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


Why it doesn’t have to be lonely at the top for CEOs

By John Karagounis >>

LONELINESS was one of the first things I noticed when I started working closely with CEOs a decade ago, right at the height of the global financial crisis (GFC). Not my loneliness, but theirs.

Many were feeling the intense pressure that was coming to bear on the corporate world at that time. These highly intelligent and competent people, who seemingly had it all, were feeling emotionally isolated. 

Many confided in me that they felt they had no one to talk to, no one who could relate to them. 

It was an exceptional time because the GFC put an incredible amount of pressure on everyone in corporate management, especially chief executives.

However, this feeling of loneliness is about more than dealing with the external pressures of an event like the GFC. It’s something many CEOs feel at an existential level.

Over the past decade as the CEO and managing director of The CEO Circle, I have interacted with more than 500 CEOs around the country. At The CEO Circle, we bring them together in confidential surrounds to connect, share, learn, develop and grow for their greater personal, professional and organisational success. 

John Karagounis.

They tell me nothing prepares them for their role. There is no manual, no handbook, no preparation whatsoever.

When they start in the role, they soon realise it’s the loneliest job in the world. They have a yearning to connect and engage with like-minded CEOs because they understand that the best advice they could possibly receive is from their peers, who have been where they are and empathise with what they are going through.

This sense of loneliness and the need for connection is something I have explored in my new book Why I Wrote This Book: For Greater Success.

These captains of industry possess incredible skills and capabilities, have deep insights and are fully equipped to run billion-dollar companies. But do they understand the essence of connecting?

The short answer is generally no. They’re usually not good networkers. There are exceptions; those few with gregarious, extrovert personalities or those who really commit to the task.

However, the reality is most do not invest time in connecting and engaging with people on a proactive basis. They do it when a need arises, like when they lose their job.

It’s at this stage of their journey where reality hits hard. Suddenly they feel isolated and alone.

But there are three key things CEOs can do to mitigate this loneliness: learn to network properly; stay involved and active in the outside world; and genuinely appreciate people.

What does it mean to network properly? Networking has a bad name for some because social media platforms like LinkedIn have made it easy to just click ‘accept’ and believe that is the extent of it. This is networking at its most superficial.

Networking is about building meaningful and mutually beneficial professional relationships that will stand the test of time. It might start with clicking ‘accept’ or swapping cards but it has to go deeper. Think quality, not quantity.

Work on connections where you can bring real value to the table. Don’t think about networking as a means of profiting from a relationship; start thinking about it as a means of giving something to a relationship. Giving is the essence of connecting.

Why should you stay involved in the world beyond your workplace? Because this is your life support system. Your friends and your family provide the buffer between you and the often harsh realities of work. I’m not a believer in the concept of work/life balance as such; I believe it is more about integration and finding harmony. Part of this harmony is making sure you don’t shut out the people in your life who are special to you.

I would extend this to things like hobbies and community activities too. These things give you a chance to switch out of work mode and dive into another aspect of your life, connecting you to different people and having different relationships than those you would have at work.

Do you genuinely appreciate people? My wonderful friend Jon Burgess espouses this simple ideal: “Who matters? Everyone matters.” This is at the base of what it means to connect and engage, and to move beyond feelings of loneliness and isolation.

It is about genuinely appreciating not only the people in your immediate circle, but also the wider world. Chatting with a stranger in an airport lounge; making time to really hear what a client has to say; or talking to your kids and their friends to get a new perspective on the world. These interactions can bring colour to your world when it starts feeling grey.


Loneliness is a silent pain. By reaching out to give, share, and connect, you open the door to a community of people around you. Share yourself with these people and you will be richly rewarded in return.


* John Karagounis is the CEO and managing director of The CEO Circle, an exclusive peer group forum for business leaders.



Consider the physical risks of cybersecurity

By Lyndon Broad >>

CYBERSECURITY is a hot topic. Businesses of all sizes are becoming acutely aware of the damage caused by data loss, leakage and theft.

They are aware of the threat posed by malicious intrusions such as denial of service attacks and ransomware infections.

Business leaders know they need to develop strategies based on technology, processes and education to mitigate these risks. Yet many fail to make the link between digital and physical risks. 

Protecting business systems from unauthorised physical access is a vital first step in preventing malicious or inadvertent damage.

To properly mitigate cyber risks, it makes sense to adopt an engineering-based approach. This should include three levels of cyber-risk assessment – physical, information security and industrial control systems.



So while businesses must be alert to the risks presented by high-profile ransomware attacks like WannaCry and Petya, or employees opening emails containing malicious code, they should also be shutting the door on unnecessary physical exposure.

A recent story in the Seattle Times highlights the cyber risks posed by physical breaches. Washington State University warned a million people that their personal data may have been accessed by thieves who stole a safe.

This contained a backup drive used by the university’s Social and Economic Sciences Research Center.

FM Global is developing a risk assessment framework to cover all aspects of cyber security risk. We currently conduct physical assessments on all commercial and industrial properties we insure, supplemented with a digital security risk assessment which is about to be released.

We’ll start assessing industrial control system risks in 2018. Our analytics team is working with external cybersecurity experts to gather intelligence and develop this comprehensive framework.

The FM Global research team then apply our proven loss-prevention approach to create thorough account-level cyber-risk assessments.

Our approach extends beyond providing insurance coverage that helps clients manage risk. We also provide coverage for loss of business due to a cyberattack.

For example, if a large manufacturer’s industrial control systems fell victim to a malware attack, we would cover loss of production as well as the hardware damage.



We have recently started physical assessments of cyber risk at client premises. These have revealed a number of common mistakes that are easily prevented:   


  • Having a network port on a door intercom.
  • Unsecured server rooms.
  • Server racks installed in open areas.
  • Easily accessible cables and ports.
  • Data backups stored in accessible areas.
  • Infrequently used building entrances that are unsecured.


Our in-depth research and physical assessments show how the physical component of cyber risk is often overlooked.

This exposes companies to considerable financial and reputational damage.

We encourage all businesses to evaluate the physical risks inside their doors and implement solutions to protect their future.


  • Lyndon Broad is the operations manager at FM Global, a business insurance, loss prevention and risk management organisation that uses engineering rather than actuarial principles to help protect organisations.



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