dollar salary), reduce company profits at Gravity Payments and use these funds to increase the company’s minimum wage to $70,000 per annum over three years.

His move was met with praise and scepticism. In the three months since the announcement, Gravity Payments has seen a variety of unanticipated (by Price) consequences: customers have left claiming his move was political or socialistic or because they feared he would ultimately increase his charges to users (apparently most have since been attracted back).

Valued staff have left as their margins for skill and experience evaporated; his company’s co-founding brother sued; the attention led to an influx of emails, phone calls and media requests which required the hiring of new staff to expedite. He did however gain some new business – and a heap of job enquiries (and apparently some marriage proposals).

In the remaining days of the current company reporting season here in Australia, be braced for the usual outrage over executive pay. Expect this to be tempered by the occasional CEO declining their entitled performance pay as they alleviate their embarrassment of riches. But don’t expect to see a rush of CEOs taking pay cuts to reduce income disparity in their organisation.

The Conversation

Raymond Harbridge is Research Fellow, Centre for Workplace Leadership, Faculty of Business and Economics at University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Resume advice for the digital age.

Google will now penalise websites that are not mobile friendly – do you realise the same has been happening to your resume for the last two years?

As our work habits shift from desktop to smart phones and tablets it is highly likely that your resume will be first viewed on a smart phone (vs on paper or a computer screen) but is your resume smart phone friendly? Here are a few tips to ensure your resume has sufficient impact to gain an interview.

1. SOAP – Say it On A Page

If you can’t tell a potential employer why they should meet you on the first page then your resume is wasted. Research has shown that decisions to interview candidates are made within the first six seconds of reviewing the resume.

2. List achievements – not responsibilities

Quantifiable achievements (ideally with a $ in front) make you stand out from the crowd. Demonstrating you can save or make money for a business will give a prospective employer greater inclination to want to meet you than you simply providing them with your current job description.

3. Simple is best

Images, tables and funky designs do not make you a more attractive hiring proposition. Try reading your 10,000 words of text in tables, or pie chart and skills matrix on a smart phone and you will likely find it very difficult to read (and dreadfully boring). Google assess mobile friendly sites on how easy the content is to read, the size of font and the number of words on a page. White space is good.

Dispense with table formatting and avoid logos, icons and funky fonts. It may look great on your big screen at work but the formatting rarely transfers well to a hand held device.

4. Make it easy for a potential employer to contact you

Your name, mobile number and an email address are the only details any prospective employer needs at this stage. Make your contact details highly visible at the top of your resume.

5. Test

Once completed, email your resume to yourself and open on your smart screen. If you have difficulties reading the content then continue to optimise until you find a format of resume that is easy to read and pleasing on the eye.

How to guard your career against rapid technological change

Whilst this article is geared towards university graduates, the advice is highly applicable to executives keen to extend their careers over the next decade.

Rob Livingstone, University of Technology, Sydney

Disruptive technologies are nothing new. From the development of steam power in the early 1800s to today’s digitally-enriched world, the impact of technology on the employment landscape has been substantial.

What is new is the speed, extent and unpredictability of modern digital technology-induced disruption, and that this rate of change is dramatically increasing.

More importantly, these changes are impacting the employment landscape at all levels. Having a university degree or entering a profession is no longer a guarantee of a rich and productive working career.

So the question is: if you were about to leave school and begin a university degree or embark on your career, what should you study or do in order to give you the best chances of weathering future technology-induced disruption?

Disruptive change

Technology is changing the employment landscape in a number of ways that are affecting many careers.

Robotics and smart technologies are increasingly able to perform high level, cognitively complex tasks, which impacts a lot of skilled jobs. For example, IBM is working with the Cleveland Clinic in the US to train Watson (IBM’s “thinking” computer) to become board-certified in medicine.

Tthe assembly line of tomorrow. Note the difference in the number of workers compared to the assembly line above.
Steve Jurvetson/Flickr, CC BY

Similar technologies are also encroaching on other white-collar and professional jobs. Oxford University researchers have recently suggested that, in certain instances, the computerised results of complex non-routine cognitive tasks are superior to human “experts” because they do not have our biases.

Their research on the likelihood of technology disrupting more than 700 occupation categories makes for gripping reading for those who take their future career prospects seriously. The researchers suggest that sophisticated digital technologies could substitute for approximately 140 million full-time knowledge workers worldwide in the near future.

Anyone whose work can be outsourced to low-cost countries could also be at risk, such as we’ve already seen in manufacturing, medical radiology and even legal services. Accounting, engineering or architectural design services are also increasingly being offered from low cost countries at a fraction of the cost.

With the global market size of outsourced services standing at more than US$100 billion, the outsourcing industry is already big business.

Career planning

Earning a university degree is increasingly becoming the default position of many school leavers, thus eliminating the point of difference a degree once offered. So holding a degree is no longer enough to guarantee a job.

While the personal benefits of acquiring knowledge are indisputable, the hypothesis that attending a university will result in a net positive return in the investment in time and money is less so.

These graduates will face a very different employment landscape than their parents or grandparents.
Shawn/Flickr, CC BY-NC

So the challenge facing anyone at the start of their working life lies in finding a career that will be rewarding, fulfilling and, more importantly, resilient, not just resistant to change. Individuals wishing to be successful in their careers should expect to take a more deliberate and planned approach, and regard their career as their own business.

Being employed is no different to running your own business, in that you are deriving an income from your one client – that being your current employer. Most importantly, while your current employer may dictate the terms of your employment, you should be the one in charge of your career. Employees need to think of themselves and their careers as if it were a business enterprise – that must be evolved, grown, sometimes re-directed and above all – protected.

The question is: can you recognise these career-shaping changes before your employer notices them? If so, you’re well down the path of building career resilience.

Choosing a career

So what to study or train in? There are a number of trades and professions that are likely to be more resilient to automation and/ or outsourcing and can enable you to run your career like a business.

A useful guide is to consider work that fulfils a number of criteria. These include:

  1. The delivery of a service in real-time

  2. Being physically present at the point of service delivery

  3. The need for a high degree of skill, training and experience, and

  4. There is likely to be a sustained need for your service.

For example, as an electrician, you have to be trained and certified to handle live electrical services as well as be on-site to do the job. It is also an excellent foundation for the subsequent acquisition of complementary or supplementary skills and experience that reinforce your future employability prospects.

You could expand into fields such as electronics, control systems, high voltage and industrial systems, communications or electrical engineering – any one could open up rewarding career options as well as protecting your future earning potential.

Other examples of careers that meet these criteria include nurse, physiotherapist, plumber, special needs teacher, surveyor, veterinarian, air traffic controller, surgeon or firefighter. All are highly skilled and hands-on, and are unlikely to be replaced by machines any time soon.

Even though many of these careers exist in constantly evolving environments that are themselves rapidly changing, the fundamentals remain: none are at high risk of being outsourced overseas or completely automated. The same can’t be said of programmer, legal aid or accountant.

The Conversation

Rob Livingstone is Fellow of the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology at University of Technology, Sydney.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

The impacts of digital disruption on your business.

Australia's transitioning economy and the myth of digital disruption

Elizabeth Webster, Swinburne University of Technology

In this ‘Economy in transition’ series, we explore the new economy facing Australia and the opportunities available to help the country shift from a minerals-led powerhouse, to a smart competitor in emerging global sectors. Today, we look at the effects of digital disruption.

Digital disruption is a phrase increasingly bandied about when it comes to the Australian economy, but how deeply do digital technologies really penetrate our industry?

A good analogy might be that of electricity. Electricity was generally “known” about in the late 18th century, but it wasn’t until the 1870s that a practical electric motor was constructed and then the early 20th century until connection to the electric grid was commonplace for households and general industry. New uses had to be imagined, costs reduced, standards set and infrastructure put in place. We call electricity an enabling technology – which means it has little value in itself, but immense value if combined with associated technologies to produce goods and services that are cheaper, better or both.

Digital technologies are commonly regarded as the “electricity” of the 21st century. Growing out of the pioneering work during and after World War 2 by computer scientists Claude Shannon and Alan Turing (among others), it has taken 50 years for computers, programs and infrastructure to broadly penetrate households and garden-variety businesses.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 92.6% of businesses had internet access in 2012-13 – the lowest rate being in the hospitality industry (73.5%). We are probably close, in 2015, to saturation given the recent trends in connections.

Classically, new technologies – in the broad meaning of the term which includes new ways of doing and behaving as well as physical machinery – have two types of impact. It may be disruptive in the Schumpeterian sense of destroying the old and creating the new; or it may merely transform and modify existing industries and products.

The news constantly reminds us of the first type – the havoc sweeping through media, marketing, information retrieval and storage. Yet, less is mentioned about the quiet revolution going on inside seemingly static and steady firms. How widespread are the new digital technologies that sustain and extend existing business models? And what are the characteristics of Australian businesses that have embraced common forms digital technology?

A hallmark of businesses on the forefront of digital technologies is the use the internet to actively seek and communicate with customers and suppliers; create an internal digital systems for reordering supplies, invoicing, and production operations; and linking internal systems to suppliers’ and customers’ systems.

Possessing an internet connection is a very minimalist level of digital buy-in and is not in itself a distinguishing feature. The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics has revealed that despite nearly universal internet coverage, only a minority of businesses actually use the internet for placing and receiving orders.

By 2012-13, only 30.2% of Australian businesses took orders via the internet and these were disproportionately in the areas of information and media technology, wholesale trade and manufacturing. Agriculture, forestry and fishing; finance and insurance and health and social assistance were relatively untouched, with only one in five businesses taking internet orders.

Businesses were more likely to place orders with suppliers, compared with customers, via the internet. About half the population used this medium. Presumably much of this trade in goods (and services) is ad hoc as only 18% of businesses had formal online ordering through their website and only 13% provided online payment facilities.

So whereas, most householders would regard using the internet to buy and sell products a prosaic activity, its penetration into Australian industry is not the dominant channel most businesses use. What about more sophisticated forms of system management such as the automatic linking of the business’s IT system within itself and with external businesses?

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, only 11% of businesses linked their internal ordering systems; 6% had internally linked invoicing and payment systems; 4% had linked production and service operations and less than 1% had linked logistics systems in 2012-13. The numbers having automatic links with external suppliers and customers is similarly low at around 6-7% each.

What do we know about the characteristics of firms who use these top-end digital business systems? Businesses which have these sophisticated linked IT systems are vastly more productive that those that do not, although we are not able to establish a causal connection.

These businesses are much more likely to have introduced new products; operational processes; managerial changes and marketing methods into the business in the previous year. Surprisingly, they are not young firms – on average they have been in operation for about 40 years (compared with 28 years for all firms). But not surprisingly, they are much more likely to be an exporter than businesses without these systems.

It is difficult to say what this means for Australian business – whether the uptake of linked IT systems is low, appropriate or too high – if we just view this data on its own. However, one would think that efficient, accurate, fast and comprehensive information systems would be a high priority for industries located in a small economy far from the big markets in the world.

As production becomes more globalised and the successful creation of high value-adding jobs depends more and more on contributing to highly competitive global value chains, you would think that removing coordination and imperfect information obstacles would be a priority for business. This makes the figures of 6-7% seems small and hopefully just the beginning.

Read more in the series here.

The Conversation

Elizabeth Webster is Director, Centre for Transformative Innovation at Swinburne University of Technology.

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Would you move in with someone after 3 one hour dates?

The reason why so many hires turn out wrong (and what you can do about it).

Most of us will share two similar experiences, going on a date and going on an interview. In each case we are trying to learn about each other and see if there is a fit. This is where the similarity ends.

Imagine you are on a date and the person you are meeting pulls out a clipboard and starts asking a list of questions? It is already starting to sound like an odd date, right? Imagine they then start asking about your finances, and who they can talk to to get a reference so that they can make sure you aren’t lying to them. Finally they are gracious enough to ask if you have any questions for them. At the end of the date the person turns to you and says “thanks, I’ll be in touch if I want to see you again”.

This scenario sounds a lot like an interview and nothing like the first date I shared with my wife and partner of 10 years! I spend as much time wife my wife as I do with my work colleagues and yet it took way more than 3 meetings for my wife and I to move in together. When you compare the two scenarios, it is hardly surprising that so many hires fail.

The best way to hire people into your business.

If you really want to hire the right people think of your talent acquisition strategy like dating. You could look at a dating site (Linked In) or put an ad in the lonely hearts section (Seek or print advertising). You could ask your friends or work colleagues to make introductions. Alternatively you could approach someone you already know, who you think has similar interests and values.

If you are trying to build a relationship from scratch then find ways to make your first introduction to a candidate a more relaxing affair. Catching up over a coffee to share information is a great way to break the ice. Exploratory discussions can set the platform for building a longer term relationship. It may be that the timing isn’t quite right but if you keep in contact, you have far more reference points to the candidates behaviour’s. This approach gives you a far more accurate insight into who the candidate really is vs the guarded and well constructed answers candidates throw back to the all to familiar interview format.

One of the advantages of using a highly reputable recruiter is the information they have stored on candidates over the years. If a recruiter has a long history in a specific market, they will have compiled a mental dossier on potential candidates based over a number of interactions. This input can be invaluable in assessing if candidates are the right fit for your organisation. It is a wise strategy to build relationships with the most reputable recruiters in your market, they can share priceless information that you often can’t access through your own sources.

Executive Career Development – How To Use Your Network.

When it comes to Executive career development chances are you will hit a glass ceiling at some point in your career. Your networking skills are the key to breaking through the glass ceiling and taking your career to the next level.

Our research has shown that 75% of our executive network finds their next move through a direct contact. In most cases the roles were never advertised and the successful candidate was approached direct with a tailor made opportunity. So how can you ensure that you are the one tapped on the shoulder next time?

Q Consulting Group run quarterly advice sessions, aimed towards executives who are looking to make the next step in their career. In the session we reveal the latest research on hiring trends and lay out exactly what boards are looking for in leadership hires.

Why executive careers stall and what you can do about it.

So far all sessions have had 100% attendance rates by executives with very hectic schedules. So why the big interest from everyone? When we sat down and analysed the feedback from the participants, it became very evident that senior executives are in desperate need of help and guidance to improve their career development and networking skills.

We have tailored the sessions around executive management to provide practical strategies on:

  • Career management, creating a fulfilling career.
  • Identifying future trends and emerging markets.
  • Creating an effective networking strategy.
  • How to build relationships with key decision makers.
  • Using social media to build your personal brand.

The sessions run for 90 minutes and provides tactical strategies that can be implemented as soon as you get back to the office. To date, all sessions have had 100% attendance with 30% of attendees finding their next role within 3 months of attending the session.

The sessions are free to attend although places are limited to current clients of Q Consulting. To register your interest email


Identifying top managers isn’t easy

This alarming research article by Randall J. Beck and Jim Harter was published by the Harvard Business Review in 2014. The findings reinforce the urgent need for companies to change the methods by which they identify top managers.

Gallup has found that one of the most important decisions companies make is simply whom they name manager. Yet our analysis suggests that they usually get it wrong. In fact, Gallup finds that companies fail to choose the candidate with the right talent for the job 82% of the time.

Bad managers cost businesses billions of dollars each year, and having too many of them can bring down a company. The only defense against this massive problem is a good offense, because when companies get these decisions wrong, nothing fixes it. Businesses that get it right, however, and hire managers based on talent will thrive and gain a significant competitive advantage.

Managers account for at least 70% of variance in employee engagement scores across business units, Gallup estimates. This variation is in turn responsible for severely low worldwide employee engagement. Gallup reported in two large-scale studies in 2012 that only 30% of U.S. employees are engaged at work, and a staggeringly low 13% worldwide are engaged. Worse, over the past 12 years these low numbers have barely budged, meaning that the vast majority of employees worldwide are failing to develop and contribute at work.

Gallup has studied performance at hundreds of organizations and measured the engagement of 27 million employees and more than 2.5 million work units over the past two decades. No matter the industry, size, or location, we find executives struggling to unlock the mystery of why performance varies so immensely from one workgroup to the next. Performance metrics fluctuate widely and unnecessarily within most companies, in no small part from the lack of consistency in how people are managed. This “noise” frustrates leaders because unpredictability causes great inefficiencies in execution.

Executives can cut through this noise by measuring what matters most. Gallup has discovered links between employee engagement at the business-unit leveland vital performance indicators, including customer metrics; higher profitability, productivity, and quality (fewer defects); lower turnover; less absenteeism and shrinkage (i.e., theft); and fewer safety incidents. When a company raises employee engagement levels consistently across every business unit, everything gets better.

To make this happen, companies should systematically demand that every team within their workforce have a great manager. After all, the root of performance variability lies within human nature itself. Teams are composed of individuals with diverging needs related to morale, motivation, and clarity — all of which lead to varying degrees of performance. Nothing less than great managers can maximize them.

But first, companies have to find those great managers.

If great managers seem scarce, it’s because the talent required to be one is rare. Gallup finds that great managers have the following talents:

  • They motivate every single employee to take action and engage them with a compelling mission and vision.
  • They have the assertiveness to drive outcomes and the ability to overcome adversity and resistance.
  • They create a culture of clear accountability.
  • They build relationships that create trust, open dialogue, and full transparency.
  • They make decisions that are based on productivity, not politics.

Gallup’s research reveals that about one in ten people possess all these necessary traits. While many people are endowed with some of them, few have the unique combination of talent needed to help a team achieve excellence in a way that significantly improves a company’s performance. These 10%, when put in manager roles, naturally engage team members and customers, retain top performers, and sustain a culture of high productivity. Combined, they contribute about 48% higher profit to their companies than average managers.

It’s important to note that another two in 10 exhibit some characteristics of basic managerial talent and can function at a high level if their company invests in coaching and developmental plans for them.

In studying managerial talent in supervisory roles compared with the general population, we find that organizations have learned ways to slightly improve the odds of finding talented managers. Nearly one in five (18%) of those currently in management roles demonstrate a high level of talent for managing others, while another two in 10 show a basic talent for it. Still, this means that companies miss the mark on high managerial talent in 82% of their hiring decisions, which is an alarming problem for employee engagement and the development of high-performing cultures in the U.S. and worldwide.

Sure, every manager can learn to engage a team somewhat. But without the raw, natural talent to individualize; focus on each person’s needs and strengths; boldly review their team members; rally people around a cause; and execute efficient processes, the day-to-day experience will burn out both the manager and his or her team. As noted earlier, this basic inefficiency in identifying talent costs companies hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

Conventional selection processes are a big contributor to inefficiency in management practices; little science or research is applied to find the right person for the managerial role. When Gallup asked U.S. managers why they believed they were hired for their current role, they commonly cited their success in a previous non-managerial role or their tenure in their company or field.

These reasons don’t take into account whether the candidate has the right talent to thrive in the role. Being a very successful programmer, salesperson, or engineer, for example, is no guarantee that someone will be even remotely adept at managing others.

Most companies promote workers into managerial positions because they seemingly deserve it, rather than because they have the talent for it. This practice doesn’t work. Experience and skills are important, but people’s talents — the naturally recurring patterns in the ways they think, feel, and behave — predict where they’ll perform at their best. Talents are innate and are the building blocks of great performance. Knowledge, experience, and skills develop our talents, but unless we possess the right innate talents for our job, no amount of training or experience will matter.

Very few people are able to pull off all five of the requirements of good management. Most managers end up with team members who are at best indifferent toward their work — or are at worst hell-bent on spreading their negativity to colleagues and customers. However, when companies can increase their number of talented managers and double the rate of engaged employees, they achieve, on average, 147% higher earnings per share than their competition.

It’s important to note — especially in the current economic climate — that finding great managers doesn’t depend on market conditions or the current labor force. Large companies have approximately one manager for every 10 employees, and Gallup finds that one in 10 people possess the inherent talent to manage. When you do the math, it’s likely that someone on each team has the talent to lead. But given our findings, chances are that it’s not the manager. More likely, it’s an employee with high managerial potential waiting to be discovered.

The good news is that sufficient management talent exists in every company – it’s often hiding in plain sight. Leaders should maximize this potential by choosing the right person for the next management role using predictive analytics to guide their identification of talent.

For too long, companies have wasted time, energy, and resources hiring the wrong managers and then attempting to train them to be who they’re not. Nothing fixes the wrong pick.

Randall J. Beck is a Managing Partner for Gallup, which delivers research, analytics, and advice to business leaders. Combining more than 75 years of experience with its global reach, Gallup is devoted to producing greater knowledge of the attitudes and behaviors of the world’s constituents, employees, and customers.

Jim Harter, Ph.D., is Chief Scientist of Workplace Management and Well-Being for Gallup’s workplace management practice. He is coauthor of the New York Times bestseller 12: The Elements of Great Managing, an exploration of the 12 crucial elements for creating and harnessing employee engagement. His latest book, Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements, is based on a global study of what differentiates people who are thriving from those who are not.


How to identify the top 1% of talent during interview

We recently engaged our network to ask for their help in compiling a list of their favourite interview questions to ask candidates. We were very grateful for the variety of responses we received. Indeed the questions our network sent in resembled a spaghetti western movie – the good, the bad and the downright weird!

When we sat down and went through all of the questions there were some that really resonated with the team at Q. The questions that stood out all had three things in common, SOS or:


By using open questions the interviewer is given time to assess and measure the candidate’s response. Invariably, the way in which the candidate responds can tell us more about the candidate than the answer they have given.

So, after some real deliberation we have compiled what we believe to be a list of questions that will help you identify the best candidates. The questions are designed to elicit an emotional response from the candidate and really test their ability to think quickly, demonstrate their level of self awareness and identify their true qualities and behaviours. With each question we have supplied a few guidelines as to the types of behaviours and personal qualities the question is specifically trying to uncover.

As always, we would love your feedback. We have also put in one or two of the weird and wonderful questions for your amusement.

The best behavioural questions to ask at interview

1. What questions do you have for me?

This is a great question to ask up front as you can find out exactly how much research someone has actually done prior to the interview.


2. If we are here a year from now reflecting on and celebrating what a great year it’s been for you in this role, what did we achieve together?

The question helps gauge a candidate’s understanding of the challenges and expectations in the role as well as how much value they actually think they can contribute. Look out for hesitancy, over estimating what can be accomplished and unrealistic expectations on behalf of the candidate.

3. What is the biggest mistake you have made in your professional career? How did you correct the situation? What did you learn from the experience?

Qualities we are looking for:

  • Honesty
  • Self-awareness
  • Ability to recognise mistakes
  • Proactive nature in addressing weaknesses or faults
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Understanding the outcomes and implications of one’s actions

4. What is the biggest contribution you have made in your current job and why?

Qualities we are looking for:

  • Commercial acumen
  • Initiative
  • Accountability
  • Leadership

5. What is the most difficult relationship you have had to deal with in the workplace?  How did you manage or improve the relationship?
Qualities we are looking for:

  • Resilience
  • Intuition
  • Ability to read people’s actions and behaviours
  • Ability to earn respect

6. What is the worst behaviour you have seen displayed by a manager or colleague and how did you handle the situation?

This question is designed to gain an insight into the candidate’s values, the question uncovers values or behaviours they can’t tolerate or which require the candidate to take a moral stance.


7. What five SINGLE words (not phrases) best describe you?

The question forces candidates to think on their feet. You will be amazed at how many people are unable to give you five single words to describe themselves.


8. What is the biggest disappointment you have faced in life or your career? How did you react? What did you learn?

Qualities we are looking for:

  • Resilience or ability to overcome setbacks
  • Ability to turn failure into success
  • Potential to grow and learn from experiences
  • Ability to think rationally about events

9. If I were to ask your boss to describe you what would they say?

Qualities we are looking for:

  • Honesty
  • Humility
  • Self-awareness


And finally … This was the most unusual question we were sent but also, potentially, the most insightful.

10. How do you wash an elephant?

Just so we are clear, we aren’t actually interested in how to wash an elephant! But questions like this can help guage sense of humour, the individual’s temperament and ability to deal with unforeseen and unusual challenges.

In addition, you can measure the candidate’s ability think on his/her feet as well as their analytical thinking, creativity and problem-solving skills.

Obviously there is no right or wrong answer to this question. But the way in which the individual answers the question can reveal a great deal about their personal characteristics.

Again, thanks to everyone who contributed. We are sure that you can think of many more questions and would encourage you to contact us with your feedback. Next time you are interviewing, try out some of the questions and let us know how it went.

5 Reasons Why You Weren’t Hired

Figures over the last 12 months point to a disturbing trend in AustraliaEconomic growth and rising unemployment. The figures are disturbing because it suggests that businesses no longer need to employ additional head count in order to grow.

“In 2007 I was looking for reasons to hire a candidate, now I am looking for reasons not to hire them”

This previously unseen dynamic is creating a highly competitive employment market in which applicants are being highly scrutinised. Hiring managers expectations are so high that only the top percentile of applicants are securing interviews. The interview process itself is becoming far more rigorous and as a result many candidates are finding it very difficult to secure their next role.

This highly competitive employment market is revealing an ever widening gap between the expectations of employers and prospective employees. From the data we are seeing the employment market will only become tougher over the next 5 years.

So what does this all mean for job seekers?

In an employer’s market companies can afford to be highly selective.  As one client quoted –

“In 2007 I was looking for reasons to hire a candidate, now I am looking for reasons not to hire them”

The team at Q have identified 5 specific reasons why companies decide not to hire candidates. Our observations are based on hundreds of discussions with hiring managers, candidates, HR Directors and internal recruiters. Our insights contradict what generally is accepted as common practice interviewing and negotiation techniques.

The 5 key reasons employers decide not to hire

A focus on tasks not results

“I can see from the candidate’s background they can clearly do the job. But if they can’t tell me how they will get me results, why should I hire them?”

If you have made it to interview stage then the hiring manager is already confident that you can do the job. The interview isn’t as much to assess your level of technical ability but to assess your ability to get results. If during the interview you can’t demonstrate a track record in achieving results you won’t get hired. Recent results are what count (experiences pre-GFC will be heavily discounted) and anyone who can get results in recent economic downturns will stand out from the crowd.

Our network shares a common interview frustration, i.e. the example that comes with no end result. When asked to provide a specific case as to how a candidate has commercially supported their business, the response will often centre around a process improvement which then saved time.

Unfortunately the answer ends there when the interviewer is really interested in how the team was rationalised (saving FTE costs) or how the team got to spend more time identifying additional commercial opportunities (which resulted in additional revenue being generated).

As one client quoted – “I can see from the candidate’s background they can clearly do the job. But if they can’t tell me how they will get me results, why should I hire them?”

You just aren’t tough enough!

Resilience, admitting and learning from failures and the courage to make tough decisions are now viewed as the essential characteristics required when it comes to getting results in tough economic times.

You are telling the interviewer what you think they want to hear

More of our clients are confessing that competency based interviews do have some flaws. One being that many candidates have figured out how to navigate the questions successfully. Several clients have shared personal experiences of applicants impressing with their answers and then not living up to expectations once in the job.

Applicants have many resources to help them ‘Ace’ an interview. There’s lots of free advice on the internet, Linked In and coaching from outplacement firms. Some candidates are paying for ‘professional’ resume writing services and specialist interview coaching.

We would advise applicants to be wary of the advice they follow as interview processes are now being designed to identify rehearsed answers.

During future interviews expect an increasing focus on failures rather than successes. Interviewers are more interested in how you deal with adversity than success. This fresh approach forces candidates to really think about their answers.

We have received positive feedback from clients when candidates have been authentic in their answers and in most cases it has contributed to them being offered the job. In contrast, candidates using rehearsed answers generally come across as lacking self awareness, the ability to analyse weaknesses and learn from mistakes.

Companies don’t need to hire you

Many companies now have mandates to promote internal talent pools, this can lead to external applicants being used as a ‘benchmark’ for an internal process.

Increasingly we are noticing clients will not hire unless they believe that they have absolutely the right person for the job. Interview processes will often go on for months whilst the hiring manager considers every option. This trend is not exclusive to executive roles as manager level recruitment processes can take just as long.

Over the past 5 years businesses have become far more efficient, comfortably sharing workload amongst the team whilst they hire. Outsourcing, offshoring and rapid advancements in technology have provided companies with multiple solutions to resourcing needs. This means that businesses may decide not to hire at all.

Many companies now have mandates to promote internal talent pools, this can lead to external applicants being used as a ‘benchmark’ for an internal process.

Your actions are not congruent with who you claim to be

increasingly we are finding that clients will retract offers if intuition is telling them not to hire a candidate

When we asked our clients what they base most of their hiring decision on, almost all of them answered gut feel or intuition. And increasingly we are finding that clients will retract offers if intuition is telling them not to hire a candidate. Whilst this may seem harsh, in many instances the candidate (more specifically the candidate’s behavior) has been the catalyst for the client’s decision.

What we all often put down to gut-feel is perhaps a lack of congruency relating to actions of a candidate and the claims they have made throughout the selection process.

Identifying incongruences’ begins with the review of a resume. Make sure that what you put on your resume is fact and can be substantiated. If you claim to have “fantastic” attention to detail, you must ensure there are no mistakes in the resume.

If you have a Linked in profile make sure it matches your resume. We live in a society where there is nowhere to hide. So if you decide to explain a gap in the resume as ‘travelling’ (when it was actually a career move gone wrong) you will get found out. It is best to be open as to why the move didn’t work out and share what you have learned from the experience.

During the interview you are being assessed from the moment you walk through the door. If you claim to be a great stakeholder manager but don’t engage the interviewers you won’t get the job. If you claim to be calm under pressure and then fluff the psyche test you won’t get the job.

If you are going through a process via a recruiter ensure you behave with them as you would do with any prospective employer. Good recruiters are given trusted advisor status with clients and have a vested interest in helping clients hire the right person. If your behaviour towards a recruiter is not professional and courteous then this will filter back to the client. Remember the role of a recruiter is to find their client the best person for the job, company and culture too.

Here are a few scenarios where specific candidate behavior can ultimately ruin any chance of being hired.

Providing a resume that contains only your recent experience

Candidate’s perception – Companies are only interested in the last 10 years of experience

Client’s perception –

  • Applicant has a shady past and is trying to hide it
  • Applicant is lying about their experience
  • Applicant is too lazy to provide me with a detailed resume why should I bother interviewing them
  • Applicant is a lot older than they want me to think they are and are trying to fool me. If I interview them and don’t hire them will I then be accused of discriminating on age?

Turning up late for interview.

Candidate’s perception – My apology has been accepted, it’s ok.

Client’s perception –

  • Applicant can’t meet deadlines
  • Applicant has poor planning skills
  • Applicant is disrespectful of my time

Renegotiating terms after accepting an offer.

Candidate’s perception – I’m only asking for another $5,000, if they really want me then it shouldn’t be a problem

Client’s perception –

  • Applicant is displaying bullying behavior
  • Applicant is holding me to ransom
  • Applicant does not hold value in keeping ones word or delivering on promises

Withholding information that could impact your ability to meet the demands of the job until offer stage

Candidate’s perception – If I share this information with the company now then it may ruin my chances of being offered the job. If I wait until I’m offered then I might have more bargaining power

Client’s perception –

  • Applicant showing a lack of transparency, I have genuine concerns that critical information will be with held in the work place
  • Applicant is displaying a fear of confrontation
  • Applicant is not trustworthy

The best advice we can give anyone going for interview has not changed if the last 20 years, that is ‘Just be yourself’.

In our next blog we will share with you our 5 top tips to guide you successfully through the interview process. No tricks, no gimmicks just some honest and direct advice.