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We are about making your business amazing. 

The key to amazing business is having the best people in functional roles, performing above expectation and aligned to your company vision, mission & values.

Our HR & Recruitment Strategists step into your world and learn about your business. We not only take the pain out of recruiting, managing and motivating your team, but deliver return on your people investment.

Disrupting HR and traditional internal thinking is our goal; our unique methodologies, customised and sustainable solutions are:

Commercial | Creative | Implemented

We call it ‘HR insourcing’ it is cutting edge and your company enjoys best practice people solutions.

HR Disruptor Blog

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22 Apr
Mandy Johnson- 7 Steps to engaging leadership
Guest Blog by Mandy Johnson the author of Family Village Tribe

In my early twenties I had the dubious fortune of becoming the leader of a travel agency chain’s worst- performing national store. It was a place where staff had stand-up arguments, took constant sick days, alienated clients and often quit. Twelve months later, the perpetually loss-making store was profitable and the staff had won five company achievement awards. Yet I didn’t realise the true level of my team’s engagement until the day one of the employees missed the bank, hid $20,000 in cash in the bottom of a rubbish bin and then accidentally threw it out. By the time I arrived at work, the team had already purchased rubber gloves and arranged a temp, while they rushed to the nearest rubbish dump. Hours of digging through smelly trash later, the bag of money was unearthed and we celebrated like it was the new millennium.

Yet these employees are in the minority.  According to a Gallup global study only 13% of people are actually engaged in their work. Here then are my seven steps to more engaging leadership:

  1. Get the team size right – It is very difficult for a leader to engage and inspire people when they have too many employees to manage. In my first book Family, Village Tribe I explain how global travel retailer Flight Centre grew from a single store to over 3000 stores and became a $4 billion corporation, by utilising smaller, more focused teams. The company found that once team size grew beyond seven, they were harder to manage, people became less engaged, staff turnover increased and productivity and profits dropped right off.  You can see this at dinner parties when as soon as a group gets beyond this number, people split off and start to talk in separate groups. This strategy may seem counterintuitive as the upfront cost of more team leaders is higher, yet the return in engagement and productivity far exceeds the extra costs. Flight Centre almost doubled its profits in a single year after it implemented the ‘family, village, tribe’ philosophy. Gore, Virgin, Semco, Spotify, and Atlassian are other companies that have now adopted this system and also achieved great success.
  2. Hire the ‘right-fit’ people in the first place – Trying to engage employees who are unsuitable for the role or the organization is like trying to force a square peg into a round hole. As global jewelry retailer, Michael Hill found, improving their hiring practices halved their staff turnover in less than 12 months.  Unfortunately many organisations give little or the wrong focus to hiring, appoint sub-standard recruits and then become trapped in a cycle of low engagement and productivity and high staff turnover. I’ve written a whole book on how to do this, but the main criterion is to look at attributes like past achievement and examples of perseverance, in addition to skills and cultural fit.
  3. Hold Monthly One-On-Ones – Imagine a coach who only met with his professional athletes once or twice a year and reeled off a long list of everything the athlete was doing wrong. It sounds insane yet this is the norm for many leaders, who conduct once or twice-yearly performance appraisals.  Of all the talent management strategies I’ve seen or used to build engagement and high performance, the monthly one-on-one system is a stand-out. This is when a leader takes time out to have a productive reflective discussion with each employee and create an individual action plan. Not only does this process nurture the vital bond between an employee and his immediate supervisor, but as a study by Bersin and Associates found, a monthly action plan alone results in twice the revenue per employee and a 27% lower staff turnover rate.  Tech company Atlassian makes a great case study.  When executives discovered that their twice yearly staff appraisals led to disengagement, they implemented these monthly check-ins. The result: extraordinarily high engagement scores of 87% and ‘Best Employer’ awards followed.
  4. Reduce Bureaucracy – When the US army was experiencing disengagement and high turnover of its most promising leaders they thought it was because these leaders didn’t like the possibility of active war deployment. Yet when a researcher conducted a study he found that the root cause of this disengagement was the increasing levels of bureaucracy. No one likes doing worthless activities. With work hours escalating in developed countries, time is now a valuable commodity and wasting it is often a big factor in employee disengagement. Leaders who can improve even just one piece of double-handling a month can achieve much better results.
  5. Praise and Reward Excellence On a Regular Basis – In a 2012 Globoforce survey, 47% of workers gave ‘not being recognised for their efforts’ as one of the main reasons for leaving their last job. Turn this around and there’s a serious prize on offer for those leaders who get it right. The first step is to have an objective intelligent way to measure achievement.  This is relatively easy in sales roles but for other roles needs some application. By aligning KPIs with desired business outcomes and making them monthly and realistic, leaders can create fun and rewarding initiatives that build excitement and anticipation for their people.
  6. Brightness of Future (BOF) – I have asked every person I ever interviewed why they were looking to leave their existing employer. More than 75% of them stated they couldn’t see any future; there was simply nowhere for them to go; no way for them to grow and develop; no brightness of future. Leaders can attack this problem by creating an annual BOF plan with each of their people. This can cover a wide range of areas such as personalized training and development; potential awards they might aim for;  promotional prospects; opportunities to mentor or be mentored; involvement in new projects and initiatives; profit sharing; more flexible shift times or days in lieu, and so on. With the plan reviewed regularly during monthly one-on-ones, people stay more engaged and staff turnover is reduced.
  7. Have Fun – In the ‘rubbish dump’ example, I had become a store manager after travelling and working as a tour leader for three years. In that period I learnt that if my tour passengers had fun, they scored the tour high on the satisfaction rating.  So I applied the same underlying principle of ‘let’s have fun’ to my new business and achieved the same results. When people are enjoying themselves – be it social events, weekly competitions, morning boredom-breakers or team challenges – then they become more engaged. They progress much faster from ‘forming’ to ‘performing’, their productivity levels go sky-high and no-one wants to leave the new winning team. As baseballer Babe Ruth once said, ‘You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.’

To accomplish all of the above, leaders require a positive pro-active attitude towards their people. This often requires a complete mental flip. Great leaders recognize that it is not their people who are lucky to have a job, but they themselves who are lucky to have great people invest their skills into the company. As John Paul Getty, the rich American industrialist once said, ‘The employer generally gets the employees he deserves’. In practice, I’ve found this to be true every time.

About Mandy Johnson

Mandy Johnson is a best selling author, keynote speaker, and business advisor to both public and private organisations.

She holds the record as the youngest-ever director of global travel retailer Flight Centre Limited, as a start-up founder of their UK operation. Mandy now writes, speaks and advises organisations on innovative, evidence-based techniques that increase employee engagement, solve business challenges and transform profitability. She has trialed her techniques in a diverse range of organisations over 15 years, including a stint undercover in a yachting company which became an Australian Financial Review news story.



18 Apr
Lachie Russell - Through the eyes of an intern
As I approached my first day of work experience at wattsnext I was both eager and excited to immerse myself into the interesting and captivating environment that I only had a slight taste of when I was interviewed by Amy Evans, the national Head of Delivery. Immediately it was clear that this organisation was different from the rest – putting an emphasis on the use of social media at work, something that I had only to know of being a big no-no! And using platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn as a primary means to communicate and expand their business endeavours was something totally foreign to me.

I liked this place already.

But, that wasn’t even the best part. I found out that the tradition at wattsnext was that everyone chips in to buy lunch for someone starting on their first day. It was my lucky day, that somebody was me! It was clear from the get-go that this welcoming gesture was a reflection of the holistic nature of wattsnext and its employees. Being greeted to a ‘Hi Lachie’ by everyone was definitely a first for me within the working environment on my first day, immediately I felt valued from day one.

Any nerves I did have were soon to be settled.

Day by day I gathered a better understanding of how wattsnext functioned and performed by getting an insight into the work they did for clients, how they went about producing documentation, the interactive nature of both office and clientele work, and the hands on practical approach that was used to improve business exposure and clientele interaction online. For once I actually placed some value into the relevance of my University assessment, I saw the similarities. Helping develop and edit training programs brought to use a mutual benefit where I used my knowledge from University to help contribute to making improvements and suggesting new models, whilst learning new ideas and concepts that can be used in future University study.

Perhaps the most useful insight that I had gathered thus far was the importance and significance of a lot of the HR content at University.

Prior to commencing this work experience I had the common perception that what I studied was just theory based nonsense that had no place in the real world… oh boy was I wrong!

By analysing the current workplace culture of a particular business wattsnext would apply specific measures and applications to mould an organisational culture to the desired fit. This essentially being what the majority of my assignments were based on – organisational culture and how to design and sustain a good one!

By exposing myself to a practical HR environment I am now better equipped to face my final year of University. Gaining an insight into real world practices and processes has shown me the benefit of the theory based content that I had otherwise struggled to find the relevance of!

Overall my experience at wattsnext has been overwhelmingly positive and I honestly couldn’t have come across a better organisation in terms of team culture and creativity.

But most of all their unwavering dedication and focus on the commercial return HR should always be striving to achieve is something I will take with me into my career.

image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at

Lachie Russell is an intern at wattsnext who is just starting his final year studying HR. 
18 Apr
Amy Evans- Is your HR a true business partner?
 Image courtesy of pakorn at

Having worked in Human Resources for over 15 years, I have certainly seen several ‘trends’ come and go. One particular ‘trend’ has always remained a focus for me and that is HR being a true Business Partner in organisations, rather than a silo department or cost center.
So, is this still a ‘trend’ or has it become the norm and we are moving into the next phase?
I would love to know your thoughts!
For me; leading a team of HR experts, my passion has always been in providing credible commercial HR results, but what does this mean?
I believe this is about showing the impact of what you are doing. It has to be shown through the language of the business, which for most has a commercial and financial outcome.
What is the business returning from this investment in its people?
Or how is this program yielding results?
You must be able to demonstrate the cost and also the benefit. If you cannot clearly define this or demonstrate this, you will be battling the CFO and CEO over cost-cutting, which is a battle HR practitioners generally will not win.
Here are some tips on how to truly act as a Business Partner:
  1. Relationships are key! Ensure you have a seat at the decision making table. This generally means being part of the senior/executive team and having a valued voice.
  1. Credibility. Lead by example and ensure depth in your work and results! Try to avoid too much ‘fluffy’ HR reporting or concepts, demonstrate how you yield a commercial return for the business.
  1. Look for pain points. What is keeping your CEO up at night? Think about innovative ways to help the business rather than just relying on traditional methods.
  1. Learning! Continue to learn and develop. Stay ahead of the trend, we must never stop learning about business and how we can get the people in it performing!
At wattsnext disrupting HR and traditional internal thinking is our goal; our unique methodologies, customised and sustainable solutions are always designed with the following three outcomes in mind. Everything we do for clients is Commercial, Creative and Implemented.
Nothing is delivered unless it is going to provide a tangible, commercial return and we will not walk away without implementing our solutions.
We call it ‘HR Insourcing’ and our best practice people solutions are the result of true business partnering.
So, ask yourself; is your HR resource (internal or external) a true business partner?  


Amy Evans, National Head of Delivery

Amy has a unique blend of high level HR and Operational outcome focused experience. With over 15 years’ working across fast growth, evolving businesses like Mountain Designs, BCF and the Super Retail Group, her balanced business acumen is impressive. Amy is a natural leader and her complete business knowledge and strategic thinking ensures clients always get return on their people investment.


Amy Evans


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The RCSA International Conference, Recruitment Renewed - Strategy, Technology, People was held on September 2015 on Hamilton Island. The conference was a major success, with extremely ...

- RCSA Australia & New Zealand

Queensland Leaders has been expanding interstate over the past 2 years, and Sue-Ellen was the first Industry Expert invited to become an Industry Expert in both of our sister programs,...

- Stephen Beirne | CEO | QLD Leaders

"Surf Life Saving Queensland have been working with wattsnext for the last three years. Initially they were engaged to assist us in creating and implementing ...

- John Brennen OAM | CEO | Surf Life Saving QLD

“I just wanted to let you know how appreciative we are and impressed we have been with the support from Steve Ford. Steve’s support through a particularly difficult period was outstand...

- Michael Hornby CEO The Prince Charles Hospital


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21 Apr
Messages on Hold- Corparoo to Stuttgart with Messages in Hold


With competition at an all-time high, the difference between winning or losing a sale often comes down to the way you treat your customers. Today, customers expect to be dealt with professionally at every touch point and want to know their custom is appreciated. Successful organisations like Mercedes Benz and Watts Next are acutely aware of this, paying close attention to every facet of their communications, including the recorded audio that callers hear.

Callers in this day and age are accustomed to hearing a welcome announcement or subtle on hold promotional messages when they call a business. When these recordings are done well, customers notice.

Take a company like Mercedes Benz. They’ve invested heavily in cultivating their brand over decades; their phone recordings complement that image. The voice is cultured, the scripting is perfect and the music matches their brand.

Coorparoo-based Watts Next also uses professional recordings to paint a positive picture of their organisation. The recordings are written in a creative manner and when combined with perfectly matched voices and appropriate music, callers immediately perceive Watts Next to be a professional and polished organisation. They feel confident about them from the very first contact.

At the other end of the scale, callers to a well known workwear clothing company get the opposite impression. Their welcome announcement has been recorded by a staff member in a noisy office. No background music, no smile. That’s followed by a “we’re transferring you” message voiced in a US accent (obviously shipped with the phone system) before callers are subjected to some lacklustre (and very loud) music that loops every 30 seconds. The whole thing screams: “We don’t care!”. Customers pick up on this from the outset and that message is reinforced every time they call.

Watts NextMercedes Benz and thousands of other businesses use professional production companies like Messages On Hold to enhance their phone image and cross promote products and services. “The difference between creatively scripted, professionally recorded messages and the “do-it-yourself” option is enormous!” admits Kym Illman, Managing Director of Messages On Hold Australia. “When a client switches from in-house to professional recordings, their customers pick up on in it instantly with many passing comment on the improvement.”

Messages On Hold Australia works with most major phone providers and takes delight in providing the productions heard at more than 10,000 business premises around the world.

21 Apr
Sue-Ellen Watts via SmartCompany- Why are you wasting your time networking?

Why you are wasting your time networking


“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

“Your net worth is determined by your network.”

“It’s all about relationships.”

We hear these statements all of the time and I totally agree with them; I believe these are core to scaling a business. If you need clients, you need as many people as possible to know about your service or product and they need to be talking to others about you.

As wattsnext continues to expand nationally, I am very much back in ‘start up mode’ in some locations, which means getting my hustle on and building my network. Where do you start if you want to meet lots of people at one time? Networking events of course!

Well, unless you make them a waste of your time.

If your plan to build your network is to book into some networking events, turn up, throw your business cards around, tell as many people as you can your elevator pitch and then leave to go to the next event, then you are wasting your time.

When planning your ‘network event strategy’ – what, you don’t have a networking event strategy? – you need to consider your pre- and post activity more so than what happens at the actual event.

Here are my four tips to ensure your time at networking events is not wasted. Nothing in these tips refers to how to approach new people without feeling petrified of being rejected – I’ll leave that to the networking training experts.

1. Stop the scattergun

Activity can be all about the numbers but we all know that quality beats quantity. Before you commit to two hours and $100 for an event, ensure you know who this event is targeted at and who will be in the room. Ask the organisers how many attendees have confirmed and who is on the list. Any information you can get about who is attending will allow you to assess whether this is the room you want to be in. And if you can get this information, decide who you want to meet and connect on social media beforehand. Chatting on social media can be as powerful as a first meeting.

2. Be the first person to arrive

I know you want to just slide into the room at the last minute and find a seat, however, that actually defeats the purpose. You are actually not there for the entertainment (even if it is informative). By being the first person at the event you have the opportunity to scour the nametags to see who is coming and who you want to meet, and you also get time with the organiser – who is a great contact because they have brought all of these people into the room so they know people and can connect you. As a bonus the next person to arrive will come straight to you so you get out of that uncomfortable feeling of having to approach a group!

3. Zip it

While you may feel this is your opportunity to tell everyone about you, this event is actually an intelligence-gathering activity. You are not going to close business at this event. What you want to be doing is finding out who in the room is worth having a one-on-one with at a later date. How will you know this if you are the one talking?

You should only be speaking around 20% of the time and even then, that is to ask more questions. Ask as many questions as you can from the people you meet so you can assess whether they are actually a business opportunity for you and then invite them for a coffee to tell them about you.

4. Remember the event is longer than you think

Your event will always go for an hour longer than planned – if the event finishes at 8:30am, it actually finishes at 9:30am for you. This is the most important part of the event. This is where you sit down at your desk and connect via email and social media with anyone valuable you met. This is when you research the companies of those you met and organise the coffee catch-ups. You can also use this time to make any introductions that could assist those people to grow their businesses (what goes around comes around!). If you do not make time for your post event work, you may as well not bother going to the event in the first place.

Like any business activity, we need to be intentional about what outcomes we are going to get. Networking is no different. It requires a strategy and then execution.

I look forward to seeing you out there! I will be the one there bright and early with my listening ears on!

Sue-Ellen Watts is the founder and director of  wattsnext, specialists in HR, recruitment, compliance and people performance.


Sue-Ellen Watts, Founder & CEO

Sue-Ellen is a visionary and inspiring leader. With a background in leading high performing teams, strategic recruitment and leadership coaching Sue-Ellen offers meaningful experience and insight. She delivers expertise with gutsy honesty and commercial realism. A true entrepreneur, Sue-Ellen is hell bent on disrupting the way businesses use HR. She won’t stop until SME leaders collectively bring strategic HR to the boardroom table. Sue-Ellen is curious about technology and the future of work, using her business as an experimental lab of forward thinking techniques and methodologies.


Sue-Ellen Watts
21 Apr
Jacob Robinson for CommBank- Stuck in old habits? 5 ways to get efficient

Stuck in old habits? 5 ways to get efficient

It’s easy to become established in your old ways and comfortable with your level of growth as a small business. But it’s vital to identify any inefficiencies or areas of potential to spur on growth.

Sue-Ellen Watts, founder and CEO of HR consultancy business wattsnext, says that it’s a business owner’s responsibility to be constantly looking for ways to improve their business.

“It’s the job of a CEO or managing director to look at how you can do things better and more efficiently,” Watts says.

Never say you’re too busy to look at improving efficiency, because it’s part of your role as an owner, she says.

Watts shares five key ways to challenge stale workplace habits and improve efficiency.

1. Workplace flexibility

“Technology has allowed us to be much more flexible and actually deliver better outcomes, but I think that we’re not utilising that enough,” says Watts.

“Look at the technology available and think about how you can reduce costs. We can all be connected all the time, so why do we all need to work in an office with set hours?”

Instead, focus on working where your energy best suits you, whether or not that’s different to the standard and expected working hours. Technology has made this possible, she says.

2. Cut down documentation, focus on outcomes

One of the most time-consuming areas of managing staff is the amount of unnecessary documentation involved.

“There is an enormous amount of inefficiency, so we need to focus on cutting out all that noise and focus on what are trying to achieve,” says Watts. “We need to be outcome focused.”

“Policies are really about reducing risk within your business,” says Watts. Yet company policies, often running into several pages, typically contain only a few important points. This not only wastes time compiling the policy, but means the purpose is not being achieved, she says.

3. Ditch the traditional performance review

Watts believes traditional performance reviews can also cause more damage than good.

“Any business that is doing annual performance reviews, or performance reviews based on a whole lot of documents, need to get rid of that straight away,” she says.

Instead, managers should regularly keep in touch with their employees to ensure they’re on the right track and their role is properly structured.

“Roles become what they are because people take on new responsibilities when they need to – but it’s not very effective.”

4. Recruit right, not just fast

When filling a gap in your staff, the temptation is to get someone on board as quickly as possible. But it’s worth taking the extra time to ensure you hire the right person, Watts says.

“It’s a speed thing and I understand why, you need to fill a role and you want to do it quickly,” she says. “But it can have such a dramatic impact if you get it wrong.”

Instead, outlining the role’s responsibilities in detail, conduct extra interviews and ask more in-depth questions to find the appropriate person.

“People go straight out to market to try and find someone,” she says. “But they’re not recruiting the right people for the role – this creates enormous inefficiency for you later.”

5. Encourage a disruptive mindset

It’s not just business owners who should think disruptively. Owners should encourage an innovation mindset within their teams to improve upon the way processes have always been done.

Listening and responding to employee feedback not only helps you identify areas for improvement, but can expose you to different ways of thinking, Watts says.

“Getting people thinking about what others are doing in your businesses space and how they can do things better – this can be valuable to any business.”

At CommBank we believe innovation starts by asking questions. Discover new ways to keep your business moving.

Written by: Jacob Robinson

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