The top five Australian and New Zealand blogs on HR and talent management

There’s a lot of great HR and talent management blogs

A Google search for “best HR blogs” or “best talent management blogs” will get you thousands of great resources. But frustratingly most of the top results tend to be very US focused.

So I wanted to take some time to shine a light on some of my favourite local thinkers in the space. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve put together my list of the top five Australian and New Zealand blogs in and around talent management.


To do this, I’ve focused on blogs that are regularly updated, contained innovative and engaging advice and have a regular local focus.

So without further ado, here are my top Australian and New Zealand bloggers in HR and talent management. In no particular order:

1. Daniel Lock

Daniel Lock is an expert in change management and productivity. I love his weekly posts on the latest news in change management, HR and technology. Every week Daniel collects a series of great links to big news on how technology is changing business.

Daniel’s recent pieces on developing change and overcoming complacency were also great. He does an excellent job at addressing the eternal paradox of needing change to get ahead but being comfortable in our current surroundings.

Dan is quite active on social media, you can find him on just about every platform. I’m sure he’d love you to touch base. @DanielLock

2. LearnKotch

Con Sotidis is an expert in organisational learning and development. Con started his blog earlier this year, armed only with his (many) years of experience in the public sector and a passion for L&D.

Not all Con’s posts are strictly L&D based (although MOOCs do pop up a fair bit). He recently posted a fascinating article on where L&D should sit in relation to human resources. I agree with Con that L&D (as well as HR) should sit as close to the business as possible.

Get to Con’s blog, and learn a thing or two about learning! @LearnKotch

3. Greg Savage

Greg Savage is your go-to man for all things recruitment. Greg’s a real veteran in the blog space, having shared his insights with the world for many years now.

He recently wrote a fascinating piece on the way we should look at recruitment and talent acquisition. Greg makes a great argument that we should look at potential candidates more like consumers. As a result, it’s critical to know their intention as well as grabbing their attention.

Give Greg’s blog a read to understand more about recruiting for the future of work. @greg_savage

4. HR Man NZ

Richard Westney is another HR expert from across the Tasman with a regularly updated blog full of great HR insights.

You’ll find everything on Westney’s blog from “the tyranny of turnover” to “CEO’s prefer blondes”. HR Man NZ is a blog full of insight into how to stay progressive and avoid getting bogged down in unnecessary process. @HRManNZ

5. Break the frame

Break the frame is a great blog on leadership, career advice and life from Alli Polin. Alli lives smack bang in the middle of Australia in Alice Springs. She’s a consultant with the corporate experience to back it up, using her knowledge as an executive to coach other likeminded individuals.

Alli gives regular advice on how to give leaders feedback (Spoiler alert: the answer is honesty) or how to use journals as a more productive use of your reflective process. Alli’s expert advice is just as applicable in the red centre as it is in any part of the world.

Her recent blog on “how to work with someone you hate” was a great piece on managing conflict… Because I’m sure you’ve had to work with someone you can’t stand (just like everyone else). @AlliPolin

Who have I missed?

I’d love your thoughts on other people who deserve to be in this list of Australia and New Zealand’s best bloggers on HR and talent management…

Is this the biggest lie in HR?

It’s time to stop making excuses about your turnover problem. Research shows that average employee tenure is rising rather than falling.

Let’s blow up the rising turnover myth

There’s barely a week goes by where I don’t read something about rising turnover rates.

You know the story. Turnover is rising. Retention is falling. It’s all the fault of Gen Y. They just don’t value career development. And they have no loyalty.

You could be forgiven for thinking that we’re facing a turnover epidemic.

What really worries me is when I start to hear the ‘turnover epidemic’ used as an excuse. This conversation: “Yes our turnover is much higher than we’d like, but that’s just the state of the market”.

I think we’re hearing this story so much in the business press that we believe it as fact. So is rising turnover and declining retention supported by the data?

Declining tenure is not supported by data

Employment data just doesn’t support a ‘turnover epidemic’. Despite all the noise, average retention is actually rising, not falling.

The best data here comes from the Employee Benefits Research Institute (EBRI). They produce a major report on employee tenure trends every two years. You can check it out here.

But I know you’re too busy to read a deep statistical analysis on the state of workforce tenure. So here’s the quick conclusion: job retention has stayed basically unchanged for the past 30 years. Far from declining, average tenure is actually up.

Some powerful facts (if you’re a HR geek like me!):

  • Average workforce tenure has been rising consecutively in every survey since 2002 (from 4.7 years up to 5.4 years).
  • Average length that someone stays in their job has actually risen since 1983 (up nearly half a year)
Workforce myths are very sticky

What’s amazing here is just how sticky workforce myths can be. As the EBRI report makes clear, there’s a long list of workforce myths that get taken as fact.

Believe it or not, one of the biggest workforce myths is lifetime employment. There’s this common conception that previous generation were typically employed by one company for life. But just like this ‘turnover epidemic’, lifetime employment just isn’t supported by fact.

Previous generations of employees may have had the option to stay at an employer for life. But that doesn’t mean they actually did. And whilst perceived job security may have declined, this hasn’t changed how often people move jobs.

As far back as records go, employees have been staying in their jobs for an average of about five years. Despite all workforce myths and rumours to the contrary!

Your turnover problem is in your control

Yes, turnover is a huge business cost. There’s plenty of big Australian business that have turnover costs running to hundreds of millions of dollars. All because they’re facing tenure that’s nowhere near this 5-year market benchmark.

But blaming the problem on the market or generation of employees isn’t helpful. Fundamentally, your turnover problem is always in your control.

Employees have (and will always) leave organizations for a reason. And if you’ve got a major turnover problem, that reason is almost always tied to bad performance management. Nothing drives employees to leave your business faster than managers who don’t provide good regular feedback and development opportunities.

So if you’ve got a turnover problem, avoid the typical excuses. Start with your performance management and fix the basics. My experience has always been that you’ll see a dramatic and quick improvement.

What’s your take on the state of employee retention? I’d love to hear what you’re seeing in the market. Jump into the comments below and let’s start the discussion.

Image credit: NASA (Public domain)

Why you need to unblock Facebook: Performance management and social media

At Cognology I talk to a LOT of Australian companies about best practice performance management. These conversations include the 250+ organisations using our talent management software. But they also cover a broad range of Australian HR professionals, consultants and executives.

Through these conversations, I get a good feel for the performance issues that are keeping leaders awake at night. And one of the biggest concerns I’m hearing today is about social media use (especially Facebook).

There’s a real concern about the amount of wasted employee time that’s spent on Facebook. Execs are concerned about the bottom line impact of the 22 hours each week that the average Australian spends on social media.

Banning social media has never been less effective

At the same time, I’m seeing widespread concern from HR leaders that banning social media is less and less effective.

Ten years ago blocking websites may have worked. Today if an employee wants to look at Facebook, they have a wide choice of devices. And most of these devices are owned by the employee.

Even if you ban social media, research shows that about 40% of employees will end up on Facebook during work hours. If they can’t use Facebook on their work computers, they’ll use their phone, laptop, or any other device they have.

Why Facebook isn’t the CAUSE of your productivity problem

I think there’s much more to the “Facebook is costing us millions in lost productivity” story. In the hundreds of business I’ve worked with, I’m yet to see an example where Facebook is the real cause of the productivity problem.

More typically, social media use problems are a symptom of deeper issues in how you measure and manage performance. In my experience:

“Facebook is costing us millions in lost productivity” usually translates to “we don’t know how to hold our employees to account for their output”.

The solution is to focus on managing output, not monitoring input

Facebook (and every other form of social media) are real and present distractions in the work environment. They’re not going away any time soon.

To be an effective worker today you have to be effective at dealing with these distractions (and many others). Delivering results regardless of distraction is a critical skill for the future of work.

Few managers would disagree with the importance of delivering results on time and on budget. And when you really dive in, all roles have results and output. Results might mean delivering projects on time, or delivering high quality content, or high client satisfaction.

Moving from measuring input to managing output

The key step in making the transition to managing output is to define well-specified goals and competencies. Real performance accountability means agreeing these goals and competencies with every employee. And it means regularly holding every employee to account for delivering on this agreement. Real performance accountability makes Facebook use irrelevant

The beauty of goals and behavioural competencies is that you can manage to these, rather than worrying about whether people are spending time on Facebook.

My own experience with this is that this transition can be quite liberating. All of a sudden you don’t have to watch people to make sure you are getting value. You just look at the value you’re getting as the goals you’ve set are achieved.

So if you think you’ve got a problem with Facebook, start thinking about how you can make the transition from monitoring input to managing output. Managing for output requires more work upfront and more hard conversations. But it also gives you the power to dramatically increase productivity, hit goals and reduce day-to-day management overhead. Sounds like a great deal to me!

How are you addressing social media use in your workforce? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Jump into the comments below and let’s start the conversation.

Image credit: Spencer E Holtaway Under licence CC BY-ND 2.0

What does “tour of duty” employment mean for HR?

There’s been a lot published over the last week on “tour of duty” employment. The noise is coming from the publication of a new book by Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha and Chris Yeh called The Alliance.

So, what does a tour of duty means in the context of the employment relationship?

The crux of the idea is that the employment relationship today is broken. Companies demand employee loyalty without guaranteeing job security. At the same time, employees promise loyalty but are quick to move if offered a better role or pay-rise. Everyone says the right things. But nobody is making promises they intend to keep.

A tour of duty moves the relationship from a transactional relationship to a mutually beneficial alliance. As Hoffman puts it: “Employment should be an alliance. [That means] a mutually beneficial deal, with explicit terms, between independent players”

What’s important here is the acceptance that the employee and employer don’t have the same agenda. Neither party is pretending to make a lifetime commitment. Instead, both set out about what they expect the other party to deliver over the next 2, 3 or 4 years. There’s plenty of examples of how Reid has successfully used the approach at LinkedIn. See this Wall Street Journal interview and in the original idea-piece in HBR.

So without further ado, let’s talk about what tour of duty employment might mean for HR.

Expect a two-way focus on performance management

Performance management becomes a two-way conversation with serious consequences for both parties.

The employee has always been responsible for hitting KPIs. But now the company is also responsible for delivering promised development. Examples include mentoring, a leadership course, or an offshore posting with increased responsibility.

In a tour of duty world, performance management has to hold both the employee and the employer accountable. It’s no longer just a one-way conversation.

Now, a failure to deliver great performance management is a breech of contract by the employer. You’re assessing the employee on their performance. But they’re also assessing whether you’re advancing their career as promised. It’s no longer a one-way conversation. Stop for a second and let that sink in.

Clear objectives are (still) critical

Both employee and employer are signing on with a specific outcome or mission in mind. So it’s critical to make sure this mission is clear.

Nothing will doom a tour of duty employment relationship faster than a mission that’s subject to misinterpretation. And that runs both ways. Both the employee and the employer need to be able to state what the other party is getting out of the relationship.

Again, SMART goals and objectives are performance management 101. But in this environment the consequences are significant. Misalignment or plain old laziness will all lead to quick turnover.

You have the ability to increase retention of specialist employees

One of the common misconceptions in that a tour of duty approach will reduce the tenure of employment. With one caveat below, I don’t think that’s the case.

There’s a good analogy in an emotional relationship. Through having hard conversations, we can fix issues at an earlier stage. We continue to recommit if it’s working. And we don’t hold onto the illusion of staying together if the relationship is broken and we’re not BOTH achieving what we set out to.

For knowledge workers in specialist positions, there’s always the opportunity to ‘cheat’ on their employer. Recruiters call regularly. Employees know the options and opportunities.

Tours of duty make clear that you’re just as invested in their growth as they are. And that’s a really meaningful differentiator.

But poor execution creates turnover risk

If you do this badly, you’re going to significantly increase your workforce turnover. It’s the equivalent of reminding employees just how little they’re getting out of their job. Picture this conversation:

“Hi Bob, remember how we promised you all these things about how great this opportunity would be for your development and career? Well we actually didn’t deliver on any of our promises… Now how did you go with your KPIs?”

So here’s my recommendations to you

If you’re already best practice in performance management then this is something you need to be thinking about. Talent supply and generational trends mean you won’t have a choice. Your competitors will start making these kind of commitments. And they will be a real differentiator for employer brand. Gen Y loves the authenticity of “you don’t have a job for life but we’ll make sure you get as much out of this as we do”.

If your company does tours-of-duty well, the approach will help you retain your best employees for longer. It will help you do this at a lower cost. And it will make clear which managers are delivering great employee development.

Finally, a word of warning! If you’re just starting on your performance management journey then you need to get your house in order first (as Josh Bersin shows nicely here). Start with the basics. That means clear expectations and regular, documented conversations.

To extend the military analogy – you can’t go to war until you’ve trained the troops.

Photo credit: MONUSCO (Used under Creative Commons SA 2.0 licence)