31 December 2015

2015’s Top 8 Social Media Fails

Author :

Social media. It’s all fun and games until someone comes along with a fantastically inventive hashtag that gets taken over and suddenly turns into a pile of pants. Every year there are hash tag disasters and 2015 was no different. So here, in no particular order are the Top 10 social media fails for 2015.

William Hill, the owner of Tom Waterhouse and SportingBet attempted to get into the Easter Monday Race spirit by starting the hashtag called #NameAHorseRace. While the Melbourne Cup is seen by many as a day of glamour, gambling and fun, the fact that horse racing is still pretty controversial led to some less than expected responses.

To be fair to William Hill, they did ask the punter’s to be creative. 

Fresh in our Memories

No list of social media fails could be complete without the disastrous Fresh in Memories campaign launched by Supermarket Chain Woolworths in the lead up to the 100th Anniversary of the Gallipoli landings. The campaign had such an impact that the hashtag #freshinourmemories is still being used today, most recently for the decline of Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Your Taxis

In an effort to take on Uber, Victorian Taxis launched the #yourtaxis hashtag to enable customers of Victorian taxis to sing their praises on twitter. Needless to say, it didn’t turn out according to plan.

Ask EL James

She’s one of the world’s most successful novelists, with 50 Shades of Grey selling over 100 million copies. When she released her follow up novel Grey, a retelling of her original book from the perspective of sado-masochist billionaire Christian Grey the author agreed to a twitter Q & A using the hash tag #AskELJames. In hindsight that hashtag needed a safety word.

Ask Seaworld

After the documentary Black Fish opened, Sea World took to twitter to attempt some damage control. Given the backlash on social media I guess the people responsible felt like a Killer Whale in a fish tank. 

Bloomingdales Holiday Drink Spike

The direct correlation between the holiday season and a bit of date rape didn’t sit well with a lot of twitter users.


After getting a large amount of attention for brutality, the social media team for the NY Police Department launched the #MYNYPD hashtag to provide people with the opportunity to post their photos of good encounters with New York’s finest. Then this happened:

Ideas Boom

In December 2015, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced his Innovation Statement, along with the hashtag #ideasboom. Twitters Australian users hit the tweet deck and came up with some interesting ideas of their own.

Here’s to 2016, and may it bring us as many laughs and cringes as 2015.

Mike Cullen has recently returned to Akolade after a period as the conference producer for one of Australia's leading economic think tanks. Mike began working in the conference industry in 2007 after looking for a career change from the high pressured world of inbound customer service. Mike has worked for some of the most well-known conference and media companies in the B2B space and in his spare time is working on his first novel in a planned Epic Fantasy trilogy.

30 December 2015

Corporate Tax Transparency: ATO releases tax data on 1500 large corporations

Author :

Just days after Treasurer Scott Morrison took the axe to welfare, family day care, health, and aged care services the Commissioner of Taxation Chris Jordan AO published the tax details of 1500 large corporate taxpayers. The report forms part of a much wider domestic and global push for improved corporate transparency.

The published report is an entity by entity listing of public and foreign owned corporate entities reporting total income of $100 million or more in 2013-14. With ASX data showing more than 20 per cent of companies make an accounting loss in any given year, no tax paid does not necessarily mean tax avoidance.

In a statement released at the time of the report Commissioner of Taxation, Chris Jordan AO said;

“I am confident of the ATO’s oversight of these large players in our economy, and of our ability to keep close watch on the revenue we receive. Any companies with unusual financial or taxation numbers are closely investigated by the ATO. Over half of these 1500 companies have been subject to ATO review or audit over the past three years, with the ATO’s risk and intelligence systems working all the time to ensure we can all have confidence in the tax system.”

“Within the OCED only Norway taxes companies more as share of the economy than Australia,” Jennifer Westacott, Chief Executive Officer of the Business Council of Australia said in a statement on December 17, 2015.

“The figures,” she added, “should be interpreted with caution. Companies do not pay company income  tax on revenue, they pay it on profits after paying all expenses including wages, capital replacements, supplier costs, fleet costs and other operating expenses.” She said.

“Profit margins will also vary by industry, reflecting different capital intensities.”

This no doubt makes sense to accountants and tax lawyers, but for the general public it is hard to understand how a company such as Unicharm Australasia, which owns the Babylove nappies and Be Fresh sanitary products, had a total income of $130 million, yet paid only $3 on a total taxable income of $10, while Steinhoff Holdings who is owned through the Netherlands and holds key brands Freedom Furniture, Snooze, and Buy (Leather Republic) had a total income of $431 million, but only a taxable income of $150 and paid $0 in tax.

Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer told reporters in Melbourne that “just because they don’t pax, doesn’t mean they are avoiding tax.”

“We have strengthened the powers of the Australian Taxation Officer, we have doubled the penalties for the people who do the wrong thing and strengthened Part IVA of the Australian Tax Act,” Ms O’Dwyer said.

According to the ATO report the companies listed have paid a combined $40 billion in tax in 2014. Given the national total taxation revenue generated is approximately $67 billion to say all companies are dodging their taxation obligations would obviously not be fair or true. However, for companies such as QANTAS, Exxon Mobile Australia, Lend Lease, Virgin Australia, General Motors, Vodafone Hutchison Australia, Chevron Australia, Peabody Energy, News Corp, Transfield, Tiger Airways, Infigen Energy and Adani Abbott Point Terminal to not have any taxable income payable for the 2013-14 period does reinforce the need for an overhaul of the Corporate Tax laws in Australia and also shows the importance of companies supported by Australian’s in turn supporting our country by paying a fair and equitable tax amount.

Mike Cullen has recently returned to Akolade after a period as the conference producer for one of Australia's leading economic think tanks. Mike began working in the conference industry in 2007 after looking for a career change from the high pressured world of inbound customer service. Mike has worked for some of the most well-known conference and media companies in the B2B space and in his spare time is working on his first novel in a planned Epic Fantasy trilogy.

29 December 2015

New Year, New You

Author :

As 2015 draws to an end people begin to focus on making the most of the New Year. Changes to lifestyle, budget, career. Everything is fair game when you’re planning to make 2016 the best year of your life ever.

Come January 1st, as we emerge from our New Year’s Eve stupor we set in motion the plans we’ve laid out to increase our productivity and energy for the New Year. Gym membership, done. Quit Smoking, I’m wearing the patches right now. Save money for a holiday, budget on spreadsheet with all the bells and whistles at the ready.

And then you return to work, the day to day grind overtakes the best of intentions and you find yourself paying $52 a month to a gym you haven’t visited yet, the nicotine replacement patches are in the bin and you’re standing in the sweltering heat of a Sydney summer with a cigarette between your teeth and the carefully prepared budget has already been blown away as though it never existed.

For a lot of people, setting up a series of New Year’s Resolutions is more of a habit than an actual desire to make a change. It seems as though we are expected as adults to make grand announcements at the beginning of every year as to how we will improve in the year to come. Setting multiple goals may work for some people but for the majority it’s better to set goals one at a time.

Goal setting is definitely not rocket science, unless the goal you are setting is to become a rocket scientist in which case it is. Setting a goal, be it for personal achievement, career progression or just to get your level of fitness back to nearer what it was ten years ago is about taking the overall big picture and breaking it down into a series of achievable steps.

Here are a few tips designed to make sure the goals you set for 2016 can be easily achieved.


When I was at school I had a teacher who used to meet all objections to essay and assignments with “K.I.S.S.” Keep It Simple Stupid. This doesn’t mean your goal can’t be big. Make the goal so big it scares the life out of you if you want to. No matter the size of the goal, when it’s broken down into bite sized chunks keep it simple. Make it easy for you to attain your goal. Once you attain one goal, set another. Make the year a year of small achievements. No matter how small they are singularly, by the end of the year the accumulative effect can change your life.

Make it worthwhile:

When setting a goal, make sure it’s something that has weight behind it. If you set yourself the goal of quitting drinking, but have no real interest in it, you’ll last a week. It’s the same with losing weight. If the goal you set revolves around a restrictive diet that denies you your favourite foods, it will be the worse 8 hours of your life. Instead of setting goals that restrict or deny, set a goal that limits. Set positive goals. If you want to lose weight, set the goal to exercise a half an hour a day, or to eat more green leafy vegetables and salads. Everything in moderation, even life changes.

How do you eat an elephant?

I used to work for a distance education company and whenever I had a student call in worried about how they were going to achieve something or finish something on time my advice was always “how do you an eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” Break your goal into achievable steps. If you want to write a novel, setting the goal to write 100,000 words by December can sound overwhelming. However, if you set the goal to write a 5,000 word chapter each week you’ll end up with a 100,000 word first draft in just 5 months. Whatever it is you want to achieve move towards it one-step at a time and you’ll achieve it a lot faster than you think you can.

If at first you don’t succeed, forget about it:

Whether you’re new to goal setting or you’ve done it a million times and never really achieved anything, dust yourself off, have a look at why your goal wasn’t reached and start again. There’s no point to just waving your hands in the air and giving up. It’s not about how many times you fall over, it’s about how many times you get up. I recently watched my nephew as he realised what his feet were for. From crawling across the floor to reach his mother he discovered that by using furniture, dogs or random uncles as something to balance on he could pull himself to his feet. It took him a few days to get more walking than falling, but in the end he was off and running, literally. Who knew babies could move fast? Babies and kids learn by witnessing, and they succeed by failing. If my nephew had fallen over and said to himself “oh forget this for a joke, someone can carry me,” he’d never have learnt to run. As adults we seem to be under the misinterpretation that success happens overnight and has to be instant. No matter how good – or bad – you are at goal setting you will fall over sooner or later. Get up and keep going.

Edit, review and readjust:

There are times when a goal being set just isn’t enough to warrant the effort it will take to achieve it. Sitting down and regularly review your goal. Does it still inspire you? Would you go without something to make the goal happen? If not, scrap it. There’s nothing wrong with admitting a goal that has been set not living up to expectations. Edit your goals, review if they are still inspiring and readjust your focus if they aren’t. Completing a goal just for the sake of it doesn’t inspire anyone to continue to set goals later on.

Whether or not you are a resolution setter, or a resolution ignorer, the start of a new year is a great time to re-evaluate where you are heading and how to get to where you need to be. If you do decide to set yourself some goals, apply the tips above and, in theory, you should see results faster than you can say “what gym membership?”

Mike Cullen has recently returned to Akolade after a period as the conference producer for one of Australia's leading economic think tanks. Mike began working in the conference industry in 2007 after looking for a career change from the high pressured world of inbound customer service. Mike has worked for some of the most well-known conference and media companies in the B2B space and in his spare time is working on his first novel in a planned Epic Fantasy trilogy.

28 December 2015

NSW State Government to force local council amalgamations

Author :

Media reports on the 18th of December 2015 suggested that NSW Premier The Hon. Mike Baird MP was set to announce the forced amalgamations of a number of councils to create larger municipalities and significantly reduce the number of local governments.

Minister for Local Government The Hon. Paul Toole had previous welcomed the number of councils who had lodged their merger preferences ahead of the November 18 deadline.

“There is widespread acknowledgement among councils of the need to be Fit for the Future. There is real momentum building up among councils that are talking and agreeing to come together,” the Minister said at the time. “The NSW Government’s Fit for the Future package is aimed at keeping downward pressure on rates – reducing the burden on mums, dads, families and pensioners.”

The Fit for the Future package was undertaken by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) who reviewed the financial viability and ability to deliver services of NSW Local Councils, determining nearly two-thirds of the NSW councils were not financially Fit for the Future.

At the time the report was released in October 2015, many local councils were opposed to the talk of mergers or forced amalgamations, with some councils responding to the IPART review with merger proposals of their own.

“The IPART report found reducing waste and red tape through local government reform could free up to $2 billion over the next 20 years for ratepayers, which could stabilise council rates and fund better services and new infrastructure for communities.” Minster Toole said.

However, Opposition local government spokesman, Peter Primrose disputed that in an interview with ABC in December, saying many ratepayers would be angered by forced amalgamations.

“The backlash will take place when people realise that this isn’t really improving the types of services that are delivered to them,” Mr Primrose said. “Any you’ve still got federal and state governments cost-shifting services onto local councils, and ratepayers are going to have to pick up the tab.”

The Local Government Boundaries Commission is expected to oversee the amalgamation process.

Mike Cullen has recently returned to Akolade after a period as the conference producer for one of Australia's leading economic think tanks. Mike began working in the conference industry in 2007 after looking for a career change from the high pressured world of inbound customer service. Mike has worked for some of the most well-known conference and media companies in the B2B space and in his spare time is working on his first novel in a planned Epic Fantasy trilogy.

25 December 2015

Social Media – the fine line in intent

Author :

The Victorian Taxi Association(VTA)’s “failed” social media campaign recently made headlines. News feeds were flooded with reports of how the campaign “backfired” and was an “epic fail”. A news site even went so far as to say that it was the “social media fail of the year”.

In the aftermath, the VTA has parted ways with the agency responsible for the campaign, just days after the campaign was launched. The VTA released a statement stating that the “campaign concept and delivery did not match our intention”, but asserted that the organisation wanted to “connect with customers and listen to their feedback in order to build a better service.”

Now that the hullaballoo has somewhat receded, it is probably timely to reflect on whether this campaign actually went awry, and whether in the bigger scheme of things, the VTA was deserving of all the mud that has been slung at them in the media.

I don’t profess to be a social media expert in any sense of the word, but I think the intent of the whole campaign deserves some scrutiny. The VTA themselves expressly stated that the point of the campaign was to connect with customers and build community engagement. If this is so, then all comments – good or bad – should in fact be valuable in helping it to be “a better service”. To their credit, this is something that the VTA themselves have alluded to in the statement they released.

However, it seems to me that the VTA have self-inflicted their woes by claiming all in one breath that they were listening to their customers, but that the means in which they have encouraged this and succeeded in doing so – purely in the amount of feedback they received – needs a “thorough review”.
In my opinion, there is a grey area where the line is drawn between social media marketing (ie: good stories and good stories only – god forbid anything that may remotely damage our reputation be publicly discussed) and community engagement (ie: good or bad, your opinions matter and we will be open about it for everyone to engage in). With this campaign, did the VTA want to challenge their nemesis Uber and build confidence in their brand, or did they actually want to engage their community online?

If it was the former, then the execution of the campaign was never going to work. The VTA were obviously already aware of some of the key issues that their customers were facing with their service, and presumably were trying to turn the negativity around by attempting to extract feel-good stories from their users. The issue with this premise is that the chances of any good stories emerging from a large proportion of dissatisfied customers was always going to be slim.

On the other hand, if the VTA wanted to build their community engagement, then in my opinion, the campaign was a massive success.

The trouble is that unfortunately – or rather, expectedly – the media has chosen to highlight the campaign bits that were “negative”, and this whole saga has suddenly turned into one big public relations disaster.

Some key thoughts on social media strategy and execution, as I mull over this particular case:
Always know your intent on social media. Are you wanting to engage your community, or are your social media efforts a branding exercise? There is a fine line between the two– don’t try to bundle both together in the hopes that something beautiful will emerge from the mix.

Know your audience’s perception of your organisation before you settle on a social media strategy. As we have seen, often times a customer base that doesn’t feel connected to your brand will breed more negativity in an open forum. This is fine if you are actually listening and wanting to engage your community online, but it could also do a lot of harm if your intent was different.

Listen and participate. To VTA’s credit, they have stated that their focus is now to address the feedback that they have received, and the CEO has committed to ensure that all passenger issues are captured.

Social media – there are many knowns, but also a whole lot of unknowns. It is a learning journey for all, and as much as the VTA has bumbled their way through this social media campaign, I give credit to them for taking customer feedback seriously and working on turning things around. 

Su grew up dreaming of being a journalist, dodging bullets and gunfire with a camera thrust in front of her reporting from a war zone. Having realised that she is not really as agile as she thought, she has settled for dodging cockroaches in metropolitan Sydney as her adrenaline fix. Su is inquisitive and loves a good challenge, which is why she has chosen to produce conferences at Akolade. In her spare time, Su likes to read, drink green tea, and fantasise about making the world a better place; getting rid of the need for war journalists entirely.

24 December 2015

No, you haven’t won the Nigerian Lottery: Fraud, the internet and spam

Author :

I can’t count the amount of times I’ve received emails from law firms or bank managers from overseas, intent on stealing a portion of my dead Nigerian relative’s ill-gotten gains. To be fair, I hadn’t realised I was related to so many thieving Nigerians until I got a Hotmail account. Given my ancestry is predominately from an Irish and Scottish background, you can imagine my surprise the first time I came across an email telling me my beloved uncle had died in a car crash and as his only relative I was entitled to his $300 million fortune.

Back in the day, email scams were not all that sophisticated. While most of them have not changed all that much in the decade and a half or so I’ve had my Hotmail account I’ve had a couple though in my time that made me pause. The sophistication level comes from the format. I received an email a couple of months ago that was reportedly from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia. The logo was right, the spelling was correct. But the return email address was at Gmail. That was the only thing that made me stop before I entered my netbank password to reset my account after an “attempted access.”

In a press release from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission in July 2015 showed that Australians were still falling victim to email based scams. In the release the ACCC stated that there had already been 45,000 complaints up until July 2015, and Australian’s had fallen victim to the cost of $45 million dollars to email scams.

“Scammers are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their attempts to get your money or personal details, “ ACCC acting Chair Delia Rickard said. “Scams succeed because they look like the real thing and catch you off guard when you are not suspecting it.”

In the press release accompanying the launch of the ACCC’s Scamwatch website, there were a few tips to help you identify fraudulent scam emails.

Be alert to the fact scams exist:

Prevention is better than a cure. It always has been. I remember when I first entered the world of the Internet the first piece of advice I was given was “don’t open an email from someone you don’t know, and don’t click on anything.” Its advice I follow to this day. If you receive an email from what looks like your bank or an Australian Government Agency, always check the return to sender email address. If it’s a Hotmail, a Yahoo or a Gmail account you can be absolutely certain it’s a fake.

Know who you are speaking to:

Today it’s so easy to meet new people. Apps on your phone, websites, social media. But when you deal exclusively with someone online, all you really know is the name they give you and the photos they send. As people we have an inbuilt “auto-trust,” function. We believe people when they say they are Sam from Birmingham when in fact they’re Arthur from Latvia. Use reverse image search on Google with the photos they provide. While social media and social apps invite strangers into our electronic devices, there are still tools you can use to make sure they are who they say they are. Regardless, never share details like passwords or credit card numbers and never send money so they can bail their sweet old mum out of prison.

Delete those scam emails:

I have a rule that I don’t open any email in my personal email account if I don’t know who sent it. To be fair, my spam folder on Hotmail is pretty good. I delete it after a cursory glance to make sure it hasn’t diverted an email I need. Don’t engage with people who are trying to launch a scam. Don’t reply to them, don’t click a link and under no circumstances should you provide them with any information. Delete emails from unknown senders without even opening them.

For further information on the ACCC’s Scamwatch website, please click here to read the press release.

Mike Cullen has recently returned to Akolade after a period as the conference producer for one of Australia's leading economic think tanks. Mike began working in the conference industry in 2007 after looking for a career change from the high pressured world of inbound customer service. Mike has worked for some of the most well-known conference and media companies in the B2B space and in his spare time is working on his first novel in a planned Epic Fantasy trilogy.

23 December 2015

December MYEFO brings little Christmas Cheer to Australia’s elderly

Author :

The December release of the annual Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) brought little in the way of Christmas cheer to the nation’s lower income families, elderly and the sick, with billions of dollars cut from the health portfolio.

Medicare received a total $650 million cut, health training received a cut of $595 million over four years, with preventative health losing $146 million and cancer treatments receiving a funding cut of $27 million. Totalling over $1.4 billion in savings measures over the four year period, the MYEFO cuts negatively impact some of the country’s most vulnerable citizens.

AMA President Professor Brian Owen referred to the cuts to diagnositic imaging services and pathology as the “GP Co-Payment by stealth.”

“These measures are simply resurrecting a part of the Government’s original ill-fated co-payment proposal from the 2014 budget,” Professor Owen said in a press release. “The Government is continuing to retreat from its core responsibilities in providing access to affordable, quality health services in Australia.”

“The AMA strongly opposes these measures,” Professor Owen said, “and we will encourage the Senate to disallow them.”

A further $1.07 billion has been cut from aged care services while young families will also face added pressure with Family Day Care rebates cut by $930 million.

Despite these cuts, Treasury predictions has the budget deficit further deteriorating to a deficit of stretching to $37 billion beyond the end of the decade.

While none of this is particularly unexpected given the Government’s focus on going for “welfare,” based support it does raise serious questions about exactly when the Government will start seriously focusing on tax dodging multinational organisations, rebates to the mining industry and tax concessions to higher income individuals. It appears that despite what then Treasurer Joe Hockey said so infamously a couple of years ago, the Age of Entitlement is far from over, at least for those with deep pockets and big bank balances.

The Government has committed over $3.5 billion in extra spending since the May budget, including $1.1 billion for the Turnbull Government’s innovation package, $909 million to re-settle 12,000 extra Syrian refuges, $1.1 billion in extra roads funding and $621 million for new pharmaceutical subsidies and while these have been more than offset by the cuts contained in the MYEFO there were some announcements that were truly head scratching.

The Arts portfolio also felt the axe fall, but the Government has committed $47 million to two blockbuster sequels to the Thor franchise and the Ridley Scott directed Alien sequel, a move that has left the Australian Film industry questioning the Government’s support of local products, with $35 million worth of funding diverted from Screen Australia to the 20th Century Fox, the American film studio behind the blockbusters.

“I think people are horrified and depressed,” said David Tiley, the editor of online film industry magazine Screenhub in an interview with theABC on December 16, 2015. “It means we’re getting two loads of cuts in a year.”

“The problem is where the money has come from, and the bulk of it this time around has come from the sale of a piece of land which Screen Australian owned and has essentially been hijacked and transferred sideways.”

On the media trail to promote the MYEFO, Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison called on critics of the MYEFO measures to come up with alternatives.

“Show us alternatives,” the Treasurer said in response to Shadow Treasurer  Chris Bowen's advice that the Australian Labor Party was not in mind to just pass through harsh cuts in the senate. “I’ll take something off the table if someone can put something on the table of equal measure.”

If the reaction on Twitter is anything to go by, Treasurer Morrison’s MYEFO looks to be having a similar effect to the Government’s “honeymoon” period as the ill-fated 2014 Budget had on the Abbott Government.

Mike Cullen has recently returned to Akolade after a period as the conference producer for one of Australia's leading economic think tanks. Mike began working in the conference industry in 2007 after looking for a career change from the high pressured world of inbound customer service. Mike has worked for some of the most well-known conference and media companies in the B2B space and in his spare time is working on his first novel in a planned Epic Fantasy trilogy.

22 December 2015

Motivate, Engage and Retain: How to set 2016 off on the right path.

Author :

Every year around this time there are reams of articles written about the year in review or how to avoid the mistakes of the past. The world abounds in Top 10 Lists. For me, this time of year isn’t really about introspection, but about focusing on the New Year to come and what we can do to make sure the New Year is bigger, and better, than the current one.

Staff engagement and retention is always at the top of most HR managers’ minds. Having to replace staff after an exodus around late January/early February is both time consuming and costly. The idea of seeing the same faces at next year’s Christmas party motivates me to sit down and plan out a system to re-engage everyone after the holiday period, when Christmas – and the next break – seems so far away.

Keeping your staff motivated is about creating in them a sense of belonging and ownership. Here are a few key tips – you didn’t think this wasn’t going to contain a list did you – that can help you to motivate, engage and retain your staff to set 2016 off on the right path.

Top tips to motivate, engage and retain your staff:


Staff work on the front line of the business. Processes put in place a decade ago may work well, but when a staff member works up the courage to highlight an area that needs to be improved – and provides you with an idea on how it can be done – listen to them. There’s no guarantee you’ll be able to adopt the idea, but staff who show initiative should be applauded. The habit of “we’ve always done it this way,” can be hard to break, but ignoring an idea from an employee who has put the time and effort into looking into why it might work is not going to motivate anyone to do anything but the bare minimum.

Empower decision making:

Back in the dark ages of the late 1990’s I worked for an Australian telecommunication company. While I was there I undertook a training programme called “It’s your company.” The point of the training was to create buy-in from staff to make decisions that both helped the customer and the company. The training set very clear parameters as to what I could do on my own and what needed to be authorised by management. By having the knowledge and power to do most things on my own I became really invested in “doing it right.” There were no mistakes, so long as I worked within the guidelines provided, but we still had to be able to justify why we had made certain decisions if we were asked. Not long after the Sydney Olympics, I went to work at another telecommunications company. The new role gave me zero scope to use my initiative and I had to ask permission to do the most basic of things. I spent 12 months in that company and hated every minute of it. Show your staff that you trust them. Train them well and then let them do their job. It’s why you hired them in the first place.

Acknowledge achievements:

When a staff member goes above and beyond to secure a deal or satisfy a customer it needs to be acknowledged. I’m not talking about holding a ticker-tape parade in the office or setting off party poppers. What I mean by acknowledge the achievement could be as simple as saying “Great job.” I’ve had managers in my time who, when a target was surpassed or a goal achieved simply moved the goal posts. Instead of saying congratulations on achieving the target, the response has been “well next month I want X amount more.” Not only is it frustrating, it’s demoralising. If a staff member feels they have no chance of winning, they’re not even going to try.

Competitions are fun:

It may sound silly, but competitions are fun. Whether it’s a competition for a bottle of wine or a trip overseas, everyone likes to win. Back in my call centre days we – as staff members – were tasked with coming up with an idea to create Team Spirit. I remember at the time wondering why the Team Leader wasn’t tasked with that job, but each team member put on their thinking caps and came up with a variety of ideas that we pitched to the Team Leader one Friday afternoon.  I came up with a KPI based Board Game. I called it “The Hunt for the Pirates KPI,” don’t ask me why I thought that was a good name. I went to the local $2 shop and spent about $30 to buy random nick knacks and an urn, wrapped everything in bright coloured paper and whenever anyone landed on the Treasure Chest on the game board they got to have a go at the lucky dip. By the time the game ended a month later the entire team area was covered in little gnomes, sparkly things and random statues that had comprised the pirate’s treasure. On top of that, the Team’s KPI had increased beyond anything I expected. Bringing a bit of light-hearted competition into the office always helps to create a sense of fun and achievement.

Make goals reachable:

If you set goals that can’t be reached, you’re setting your team up for failure. It’s really that simple. Goals that make the team stretch are fine, but ones that are going to take a miracle to get near aren’t worth the time you’ve taken to come up with them. A goal that can’t be achieved or seems impossible is more likely to demoralise your team, rather than inspire them.

Lead from the top:

Leadership is more than just turning up on time. Actually, leaders should turn up on time too. Staff learn what is acceptable and what isn’t by observation. If a Leader turns up whenever they feel like it and then attempts to enforce start times, you’re not going to be taken seriously. Be the leader you always wanted when you were a team member. We’ve all had managers that drove us mental by doing one thing, while enforcing arbitrary rules they themselves didn’t follow. Set the example. You worked hard to get to the point where you were made a leader, just because you’ve attained a position of authority is no reason to slack off now. Staff who are treated like minions will act them.

Credit where it is due:
Finally, make sure you give credit where it is due. I don’t mean a compliment on a job well done here. I mean, if a staff member comes up with an idea to re-engage customers or increase sales and performance give them the credit for their idea. There’s nothing more demoralising than working hard on an idea, presenting it to a manager only to have the manager claim the idea as their own when it turns out to be successful. Once a manager starts claiming every initiative as their own, without acknowledging the staff member – or members – who came up with the idea, that manager will soon find themselves with a team who keep all their ideas to themselves while polishing their resumes and logging into their long dormant Seek account.

Motivating, engaging and retaining your staff is a job front-line managers and leaders need to work on throughout the year, not just at the beginning of a new year when it’s easy to be inspired to bring about change. As leaders in the corporate world, we hire adults. Our staff are our best assets and we need to treat them like they are or we’ll end up spending most of 2016 in the interview room. 

Mike Cullen has recently returned to Akolade after a period as the conference producer for one of Australia's leading economic think tanks. Mike began working in the conference industry in 2007 after looking for a career change from the high pressured world of inbound customer service. Mike has worked for some of the most well-known conference and media companies in the B2B space and in his spare time is working on his first novel in a planned Epic Fantasy trilogy.