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Matt Wilkin – Energetics
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Many people have shared their views on who is responsible for career development.  Answering the question of where the responsibility lies, is like asking who is accountable for Usain Bolt’s success. While he was the face in the public eye, there were teams of people, each with their own duties, helping him become number one.


The employee needs to be passionate about the career path and have a desire to work hard towards being the best they can.  Like Usain Bolt, they need to put in the hours, training to achieve their goals and pushing to get to the next level.


And every employer, small or large, needs to appreciate that if they are to thrive as a company, they need to make investments to get the best out of their staff.


For people working for large organisations, training and development is often defined by the HR team, who plan for staff at different levels. A grad accountant for example, may be put through the CA program or form part of a rotation program to gain on the job experience. Senior leadership may be given an opportunity to take part in career development initiatives including career coaching, mentor programs or leadership training.


But for many people working for a smaller firm, these career plans are not in place and the emphasis is on the employee to ask for training and support.


While most employers are likely to cover the cost of training courses and further study, ultimately, the employee needs have a plan and know what they are aiming for. The long-term responsibility lies with the employee. You need to have a clear idea of what your career aspirations are and how you plan to get there. You should set goals and milestones that you can scratch off once completed. Ask your manager for regular one on ones, to discuss what you’d like to do, what support you need and to update them on your progress.


Career development is not all about training courses and further study though. Both the employee and the manager need to be thinking about opportunities to gain practical experience. The managers should be thinking about what else they can give the employee to do, where can they be seconded to and what the next step on the ladder is. For people working with larger firms, you should be looking for openings as and when they become available, whether it be a sideways move or a promotion, you need to let your manager know that you’d like to express your interest and be considered for the role.


So, if you don’t have a career plan in place right now, you need to put something into place. To round off, here’s a quick summary of the steps you should take:


  • Set some time aside to sit down and consider your long-term career goals
  • Break it down and list the things you want to complete in the short term
  • List any training or development opportunities you’d like support with
  • Set up a meeting with your manager to discuss your plan and make sure it aligns with the business to ensure you get the support you’re after



By Alison Hill

Research has shown that for most of us, the ideal job combines meaning – the idea that doing our job makes the world a better place – with a decent income. The emphasis on one or the other depends on our values, priority, career stage, and individual factors such as our family situation and spending habits.

The evidence about the link between money and happiness is confusing and even contradictory. Some studies have shown that more money only brings a certain kind of happiness, others that once our lives are relatively comfortable, more money makes little difference to our level of happiness. The amount of money that brings happiness in the US has even been quantified: US$75,000 per year.

It’s even been suggested that happiness buys money, as studies have shown that happy people are better at earning more.

And then there’s the downside: generally, better paid jobs bring with them longer hours, more responsibility, less leisure time and more stress. A marketing executive who moved cities several times with his family in pursuit of the highest-paying job recounts how once he had reached his target income and moved for the fourth time in as many years, his job with a company in the manufacturing sector almost immediately came under threat. The long hours and the daily commute were exhausting him.  It took years of upheaval for him to realise that money can’t buy you job love.

Job satisfaction, in the sense of your work feeling meaningful to you and making a difference in the world, may well be easier to pursue, and more within your control.

  1. Work for an organisation with values aligned to your own

First understand your own values: family? Career progression? Spirituality? Health? Then explore the values of any organisation you might work for. Do they offer generous parental leave? Are religious holidays observed and respected? Is there a mentoring program in place? Is going for a run at lunch time facilitated and encouraged? It will increase your satisfaction if not only the role, but also the culture is matched to what you find important in life.

  1. Understand why you work (other than for the money)

Of course being paid is crucial. But there must be other reasons to drive you out of bed in the morning. Is it the challenge and the opportunity to prove yourself? Do you need to be with other people, cooperating to get things done? Do you need to be creative, or to help others? Look for the motivating forces behind the job itself. If your urge is to be creative but you spend most of your day managing people, you are less likely to be satisfied.

  1. Place value on the work you do

Almost invariably your work will add value to the lives of others. The trick is to see it. An insurance salesperson reported finding no meaning in her job until a client pointed out to her that the recommendations she had made saved his business and his livelihood when a fire destroyed his takeaway shop.  Take time to seek out the value in your work if you feel it may have little, and you may well be surprised.

So who are the most satisfied workers? It depends who you ask, but the occupation that most consistently scores the highest in surveys is clergy, with around 98% of clergy members of all faiths reporting that their work makes the world a better place. Farmers and fitness instructors did pretty well too. This is not to suggest that you move to the country or give it all up for a position in your local gym, but it’s well worth looking more closely at what job satisfaction means to you.


It appears that our crisis of identity is moving from midlife to quarter-life. Last week we asked your thoughts on this quarter-life crisis – myth or reality?

Some of you said yes, it is a reality – there is increased pressure to achieve it all by 30 – but it is up to you what you make of it. Reality – –

– Career, travel and relationship goals all compete for time and attention in a world where we are told that we can have it all and do it all. Females have added pressure – reach those career goals before you choose to have a family. Quarter-life crisis, been there, done that. But I think I came through it with a better outlook and knowing a bit more about what is important to me – and that makes me a better employee (and person too).

– It really depends on the person and what they want in life. Right now I have finished my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, secured a full time job, have been working hard for the last year to launch a new business and brand, and to top it off build a duplex on the land that I purchased two years ago! All for the glory of having it all by 30. With so much opportunity and things to have and do, I guess it is up to you to make the best of it!

Whilst others felt that it is self-imposed myth, and in fact we don’t need to have it all by 30. Myth –

– A myth because today’s generation are constantly changing jobs more often than previous generations, so any uncertainty in the form of a life crisis shouldn’t really affect someone’s career path.

– Advertisers have discovered the one’s self-image becomes stagnant at 30. So when a 50 year old looks in the mirror, they see themselves as they were 20 years ago. To exploit this, marketers cast actors in their late 20′s for their advertising. This helps perpetuate the myth that turning 30 is a death sentence.

According to my age bracket, I am due to soon hit this quarter-life crisis.

But do we really need to achieve it all before 30?And does putting a cut-off on these goals really make your dreams simpler to achieve or simply add more pressure?

I have set many goals in my life. The first of which was establishing a career and a name for myself the moment I left high school. I dreamed of working in Events and during my further education, I worked in various temporary and voluntary roles before securing the permanent role I had “planned” to be in – working in an exciting, action-packed role in Events. Little did I know that only a few years later I would change my career path, become a home owner, and now rather than encouraged to continue to achieve career success, am being constantly reminded to take advantage of the spare time I have before I “settle down” and my priorities/responsibilities in life change.

According to a recent article in Guardian, I am probably somewhere around Phase 2 to Phase 3 in the typical “quarter-life crisis”:

Phase 1 – defined by feeling “locked in” to a job or relationship, or both. “It’s an illusory sense of being trapped,” said Robinson. “You can leave but you feel you can’t.”

Phase 2 – is typified by a growing sense that change is possible. “This mental and physical separation from previous commitments leads to all sorts of emotional upheavals. It allows exploration of new possibilities with a closer link to interests, preferences and sense of self.

Phase 3 – is a period of rebuilding a new life.

Phase 4 – is the cementing of fresh commitments that reflect the young person’s new interests, aspirations and values.

But is this process of review new or even unique to quarter-life?

Perhaps this process of review is reality but the importance of an arbitrary deadline is the myth. This may mean setting aside what society expects, and instead achieving goals in a time frame that is realistic for you.

From my perspective, we get too caught in a constant cycle of information overload and seemingly endless opportunities at our grasp. We appear to be getting caught in a cycle that we must pursue it all at once instead of focusing on one thing at a time. The downfall with putting unrealistic deadlines or by adding pressure on achieving everything by 30 is that I am creating stress in a time that everyone keeps telling me I should be treasuring!

And in the end, life doesn’t really end at 30, does it? Perhaps rather than being the end, the best things in life start at thirty because you learn from life’s earlier choices and you become wiser in your decisions about what is to come.

I am looking forward to the adventure!

Haven’t had your say? We would love to hear your feedback below. Or you can take part in our recent poll: Did you choose your career or was it by luck/chance? Remember, if you fill out the poll you increase your chances to win a Hoyts Cinema Double Pass!


How many times have you heard that Gen Y workers want too much too quickly and have unrealistic expectations about their career progression?

How many times have you heard how inflexible and set in their ways Baby Boomers are? In fact, according to one recent survey, the Baby Boomers are currently the most unpopular workplace demographic: “Generation X reportedly found their mature colleagues to be inflexible and set in their ways, while Generation Y can’t handle the boomers’ ineptitude with technology.” *

Our online poll last week asked “Is there a noticeable difference between the generations in your workplace?”  

The response was:         Yes – 62%          No – 38%

But really, are there many workplaces where everyone has identical values, life experiences, expectations and working styles?

Isn’t it too simplistic to simply lump people into a Generation category and assume that they will behave in accordance with some predetermined generational behavioural style?

In their 2009 study “Career stage and generational differences in psychological contracts” **, Narelle Hess and Denise M. Jepsen found that “despite widespread colloquial use of generational cohort groupings such as Baby Boomer, Generation X and Generation Y, (there are) greater similarities than differences between the different the generational cohorts.”

Another recent study conducted by research scientist Jennifer Deal and published as “The Myth of Generational Differences in the Workplace” *** reached a similar conclusion:Our research shows that when you hold the stereotypes up to the light, they don’t cast much of a shadow. Everyone wants to be able to trust their supervisors, no one really likes change, we all like feedback, and the number of hours you put in at work depends more on your level in the organization than on your age.”

Narelle Hess, whose study is quoted above and very conveniently happens to be Challenge Consulting’s Organisational Psychologist also had this to say on the subject in an email to me: “Perhaps the question should have been can you tell whether someone is born in 1981 (Gen X) or 1982 (Gen Y)? Probably not. Should you start managing those born in 1981 completely differently to those born in 1982? Probably not. So, why are we still talking about generational differences?”


Another Challenge Consulting team member, Carmen Mackrill, commented, “I don’t think the effect is as big as everybody would like to think. In fact, I sometimes wonder whether part of the “impact” is born from an expectation that there should be a difference. However, if we define generations purely in terms of ages, I believe there are differences in the way younger workers approach problems, social situations, obligations, etc,  as opposed to older workers, but this has always been the case … nothing necessarily new.”

Our Senior Account Manager, Patricia Hegarty, said “I think it largely depends on how the more experienced, senior staff interacts with their younger peers. If expectations are made clear across the board and everyone is treated with the same level of respect then the generational differences should not generally have an impact within the workplace.”

Ultimately, as with every area of life, employees and employers within any workplace should be united by a common goal: the continued growth and success of the organisation. Differences will always be encountered – of approach, experience, style, education, execution, communication, etc – but, if embraced as a positive, these differences can be united as a source of strength. Having a pool of individuals from all generations to tap into – what an opportunity for success!


* “Leadership, Employment and Direction ‘Generations’ Survey” [link]


** Narelle Hess, Denise M. Jepsen, (2009) “Career stage and generational differences in psychological contracts”, Career Development International, Vol. 14 Iss: 3, pp.261 – 283

*** Jennifer Deal, “The Myth of Generational Differences in the Workplace”, [link]


During a lively discussion forum last Wednesday morning, Challenge Consulting explored trends in employee retention with a group of clients.  

Mirriam-Webster dictionary defines retention as “1. the act of keeping someone or something, 2. the ability to keep something”. In the context of business when we talk about retention, we talk about ‘keeping’ employees as the direct opposite to ‘losing’ employees or employee turnover.

Employee turnover is one of the most largely measured and reported statistics in business. But given that we know that on average 20% of the Australian Labour Market will change jobs each year[i], how significant are these turnover statistics, really?

During our discussion forum we explored this question and more, including:

  • What is retention?
  • What are the motivational drivers that keep our participants with their employer?
  • How do we or how should we measure retention drivers?
  • What retention strategies are smart organisations implementing in an attempt to keep their top talent?

Consistent with organisational research and theory on retention[ii], we identified common themes in what ‘retained’ our participants with their employers, including: job satisfaction (i.e. interesting and challenging work), job embededness (i.e. a feeling of belonging to a team or social network in the organisation), employee voice (i.e. feeling that their opinions are heard), and role clarity (i.e. understanding role and responsibilities and how it directly relates to the organisational purpose). What we also found were a range of individual motivators that were influencing retention of the ‘top talent’ in the room, including: flexible work arrangements, career development, training and mentoring, and a range of company values.

It was clear that a one-size-fits-all strategy for retention would be impossible to retain each of our discussion forum participants, so how can retention drivers be measured at the larger organisational level? According to industry research[iii], 95% of Australian companies conduct Exit Interviews, an emerging trend is that 45% of Australian companies are now conducting Stay Interviews (periodic in-depth interviews with existing employees to measure key retention drivers, starting right from the first 3 months), not to forget the common practice of Organisational Surveying.

During the discussion forum we debated how well organisations were utilising these and other sources of retention data, i.e. was the right information being captured to measure retention drivers and then once the data was collected was the data being used strategically to manage retention initiatives? Google’s Project Oxygen[iv] provided us with an example of an organisation analysing all available employee data to identify common retention drivers and more specifically develop their Google Rules for managers.

By the end of our discussion forum, there was agreement from participants that not all turnover is negative and not all retention is positive. In fact, some turnover can be a positive and some retention can be a negative! But as Australia already shows the signs of another deepening skills shortage, there is no doubt that when their key motivators are not met, talented employees can find other employers that will meet these drivers. Does your organisation need help identifying the key retention drivers for your most talented people? Challenge Consulting can help you measure retention drivers through our Organisational Effectiveness Profiling and Exit Interview Consulting services, help you develop managers with a focus on retention with our Effective Supervision Workshop and help you build a strategic approach to managing retention in your organisation.

What do you think smart organisations should be doing to keep their most talented people and what motivates you to stay with your current employer?

[i] Sweet, R. (2011). The mobile worker: concepts, issues, implications. NCVER Occasional Paper, Adelaide.

[ii] Mardanov, I., Heischmidt., & Henson, A. (2008). Leader-member exchange and job satisfaction bond and predicted employee turnover. Journal of Leaderhship and Organizational Studies, 15, 159-175.

Ramesh, A., Gelfand, M. J. (2010). Will they stay or will they go? The role of job embeddedness in predicting turnover in individualistic and collectivistic cultures. Journal of Applied Psychology, 95, 807-823.

Siebert, S. & Zubanov, N. (2009). Searching for the optimal level of employee turnover: A study of a large UK retail organisation. Academy of Management Journal, 52, 294-313.

Swider, B.W., Boswell, W.R., & Zimmerman, R.D. (2011). Examining the job search-turnover relationship: The role of embeddedness, job satisfaction, and available alternatives, Journal of Applied Psychology. 96, 432-441.

[iii] Lambert, L. (2010). All aboard: Identifying flight risks in probationary staff can help retain promising talent. Recruitment Extra, Nov 2010, 26-27.

[iv] Bryant, A. (2011). Google’s quest to build a better boss, New York Times.