Mercer broadens talent strategy capability with Evolve Intelligence Acquisition

Tuesday 5th June, 2018

Delivering strategic intelligence to help make tomorrow’s talent decisions today

Mercer, a global consulting leader in advancing health, wealth and career, and a wholly owned subsidiary of Marsh and McLennan Companies (NYSE: MMC), has today announced the strategic  expansion of its talent solutions business through the acquisition of Evolve Intelligence (Evolve), a Melbourne-based talent strategy business.

Ben Walsh, CEO and Managing Director of Mercer Australia, said this acquisition will broaden Mercer’s expertise in helping organisations build their workforce for the future.

 “We’re thrilled to announce the acquisition of Evolve,” said Mr Walsh. “Evolve is highly regarded within the market for its strategic talent intelligence services. Its strong team provides innovative workforce solutions to clients enabling them to take a more strategic approach to key talent challenges.

“Together, we will deliver a more expansive suite of services compared to what is available in the market,” he said.

Evolve CEO, Justin Baker said, “we are proud of what we have achieved so far, yet we are looking forward to joining forces with a global market leader. Mercer’s global reach, scale, and breadth of solutions will ensure that we have the capability and resources to continue to develop market-leading solutions to help our clients thrive today and into the future.”

A leading provider of remuneration consulting and benchmarking services, Mercer has exceptional expertise in workforce planning, organisation design and diversity and inclusion services. Acquiring Evolve will bring complementary solutions in succession risk management, talent intelligence, talent acquisition and assessment that will deliver an additional layer of solutions to clients.

Read More

Curing your Sunday Night Blues

Monday 29th January, 2018


It begins, with very little warning, around 3pm on a Sunday. You know it. That funny little nagging as you toss up whether to have a siesta or go for that walk you promised yourself (and the dog). You settle on reading a book but can’t quite focus because that knot is tightening itself in your stomach.

At 6pm you feel moody. You are frustrated and anxious, suddenly eager to do everything you didn’t, but knowing it’s too late in the day. The frivolity of dinner with good company and wine is short-lived. The gloom of a weekend over and work on the horizon is almost suffocating. The Sunday Night Blues are well upon you. As if the blues are not enough, it’s in itself a little sad that you are wasting the last quarter of two little days on dread…

Why are you having Sunday Night Blues?

A. This is the easy-to-fix-if-you-want-to part

1. You procrastinated too much last week and left too many items on your new week’s to do list. You know what I am talking about. There were lots more you could have accomplished last Friday, but instead, you decided to take an extended internet holiday followed by an early exit knowing things could wait, but they can’t wait through the new week, so you are ever so slightly panicking.

2. You didn’t do that challenging thing, or have that difficult conversation you were meant to have on Friday.

3. You can’t face the same old week you have had for the last 40.

4. Actually, you love your work, you just got into the habit of Sunday Night Blues at your last role, plus it seems to be the ‘in-thing’ to moan about your job with friends, and now it’s a THING.

Part B: Maybe some big changes are needed? If none of the reasons in the above list apply, it might mean that your role/career is no longer the right one and you need to start reflecting on what might be.  

How do you fix your Sunday Night Blues?

1. I have a rule (partly borrowed from Nike): If you can't delegate it, just do it. Procrastinating chews up unnecessary energy, resources and brain power. Much better to get stuff over and done with. Often the dread is far worse than the actual and you end up wondering why you had put it off for so long!

2. Try to finish the hard stuff by the end of each week, so you don’t begin a fresh week with unnecessary burden. No one likes to do the hard stuff (for example, literally no one wants to have a performance conversation with a team member) but avoidance in the short-term only creates longer-term pain so you need to suck it up, or wear the consequences of the SNB’s.

3. Add some colour into your work. What more can you bring to the table? Really think about the under-utilised skills you have and how they could be integrated into your current job e.g. you love writing and are good at it, but you generate spreadsheets from day to day; maybe you can suggest that you draft the executive summary for your manager? If it’s not feasible in your current position, talk to your manager about how else your skills could be used. Want to try something a little different in your role, but not sure you have the skills? Self-learn; read a few articles, listen to some podcasts, get to know the latest trends and research. You’ll gain new perspectives and start to approach your week with a fresh, more excited headspace.

4. Change your approach. So much in life is about framing; it’s understandable that you are dreading the budget, but you love the strategy sessions and they are both part of your week i.e. you have something to look forward to. Easier said than done? Try some simple but oh so effective cognitive behavioural therapy. Find yourself thinking unnecessarily about work on a Sunday night? As soon as you do, think about something you love to do. Anything is fine, just as long as it stops the negative thought process. This is a tricky habit to get into, but it gets easier with practice and really is so worth doing. Better yet, the same skill can be used whenever you find yourself overwhelmed with negative thoughts, or when the conversation with friends needs to move to something more positive.

As for B? It might be time to have an honest conversation with yourself. And no, not a 3am I can’t sleep stream of consciousness, or a five second pros and cons list you slap together, but an actual talk. Schedule in some time and have a meeting with yourself; maybe at a café or park, away from familiar distractions, and figure out what it is that needs to change and what you need to do. 

Read More

Exhausted beyond words? Maybe it’s time to shed some mental load.

Tuesday 19th December, 2017

Sophie in Finance's birthday is next week, I will get a cake on the way in after dropping the kids off, but I need to send someone to get a card this week, so we can circulate it. Is there enough fruit for the week, are we running out of coffee pods… when were the sheets last washed? We need a gift for the party, find a new gym, organise the Easter holidays, take one child to soccer, one to swimming, both need the dentist…. I have a client meeting first thing tomorrow.  And Christmas!!!

Do you know what the above is? It's mental workload. 

Chances are it sounds very familiar to you. Even as you read this, you are probably adding a few more things to your mental to-do list, or you are about to abandon this article to go and fulfil an action item. Stay with me. Please. The stuff can wait three minutes.

It's highly likely you know too well what mental workload is - you've just never been introduced to the phrase.

Mental workload is a term coined to describe the intellectual, mental, and emotional work we do daily, often without awareness, to manage our lives and the lives of those around us. It's a form of perpetual mental addition and calculation. Not in an almost manageable linear manner, but in a complex interacting web that includes, financial responsibilities, job obligations, household tasks, family and friend commitments, social networking, and our personal life. The list goes on.

It's all the things we carry, worry, organise, delegate, remember and respond to in our minds before any actual action. And it's exhausting.

I wish I could say that mental workload is the latest buzzword, the newest phrase-craze, but it's not.  As a terminology, mental workload has been around since the mid 90's - I was only introduced to this year via a great comic.* Like the seasonal flu, the concept makes a periodic appearance, but then fades away until it is rediscovered by yet another sufferer of the malaise.

The lack of lexicalisation and fluency in usage isn't because the phrase doesn't ring true - it does. You can't miss the you had me at hello moment when sufferers are introduced to it. I think the absence of common usage is because there is not enough discussion about the detrimental effects of mental workload and, importantly, how to alleviate it.


Australian census data** suggests that working mothers, who are also the primary caregiver, bear the brunt of the mental workload. But, of course, mental workload doesn’t just affect beleaguered ‘supermums’. It’s for anyone who feels the responsibility of managing the big picture as well as the daily necessities for others' wellbeing.

A recent article on the ABC site suggests a few ways to relieve the load.** Taking a break, reducing expectations and delegating will all help. Perhaps  one of the crucial things we should be doing more of is talking about mental workload.  

We are likely unaware of the extent the mental load affects us. Adverse outcomes – all chronic stress related – include; insomnia, recurring sickness, depression, weight fluctuations and mini breakdowns.  By understanding our mental workload, we may finally realise just how much we're taking on in our heads and start finding solutions. 

We all like to think we are coping stoically (note the word 'coping' and ask yourself, is coping how you want to live your life?), but there are no prizes for stoicism and plenty of downsides to burnout.

There is nothing wrong with admitting you feel fatigued; you feel overwhelmed, overworked and over-responsible. There is nothing wrong with admitting it's all too much. That's the first step to finding a solution that works for you.

The second step (and I might need to whisper this one) is admitting you are not the only competent person about. Thinking only you can do something is a little arrogant and more than a little wrong. Other people can do it too – maybe not in the way you would do it, maybe not so well, maybe a little later, maybe a little weirdly, but they can. Remember, different is not bad, different is just different, so take a deep breath and let it go.

Read More

I don’t need fixing! Why we should start fixing businesses and not women

Thursday 7th September, 2017

I am a young, 20-something woman. As such, there are a multitude of well-intentioned resources available to guide me through the jungle that is (and will be) my career. Articles titled with a variant of "Five Simple Tips for Success from Successful Women" aren't hard to come by, and over the years I've read many books with the same theme, let's call it: self-fix your way to success.

The articles and books confidently assure me that success will be mine if I follow their simple self-fix formula:

"leaning in",

finding the right mentor,

speaking with confidence,

being assertive whilst staying authentically feminine, and

dropping the words "just" and "sorry" from my vocabulary.

You might think I am being reductive. I am not. I know there is no simple fix, or a single cookie-cutter recipe for success. Moreover, devotedly following any number of advice certainly does not guarantee a clear path through the woods. Even so, at times I am daunted and overwhelmed by the efforts I seemingly must make to ensure that I'm having the right kind of impact in the workplace. This feeling has been exacerbated by recent news suggesting that the good fight for gender equity has stalled; that the glass ceiling remains very much intact.

I come from a generation in the developed world that has grown up with the belief that gender disparity would one day be a thing of the past. Our equitable future guaranteed by the hard work and sacrifices of the generations that came before us. All we really must do is follow the formula and keep pushing onwards; if we make sure the wheels don't fall off then progress will keep chugging along.

However, the release of recent ABS data* revealing that management of Australian businesses is still dominated by men (even though one of the biggest changes in the workforce over the last 40 years is the increased participation of women) tells a different story.

Read More

What you can learn about branding from Foxtel’s facelift

Monday 24th July, 2017

In the latest of this year's brand transformations, two high-profile, highly successful companies you know have changed their familiar logos.

A logo is more than a graphic, it's the reflection, extension and promise of a brand. Foxtel's CEO, Peter Tonagh, aptly describes brand as being "...every experience and every interaction that our customers have."**

In that framework, Foxtel has had what can only be described as a complete (inter)personality change.

From a LOUD, in-your-face, chest-beating, burnt orange, capital-letters-only logo described by its own CEO as "quite aggressive, quite arrogant, quite elitist", the organisation's logo is now much softer, playful and in a lighter colour font. Why? Because Peter Tonagh wants the brand to "appeal to more people."*

The Foxtel transformation can be read as: The world has changed, so we must also change. From a monolithic monopoly, we now operate in fierce competition with Stan, Netflix and a myriad of other more accessible, content-driven providers. To survive in this new world, we are adapting and changing our business model.

AGL also moved away from the capital-block letter and has become lighter, brighter and more contemporary.

The new logo is meant to demonstrate, "AGL is changing because energy is changing."** It reflects AGL's latest strategy of innovative, future-forward thinking. In addition, the rebrand advertising campaign of "more transparency" directly responds to customer research that revealed energy companies' cost and sustainability strategies were "largely invisible" to consumers.***

As you can see, the brand changes made by both organisations have been more than cosmetic. They are actively responding to industry changes and customer expectations; repositioning themselves in the market to engage a broader audience. An audience whom are arguably better informed and have more choices that ever.

Other organisations rebrand in order to publicly update their company values - the emergence of AFLW at a time when gender diversity is front page news is no mere coincidence.

Read More

Four skills that future-proof your career (and you might already have them!)

Thursday 1st June, 2017

Customer Experience is one of those slogans that has been around for an age but still always manages to be a new headline. It's: the latest new trend; a company's competitive advantage; the key to long-lasting partnerships. But what does customer experience actually mean in the context of your career? A lot.

Historically, supply has come before demand in sectors such as banking and finance, travel and transport. Organisations developed products that customers bought, simply because they were the only products available. If it was expensive, clunky, complicated or challenging to use? Tough; that was the product that was available. Thoughts around customer experience generally revolved around familiarity, convenience, or speed and customers typically engaged or stayed with an organisation due to time or option limitations.

As technology lowers barriers-to-entry across most industries, there are increasingly more disruptive start-ups entering traditional markets and forcing large corporates to reconsider how they position themselves and define customer experience. A significant portion of start-ups succeed because they've looked at the customer first, then developed a product to solve an ongoing issue in the industry. Hotels too expensive and lack a homely feel? Welcome Airbnb. Taxis in bad condition with drivers that don't know where they're going? Welcome Uber. Merchant fees too high for retailers? Welcome Square.

What does this mean for you and what can you do to remain relevant in the landscape that's shifting more and more customers centric? The simplest way to understand the importance of customer experience is to think about the phrase as being synonymous with interpersonal interactions. Customer experience is the quality of others' exchanges with you and how they feel about you following those interactions. Ergo, good customer experiences are vital to your career. In that context, how do you create good customer experiences and future-proof yourself?

Chances are you probably already have a lot of skills and experiences that make you relevant in the market place, you just haven't thought about the potential in what you already know and have. For example, you probably have an abundance of soft skills that are fundamental to understanding and enhancing the customer experience and better yet, they are transferable across industries. They can be grouped into four buckets:

1. Relationship Building

Relationship Building is more than about establishing good rapport. Occurring with both internal and external customers, building relationships involve making deeper personal connections based on trust as well as being able to anticipate others' needs. It is crucial because understanding, depth and trust are foundational to finding and establishing common goals, and common goals are win-win situations that are easy for everyone to commit to.

Understanding the different needs within a group and how individuals fit together organically builds an environment of ideas and success in which you and your customer can work collaboratively.

Read More

Netflix encourages their people to have career discussions with competitors, should YOU?

Thursday 27th April, 2017

You might recall a Netflix slide deck that went viral in 2009. It was the Netflix Culture Deck: Freedom and Responsibility and it generated a lot of attention at the time.

One part of the deck acknowledged that it was ‘good for each employee to understand their market value’. They suggested that it was healthy and important, to an employee’s personal development to have career conversations with other companies. More importantly, these types of conversations shouldn’t be seen as traitorous and, at times, should even be celebrated.

Why? Because sometimes there are not enough developmental and promotional opportunities available for everyone, especially those who are very talented and moving rapidly through their careers. So it shouldn’t be seen or felt as disloyal when somebody leaves for a bigger job that isn’t internally available. For some people however, this scenario is tricky to navigate.

A number of people I talk to explain they struggle when trying to find the balance between developing and defining their own career and being mindful of their employee obligations. My view is there is more to gain than lose when having a career conversation with an organisation other than the one you are at, either directly, or through a representative.

Career conversations are important. Whether you are actively looking for opportunities, or wondering whether to respond to LinkedIn ‘approaches’. Here are four reasons why you should have a career conversation whenever an opportunity arises:

1. Career conversations help you understand your real-time worth in another company’s context

• What are other organisations doing in your domain? Career conversations are good opportunities to see what others are doing and where the opportunities lie.

• Do you really know how in-demand you are? Your true market value emerges when you talk to someone who is looking for your skills right now. How much are they prepared to pay? This is especially true if you have been with your employer for more than four years, things are moving fast, and the market context in which you were hired has changed.

• See how your experiences can be right for opportunities you may not have considered.

Read More

We are a Westpac 200 Businesses of Tomorrow Winner

Thursday 13th April, 2017

Innovation is at the core of everything we do at Evolve Intelligence and being awarded one of Westpac’s 200 Businesses of Tomorrow demonstrates we are on the right track. Thank you to our exceptional people, global customers and partners for our successes to date.                                  

Thank you to Westpac for recognising Evolve's potential. We are looking forward to unlocking the $70b in economic value alongside some of Australia’s most dynamic organisations.

“We found the calibre of applicants extremely high. These are leaders with a strong sense of purpose and the capability to think differently about meeting customer needs that exist today and those that may be needed in the future. I was particularly impressed by the diversity of sectors represented; a sign of the strength and resilience of our transitioning economy.” – Lyn Cobley, Chief Executive, Westpac Institutional Bank

At Evolve, we believe talent make the difference, so we do talent differently.


Please follow this link to find out more about Westpac's 200 Businesses of Tomorrow, or to find out more about Evolve Intelligence.

Read More

Succession Management – why is it failing and what does good look like?

Thursday 16th March, 2017

Like it or not, we are in volatile times. Executive performance is becoming less predictable, tenures are reducing and engagement levels are at unprecedented lows – all this in the context of rapidly changing political and technological landscapes. There is not any single sure-fire fix, but surely, having solid continuity of talent in critical roles is key to effective business continuity and minimising business risk.

It’s probably worth drawing out that when I am referring to succession practices I am trying to be all encompassing in including both succession planning and succession management (while acknowledging there is a difference).

Succession practices makes sense. Over the last ten years, succession approaches have become common place and are now often cascaded beyond the C Suite to critical roles and beyond. The prevalent challenge though is that most succession processes do not deliver on their promise.

While there are numerous studies on a few progressive organisations having beautifully crafted succession plans (e.g. Tim Cook following Steve Jobs at Apple), in more common practice, all hell can break loose in the event of a sudden succession event.

There is a myriad of reasons why many succession plans don’t work but I think it essentially comes down to the reduction of succession to a hollow – we are doing it because we must do it – annual tick box process rather than a true business imperative. That is, however popular and accepted the concept of succession planning, it remains largely a process steeped in concept rather than a truly integrated practice. Implementation is woeful.Even in very sophisticated organisations where succession is integrated with talent reviews, incorporating a typical 9 box potential/performance grids, there is often a sense of panic when a critical vacancy arises. What frequently happens – you might recognise this scenario – is those people identified on the succession plans are whisked through a rapid process to determine their actual rather than conceptual suitability. These steps can be awkward in implementation as identified successors might decline the opportunity, or if they accept the position, the problem has not changed essentially because now another critical role is vacant and so on.

When succession is implemented in the right way, these challenges, although not totally negated, can be significantly minimised.

Let’s have a look at the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to succession.

What not to do - learning from others’ mistakes

Some of the most prevalent errors that we see in reviewing succession practices include:

• Debates as to who is responsible for succession, whether it sits with HR or line. When ownership is not clear it’s easy to point fingers when things go wrong. A good simple rule is HR facilitates and line owns

• Assumptive internal succession plans (assuming that a potential successor will move to a new role as required) and potential internal successors being unaware they have been identified as a possible successor for a role, or as targeted bench strength

• Connected to the above is organisations not having a full and current appreciation of their key talents’ personal circumstances, making assumptions regarding what roles people want to pursue, how much they want to be paid and where they want to work (As an example, many people are now managing dual careers so mobility can often be a challenge)

• High potentials and high performers – they are not always the same thing, so it’s good to clearly differentiate

• There is little or no transparency in the talent process (some degrees of opaqueness can be appropriate in certain circumstances)

• Career planning/development has not taken place (someone is identified for succession but nothing is in place to equip them with the right experiences and capabilities for future success)

• High potential successors are often identified for areas of immediacy rather than across the broader organisation

• As organisations have become flatter and leaner, there is a tendency to put internals on unrealistic plans and succession timelines

Read More

Finding the ENTREPRENEUR in You

Thursday 2nd March, 2017

‘I am really good at many things, but I am not an entrepreneur.’ This statement was sincerely said, without any false modesty, or negativity, by one of my close mates at a boys’ night out a few weeks ago. We were talking about our professional ’sweet spot’, so it made sense that he was defining himself, but I have been thinking about it ever since.

You are probably thinking that it was/is a perfectly reasonable statement for someone to make about themselves and if you know me, you will know I am not the type to over-analyse things, but still, the I am not an entrepreneur part niggled me. After all, from a background of middle middle-class, hands-off-ish parents and a relatively sedentary upbringing, my mate is now an involved dad, the CEO of a highly successful company and an endurance athlete.

My mate is, indisputably, a successful innovator in life. Yet, he excludes himself from the rank of ENTREPRENEURS.I get it and I don’t. I get it because the word is scary. Entrepreneur invokes images of tremendous success: Uber, Google, Silicon Valley angels, private equity and my personal favourite, teen donut mogul, Morgan Hipworth of Bistro Morgan.

I don’t get it because when you strip it down to basics entrepreneur is really just a word that describes someone who take a thing/process/product and makes it better: better rides, better search experiences and better donuts.

So, let’s put down the impossible weight of the word, entrepreneur, in its modern interpretation, and go back to its French origins, meaning one who undertakes; at which point we can all be entrepreneurs.

The thing is, we can’t all be giants a la Steve Jobs, but we can all certainly do better and be more.

My business partners and I named our business Evolve for two entrepreneurial reasons. Firstly, because we knew we could do a better job at what we had been doing for a long time. We could take talent to a better place. Finding ways to innovate, however marginally, and work with people who believe the same. We evolve all the time, our business model, delivery model, technology, processes and our interactions with our clients as well as our staff and each other.

Read More

The Serious Value in Talent Data and Insights

Thursday 8th December, 2016

You want a seat at the table.

Actually, not just a seat. You want HR input to be as indispensable as the CFO’s while the serious decisions are being made - that’s what we hear from HRD’s.

In this era of big data and artificial intelligence, how does HR begin to secure and maximise influence?

Owning and using seriously good talent data and insights.

While many progressive organisations already leverage the unprecedented amount of available information and analytics to maximise their competitive advantage, detailed customer knowledge and insights tend to be the first points of call when informing business strategy. Too often, talent data is not considered as part of the equation.

For the purposes of this blog, when referring to talent data we are moving beyond what an organisation should know about its own workforce (although I would question that there is still work to be done here) – we are looking externally, at organisations’ competitor talent data. How they work, how they are employed, how they are structured, how they are remunerated, what they are working on and most importantly, why the competitors are successful.
Many organisations have gathered competitor talent data, but not usually in any consistent, sustained way. An influx of data tends to happen when a significant external hire is made from a competitor organisation. With them comes a plethora of insights into strategy, intellectual property, pricing structures, potential available talent and, when not constrained by litigious contracts, often customers. This incidental influx is useful, but not particularly strategic and there is typically a finite currency to the information in the fast-paced environment we find ourselves.

Recruitment is an obvious arena where organisations have eyes and ears on their competitors’ talent. Unfortunately, many in-house recruiters are under so much pressure to get appropriate hires in place that they do not have the luxury of compiling talent insights and disseminating them to the appropriate stakeholders. When organisations outsource their recruitment operations, the internal-external divide places another buffer against the talent data information flow.

What's the solution?

Read More

4 reasons why self-esteem is vital to your career

Friday 28th October, 2016

A few weeks ago, we interviewed Challenger’s GM of HR, Angela Murphy. I found Angela’s leadership insights thought-provoking. One thing particularly got me thinking: “…a great leader is someone who has self-knowledge and retains their self-esteem in the context of that knowledge.”

I have thought a lot about self-esteem since. It is rarely mentioned as an important factor in someone’s career and never in the same breath as capability, experience, influence and communication skills, but having given it some thought, I think the following are the reasons why having self-esteem is so vital to your career:

1. Confidence in your own skin makes you more attractive to employers
I should begin by underlining the caveat that true self-esteem (as opposed to arrogance and bravado) is only possible with good self-knowledge, awareness and consciousness.

You have heard of the phrase, ‘fake it till you make it’. Like the superhero stance, it is designed to help create the perception, to yourself and those around you, that you are confidently walking the walk. Both are great strategies for fighting performance anxieties, but if you have self-esteem, you don’t need to fake confidence - you are confident and confidence is a very attractive thing. One of the most successful people I know who is no smarter, or more accomplished than any other smart and accomplished people I know, keeps doing bigger and better things. Why? She truly believes in herself.

It’s easy to sell something if you believe in it, so employers will tell you that all else being equal, they will hire the more confident candidate.

Like the song says, everybody loves a winner.

2. Development, evolution, growth...
Nobody is perfect, but we don’t all want to hear that. Growth is only possible if you recognise you have developmental areas, but it takes courage to truly hear feedback and seek development. This is where self-esteem comes in. Having it helps you to hear the challenging stuff without being demoralised and defensive in the process.

The problem with not having any self-esteem is that you never ask the critical question: What’s missing from this picture? Conversely, a healthy self-esteem makes you believe that you can build an even better you and meaningful, responsive personal evolution often means success in the corporate world.

Read More

4 key considerations in your hunt for talent

Wednesday 19th October, 2016

Talent. It’s the element that makes a critical difference to organisational performance. Every great strategy, sporting win, technological and scientific breakthrough begins in the mind of someone who is talented. Which is why the pursuit of top talent is a constant focus for the leading organisations that fundamentally understand the criticality of having the right people.

Talent is easy to spot when you work with them. There is a fluidity of performance, simplification of complexity and ease of execution that happens when talented people are at work. When you are sourcing externally however, how do you identify talent in a sea of people and reliably predict their future performance?

Here are 4 key considerations when it comes to sourcing external talent:

1 – Runway Does the person's career present development opportunities in the long term?

A career runway should contain a stable background (solid foundations are always good) as well as room for future growth. Has there been a stable, grounding path behind them or has the path been littered with inconsistencies? Have they been promoted by previous employers? Talent does not stagnate, consistent vertical movement with any single employer is always a good sign. Too many unplanned horizontal movements ring alarm bells, but going up means they can get even better.

2 Technical Ability The output of technical knowhow

Be aware that whilst technical skills, being readily measurable, have always been the starting point, softer – less tangible – traits have become the defining difference between an average employee and someone who is well-rounded and stands out. The softer traits such as confidence, sociability and loyalty (to name but a few) don’t translate well on paper and get lost between technical jargon, but are key to finding real talent. What are the things you have to look for before you can get to the softer skills?

Do they have the skills, abilities and knowledge to perform the task at hand? This is not to be confused with a checklist of expertise required. Look beyond qualifications, team management, budget size, and P&L and, instead, at the output of these skills. Did they manage, or did they lead a team through an innovative, cost-effective transformation? Did they develop a program, policy, or procedure, or implement someone else's? How have they used their skill-set and how has it grown from previous positions?

3 – Agility Can they cope with serious change?

Have they demonstrated the ability to adapt readily and dependably to business changes? The more adaptable and versatile a person is the better they are equipped to cope with a wider range of transitions. Individual agility enables a business to be more efficient, innovative and sustainable despite changing internal/external situations.

Has the person gained experience and skill-set across different industries? Have they changed companies steadily, or have they had exposure to diverse business units and roles at the same organisation? Other identifiers of agility include international experience, or secondments enabling exposure to alternative processes, challenges and structures.

Read More

FareShare: Evolve's charity day out

Monday 3rd October, 2016

Last Tuesday was an extraordinary day at Evolve. We were privileged to dedicate a whole day to giving back to others in a unique way.

As a team, we spent the day at Melbourne’s FareShare, a charity that rescues quality food from being thrown away; transforming mindless waste into nutritious meals for people in need. In doing so, FareShare inspires and empowers action on food rescue and hunger.

On arrival, we were given a tour of the FareShare operations and kitchens in Abbotsford by the volunteer coordinator, Kirsty, who also told us the organisation’s history.

FareShare started in a borrowed commercial kitchen on a Saturday morning 15 years ago, with a handful of qualified chefs who saw an opportunity to provide real, hot food for many who would otherwise go hungry.placeholder The organisation now helps Victorians in need across the State, providing more than 1.3 million free meals this year. Did you know that each and every day, one in 10 Victorians doesn’t know where their next meal was coming from? This is just one of the real statistics that surprised and shocked us all.

Read More

Leaders of Influence: Angela Murphy

Wednesday 14th September, 2016

In the second of our “Leaders of Influence” interviews, we speak to Angela Murphy, EGM of HR at Challenger about her career. Angela is articulate, high-energy, self-aware, confident and considered – everything you would expect in an exceptional professional. Remember her name, we think this won’t be the last time you hear about Angela. 
Please tell us a bit about your career 
I am the Executive General Manager at Challenger, where I have been for four and a half years after spending eight years at Westpac. I began my career as a remuneration and compensation specialist at Mercer and have moved into generalist HR positions in recent years. 
Each time I have made a career move, I have specifically sought to gain a new experience, to increase the degree of challenge, or to round out a skill set. For example, when I moved from consulting to corporate, I was looking for the opportunity to work with centralised HR teams and leadership teams. I wanted to learn, first-hand, how organisational decisions are made; the total sum of elements that had to be considered in order to make good decisions – I discovered that I loved it, working with people who could inspire, teach and stretch my skills.
That characteristic – to push personal, team and organisational capability, to always try and do better, in a respectful environment – really defines my career. I think I have had to work hard and set goals specifically because I was never the best at anything. Being second best makes you reach, to see what is possible. 
I did an undergraduate degree in Arts with Honours in History and then did my Masters in Commerce, majoring in Finance. That taught me there were lots of things I enjoyed; it didn’t matter all that much what I did, it was about the effort that I put in and the corresponding rewards at the other end.
I have found that as you progress in seniority, the specific content of your expertise becomes less important than your ability to engage the people around you, earn their respect and to provide them with clarity of purpose. That is, leadership skills and the ability to create a respectful achieving environment become crucial in achieving success. 
Who has had a big influence on your career and why?
I very deliberately started my career at Mercer, in a consulting firm, because I like change; I wanted exposure to diverse industries and to be in what I believe is an accelerated learning environment – in consulting, you get to sit with senior people a long time before you would do in a corporate environment. 
At Mercer, there was a principal, Arlene Wherrett, who was very encouraging and supportive. She thought I had a unique skill set and made sure I knew. Arlene’s attention and teaching gave me a lot of confidence at a formative time.  She taught me two things that have proven crucial to my career. placeholderThe first is vulnerability. Arlene occasionally let me see her being vulnerable, which showed me mistakes occur and do not equate with failure and that humility is an integral part of great leadership. The other lesson Arlene instilled in  me was to deliberately and mindfully learn the differentiation between a consultant and principal, so that I would know which skills I needed to acquire in order to progress. Amongst other things, she taught me to observe how to win the work rather than do the work. In other words, how to bridge the skills and therefore organisational gap. 
I have since taken that lesson into every role: what is it that my boss is doing and how do they do it well? I always think about the skills I need to develop for the next opportunity and the things that differentiate the current role from the next. You build your career by strategically building your skill set.
What are you passionate about? 
Helping others: individually, as a group and organisationally to learn to push the boundaries around what’s possible. To help someone go outside their comfort zone; figure out the things that are holding them back and how to push things to another level. It’s more than just what you achieve, the how is also crucial. The world is changing quickly. It’s important to apply new lenses in order to respond appropriately. What does the new context demand, what is needed, what do I need to do differently to help overcome a challenge, what does this situation demand?
Why is it important? It’s enormously rewarding for the person who has pushed through to the next level. 
How do you define excellent leadership? 
The important elements: engagement, communication, clarity, etc. are all covered in books and I absolutely agree with them.  For me, the big additional differentiation in a great leader is someone who has self-knowledge and retains their self-esteem in the context of that knowledge, because humility and empathy as a leader are then possible.
What has been the greatest challenge in your career to date and what has it taught you?
I actually didn’t realise I was really challenged till I got to the other side… I took a new role in which change was the primary mandate, but that need for change was not evident to the team I inherited. I therefore stepped into a situation where I needed to make a difference in the face of enormous change resistance that ranged from apathy to obstructionist. I found it difficult because I was used to getting results, but instead, I spent most of my energy, every day, just to be heard by my own team. It was hard to smile every morning knowing what was waiting for me at my desk. 
The lessons were tenacity and resilience make a difference and that sometimes things get worse before they get better. You really need to stick at things and go the full circle. At the time it felt as if I had to put a rod up my spine every morning. Like all challenging experiences, when I got to the other side, it was rewarding and energising, and I am so glad I stuck at it.  
What do you see as the disrupters facing HR practitioners at this point? 
That success levers of the past - what was useful, what makes a difference - changes. I am curious about the future of work. For example, people are working later in life, so how they choose to participate is starting to be challenged; people want to come down the career ladder as well as go up, it’s no longer fixed. You must look at how people work now with a different lens; technological, legal, contractual and industrial environments are all changing and the power and control of employers are very different. How do we address challenges that are no longer linear? 

Read More

Natural Born Liars: 6 reasons why it’s time for leaders to have an honest conversation

Monday 25th July, 2016

We – you and me – we are natural born liars:

This cake is amazing gran, it’s my fav.
This restructure is not about moving anybody out.
I really wanted (another) blanket with sleeves.
It was a difficult decision, but we have given the role to X.

Sociologists, behaviourists and psychologists tell us that toddlers start lying at around three and that on any given day, we are lied to up to 200 hundred times.^

Some, or even many, of the lies are arguably necessary under the social contracts we operate in – granny deserves to believe she is a GREAT baker and really, is it worth hurting Uncle Bob’s feelings over a snuggie?

I am not blogging about the morality of truths Vs lies, I am definitely not qualified to do that. What I am doing however, is setting the context for this blog. Even if everyone naturally lies, isn’t it the responsibility of leaders to be, and do, better than their natural-born selves?placeholder
If you are a leader, it’s vital that you step up and start having some seriously honest conversations with your direct reports. Honest conversations about their performance and career prospects and in turn, ask your team for truthful feedback about your performance as a leader.


1. There is no way for your direct reports to do better unless they know where they are going wrong – they should have the opportunity to step up/step out/consider other options, on their terms, if that’s what’s required.

Respect their ability to hear the truth and to do better. Some great performers I know are doing amazing things because they have had that incredibly difficult, but honest conversation about their performance shortfall. Remember that people make things up in the absence of information, if they didn’t get that promotion due X, tell them, don’t let them think it’s because of Y.

2. Honest conversations can be confrontational and confrontations are scary. But courage is a muscle, the more you use it, the stronger it gets, so use yours frequently and make yourself a better leader.

Read More

Flying Business Class: Why it's time to embrace gender quotas

Thursday 7th July, 2016

If the subject of Mandated Gender Quota comes up in conversation, chances are you have an opinion on the matter. I did, it was: yes, sure, good idea, why not. That was my uncomplicated, relaxed view. After two recent gobsmacking conversations and some research however, I now have very strong opinions on gender quotas, starting with: mandate mandate mandate.

The conversations were with two very different men at two very different top-tier professional services firms, but they were pretty much identical and went something like this: 'I can’t progress at my firm because all the (good) roles are going to females…'

As the first of the conversations was happening I was more confused than anything else: is he really saying that? Does he know that I am female? Did the moderation mode between his brain and his mouth go into catastrophic failure? The scary answer was that a successful, seemingly bright and considered man thought it was acceptable to gripe about progressive policies towards gender diversity.

Even more scary, as it turns out, he is not alone. There are a whole lot of people (men and women) out there begrudging the policies that are supporting the movement towards an equal representation of genders in the corporate world. The key word here is equal, we are not asking for >50% representation, just, eventually – EQUAL – and they resent it.

placeholderSo let’s unpack the 'gripe':

We have to assume these educated men do not classify themselves as being sexist. They probably even think of themselves as 'open-minded'. They are also likely to be in furious (theoretical) agreement when gender quota policies are discussed at the office; they are seen to be talking the talk. But if they are complaining to me, are they walking the talk? I wonder what are they saying at home:

'Hi daughter, I know you work hard, but don’t ever put your hand up if a man is going to miss out because of it.'??


'Hi son, I am definitely the best, but a lady beat me to it. Why? Because she is female, like your mum.'??

Yes, that’s a bit extreme, but I wanted to emphasise my point. The people who are griping about personally missing out because of gender quotas are the chasm between policy and practice. Worse, the same people are messaging, in some way, to the next generation that inequality in the workplace is ok. My question is, how many more generations are we prepared to sacrifice to gender discrimination? When are we all going to walk the talk?

For the ladies out there who want to get there solely on their merit? Forgive me, that’s naïve. The world is not fair, it does not operate on meritocracy alone. It is time the odds were tipped our way and women got a leg up. Why? Here are some scary facts and stats:

Read More

Get Headhunted! 4 Tips for a Standout LinkedIn Profile

Friday 17th June, 2016

It’s no secret that executive search firms, recruitment agencies, and your future employers are using social media to find top talent. In fact, LinkedIn is now almost always utilised in search sourcing processes.

Whilst the Site’s popularity and refined search capability (key competencies, industry, location, company, and seniority to name a few) has made it a massive feeding ground upon which employers feast, it’s truly ‘survival of the fittest’ when it comes to getting noticed as an individual.

From an executive search consultant’s perspective, there is a huge difference between an insightful profile to something you’ve half-heartedly pulled together. Should we call you? A great profile, or the opposite, can be the deciding factor. Are you missing out on your dream role because you have a mediocre profile?

With so few roles at the top, the risk of having a partially completed, or average, LinkedIn profile is too high. So how do you stand out in over 430 million users*?

placeholder1. Steer clear of one-word position titles

Whilst effective for movie titles like the ‘Avengers’, a single-word title is a great way to limit your potential to come up in searches. Your title is the first thing people search and read so be specific. Say you are the Head of Digital Transformation. Listing yourself as Digital or Head will put you in a lot of searches, true, but it’s the profiles with the most relevant titles that are looked at first. One-word titles mean you rely on your summary and position description to fill in the blanks and if you haven't adequately surmised that you are personally leading a digital transformation, you are going to be tossed aside.

Read More

Barnaby vs Johnny: A study in the abuse of power

Tuesday 7th June, 2016

Power. It’s a fascinating phenomenon. We saw a terrible expression of it a couple of weeks ago when Johnny Depp, international star of behemoth proportions, chose to wield it and abuse it against Barnaby Joyce, farmer turned (former) Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources.

Don’t get me wrong, Mr Joyce is clearly nobody’s victim. He played agent provocateur and is not without his own cache of power as the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia. The appalling part was the fact that Mr Depp thought it ok to maliciously exert his power supremacy in front of a global audience. He not only got deeply and nastily personal about someone with incomparably less global stature, he did it with casual playground cruelty. It was bad behaviour on a number of levels; 52 year-old Johnny was being a playground thug. And it was not ok.
placeholderIn the corporate world we see a lot of bad behaviours stemming from the abuse of power. It’s the manager who puts his feet up on his desk when addressing his team, it’s the big client who ‘negotiates’ (read: screws) the suppliers down to almost no margin and it’s the boss who regularly makes people cry in one-on-ones. You know the people I am talking about. Power abusers do things because they can, irrespective of basic decency.

Ironically, the real measure of power is the power that is not exercised. A manager tells, a leader influences – which one are you and who do you want to be?

Moreover, the measure of a person is not by their power; when was the last time you heard someone say, 'X is great, she/he is so powerful'?

Read More

The Greatest Lie: Why “you can have it all” destroys diversity

Wednesday 11th May, 2016

Diversity. From the Logies to the Boardrooms, we are buzzing with it. Kate Jenkins is focussed on gender, for Waleed Aly, diversity is about race and religion. I think diversity is about celebrating and leveraging any difference; gender, religion, race and sexual preference. That’s a lot, so I will begin with gender.

You can have it all.

Ha! With those five seemingly innocuous words, the weight of impossible expectations was placed upon the women of my generation (I am in the 35-45 demographic, but you can probably add about 5 to either side).

The burden of "you can have it all" meant we felt compelled to be the perfect partner + mother + daughter + career maker. A fantasy cross of Sheryl Sandberg, Arianna Huffington, Angelina Jolie and Nigella Lawson; roasting osso bucco in a spotless house and making a difference while leaning into our fabulous careers.

Achieving anything less feels like acute failure (with attendant guilt) because the feminists of the previous generations fought the good fight in order that we can have it all. We are meant to maximise their legacy.placeholder Except Arianna didn’t get enough sleep, Nigella married Charles Saatchi and Sheryl and Angelina both have a lot of domestic help so they could lean in and hang with the UNHCR. No one is doing it all.

Read More

Talent and Leadership: 2 lessons from a football fairy tale

Thursday 5th May, 2016

If someone offered you odds of 5000 to 1, would you take it? Not likely; but Leicester City Football Club has smashed up those odds and won the English Premier League with two rounds remaining. The feat was soooo unlikely; it has been likened to a fairy tale.

placeholderAll the superlatives have already been used in describing Leicester’s 132-year journey from the edge of relegation to achieving the impossible. Books will be written and films will be made about Leicester’s 2016 season and Hollywood won’t even have to make up the happy ending. In the meantime, my blog. As you know, football is gargantuan business and here are just two lessons we can all take from that business:

1. Talent can come from anywhere. Some of Leicester’s best players this season have come up through the ranks from non-league football, which, if you know football, is super unconventional in that world. When working on Talent Solutions, I frequently come across clients who have insular views on the parameters that ‘constitute talent’. They stipulate degree, post-graduate degree, graduate training, industry, or a big 4 background. My experience is that talent is talent. A star can come from a diversity of places, backgrounds and organisations and diversity in experience is a very positive thing. Particularly if you are trying to create something special as a brand or organisation i.e. market differentiation. Cookie cutters don’t always make the best cookies, so do keep an open mind the next time you go to market, you just might be pleasantly surprised.

2. It begins and ends with leadership. Leicester City Manager, Claudio Ranieri, led the team to victory by following a clear strategy, this is a fact. Another fact is Ranieri coalesced a disparate group of good footballers (who by anyone’s reckoning has no business being anywhere near the top of the league) into an exceptional team. The details will be dissected in the years to come, but the corner stone is very simple to me: a great leader with a solid plan can make magic happen, whatever the odds.

So congratulations to Leicester City from our corner of the world. You have achieved the (near) impossible and we should all sit up and take notice of the lessons.

Ricky Davison is a Client Solutions Director at Evolve Intelligence (and a die-hard football fan).

Read More

How to Connect with Millennial Talent

Tuesday 26th April, 2016

Yes, I am a Millennial. I heard your groan people, hear me out. Why do you want to hear me out? So we (you, me and my fellow Millennial talent) can connect of course!

I am starting with an age-old truism: the world is always evolving. So the world is rapidly changing and if you’re not changing and transforming with it, whether as an organisation or an individual, then you are getting left behind. We Millennials fundamentally get that; primary school children are learning basic coding at school, I should too!

Back in my grandparents’ day, I’ve heard that in life you were generally happy to have a job, the opportunity to own your home and that was pretty much your lot. Generally, all the living was done in the same small town and a trip to ‘the city’ was a big adventure to be undertaken in your best clothes.placeholder My parents’ generation are far more career focused. They developed in roles that were generally restricted to skillset or sector silos and had opportunities across the country as opposed to just the one town. Anyone who went overseas professionally was considered a high-flyer, very ‘80s glam.

What does all this progression mean when it comes to high performing Millennial talent?

Today, us Millennials have a ‘bring it’ mindset. We want it all, in 1.5 minutes, yesterday. We don’t restrict ourselves to silos and continually brand and rebrand ourselves. Our parents were life-long lawyers, now law is a generalist degree, a place to start. Careers are being built out of roles and industries that didn’t even exist when I left school 12 years ago, I mean, who had even heard of BIG data and now it’s BIG business. We are open to all opportunities across the globe – as long as we can connect to the opportunity.

The best Millennial talent have choices and we exercise them. We choose to work for you. A job, or even a career is not enough for us anymore, we want to feel as if the work that we are doing is truly meaningful, has a strong sense of purpose and is connected to a brand we are passionate about.

Companies aren’t just companies anymore. They are all brands that Millennials want to connect with, or disengage from.

Read More

3 Subtle Signs of Truly Exceptional Leadership

Monday 4th April, 2016

In his blog, 'Are You a Great Leader?', Ricky Davison talks about the five characteristics which define remarkable leadership for him.

I absolutely agree that flexibility; vision; communications; motivation and team building capabilities are fundamental to great leadership and would say that mastering an additional three traits take you from amongst the great leaders to the very exclusive club of truly exceptional leaders.

The behaviours below are not always obvious, or measurable, but my observation is that in combination, they differentiate those who are just trying from those who are. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the leaders who most often progress to executive leadership demonstrate at least one of these three behaviours.placeholder Conversely, if you are stuck at senior management - unable to break through to the C-suite despite consistently delivering both strategically and operationally - it might be time to measure yourself against these traits.

So what are the 3 subtle signs of truly exceptional leadership?

1. Inclusive: This is the leader who is valuable because they value everyone. This leader actually remembers your name once they have met you. In the café they banter with the barista, at functions they talk to everyone, irrespective of organisational hierarchy. No one is beneath their notice, they literally and figuratively don’t move around ‘cocooned by their inner circle’.

Why is being inclusive so important? It acknowledges, through action, the ‘cliché’ that human capital is the most important asset of any organisation. The act of inclusion implicitly recognises that everyone and anyone makes a valuable contribution. There are few people who are truly inclusive. Don’t believe me? Do you engage with the cleaners at work?

Read More

A case study on CEO succession

Thursday 17th March, 2016

If we consider the Prime-Ministership to be the ‘CEO of Australia’, I think it would be safe - and fair - to say that there has been a spectacular failure in succession planning. Can you imagine an organisation trying to survive five CEO changes in five years?

Political shenanigans aside, succession planning, especially for business critical roles, is absolutely crucial. Shareholder value, business continuity, organisational morale and market confidence are just a few of the things that can be rocked by poor CEO succession planning.

What does a really good CEO succession look like? Here is a case study from Evolve’s folio:

The challenge
The CEO of an ASX30 company confidentially communicated to the Chairman of the Board his desire to step down in six to nine months.

The CEO had been highly regarded by the Board as well as the market. During his tenure, he had successfully navigated the company through the post global financial crisis period, restructured the business and built a strong pool of internal talent. The CEO’s departure had been considered a ‘high risk business event’.

The solution
The Chairman and the Board had been following best practice governance and leadership risk management. A key component of their succession planning process was ensuring they were continuously considering candidates, internal as well as external, for business critical roles, including the CEO position.placeholderThe Board engaged Evolve Intelligence to apply our Succession Risk Management solution. Our reporting to the CEO Selection Sub-Committee accurately benchmarked the (four) internal candidates, against the global market; producing a final group of three potential external successors.

We collaborated with the Board to make certain that all seven candidates were objectively assessed against a specific ‘CEO Success Profile’; the process ensuring the prospective CEO’s skills, attributes and experiences were aligned to the company strategy and culture.

The outcome
Following a thorough evaluation process, an external candidate was appointed with unanimous Board support. The appointment, when formally announced to the market, was met with a positive response and a corresponding lift in share price.

The incoming CEO was able to benefit from a well-planned and executed handover period, including the opportunity to meet key staff, customers, partners and suppliers prior to commencement. Some three years after the appointment of the new CEO, the business is achieving its growth projections with a resultant doubling of shareholder value.

Whilst the appointment of a new CEO might, for some companies, suggest they no longer require a focus on succession, this company continues to partner with Evolve. We are working together to mitigate Human Capital-related risks, such as integration risk or the departure of key reports to the CEO.

The CEO has now outlasted three Prime Ministers.

To learn more about how Evolve Intelligence is advising leading companies on succession planning please visit our site or contact us. 

Read More

Why an integrated succession plan is key to reducing leadership risk

Saturday 27th February, 2016

Being in the people business, Evolve has seen numerous and diverse approaches to leadership succession, and from a best practice perspective, here is where we have landed…

... an integrated succession plan comprising internal and external talent presents the best visibility of succession talent and the greatest insurance policy for leadership risk management.

An integrated succession plan is vital because it:

1. Offers the clearest picture of the best possible team at any given time
2. Compares actual bench strength against possible bench strength
3. Reduces risk by having a breadth of options when someone in a business critical role resigns
4. Enables better business continuity by increasing choice
5. Presents the opportunity to configure permutations of ‘best team’ by allowing you to move the ‘chess pieces’ around virtually
6. Allows you to ‘see’ what the competition’s talent looks like in your team

Evolve has come up with its own model of an integrated succession plan because succession and leadership risk managemplaceholderent is the beating heart of our business. Our proprietary benchmarking methodology is known as the Intelligence Cycle.

Read More

Are you flying too close to the sun?

Friday 19th February, 2016

Sure, there are numerous benefits to being in close proximity to power, just don’t get so close that you become part of the collateral damage when the power base implodes.

In ancient Greek mythology, Icarus’s father gifts him with some ‘homemade’ wings of feathers and wax. The father warns Icarus against complacency, hubris and – given the well-known effect of heat on wax – flying too close to the sun. Needless to say, Icarus, loving the exhilaration of flying, did not listen to wise old dad. He flies too close to the sun, his wings melt, Icarus falls into the sea and drowns. Not a great outcome for Icarus.

Fast forward to now and the same outcome can be seen in business and politics. Yes, proximity to power is intoxicating. All the conferred authority, reflected glory (a.k.a. hubris), fringe benefits and career options are great. placeholder But what happens when you are seen as part of the inner circle and the nucleus implodes? We have all observed the careers that have become collateral damage when the ‘right hand person’ ties their destiny too closely to the faltering leader/mentor - just ask the ‘close associates’ of our last three Prime Ministers.

When the CEO goes, how many in the executive leadership team get to stay? Icarus was young and excitable and he paid the price. Make sure you heed the lessons of organisational history.

So, how do you know you are flying too close to the ‘sun’?

1. You have ‘followed the leader’ to more than three organisations – the operative word here is ‘followed’. It doesn’t count if you have made the moves together as talent imports

2. You no longer think of your career without the word ‘we’. When this happens, you will start to doubt your own abilities and believe that your future success is intrinsically linked to that of your leader’s

3. When people unconsciously start addressing both of you as one unit in meetings

Think you might get burnt? What you can do about it:

1. Establish and maintain your personal brand – work on being seen as a critical talent in your own right. Start to affirm this to yourself by listing your core strengths and skills

2. Take control. Plan your own ‘solo’ next steps – there are options out there for the (singular) you

3. Find and work with another mentor/leader who can give you a broader perspective/reality check

And finally, like for everthing else in life, find some balance. Getting close to the boss is great, just not too close.


Gareth Jones is an Executive Director and co-founder of Evolve Intelligence. The firm is a leading talent and corporate intelligence firm focussed on succession management, competitor intelligence (including talent benchmarking), talent solutions and board services.

Read More

Who do you know? Leveraging personal networks in talent and succession

Wednesday 10th February, 2016

The CEO has resigned. That means the CFO will follow shortly, they came from X together you know. Watch, the strategy team will be next, and that’s just for starters...

This type of scenario is not as sensational as it might first appear. We have all seen a seemingly solid ‘A team’ disintegrate. The collapse can be swift or slow, happening either immediately after the departure of the ‘key person’, or dying a slow, protracted death over time. Either way, the dominoes fall because a personal network dissolution has been triggered to the detriment of the organisation.

Of course, the reverse also happens. New hires bring their team and/or refer people to the benefit of an organisation. The process has a compounding effect, with every new recruit tapping their own personal network of potential talent. Within large global organisations it is not uncommon for the outcome to number well into the hundreds over a relatively short period.

For the purposes of this blog, a personal network is defined as a group of individuals whom have built a relationship which transcends the requirements and parameters of the workplace; individuals in the personal network proactively promote, defend and support each other. These personal networks can be very diverse and can include people at very different organisational levels. Don’t scoff, one of the most powerful personal networks I have ever personally observed was the ‘smokers’ at one UK firm.placeholder They didn’t work together and ranged in organisational status, but they were tightly bound by their habit, and if the CEO ever wanted an off-line message to spread in the organisation, all she needed to do was mention it to any one of the ‘smokers’.

Personal networks coalesce in many other ways and can be difficult to define by the outsider, but they are usually bound by a commonality. From a talent perspective, one of the most prominent personal networks that impact organisations are those relationships built early on within people’s careers. These relationships can be enduring and often represent an organisation’s unofficial alumni.

What makes personal networks so influential? Trust. People place significantly more trust in their managers and personal networks than organisations when it comes to managing their careers. Year after year it seems further research is released that demonstrates employee loyalty and engagement to organisations are at an all-time low. With these low levels of organisational loyalty and engagement, the default position for many employees is to trust their personal connections.

Read More

‘Talent Due Diligence’ - a vital part of your M&A

Thursday 4th February, 2016

It is well known that Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) are an attractive way of achieving speedy and substantive corporate growth. But the corporate M&A record is stark and bleak – historically, more than half of all such transactions fail to meet strategic and financial objectives.

If we make the assumption that the bankers, lawyers and accountants accurately performed the necessary due diligence, why is the M&A failure rate so high? I think in a lot of cases this is due to the lack of, or poor, pre-merger talent due diligence. The way to improve the odds of orchestrating a successful M&A transaction is to involve the human resource (HR) function well in advance of the deal being done and not just during the post-merger integration.placeholder

In most companies, once the up-front groundwork associated with a merger has been laid, HR is left with the arduous task of developing organisational change strategies and trying to blend disparate processes, systems and corporate cultures. Unfortunately, by this point in the process, many key talents in the acquired company have started heading for the exits. Those remaining are distracted and mired in the inertia of speculation. Is there any wonder why, after the first six months, most merged organisations are left with less value than on the day the deal was announced?

Read More

Are You a Great Leader? 5 Common Traits of Exceptional Leadership

Friday 18th December, 2015

Are you a great leader? If I directed the question at you, could you answer yes honestly? My guess is that most people reading this blog have sat up a little straighter and said to themselves, 'I am a good leader.'

Good and great, both words start with the letter G, but as we all know, there is a massive difference between the two. Good is reasonably common and great is rare. There is after all only one Luke Hodge in the AFL.

placeholderWhat makes a great leader great? This question in its various forms is one of the most common we encounter when speaking with our clients. The answers are diverse, subjective and situational. They most often include words and phrases like: visionary, strategic, strong communication skills, able to incite confidence, and takes their team along on the ride.

Distilling from what our clients most often look for in their executive leadership, here is my take on the 5 key qualities and characteristics that define a great leader: 

1. Flexibility: A great leader is one that can adapt, quickly. Flexibility is the key to excelling in our fast-moving, complex and ever changing world. Great leaders are progressive. They don’t have one static world view, they don’t fight change, they respond to disruption, market gaps, and innovation opportunities. Great leaders flex their styles to suit the circumstance. 

Read More

‘Socialisation’ drives competitive advantage and minimises your risks

Wednesday 9th December, 2015

Our clients engage us to advise them on their strategic and critical talent challenges. Even though the organisational impetuses for working with us are very diverse, all our clients share two fundamental needs:

1. Increase competitive advantage
2. Minimise the risks and costs associated with unplanned critical vacancies

Evolve Intelligence help our clients stay ahead of their competitors and mitigate their talent risks by building qualified pools of external talent. A vital component of our external talent model is the development of direct relationships between key client stakeholders and top talent in the market. This relationship is built during what we refer to as the ‘socialisation’ process.

An informal meeting ahead of any formal succession process or role vacancy, socialisation provides an opportunity for client stakeholders to personally connect with talented individuals.

Socialisation empowers. It enables our clients to make talent decisions in the absence of real vacancy pressures – organisations under pressure to fill an unexpected critical vacancy often hire ‘the best available at this moment in time’; the ‘need them right now’ hire often putting longer-term strategic alignment at risk. placeholderSocialisation allows our clients to position their businesses minus the need to ‘persuade’ and interview. At the same time, the process allows external talent to really connect with business decision makers without having to sell themselves into a live position. In the absence of the usual pressures, socialisation also facilitates considered, long-term decisions based on organisational and motivational fit. 

Areas typically covered in a socialisation meeting include positioning, culture, career pathways, development opportunities, competency alignment, motivation, mobility and market conditions. After the meeting our clients have: 

• A clear picture of the external talent’s career goals
• A sense of the challenges and developmental opportunities the talent is seeking and how to use this information to pique their interest should a relevant role arise
• Potential alignment of shared goals
• A better understanding of the external/competitor market
• Made a positive impression and enhanced their employer brand at a senior level
• Agreed follow-up actions
• A clear understanding of how to build and sustain the relationship moving forward

We think it is strategically vital to engage with future top talent now. Is your organisation proactively connecting with talent in your industry? If not, are your competitors taking the strategic lead on this initiative?

To learn more about Evolve Intelligence’s talent models, please visit our website or contact us.


Stephen Harvey is an Executive Director at Evolve Intelligence.

Read More

7 critical steps in talent pipelining

Tuesday 1st December, 2015

Despite the world becoming increasingly connected and accessible, many organisations continue to grapple with creating effective talent engagement and sourcing initiatives.

My observation of talent strategies is that the successful ones share 7 key elements. When combined, the elements enable successful delivery of robust pipelines of talent that provide measurable hires and referrals. Done well, this process will also begin to provide intelligence for your business, greater awareness of your talent brand and a sustainable resource that reduces cost.

At a high level, the 7 critical pieces look like this:

1. Define a simple goal

Define a simple goal and the 20-second explanation for it. This ensures you will always remember the outcome you are working toward and enable you to bring others along with you on your journey. Give the project a name if that is more engaging for your audience.  As we all know, merit alone does not guarantee the success of business projects, stakeholder engagement is often the key.

Remember that the concepts of ‘Talent’ and ‘Talent Pipeline’ mean different things to different people, so you need to be able to articulate your intent and definitions with simple communication – this is your internal marketing mantra.  

2. Clearly identify Critical Talent and prioritise

Start small. Many resourcing functions have limited resources dedicated to passive recruitment activities. Given the constraints, it’s unlikely you will be able to pipeline all of your critical talent needs and continue to deliver to business-as-usual sourcing and recruitment. Set yourself up for success. Define critical – which by its nature is only a few. Break them down again and prioritise. Deliver small successes and then make them bigger. Ensure you deliver measurable outcomes with impressive impact. This is your internal marketing content.

 3. Communicate, Promote, Communicate – Repeat.

You can’t listen too much. Canvass opinion on your planned approach far and wide with the business, remembering that you probably have more interested stakeholders than you think. Ask them, very specifically, to define what ‘success’ looks like to them and don’t settle for the glib answer of, ‘send me the right people’. 

Stakeholders buy into what they define. Gaining insight into what the business wants will help you deliver the right solution. You will be surprised by the varied priorities and be able to leverage common themes.

Proactive talent activity can be a ‘slow burn’, especially initially. Give some thought from the outset to what quick wins you might need to provide to further engage your stakeholders: market intelligence, competitor intelligence and brand perception are just some examples. Promote your work, create dashboards to demonstrate the progress – this is your internal marketing platform.  

Read More

13 derailers of CEO succession you should know about

Friday 20th November, 2015

What happens when your CEO unexpectedly resigns?

At Evolve, our experience in advising leading company boards on CEO succession risk management has taught us there are 13 critical elements that have the potential to ‘derail’ the CEO succession planning process.

It is essential that boards are aware of, and fully address, all 13 elements during the CEO succession planning process.  Failure to do so will ultimately lead to heightened leadership risk and threaten the performance and continuity of their business.

So what are the 13 derailers?

1.  The Board is unable to reach unanimous agreement on the CEO success profile and/or the success profile alignment to the company vision and strategy

2.  Inexperienced CEO Succession Committee operating without a charter

3.  Allowing the incumbent CEO to play ‘kingmaker’

4.  Lack of a considered and comprehensive candidate assessment process

5.  Not extracting maximum return-on-investment from the recruitment component of the process

6.  Absence of comprehensive internal and external communication plans

7.  Confidentiality breach e.g. media leak

Read More

From Champions in May to Chumps in November: could some planning have prevented Chelsea's fall?

Wednesday 11th November, 2015

A confession: I am completely obsessed and passionate about the English Premier League, OBSESSED! Even six years of living in Melbourne has not cured this Brit. To my mind, the Premier League is a thing of utter beauty.

What does football (yes Aussies, football) have to do with Evolve Intelligence you’re probably wondering? Plenty…. hear me out.

I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the work we do, specifically succession planning, and how the lack of it is contributing to the fall of Chelsea – who went from last year’s League champions to suffering seven defeats in 12 matches; more than the whole of last season’s 38 games.

placeholderSuccession planning is one of the key differentiating services we provide at Evolve Intelligence. We define it as the continuous process of identifying and evaluating external talent and benchmarking them against internal teams and key critical roles. Essentially, it’s about being strategic and proactive when it comes to your people plans, ensuring you have the talent you need to succeed in the direction your business is moving. The three key words are continuous, strategic and proactive. Just as you can’t win football solely by defending, when it comes to talent, you need a plan of attack.

Read More

The Art of Finding Smart: attracting exceptional leaders

Thursday 5th November, 2015

The link between exceptional leadership and strong company performance is all but universally acknowledged. Yet there are still many companies out there who don’t have the leaders they need to take their organisations to the next level. What’s good today doesn’t necessarily translate into great tomorrow, particularly in the context of disruptions and industry paradigm change. 

placeholderThe truly talented leaders who are capable of game-changing leadership – and by that I mean the leaders who are able to inspire and steer their teams to sustained peak performance in any commercial condition – are in high demand. They are often sought by companies outside their industry verticals and geographical boundaries. In some cases they are approached multiple times a day about jobs based all over the world. It goes without saying that these are busy people thriving in their challenging roles; they don’t have the time to seriously consider every phone call they receive. So at the heart of the talent competition is the question: What is the art of finding smart?

Read More

It's a People Business!

Tuesday 27th October, 2015

If you think every recruiter is sourcing via LinkedIn, you are right. All the latest talent sourcing studies show LinkedIn as the number one social media resource for identifying talent. Ostensibly, finding individuals with specific skills has become as easy as typing a few search parameters and receiving a deluge of potential candidates, but is the wonderful world of algorithms really so wonderful? placeholder

Of course, the heavy reliance on database sourcing is not new. Sourcing has just migrated outside the limitations of traditional recruitment firm databases to the cornucopia of social media. I believe the technology is different but the behaviour is the same. Growing up in our digitised world, the new generation of recruiters has been conditioned to wanting, and getting, some quick answers. They believe everything they need is at their fingertips.

Yes, the readily available data is very convenient, but the problem with this approach is that we are dealing with people, not data. People are multi-dimensional, complex and so much more (or less) than even the most fulsome LinkedIn profile.

I am going to say it: lazy recruiting creates lazy recruiters. A heavy reliance on internet data means the Search, Sourcing and Talent industry is in danger of losing the ability to think, innovate, network and thereby add true value to our clients.

Read More

Transitioning to Transurban: leadership, development and the business

Friday 16th October, 2015

Transurban’s* CFO, Adam Watson, joined the organisation in late 2014 from Australia Pacific Airports Corporation where he was the Chief Financial Officer. Adam previously held a number of senior executive roles at BlueScope Steel across corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions, joint ventures, and capital investment in Australia, the US and China. Prior to this, Adam held senior roles at Spotless Group Limited, including General Manager Corporate Development and Chief Financial Officer of international operations.

placeholderEvolve Intelligence took the opportunity to sit down with Adam as he nears his first year anniversary at Transurban to learn about his approach to leadership and performance, the experience of taking on a major ASX company CFO role for the first time, what he is learning in the process and what the future holds.

Read More

HR Transformation - faking it or making it?

Thursday 8th October, 2015

It’s everywhere. Over the last few years the term HR Transformation has been thrown around flippantly to cover any sort of change from a minor technology enhancement to any form of restructure. I wonder whether HR is doing itself any favours by overusing this term. Change is now a constant but not every change is transformative.

HR Transformation is by no means new. The thinking behind it is now over 20 years in the making. In the beginning, the term encapsulated the HR ambition to move from an administrative function to strategic, it then morphed into being synonymous with major HR technology implementations. In time, it has also included a significant push to outsource HR functions as well as a move to the Ulrich inspired delivery model. These were all transformative changes to how HR operates – that is, the outcome fundamentally looks, feels and functions differently to what was there previously and adds tangible value to the business.

Read More