Thursday, 28 July 2016

Is social media ruining what it means to be an employee?

When I started parental leave with my second child it soon became clear how the social media landscape had changed since my first child. In just three short years, among many other things,  I found there were Facebook Groups for “{region } District Mums” for pretty much every area of Sydney. Great! What better way to meet mums with similar aged children that live nearby, and I did!

But it also exposed me to this whole sub-set of Facebook where people run Facebook Groups as a business by selling advertising space on their Facebook Groups, be it on a “business night” or a “pinned post” (surprising this works seeing that the pinned posts are hidden on mobile devices). It has also become popular to create a Facebook Group around a topic that your online business is somewhat linked to, so you can then use the group as a vehicle to passively influence and sell your services.

I have learnt the terms “bloglovin’”, “mumpreneur” and “stumbleupon”. Uber came out of seemingly nowhere with their ride sharing service, but I also discovered that there are sites like airtasker, and upwork where you can put something like “I need someone to help me move my lounge” and people (perhaps your neighbours!) will bid for the work. Sometimes people looking for a service don’t even go to these sites, but just post in the Facebook group. I’ve seen all sorts of things including someone posting "I want my bathroom cleaned today and I am willing to pay $40!" (and yes, they got a willing participant!)

So this led me to start considering… What is an employee these days?

In a world where you can sell any type of unskilled work by a click of the button, and it is your own labour & time, so no “minimum wage” or labour law, is it possible that the idea of an employee is coming to an end?
I know this may seem like crazy talk, and I’m no futurist (although I find them endlessly fascinating), but where the service sector in Australia is 70% of our GDP and employees 4 out of 5 Australians* this trend towards “community marketplaces” and “community commerce” has to make an impact…. Doesn’t it?

I’ve found myself in conversations with well educated, career women who have decided that they only need $xx per month to bring to the household budget each month, and so if that means moving away from the traditional employment model, then so be it.

I totally get that, and I’ve done those numbers too, but I also wonder about the bigger, longer term picture. Women already have less Superannuation than men, we already earn less money than our male counterparts. If women with children decide to move out of mainstream employment and into these “community marketplaces” what impact will that have on our society in 5, 10 or 20 years time?

I’m not saying this move to "social media commerce" and "community marketplaces" is a bad thing, but it may well be if Government Policy makers don’t catch up with this rapidly changing landscape of what we call employment.

What do you think? Have you used community marketplaces?

Thursday, 14 July 2016

The best ways to negotiate flexible work arrangements in a new role

To add to our recent series of posts on flexible working arrangements, I recently did a guest post for Undercover Mum about asking for flexible work when you apply for a new role. I hope you enjoy it!

After 15 years in Human Resources, I find that I often get family / friends asking questions about their workplace “can they do that?!”. I am currently on parental leave and so to fill what I think is a need out there for plain English “HR” information, and to keep my brain “in the game” I recently started a blog and Facebook page called Employee Champion.

As I started this journey I asked for feedback about what it is people would like me to post about, and returning to work after maternity leave is a popular topic! An interesting question posed to me by Kim Stone (Undercover Mum) was my thoughts on how women can find and apply for professional part time roles.
So, I accepted the challenge and decided I should first put my own thoughts and theories to the test and I put a question out to some Facebook Groups I am in.
Specifically my question was:
“I'm interested in anyones experiences with applying for a professional role advertised as full time, and then asking for consideration to go part time. That is, a brand new role and Company, not one you have worked in before.”

The feedback I received was not unexpected, and combined with my own experiences, here are my top tips:

  1. Apply for roles that are advertised as full time

I am already ducking the rotten tomatoes being thrown at me by some Managers! Because, sure, I understand that when you go to market for a full time resource and you find the “perfect” candidate only to discover they want to work part time it can be disappointing.

However, it is very rare that a professional role will be advertised as part time. There is no intentional discrimination happening, just purely that in the business world we work with FTE and job design accordingly. Part time roles will only be advertised in situations like where the previous person was part time, there are budget constraints, it is a job share arrangement, or the Company is very progressive and understands good talent is hard to find if you aren’t open to other working arrangements.

A quick Seek search on 20 June 2016 for part time jobs earning between $80k and $120k per annum in Sydney gave me 209 results, and if I added in the keyword “Manager” this reduced to 137 results. Let’s compare that to full time jobs which gives me 12,500 results, and with the keyword “Manager” reduced to 10,442 results.

This means that at this given point in time, there are almost 60 times more jobs advertised full time than part time and 76 times more “Manager” jobs that are advertised as full time.

Therefore don’t reduce your job market by not considering roles advertised as full time!

2. Get ready to not just sell yourself, but your working arrangements

Now you have applied for a full time role, and received an offer for an interview, it is time to get prepared.
Do NOT state on your cover letter or application that you are looking for Part Time work (there are those tomatoes again). It is too easy to dismiss a piece of paper. You need to sell not just yourself in the interview, but also your working arrangements.
Most organisations will ask during the interview process a question along the lines of “This role is 38 hours per week, Monday to Friday, generally the days are 9am-5.30pm ; would there be any issues with that for you”. Now these questions are worded carefully to avoid any potential discrimination claims, and that is fine, because this is your chance to jump in and shine.
“Actually, I was wondering if you would consider a flexible working arrangement….” and then give the examples of how it could work, reasons why it will work, and how you have the skills and experiences to bring to the table that they really need.

Now maybe you think this isn’t a successful strategy, but the feedback I received is that it will work and it does. Across different industries and different roles, and even people Management positions, I was given examples from mums just like you who have done this successfully.

If you can, you may even be able to agree to a trial period. Give it 3 months and then have a discussion. That gives the employer comfort that you are considering the business willing to have a situation that works for the business and for you. In this situation the Company can hire you “full time” and give you employment documents to this end, but then an additional letter confirming they are agreeing to trial a flexible working arrangement from date to date. Win-Win!

3. Target employers who are recognised for their gender equality policies and processes

Each year, all non-public sector employers with 100 or more employees have to report on statistics and policies related to gender equality to the Workplace Gender Equality Agency. There is a specific citation given to organisations that are considered by the WGEA as “Employers of Choice”. You can check out the list here.

It is also worth checking websites like Jobs for Mums, FlexCareers and Diverse City Careers. Even if there are no roles in your speciality, it will give you an idea of the types of organisations that are trying to attract women into their workforce.

As so many vacancies go unadvertised, it can be worth reaching out to organisations that appeal to you directly and submitting your details for any future roles

4. Contact recruitment agencies in your field

Let them know what you are looking for, as they can be a great third person to “sell” you to the client. Remember, they want you to get that job too in order to get their sale!

Lastly, best of luck!
Being out in the job market can be hard, and demoralising, especially after a break from the workforce. Have faith in yourself and make sure you prepare fully for interviews. Understand the Company and the role before you apply and have that shine through in your application and interview. You can do this!

More workplace tips

Come along and visit me at for a weekly post covering a question submitted, and also other workplace tips and articles.

Whether you are an employee or run your own business, we'd love for you to join us at Savvy Business Women, our Facebook group dedicated to information, collaboration and support for Business Women.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

How to make dreaded performance reviews work for you

I'll share a secret with you.

Everyone* hates performance reviews. Managers, employees, HR staff....  Seriously, it is true.
So why do we continue to do them?

There are articles in the media every year which highlight Companies that abolish performance reviews with a cry for everyone to follow suit. Unfortunately, the reason many don't is because the reality is that without a formal process in place, many managers won't give employees feedback, and they may not think to talk to them about development, or set goals. 

Some of you may think that isn't a problem... but for most of us... working without knowing if we are performing well? Not getting any positive feedback? Not knowing how to ask for more challenging work, or even how to get that next promotion? Well, it makes the whole performance review process a necessary evil which is why organisations continue to do them. In many Companies, it also forms the basis of the consideration for a yearly salary review, which gives extra incentive to you to take the process seriously.

*I'm going with everyone, but it is more like 97%... haha

So how can you make the performance review process work for you?


1. Personal Notes
If you haven't already, it is a good idea to set a little reminder in your calendar every month to make a note of anything of note that happened that is worth reflecting on at the end of the year. These are personal notes for yourself so can be anything you like, positive or negative.
Positive is easy, "email from Sam thanking me for Project xyz". So why the negative? Well, it may be something like "argument with Joe over sales receipts again". Now if you end up with three months of that, it is time to work out why it is happening. Is there a problem with process, structure, personalities, conflicting goals etc. Determining the core issue and then working through a solution (with your Manager depending on your role and the Company) can be a good way to challenge yourself, fix a problem, and a constructive example to use when your performance review comes around!

2. Calendar
If you haven't made notes, then when it is time to prepare, have a quick review of your calendar to see your meetings attended over the last period - you may be amazed at what you have already forgotten - that may give you some examples to use of the work you did through the year.

3. Priority Plan / Goals set
If you have set goals/priorities for the year, time to check these and prepare some evidence as to if/how they have been achieved

4. Previous performance review
This may go without saying, but it is a good idea to review what you and your manager wrote and agreed on last time so that you can reflect on where you may have improved your performance.

5. Development ideas
Most performance review processes have a Development section looking for the employee and the Manager have a discussion and agree on some development goals. If you aren't sure what to put here, then you need to do some research:
If your goal is a promotional role seek out someone in a role that you are aiming for. This could be in your organisation or out. To find an external person, harness the power of Facebook groups! Ask in the group if anyone is a xyz and if they wouldn't mind having a phone or online conversation. Find out how they got into their role, what study/experience/personal attributes they think are important.
If you want to stay in your current position then consider what skills/knowledge you would like to develop further. Don't forget to check your Company Intranet. Many have loads of development tools and ideas

6.Manager feedback
Consider what your Manager could do to help you at work. Sometimes it is helpful to think about what you would like them to "stop/start/continue" and then have that prepared as a conversation point. Good leaders will ask you this question regardless. It is always helpful for both of you if you have given it some thought in advance.

What about that pay rise?

A performance review schedule in many organisations is tied to salary increases. For tips on how to approach this, please see my earlier post "Five steps to asking for a pay rise"


Remember that a "score" isn't everything. Whatever the result is of your review from a numerical sense should not be what you take away. The conversation with your Manager is the important part, and you can only have a great conversation if you have also played your part in preparing for the review.

Do you have any success stories or tips to share? Pop in a comment or send me a message!

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