Appearing in In the Black magazine, August 2020
24/6: The Power of Unplugging One Day a Week
By Tiffany Shlain
Simon & Schuster, $30, 256 pages
There is no doubt that cell phones have improved our lives in many ways but Shlain makes the point, in this fascinating book, that they have also generated anxiety, social dislocation, and exhaustion. She argues that regular unplugging from IT, which means not only phones but computers, social media and screens in general can have a profoundly positive effect on one’s life. She has built a successful career from Net technology so her willingness to deliberately turn it off for one day out of seven (and extending it to her entire family) might seem surprising. However, after doing it for a decade and she can provide many lessons, including on how it improves mental and physical health, rebuilds relationships and, ultimately, increases overall work productivity.
Shlain examines the Jewish idea of shabbat (a day of rest) and also delves into the underpinning neuroscience and psychology. She emphasises that just turning the phone or computer off is not enough: they need to be put completely out of sight, reach and mind. Breaking the habit of 24/7 connection can be difficult but it is worth the effort, and soon becomes second nature. So try it. You have nothing to lose but the stress.
By Mark McCrindle and Ashley Fell
Rockpool Publishing, $30, 224 pages
Here are some remarkable statistics: in a survey of over a thousand Australian employees undertaken for this book, 72 per cent regarded wellbeing as the most important aspect of their workplace, and 83 per cent believe it is up to the employer to facilitate wellbeing. Surveys also indicated that a very large number of employees are somewhat or very unhappy in their workplace, and consequently give only minimum commitment to the organisation.
It does not have to be this way, say workplace researchers McCrindle and Fell, and it should not be. They argue that satisfied, motivated employees should be the first priority of a leader – even more so than customers, as happy employees will lead to happy customers. They draw on their consulting experience to establish the characteristics of a wellbeing workplace, finding that a positive and supporting culture, a sense of purpose, and a realisation of impact are the keys. Leaders have to be collaborative rather than commanding, and be able to communicate long-term goals. Interestingly, this is true even with employees who work remotely. McCrindle and Fell note the need to understand different generations, but a common factor is that all employees want due recognition, meaning, and a sense of community.
Advancing the Common Good: Strategies for Businesses, Governments, and Nonprofits
By Philip Kotler
Praeger, $55, 196 pages
Kotler is one of the heavy hitters of business theory, having published dozens of books on branding and marketing. But he has also written extensively about the social responsibility of the private sector, and this book consolidates his views and thinking on the broad subject. Making profits is not the essential point of business, he says, but merely a means: the real objective is to make the world a better place. In fact, in the era of Net-driven transparency and social media a company cannot afford to have its reputation tarnished by irresponsible actions.
Kotler provides many examples of firms that have used their expertise and capital to assist the disadvantaged sectors of the community and reduce overall inequality without compromising the financial bottom line. But merely acting at the margins is not enough, he says. Existing companies have to re-think their entire purpose, and newcomers should incorporate social objectives from the start-up phase. When considering new initiatives leaders should factor in the impacts on the physical and social environment. Kotler admits that defining “the common good” is not easy but he offers some useful metrics and organisational models. His main focus is on US society but most of what he says has universal application.
Consulting firm Accenture has published a number of useful articles about charting a course for recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, and has now consolidated the material to provide advice and insights. The collection looks at the long-term implications of the crisis for business leaders; creating a resilient workforce through training and redeployment; assessing fundamental changes in consumer behaviour and routes to market; rebalancing for risk and liquidity, while assessing opportunities for growth; and re-designing IT systems to allow for business continuity and system durability. The overall theme is how to turn adversity into opportunity through strategic leadership and effective planning.
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Foreign intelligence services and cyber-criminals have begun to target contractors as a way of by-passing the protective measures of government agencies, according to the Australian Cyber Security Centre. Its publication Cyber Security for Contractors examines common intrusion strategies, ranging from socially engineered emails to unpatched applications. The publication sets out defensive tools, including applications control, regular reviews and patching, whitelists, and ongoing vetting of employees. The value of unclassified information contained on a contractor’s systems is not always evident but it can still be sensitive, particularly when aggregated. While the publication is aimed at government contractors there are broad lessons for corporations as well.
Data from recruitment firm SEEK shows that the finance sector is one of the areas continuing to show solid rates of year-on-year salary growth. Compliance-related roles were especially strong due to a heightened regulatory environment. Within the finance area, risk consulting in insurance and superannuation showed strong demand, and company secretary roles also attracted high salaries. Starting salaries continue to be strong but there is some evidence that growth is slowing (a trend evident even before the COVID-19 crisis). On the other end of the scale, the real estate and property sector recorded a year-on-year decline, with valuers’ salaries falling most sharply.
Anyone who needs to see at a glance how the COVID-19 crisis has affected the Australian economy, and how the recovery is likely to develop, will find authoritative information in The Chart Pack published by the Reserve Bank of Australia. It summarises macroeconomic and financial market trends, with data on credit and money, banking indicators, inflation, commodity prices, the stock market, trade and GDP growth. There is also useful information about regional and global developments. The graphs are updated monthly and can be downloaded individually or as a package. There are also links to more detailed data available through the RBA website.
Patrick Lencioni is the author of a series of books imparting business lessons through fables, and in this TED talk he uses stories and anecdotes to define the qualities of an ideal team player. The essential attributes, he says, are humility, which means focusing on the greater good; being hungry, entailing self-motivation and a willingness to take the initiative; and being people-smart, which requires being perceptive about others, asking good questions, listening carefully and knowing how to respond effectively. Lencioni emphasises that it is up to the leader to nurture and develop these qualities through example, mentoring and good recruitment choices.