Your Most Valuable Employee is NOT your Most Expensive

August 23, 2019 by Avondale Business School

Who are the most valuable people in your organisation? asks Eric McNulty in a recent article (read it here). Many people would suggest it is someone in the C-Suite, based on remuneration, or maybe it’s the high potential individuals (“hi-pos”) due to their importance to the company’s future. McNulty brushes these and others aside and instead draws from the example of nature.

McNulty explains, “Scientists have identified certain species whose behaviours help satisfy the needs of other species, and so hold an outsized value for the well-being of the overall community. Scientists call these valuable organisms keystone species. Examples include the purple sea star in tide pools, wolves in Yellowstone National Park and Elephants in the African savannah.

Keystone people within an organisation are not found in the pay rates or titles, but in the relationships between stakeholders. The people who foster these relationships are your most valuable workers, asserts McNulty, because (in his words), “they embrace the organizations mission and know they can’t expect to fulfil it alone. So they work to equip and inspire more people to move the mission forward. They spot the potential contributions others can make – and encourage them to do so.”

McNulty’s article is brief but packed with some great tips on finding and supporting the keystone people in your organisation, because they are the key to your organisation thriving.

The Avondale Business School (ABS) can help your organisation thrive. To find out how, contact Dr Warrick Long at

We’ve Got Office Design All Wrong!

August 18, 2019 by Avondale Business School

We are generally doing office layouts wrong! Rarely do we recognise that our office layouts communicate a lot about who we are, what and who we value. As such, offices can have either a motivating or demotivating effect on those who work or visit there. Deloitte have recently published a review into workplace office layouts (click here to read it) which provides some very practical advice and warnings.

Noting that the most recent research into open offices concludes that productivity typically declines, rather than increases, and that there are a range of demotivating outcomes from them, the article notes there pitfalls many companies encounter we=hen redesigning office spaces:

  1. Making quick decisions or treating workplace transformation as a one-and-done activity.
  2. Failing to incorporate diverse stakeholder input
  3. Failing to clearly articulate the features and benefits of new workspaces.

So noting these warnings and pitfalls, the author’s then provider some very helpful guidelines for effective workplace redesign, which are summarised below:

  1. Prioritise design choices based on the reasons people come into the office.
  2. Communicate the workplace redesign strategy, plans, and progress.
  3. Develop an ongoing data collection and measurement strategy.
  4. Use incentives to encourage trials and build new habits.

The article is very readable, and backed by solid research, and challenges many of the current fads regarding office design. If you are thinking of redesigning your office, you really should be reading this first.

Why Most Board Meeting Minutes are Wrong

August 11, 2019 by Avondale Business School

Taking minutes of meetings is easy and simple, right? Wrong! Very few people who find themselves in the position of being responsible for the minutes of meetings (usually the meeting secretary and chair) have had any formal training or induction to what minutes should include. So typically they just follow the same format of the minutes for the previous meetings – irrespective of whether they are good practice or (usually) not.

I love meetings, and the practice of good meetings, and keep abreast of what is evolving in this space. Most recently, a joint statement on board minutes was produced by and circulated to members of both the Australian Institute of Company Directors and Governance Institute Australia. I happen to be a member of both professional bodies, and was fascinated with the recommendations of best practice for board minutes.

There were some surprises in the recommendations, which represents how the law is evolving in this area and how important it is that directors, secretaries and chairs keep up to date. And it is not only boards of directors that should be aware of these changes, because if any committee, council or board faces a legal challenge to its decisions, then best practice will be your best defense.

While the entire document is well worth the read, especially if you are a meeting secretary (Click here to download and read), the following represents a very brief summary of some of the main points. It is also worth noting that the document includes a copy of the legal opinion used as the basis for the recommendations, which highlights the reasons for the recommendations.

  • Too much information can be as unhelpful as too little.
  • Include the key points of discussion and the broad reasons for decisions in the minutes.
  • Directors (and committee members) are balancing a number of competing risks and considerations in their decision-making, it is prudent to actively consider whether the minutes capture them adequately but succinctly.
  • It is appropriate for board minutes to refer to, without repeating, the contents of board papers and other supporting documents.
  • It is appropriate that the minutes record significant issues raised with management by directors and the responses received or action promised.
  • It is advisable for board (and committee) minutes to include any votes by directors against or abstaining. Minutes should record the reason the majority of directors where in favour notwithstanding dissenting views, and document those dissenting views.

There are some significant changes to the current practices of many organisations recommended, so it is worth reading the whole document to ensure your organisation is staying on top of best practice in your minutes. The Avondale Business School can help you with our minute taking practices, just contact Dr Warrick Long at to discuss how.

Book Review: Collaborating With The Enemy

August 6, 2019 by Avondale Business School

It’s a fact of life that we don’t actually like everyone we have to work with, if we are honest. Frequently we will be in situations where we have to negotiate with or collaborate with people that we don’t agree with or even trust. Recognising this, Adam Kahane has put together a book that addresses this reality.

Collaborating with the Enemy (Berrett-Kohler 2017) is based on Kahanes extensive experience in helping people move forward together on their most important and intractable issues, including international peace treaties, national drug policies, global environmental agreements and family disputes.

In this book Kahane throws out many traditional negotiation strategies and turns them on their head to propose alternatives that can open up a host of other options that may previously have been considered impossible. There are three main approaches explored, being to embrace conflict and connection, experiment a way forward, and to step into the game. My favourite quote is that if you’re not part of the problem, then you can’t be part of the solution.

This is an excellent book to challenge traditional thinking about problem solving, and to think about the issues rather than the people. Anyone involved in working with people would benefit from reading this, and I would encourage you to do so.

ABS Researcher Goes Global

August 6, 2019 by Avondale Business School

Our ABS staff continued to be active in the area of research over the mid-year break. In July, ABS Senior Lecturer Dr Peter Williams, travelled to the USA to attend the 11th Biennial SDA Business Teachers Conference, held at Andrews University in Michigan.

With the theme of ‘Innovation in Business Education: The Antidote to Mediocrity’, the conference saw attendees from Africa, Phillipines, Papua New Guinea, Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, the Middle East and the US. Peter presented two research papers, the first entitled “The Pursuit of Further Student Engagement: An Evaluation of an Innovative Approach to Delivering an Introduction to Economics Unit of Study”, and the second “Embedded Smart Hubs in Higher Education Business Institutions: Mutual Alliance Factor Model” which explored research undertaken within the Avondale Business School.

The research papers were well received, and with an impressive list of plenary speakers, the conference proved to be a highly educational experience.

Is It Really Cheaper to Keep Who You’ve Got?

August 6, 2019 by Avondale Business School

You have probably heard various estimates of what it costs a business to transition a new employee into a new role, and the horror stories of the increased costs of losing staff shortly after.

New research undertaken by the US-based leadership training company VitalSmarts took into account the time it took to learn the relevant skills for the job role, manage its demands, understand the ins and the outs of the company, traverse the corporate culture, and become “fully proficient”. This, paired with the salary costs during the transition period and other opportunity costs led to some surprising findings: Employees entering the workforce for the first time had a transition period of 5-6 months and that transition cost their organisation $US18,000; Employees taking their first people-management position had a transition period of 6-7 months at a cost to their firm of $US25,000; Experienced, non-supervisory external hires needed 4-5 months of transition time at a cost of $US$16,000; and Experienced, non-supervisory employees, hired internally had a transition period of 3-4 months at a cost of $US11,000.

Australian data provided by the Australian Bureau of statistics estimated that over one million Australian employees changes employers in the year leading up to February 2018, with two-thirds of those employees leaving voluntarily. Turnover rates were particularly high in the hospitality (16%), administrative services (12.3%) and IT, media and telecoms (11.9%) industries. Adding to this, recruitment company Hays recently found that 33% of Australian companies had reported increased turnover rates in the last year, and that 44% of Australian employees were planning to look for a new job in the next year. Click here to read more of the Hays report.

So how do you determine if your turnover rate is too high? The Australian Human Resource Institute (AHRI) published a study in 2018 based on a survey of HR Professionals with two thirds citing 1-10% as the “ideal turnover rate for their organisation” and the remainder taking the view that rates closer to 20% were acceptable.

Keep in mind too that a growing body of evidence identifies that when it comes to employee retention, the quality of leadership carries significant weight. As stated by AHRI CEO, Lyn Goodear, “When it comes to employee retention, leadership quality matters according to respondents, 70% of whom identified effective management and leadership as the most effective method for employee retention”.

The following simple to use resource, developed by the Victorian government, can provide you with an idea of the cost to your organisation of labour turnover. Give it a look – you may very well find yourself shocked at the results.

Dr Peter Williams, Senior Lecturer, Avondale Business School


Now is the Time to be Planning for Your Next CEO

July 24, 2019 by Avondale Business School

Who is going to replace your CEO? That is the question every Board and Director should be asking themselves on a regular basis. Appointing the CEO is one of the most important roles a Board has, and unfortunately too often they don’t think about it until the CEO is leaving, catching the Board unprepared.

While it can be thought awkward to begin planning for a new CEO while the incumbent is still around, it is still important to have a succession plan in place and be developing potential replacements within the organisation and identifying others external to it.

A recent report from PWC entitled ‘How the best boards approach CEO succession planning’ (read it here) tackles this issue and provides some very practical ideas for boards. The whole report is worth reading for the depth of ideas, but the following represent a summary of the top 7 factors of how the best boards deal with this tricky issue:

  1. They agree on the skills, experience and personal traits the CEO will need to execute the company’s current and future strategy.
  2. They know who owns the succession planning process.
  3. They have a documented plan with a timeline and established process for updating it.
  4. The have a well-defined emergency succession plan.
  5. They engage their CEOs in succession planning from day one.
  6. They have a strong pipeline program.
  7. They understand the importance of good onboarding, championing their chosen candidate and communicating the process to stakeholders.

The future of your company rests on the CEO – are you prepared for the next one?

The Avondale Business School can help you with your succession planning, to find out more contact Dr Warrick Long at

Winter School at ABS

July 19, 2019 by Avondale Business School

Avondale Business School comes alive every winter when the Postgraduate students (Masters and Graduate Diplomas) arrive on campus for the annual winter school. Students who are studying the leadership and management programs come for a residential component of their program, lasting either one or two weeks, depending on their units of study. This year we welcomed students studying Communication for Leaders, Organisational Processes and Change, Accounting for Leaders, and Introduction to Research.

The Straw Tower Teams

The residential program provides an opportunity for interaction and face-to face learning, and professional networking. Classes are oriented toward the application of what students have studied leading up to winter school, where participants share from their own experiences. Coordinator of the Postgraduate Leadership studies program, Dr Warrick Long comments that this is his most enjoyable teaching experiences at Avondale because “…not only is it a mutual learning experience for students and lecturer, but the students really hold me accountable – they have given up a lot to be at winter school and expect to get high quality programs and learning experiences.”

The Straw Towers

Participants in the unit studying organisational processes and change were tasked in one session with building towers out of straws and sticky tape to balance a cup of water 30cm off the ground.  Having just explored the topics of groups and teams, their new learning was put to the test to be the team that built the most effective tower. Debriefing afterwards, the students reflected on how much the pressure of the task tested their teamwork and effectiveness, highlighting how leaders can often forego good leadership practices when pressured for time and results.

If you would lie to explore the possibility of further studies in leadership and management, contact Dr Warrick long via

ABS Presents to Accounting Academics

July 19, 2019 by Avondale Business School

This year the Avondale Business School submitted and got accepted to three papers for the annual AFAANZ (Accounting & Finance Association of Australia and New Zealand) conference, held in Brisbane in July, 2019. Two of the papers were presented by Associate Professor Lisa Barnes, the third paper entitled “Writing – The development of a necessary professional skill” was presented by conjoint appointed Professor Keith Howson who is also an adjunct Professor of Accounting of the Tom and Vi Zapara School of Business, La Sierra University, Riverside California. Keith is also a former Head of Business School at Avondale, and has been co-writing papers with Lisa Barnes for over 10 years, showing that true collaboration can span over institutions and indeed continents!

This year’s conference was a great opportunity for networking within the Accounting industry, as well as enjoying the lovely daytime temperatures of Brisbane in the winter. It also appears that the tables are turning on conferences, with many institutions now discouraging staff from attending as they are no longer counted as a key performance indicator (KPI) as part of the research output criteria, as they are not published by the conference organisers. The definition of an E1 conference paper is “a paper published in full which has been peer reviewed and presented at a conference, workshop or seminar of national or international significance” (Australian Research Council, 2019).

However, as part of our continued accreditation with CPA Australia and CAANZ, staff must complete 120 hours of continuous professional development (CPD) within a 3 year cycle (triennium). So here at the ABS staff are encouraged to attend conferences, to not only keep up to date with changes and current research, but also to continue to build collegial relationships with people outside of the institution to encourage future research projects. For more information on AFAANZ, click on the link The other 2 papers presented are shown below: from the power point slides.

Why Training Isn’t Always the Answer…

July 19, 2019 by Avondale Business School

How many times have you seen an organization throw a training session at a problems like under performance or interpersonal issues. Training may be one of the most over utilized and overestimated of all management solutions. In fact often times it is not the solution at all.

Before rushing to organize a training session, it is worth stopping to consider all the factors that influence a person’s performance in their role and their interactions with co-workers. For instance, is the person’s physical workspace conducive to positive performance? Is the cultural environment of the organization one that encourages positive interactions, openness and trust?

Even if the issue at hand is poor performance, training may still not be the most effective or cost-efficient answer. Factors such as failing to understand the importance of a task, lack of feedback, performing the task infrequently and cumbersome processes all impact employee performance. Solutions such as introducing job aids, providing appropriate feedback, simplification of processes or job redesign all address these underlying performance issues without the need for conducting official training sessions. If you are not sure where to start, this article by Angela Wilson suggests a number of non-training solutions for addressing poor performance.

If a genuine lack of skill or knowledge is the reason for poor performance, training is probably appropriate. However, before jumping straight on the training wagon, take the time to analyze the overall picture. By doing so you target the root cause of the performance issue, which in turn greatly increases the chance of the implemented solution actually bringing about the change you desire.

Specialist Contributor: Jolisa Rabo, HR Officer, Avondale College of Higher Education