U Benjamin Chaminade: Your distinguished career has
included being president of an international company
and director of diverse publicly listed companies. More
recently you have become an author. What perspective do
Benjamin Chaminade talks to
consultant, director and author
you bring to your new book, Rewire or Rust?
Robert Critchley: It emphasises the importance of the link Robert K Critchley about
between HR and the CEO. Having passionate, motivated
employees equals happy customers which results in more dismantling age stereotypes.
profit. The book focuses on helping Generation Xers and
baby-boomers, addressing their work-life balance, career
planning, and thinking through their goals and strategies.
Whether it be to work less, work to live or live to work, U I’m trying to formulate a new generational classification (see ‘Generation
plan for retirement, or put your career on a downshift, Gap’, hrmonthly, October 2005) because, for example, a baby-boomer here is
the book helps the reader plan their life. the same as a Gen X or Y in France. That’s why I’ve developed a new way of
thinking about this based on the career cycle, from the first year of work to
U Are the Gen X and baby-boomer classifications still retirement. People follow a cycle of four steps, and it’s working everywhere,
applicable? from the US to Australia, from Morocco to France.
I feel a little frustrated because we were using the same You are first an Explorer. They could be defined as Gen Y, but not only,
age groupings four years ago. The Gen X who was 32 because there are a lot more people in their 40s or 50s who want a new career.
is now 36. And if I’m 38 and you’re 42, for example, They’ve had enough of what they’ve been doing and want something different,
you’re a boomer and I’m a Gen X, but we don’t think but they don’t know why, so they explore. Then you have the Experts. They want
differently. It’s getting very grey… I’ve met people aged to become the best-in-field. They don’t mind which company they work for, it’s
30 who act and think like a 60-year-old. We went to about knowledge. Then you have the Professionals who are much more driven
a concert recently and witnessed a 62-year-old by by prestige and the brand name of the company. “Even if I have a broom and a
the name of Mick Jagger who acts and thinks like a PhD, I’m okay because I know in two years or 15 years I’ll still be there. At the
30-year-old. end you have the Passionates, driven by something else—it could be work, but
I think the terms are useful for understanding the dif- it could also be their kids, or a passion for…
ferences between people. The most important thing is And it can be at any age?
not to run your life by “I’m a Gen X and I must live this
way”. Understand that people are thinking differently, U Yes. At any age and you can be a bit of an Expert and a Passionate, a bit of
because so often the generational myopia is such that an Explorer and a Professional. The thing is, I’m not putting people in boxes
we think everyone thinks like we do. There is value in any more. I’m trying to give directions for their life depending on what they
understanding the way different generations think and are expecting.
act—understand but don’t try to typecast. And you can move between one and another. I agree, we need to look at the
person, not their birth certificate!
“…so often the generational U Yes, and you change from one to the other or being a bit of this and that.
That’s how I feel. Here’s an example of growing up in Peru or growing up in
myopia is such that we think Australia. This is the first generation in the history of Australia that has grown
up in an environment and reached their 50s largely unscathed by war, disease
everyone thinks like we do.” or famine. Most people 50 or less haven’t experienced these traumas.
HRMONTHLY JUNE 2006
Left: Robert Critchley;
Right: Benjamin Chaminade
I was speaking on my research in Peru Put simply, if I’m going to live until 90 and I retire early at
late last year and only 20 per cent of 55, then I’ll probably have spent 35 years in the workforce
the Peruvian population of 25 million and 35 years watching Home and Away. So I need to work
is in the formal workforce. So 80 per longer to build up the savings I need to have an acceptable
cent, whether they be six or 60, have no living standard for my potentially longer retirement.
understanding of what a career is. They Looking at the ageing workforce, many companies
don’t know what a Gen Y or X is. All they are discovering a shortage in their skills base, and many
know about is survival, all their life. And organisations are being reactive and not proactive. But
it doesn’t change as they age. They just some companies are very positive. I am the chairman of a
get greater survival instincts. facilities management group, Thomas & Coffey Limited,
I often ridicule the differences between a 38-year-old
and a 42-year-old where they are typecast differently. “We need to look operating in coal mines and ports. Last year with our
graduate intake at Wollongong, we took on two 34-year-
Why is it that someone over 40 can’t always get an inter-
view with some recruitment companies? It’s absurd. more widely and give old mature-age apprentices because we’re recognising
that they have a 30-year plus work life. And there’s a
U In your book, Doing nothing is not an option, you note
a greater number of shortage of young people. If you go to the coal mine areas
in the Bowen Basin in Queensland, the skills shortage
research from two years ago by DBM which says that
55 per cent of companies polled had no plan in place to
people a chance.” is phenomenal. People have to be creative, flexible and
work out different ways to recruit and retain people.
retain or attract workers aged 50 and over. Has anything But there are still a lot of employers in this country
changed? who don’t realise that the next five years in the work-
Very little from my research. There’s no doubt that the force are going to be totally unrelated to the last 30
focus on the aged worker is getting more front-page years because we have more people leaving than join-
coverage. Two years ago, if I was looking to read about ing. We need to recognise the enormous number of
our ageing population, I may have located a small article older workers capable of working in their 50s, 60s and
ILLUSTRATION: SARA ANDERSON
on page 17. The worker shortage has now become 70s. Something like only 15 per cent of jobs in Australia
front-page. today are manual, so many are based on intelligence.
I’ve been working over the last year on an age manage- The most powerful woman in the United Kingdom is
ment project for the Australian Government, addressing Queen Elizabeth. The most powerful man in the United
the need to continue employing older workers longer States until a few months ago was Alan Greenspan. Both
and the need for people over 50 to keep working longer. are in their 80th year!
HRMONTHLY JUNE 2006
Now based in NSW, Robert
K Critchley helps business
organisations develop strategies
to ensure employees are
Not all those older workers want to be the bosses. motivated, passionate and 45 years of age. We’ve listened to our staff through
They may wish to downshift and think of their career achieving work-life balance. He surveys and recognised that we need to create a flex-
not as going up a hill and falling off the cliff as they is also a director of consultancy ible work environment, because many of those women
retire, but more like a bell curve. You’re going up the company Worklife International. have children, grandchildren and parents to care for.
left side and then at some point in your life—at 30, 40, In his prior corporate role, he They need to be able to work in a flexible environ-
50 or 60—you start to phase down the right side of the was international president of ment, so we have a large percentage of staff as per-
bell to where you might work three days a week at 65 DBM Inc, an outplacement and manent part-time.
and two days a week at 70 and keep going. career management company That may sound very nice, but let me talk about it
We can’t do anything about getting people to have responsible for business from a practical business perspective. You want to cre-
more children in the short term. In 1961 each female operations in 49 countries. ate an environment for your staff so they come to work
on average had 3.75 children and today it’s 1.75. There’s Critchley started and developed on Monday feeling passionate about their job, saying
a 20-year lag time if we want to increase birth rates. the DBM business under licence this is the place I want to be. That translates into very
However, we have a lot of people who are on welfare, in Australia, then sold it to the happy staff, satisfying customers who want to come
single mums, people with disabilities, and all those US parent. He also served as back. Noni B has increased profits on average over 30
women who’ve been out of the workforce a long time Asia-Pacific president for DBM. per cent a year in the last four years in a tough retail
have been doing a lot of multi-skilling—raising a fam- Earlier in his career, he was environment. Happy staff equals happy customers
ily, living on a limited budget, being a partner—with no in the banking industry for more equals happy shareholders.
performance reviews or salary increases. There’s a huge than 20 years, mainly in Australia
potential workforce capable of participating. and the UK. He also developed U What were the two or three main things you used to
We need to look more widely and give a greater a specialist business focusing help them change?
number of people a chance. We can certainly outsource on corporate turnarounds and I cannot take credit for a special culture that has existed
jobs to lower-cost countries, which we are doing, but we training. for 30 years. We had detailed staff surveys and recog-
need to rethink what we are trying to achieve and think He is chairman or director nised our people needed flexibility. The founder and
in terms of flexibility. It’s not just the person of 55 who of several companies listed on CEO, Alan Kindl, makes a very important statement
may want to scale back to three days a week. It may be a the Australian Stock Exchange, to all our staff: “Your family is the most important
person at 32 who wants to drop out and go backpacking in equipment hire, facilities thing in your life, and we can never be that. We want
for a year around Europe, or have some children and management, fashion retail, to promote flexibility so you’re coming to work on
work two days a week for five years and recommence transport and construction. terms that work for you.”
her career later on. Maybe a person wants to work part- Critchley has written the books Secondly, we provide continuous development—
time so they can do a second degree. Rewired, Rehired or Retired? making sure you are being up-skilled and working
One example is my solicitor in Sydney. His assistant (2002) and Doing Nothing Is Not smart in your environment. Thirdly, we have a very
wasn’t in the office and I asked where he was. I was An Option—Facing the Imminent strong values culture, observing strong family values
told he’s backpacking around Europe for a year with his Labour Crisis (2005). His new which emanate from the founders and their family
girlfriend. I said “That’s a shame” and my solicitor said book, Rewire or Rust, will be (who are all in the business).
“No, it’s not. He’ll come back after a year and resume released in the next month or two.
his career and be motivated.” U Will companies and sectors with bad HR practices
We need to create flexible work environments for all suffer from the skills shortage more than the others?
our employees. If they’re not suffering now, they’re going to be. The days of bullying your
staff and autocratic management must come to an end. The words I hear
U Is this your silver-bullet solution for the skills shortage CEOs express—“We want to be an employer of choice”—are the most
in Australia? misused words I’ve experienced in the business world in the last decade. It’s
Yes. I’ll give you another example. I’m a director of time for CEOs to walk the talk and fortunately some are—however, some
Worklife International, which focuses on internal coach- are not.
ing, career development, and the retention and motiva- I believe the Gen Xs and Ys—if we’re going to define them—are smarter
tion of people. I’m able to put my views into practice than the boomers. The boomers applied for a job and if they got offered it,
because I’m also a director of companies listed on the said, “Great, when do I start?” The Xs and Ys ask, “What is your vision?
stock exchange. What is your commitment to society? Where do you believe you’re going?
I’m honoured to be Chairman of Noni B, the fashion Why should I work with you for the next five years? What value-added will
group, with 190 stores around Australia. Noni B’s focus I/we bring to the community?”
is the 35-plus female demographic. Ninety-nine per This is awesome—a whole different attitude coming through. Employers
cent of our staff are female and 50 per cent are over who are proactive and truly want to create an environment where people
HRMONTHLY JUNE 2006
want to come to work, where they’re passionate, where we focus on their U What impact will the new, adversarial industrial rela-
needs to make sure they have a good work-life balance, they have continu- tions legislation have on these good things that need to
ous learning in an environment that fits with their family environment—for happen—happy workplaces, etc?
those employers who are proactive, word-of-mouth will prevail. Because we Not for one second do I profess to be the expert, but I
always tell our friends which employers are good and not so good. do feel positive about it for a few reasons. You’ll never
The people who stick to the old ways are going to get caught out. Some stop a bad employer and make them a good employer,
companies are going to find that their prosperity suffers. They might not but this groundswell of changing demographics, where
even survive. we have skills shortages because we’re having fewer
children and living longer, is going to make employers
U There are more recruitment companies in Australia, realise that they have to create a positive environment
with 20 million people, than in France where we have 70 for their staff. Treat them badly and staff over the next
million people. What is the recruitment companies’ role? five years will have a lot more employment options
Do they need to change focus? than the staff of the last five years, and they won’t stay
The smart recruitment companies are being similarly with you.
proactive. Often recruitment companies get a brief from The other positive side of the new IR legislation is
their customer that includes a job description—we want that it gives the employer greater flexibility to create
the person to be under 40, etc. Even though they’re not a structure that suits the employee. For example, for
supposed to say that, they do. a mum who can work 9–3.30, but has to take the kids
Many recruitment companies accept the brief and to school and pick them up and seeks employment, it
go out to find someone to fit the description. But the should be easier in some circumstances.
really professional companies are reviewing the brief and There will be people who will abuse the IR legisla-
going back to their customer and educating them. They tion, but my gut feeling is that, when we look back
highlight that, if there are two applicants 35 and 55 and in two or three years, we’ll say there are some good
the job is technical, then they can both do it. things here. I’m being totally non-political in making
And some jobs can be accomplished from a home this comment.
office. An estimated 20 million people in the US are
working online from a home office. In Europe, the fig- U In terms of your own career, how did you get from bank-
ure is about 43 million, and close to two million people ing to where you are now?
in Australia. We need to assess whether Mary has to I joined the bank when I was 16 and did my studies
come into the office every day, and does she have to after we were married. But at 41 I was bored, and I was
work full-time or part-time? helping friends who had a business that was failing, in
my spare time. I helped them save the business for
free, then friends of friends asked me to do the same.
“This is awesome–a whole All of a sudden I had a business. I still worked at the
bank for two days a week for nine months. I was pursu-
different attitude coming ing my passion, which was helping people and busi-
through.” nesses prosper together. Then I started DBM as a
licensee, built it up and sold it to the parent, then took
on a global role.
I have fun with what I do. I don’t regard it as work.
I have a balanced life. I like to speak and share my
research, and I’m speaking in Fiji next week at a confer-
ence—and nobody believes I’m working! I’m going back
to Latin America, where my books have been translated
I can talk about my research, consult, and help people
in not-for-profit organisations. I work with companies
as a director or chairman. I also like skiing, hiking and
playing tennis. Most importantly, I have more time for
HRMONTHLY JUNE 2006
“They are identifying people who I spend a lot of time talking to organisations, and there
are wonderful entrepreneurial, visionary leaders out
are going to be tomorrow’s leaders, there, and I feel confident. But I regard them as the
minority and we need to spend a lot more time educat-
and they can be 25 or 55.” ing some of our leaders in how to be leaders. There are
a lot of managers, but not too many leaders. I’ll possibly
receive some rude phone calls now!
Writing Rewired, Rehired or Retired (2002) was a life-changing experience.
I was travelling five months of the year around the world as international U Where does learning to lead begin?
president of DBM, and my family would drop me an email: “Page 42, Some people may be natural leaders—they were cap-
par 4—this can’t be you?” I realised from that and a couple of unpleasant tain of the netball or football team at school. But not
personal experiences, including 9/11—I was in New York that day—that everyone can be the captain and we need to spend more
there’s more to life. It made me stop travelling so much, rethink my career time developing leadership skills... There’s an old book,
and stop working crazy hours. I’ve scaled back. The Peter Principle (by Laurence Peter, first published
What I’m describing is the me of today. The me of in 1969), that says people are promoted to their level of
four years ago wasn’t very smart. incompetence, and that still stands today. Someone
That’s why I think HR professionals have an enormous who’s a star gets to go to the next stage, but because
contribution to make. We have the CEO and the CFO, you’re the best player on the team doesn’t mean you’re
but the head of HR should be linked closely with those going to be the best coach. Leaders should re-read The
two—because people are the one sustainable differen- Peter Principle.
tiator you have. They are your one major asset, the one I also think we need to put leadership into the cur-
that differentiates you and helps you create a culture riculum in schools and universities, and at the early
that’s different from your competitors. We can all copy stages of induction and development when people join
competitors products, but we can’t copy the people. organisations.
At Worklife International, we do a lot of work in that
U Where are the HR gurus? There are many for manage- area—helping companies identify where their talent for
ment, but why not HR? tomorrow is.
In Australia HR has not always been treated so well. The Theoretically we’re looking for tomorrow’s leaders,
multinationals and Australian companies downsized their but, unless you have very good systems and proce-
HR departments in the late-1990s, and at the CEO level dures in place, someone can be hidden away in the Port
there’s not always enough appreciation of the difference
between someone who walks in on Monday highly moti- BENJAMIN Hedland branch of your organisation because their boss
thinks they’re good but doesn’t tell anyone else.
vated, with a productivity level of 200 per cent, and
someone who walks in with problems at home, who CHAMINADE At Coates Hire, CEO Malcolm Jackman has imple-
mented a strategy for a leadership development pro-
doesn’t like their job and is thinking of other things they Benjamin Chaminade, the director gram. They are identifying people who are going
want to do, and has productivity of 10 per cent. You don’t of InsideHR, is a consultant and to be tomorrow’s leaders, and they can be 25 or 55.
have to be an accountant to work out the difference to author who specialises in talent They’re the best people. It’s ability-driven, not age-
the bottom line. We see it in companies so often. management and human capital driven.
strategic development. He began
his consulting career in France,
where he is a best-selling author,
before moving to Australia three
He has written several books
including Skill Management and
Employer of Choice Best Practices.
Chaminade’s latest book, HR as a
key element in a quality culture,
was recognised as the ‘Best
Management and Performance
Book’ by HR managers in France.
HRMONTHLY JUNE 2006