Hell or high water: protecting business from flood

By Paul May >>

AUSTRALIA is increasingly prone to severe flooding and the risk to business on the East Coast is on the rise.

Regions in Queensland, New South Wales, Tasmania and Western Australia have all been inundated between June 2016 and November 2017. Parts of North Queensland were declared a disaster zone due to flooding in March 2018.

These conditions have directly impacted businesses in affected areas, as well as other companies and consumers that rely on their products and services.  

Research indicates the frequency of flooding in coastal South East Australia – extending from Brisbane in the north down to Eden in the south and incorporating Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle – has increased since the late 19th century. According to research published by the Bureau of Meteorology in 2016, the frequency of major floods has increased by 50 percent during that time.

Flooding is one of the most damaging and expensive natural catastrophes. Floodwaters can damage essential production machinery and stock, forcing businesses to expend considerable time, effort and money cleaning, repairing and replacing damaged items. Flood-related interruptions to production or delivery risks losing credibility with customers, investors and other stakeholders.

Now consider that about one in 10 existing industrial facilities are located in a designated flood zone. This is where 80 percent of flood losses historically occur.


Annual exceedance probability (AEP) is a key measure of flood risk. An area with a one percent AEP has a one-in-100 chance of flooding in any given year.

Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t mean such a flood will only occur once every 100 years or that you’re safe for another 100 years after experiencing such an event.

Mathematical modelling reveals that an industrial building situated in an area with a one percent annual flood risk for 30 years would have a 26 percent chance of experiencing a flood during that period.

The Australian Government reports our most costly flooding hit parts of Queensland in 2010-2011. It cost our national economy more than $6.6 billion.

To put that in perspective, the average direct annual cost of flooding has been estimated at $943 million.


So the business case for improving flood resilience is compelling. While many businesses are potentially exposed to flood threats, this doesn’t mean damage is inevitable.

For businesses based in flood zones, taking practical and proactive steps minimises the impact of flood, maintaining operations and safeguarding brand reputation.

Planning greatly reduces the likelihood and extent of losses.

A recent FM Global study examined the effects of flood damage on businesses over a 10-year period. It discovered that companies with no response plan — or an ineffective one — suffered an average loss of more than $2 million. Companies with effective response plans in place suffered 70 percent lower losses.

Flood waters associated with Cyclone Debbie in 2017 resulted in a manufacturing plant in New South Wales being shut down for 12 weeks when up to a metre of water flowed through the plant. 

Much of the production delay was due to water damage to electrical equipment.  Raising equipment above the anticipated flood depth would have greatly mitigated the duration of production interruption.

Another business owner had a flood plan which instructed the maintenance team to place all floor-mounted equipment on top of workbenches. This didn’t consider the time it would take.

When flood waters hit at night there was only one worker on shift, so they only managed to move half the equipment before they had to evacuate the site.

The plan also didn’t identify that the anticipated flood depth was above the bench height, so all the equipment was damaged and needed to be replaced.

If the site’s flood plan had considered the time, resources and the likely flood depth this effort would not have been wasted and the one worker could have focused on moving high-value, critical equipment up to the second floor.


When plans are well developed and thought through, they keep your business running.

One business had a flood plan which was focused on moving all high-value vehicles 12km to another facility. By understanding how much warning time they would get from the council, they knew exactly how many drivers they would need to move the fleet to a safe location. As a result, there was minimal damage and normal business was resumed quickly after the waters had subsided.

Effective flood plans focus on protecting and remediating critical systems, machines and stock in the event of inundation. Businesses should also implement processes to trigger these plans promptly in order to minimise damage and disruption when flooding occurs.   

Flood is a significant risk but damage is not inevitable. You should undertake a cost-benefit analysis of modifying facilities to either prevent water getting inside your facility or by relocating critical equipment and material above predicted flood levels. Preparation is the key to taming the waters and keeping your business high and dry.


  • Have a plan with clear action triggers for when flooding strikes.
  • Implement the right combination of temporary and permanent actions.
  • Install flood barriers or improve resistance to inundation.
  • Choose building finishes less susceptible to damage from floodwaters.
  • Avoid storing valuable equipment and material below or at ground level.
  • Ensure data storage systems or critical power and control equipment is flood-proof.
  • Check out FM’s Global Flood Map when moving or expanding into new locations.

Paul May is the engineering manager of FM Global Australia


Managing the future of work and jobs: Sodexo report

QUALITY OF LIFE services specialist, Sodexo, has released its 2018 Global Workplace Trends report, offering fresh insights for global workforce leaders and decision makers on the future of work and jobs.

The report highlights the most critical factors affecting the future of work and demonstrates how an improved workplace experience is key to increasing companies’ performance – and leads to better employee engagement.

This year’s Sodexo report focuses on seven interconnected topics with an overarching theme: the need for collective intelligence across all workplace domains. 

“Since 2012, Sodexo’s Global Workplace Trends [reports] have provided companies with a perspective on the trends that are shaping the future of workplaces around the world,” Sodexo CEO for corporate services and education, Nick O’Callaghan said.

“As a global employer of over 420,000 and a national employer of over 5,000, these insights provide Sodexo with valuable knowledge to improve the quality of life for its team members.

“By using these insights to positively shape our workplace, we can enjoy the benefits of happy staff and improved performance within the organisation. These trends also allow us to assist our clients in planning and preparing their workplaces for the future,” Mr O’Callaghan said.

Key elements identified in the 2018 Global Workplace Trends report include preparing for ‘Generation Z’, the onset of the internet of things (IoT), creating an emotionally intelligent workplace, the impact of resourcing in the sharing economy, adjusting gender balance issues, new insights into ‘human capital’ management and the roles employees now clearly play in driving corporate responsibility.

Getting ready for Gen Z: With high expectations around technology and flexibility, while paying close attention to well-being and quality of life, Gen Z is reshaping the workplace in new and exciting ways for all generations.

The Internet of Things: shaping the future for workplace: IoT-supported workplace environments are an opportunity to operate and engage businesses and employees in a more effective manner by improving comfort in physical spaces, flexibility, precision in the process and ultimately quality of life for everyone. 

Creating the emotionally intelligent workplace: Emotional intelligence has become a core skillset for high-performing organisations and leaders today. The workplace itself can be emotionally intelligent – by allowing people to bring their full spectrum of emotions to work, and aligning their fundamental human needs and motivations.

Re-imagining resources in the sharing economy: Forward-thinking organisations are redefining their business models to leverage the benefits of the sharing economy.

Moving the needle of gender balance: To create a gender intelligent workplace, companies must examine the barriers that are holding back women and implement a cultural transformation driven by inclusive leaders.

Human capital management 3.0: Human Capital Management (HCM) 3.0 is bringing all the different technologies and programs (learning, recognition, wellness) together to transform the work experience into the life experience. HCM aims to enhance the employee experience and help organisations perform at their best.

Employees – New change agents for corporate responsibility: Employees are now key stakeholders when it comes to shaping corporate responsibility strategies. It is important for companies to give their workforce a voice, enabling them to feel fulfilled — while working toward a better future for all.

Sodexo employs a diverse workforce of more than 5000 employees in Australia. Sodexo  delivers a unique array of over 100 integrated services lines including catering, facilities management, concierge services, security, asset maintenance and hospitality services. These services cast nationally and globally across the diverse business segments of Corporate, Healthcare and Seniors, Education, Justice, and Energy and Resources.

Founded in Marseille in 1966 by Pierre Bellon, Sodexo has become a global leader in services that improve ‘quality of life’ – an essential factor in individual and organisational performance. Operating in 80 countries, Sodexo serves 100 million consumers each day through its unique sectoral combination of On-site Services, Benefits and Rewards Services and Personal and Home Services.

Through its more than 100 service sectors, Sodexo provides clients with an integrated offering developed over 50 years of experience, ranging from food services, reception, maintenance and cleaning, to facilities and equipment management. Sodexo has developed services and programs fostering employees’ engagement to solutions that simplify and optimize their mobility and expenses management, to in-home assistance, child care centres and concierge services.

Mr O’Callaghan said Sodexo’s success and its sustainable business model comes from the ability to continuously develop and engage its 427,000 employees throughout the world. Sodexo is included in the CAC 40 and DJSI indices.



20.7 billion euro in consolidated revenues

427,000 employees

19th largest employer worldwide

80 countries

100 million consumers served daily

17 billion euro market capitalisation (as of January 10, 2018)


Transforming your business? Do it and keep on going …

BUSINESSES that transform today, but treat their investment in new processes and technology as a ‘set-and-forget’ exercise, could easily find themselves out of date and unable to compete effectively in a constantly-changing marketplace.

That is the view of Epicor Software regional vice president for Australia and New Zealand, Greg O’Loan.

He said, in his experience of assisting organisations to adapt to new technologies such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) software , it was crucial for businesses to treat transformation as an ongoing process with no end goal but, rather, keeping a series of objectives in mind. 

“There is a lot of talk about digital transformation, which has become an industry buzzword,” Mr O’Loan said. “However, digital transformation actually refers to business transformation and it’s far from simply being a buzzword.

“Transformation is the process of change, which is essential for businesses to remain viable. Businesses that never change will quickly go out of business as they remain out of touch with their customers and unable to deliver what’s being demanded.”

Mr O’Loan said a recent Gartner survey showed how chief information officers (CIOs) were increasingly becoming business leaders. While IT is still a responsibility of the CIO, achieving revenue growth and developing digital transformation were identified most often as top business priorities for organisations in 2018.

Mr O’Loan said there were two key characteristics of a business that is successfully navigating transformation – ‘recognition that change is ongoing’ and ‘focussing on the right things’.

Recognition that change is ongoing

“While many businesses may have begun their transformation journey by digitalising a few processes, savvy business leaders soon realised that transformation couldn’t stop there,” Mr O’Loan said. “Just as technology continues to evolve and improve, companies must also grow and change as they look to leverage new and emerging technologies and compete more effectively with others in the marketplace.

“For example, artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the Internet of Things (IoT) are just starting to gain a foothold in businesses,” he said. 

“The automated processes enabled by these technologies can save businesses time and money, and help them operate more efficiently. As these technologies, and businesses’ understanding of how to use them, evolve further, companies can become even more efficient, work in even smarter ways, and focus on how the changes can support their growth plans.

Focusing on the right things

Mr O’Loan said transformation was not just a matter of adopting new technology, although technology can play a significant role.

“However, true transformation requires business leaders to examine their own business’s capabilities and resources versus the demands and opportunities of the market it operates in,” Mr O’Loan said. “Then, leaders need to consider what steps to take to position the company for growth. This could take the form of a new technology solution, a new approach to processes, or a combination of both.

“For example, manufacturers are finding new ways to bundle services with products, make bespoke products to order, and streamline the fulfilment process, to name just a few. These innovations are transforming businesses by providing new revenue streams and requiring new ways of working.

“To achieve these innovations, businesses need an industry-specific enterprise resource planning (ERP) system that delivers significant visibility into operations,” he said.

“There are also opportunities for businesses to move beyond their core offering. For example, some aged care organisations have expanded into catering or developing allied health products and services.

“This type of expansion is driven by market demand as revealed by data analysis and an understanding of the company’s capability based on information from its ERP system.

“Most businesses have only begun to explore the very tip of the iceberg of what’s possible with new technologies,” Mr O’Loan said. “While they’re right to proceed with cautious optimism, businesses that can figure out how to make these new technologies work for them sooner can outperform the competition.

“Ongoing transformation should be a given for today’s businesses. Doing so successfully depends on a proactive, visionary approach to technology that maps the business’s desired growth trajectory with possible technology solutions.”


Want a better business? Collaborate for success

IF AUSTRALIA businesses collaborated on innovative activities to the OECD average we could expect an increase to current gross domestic product (GDP) of $8 billion from productivity improvements, according to a new report by PwC Australia and Australian business alumni organisation Advance.

The report Out of sight, Out of Mind? Australia’s Diaspora as a Pathway to Innovation reveals the injection to GDP over the next 10 years would be $23.5 billion if Australian businesses collaborated to the level of the five best collaborating OECD nations. 

“Global competition is heating up as trade barriers are reshaped and improvements in tech allow innovation to be diffused and implemented more quickly,” Advance chair Yasmin Allen said. 

“For Australia, it is imperative that we utilise and leverage our network of global Australians and Alumni to collaborate and drive growth.

“Our diaspora are risk takers and adapters. This know how is critical for our success and we need to leverage and harness these connections for the benefit of Australian companies and our economy.”

The PwC-Advance report said collaboration between businesses, government, higher education and global markets were key metrics that drove innovation.

Australia is towards the back of the pack on every indicator of collaboration among OECD countries and is facing a significant collaboration deficit.

This will have a real impact on individual businesses and see the nation fall further behind our global counterparts on innovation, which is a key driver of growth.  

The report shows that a fraction of Australian businesses collaborate with international firms when they are innovating products and the same applies when it comes to collaboration with higher education or government institutions.


ADF transition coaching delivers success

EMPLOYERS across Australia are being asked to seriously consider employing former Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel and improved transition services are delivering many career change success stories.

Defence Personnel Minister Dan Tehan said improved transition services for ADF personnel had been rolled out across the country after successful pilot programs.

In March, Mr Tehan announced individual career coaching services would be trialled at Townsville, Holsworthy and Adelaide bases.

“ADF transition coaches are helping ADF personnel develop tailored career plans based on their unique skills, interests and career aspirations,” Mr Tehan said.

“This is making their transition from Defence to civilian life less stressful and helping them find meaningful employment. 

“Since the new coaching model was launched, 1145 ADF members have commenced their transition with the support of an ADF transition coach.

“Early indicators show the new system is delivering results, with 67 percent of personnel surveyed rating their transition a ‘success’.

“The government recognises the transition from the military to civilian life is a key phase for ADF personnel and we have targeted support and services at this period to reduce stress and increase opportunities.

“Members now receive an individual transition action plan so they can leave the military with all of their important documentation, such as their Service record, medical and dental records, pay and administrative details,” Mr Tehan said.

“The focus on improving opportunities for veterans to find meaningful employment complements the work being done through the Prime Minister’s Veterans’ Employment Program.”

Mr Tehan said the model would also allow the ADF to better identify those who required additional support, including providing appropriate links to community support, and referrals to health and wellbeing services.

The transition service provides ADF members with professional career coaching before leaving the military and up to 12 months after they leave.

The service will support around 6000 ADF members who transition each year through 13 ADF Transition Centres on or near all major bases across Australia.

Mr Tehan said ADF personnel had unique skills and experience that were in demand by employers.

He urged Australian businesses that were employing veterans to nominate for the first annual Veterans’ Employment Awards.

Nominations for the Veterans’ Employment Awards are open until December 22 this year.


Forget software, remember ‘soft skills’

By Fleur Telford >>

DAY TO DAY tasks once reserved for finance professionals are being taken over by data feeds, bots, and good system integration.

As information technology (IT) continues to evolve, the rise of smart financial applications have given rise to tools that even the lesser skilled can access to improve their clients’ businesses.

What used to be outsourced to minimise cost can now be processed in-house, as technological advances have markedly reduced time-consuming data processing tasks. 

This saves resources, time and money of course, but the question that needs to be asked is: “What happens to the people?” – both within organisations and for the clients they serve, in this Brave New World.

Artificial intelligence (AI) can find a myriad of answers to a specific question but it’s not known for great conversation. AI is also low on empathy and inter-personal skills, despite what we see in the movies.

So today, and certainly for the foreseeable future, no amount of tech supremacy can ask business owners how they feel, what they’re worried about, and where it is they would like their business to go.

When it comes to sharing our fears, woes, hopes and dreams, speaking to another human wins every time. In the professional world, people still matter.

Accountants are, as one of my colleagues wittily put it, “anxiety transfer agents”, interacting as no AI source ever could, giving comfort that help is at hand.


Technology is merely a tool, and should be treated as such, and we should keep our focus on what is truly important: our client relationships. Clients will far prefer a meaningful chat about their business than a slew of reports emailed to them once a month.

The reassurance we bring to our clients by working with them personally can never be replicated by software. If new technology has given us more time, then we should invest those hours in our clients, broadening the way in which we assist them.

Tech should empower, not disempower, complement, not be subject to compliment.  It should make us consider why we entered professional services in the first place: the emphasis should be on service.

Sometimes, I think we forget this in the rush to implement the next shiny app that will relieve all of our bottom line woes (or so the hype would have us believe).

How does this impact the workplace of the future? I believe it means a reassessment of the values and attitudes we look for in the next generation of employees.


We hear talk of ‘soft skills’, but these have never been more important than in these technological times. It is an age of the increasingly impersonal, so we need to be looking for graduates who are equipped with a much broader skill set than before.

Some professional service firms will only interview soon-to-be graduates if their marks fall within a Distinction or High Distinction average. But this doesn’t mean they are necessarily ‘people people’, capable of active listening, discernment and understanding a client’s concerns.

Our ‘next gen’ employees need to be able to hold conversations, tell a story, be able to explain complex scenarios in everyday language, and give practical guidance to clients on how to build their businesses.

If undergraduates are wondering how to get these skills, I would suggest actively seeking work in businesses during semester breaks, learning what it means to run a business, face a cash flow crisis, handle difficult staff members.  Undergraduates should seek mentors who have great interpersonal skills, sound experience, and who are willing to pass this on.

In this way, we can get back to the basics and listen to what our clients want for their business and for themselves.

Technology may provide answers, but we deliver solutions and deeper insights, while building rapport through great service delivery.

*Fleur Telford is KPMG Enterprise director of technology.

New research shows employees thrive on being empowered

EMPLOYEES who are empowered by their bosses – by being given independence and the responsibility to self-manage – are more likely to thrive at work.

That is among the key findings of a Curtin University researcher, published in the Journal of Organisational Behaviour. The research concluded that empowering leadership enhanced work performance, creativity and a willingness to take on extra roles outside of normal duties, at both the individual and team levels. 

Co-author of the report, Amy Tian, from the School of Management at Curtin Business School, said it was important to analyse the concept of empowering leadership given it was increasingly being used by organisations.

“Increasing competition in the business landscape, economical shifts, and technological developments have brought with them changes in organisational structures and the nature of work,” Dr Tian said.

“Alongside efforts to maximise efficiency, many employers are flattening their hierarchies and therefore expanding the responsibilities of lower-level employees and the complexity of their work roles.

“The concept of empowering leadership, a popular concept in business philosophy, is particularly relevant to such situations given its focus on promoting self-management and offering employees a greater sense of power in their workplace.

“This research confirms that employees thrive when they are working with leaders who are willing to share information with them, delegate authority to them, and promote their self‐directed and autonomous decision-making.”

Dr Tian said empowering leadership resulted in a positive influence on employees’ sense of trust in their leaders, psychological empowerment and leader-employee relationship quality, which therefore enhanced the employee’s work performance, creativity and organisational citizenship behaviour, or their willingness to engage in extra-role behaviour at work.

“These findings have important theoretical and practical implications for workplaces all over the world as they grapple with how to maximise their performance in the changing nature of their organisations,” Dr Tian said. 

The research, which involved the analysis of data from 89 publications and 105 independent samples, was also carried out by Dr Allan Lee from the University of Exeter and Dr Sara Willis from The University of Manchester in the UK. 

The Empowering leadership: A meta-analytic examination of incremental contribution, mediation, and moderation’ is available at


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