Flexible Work : It’s Not Just Staff Who Benefit

"It isnow easier for businesses to tap into the potential of flexible work, thanks mainly to our new ability to stay remarkably connected"

“It is now easier for businesses to tap into the potential of flexible work, thanks mainly to our new ability to stay remarkably connected”


Whether or not today’s businesses recognise it, flexible work is now the number one tool for reducing office and workforce costs, and for doing ‘more with less’.

Just as technology has become an increasingly important part of the workplace in the past decade, there is a similarly helpful tool now at our disposal.

It is now easier for businesses to tap into the potential of flexible work, thanks mainly to our new ability to stay remarkably connected. As a result, working in other locations for part (or all) of the time is now cheap and accessible.

New factors are also driving employees’ increasing interest in flexible work: more households are dual-earners, travel times have increased in our large cities and stress levels are on the rise.

Today’s flexible work imperative

Flexible work can cut the high direct and indirect costs of staff turnover. In a recent, large-scale global study, 43% of staff would choose flexible work over a pay rise. This means your staff would rather stay with you, if you offer flexible work, than go elsewhere for a pay rise.

A quick question for you: if one third of your existing customers indicated an intention to leave and buy elsewhere, would you consider this a significant threat to your business? Interestingly, the same UnifyCo study showed that one in three staff would accept a new job if it offered better flexible working conditions. A long string of research has made similar discoveries.

To keep top talent, it doesn’t take much to discover that flexible work is an effective method.

Cost savings and productivity gains

There are other costs to be saved. Take the case of working from home. Having your staff work from home a few days a week is an effective method to reduce your accommodation bill: lease costs, utilities, parking and so on.

Costs can be saved in other ways through flexible work. For example, you can avoid the significant costs associated with getting new staff. Estimates of the cost of staff turnover range between 25 and 250% of an employee’s salary, depending on the complexity of the role and the ease of rehiring. These costs include the costs of rehiring; retraining and on-boarding new staff.

Deloitte Access Economics recently estimated that large organisations could save $350,000 per year on rehiring costs alone by being flexible, while small organisations could save $22,000 per year.

Today’s opportunity

Despite the flexible work imperative, I regularly come across businesses that are stuck seeing today’s workplace through the lens of the past, which leads them to think that flexible work is primarily a benefit for their employees.

All of this points to an incredible opportunity for today’s forward-thinking businesses: offer flexible work and avoid the costs of losing valuable talent, plus make other savings and productivity benefits along the way.

By Nina Sochon ; Nina is a Cause & Effective Associate. She is a High Performing Workplace Consultant and a leading expert on remote and flexible work. Learn more about Nina here

What Bait Do Fish Like?


An important skill for getting along with others is “versatility”. If we are versatile we can move freely from person to person, from one topic to another. We interact with many people and we find it constructive to be able to adapt, to be flexible.

Getting a good reputation for versatility means we find ways to get outside our comfort zones in our conversations.

To be versatile means knowing a lot about ourselves and paying a lot of attention to others. Let’s illustrate this with the challenge of influencing others to make a decision.

You may be comfortable with data, numbers, and the mysterious “bottom line”. Numbers are factual and when presented with a business initiative you want to be taken to the numbers. When you are satisfied that the numbers add up, then you may be interested in other variables – what others think of the idea, what impact the initiative may have on team morale, how committed to the initiative leaders are, etc?

When it comes to influencing others you may readily assume they too would be comfortable with numbers. Your business case, your “what’s in it for me?” is loaded with numbers, facts, figures, impact on the “bottom line”.

What if those whose attention you are trying to gain are anxious about numbers? What if they are more interested in the human impact of an initiative – the social acceptability of the project? Sums are not their comfort zone.

Those you want to influence want to hear a story and you give them data! You have probably given them a headache as well and little reason to pay attention to you.

You have gone fishing with the bait you like – numbers, and not the bait the fish was looking for – narratives. No bites, surprised?

Versatility means adapting your presentation to your audience. How might you adjust your next presentation, conversation to better appeal to your audience?

Any Not For Profit That Runs Like a Business Will Go Broke


Are you tired of being asked, “Why can’t you run your not for profit like a business?”

I’ve written about how not for profits can use advice written for businesses (with just a little translation).  When it comes to not for profit finance, however, some business wisdom is just wrong.

Clara Miller, the former director of the Nonprofit Finance Fund, explains why.  In her wonderful article, “The Looking-Glass World of Nonprofit Money,” she lists seven assumptions that businesspeople make that–in the not for profit world–are just not true.

  1. “The consumer buys the product.” False. Donors and funders buy the “product” (which may be a service, a program, or a campaign), and clients benefit from it.
  2. “Price covers cost and eventually produces profits, or the business folds.”  False.  Not for profits are devoted to their missions and will keep on pursuing the mission as long as they  can.  They have a sideline in fundraising to support their “business”–but it also saps energy away from the reason they exist.
  3. “Cash is liquid.”  False.  Government and foundation grants are often restricted to specific purposes and can’t be used to pay for anything else.  A not for profit can get more grants and have less money to pay its day-to-day costs of doing business!
  4. “Price is determined by producers’ supply and consumers’ ability and willingness to pay.”  False.  Since the consumers don’t pay (see #1), they don’t have the say.  Government or foundation funders decide what they’re willing to pay AND how many clients the not for profit must serve in return for the money.  If it’s not enough, the not for profit has to make up the difference with fundraising, or the quality of service suffers.
  5. “Any profits will drop to the bottom line and are then available for enlarging or improving the business.”  False.  Many not for profits have spent less than budgeted only to see their budget reduced for the next year, on the theory that they must not really have needed the money.
  6. “Investment in infrastructure during growth is necessary for efficiency and profitability.”  False.  Well, actually, true, but not recognized by funders!  Many funders want to pay for program, but only a far-sighted few will invest in building capacity for the future.
  7. “Overhead is a regular cost of doing business, and varies with business type and stage of development.”  False.  As Miller says, “Overhead is seen as a distraction—an indication that an organization is not putting enough of its attention and resources into program.”  (Thankfully, this is beginning to change, but only beginning.)

Working in the not for profit sector, have you heard well-meaning but useless advice from people who think you ought to “run like a business”?  What would you want those people to know?

By Dennis Fischman : Dennis is a Cause & Effective Associate who helps not for profits and small business discover better ways to communicate and, in the process, win friends and get the support they need.

Doing Cool Stuff


Have you ever been held back, by people saying things like “that is too risky?” Has your boss ever said no to a project because they are risk averse? Have you ever wanted to do something, but found yourself second guessing yourself? Have these projects or activities been cool stuff? If you answer “yes” to any of these questions it may be time to use risk management to do cool stuff.

In my experience too many people stop projects and activities that are cool and would inspire many people to better things, because the perceived risk is too high. When referring to risk we are talking about the downside of an activity. In other words, the consequence of what happens if things go wrong.If this downside is not managed correctly then people have a right to be concerned.

I have been faced with some of these “risky” situations and my love for doing cool stuff led me to use risk management to make cool stuff happen. It is a passion of mine to seek out adventure. This does not mean that I live with a high level of risk. Yes, risk is a part of everyday life, though you cannot eliminate it, you can manage it. A risk management approach has seen me be part of youth projects in places like the Solomon Islands, Niue, Vietnam and Timor Leste. I have also personally piloted planes, being paragliding and travelled to places like Kosovo. Each of these adventures fuelled my passion (the opportunity), while I managed the risks (the downside).

So where does risk management come in?

Risk Management is a tool that can be used to manage risk and even reduce the downside consequences of a project or activity. Using risk management correctly means that you will be able to do more of the cool stuff. When workshopping or training people in risk I refer to risk management being an empowering tool that will enable us to do more of the cool stuff.

So how does this work?

Without going through the whole risk management process, imagine what would happen if we could reduce the downside risk of an activity. This would make the activity more acceptable to any approving authority. What about if you could reduce the chance that something would go wrong? Imagine if you could do both. This would lower the risk levels of the whole project or activity. I know this sounds like magic, however we do this instinctively in our daily lives. Most of us wear seat belts in the car. The reason for this is to reduce our injuries (the consequence) if we have an accident. Some may also wear seatbelts to avoid paying a fine (another consequence) if caught by police.

So in fact most of us already do risk management. Through working as a group and documenting the thought process around risk management we can come up with comprehensive risk management plans that will feed into our project or activity plans. This process will lead to procedures that while maximising opportunity (doing cool stuff), will help us to develop ways that reduce the risk of failure or develop contingency plans should the unfortunate happen.

An example of contingency planning was one of the youth projects in Solomon Islands I was involved with , through Scouting. We travelled over to Honiara about six months after riots had burnt down parts of the city. Many people thought we were crazy, however in consultation with the team and the scouting leadership we developed a set of robust contingency plans. While in the Solomon Islands we regularly used the contingency plans in the risk management plans to manage everything from leadership issues, safety challenges, medical issues and possible flight delays. In the end the project was a success and all the objectives were met.

So what are you putting off? My hope from now on when you hear the words Risk Management, you think opportunity and cool stuff, rather than termination of activities and road blocks. I look forward to hearing your awesome stories of how you managed to do cool stuff.

By Attila Ovari : Attila is a Cause & Effective Associate. He loves life and thrives on helping people become more effective leaders.

What Stands In The Way, Becomes The Way


look forward

Marcus Aurelius, the last of the Five Good Emperors said: “ What stands in the way becomes the way.”

One of the approaches I use in coaching executives and directors is to help them find obstacles (what stands in the way), to help them see what they can do next (what becomes the way).

This is a somewhat different situation to that where executives and directors want to improve their performance; for example by being coached on improving their leadership presence.

Obstacles arise in many ways.

Recently I worked with a CEO who is thinking about the challenges in his industry sector arising from disruptions to traditional technology.

He is confronted by an obstacle i.e. the plethora of health-related Apps. He is worried that his business will potentially be wiped out if consumers using these apps go straight to medical specialists rather than through his business.

His thinking model was that the traditional B2B model he had found successful was going to be replaced with a B2C model.

However by rethinking what is really going on in the market, he got to see that the consumers’ involvement through apps is actually going to be a boon if they handle it cleverly. Instead of being a B2B business where he is selling a particular health service in response to a prescription from specialists, his business is actually morphing into a B2C2B business. It’s just that now the consumers are taking a more active role in their health treatment and will actually increase demand for his company’s services if he acts strategically.

By thinking about the obstacle (the rise of medical apps) in a coached conversation, this CEO got to see that the apps actually give him the way forward (a new channel to market).

By Ian Sampson – Ian is a Cause & Effective Associate. If you are facing obstacles as an executive, CEO or Director contact Ian here for a no-obligation exploratory discussion about how coaching can offer new ways forward.

“Time to Blow-up the Strategic Plan!”


A friend sent me an email last week with the subject line proclaiming “Time to Blow-up the Strategic Plan!”

The body of the email contained the gruesome details of the outcome of his organisation’s tender submission for the continuation and expansion of a major part of its business. To say the least they had been highly unsuccessful and are now facing a sizable contraction to their operations. According to my friend his organisation’s Strategic Plan had them “launching into the stratosphere over the next three years, but reality was going to bring them crashing to earth.”

While I felt for my friend and his colleagues at this very difficult time, it was his understandably cynical closing words … “Guess whoever is left will have to write a new Strategic Plan for the bookshelf” that I really want to talk about.

For some time now, we at Cause & Effective have held the view that Strategic Planning, as we have traditionally known it, is well past its use by date as a management tool. You know what I am talking about : The 3 or maybe 5 year ritual where perhaps the Board and senior management take themselves off to some retreat and hatch an exciting plan for the future. The Plan manifests itself in some glossy publication or, maybe to reflect the austerity of the times, in a humble ring bound folder. No matter what the format, typically the fate of these Plans is the same – a dusty shelf or a box in some cupboard. The only time they see the light of day is at some funding event or to allow the organisation to tick a box on a tender and truthfully say:

“Yes we have a Plan!”.

Surely it is time to end this farce. Today, static plans can no longer be relied upon to guide organisations through turbulent times (and it is debatable that they ever did). Instead these plans need to be urgently replaced by cultures and management practices that embrace and develop more adaptive strategic frameworks. Dana O’Donovan and Noah Rimland Flower of the Monitor Institute write about this in their excellent article “The Strategic Plan is Dead. Long Live Strategy”.

According to O’Donovan & Flower today’s world dominated by high-tech tools, globalisation and, paradoxically, the rise of the individual, has led to an environment where the, “traditional approach to strategic planning is based on assumptions that no longer hold.”

What is required from leaders is strategic thinking not strategic plans. A way of thinking that is based on a loop that has four simple steps:

Observe, Orient, Decide, Act

To assist leaders through this process, and to put this approach into a not for profit context, O’Donovan & Flower suggest leaders engage with stakeholders with the view of answering a series of four interrelated questions about the organisation’s strategic direction:

  • What vision do we want to pursue?
  • How will we make a difference?
  • How will we succeed?
  • What capabilities it will take to get there?

If you think this approach may better serve your organisation in the future let us know and we would be happy to assist you.

I suggested to my friend perhaps his organisation would be better served by a new way of thinking and not a new plan. Watch this space, he tells me the bookshelf is set to survive so the temptation will be there to put something new on it!

By Chris Gandy – Founder of Cause & Effective. We link exceptional subject matter experts with cause-based organisations that are making a positive social, cultural and environmental difference


The Do’s and Don’ts of Employee Reference Checks


Reference checks are one of the best ways to verify information from a potential employee during the recruitment process, and are usually the last ‘line of defence’ before candidates are appointed to the role.

Like every other HR function, a solid process will ensure that the right information is gathered from referees and what to do if you don’t like what you hear.

When it comes to conducting reference checks the right way, here’s what you should do, and what you steer clear of. 

The Do’s

DO be comprehensive. It might take more time, but it’s essential that information put forward in a resume can be verified. This might mean asking to see copies of university degrees, academic transcripts if necessary, or for some roles gaining a criminal history report.  Evidence of work permits, licenses and other qualifications that are relevant to the role should be physically supplied.

DO seek comments from past colleagues. Make sure to identify the length of employment, the role or position description. Speak to a manager or supervisor if possible to get information about the candidate’s work ethic, relevant skills and knowledge and other comments on working with the candidate. Make sure to give a brief description of the role the candidate is applying for so referees can give information in context.

DO be consistent. Make sure that the same process is followed with all candidates considered for the role. Each applicant should have the same level of investigation to avoid unfairness or a perception that the process is be unfair or even discriminatory.

DO ask a standard set of questions. This will ensure that all applicants are measured and assessed over the same criteria allowing them to be objectively compared against each other. Make sure to record observations and ask for the reasons for the employee leaving their previous position. Ask behavioural questions such as relationships with other staff, customers, ability to meet deadlines, project management skills and so on.

DO contact multiple referees.  Speaking to a number of people, along with the observations made when interviewing the candidate, is the best way to get an accurate picture of the applicant and increases the reliability of the process. Doing this can highlight any trends or patterns in the temperament or other characteristics of the candidate.

The Don’ts

DON’T automatically reject a candidate because of one discrepancy. There could be many reasons for an inconsistency and they should be evaluated on their significance and the relevance to the job. Sometimes the referee isn’t always in the right position to make such judgements, especially if they didn’t work alongside the applicant. Always assess the information in context. A minor overstatement of past achievements or pay need not necessarily disqualify an applicant from the position, especially if everything else checks out.

DON’T look for only the negative. There is often a tendency for employers to go into a reference checking process doubting everything the candidate has told us unless proven otherwise. This mindset, however, can over-shadow many of the positives in a candidates application.

DON’T go into the process with your mind already made up. Too often employers already have their mind made up before the reference checking stage and don’t bother investigating as thoroughly their preferred candidate. This can bias the kinds of questions that are asked and defeats the entire purpose of the process.

DON’T accept written references only. These are unlikely to give you the information that you need and you’re unlikely to see anything that is unfavourable. They also have a far greater chance of being fabricated. Additionally don’t do reference checks via social media. What you find or don’t find from pictures, statuses and other details about a candidates personal life does not mean the applicant would not be suited to the job.

By Claire Harrison – Claire is a Human Resource specialist and founder of Harrison Human Resources. She is based in Brisbane and provides specialist HR services to small and medium-sized organisations. 


Staying on the Path : Good For Sheep, Could Be Fatal For An Organisation


I am sure you have driven in the country on occasions and seen very narrow tracks carved out in paddocks by sheep as they “follow the leader” from point A to point B. For sheep, this is basically a defensive manoeuvre. When one decides to “go” they all “go”. They are herd animals and are hardwired to stick together. And if you look at their tracks they are never dead straight but weave slightly from side to side. This greatly expands their field of vision and allows members of the walking column to keep a virtual 360 lookout for predators.

While sheep have a sound reason for their behaviour I can’t say the same exists is so many cause-based organisations I come across who seem to be perfectly content with following a well worn program delivery track. Sure this approach helps them feel comfortable today but is doing nothing to help secure their future.

Funding bodies are continually on the lookout for organisations that try things, push program delivery boundaries, are innovative and creative. Believe it or not, but politicians and bureaucrats are human. They are excited by, and want to be associated with, trail blazers.

For trail blazers, acceptance of the “same old”, “same old” mentality is not for them. Of course, I am not talking about foolhardy risk-taking here. But a preparedness to question the status quo and a willingness to try other ways of increasing social impact.

If you are leading a cause-based organisation, and are not already doing so, you may do well to take Ralph Waldo Emerson’s advice:

“Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”

In today’s environment, while is may work for sheep to stick to the path, it could lead to the early demise of a cause-based organisation.

Irrespective of the sector you find yourself in today, it is critical to your organisation’s survival to always stay uncompromisingly focused on your cause. Never stop listening to those you serve, continuously evolve your product and service offering and distance yourself from those on the path.

By Chris Gandy – Founder of Cause & Effective. We link exceptional subject matter experts with cause-based organisations that are making a positive social, cultural and environmental difference



I’ve Never Met a Vodka I Didn’t Like


By Joe Moore

A couple of strangers sat down at the long, common café table. Both laden with shopping bags.

One of them asked for a vodka tonic, and settled for a glass of white wine.

The other looked up from the menu and ordered white wine and then asked;

“Do you know about vodka? Only that I just bought some and I got the most expensive – you get what you pay for with alcohol right?”

The guy’s response? I loved it!

“I’ve never met a vodka I didn’t like!”

This conversation started like many others you and I have had, almost everyone has had. Sit down beside a stranger and talk about things that demand little or no knowledge of each other – weather, the surroundings, the city you are in…The conversation may simply end there.

It’s the easiest conversation zone – requires little effort, little risk.

When we work with others though it is not enough.

When we need to relate to others professionally – it helps to know a little about them personally, and for them to know a little about us. It’s all part of cultivating relationships.

What are you prepared to talk about to create the balance between the personal and the professional in your working relationships?

Generally people with whom you have a professional relationship like to know a little about why you do what you do. They like to know a little about the person behind the office, behind your position. Pick three things you are comfortable talking about – open up a little more than you do now.

Would you lighten the business conversation with some information or a story about – children, family, holiday, your observations about anything in which you have an interest?

This post is by Joe Moore. Joe is the founder and principal of Kimber Moore Associates. He and his team are highly skilled in helping leaders and staff deal with uncertainty, change, complexity and conflicts. You can contact Joe here