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Staying ahead of disruption with productive paranoia

by Nick Hindhaugh

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Six Degrees Executive Founding Director Nick Hindhaugh caught up with SEEK Australia and New Zealand Managing Director Kendra Banks to discuss market insights from SEEK’s job ad activity, how diversity can help companies win the war for talent, and how being “productively paranoid” is critical for any company facing disruption.

Kendra, SEEK has access to a vast amount of data through the activity taking place on the site every day. What does it tell you about the economic and political environment going into Q2 2019?

[Kendra] SEEK job ad activity provides an accurate reflection of what we’re seeing across the Australian economy. Growth has predominantly come from the healthcare, mining, government, and community services sectors. We expect these industries to continue to be drivers of employment opportunities throughout 2019.

But we are seeing much more polarisation across the economy, highlighted by the slowdown in recruitment activity across the real estate, property, construction and retail sectors. This began late in 2018 as the property market began to cool, and recent indicators suggest it will continue through the year. In addition, the May federal election could keep some businesses “on hold” for most of the first half of 2019.

Regardless of overall slowing conditions, there are always opportunities. The tech sector, for example, continues to thrive and grow across the country and we expect activity here to remain strong.

How is SEEK approaching the notion of digital transformation?

[Kendra] As a digitally native business, SEEK has always focused on how we can use technology to deliver on our purpose: to “help people live more fulfilling and productive working lives, and help organisations succeed.” We grow our investment in product, technology, data and artificial intelligence every year to keep improving the value we can offer jobseekers, hirers and students.

One of our organisational beliefs is to be “productively paranoid”, which we believe is critical for all businesses facing digital transformation or disruption. Technology is reducing barriers to entry and enabling businesses to move up and down the value chain more easily. So if you don’t solve your customers’ problems well, chances are that there’s another company expanding into your space or a hungry start-up looking to be a better version of your business.

At SEEK we are not scared to disrupt ourselves to keep improving how we connect hirers and candidates. And we are lucky to have teams who are passionate about engaging with and trialling new technologies, to keep us testing, learning, and on our toes!

What is SEEK’s strategy around a diverse and inclusive organisation?

[Kendra] We recognise and respect qualities that make our individual employees unique. Whether it be gender, language, ethnicity, age, religion, disability or sexual orientation, SEEK’s culture of diversity in thought, opinion and background plays a key role in ensuring we develop products that reflect the needs of the communities in which we operate.

This is particularly important as a tech business facing a war for talent – we must make sure that we are a place where all people want to come to work. We recruit for a diversity of qualities and expect everyone at SEEK to live the belief of “creating a community where individuals feel valued”.

In addition, we focus on supporting women in technology. We have a range of initiatives including Camp SEEK, a week-long program that aims to engage and inform teenage girls about technology careers and encourage them to pursue further studies in STEM. We have worked hard to create a supportive culture for the female talent we have at SEEK, and ensure women in our organisation have the coaching, mentoring and sponsorship they need to build their careers at all levels.

What advice regarding leadership do you have for today’s aspiring CEO?

  • [Kendra] Focus on the customer. Go past your assumptions to understand customers’ true needs and motivations, and use these to set priorities for the business. If you aren’t championing the customer, the rest of the organisation won’t do so either.
  • Embrace change. Technology is changing every role in every workplace, so leaders need to support their teams to embrace technology and proactively adapt their roles in response.
  • Create space for everyone to contribute. No business can make the right decisions for their customers without considering the diverse points of view from around the organisation. This means your team needs a safe environment to contribute and share their expertise.

 

Talk to Six Degrees Executive to learn more about winning the war for talent through Diversity & Inclusion.