Category Archives: Human Resources

If not this job, then what? In an interview.

So, for the last few weeks, I’ve been interviewing candidates in an attempt to find a salesperson in real estate.  I’ve interviewed just over 35 candidates from a pool of just over 280, both experienced, and inexperienced. Both prepared, and unprepared.

People, please, for the love of God, be prepared for your interview’s, that includes a good dose of self-awareness.

Some basic rules for you,

1.Be presentable, hygienic and groomed. Ask yourself this question. Would you trust someone with tattoo’s, nose rings, and dreadlocks and had a bad case of BO?(body odour/odour depending on what side of the pond you live in).  Come on, are you serious? I’d expect that maybe from a teenager, not adults. Would you accept that from a lawyer, accountant, doctor or any type of technical/professional persons or a sales professional?  Now, I know some of you might be thinking, well they could be on medication or other physical issues. Whilst that may be the case, you are competing for a livelihood.  Let me ask you this, would you entrust someone with the negotiation and contract of your home? Let me ask you a further question if all things being equal, would you choose someone that looks the part or someone that doesn’t?  Selling is difficult already, you don’t want another barrier that may affect your results. Show up with ironed clothes, deodorant and groomed, if you can’t, outframe the obvious so it doesn’t become the focus the interview. Otherwise, I’m thinking of “risk”.

2. Know something about the area(real estate): Showing up to a sales job and not knowing something about the product/service e.g. population of the area, number of householders, clearing rates, competitors, the number of stock available, etc.. is not a winning strategy. Especially when you get asked, What do you know about the area? and you respond with, “ahhh…mmmm not a lot’. Ouch. The interviewer is thinking “risk”.

3. Know something about the role. Anything. Know anything, like what the role of a salesperson is, what some sales activities could be? Even if you’re a beginner. Youtube it, Google it. Do something that gives you some applicable knowledge and demonstrates that you maybe…. care? If not, the interviewer is thinking “risk”.

4. As an interviewer, if I ask you a question like, “if you don’t get this job, then what?” Don’t say, “I want to get into child care” or “I want to work in retail” or “I just want any job”. That is not an answer that inspires value nor commitment. The interviewer is thinking “risk”.

5. In your resume, in the career objectives section… It would be useful to make the objective about the industry you’re going for or the position you’re going for not something completely unrelated. Out of the 280 resumes, conservatively 50% of them had things like, “want to further develop my horticultural skills.” What? This is real estate sales or ” want to become a proficient online seller”,  Huh…? This is real estate sales. I’m thinking of “risk”. You don’t even get a look in, you’re out.

6. Genuine interest. Try and I mean try to show some enthusiasm, some bright-eyed enthusiasm, like maybe you want the job? Have a strong cup of coffee before you walk in. Put a spring in your step. Professor Albert Mehrabian said 55% of your communication is body language. If I’m relaxed don’t match and mirror me, don’t get comfortable. This is a formal interview, be formal, be professional show me that you’re self-aware,  otherwise, I’m thinking “risk”.

7. If you get a question like, “Just say we future paced you 10 years from now, what income would you expect to be earning?” Some of the answers I got, “what I’d be earning now”, “$10,000 on top of the base rate”, “$60,000 on top of the base pay”. Whilst there is no right answer to this question, you need to be thinking an obscene number. This is sales,  it shows me you’re a level of commitment, resilience and pushing forward. P.S. Don’t get confused between motivation and commitment. Motivation is a fleeting thing, whereas commitment means you’re all in, all the time, every day (and twice on Sundays). It shows that you are a go-getter. In sales, you have to demonstrate hunger, and this is one way of showing that and no it’s not the only way (planning, prioritising and execution are others). If you don’t demonstrate any of these, I’m thinking “risk”.

8. Prospecting and resiliency, know what that means. So, if you get a question like, “you’ve made 400 calls & 5 appraisals this week and every call was a ‘No’, ‘I’m not interested’ or worse. How would you manage yourself? What would you do?” Answers I heard, “I’d quit, I’d get fired, I mustn’t be very good, I wasn’t trained properly, It really wouldn’t bother me” , etc. Think about it this way, if you weren’t getting the results, would you seek help and or assistance? Imagine doing the same thing over and over and over again and expecting a different result. Who coined it as insane? And you already guessed it, I’m thinking “risk”.

Last point….(I promise). When you get asked, ‘do you have any questions”? If you don’t want the job, say no. If you do want the job it’s an opportunity to engage the interviewer at a deeper level about the role, the organisation, the industry, their vision mission purpose, greatest barriers, expectations in the first 30 days, etc. Just be careful not to ask questions that are freely available on their website. Here are some questions you could ask:

a. What does a typical day look like?(Is this business seasonal, when should I be putting in the extra effort so I can still meet and exceed targets?)

b. Who will I be working with or coaching me?

c. What would you say the management and leadership style is like?

d. When do team members typically start seeing results? (what works best?, how would you approach this?)

e. What could be some of the barriers and opportunities I might encounter?

f. Why do you like working for this organisation?(A very telling question)

If you’ve made the above mistakes, let this be the last time you make them. As always, a rejection, a no, a no you’re not a team fit, or any other turn down, let that be the indicator that some part of your interview process/engagement has to change. If you’re getting “no’s” all it means is you don’t know something. Quickly find out what you don’t know and keep testing until you get it right. DO NOT internalise the rejection, all its telling you is the process you’ve used needs to change. Focus on the change.(This is not about beating yourself up, the market will do that for you.)

Feel free to ask any questions. I will do my best to answer them and if can’t I can find people who can.

Tell me about a strength you have? In an interview.

A couple of weeks ago I was doing some interviews to select a PA for a medium-size business. When the question of, “Tell me about your strengths?” was asked it was surprising out of the 11 candidates interviewed 2 were thoroughly prepared. The others whilst their answers were good, were delivered with plenty of filler words like, ahh, mmm, not sure, how would you like me to answer that?…what? …it was disappointing.

Disappointing that I could clearly see they had what it took to do the job but for some reason, didn’t deliver in the clutch moment. Not being prepared is expensive.   Let me explain, you’re going for a job worth $70,000, your current level is $60,000. How much time, effort and money are you prepared to invest in yourself to secure that level of income? Just showing up with no prep,… you’re gone. There is always someone better, stronger, cheaper and faster than you. I’m always reminded of a Red Adair’s quote,

“If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.”

Employers are really just looking for certainty. I’m always looking for one standout from a holistic standpoint. It’s a tough question to answer if you haven’t previously thought through a couple of examples. As always preparation is everything. Here are some examples of “Tell me about a strength? type questions answered by candidates:


a. I’m good at everything.

b. I can do anything well, once I’m shown.

c. What do I need to be good at?

d. With time I could make anything my strength.

e. Ummm….what?, what do you mean?

f. Pacifically, I’m great at….(no that’s not a typo)

g. Well, what do I need to be good at?

With all of these responses, I’m thinking risk. There is nothing in these answers that highlights value. Just remember that the hiring decision is not just based on one question.

The failure of candidates is not looking at the role description or advertisement where it clearly states what the essential criteria are. In that is the strengths the employer is looking for. Do your homework, winging it or hoping is not a winning strategy.

Here are some examples of “Tell me about a strength? type questions you may be asked.

a. When push comes to shove, what are you about?
b. What do you think would differentiate you from the rest?
c. What are your 2 core strengths, how do you think those strengths could add value to this organisation and position?
d. What makes you the ideal candidate?
e. If you had to choose strength, eg time management, people management or leadership?(depending on the role) what would you choose and why?
f. How would you apply your strengths to this role?
g. What skills do you bring?
h. From your current or past positions, what trait would be important in this role?
i. If there was a personal trait that you believe would add value to this role or organisation, what would it be?
j. If you had to solve this (insert problem), how would you approach it?

Why employers ask this question.

There are a number of reasons for asking this question, some are listed below:

a. It tells the interviewer about your self-awareness. In other words, what do you consider of value and if it aligns with the organisation? The other is discovering whether or not you’ve done your research on the role and the organisation.

b. It tells the interviewer if you’ve identified what the role entails and or you have a proven track record or can provide evidence on how you could support achieving the organisational goals.

c. It identifies where your strengths lay in the specific role.

d.  It tells them about your communication skills at various levels tactical, operational and strategic.

e. They could be looking to use that question to garner further information about character type, values and beliefs in relation to the job.

How to answer this question?

It’s fairly straight forward, just look at the role description and it tells you right there what the needs of the roles are. If you don’t have a role description, do some research. They are all fairly similar across industries.

It’s surprising how many people don’t read the advert and join the dots between their strengths and the job role.

Answering this question is similar to answering the what is your weakness? question.

Strategy 1

Challenge Action Results (CAR)

  1. Think of a specific “challenge” or “situation” that you and or the organisation faced? What specific things did you have to do? What was the danger,?eg cost, customer, competitive advantage etc
  2. What “actions” were you responsible for? Think about it as intention, outcome, processes and behaviour. What did you do?
  3. “Results”,  what happened as a result of the actions you took? what was the short term, medium-term and long term results? Are you able to describe the results in relation to metrics, budget, revenue, time, savings etc


Strategy 2

Situation Task Action Results (STAR)

Situation, describe the event and the context. Make it clear and concise.

Task, what did you identify that needed to get done?  How did you know it was that?

Activity, what specific things did you do? what were 2-3 things you did that managed the situation and or risk?

Result, what were the results? Was is what was anticipated? How did it help you and the organisation? What were 3 benefits?

Remember, when using these types structures  include tangible things like metrics, budgets, revenue, time, savings etc

Eg if you were to hire a Barista and 2 candidates have the same qualifications, same experience, the same type of personality but when asked, “what is your strength?”. One said “I make the best coffees in Sydney” and the other said:

“I know how to make 15 different types of coffee, I’ve invented one that increased our sales by 3% and I’m able to make 50 coffees per hour. On average I upsell a cookie with every coffee which converts to a purchase 50% of the time. By the way, I make the best coffee in Sydney.” Who would you hire? Find your VALUE story.

 Example 1

I recently coached a 20-year-old for an interview for an entry-level banking role. He had no real solid experience. He had short stint jobs at a fast-food chain, a removalist, a carpet laying organisation and at a luxury car dealership, driving luxury vehicles to and from the workshop/customers. When we got to the, “what is your strength?”, question. It was crickets…..nothing.

I asked him to think about why his employer trusted him to drive both new and used cars valued in some cases from $150,000 to $400,000? Can you guess what one of his strengths maybe that could be valued by a bank? Steadiness, risk-averse behaviour, responsibility, customer service, pride in his work, trustworthiness, reliability and integrity.

If he didn’t prepare he would not have recognised firstly, what value he brought and secondly, articulated himself in such a way that demonstrated professionalism and seriousness. Preparation is everything. For those of you who are not convinced, his pay went from $29,000 to $40,000. What did it cost him? 3-4 hrs. Not only money well spent but time well spent. This the internet age, you want to know anything there is someone out there that can give the answer faster than ever before. Use it.

Using CAR for the above example,

Challenge/situation, getting cars to clients in the shortest amount of time as well as dropping off a replacement vehicle.  Most people that hand keys of their luxury vehicle over to a 20 something are apprehensive about handing their keys over.

Action, Ensure that I wear a properly fitting professional attire because image is everything. Ensure that I address the customer formally and speak to them without the use of slang words and clearly communicate about when their car would be available.his the internet age, you want to anything there is someone out there that can give the answer faster than ever before. Use it.

Results, I have received tips, the message of a job well done to my employer.

Using STAR

Situation. Part of my job is to provide replacement cars for the cars that are being serviced. I have to pick up and hand over 10 cars daily. Whilst you may think this is easy, it isn’t. I have timelines that have to be met so careful planning of routes and times are critical. The other challenge is being so young some customers are hesitant to hand over their keys to a vehicle worth over $150,000.

Task, plan the day ensure loan cars are available and the customer has confirmed the booking for the car service. Ensure, that when on-site if any further instructions are given that I accurately and reliably pass that message on using our mobile CRM. We are all responsible for the end-user experience. Dropping a loan car off sometimes requires me to induct the customer in the loan car if necessary, provide information about service and the estimated time of return.

Activity, Ensure the car is returned to the workshop with any additional instructions, provide paperwork that includes a visual inspection of the vehicle to the mechanic. Get an estimated time of finish and schedule into my calendar.

Result, Happy customer that receives the car repaired and returned on time. I work closely with the head of the workshop and we collaborate constantly about the progress of cars or if there are any opportunities to bring other cars in because we are ahead of schedule. Focusing on the end-user makes the decision easier but not necessarily less work.

The Takeaway.

Brainstorm your strengths and analyse the role you’re applying for. Define what strength the position requires. eg  A project manager needs excellent communication skills both verbal and written, conflict management skills, stakeholder management skills, financial management skills etc

Every role has a unique set of strengths required. If you have no idea call someone or Google it. You will find an answer.

Whether or not you use CAR or STAR methods identify, 3 to 5 targeted examples(your stories) that demonstrate your capability and depth of skill and knowledge. And finally, rehearse it so it’s like a regular conversation with the least amount of anxiety as possible. Preparation is everything.


Why should I hire you? In an interview.

One of the most common questions asked in an interview is “Why should I hire you?”. These questions can also appear as  follows:

  1. Why should I hire you?
  2. What makes you think you’re the person for this job?
  3. Out of all the candidates, what’s special about you?
  4. What do you bring?
  5. Why do you think you’re the right fit?
  6. What skills do you think are important for this role?
  7. Knowing, what you know about our organisation, why are you the right person?

These are some of the responses I have heard from interviewees:

  1. I’m the best. (with no follow-up)
  2. Why wouldn’t you choose me, I’m most qualified.
  3. Seriously,….We’ve covered this already.
  4. I represent the most value for money. (with no follow-up)
  5. I’ll turn up to work on time.
  6. I really need this job.
  7. I won’t take sick days.
  8. Mmmm…ahhh well I’ve got the qualifications and I really want the job.
  9. I’m not one for being indirect. If something not right I will definitely speak up regardless of who is in the room.

If you don’t properly prepare your responses may create uncertainty, therefore, the hiring manager/HR may see you as a risk to the business and its people.  When a hiring/HR manager hears a risk answer like some of the above responses. They automatically start looking for the second then the third and at that point your chance of completing the interview successfully is unlikely.  Preparation is critical because you want to last as long as possible, enough so you’re the last person standing. You must represent value and really the only way to do that is understand the job, the organisation and the market the organisation works in. It’s competitive advantage.

Asking, Why should I hire you?reveals a few of things:

  1. Your career goals are aligned with the position and the organisation.
  2. Can you really deliver the results that the organisation needs and can you provide a real competitive advantage? Your competitive advantage is critical to understand.
  3. Do you fit in the team, the organisation and fill the gap in the team and or organisation?
  4. Do your unique combination of hard skills, soft skills and experience create a current/future competitive advantage for the organisation.
  5. Are you able to communicate in a way that influences and persuades? and
  6. Do you know anything about the organisation/market and its position.

Answering, Why should I hire you?

You definitely need a format to answer this question. Not being able to adequately influence and persuade the interviewer will lead to a no decision or a rejection letter.

This question is essentially a sales job. Think about it this way, we all are selling something. Whether or not you agree, we are constantly selling. We sell ideas, products, services and processes. Have you ever made a suggestion and tried to influence the outcome? Like, ”let’s have Thai food tonight” but your friend wants pizza. What reasons did you come up with to change their mind and see it your way.  How many reasons did you come up with 1, 2, 3, 4 -10? It’s sales right.

How do you influence and persuade? There are many ways to do this. Here are two methods but there are others. One way is using FBA. FBA, stands for features, benefits and advantages. The other method is using a form of the elevator pitch called the Gaddie pitch.

Strategy #1

Let’s look at FBA first.

It’s a simple formula,

Features, in other words, “My skills/capability…….”

Benefits, in other words, “which means to you/organisation…”

Advantages, in other words, “And that means…..”

Here are some examples below,

Example 1

Why should I hire you?

There are a number of reasons why I am the ideal candidate for the position.

My capability extends to conflict management and beyond, which means that I am able to effectively deliver resolutions and solutions both internally and externally, which really means that when you delegate to me I can deliver the right result both for your business and your customer. An example is when I solved a client issue that was going to cost the organisation over $1000 but because I was able to apply Gottman’s model of conflict, I not only saved the $1000 but saved our customer.

Example 2

Why should I hire you?

There are a number of reasons why I am the ideal candidate for this position.

My capability in commercial and residential sales goes beyond merely the transactional relationship, which means I actively increase the per sale revenue consistently, which really means that I can package sales(bundle), build relationships and manage the client.  I qualify and really listen to what the customer is attempting to solve. An example as provided earlier is my average sales has increased 10% over the last 4 quarters. Which I intend to keep doing for you when I’m hired.

Example 3

Why should I hire you?

There are a number of reasons why I am the ideal candidate/employee for this position.

My capabilities extend to managing and executing projects up to $5M, which means I can quickly walk into this position with minimal supervision, direction and begin delivering real results to your organisation and your customer, which really means I’ve created real value both short term and long term because:

a. I’m qualified,

b. I have the experience in large projects and

c. I have managed teams and consistently brought my projects in on time and on budget. You could provide an example here.

That’s the structure you could put your response into. Be sure to have 3 or 4 FBA’s and examples to support your statements.

Don’t walk into an interview without your stories/examples. Don’t think you’ll be Johnny on the spot when this question is asked. Be prepare with some good examples that demonstrated capability.

Strategy #2

The elevator pitch (I know it’s not traditional, but it’s still a valuable tool)

The traditional use of an elevator pitch is to begin a conversation. The definition;

An elevator pitch is a brief, persuasive speech that you use to spark interest in what your organisation does. You can also use them to create interest in a project, idea, or product – or in yourself. A good elevator pitch should last no longer than a short elevator ride of 20 to 30 seconds, hence the name.

To formulate the pitch I like using the Gaddie Pitch, It contains 3 questions you must answer:

  1. Who is the target customer?
  2. What are their typical problems?
  3. What we/I do?(benefits/feelings)

Once you’ve collected that information put it together as follows.

  1. You know how target has these problems?
  2. What I do (benefits/feeling)?
  3. In fact, here is an example.(provide an example/story that demonstrates it)

For example, say it’s a retail job in a sporting goods store that you’re going for. You need to consider it from the employer’s perspective. They’re looking for someone who will ultimately create a positive customer experience that translates to sales, that will create a returning customer and positive word of mouth.

Let’s apply the Gaddie to the question of, “why do you want the job?”

Part 1

  1. Who is the target customer?

            Active people or new entrants to sports and exercise

  1. What are the typical problems that the customer?

           Customer browsing and walking out without making a purchase.

  1. What we/I do?(benefits/feeling)?

           I engage customers with my proven sales training and close 60% of walk-ins.

Part 2

  1. You know when a customer walks into the store most of the other candidates don’t know the products like I do. For example, the customer wants to buy a bike, I qualify/discover what the buyer needs are. Based on that, I show them 3 options and how they could own it now. Whilst other candidates are stuck at, “can I help you?” missing a critical opportunity to add value to the customer.
  2. What I bring to your business is several closing strategies like, “I need to think about”, or “it’s too expensive close” and “I need to think about close” to name a few. This enables me to consistently close customers and create urgency around the product purchase.
  3. In fact, in my current job I sold 5 bikes in one day with an average value of $700 but more importantly, I was able to bundle shoes, puncture repair kit at an additional value of $150 per bike sold.

The Take-Away

Being prepared and understanding the job role, the organisation and market it operates in are valuable. Understand the employer’s perspective is even more important. Next time you’re preparing for an interview consider using FBA’s and or the Gaddie. Not only will you find that the interview flows better but you will be hitting all the value points a hiring manager/HR are looking for. Remember, you always want to come across as a value decision, not a risk decision so practice, practice, practice.

Paint a picture for the employer that puts you in the frame.

Can you tell me about your weakness? In an interview.

I completed a number of interviews a few days ago and as part of the interview process I asked everyone’s favourite,

“Can you tell me about a weakness?”

These are some of the answers I heard in those interviews.

  1. I don’t have any weaknesses.
  2. Some people tell me I’m a control freak.
  3. I can’t say that I really have any professional weaknesses.
  4. Nobody is game to tell me.
  5. Do you have any weaknesses?
  6. I’ll let you know when I find them.
  7. Some people tell me that I’m difficult to work with.
  8. I tend to take on too much on and can’t say no.
  9. I’ve been told I don’t take things seriously.
  10. Getting up in the morning and probably getting to work on time.
  11. I find it difficult to follow verbal instructions.
  12. I’m impatient with dumb people.

If you’re the employer what is one word that comes to mind when you hear these responses?

RISK. It screams risk.

One piece of advice that most hiring/HR managers would give you for free, is to “Be Prepared”. Hope is not a strategy worth pursuing.

Don’t walk into an interview without some preparation, seriously, rehearse some of the questions you are likely to encounter. DO some homework on the role, the industry and potentially key people.

Remember, you’re not going for the robot delivery or a disingenuous demeanour or just not being prepared at all. Keep this in the back of your mind, the hiring/HR manager is trying to decide whether or not you are a risk to the organisation and its people.

Don’t give the hiring/HR manager a reason to dismiss the application. It really is a fight for survival, well, that’s the way I look at it. You are competing with other candidates and competition these days is fierce. For some, the difference between getting a job or not getting a job,  is the difference between putting food on the table or not putting food on the table. The workforce is like the jungle, and it’s survival of the fittest out there.

Maybe another way to think about this is if you going for a job worth say $50,000pa what investment would you make to get the job. That is, how time would you invest to ensure you are as prepared as you can be to get the job. Is it 30 minutes, 60 minutes, 2 hours or 5 hours? It’s up to you.

So, the weakness question is really trying to extract from you whether or not you are self-aware and more over can self-regulate in teams and organisations.

Let’s look at self-awareness. It is defined as:
 The accurate appraisal and understanding of your abilities and preferences and their implications for your behaviour and their impact on others.

You must understand how your behaviour affects your environment, whether it be positive, negative or indifferent.

Let me give you an example. Some weeks ago in a coaching training session for supervisors, all learners were requested to present a simple psychological model using specific language and framing strategies. The whole group of 16 except for 1 completed the task. That one person used a manipulation and sniper strategy to deflect their failure to prepare, and they also attempted to manipulate other members of the group in an effort to turn them against the exercise and the material.

Whilst it was entertaining seeing “below the line behaviours” in action, these behaviours ultimately meant to me, the others in the group, and to the organisation that in fact this person’s behaviour was a risk. In other words, this person would rather “be right” than “getting it right” (You know the type, argumentative, and insistent with no real point other than wanting to be right.)

Which brings me to self-regulation:

Selfregulation is the ability to monitor and control our own behaviour, emotions, or thoughts, altering them in accordance with the demands of the situation.”

When selecting one or more weakness examples, be strategic in your selection. Here are a couple of rules.

  1. Don’t pick a weakness that is specific to the job.
  2. Don’t pick a weakness that is not easily fixable.
  3. Don’t pick something that may be considered as trivial or not valuable.

Example 1

Tell me about a weakness?

One of my weaknesses is time management. For some reason, I wasn’t getting all my work done in the allocated time and having to stay back to complete it. When I realised that is was unsustainable. I sought some feedback and I out of my own pocket undertook a time management course. This has enabled me not only to become a more effective planner, but it enabled me to have productive conversations so I could get my work done on time, every time. Let me give you an example. I would use the Eisenhower Matrix to determine with my supervisors the important vs the urgent tasks.

What’s important about a weakness question is that you are able to identify the challenge in past tense, and then how you solved it and what that has translated to in the present.

Example 2

Tell me about a weakness?

I have received feedback in my annual performance appraisal process that I need to take more time providing full information and not assuming team members know what to do.

I engaged a business/leadership coach that provided me with not only the awareness but also the language required to engage at a higher level and therefore empower my team members to get the best possible results. It didn’t take very long and it was the best career investment I have ever made. Let me give you an example, I was in a project team that had a very tight timeline. As part of the planning process, I put together a communication plan with specific needs at every point. The result was I communicated more effectively and therefore we were a more efficient as a team.

Example 3

Tell about a weakness?

In a project, I tend to be a little too direct and straight forward. Whilst this is my natural tendency I realised it may not be the best way to get the best out of the team or external customers. Upon realising very quickly that I could do this better, I sourced and enrolled in a conflict management course. This had a 2-fold effect on my performance,

  1. I became better at providing feedback in difficult situations and
  2. I was able to pre-emptively recognise low-level conflict situations before they become real issues.

So what’s the lesson here? BE PREPARED. Have at least 3 weakness and examples of how you solved them and the value you brought to the organisation. Remember, what hiring/HR managers are really attempting to do is identify and reduce risk. Your job in the interview is to demonstrate that you are in fact self-aware and you are able to self-regulate in uncertain situations. Do these things, and you’ll survive the jungle.

​Strategies to cut absenteeism have little impact by Mike Toten

Employees average almost nine days of unscheduled absences from work each year, and strategies to manage absenteeism appear to have little impact.

A survey of 533 HR practitioners by the Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) found that organisations seemed resigned to the problem continuing.

While about two-thirds thought (predictably) that absenteeism was too high, almost 60 per cent cited employee disengagement as the main cause of it and about 40 per cent were not investigating the underlying causes.

The survey is the latest in AHRI’s HR Pulse series.

Gary Tremolada Training Leadership coach mentoring

Absence rates and trends

Only 13 per cent reported a reduction in absenteeism over the past year, whereas more than 40 per cent believed that unscheduled absences had increased and 46 per cent reported no change.

The average absentee rate per employee was 8.8 days per year – only slightly less than the 10 days paid sick leave per year that most employees are entitled to. The private sector rate was 7.4 days versus 9.8 days for the not-for-profit sector and 10.8 days for the public sector.

Causes of absenteeism

Almost two-thirds of respondents believed their workplace absence rates were too high and 80 per cent believed they could be reduced. About 60 per cent said unscheduled absences caused low morale.

The main reasons for unscheduled absenteeism (aside from genuine illness) were:

  • low levels of employee engagement
  • a culture of sick leave entitlement
  • poor leadership style and management practice.

Three-quarters of organisations recorded unscheduled absences. Private sector employers were less likely to regard the rate as too high (56 per cent) than those in the other sectors (more than 70%).

About 40 per cent of private sector employers said their current rate was “about right” versus about one-quarter in the other sectors. Public sector employers were about twice as likely to regard the rate as “far too high” (about one-third).



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Main reasons for short-term absences

The two most common reasons given by employees were minor illnesses such as colds, headaches and stomach upsets (93 per cent) and family/carer’s responsibilities (76 per cent).

Recurring conditions such as asthma and allergies, stress and injuries/illnesses unrelated to work were mentioned by about 30 per cent and mental ill health by 21 per cent. Alcohol/drug-related conditions were only mentioned by five per cent.

The reasons for long-term absences were a broader list, the most frequent being acute medical conditions (such as heart attack, stroke, cancer), injuries/illnesses unrelated to work and family/carer’s responsibilities. Mental ill health was mentioned by 32 per cent and stress by 26 per cent.

How serious is the problem?

Respondents were evenly divided about the gravity of taking “sickies”. Almost half (47 per cent) said it was a moderate or serious problem and 53 per cent said it was either minor or not a problem.

The main consequences for workplaces were reduced productivity (in about 80 per cent of cases), low morale of staff filling in for absent employees (60 per cent), and time losses due to managing absenteeism, reallocating work, finding replacement staff etc (48 per cent). Only three per cent reported no negative effects.

However, only about 20 per cent of employers measure the cost of absences, even though 80 per cent believed their rates could be reduced.

About half of employers analysed absenteeism data on a regular basis and 22 per cent studied data from employee surveys. Almost 40 per cent did not analyse underlying causes of absence at all.

The following causal factors were mentioned by more than half the respondents:

  • low levels of employee engagement
  • culture of sick leave entitlement
  • high workload or work-related stress
  • poor leadership style and management practices

For all causes, the rates were about 10 per cent higher in the public sector.

Strategies for managing absences

There was a mismatch between the management strategies most used and those considered most effective.
The most used were (in order of frequency):

  • requesting medical evidence
  • referral to Employee Assistance Programs
  • provision of flexible work options
  • disciplinary procedures for unexplained/unacceptable rates of absence
  • health/wellbeing initiatives and
  • clear communication of attendance expectations.

About 30 per cent said they relied on manager training, return-to-work interviews and triggers for further investigation.

Although 73 per cent requested medical evidence, only 33 per cent believed it was an effective management tool. Flexible work options were voted the most effective option by 42 per cent of respondents, followed by clear communication of attendance expectations, return-to-work interviews, manager training and disciplinary procedures (each between 23 per cent and 29 per cent).

About 40 per cent intended to increase their range of health and wellbeing initiatives over the next year.

Presenteeism has lesser impact

The survey also covered views about presenteeism at work, but in general found it had a much lesser impact than absenteeism. About two-thirds said the level had not changed over the past year, but about 30 per cent claimed it had become worse. Only 20 per cent regarded presenteeism as a moderate or serious problem.

Main contributing factors to it were (in order):

  • high workload/work-related stress
  • illness not serious enough to take time off
  • no-one to cover job while absent
  • self-pressure
  • pressure from management/peers to stay at work.

The most common strategies for managing presenteeism were:

  • encouraging unwell employees to recover and sending sick ones home
  • providing flexible work options
  • Employee Assistance Programs

Only eight per cent provided extra days of leave.

Mike Toten

John Kotter’s 8 Step organisational Change model pt7

kotters change model gary tremolada trainer facilitator

Consolidate Gains and Implement More Change

Momentum is everything build on the incremental wins/losses and keep moving forward. Be careful of change fatigue.

Change is a bit like a family holiday. If the car has had all its services it’s less likely to breakdown or runs out of petrol but even a new car breaks down on the side of roads. Its sometimes like a change process that either hits some expected or unexpected challenges. The question is, what can you do?, who needs to be involved?, how do we keep the momentum and meet the milestones?

Situations like this happen for a number of reasons, the main ones poor execution, communication, accountability and capability.Step 7 builds on the previous step generate the short term wins, which will provide evidence for progress to the team and the detractors. Its really about moving forward. Keep the change momentum happening, don’t let there be cessation otherwise the resistors will creep in.

What will become obvious is the interdependencies and further the protection of those interdependencies between each of the departments/divisions. Use a “decision frame” to ensure you have the correct strategic solution and more over collaborate and let the team know the “why” of decisions.

Resistance to change may go underground(which is dangerous because people tend to blind side or sabotage the change) because of the continuing involvement of senior leadership, but it generally never completely disappears.  It is ready to surface if an opportunity arises.  For this reason, successfully consolidating gains and implementing more change is a powerful strategy to counter irrational and political resistance.  It is hard to argue against continuing success!

Part 8 Kotters change model

John Kotter’s 8 Step organisational Change model pt8

incremental change gary tremolada leadership training


Generating Short-Term Wins

You “need” incremental wins early and frequently that is meaningful to your followers. Generating short-term wins is the sixth step of John Kotter’s, eight step Leading Change Model.

What is a Short-term Win?

In short 6-18 months. The change team must show progress and organisational improvement. If your going for short term wins think about 3 things.

  1. Success must be obvious, clear, unambiguous.
  2. Recognition, it must be obvious from anywhere in the organisation that progress is been made.
  3. Change must be clearly attributed to the overall goal and change effort. The “Why” we doing it.

Incremental Wins 

Ensures that it will reduce and or negate the cynics. Results and evidence are key to proving the change is working.

What do Short-terms Wins look like?

Cost savings, increased revenue, streamlined procedures, more effective use of existing technology, new market opportunities etc. Its simple and its not and change effort is about about cutting costs and increasing sales(or efficiency). By implementing short-term wins that are clearly successful, visible throughout the organization, and clearly related to the change effort, senior leadership and the guiding coalition maintain the momentum for change.

WHS Notifiable Fatalities 2015

Safework Australia Report

There were 14 work-related notifiable fatalities during August 2015 — 10 male workers, one female worker, two male bystanders and one female bystander. Of these fatalities, four workers died as a result of an incident on a public road. Of the 14 fatalities, three were due to hit by moving object (unattended vehicle)—public road; two each were due to vehicle accident—public road; fall from a height; and hit by falling object. The remaining five fatalities were all different types of incidents. Five fatalities occurred in Transport, postal & warehousing workplaces, three in Construction workplaces and two in Manufacturing workplaces. Administrative & support services, Agriculture, forestry & fishing, Education & training and Public administration & safety workplaces had one fatality each.

5 Steps to a Learning Organisation

learning organisation gary tremolada

In the 1990’s a book called The fifth discipline by Peter Senge, discussed the process of creating a learning organisation. He wrote that as the pace of society and business increase that there would be a real need to increase the capacity of people in the workplace to create a competitive capacity.

Senge discussed 5 steps.

  1. Systems thinking. The idea of the learning organization developed from a body of work called systems thinking. This is a conceptual framework that allows people to study businesses as bounded objects. Learning organizations use this method of thinking when assessing their company and have information systems that measure the performance of the organization as a whole and of its various components.Systems thinking states that all the characteristics must be apparent at once in an organization for it to be a learning organization. If some of these characteristics are missing then the organization will fall short of its goal. However, O’Keeffe believes that the characteristics of a learning organization are factors that are gradually acquired, rather than developed simultaneously.

system thinking gary tremolada

Personal mastery. The commitment by an individual to the process of learning is known as personal mastery. There is a competitive advantage for an organization whose workforce can learn more quickly than the workforce of other organizations. Individual learning is acquired through staff training, development and continuous self-improvement; however, learning cannot be forced upon an individual who is not receptive to learning. Research shows that most learning in the workplace is incidental, rather than the product of formal training, therefore it is important to develop a culture where personal mastery is practiced in daily life.A learning organization has been described as the sum of individual learning, but there must be mechanisms for individual learning to be transferred into organizational learning.

Mastery gary tremolada

Mental models. The assumptions held by individuals and organizations are called mental models. To become a learning organization, these models must be challenged. Individuals tend to espouse theories, which are what they intend to follow, and theories-in-use, which are what they actually do. Similarly, organizations tend to have ‘memories’ which preserve certain behaviours, norms and values. In creating a learning environment it is important to replace confrontational attitudes with an open culture that promotes inquiry and trust. To achieve this, the learning organization needs mechanisms for locating and assessing organizational theories of action. Unwanted values need to be discarded in a process called ‘unlearning’. Wang and Ahmed refer to this as ‘triple loop learning.’

personal mastery gary tremolada

Shared vision. The development of a shared vision is important in motivating the staff to learn, as it creates a common identity that provides focus and energy for learning. The most successful visions build on the individual visions of the employees at all levels of the organization, thus the creation of a shared vision can be hindered by traditional structures where the company vision is imposed from above. Therefore, learning organizations tend to have flat, decentralized organizational structures. The shared vision is often to succeed against a competitor; however, Senge states that these are transitory goals and suggests that there should also be long-term goals that are intrinsic within the company.

vision and mission breakthroughs gary tremolada

Team learning. The accumulation of individual learning constitutes Team learning. The benefit of team or shared learning is that staff grow more quickly and the problem solving capacity of the organization is improved through better access to knowledge and expertise. Learning organizations have structures that facilitate team learning with features such as boundary crossing and openness. Team learning requires individuals to engage in dialogue and discussion; therefore team members must develop open communication, shared meaning, and shared understanding. Learning organizations typically have excellent knowledge management structures, allowing creation, acquisition, dissemination, and implementation of this knowledge in the organization.

team work pass the baton gary tremolada


When I have led teams we would have a 15-30min  meeting/training session where one of the team members would deliver a training session. We would use  a SWOT template. The team member would talk about wins, losses, could have done it better and opportunities. The great thing about sharing in this type of structure is that it enables others in the team to share their knowledge, the warning signs, the opportunities and uncover things not said or assumed. From this sharing over time you begin to see a highly innovative team that uses a collaborative approach to solving issues by using the combined intellectual power of the team.


So, if you’ve got a team of 5 or 35, that is essentially 5 to 35 weeks of sessions. To make it an effective one stick to the agenda.

Start somewhere and do so incrementally.

Source The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge Picture: thwink, career success

Constructive Dismissal Costs an Employer Over $200,000

I quit

The Story
An employee informed her employer that she was pregnant. The owners of the business responded the court heard in the following manner.

  1. What about me? I was going to retire at the end of the year”
  2. Employer demanded the employee to sign a “variation” to her contract, making her remuneration and ongoing employment contingent on the meeting of unattainable sales targets. She initially signed it and then requested to take the copy and read it over at home with her husband.
  3. Part of the variation was  to work additional hours and new sales targets.
  4. The owners then suggested that a return to part-time work after the conclusion of her maternity leave would not be “workable”
  5. The employee was told that she would not be able to run photoshoots later in her pregnancy, as this was not safe and “not a good look” for the business.
  6. The employer insinuated that her wages would need to be cut because she would not able able to generate income and
  7. She could endanger herself and others because of her pregnancy.

The employee eventually resigned which the court viewed as constructive dismissal.(the changing of an employee’s job or working conditions with the aim of forcing their resignation)

The court set to make an example of this type of behaviour by imposing hefty penalties.

The damages awarded were as follows;

a. Economic loss $164,079

b. Penalty for distress $10,000

c. Penalty to the business of $45,000

d. Penalty to both the owners of $16,000 divided equally


The Lesson

Human resource policies around managing pregnancy. Understanding the legal obligation you have under the Act. Consult the employee and if and when necessary medical advice will be required depending on the type of work.

Sagona v R & C Piccoli Investments Pty Ltd & Ors [2014] FCCA 875 (30 April 2014)