Gig Economy

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal about the #ChangingWorkplace provoked a flurry of posts and comments on LinkedIn. The upshot of the article was that, today, workers in the US are working more for less. In 2016, 26% of Americans reported that they worked in excess of 48 hours per week, but, increasingly, workers are missing out on company-funded benefits such as pensions and insurance. The article also highlighted the rising number of temporary and contract roles.

In Australia, a similar pattern is emerging. A special report in The Australian estimated that around 700,000 Australians are now engaged in the ‘gig’ economy – that’s around 5% of the workforce. And these numbers are set to grow as companies such as Uber, Deliveroo and Airtasker make their mark, and access to technology broadens.

But what are the advantages and disadvantages of working in the gig economy? And who is the real winner?

For workers, flexibility is the big selling point of working on a pay-per-task basis. They may be able to work from home, or balance gig work with another job, study or childcare responsibilities. Rather than be restricted by set hours, they can choose the time windows that suit them best. And, contrary to popular belief, working gigs can be a good money earner, especially for highly skilled workers, such as lawyers, web designers and business consultants.

But, all too often, jobs in the gig economy are unregulated and low paid (far below the standard minimum wage). Additionally, as an independent contractor, a worker has no annual or sick leave, no insurance cover, and often no superannuation either. The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia found that ¼ of self-employed workers had no super; those in low-paid, unskilled jobs are particularly affected. Alarmingly, the move towards flexible working patterns also has potentially far-reaching consequences for the welfare system. In October, the IMF warned of challenges to the structure of the social insurance system due to the increase in less stable, freelance work.

The real winners, it seems, are employers and shareholders. Today, employers have no need to hire employees to complete specific tasks when they can easily source gig workers online with the desired skill-set. It’s a huge gain for businesses in terms of flexibility, agility and specialised skills. Plus, of course, it means that they can cut hefty personnel costs to a minimum, which leads to increased dividends to shareholders. But, there are downsides too. By awarding tasks to the lowest bidder, work quality may be compromised. Additionally, gig workers have no incentive to stay loyal to one specific business; they may not be available when their services are next required. And organisational knowledge, often seen as key to a business’s innovation strategy and growth, is diluted when long-term employees are not replaced. To remain competitive and relevant moving forward, businesses should think about ways of attracting and including gig workers in their organisations.

Have you ever worked a gig? What do you think about the growth of the gig economy?

Are long working hours getting you down? It’s more than likely. New research by the Australian National University (ANU) has found that people who work more than 39 hours a week are endangering their health.

Around two out of three Australians in full-time employment work more than 40 hours a week. Often that’s before unpaid work, such as caring for children and domestic work, is considered. The ANU researchers suggest that a major cultural shift regarding long working hours, as well as employer action, is needed to resolve the problems affecting work-life balance. Change is not going to happen overnight.

So, in the meantime, what can you do at the individual level to promote your health and wellness at work? There are a number of aspects to consider, including physical, emotional and occupational wellness. Here are 10 steps you can take to kick-start your personal health and wellness journey.

  1. Eat healthily

You’ve probably heard the same a hundred times before, but eating well is an essential part of health and wellness. Swap the junk food for a healthy sandwich or salad, and replace your stash of chocolate bars and chips with nutritious snacks. And don’t forget to drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated.

  1. Get enough sleep

The National Sleep Foundation in the US recommends an average of 7-9 hours for adults aged 18-64 years old, and 7-8 hours for the 65+ population. Other factors to consider include sticking to a sleep schedule, creating a comfortable sleeping environment, and turning off electronic equipment, such as mobile phones, before bed.

  1. Exercise daily

Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite, wrote a great article about the benefits of exercise at work, referring to it as a “clear win-win – in terms of health, morale and productivity”. You could walk or cycle to work, for example, or head to the gym during your lunch break. A spot of exercise each day should refresh you and improve your concentration.

  1. Make time for family and friends

Think about scheduling time for family and friends. This could be as simple as a blocking out a couple of evenings each week, or planning an activity on a scheduled day off. By freeing up time in advance, you are actively creating balance during your busy working week. And sharing quality moments with those you care about most.

  1. Reduce stress

Work and excessive stress often go hand in hand. There are many approaches to tackling stress levels, including nearly every tip on this list. Additional tried-and-tested ways to regain a sense of control include deep breathing, mediation and yoga. Some people find it useful to write or speak daily positive affirmations, such as “I am fantastic at my job.”

  1. Share ideas

Feeling valued at work is a key part of health and wellness. So share your talents and creativity with your colleagues and line manager. You could suggest a different way of approaching a task that would enhance productivity or increase profit. You could also take up opportunities to learn new skills to further your sense of worth (as well as your career).

  1. Adapt your role

Now could be the time to talk with your employer if your workload is too great, or hours too long. Many companies are open to flexible working practices. Establish if others in your workplace are working part-time or have shifted roles. These precedents suggest that your employer would be open to discussing alternatives for you too.

  1. Ask for a career break

Step back from your situation by taking time out of the workplace. Many companies offer sabbaticals to valued employees, or you may be eligible for long-service leave. Make the most of your time away by doing something different. And take the time to reflect on where you want to go with your job and your career.

  1. Act with your voice

Major change to working conditions nearly always comes through collective action. Discuss the need for reduced working hours with your colleagues at work, join your union and/or lobby the government for change. In doing so, your individual voice becomes one of many, all acting with the same end goal in mind.

  1. Change jobs

If you are unhappy in your current job, and cannot see a way to improve the situation, consider changing jobs. You may well find your ideal role in another workplace, with a workload and hours to suit. So take a deep breath and start looking.

How do you promote your health and wellness at work? We’d love you to share your experiences and suggestions.

Whistle Blower

Starting on 1 January 2020, public companies, large proprietary companies and trustees of registrable superannuation entities will be required to have a whistle-blower policy in place. This is part of a move to ensure greater protections for whistle-blowers under the Corporations Act 2001.

Money laundering, fraud, financial irregularities, criminal damage against property – these are just some of the types of misconduct that can take place in a corporate environment. Whistle-blowers play an important role in uncovering and reporting these activities, but individuals are often unwilling to speak out for personal and financial reasons.

A whistle-blower policy provides a clear framework for all employees in an organisation. It should aim to promote whistle-blowing best practice in the workplace and encourage disclosure, contributing to a more ethical corporate culture. Amongst others, the policy must:

  • Identify people, within the company and externally, who can receive whistle-blower reports
  • Advise whistle-blowers how to make a disclosure
  • Include details on how your company will investigate whistle-blower reports
  • Provide information on legal protections available to whistle-blowers
  • Outline how your company will support and protect whistle-blowers

To find out more, take a look at this useful Regulatory Guide released by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC). It provides information on designing a whistle-blower policy that complies with the legal obligations, as well as tips for implementing and maintaining this policy in the workplace.

Mentors have existed since time immemorial. Many claim that the word derives from the name of a character in The Odyssey, an ancient Greek epic poem that was probably composed around 700BC. The elderly Mentor was a great friend of Odysseus and trusted advisor to his young son Telemachus. Similarly, today mentors are often senior figures entrusted with providing advice to younger, more inexperienced employees. The aim: to help their mentees progress within their role, within their organisation, and – ultimately – within their chosen industry sector.

Mentoring can have significant benefits for the organisation, notably in terms of promoting a positive company culture, enhancing productivity and improving employee retention. Both mentor and mentee also stand to gain from a successful mentoring relationship through open, honest communication and feedback. Here are a few tips on how to get it right as a mentor:

Set a clear framework from the outset

In consultation with your mentee, decide how often you will meet and for how long. Also consider which communication channels you wish to use between meetings. Will your door always be open to your mentee, or would you prefer to receive emails from her on a particular day at a particular time?

Define goals together

Discuss and decide your mentee’s personal and professional goals with her. Your mentee’s input is a crucial part of this conversation; your role is to guide and support her in implementing a plan to achieve these goals.

Listen and learn from each other

It is often said that the mentor/mentee relationship is a ‘two-way street’ where the mentor has just as much to learn from the relationship as the mentee. Give your mentee the opportunity to express herself openly and honestly. Every individual has different ways of thinking and doing – and you may pick up an invaluable tip or two!

Let your mentee make mistakes

Provide honest, constructive feedback to your mentee, but allow her to follow her own vision and make mistakes. Learning from errors is essential to personal and professional development. Help your mentee analyse what went wrong and she’ll be able to move forward with confidence.

Be a positive role model

Lead by example not just in the mentor/mentee relationship, but in the wider workplace by demonstrating confidence, respect for others and clear, open communication. Celebrate your successes with your colleagues, but also share your failures. They show what you have overcome to reach the place you are today and will provide your mentee – and others – with a realistic perspective.

Being a mentor is both a privilege and a responsibility. Done right, it can benefit mentee, mentor and the wider business organisation.

From 1 July 2019, the new national minimum wage (NMW) will be $740.80 per week or $19.49 per hour – an increase of 3.0%. A significant number of workers stand to benefit from the change. Currently around 2.2 million employees in Australia are paid the NMW or a modern award minimum wage, which is also set to increase by 3.0%.

Over the next few weeks, the Fair Work Commission will be providing more information about how the increase will affect modern awards. They will also be updating their pay tools with the new pay rates. So, keep your eyes on their website or subscribe to receive email updates from them about changes in your industry sector!

There are also some changes to penalty rates for Sunday work from 1 July 2019. These will affect employees paid under the Hospitality and Retail awards. Starting next month, full-time and part-time employees covered by the Hospitality award will receive 150% of their base pay rate, instead of 160%, for Sunday work.

Under the Retail award, employees will be affected by reductions to penalty rates for Sunday work from 1 July, as follows:

  • Full-time and part-time employees who aren’t shiftworkers will be paid 165% of their base pay rate for Sunday work, instead of 180%.
  • Casual employees who aren’t shiftworkers will be paid 175% of their base pay rate instead of 185%. This includes their casual loading.
  • Full-time and part-time shiftworkers will be will be paid 185% of their base pay rate instead of 195%.
  • Casual employees who are shiftworkers will be paid 215% of their base pay rate instead of 220%. This includes their casual loading.

Further changes to penalty rates for casual employees who aren’t shiftworkers will come into effect under the Retail award from 1 October this year. These retail employees will benefit from a 5% increase in penalty rates for Saturday work and Monday to Friday evening work from 6 pm.

Detailed information about the NMW changes can be found on the Fair Work Commission website.

Click here for more information about changes to penalty rates under the Hospitality award.

Click here for more information about changes to penalty rates under the Retail award.

We would love to hear what you think about the new national minimum wage ? 

Light Entertainment

We are eagerly counting down the days to Vivid Sydney 2019, when the city becomes a wintry kaleidoscope of light, music and ideas. This year, Vivid is set to run from Friday 24 May to Saturday 15 June. And there is so much to experience. Question is where to start? Here are some of our top picks for 2019:

The Royal Botanic Garden

One of Sydney’s most beautiful green spaces will be transformed into an interactive enchanted forest, complete with dancing grass, river of light and shimmering firefly field. We can’t wait to unlock the mysteries of The Light Portal and enjoy the buzz at Beetopia, a touch-sensitive bee hotel.

And we’ll definitely be testing our voices at I Hear You (But Do You Hear Me?) an installation that looks at (in)equality of speech in the digital era.

Circular Quay

It’s definitely the time to don the winter woollies because it’s set to snow at Hickson Road Reserve during the festival! Let It Snow comprises thousands of LED bulbs that respond to weather and people’s movements.

We’re seriously excited by the prospect of playing with Goo! Where else can you play with great big blobs of the colourful stuff – without getting your hands dirty?!

Sydney Opera House

Sydney Opera House is always a must-see during the festival. This year, the Austral Floral Ballet inspired by Australia’s beautiful native plant life will dance across the famous Sails.

We’ll be on foot to take in the action. The Vivid Light Walk winds around from the Royal Botanic Garden past the Opera House to The Rocks. The 3 km route will be ablaze with colour and light from myriad installations on land and sea.

And the fun is not all limited to the CBD, either.

We fancy an evening at Taronga Zoo, which joins the festival again this year. Lights for the Wild features giant illuminated animal sculptures, including a Sumatran Tiger and her cubs, a Marine Turtle and a gorilla family. Each one provides a vibrant reminder of the zoo’s ongoing commitment to wildlife conservation.

Note: Evening entry fees for Taronga Zoo apply.

Chatswood is also a key destination in Vivid Sydney 2019 with no few than 18 installations. Chatswood Mall will hold a garden of giant Trumpet Flowers where visitors can make their own light and sound, while The Concourse unfolds into a many-feathered bird of paradise.

We’ll be heading to the top of the Mall to Listen to the World via Alexandr Milov’s heart-shaped sculpture, where flower power meets technology.

And let’s not forget that Vivid Sydney is also about music and ideas.

For musos, we reckon Carriageworks is the place to hang out. This trendy Sydney venue will be welcoming indie dance trio RÜFÜS DU SOL for a headline performance (already sold out, alas), as well as FKA twigs. Curve Ball featuring music and visuals, looks like a real winner too.  And, of course, legendary band The Cure will be playing five nights at Sydney Opera House.

We’ll be checking into The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia for inspiration from Vivid Ideas Exchange, featuring talks and workshops on pretty much everything, including Unworking – How the Future of Work Will Set Us Free. Do we want to hear a panel of experts discuss what work will look like in Sydney in 2029? Yes, we do.

Vivid Sydney 2019: Light entertainment, and so much more.

  

Last year, a recruitment video for the Australian Department of Finance Graduate Program went viral for all the wrong reasons. Designed to showcase the “the variety of work, cultural and social experience [graduates] can expect when joining the department”, the video came in for heavy criticism by marketing experts. Dee Madigan, creative director of agency Campaign Edge, who has worked on a number of marketing campaigns for the Labor party, rated it as “probably one of the worst recruitment videos I’ve ever seen.”

So how do you get it right?

There is no magic formula for making a successful recruitment video, but here are a few recommendations:

  • Keep it short: very few viewers want to watch a 30-minute mini-documentary
  • Present your company culture in an honest and attractive way to help prospective applicants self-select
  • Provide insights into the type of work employees do and the perks they benefit from
  • Show a diverse range of employees to appeal to a broad target audience
  • Include humour and fun for maximum entertainment value.

The following videos, we think, work particularly well.

Notching up a huge number of views on YouTube – for the right reasons – is this recruitment video for the New Zealand Police. Aimed at 18-24-year-olds, it features frequent bursts of action, snippets of speech, and a good dollop of Kiwi humour. Well scripted and sharply filmed and edited, it is a great way to attract prospective applicants to a role in the NZ Police force.

Dropbox

Produced in 2014, “Working at Dropbox” is still one of the best recruitment videos out there. Classic employee lines, such as “It’s not only a place that I come to work; it’s a place that I come to grow” are injected with humour by replacing the people who voiced them with puppets. In just under 2.5 minutes, viewers gain an idea of Dropbox’s values, people and perks – and are entertained all the way.

HubSpot

Unlike Dropbox, HubSpot used real people to front their brand in this upbeat 2012 recruitment video. Prospective applicants are given a clear introduction to the company’s mission and values, as well as a privileged peek into the working environment. The video showcases a diverse range of employees who add their individual experiences to the bigger picture.

Do you have a favourite recruitment video? If yes, do share it in the comments. We’d love to hear your suggestions.

Thank you for watching!

 

 

 

Casual Conversion – what does it mean for employees and employers?

Starting on Monday 1st October, a casual employee who has worked a similar pattern of hours for at least 12 months can ask for their position to become permanent. The Fair Work Commission’s ruling applies to both part-time and full-time casual employees and provides those in potentially precarious positions with greater financial stability week-on-week. It also provides them with access to benefits such as sick leave and paid annual leave.

‘Casual conversion’ is not automatic. A casual employee must make their request in writing, and an employer may refuse the request on reasonable grounds. The position may not exist in 12 months, for example, or there might be a change in working hours and days which will not suit the current employee. Any refusal on the part of the employer must be provided in writing within 21 days of the employee’s date of request.

For now – and definitely before 1st January 2019 – employers should provide all existing casual employees with a copy of the conversion clause in the relevant Modern Award. They should also ensure that any new casual employee receives a copy within 12 months of their first day at work.

The new ruling does not apply to all Modern Awards. For a list of the Awards affected by the 1st October 2018 changes, click here. Please also note that some Awards, e.g. in manufacturing, already contained a casual conversion clause prior to this date.

At Optimal Recruitment, we provide casual, temp-to-perm and permanent staffing solutions. To discuss your needs in more detail, please give one of our friendly team a call on 02 8416 4181.

School is nearly out! Hands up those parents who are starting to panic! While six weeks (or more) with the kids can be a special time full of shared moments to remember and cherish, the reality is that school holidays can be a huge challenge, especially for working parents.

And, increasingly, parents in Australia do work. According to 2011 statistics from the Australian Institute of Family Studies, 34% of dual-income families had one parent in full-time employment and the other in part-time employment in 2011, compared with 27% in 1991; 21% of dual-income families had both parents in full-time employment. 56% of single mothers were in paid employment.

A dual income has its benefits, that’s for certain, and recent research also suggests that more than 50% of sole parents who work in Australia are better off financially as a result. But, for many working parents, employment is not a choice, but a necessity. You only have to look at the cost of living in our local area, Sydney’s Northern Beaches. According to figures released this year, 15 out of 42 Northern Beaches suburbs now have median house prices of $2 million+. And rentals don’t come cheap either. A quick glance at www.realestate.com shows that tenants would pay at least $350 per week for a one-bed apartment; when it comes to 3-bed homes, there are very few options on the market for less than $700 per week.

So, parents are working to live. But, what do they do when it comes to school holidays? We asked around and found a variety of solutions come into play, some obvious and some a little more creative. Here they are:

Family and friends
Sometimes working parents are able to call on extended family to help out. Grandparents in particular may already be active during term-time with before and after school care. In the school holidays, they take on all-day responsibilities too. Other working parents turn to close friends to look after their children, often repaying the favour by taking care of their friends’ children on another occasion.

One or both parents work from home
This solution can work well if parents work part-time, shorter hours, or share their childcare responsibilities. However, it can be tricky to manage with younger children, who don’t always understand that Mum and Dad need to work. And it can leave both parents and children feeling that they are not spending enough quality time together.

Parents work flexible hours
Similar to the above, some parents run their own business and are able to adjust their hours to suit during school holidays. Or one parent may work to a party-plan model, such as Avon or Tupperware, and be able to reduce or change their hours when the kids are home from school.

Shift parenting
In dual-income households, parents often deliberately work different hours to be able to share childcare responsibilities. One parent will work during the day, while the other only works in the evenings or at weekends, for example.

Parents take children to work
The kids go to work with Mum and Dad. Yes, it happens more often than you might think! While older children may be able to help in some capacity, the younger ones go armed with pads of paper, Textas and iPads to see them through the day.

External providers
A huge range of all-day activities are on offer for school children during the holiday period. Music, art, drama, sport … you name it, there is something to interest everyone. Cost can be a restrictive factor, however, with some programmes costing upwards of $100 per day. Many parents choose instead to look into school vacation care such as OOSH, which can be more cost-effective, particularly after CCB reductions have been applied.

Despite the options, the holidays are – and always will be – a juggle for working parents and their children. The secret: plan in advance! Squeeze in additional tasks during term-time if possible and/or highlight the jobs you absolutely have to do during the holidays. Schedule each day so you know where your kids are going to be and when. And, if you can, throw in a few days of annual leave or time off during the school break. That way, you can share special moments with your family without the pressure of a looming work deadline.

How do you make it work during school holidays?

A new McKinsey Global Institute report found that a staggering US$12 trillion could be added to global GDP by 2025 by promoting gender equality in the labour market. But achieving this outcome will involve a concerted effort by individuals, businesses, society and government.

The statistics speak for themselves. According to data published Australia’s Workplace Gender Equality Agency in August 2016, the workforce participation rate for women is 59.3% versus 70.4% for men. Women earn on average 16.2% less per week than men for working a full-time week; average graduate salaries of 9.4% less for women than for men. And one quarter of Agency reporting organisations have no key management personnel who are women.

The McKinsey report identifies six types of intervention that are necessary to bridge the gender gap, including financial incentives and support, advocacy and shaping attitudes, and laws, policies and regulations. Recruiters can play a key role in promoting gender equality in the workplace. You are responsible for attracting candidates to job opportunities, assessing their suitability for roles, and – ultimately – hiring decisions. Here are some of the steps you can take to create the workplace of the future.

Ensuring job descriptions and ads are gender neutral

Unless your role has a specific gender requirement, your job description and any ads should be designed to appeal to all potential applicants. Written material should focus on the qualifications and skills required to perform the role.

Gendered wording is also an important consideration in any job descriptions and ads. This is where words are associated with masculine or feminine stereotypes. Wording such as determined, aggressive and ambitious are considered typically masculine, while supportive, understanding and compassionate are feminine adjectives. Research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2011 found that when highly masculine wording was used in job ads, women found the jobs less appealing. Get it right and you could be on to a winning strategy: US employment marketplace ZipRecruiter found that job listings with gender-neutral wording got 42% more responses from applicants.

Avoiding personal questions at interview
Some areas are strictly off limits at interview, and at every stage of the recruitment and selection process. Make sure you don’t ask candidates – male or female – about their marital status, children and childcare arrangements, plans to start a family, or any questions related to their personal life. Play it safe – assess your candidates’ professional competency for the role.

Being aware of conscious and unconscious bias
As we have previously written, conscious and unconscious bias can affect an individual’s judgment, behaviour and beliefs. A male interviewer may have an unconscious preference for a male candidate for a role, or vice versa. You can reduce the possibility for bias in a variety of ways, e.g., by using a structured interview process to assess all candidates, and including more than one assessor in the decision-making process. Take a look at our blog article “Interviewers – Are you Biased?” for more insights into types of bias and tips on reducing their impact.

Considering affirmative action to redress the balance
Yes, in most cases you should take a gender neutral approach to recruitment. But if you work in a field where women – or men – are significantly underrepresented, then you could consider affirmative action. At the University of Melbourne’s School of Mathematics and Statistics, two out of 21 professors and one in five teaching and research staff were women in 2016. In a bid to increase female involvement in the school and sector, the university asked women only to apply for three maths and statistics jobs.

Do note that in NSW, employers generally need to have an affirmative action strategy certified by the Anti-Discrimination Board. The Board’s factsheet has heaps more information about discrimination, equal employment opportunities, and affirmative action.

The gender gap is not going to close overnight, but self-awareness by recruiters together with adjustments to recruitment and selection processes can help pave the way for significant change in the workplace.