Ever feel like you’re living in your own little bubble, a bit out of touch with the outside world?
I’ve definitely felt like that before. Our time-poor lives mean it’s so easy to just focus on the information that’s immediately around us, on a need-to-know basis. It's especially relevant during the end of the year as we juggle signing off at work, family responsibilities, holiday plans and so much more.
It's understandable to just put your head down and focus on what is around you, but it can lead to missed opportunities and risks in your blind spot.
Why you should take a reality check
There is a high chance that you work with a bunch of like-minded people, all focussed on the same goals. Working in a team like this is a really positive experience, and definitely has its upsides. But if you’re not careful, you can find yourself in an echo chamber.
You all have the same ideas about your company’s market position, what you’re doing well, how you’re perceived and so on. The ideas bounce around and reinforce one another. This leads to warm feelings all round, but often a less-than-accurate view of reality.
Keeping abreast of industry trends and what your competitors are doing is so important for your business. And being the employee who’s known for having their finger on the pulse of what’s going on outside the bubble will increase your value to the business massively.
In today’s digital era, it’s so easy to do: Social media chats, regular email updates from experts and blogs are an excellent place to start. Seminars and conferences can be great too. Often, though, simply getting in touch with ex-colleagues, suppliers and customers and finding out about what challenges they’re facing and what successes they have had is all it takes to give you a fresh perspective on what’s happening outside of your bubble.
My experience inside and outside the bubble
I worked as an external recruiter for nine years, before taking on an internal recruitment contract with ASB, and then recently returning to external recruitment with Consult.
It highlighted to me the fact that external recruitment is one of those rare jobs where you get a really good overview of the market. This is one of the things I love about it so much. You’re working with people every day from a wide range of industries and companies, and you’re privy to a lot of information. You end up with a strong handle on what’s going on in a broad sense.
When I moved to internal recruitment, I realised my view had suddenly narrowed: Now I only dealt with a very slender segment of the market. ASB is in the enviable position of having a very desirable employment brand. I had to be careful not to end up with a distorted view of what was going on with candidate supply and demand, and salaries within the wider job market.
As a hiring manager, operating within a bubble can open you up to significant risk when it comes to retaining and recruiting staff. Not only is it important to be aware of what your competitors are up to from a business perspective; it’s also important to be aware of what competitors for your staff are up to.
Fortunately the team I worked with at ASB was really good at keeping an eye on life outside the bubble. We had a couple of people in particular who were focussed on keeping up with ‘the next big thing’ in tech and innovation, and feeding it back to the team. We also had a strong social media strategy, which meant we were continually exposed to a whole community of opposing ideas and points of view.
Beware of the salary bubble
When an employee resigns it often seems to come from out of the blue to line managers. Of course there are many reasons why an employee might choose to leave, but there’s no doubt that salary is one important factor. With relatively stagnant salaries over the past few years, and Auckland property prices the way they are, this is no surprise.
Tony Alexander, Chief Economist at the BNZ, says he believes many Kiwis feel so uncomfortable discussing money with their boss, they'd rather find a higher paying job with a new employer than ask for a pay rise. It sounds crazy, but I definitely think there is a lot of truth in this.
So how can you keep up with current salary levels and make sure you’re paying your staff what they’re worth? This is where talking to your favourite recruiter outside the bubble can be of huge value, at the cost of just a phone call.
Printed salary surveys might be useful from a high level perspective, but not at a specific detailed level; as the salary bands tend to be very broad. Also, these surveys often take some time to get to print, so tend to be out of date before they even get to you - particularly in an employee-short market.
A tool I’ve been enthusiastically recommending to everyone I come into contact with in the accounting space is What’s My Worth? Yes, it’s a tool Consult launched, so I may have a bit of bias – but as an independent, user-driven website, I believe it’s the best resource available to get an accurate picture of accounting salaries in New Zealand. It now boasts over 7000 profiles and continues to grow each day. It is the largest accounting & finance salary tool in New Zealand. Now that's impressive!
Get outside your bubble today!
My challenge to you is to do something today to get outside your bubble.
Has it been a while since you changed jobs? Talk to friends doing your role in another company, or call a recruiter – are you missing any key skills that you’ll need to be competitive next time you’re job seeking?
Feeling like your circle of friends and acquaintances is getting a little stale? Sign up for that salsa dancing class or photography course you’ve always wanted to do and expose yourself to some different world views.
Clear your blind spot, whatever it is. It’ll keep you invigorated, relevant, and prepared for the risks and opportunities coming your way.