Recent Blog
Recent Blog

11 October 2017

It’s time to embrace the change and drive innovation

Author :

Australia’s Not-for-Profit sector is now facing ongoing challenges as never before.

Last month, the Australian reported that the sector sees 3,000 new charities pop up every year, competing for the same decreasing amount of funding and grants.

While researching with professionals in the NFP space, it has become apparent that most are struggling; struggling to keep up with the constant change. Many are operating under old models, with out-dated boards and with no room for innovation. And not to mention the disruption of technology has brought to the sector.

As a result, many NFPs and charities are struggling to be sustainable and remain viable in the new commercialised market.

However, there are a few key areas that have come up during our research that leaders of an NFP can do in order to put their organisation in a better position.
  •         Firstly, it’s all about navigating your organisation through an era of change. And in order to do so, you’ll need to create an innovative and strategic leadership whose mentality can be filtered down through all levels of the organisation. Leaders need to ensure that there’s a clear goal that the organisation is working towards while also engaging all staff to work towards it.
  •       Once you have this leadership mindset, you need to develop strategies to embrace and drive change, rather than shy away from it. Ensure you’re at the forefront of the latest trends, rather than ten steps behind.
  •          Now that you’re embracing change, it’s about time to embrace technology. Technology might seem scary and complicated, and many feel so far behind they don’t even know where to start. But starting somewhere is better than not starting at all. If utilised correctly, technology can bring your organisation many advantages; anything from increased efficiency in regards to admin work to how to improve donor relationships, target a broader market, grow your brand and increase transparency and business accountability.
  •          Last but not least, you need to ensure you have the right employees for your organisation. Most NFPs are filled with staff with big hearts fighting for the good cause, but they may lack the financial skillset, marketing strategies or business development, someone from a corporate background could bring. Attracting the talent that will take your organisation to the next step is critical, and having engagement strategies in place to retain them is equally crucial.
Developed together with leading industry professionals, the upcoming Australia’s Not-for-ProfitLeaders Forum is designed to give decision makers from Not-for-Profits the tools to steer the business in the right direction.

Leaders from some of Australia’s most prominent Not-for-Profits will gather between the 5th-7th of December to share their successful case studies on how to make an organisation stand out, grow and bring its staff with you on this ever-changing journey.

Written by : Mimmie Wilhelmson

Mimmie grew up in Sweden and first came to Australia as a backpacker after high school. After travelling around the country for two years she returned to Europe and pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism in London. But the longing for Australia and the sun became too strong. After having worked for some time in the media industry, Mimmie decided to make a change and swap the news for conferences. She now gets to do what she loves the most, meeting new people and keep learning about cultures and issues while producing conferences on current topics.

06 October 2017

3 reasons why customer experience is essential to any business

Author :
Companies around the world compete not only on the quality of good or services they provide but also on the customer experience that they deliver. It is the new competitive battleground.

The contemporary customer is a demanding one, one that expects his or her needs to be attended to quickly, smoothly and seamlessly. Businesses that manage that and exceed their customers’ expectations are those who become leaders in their industries. Those that create unique, long lasting positive experiences become the champions of the modern customer.

As Heads of Customer Experience around the world strive to achieve this, here are the top 3 reasons why excelling in CX is essential to any business:

CX that works is shown to improve business KPIs and has a link to a company’s financial success. According to, poor customer experience costs Australian businesses $122 billion a year.

Customer retention, acquisition and advocacy are directly related to the quality and effectiveness of a CX program. According to Aon’s 2017 Global Risk Management, damage to brand and reputation is considered a Top10 global risk that keeps Risk Managers awake at night.

 Market share
A customer’s loyalty will bring you a tangible competitive advantage. 82% of adults in the US are loyal to brands according to ICSC survey (International Council of Shopping Centres).

The 3 reasons above are but a simplistic view on why good CX is seen as a crucial element within a solid business strategy. By focusing on creating legendary customer experiences and embodying the desire for your business to go above and beyond, you will be creating an advocate out of every consumer and reap multiple benefits. 

Written by:
Simona Zukaite

Simona joined Akolade and relocated to Sydney after eight years in Hong Kong where she worked for a leading media and publishing company producing legal and financial conferences in Asia-Pacific. Simona studied Law in the UK, Paris and Hong Kong and found her passion for events after working on an international arbitration law conference and moot trial competition in Hong Kong in 2012. The recent move is the next chapter of adventures Simona has sought to pursue in Australia following the running of an annual FX investment conference in Sydney for three consecutive years.

Young people still job-hunting in WA

Author :
In the past year, Australia saw rates of unemployed and underemployed 16-24 year- olds rise to its highest numbers for 40 years.

Funding changes and economic turbulence have caused uncertainty in the job market landscape, and an increasing number of Australia’s young people grow unconvinced of their employment options for the future. Fewer students are engaging in programs and schemes that increase their employability and enhance their skillsets.

But what’s causing the disengagement? And what’s the solution?

Put simply, it’s a multifaceted problem.

From a social perspective, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds of low-income families, mental health issues, criminal histories or poor housing are much less likely to engage in meaningful engagement opportunities. This is particular prevalent amongst indigenous communities.

Also contributing to disengagement is the rise of technology and web-based interaction.  A young person’s employability rests heavily on the strength of their social and communication skillsets, both of which are strongly impeded by the anonymous, limited and artificial nature of online interaction.

These issues unsupported by the current instability in the labour market and the number of opportunities available. More and more young people are surrendering to part-time or casual work, offering very limited job security and financial stability.

It’s a critical time for talking about how and why disengagement has become so widespread. Not only are young people’s employment prospects affected by youth disengagement, but it’s a social issue that concerns communities, families, schools and society as a whole.

Now is the time for conversation about how we ensure young people are put on the path to meaningful professional careers. What are the gaps, where are they prevalent, and how do we close them?

To discuss WA’s leading strategies for this, Akolade is taking The 4th Future of Youth Employment Forum to Western Australia.

This event is bringing WA’s most influential thought-leaders together to share best practices for re-engagement, successful collaboration, and effective transition pathways into employment for Australia’s young people. This is your opportunity to hear insights and case studies from the Federal and State Government, as well as WA’s biggest education providers, NFPs and industry leaders.

Join us to hear from:

Kellie Hippit, Branch Manager Youth Employment, Department of Employment
Gail Manton, Program Manager, School Pathways Program, Department of Education WA
Professor Dawn Freshwater, Vice-Chancellor, The University of Western Australia
Ross Kyrwood, CEO, YMCA WA
Darshi Ganeson-Oats, Director Strategic Partnerships, South Metropolitan TAFE                    
Deborah Hancock, CEO, Scitech
Peter Nikoletatos, National Industry Lead in Education, Optus

We hope to see you there!

Written by: Beth Hampton

Beth came to Australia in late 2016. Having spent some time travelling through Southeast Asia and briefly living in Singapore – she was ready to embrace the lifestyle of a working Sydneysider!

Beth grew up in London, and completed her degree in Psychology at the University of York. She always dreamed of landing a job in the police, but figured it was worth swapping the handcuffs and late shifts for an exciting new city and a job full of fun and opportunity in a fantastic company like Akolade!

Beth loves cooking, playing the piano, terrible British soap operas, an ice-cold G&T and exploring new places.

29 September 2017

Ariana Grande Concert Bombing: Safety Focus Shifts to Venue Perimeters

Author :
The bombing of departing audience from an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, serves as an alarm bell that protecting public venues in the future will have to focus more on hardening building perimeters, security experts said. That could be a problem just as the summer concert and music festival season is starting. Aside from sports events, live music concerts are the most obvious public gatherings of mass audiences available. Major music acts are preparing to take to the road, many of them scheduled to play at sprawling, hard-to-secure arenas. And outdoor music festivals could be even more difficult to protect from harm without creating impossible lines of concert-goers waiting to be checked before getting near a stage. Already, some bands are either cancelling gigs or adjusting their touring plans and beefing up their security details. Wild Things Park, outside of Pittsburgh, announced that it's tripling security measures, including extra metal detectors and consultation with local law enforcement.

Meanwhile, it's crucial not to panic, or exaggerate risks or despair that nothing can be done to prevent such murderous attacks at concerts and other mass assemblies, says Brian Levin, a professor at California State University San Bernardino and director of its Centre for the study of hate and extremism. "We have over 30,000 people killed every year (in the USA) in vehicular accidents so you're at far greater risk driving on your way to a venue," says Levin, a former New York police officer who's preparing to take his teen son to a concert next month. "People tend to misjudge their fears and risks in part based on their exposure vicariously to attacks through TV" coverage.

The result could be damaging for the concert industry in general and acts playing venues perceived by the locals as too vulnerable to attack. Don't let terrorists change your entertainment behaviour. "If people stop going to concerts, the net result is that our opponents have won — they use fear to change our behaviour. It gives them exactly what they want. The irony is that past terrorist attacks, including in Brussels and in Paris, suggest that suicide bombers may be choosing different tactics because of better security. The problem (now) involves perimeters and chokepoints, egress and ingress. Keeping terrorist attackers from getting inside public buildings has improved so much in recent years, attackers are increasingly targeting outside perimeters, especially when thousands of people are trying to leave, as appears to have been the case in Manchester. A lot of the mechanisms and policies and procedures we have today, such as metal detection, are inwardly focused — protecting inside the venue. Consequently, terrorists have taken up tactics such as vehicle ramming and suicide bombings at entrances to airports and transport stations. We need to start reorienting our security and safety procedures, we call it 'expanding perimeters,' to adapt to new threats. We have to reallocate our focus and energy on the perimeters and peripheries of buildings.

Experts believe the attack on Manchester Arena, the U.K's second-largest, almost certainly had nothing to do with pop princess Grande, whose concert had just ended. More than 20,000 fans, many of them youngsters carrying pink balloons and wearing her trademark bunny ears, were just leaving. The bomber may have chosen Grande's gig merely as a convenience. Or he may have been attracted by the youth of Grande's typical audience to cause maximum horror: The death toll stands at 22, including 12 children under 16, with more than 50 people injured. Security professionals can learn from each attack on a venue where mass numbers of people gather. A large number of facilities already have procedures for controlling open plazas and curbs and (exits); for those who don’t have a robust program for that, this incident will be analysed and resources put in place to strengthen" protection. The bomber might have been detected before setting off the bomb if there had been such robust security, including more cameras, on the lookout for anyone acting nervous or loitering near "soft targets" such as exits.

"We have to start thinking ahead: If you have 15,000 people coming to an arena, what are we doing to protect them on the way in, when they're in there and on their way out?" he says, including a more "layered" approach to security that combines private and public security resources.

Another security tool that could be helpful: dogs. Most people have seen bomb-sniffing dogs at work — they focus on objects and spaces at the direction of handlers. Vapor-wake dogs are trained to sniff out bombs before bombers reach their target, by detecting the vapors of the explosive materials combined with the body heat of the bombers. Initial indications are that the Manchester bomber travelled via public transport to the arena, located adjacent to a major transport station.
An 'article' dog has his head down, a vapor-wake dog has his head up and he's sniffing the air, following the trail left behind" as a bomber is in motion

Aside from technology and canine prowess, ordinary people should become more "situationally aware". Take control of where you are going: Know where exits are, know how to get from a chokepoint to a place where it's not as densely packed”, experts say. And if you see something, say something even if it's "politically incorrect" and even if you fear you're wrong and may be accusing an innocent person. Stopping and frisking an innocent person is preferable to failure to stop and frisk a suicide bomber. It's the new order: Everyone has to be very vigilant. A lot of people say they don't want to give up their constitutional rights but we already have given up a ton of rights because of terrorists. I feel better at a concert if I'm patted down — it's a pain in the butt and it slows down lines and tickets are more expensive, but I feel safer. No one likes this, but if it makes us safer, then we got to do it.

Public event operators, governments, infrastructure owners, emergency services and all other security and safety stakeholders need to find the right balance between infrastructure, technology, operations and manpower to ensure public venue security and safety. After the success last year, we are pleased to announce the 2nd annual Public Venue Security and SafetySummit, being held in Melbourne from 21 – 23 March 2018. The Summit will bring together leading security professionals to explore the implementation of effective and practical strategies to ensure operational continuity of public venues, events and facilities.
Written by: Nicolas Verbeeck

Nicolas was born in Belgium and became an expert in consuming excellent beers, chocolate and waffles. During the winter period you can find him on a hockey pitch and in summer he loves to go for a swim or a surf. In 2013 Nicolas was wondering what the beers, chocolate and waffles would taste like in Australia and never came back. One reason… the weather. Nicolas obtained a masters in International Politics and tries to use this background to produce excellent conferences at Akolade.

27 September 2017

From EA to anywhere

Author :
The role of the Executive or Personal Assistant is one of the hardest to define. They are diary managers, project coordinators, secretaries, advisors, stakeholder relationship managers, event planners, transcribers, the list goes on.

It’s surprising how many EAs feel they are trapped in the role without realistic career pathways or alternative positions. Some find themselves in the highest admin position in their organisation- supporting the CEO or secretary- and ask themselves, what now?

Your career thus far as an executive assistant has provided you with a multi-skilled foundation few others have.

By being more proactive about your own career progression you can move into managerial positions or pursue a different path entirely. Here are some of the ways you can climb into any position you like:

      1.  Leverage your connections

EAs deal with dozens of internal and external stakeholders on a daily basis. You will have established connections in a variety of organisations. If you’re good at what you do and the communication has been clear and transparent, these connections could be your foot in the door.

      2.  Express your goals

Your relationship with your executive should be a mutually beneficial partnership. A good executive will be proactive about your workplace satisfaction and be proactive about your professional development. If you’re open and honest with your executive about your career goals they will be able to include you in steps to make sure you’re equipped with the skills to achieve them.

      3.  Know your value

The success of your executive and your organisation often rests on your shoulders- don’t belittle your role. You are one of your organisation’s most valuable assets. It’s important that you realise your self-worth- if you don’t you won’t be able to communicate it to prospective employers.

Akolade’s 4th Public Sector EA/PA Summit is the must attend event for administrative professionals to take control of their professional development and explore career pathways with the best in the sector. 

Written by: Claire Dowler

Claire Dowler is a Senior Conference Producer with Akolade. She recently graduated with a double degree: a Bachelor of Journalism and a Bachelor of Media and Communications Studies majoring in International Communication. Claire minored in sarcasm and puns.

A ballroom-dancer who collects salt and pepper shakers and volunteers for animal rescue, you might say Claire has eclectic interests.

26 September 2017

Does your NFP stand out from the crowd?

Author :
Australia’s Not-for-Profit sector is facing an era of change. Never before has it been so crucial for organisations to be innovative.

And the Distinguished Gentlemen's Ride has managed to do just. Heads were turned in Toowoomba as gentlemen in their finest waistcoats and bowties to raise money for prostate cancer research.

The gents on their motorbikes rolled through the streets of Toowoomba and raised a total of $14.047.

"I think it's pretty exceptional," said Geoff Priest, Distinguished Gentleman's Ride organiser, to the Chronicle.

"The Toowoomba motorcycling community, and the Toowoomba community at large, has done an awesome job at raising funds for the cause."

Getting attention and remaining at the forefront of potential donors is critical if Not-for-Profits are to remain sustainable. As organisations see the amount of funding and grants diminish, the amount of NFPs is increasing. It is estimated that every year, another 3,000 charities appear on the Australian market.  

While organisations need to increase their level of strategic thinking and drive innovation, Not for Profit People listed five key areas;

  • Find new ways to do work more effectively or more cheaply,
  • Find new ways to raise funds and attract donors
  • Attract the best staff, especially from younger generations excited to be involved with the newest ideas
  • Expand into new service areas, or
  • Attract clients under new competitive models like the NDIS
Written by : Mimmie Wilhelmson

Mimmie grew up in Sweden and first came to Australia as a backpacker after high school. After travelling around the country for two years she returned to Europe and pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism in London. But the longing for Australia and the sun became too strong. After having worked for some time in the media industry, Mimmie decided to make a change and swap the news for conferences. She now gets to do what she loves the most, meeting new people and keep learning about cultures and issues while producing conferences on current topics.

19 September 2017

Social Media is too important to be left to the marketing department

Author :
When customers need help, they expect companies to offer it quickly and through multiple social media channels — but most companies aren’t set up to do that. Some companies increase their social media staff to offer live responses during big events like the Super Bowl or the Grammys, but then they return to predominately one-way social media or content marketing. Since 2013 the number of customers who expect a response through social media has doubled, according to research from Sprout Social, yet seven out of eight messages to companies go unanswered for 72 hours.

Complicating matters further, consumers expect one brand account to contain responses to all kinds of needs, including marketing information and customer service. But marketing managers simply are not trained to deal with questions or complaints about service, product performance, or other non-marketing requests.

To be more effective at building relationships with consumers online, companies need a cross-functional social media team, one where marketing works together with other departments. Distributing social responsibilities to relevant people across the organization can be efficient, be effective, and help make one-on-one customer engagement scalable.

Cross-functional social media teams can leverage the stages of the buying cycle, connecting the right employees with the right customers at the right time. Consumers’ needs change when they are in the pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase steps of buying, so different employees are more useful to customers at different stages.

How can an organization create a cross-functional social media team? First, research and analyse existing social media. Who controls the official brand channels? What systems, policies, and employees are responsible for monitoring social media? From this research, organize a new system. Develop a social care team that can address all areas of social information efficiently and effectively. Identify policies and software systems needed for implementation.

Organise departmental responsibilities in the social care team. Clearly define roles and responsibilities among marketing, customer service, public relations, sales, corporate communication, human resources, etc.

Assign specific employees from each department to social media tasks. Set up social media accounts and give employees access to social media systems.

Create brand guidelines for standards, tone, and style of social media communication. Ask legal and human resources to provide a list of do’s and don’ts for real-time consumer engagement.
Define specific goals based on key performance indicators such as response time, sentiment analysis, engagement, views and shares, and other important metrics.

When companies implement a cross-functional team well, the results are powerful.
In 2014 Hertz shifted from a marketing-centered social media strategy to a cross-functional system built around customers’ needs and expectations. Previously, the marketing department had controlled social media accounts. Marketing staff would publish brand content, but they also received customer complaints. They forwarded the complaints by email to customer service agents, who would then process the requests and email them back to marketing to post on social media. Social media response was limited to Monday through Friday.

For the new 24/7 cross-functional team, Hertz partnered with software company Conversocial to easily connect customer service agents to the software that marketing staff uses to monitor social media conversations. The multidepartment system has enabled Hertz to respond within 75 minutes to more than 1,000 individual customers per week. The company that responding to customers in real time through social media has increased customer loyalty, contributing to customer lifetime value.
The gourmet burger chain Five Guys, too, utilizes a cross-functional social team through social media monitoring software Hootsuite and a process that empowers local franchises and frontline employees. Each of the over 1,200 Five Guys locations has its own social media accounts to market local promotions, new products, and events to its community. Individual locations also provide customer service, responding directly to customer feedback. For them, monitoring on the local level is more efficient, making one-on-one consumer social media engagement scalable, personal, and sincere.

Today’s consumers expect more from companies. They increasingly look for brands that engage with them online and organizations that do reap real benefits. David Packard, of Hewlett-Packard fame, once said that marketing is too important to be left to the marketing people. For social media, that statement is as true as ever.

Written by: Nicolas Verbeeck

Nicolas was born in Belgium and became an expert in consuming excellent beers, chocolate and waffles. During the winter period you can find him on a hockey pitch and in summer he loves to go for a swim or a surf. In 2013 Nicolas was wondering what the beers, chocolate and waffles would taste like in Australia and never came back. One reason… the weather. Nicolas obtained a masters in International Politics and tries to use this background to produce excellent conferences at Akolade.

14 September 2017

Customer-Centric Supply Chain Transformation

Author :
To truly transform your supply chain into one that is focused around what the end-customer needs, you need a plan that addresses a range of organizational factors, including vision, strategic intent, behaviour, technology, organization, processes, and metrics.

Six steps that can help create a customer-centric supply chain:

  1. Supply Chain Health Check. An end-to-end maturity analysis can evaluate the current state of the existing supply chain. The health check includes a survey of customer expectations, an audit of stakeholder beliefs, and interviews with business executives to gauge their commitment to improvement. The results help businesses identify benchmarks and key trends, and understand the opportunity for supply chain optimization.
  2. Supply Chain Strategy and Innovation. How sustainable and adaptable is your supply chain, and what is your vision for the future? Answering these questions requires understanding a range of metrics, such as: segmentation; optimization; inventory versus service; make versus buy; cost versus service; flexibility and agility; variability; complexity; resilience, risk and disaster response; organization and talent management; and performance metrics.
  3. Network Design, Optimization, and Agility. This step is focused on making the supply chain network more agile. It tackles areas such as logistics outsourcing and transportation network optimization. It also examines distribution footprint, logistics, and analytics. The end result is a more efficient supply chain and a vision for future network capabilities.
  4. Demand Signal and Planning. The next goal is to create a supply chain driven by demand. This requires careful sales and operation planning, and automation; demand planning, forecasting, and shaping; and supply planning. It also considers manufacturing scheduling and end-to-end data integration.
  5. Inventory Turns and Availability. A customer-centric supply chain should follow best practices in inventory management, analytics, and statistics. Excellence in this area can optimize inventory, address demand volatility, and improve product availability and customer service.
  6. Lean Supply Chain Execution. The final step in creating a customer-centric supply chain evaluates warehouse and transport operations to improve flow and eliminate waste. A key step here is synchronizing the supply chains of suppliers and other partners.
Written by: Clare Mansbridge 

Clare is part of the production team here at Akolade. 
Clare offers more than 6 years of experience in content creation within the events industry. 
You could say she is a champion of education events. 
She is passionate about social justice, diversity & inclusion, arts, sustainable forms of transport and community building.