effective leadership ben thompson naomi simson

In this fireside discussion, you’ll get a unique insight into:

  • The difference between leadership and management
  • What effective leadership and high-performing teams look like
  • The changing landscape of employee wants and needs
  • Why leaders need to adapt to and implement new strategies to create high-performing teams


To watch this exclusive chat we just need a few short details:

brought to you by employment hero and the big red group

The Lineup

Ben Thompson

CEO and co-founder of Employment Hero, Ben Thompson is on a mission to redefine the world of employment. He began his career as a solicitor, working in London during the peak of the dot com boom. It was during this time Ben realised that truly innovative companies were borne out of marrying business with technology. Upon returning to Australia, Ben began an employment law firm alongside his father’s human resources consultancy business.

Over the past 17 years, Ben’s business has grown into an international group of companies that share a common goal, “To permanently improve the way employment is managed by making it easier and more rewarding.” These companies include Employment Innovations, Power2Motivate, Global Reward Solutions, Keypay and Employment Hero. 

Ben supports True Blue Dreaming (a youth and community development program focused on remote communities), Opportunity International (microfinancing to eliminate poverty) and Pledge 1%. Ben is a self-confessed geek and thrives on creating innovative solutions that combine employment and technology to help Australia’s employers.

ben thompson employment hero

Naomi Simson

Entrepreneur and business leader, Naomi Simson co-founded Big Red Group (BRG) with business partner David Anderson in 2017. BRG is all about serving experiences to different audiences through its various brands: RedBalloon, Adrenaline, Lime&Tonic and enterprise brands REDii and Marketics (Albert AI). BRG is experiencing double-digit growth and serves an experience every minute. Naomi, together with her business partner and colleagues, have clear aspirations to serve an experience every second, somewhere on earth, by 2025.

Naomi is a passionate supporter of Australian business, a prolific blogger and business commentator, best-selling author and much sought-after keynote speaker. A true business leader and influencer, with more than 2.8 million LinkedIn followers, Naomi is Australia’s most-followed person on the business networking platform. 

Before founding RedBalloon, Naomi worked for big businesses including IBM, Apple, KPMG and Ansett Airlines – all of which influenced her passionate views on workplaces. Naomi commenced her role at the University of Melbourne, as a member of the Faculty’s Business and Economics Board. She is a governor of the Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation and is an advisor to a number of other not-for-profit institutions.

Naomi Simson BRG

Effective Leadership:
How to Build a High-Performing Team

Join Ben Thompson, (CEO and cofounder, Employment Hero) and Naomi Simson, (cofounder, Big Red Group) for an exclusive fireside chat.

We’d like to invite you to an exclusive fireside chat between industry leaders, Ben Thompson and Naomi Simson as they discuss effective leadership and how to build a high-performing team. 

Anyone can be a manager, but what makes a manager a leader? Great business leaders drive innovation and growth through inspiring and earning the respect of those who follow them. Effective leadership isn’t about status or titles, it’s about something more meaningful... 

Through effective leadership, great things happen and this is something Ben and Naomi know a thing or two about. Both have founded successful businesses that continue to flourish and are regularly sought after for their leadership expertise. This is a webinar you don’t want to miss.

What You Need to Know.



In this fireside discussion, you’ll get a unique insight into:

  • The difference between leadership and management
  • What effective leadership and high-performing teams look like
  • The changing landscape of employee wants and needs
  • Why leaders need to adapt to and implement new strategies to create high-performing teams


Effective Leadership Transcript

BT = Ben Thompson

NS = Naomi Simson

Effective Leadership Transcript

BT: We’ve known each other for some time, but for those who don’t know you, tell us more about your exciting career

NS: What’s interesting is our shared entrepreneurship. I worked in corporate; I worked for Apple, IBM, Ansett. I learnt so much when I was working for big organisations but now it’s been more than 20 years since I had a real job, but the lessons I learned as an employee and by who I watched and being part of a team impacted how I would be as a manager and leader.

When I started my business, I knew I wanted to work at a place that’s fun to work in. How can everyone else have fun if I’m not having fun? Which was pivotal to the creation of RedBalloon and the Big Red Group.

BT: While we have the opportunity, tell us about The Big Red Group, what’s in there? When I first met you it was just RedBalloon days.

NS: Yeah it was, it was just RedBalloon days. People used to confuse us with the charity. I was the CEO of RedBalloon for about ten years. I passed the baton on to someone else and I started other things; Shark Tank, wrote some books, speaking. It was good to get outside the business so I moved to a board role, as a Director of the business and sat on the board. A friend of mine, David Anderson, who I knew really really well had gone overseas and had come back and was looking at what he wanted to do. And I was telling him about what was happening at RedBalloon and he goes, ‘I just can’t believe that that’s happening’.

We know that people want experiences - the red envelope and people are excited and David didn’t understand why the experience economy was going off. I put him on as my board alternate because of his experience and he had a completely different view. After his first board meeting, he came back with a thesis to create a new business called The Big Red Group. The cornerstone is RedBalloon, let’s acquire or create other businesses for experiences that aren’t gifts. We started the company, we started acquiring and we’re now 5 businesses. We have a few other exciting things about to happen. We have RedBalloon Australia and NZ, Adrenaline (Adventure brand, book and go for school holidays etc.) It’s very different from RedBalloon, with a small crossover of the customer base. We also acquired Lime and Tonic; perfectly curated gourmet experiences or day spas. A little bit of luxe and self-love. The REDii group is about experiences at work, and then we have the Albert.ai. 

BT: Wow, that’s an amazing journey, you have experience building your own businesses, building a group, the Shark Tank experience. Experience in mentoring and helping new businesses grow as well and it would be great to come back to that and dig into the leadership experiences you’ve had. I guess before we get into that, let me talk a little bit about Employment Hero and how we came to be. I started out as a lawyer and became an employment lawyer by accident, wanted to go into tech, but never really gave up on that front. When I went into employment law, something I discovered, that you’ve probably seen in your career, no one starts a business to become an employer - it’s a side effect - but it’s a universal issue. Every business that employs people needs to be better at being an employer. From that we’ve developed services companies, Employment Innovations, which is the original business, Power2Motivate, our global reward and recognition platform (loyalty and customer engagement), we invested into Keypay and have obviously launched Employment Hero. Which over the last five years we’ve built that out nationally and looking forward to going international.

The Big Red Group is, of course, a customer - of EI and EH - it’s good to share!

BT: This Webinar is designed to help people in business understand from our experience what we think leadership is, how you can grow a company or multiple companies using effective leadership strategies. Let’s dig into it.

NS: Do you think a leader is born or created?

BT: I think an entrepreneur is born, but it’s the grit and determination is what makes them true leaders. The best example - whether they were natural or not - was Earnest Shakleton. When you’re in the antarctic and your boat sinks, you’ve got 50 people you’re responsible for and you’ve got to guide them from disaster to safety over a period of years with almost no resources, that made him, in my eyes, the best leader ever. The ability to give people confidence, faith and vision that they’ll survive. That happened purely through the environment.

NS: They say there are only seven plots in Hollywood - one is the reluctant hero and one is the reluctant leader - so that is somebody who is called to purpose and they begin to gather people around them for that cause. Leadership isn’t exactly the title you have or the role you’re assigned. Leadership is a behaviour versus an action. I say that because there is a difference between a behaviour and an action. Behaviour is part of your essence, vs. ‘I know I need to do this task’. When I ask the nurture vs. nature, it’s both. But by nature some people are positive, they have a certain strength set that calls them to leadership. I’ve always been passionate, often to my own detriment, because I am so passionate and committed I can’t hear what’s happening around me. 

The difference between management and leadership, leadership to me is about calling everyone to the good of the cause, I’m uniting everybody. I used tools and techniques to unite them. One of which is storytelling and two is a sense of vision. Management is about nurturing the individual for the good of the cause. I am not great at the management thing, it looks like I’m good, but my strength is input. I’m gathering information, my lowest is empathy but it looks like empathy even though it’s not my natural place. I think there is a fundamental difference. The more time we spend on understanding who we are, allows us for the critical thing to work on, which is emotional IQ. Last night I was at the University of Melbourne and we have highly skilled and talented students and grads, but the key to success is their ability to get along with people and their ability to get along with others. That gets us into the future of work as well.

BT: Throwing back to that question, nurture or nature? Are leaders made or born?

NS: I believe that it is nature, but with nurture, you can use your strengths. First, you need self-awareness and knowing what you’re not great at. They’re non-strengths, not weaknesses. There are incredible people around me with the strengths that I don’t have. Our COO started out with me all those years ago, and when she sends a text or email and it has the purple devil emoji, I know I’ve done something wrong. She says I’m the detail in your devil - I have the vision and she has the processes and systems and together we create that - she's a natural manager and I’m not.

BT: What other skills are essential for leaders? What do you see the best leaders commonly displaying? 

NS: Leaders listen deeply and are able to see different viewpoints. Great leaders are able to nurture people. A leader in the boardroom will get everyone’s opinion, gather the info to sit in, whether they’re introverts or extroverts. Diversity makes them greater and they listen for diverse viewpoints, gather that information for the good of their cause and put it all together. I think leaders - definitely the biggest skill has to be listening. The second skill is EQ. Being able to sit in the world of another. A really great book is ‘inspired INC’. The authors from Nike said there has been a massive shift in what a CEO is - we used to create strategy, but now we listen to the three cohorts (not stakeholders). So, customers; How do we gather their insights? Not just letting them vote with their feet, but getting their insights. The second cohort are employees. They might vote with their feet, or vocally on social media. Thirdly, the outsiders. They could be a government body, a lobby group, shareholders, a whole bunch of people in a moment who can impact the success of your impact. It’s not even 2 years since a turtle was photographed with a straw up his nose - but outsiders, nothing personal to your business, have decided that it’s not ok for plastic straws. Therefore, as a leader, a CEO, you must be listening and gathering that info, have the emotional understanding to present it as a strategy that people rally behind. We become a ringmaster. Now I’m not really a CEO, David Anderson is and he is better at it than I am.

BT: It’s interesting. I’m learning from you, now you’re operating at that board level - it’s not my number one place of influence. I think most of all absolute determination. You can’t be pigheaded, to get to the destination, often you need to around the mountain instead of through or over, but you have to be determined to arrive at the destination you saw. Secondly, is that vision. Seeing a future that doesn’t exist that you can clearly envision and makes perfect sense. You look around and wonder how others can’t see it - so building the team to help get there. 

Having that vision and innovation to see an alternate future and vision to come up with something that innovative that will inspire people. Lastly, being able to inspire. You’re the ringmaster, but influencing and inspiring people - if you can’t do that, it’s difficult to be a successful leader.

NS: Influence can happen from anywhere, not just structural and important to remember; it’s not because you have that job.

NS: I’m going to challenge you - “I have this great idea!” We get that on Shark Tank all the time, you can hardly wait to get on the bandwagon. There is a question there and we as entrepreneurs must make sure that something has commercial value - who is going to buy it? Where are they? How do I get more customers? That’s often what’s missing. Now, when someone says ‘I’m solving this problem’. I say what is the job you’re getting hired to do? There’s a Harvard Business review for it - the word hired implies commercial outcome. If we don’t have the means, we can’t change the world. You need the means to change the world - it has to deliver commercially. Understanding why people buy - the three reasons - understanding this is how we engage people.

This was in a Harvard Review, there was this service restaurant (it was a milkshake case study). They were trying to increase sales of milkshakes. Every time they ran a promo, the sales would go back down after the promo. They observed the customer and noticed that milkshake buyers were coming out of the restaurant between 9 am and 11 am and were on their own. They presumed it was a family drink. Now 9-11 am isn’t a mealtime - they asked what they were doing today that they bought a milkshake. They said things like, ‘well I’ve got a really long commute ahead of me’ and a coffee is too hot, a soda goes too quickly. The job the milkshake was hired for was companionship. It was keeping them company. 

There are three reasons people buy. Transactional (it was really easy to do), second is emotional (I feel better because I’ve done this) and third is esteem, (I look better because I did it). When you understand what the job the hire is to do, you live in the customer’s world. 

BT:  You have to have a commercial outcome. We’ve all had great convos with people with great ideas and you do the maths in your head and know it’s not going to work.

BT:  We’ve each grown groups of companies, we’ve both performed as leaders. We’ve both been in business for 18 years.

SN: We’ve come to maturity.

BT: And then some!

NS: I can’t really see you! I’m not even wearing my glasses.

B: That’s ok, it’s Ben here.


BT: Let’s get into techniques strategies and formulas to grow our businesses and make us better leaders. Do you want to kick-off? What’s the number one thing you think you’ve used to make you a better leader?

NS: both of us were at Verne Harnish’s Rockefeller habits 18/16 years ago - it became an underpinning of how we run our businesses. As we grow and scale, we bring other things in. if we’re a team, we need to feel like one. If we have 5 different brands, how do we create the one? The one becomes a purpose. Our purpose was changing gifting forever and BHAG is 2 million customers. We did that, but with the bigger thesis, we needed a different purpose. 

We discovered our purpose when we were sitting around as senior leadership team. David and I were sitting around, and then he came out and he said, ‘we’re shifting the way that people see life.’ I said, ‘that’s it, that’s it!’ I’d said it earlier, but David had written it down. I have the gift of the gab. Ultimately, shifting the way that people experience life drives us. It’s about our life, but the experience of work, I don’t know who is going to have a shift in thinking because of this webinar - but because of the work we did, we shifted the way people experience life - as a thesis, it unites us. 

But how do we know if we’re successful? But did we make a difference? For us it became about the velocity that we serve. Nowadays, people are so connected that they’re disconnected - when you share an experience, you build a closeness, whether the experience is good or bad. The BHAG became the velocity of impacting. David and I wondered if we could improve it. First-year we were serving experiences every 2.5 minutes. After that second year, we got it to 1 per minute, but we want to get to 1 every 30 seconds, which isn’t bad in 2.5 years. As an Australian business, we represent 2000 small businesses who are out there employing people and it’s the hardest thing. Being in small businesses is finding customers. Our job is to serve them customers over and over again. I was talking with a supplier who when he first started with RedBalloon had one balloon a month - now he’s flying 20k customers a year through RedBalloon. They know they can trust us to serve them customers. When we feel that inside the business it continues to grow us.

Purpose, BHAG, values. Unless you know the playbook of how you’re going to work together, everyone is off doing their own thing. Our first value is one team; it’s all about experiences no matter the brand. We want to be deeply curious. Once you get to a certain level of success, people become complacent. We want to be the best version of ourselves, do work that we’re proud of. We live every day our values and we celebrate our values through our recommendation platform, REDii.

BT: We both had Simon Sineck - start with ‘why’.

NS: We were doing ‘why’ before he was!

BT: He wrote the book and delivered it well. You start with why. Understand that if you’re going to start or own a business, stop for a moment and ask, does everyone in this company know our purpose? Do we have a purpose? I would hazard a guess that less than 20% of companies clearly have that purpose. In our case, when people start at Employment Hero, I sit down with them and say ‘you need to understand that employers carry so much weight; responsibility for the financial wellness, sense of purpose, fulfilment and growth of ambition and making the business successful, employers need support and resources. Right now, in Australia’s history, there are so many examples of employers in the media ripping people off - but as an employer, you hear that over and over again. 98% of businesses are waking up not feeling confident. Our purpose is to give employers the confidence they need to create the 68% of jobs in the economy, they’re the ones that are helping Aussies make a living, they have to feel confident, and we need to build the tool to do that. They’ll make good decisions and grow and employ more people. I remind them, if we don’t do our job well and give them that confidence, and their business is smaller than it should be or they’re embarrassed, that means that people will be unemployed. For those that spend 6 weeks or more unemployed, there is a 70% higher chance of mental health challenges - we want to ensure that as few as people feel that as possible.

We say that every day you come into work, you are making employers more confident and better employers. Once you communicate that purpose, people lean in.

Timestamp 30:25

NS: I wrote the book “Live What You Love’, and the fourth section was about purpose. But a lot of feedback I got was, ‘what if I don’t know my purpose?’ I’d like to talk about that because the first thing is to stay curious in business, feel where your energy is. Purpose comes from understanding the job you were hired to do and listening to customers. When things get overwhelming or hard, I listen to customers and get my purpose and mojo back. The other thing I wanted to talk about is this responsibility we have as employers. When I worked at Ansett, the General Manager would walk through the airport and never look anyone in the eye or talk to them. It was a very unionised workforce, and I never understood why he didn’t talk to people. It was fear - he was scared that someone would go to the union and I don’t know if that fear has gone away. 

So that’s on one side, on the other, I’m appalled when I open the paper and everyday I see something like Rockpool Group - you’re supposed to be an elite, high-class restaurant, how dare you treat your staff like that? It’s simple with Employment Hero. Is it methodical or inept? When you see the same employers coming through, what are you doing to our young people? When my kids got their first job and put on these training wages, they were on $5 an hour. That is a disgrace for their first experience of work. We’re teaching our young people this and it’s really alarming for us.  

By 2025, 75% of our workforce will be millennials. It’s a massive wave coming. If you think about the behaviours of what people are looking for at work, which you can find on the experience economy workpaper, the first one is that people are looking at the experience at work. They’re prepared to give up salary for having a great workplace. It’s not about cookies in reception, it’s ‘am I purposeful?’. You will have an environment where you get to do your best work. Employers need to challenge you to greatness and you will be proud of the work you do. It’s the experience - I knew what I was there to do and saw an outcome. The second thing is that people are looking for optionality. We’ve spoken about flexibility for a while - it’s now table steaks - I expect flexible hours, but now I want optionality. We have plenty of people at BRG who say I want to work 6 months and travel 6 months. It’s hard as an employer but that’s what they’re looking for. They want more to life than just work, and access and ownership of things. Because we’re looking at a generation of people with no debt - young people aren’t carrying debt as our generation did. They’re using Afterpay ZipPay, but not carrying the same level of household debts. They’re not buying cars or TVs. There is a massive shift in what people are looking for from their employer - they want to be recognised, they want to know the work they’re doing is valuable. They only see themselves as one person, and they won’t give up their social beliefs to work for someone. Social beliefs are really important. Are you a good person to work for and a good corporate citizen? That’s where our 1% pledge becomes really important. 

BT: Let’s spend the last 10 minutes coming back to the tools and processes that we’ve each used to be better leaders. We need to ensure that people get that sense of fulfilment and purpose through their work, and some of those things, through P2M and REDii, is reward and recognition, and positive psychology. How have you used that? What things is REDii is doing to translate from being a software tool into making people better leaders. 

NS: I should have bought our BRG yearbook. For our offsite, we printed a book that had the 1700 moments of recognition so that people could really see it and touch. What we’ve done with REDii and for our clients as well, is that we work the way our people want to work. Whether we like it or not, people use teams, or slack, workplace, and we want the recognition to happen there because that’s where they are all the time. REDii sits as an engine behind, but the social proof happens there. In slack, you can recognise anyone in the channel by using #recognise and everyone gets to see it. That social piece is really important. Other people can buy into that recognition. 

We also celebrate people over a longer period of time. It’s not just a recognition tool, but also a points platform. We want them to take experiences and share them with their friends. We want people to have positive conversations about their boss or their employer. We want people to have the conversation and when people ask why are you going jet boating, your employees will say, ‘my boss is really nice and really grateful of the work I did, so they gave me this’. They saw the work I did now I’m doing something cool this weekend. We’re in the business of creating. We’re a marketing tool for businesses - but we use employees as spokespeople on behalf of the brand. Also because of the social nature of experiences, they’re likely to amplify that and our clients brands. 

BT: I buy into all of that. I learned 10 years ago when I was researching positive psychology. I dug in deep and one statistic that sprung out at me, comes back to your first point. You’re asking questions not because you’re super empathetic, but because you want the knowledge. The average person when you are speaking to them, picks up on negativity but don’t really absorb positivity. To get it right, you need to supply 4 pieces of positive reinforcement for every negative piece of feedback, before someone feels that you’ve tipped from being negative to positive. We’ve built that into our business. Every meeting starts with celebrations, whether it’s leadership or all-hands - we kick off with what are we celebrating this week. Since we last met, what is something positive that’s happened, and often that’s thanking the people around the table. Every morning, our 8:58 starts with celebrations and achievements with things in and outside the office, such as weddings, children or someone buying a home. We have to find every opportunity we can to build that positive recognition and reinforcement in the day to even get close to that ratio. 

NS: But it’s not a kindergarten, though. It’s like when everyone wins a present in pass the parcel.

BT: I challenge that. If you walk into a primary school classroom, it’s loaded with events to reward positive outcomes. We might be 20 years older, but the sense of recognition and inclusion, it doesn’t go away. You don’t go from 12 years old to 30 and all of a sudden you don’t need it. 

NS: Our need to belong is important. 

BT: We don’t need a star system in the business, but you can’t ignore that all humans want belonging and inclusion 

NS: Including the leaders...

BT: Yeah, we often miss out, but reward and recognition is very important and it has been for us. We’ve built that into Employment Hero. You’ve got an incredible platform, REDii, which is globally recognised for rewarding and recognising teams. Other things we’ve both done to improve our skills as leaders are OKRs and KPIs. What are you doing? We’ve launched OKRs internally. 

NS: So have we. 

BS: So tell us, what has your experience been like and how are you doing it?

NS: We’ve done a bunch over time. We started with KPIs and then we tried the Salesforce approach V2MOM. But they didn’t connect even close enough to strategy. Because the O in V2MOM, would amplify the risks, so people would say ‘I couldn’t get it done because of that’, you create barriers, and people turn around and say ‘see, I told you couldn’t get that done’. We moved to OKRs and this quarter for the first time, we found software that cascade the whole plan through the organisation.  

BT: Was it Employment Hero? We do that, too.

Timestamp: 44:41

NS: I know. We’re a customer. We had to find something before you finished. I would have loved that in one platform! I think that that’s what I love about Employment Hero. We’re all sick of all these platforms, and that’s your theory - one place, one execution and one employee experience. But you weren't ready when we needed something - maybe we’re just trialling something else at the moment. For the first time, we finally have complete transparency and people love it. To my point, people want to see that they’re doing their best work, and you can see that because it’s so transparent. OKRs stands for objectives and key results, and businesses use it like Atlassian and Google use it. There’s a lot of case studies online that are freely available on how to set up an OKR system. 

BT: We’ve been using it for 12 months, we liked it so much that we built into our platform. As the CEO, it’s been extraordinary. We used the Rockefeller habits, the 90-day planning process. To aim and fire every 90 days is such a great way to keep making progress on important goals. 16 years in a row, every quarter. We’ve never not had a quarterly objective, we may not have achieved it, but it was there. In the last 12 months, we’ve taken our quarterly planning cycle and we’ve rolled OKRs into it. For the first time, I can see 4 company objectives, and I can see how every single team and every individual in the business are contributing directly to what the company is trying to achieve. Not only can I see it, but they can also see how they’re contributing all the way back up. That’s been fantastic. OKRs have been incredibly powerful, much better than I expected and more involved than I expected. I think OKRs and Rockefeller habits is more fun and engaging, it’s not that hard if you do it often. But OKRs takes a lot more involvement. Only now after 12 months, we are getting better at the scoring of OKRs. With OKRs, you score between 0 and 1. Somewhere between 70% is a great outcome - if you’re achieving 100% of the objective, it wasn’t hard enough. Now, we’re starting to look at people’s scores and saying ‘wow you got to 50%, next time try and get to 60%’. It’s not a performance management system - it’s knowing how we’re going and trying to get as far ahead to where we’re we going. The system works great, I would say as a leader, to set objectives and to know and guide everyone to achieving those objectives through OKRs, has been great and a phenomenal introduction to the business.

NS: it’s critical that when people join in, no matter where they are in the cycle, in the first week or two they get some OKRs. We talk about the attachment phase which comes before engagement, and people need to know what success looks like from day one. Using the OKR tool for that really helps. If someone comes in 2 weeks into the quarter, we want them to know what they’re doing. 

BT:  I know we convey our company objectives, and when you join a team you’re getting involved in objectives. I’m sure everyone would be getting an OKR within the first 2 weeks. 

NS: Even in induction you should get OKRs. How you bring people into the business is very important. 

BS: Any other tools or process you think makes being a leader easier?

NS: Apart from giving out a lot of vouchers for experiences…[ Laughs]. We do practice what we preach, it’s really important. Our quarterly planning is offsite and we do something fun, last time we did lawn bowls and next time is a secret. It’s really important that because our teams are working within other businesses, that they get to meet other people. We practice what we preach, when it comes to the storytelling and encouraging people to participate. We do a lot of experiences and get people to participate. Last week we had a whole bunch of people go skydiving who had never done it before, 10 people went - it was great!  

BT: That was initially an Adrenaline thing, right? After you complete your induction, you get to do a skydive. That employer branding and storytelling, you’re great at that. I guess that’s the other thing, making sure your business has an employer value proposition that attracts the right people. It’s much easier to be a leader if you have the right team of people around you. 

NS: There’s a few things there. So, we don’t always get it right, but there is an intention there. Ultimately people have to choose and this is the real flip. We create an environment where people can learn, participate and discover, and through that process of getting to know each other, we want to be able to make sure we have a team of people who are independent using initiative and innovating, and we do that by making them feel like they are in charge of their own destiny. We are not running a kindergarten. With all that latitude, we expect people to choose to participate, but it is up to them. But some people don’t want to, and it’s fine. We don’t get it right all the time. We’re not the worlds best, apparently we’re not perfect - who knew? [laughs]. Sometimes we don’t have the intention - we do the work, we do the reading, we learn - as a leader, never stop learning, but we don't get it right all the time. Sometimes we say things we shouldn’t have said and put our foot in it, but we are all imperfect and I think we need to forgive each other a little bit more. We seem so intent on perfection, but we forget that actually the beauty can in how we overcame something and worked together as a team. 

BS: We’re coming towards the end of the time. BRG has been very generous to us and has put together a great offer, but I’m going to come back to that. What the offer involves is experiences for teams, leading into Christmas or even into the start of the new year or induction. That shared experience that people will remember is spending time together and having a great experience. You’re making it easy for all of the Employment Hero customers, all 5000 businesses, and the other people on the webinar, to share an experience with their team. There’s a website URL we’ve put together. 

NS: Yes, it’s www.redballoon.com.au/employment-hero. That’s where your customers can have their special offer. I guess there’s some things I want to talk about.  We serve small businesses, that’s your job, that’s my job, and that’s why we’ve come together for this webinar. But it’s really easy to make someone a hero inside their business. Whether it’s a length of service award, a birthday, using it with customers, but experiences create stories that reflect on your brand. That’s why experiences are part of the marketing for any business - it doesn’t matter how big or small you are. If you’ve got 3 people or you’ve got 30 people, 300 or 3000,  people are people, and they want to brag about what they did. So many ways that you can use experiences. For example, one of the businesses use it to thank people for referring an employee, but they give it to referrer and the new employee. Both employees then go on this experience together and it creates an emotional connection to the business, straight on their first day. That’s what we want. Not as a leaving gift, (although you can use Red Balloon as a leaving gift), but we want people whilst they’re and employee to talk about you greatly. That’s why we’ve done it. We both work in the area of small business and want to support them.

BT: Yes. It’s a great initiative. Thank you for being so generous to all of our customers. I think there might be some questions so we’ll deal with these. But before we do, lets just recap. Correct me if I'm wrong.

NS: Oh, I will.

BT: I’m sure you will. [laughs]. Number 1: Having a clear purpose.

NS: If you don’t know what your purpose is, just stay curious. 

BT: Or stop. Put aside a day and figure it out. 

NS: It’s not going to occur to you if you keep racing. You’ve got to be able to observe. 

BT: Systems such as OKRs. 

NS: Systems and processes allow you to scale. From the smallest business, there are so many amazing cloud-based systems available. If you invest now, then they will allow you to scale, whether it’s a customer management system, employee management system. The hardest problem is when you don’t do it and then all of a sudden you have spaghetti you’re trying to untangle. Systems [like Employment Hero] allow you to scale a business.

BT: Great. We have 4 questions. Lets drive through them. 



Q: What are the top qualities and values you look for when hiring your leadership team? 

NS: Let’s be clear. I’m not allowed to do any of the hiring - I do all the talking! We look for diversity of ideas and experiences. People come from different places. That’s what we enjoy the most; some are corporate, some small business, some entrepreneurs. I want diversity of experience, industry and backgrounds. 

BT: I think diversity of backgrounds as you get bigger, you start to realise these patches that are very similar and you need to break it up. The feeling I like most is sitting back and realising that they’re super smart - I’m feeling inferior. Psychologically, this person is on their game. If they can display that they’re really strong and they’ve done the work.

NS: They need to know why they want to work with you and we need them to align to that purpose. We don’t want to convince them of it. 

BT: If they come in and don’t understand why Employment Hero exists or its purpose, it doesn’t matter how good the experience is, you’re probably not going to fit. 

Q: Do you have any advice on how to approach this idea of gathering people when the challenge is everyone is spread out around the country and often have different levels of commitment since they usually have other jobs and things going on?  

NS: One of our REDii platforms we have is with a client who has all home-based workers all around Australia. There’s about 400 in that program and the thing they've found is that the recognition piece keeps them united. In other words, they’ve set the strategy and then they’re reinforcing behaviours based on strategy, living their purpose and values, and it’s really brought them together. They said they cannot believe the difference in their engagement scores. Their engagement scores have almost shifted by 70%. I think the case study is on our REDii platform. This is where the workforce is going. These days, everyone doesn’t sit in the same office. You want them to feel apart of a team, but how do you foster inclusivity? We can’t all keep having to come into the city. It just doesn’t make any sense. 

BT: KeyPay is a great example. It’s a business that started in Wollongong, had people spread across the east coast of Australia and is now international, and they almost exclusively work through Slack. They’re the most tight-knit team as a business. It’s amazing. You can use different things.  

Q: Can the entire company see everyone’s OKRs and how do you roll that out? 

NS: They can. I will talk about the Employment Hero system. I do know in ours, there’s complete transparency. We can look at anybody, but if you choose not too, you can set it up in a different way. it’s how you set it up that makes a difference. 

BT: In Employment Hero, everyone can see everyone else’s OKRs and their progress towards that. The best way to learn how to set it up is to make contact with Employment Hero and we can run a demo for you.  

Q: What ultimately drives you to do your business?

NS: Why am I still doing this after 20 years? [laughs] I think I’m doing worthwhile work. I love speaking to our experience business partners, we are Australian owned, we have big gorilla international competitors and algorithms, but day in day out I know that if I deliver customers to our experience suppliers, I’ve made our economy better and the money stays in Australia. The thing I worry most about these algorithms is that the money goes offshore. We need jobs in Australia. We need people to be financially secure in this country, and it keeps driving me. Sometimes I feel like David and Goliath and it’s hard.

BT: For me, it’s a sense of working for small business. My father taught me when I was growing up that the people who have mortgaged their home to create a business and create jobs, they’re the salt of the earth people, they create the jobs, they strengthen our economy and they are 98% of all companies, and they need help. If you want to work for something, 90,000 hours is how much time you’ll spend at work. The only thing we’ll do more time of, is sleeping, if you want to recognise that 50 years of your life are spent working, then work on something your passionate about. I am honestly incredibly passionate about helping SMEs be better employers and make work more rewarding for their employees. It’s why I get out of bed every morning. 

NS: Purpose is not about what you get, it’s what you give. It’s about making a difference to another a human, to making the world a slightly better place. That’s what I keep doing over and over again. 

BS: Thank you so much for coming to Employment Hero, for being a customer and for being such an inspiring businesswoman. Thank you to everyone who attended live today. If you’ve got more questions please get in touch or visit www.employmenthero.com. Thank you for taking the time to tune in and we look forward to catching up in the future.