Friday, May 29, 2009

Swine Flu and Travel

I had to go to Brisbane on business for a day during the week and unfortunately I managed to get a chest infection a few days before hand.

Of course we don’t stop to go to a doctor because we assume that give or take a few days we will be fine. 3 hours before I am to get on a plane I get worse and start displaying symptoms of Asthma.

Apart from the fact that it was highly inconvenient I made a dash to the pharmacy got more drugs and ventolin and left to go to the airport.

However the pharmacist made a joke whilst I was handing over money which was along the lines of – with all the panic that is out there at the moment about Swine Flu don’t be surprised if people think you have it.

Well this made me just slightly paranoid and I walked around the airport trying very hard not to give in to a coughing fit. Pictures of security rushing to grab me and take me away for testing and quarantine kept flashing in my mind. Yes I know dramatic but we all love a bit of drama from time to time!

The return plane trip was even more amusing. Every time I coughed the passengers in the seats around me turned in unison to stare at me. I almost expected the entire 4 rows around me to put on their masks. Made me feel special it did. To the extent that on the return trip I took out my ventolin and made a show of actually taking two puffs.

But it made me think how quickly we go into “panic mode”. As of today there are just over 100 reported cases in Victoria. More people have the average cold and many more die of the flu each year. If the swine flu wasn’t around and I displayed the same symptoms no one would have paid attention.

I am not a medical person and I understand that this has the potential to get a lot worse however I am a little tired of the press almost willing there to be a pandemic so they have something major to report on.

Let ‘s be sensible, realistic, take necessary precautions and listen to advise provided to us by the medical authorities.

Above all please don’t assume that if a fellow passenger has a coughing fit they are carrying the Swine Flu.

Have a healthy weekend all

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The war for talent is over - or is it?

A year ago the talk of the town was Gen Y was taking over, potential employees were interviewing employers when applying for a job and the general consensus was that talent had won. Businesses were investing in employee value proposition schemes and competing with each other to win, keep and develop talent. However also in play was an economic boom, take that away and the balance changes or does it?

Is there still is a lack of talent in the market place? Some of my clients have been recruiting for property managers, businesses development managers, receptionists and they are finding that the pool of talent applying for these roles isn’t great. A colleague of mine in Sydney is now expanding his search to Melbourne for a Department Manager.

It seems that in the current economic climate talent is deciding to stay put. It’s better the devil they know. The general feedback from potential employees is that there isn't a lot of work available and most companies are downsizing rather than recruiting.

So what are businesses doing to retain or attract new talent?

Downsizing should not be the first option; your people are your best competitive advantage. There are many employees in organisations across the country watching their backs waiting for the axe to fall. If employees are feeling insecure about their current environment they may make the move to your competitor. What we can probably guarantee is that if you are not spending time on employee engagement, business transparency and providing regular feedback on the long term security of roles your competitors will poach your best talent.

Are the leadership and management skills of your organisation good enough to guide your business through these uncertain times? It’s not just about the bottom line profits as without good people you won’t have any profits anyway.

In times of recession the leadership skills required are very different and many managers today have never worked in an economic climate such as what we are currently experiencing; mergers, acquisitions, downsizing and closure.

Leadership in uncertain times

Some of the areas leadership and management should focus on are

Effective business planning and structure
Managers and directors must invest time in developing a business plan taking into account the impact the market will have on areas such as sales, managements and growth. You may need to reassess the structure, efficiencies and spending to ensure viability. Everyone in the business must understand the long and short term impact the market has had on your business and how you intend to come out on the other side intact.

Talent management
As a management team you must identify who the key talent is in your business and what will you do to retain them; now is a good time to offer shareholdings. If your competitors are downsizing is there anyone within their business you can attract to yours. More importantly invest in employee engagement as retaining talent in this market is critical to your success.

Effective workforce planning
Instead of downsizing some options to consider before you let talent go are pay cuts at management level, re-packaging of salaries, job share options, flexi time; you may need to get creative on what options are available to hold onto good people.
Training spend tends to decrease when times get tough but now is the time to invest in training programs for your team. Look at alternatives such as on-line programs, webinars, getting internal team members to step up to conduct sessions or team up with other offices within a network or outside of your core market area to share knowledge and improve skills.

Performance management systems & rewards
Developing and implementing performance measures or KPI’s linked to your business plan is critical, ensure they are transparent, celebrate success and assess improvement areas. One on one meetings with your team is a great way to “check in”; some managers will conduct these on a weekly basis others monthly. Discuss how they are going, provide feedback and be honest with how the company is performing and the impact – positive or negative – they are having.

Rewarding teams when times are tough can be challenging. Most employees will prefer cash incentives as it enables them to pay their own bills and mortgages. However it is still important to recognise your entire team. So instead of going out to a restaurant a BBQ in the directors back yard could be a lot of fun, get the team to contribute ideas on how to celebrate, your people would rather have a job and regular income to fancy celebrations. Be aware it is more important now than ever to ensure that moral is kept up and performance recognised.

Open communication & stress management
If you are having to consider redundancies be open with the team on why, how many and what outplacement support you will provide. With those who are retained ensure that you have a level of transparency within the business so they know how it is performing at all times.

Be aware that employees will be under stress and consider building or creating resilience programs designed for them to handle stress more effectively.

Survival or strategic mode
We have come off a 10 year boom, real estate has never been as good and yet today there are many businesses who simply did not set themselves up to go through a down turn. It was almost as if they expected the boom to last forever. I see many business operating in survival mode - cutting back on training, laying off staff, reducing marketing budgets, not taking pay cuts at management level, no performance measures; they are either waiting for a quick fix or have taken on the behaviours of an ostrich – if I bury my head long enough it will all be fine when I come back up for air. It’s important to remember that you need to cut costs not assets.
Very few have invested in strategic plans for their business; many still do not have business plans in place for each department and employee, no vision or values, poor culture that simply deteriorates in this environment, no transparency or performance measure for the business or employees, talent management or engagement programs and no succession planning.

Businesses today need to be flexible and forward thinking; it’s what you do now that will set the tone in regards to your success when the market does change.
You need to be more aware of what your competitors are doing and take advantage of their mistakes.

In these times of rapid change it is important to remember that talent is your competitive advantage and if you continue to loose or lay them off you will not have the capability to compete when the market does turn. Spend time on identifying who the key talent is in your businesses and then take care of them.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Rest In Peace Sholene

Heaven got a new angel today, 14year old Sholene lost her long battle with bone cancer this morning in Fiji. She is now at peace and no longer in any pain.

Her mother who has sat by her bedside for the last 8 weeks has gone home with out her daughter. Her prayer every day was for a miracle to occur, for Sholene to get better so she could take her home.

Nolene her sister spent every spare moment by her sisters bedside and everytime she walked away Sholene would cry out for her to stay. The sisters often slept in the same bed at the hospital.

Her father could not stop working, however he spent weekends, mornings and evenings with Sholene.

Towards the end she could not speak or eat but on mothers day she sent me a message wishing me a happy mothers day. I will treasure this message forever.

Parents are not supposed to bury their children, nor sit by their bedside and watch them suffer. And one day I hope and pray that we will find a cure for all cancers.

In the mean time Bluesky Magic will continue to work with the Hospitals in Fiji to bring some sunshine and magic into these kids lives that creates memories for families that they can hold onto forever.

Sadhana Smiles
Hibiscus Trust Fiji

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Property Managers be warned you are a favourite topic of conversation

There are many of us who are in the real estate profession that when asked what we do we want to lie.... I have to admit that there have been times when I have been a doctor or a nurse. Why because someone always has a horror story they want to share with you.

It does strike me however that as an industry we are often seen as one rung above a used car salesman and I believe we only have ourselves to blame. Let me explain why.

I was at my hairdressers last week and of course we got chatting as you do and what a surprise she had another story to tell me about her property manager.

Now picture this, the salon is full of people, my hairdresser has a loud voice and there I am sinking further and further into my chair as she regales me with her latest drama.

The property manager concerned works for a high profile agency and it seems that they have provided her with no customer service training.

Calls not being returned, emails not being responded, rudeness on the phone and at routine inspection, talking down to the tenant and not following through on maintenance.

It all sounds very familiar doesn't it? So property managers out there, ask yourselves are you delivering service to your clients regardless of whether they are a tenant or an owner in the way you would want to receive it.

If not then make the changes now because I can guarantee you that you and the company you work for are being spoken about in way that would perhaps make your hair curl.

To business owners out there invest in mystery shop programs, it is the only way you can become a customer of your business to ensure that the highest level of service is being delivered to your clients.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A changed view on Mothers day

I am not a big believer in mother’s day and I am always saying to my children mother’s day is every day and not one day in a year that is really designed for retailers to make money out of you.

In our family don’t do presents or dinners or lunches however we do lots of hugs and kisses.

This mother’s day was slightly different. As many of you know I recently took on the responsibility of 7 kids in Fiji. Their mum died of cervical cancer in Nov last year leaving the kids orphaned. I made a promise to Leba that I would look after the kids for her.

I speak to the kids every week, we pay for their education and basic day to day needs. I knew this mother’s day was going to be hard to for them and I will never replace their mother however I know that I am a strong female influence in their lives.

I spoke to all the kids again on Sunday afternoon and they had obviously talked about what they were going to say to me and how. Each child had the same or similar dialogue which was....”happy mother’s day Sadhana, we miss our mum very much and you are just like her, when can we come and see you ?”.

Suddenly mother’s day took on a whole new meaning to me.... I still don’t believe in it as a one day in the year celebration but from a child’s prospective just to have someone in your life to say these simple words to and to know that no matter what they will be there for you even if it is just at the end of a phone makes a difference.

How do you overcome distance at times like this?