Ross: Thanks for accepting the invitation to discuss the past three years as CEO of the RCSA, Charles. Congratulations on making it this far; how are you enjoying the combined challenges of Australia’s political turmoil, a recruitment industry boom and a rec tech explosion?
Charles: Hey Ross, thanks for the invitation to share my thoughts once again! Quite simply, I love the cut and thrust of this important role and I especially like the challenge of having to get the balance right between digital evolution, populist politics and new ways of doing business in recruitment and staffing. Change is good for the soul mate.
You commenced your role at the RCSA in May 2016 and at the time, it would be fair to say, that member engagement (especially in New Zealand) was not at an all-time high. What indicators give you confidence that the decisions you have made in this area are paying off? What can members expect in this area in the next 12 to 18 months?
Fair call Ross. Our member engagement focus is delivering great results and we have just completed a workshop here at HQ on how to get a ‘live engagement number’ that will be the blood pressure of RCSA. In the meantime we rely on renewal rates among members and Net Promoter Scores (NPS). We hit 98% renewals in NZ last financial year and 93% for Australia. Our NPS last month was around 6 for both countries in individual and corporate membership which has us knocking on ‘excellent’ which is super exciting. But, to be honest, nothing beats sitting around the table with our members at leaders lunches, member visits and events and hearing their renewed passion and pride through the work we have been doing! This stuff gets me out of bed…..and keeps me up late.
Labour hire licensing is a very big change for our industry. What’s your best advice to members in helping them see opportunities in labour licensing, given it’s clearly here to stay.
You may recall I’m a big believer that ‘good comes out of bad’ and this is another example of that. Labour hire licensing would be quite good if it was pure but, to be honest, I don’t trust how it will be used by certain political parties down the track to demonise our industry. What the licensing does do is allow us to focus on what a true professional looks like. We built www.staffsure.org to help define the professionals even further and this is going really well with Coles and Woolworths building it in to their ethical procurement processes. I’d encourage firms to be louder and prouder than ever before about their professional status and flood us with stories of ambition, success and upward mobility of candidates and workers who benefit from what we do.
It seems to me that members of parliament, from all over the country and from both sides of the political spectrum, have little knowledge or understanding of our industry and the important economic role that it plays in the efficient functioning of the national economy. What have been your observations from three years of representing the industry in the halls of power and what reasons do we have (if any!) to be optimistic that things are changing for the better?
Spot on Ross and, to be honest, I’m not sure that it will change if don’t get vocal and more sophisticated in what we do to communicate this. We are not alone here, either by industry or country. Business is another pawn in the populist political game these days and, to be honest, we need to stop relying so much on them to promote us. That is why we created a campaign fund to build a campaign to promote the value contribution of our industry directly through social media and via workers, candidates, professionals and clients. This will start rolling out in the next couple of months and I can’t wait to get louder and prouder (if this is possible).
The bookmakers (Labor @ $1.13) seem confident that Bill Shorten will be the new Prime Minister just after your three year anniversary with the RCSA ticks over. What do you think this change will mean for the recruitment industry?
I’m really concerned that Labor will put ideological and union interests ahead of good pragmatic, evidence-based policy. This isn’t just a Labor thing but they seem to have become far more populist in their approach. Restrictions on casual employment, regardless of the employees preferences, scare me. Significant cuts to public sector staffing and contracting also scares me because it is based on ideology of work, rather than employee preference. But, the good news is that our industry will always come back and, in most cases, benefit. For example, the more you restrict casual employment amongst client industries, the more they will need our members staffing solutions. The more the Labor party discriminate against non-traditional work the more the highly skilled workers will go somewhere else and then they will change their policy. The problem is that we, as the tax payers, will suffer in the mean time with poorer public sector services.
Mind you, in NZ and the Labor State governments they have been saying one thing politically and doing another practically (maintaining their use of contingent) so I might be better to just shut up!
Your time at the RCSA has coincided with a massive surge in technological innovations that represent both threats and opportunities for traditional recruitment agencies. Given the limited resources of the RCSA what’s the RCSA’s priority in this space to ensure members’ interests are appropriately represented and what should members do to best inform themselves of developments in this area?
Ross I’ve always said we should, as an industry, be transitioning to becoming workforce technologists. Whilst I sympathise with recruitment and staffing firms that are struggling to adapt to technology platform suppliers becoming competitors I feel quite strongly that we need to focus on our own transition rather than resisting what others are doing. Yes, by all means, call out behavior by tech providers, platforms and job boards that is inconsistent with our ethical obligation to ensure candidates and clients are respected, but be careful about fighting a battle with evolution. Just like AI, I feel there will be more opportunities for our members arising from more and more digital staffing and recruitment solutions, rather than less…..if we bring a different mindset.
Where has the RCSA made the most progress in the past three years?
Member engagement. Getting publicly loud and proud. Building a collaborative community of firms and professionals.
What has been your personal highlight?
(The RCSA International Conference in) Fiji 2017 when the “power of community” evolved from a slogan to a reality. I really felt something changed there and not just for those in Fiji. It was an axis point for how we, as an industry, viewed each other and our suppliers.
The RCSA 2019 Industry Awards Night is being held in Sydney on Thursday 20 June and Auckland on 25 July. What can attendees expect this year?
More Pride……on the back of a record number of award applications, a record number of attendees (projected) and heaps of funky music…..just for you Ross!
The 2019 RCSA Conference is a joint venture with the World Employment Confederation. What differences, if any, can attendees expect from this conference compared to a ‘normal’ RCSA conference?
More international speakers. More international guests. More conference delegates. More global perspective on what is working for our industry and what is not. We are finalising our speakers now and I’m really excited. Thanks for helping out with the selection Ross!
Always happy to help, Charles. What’s your highest priority as RCSA CEO in the next 12 months and why is it your #1?
Giving voice to the candidates, workers, professionals and clients that benefit from amazing recruitment and staffing across Australia and New Zealand. Our campaign for staffing, which we will soon launch, will re-define who we are and how proud we are of what we do. I love what RCSA members do to make our countries great and I want the world to know!
Knowing you can never get to everything and never keep everybody happy, how do you prioritise your time as RCSA CEO?
Communication is number one Ross. The RCS A-Team and I have a saying that “if it’s not being communicated then it’s not happening” in the eyes of members. However, I also have to temper my enthusiasm, because I tend to want to take on a lot more than we can reasonably handle as a team of 12 FTE staff. I’ve also started to arrange non travel weeks to ensure I can GSD….get s… done. I was finding that I was spending too much time engaging in person and I couldn’t turn intention in to action so I have moderated my travel and meeting time a fair bit this year. That said, I love this industry because they energise me and give me life. RCSA members are my battery pack and I’ll never forget that!
You and I, and our respective wives attended a fantastic Aretha tribute night last year at The Corner Hotel. What’s your favourite Aretha song and what new artist would you recommend for us lovers of soul music?
Funk me, that’s easy Ross……..Rock Steady……check it out…again…. Rock Steady….so funky
And the new stuff? Well maybe not pure soul but the man has soul – Tom Misch, Geography
Thanks, Charles, I greatly appreciate your time
Photo above: Charles hosting a Perth RCSA Leaders Lunch in late 2018.
Photo below: Charles in Christchurch late last year at an end of year member networking event (record turn out and the energy was high!)