Sydney’s Most Influential People

I feel pretty privileged to be spending a few hours with Fay Calderone one of Western Sydney’s most influential employment lawyers. Over the past 10 years Fay has become someone with a growing profile in the area and is a name on many people’s lips.

Fay Calderone is a partner in the Employment & Workplace Relations team at Hall & Wilcox and has been acting for employers for 20 years. She presents at major industry conferences, publishes articles and provides media commentary with a progressive approach to workplace issues including the elimination of workplace discrimination, bullying and sexual harassment. Fay’s influence extends to boardrooms and C-suites of multinationals and large Australian employers through her delivery of workshops on these issues.

Fay received a high commendation in the NSW Women Lawyers Achievement Awards as Private Practice Lawyer of the Year 2019 and was recognised for Labour & Employment Law – Sydney in The Best Lawyers in Australia and AsiaPacific Legal 500 (2019 and 2020 editions). She has also been a finalist for the Lawyers Weekly Partner of the Year in Workplace Relations for 2017 and 2019. Last year Fay was a finalist with a High Commendation for Women Lawyer of the Year. It was a huge category (go women lawyers!) a  highly compeititve space. Fay has only recently entered her 40’s and is a partner at Hall Wilcox and has worked hard to achieve the success she has.

As we sit talking it strikes me that Fay is actually becoming typical of a growing profile of what the Big 4 Accounting firms and other publicly listed companies have identified as the future leaders in the workforce. Rather than their historic hunting grounds for graduates and staff coming from Ivy league North Shore schools and universities, their entire recruitment strategy is looking at 2nd generation immigrants from Western Suburbs graduates from our local univerisites – the “grafters” as one Global HR Director told me. They’re looking for the kids studying whilst helping out their parents by working in their parents shops. Fay’s parents had a local bakery.

Fay grew up in Sydney’s West attending St Clair Public then High School where she graduated as dux. She was the second year through Western Sydney University Law which she combined with a Bachelor of Commerce in Human Resources and Industrial Relations which was a unique offering. At the time UWS was not recognised internationally and she took some chances and a financial hit working as a law Clerk rather than take a cushy job working part time in the HR department of another university she had already secured. 

In her work today, Fay is definitely a “grafter” and leaves no stone unturned when it comes to servicing her clients and being available for them. Reputation is everything to her and I have heard too many stories from company heads that will sing her praises to think it’s not authentically driven.

Over lunch we talked about her passion for Sydney’s West and the growth she sees coming. I ask Fay about the workplace – Are we competitive with the city? Why wouldn’t a company set up out here? What needs to happen in the workplace? As an Employment Lawyer what has she learnt about the future workforce here?

“The trend now is to bring your true self to work. It’s well researched that authenticity is what the millennials are looking for. It’s not work life balance they are seeking, it’s about work life integration – seamlessly going from home life to work life.”

“I see that’s more possible in the western Sydney. Workplaces in the west seem to be more culturally sensitive, to be more flexible and to have longer tenure and loyalty. What that means is that bringing your authentic self to work is far more achievable. Western Sydney will offer this to the new generation. It’s not going to be a “nice to have” it’ll become a “must have.” A funny example of that is that companies in Western Sydney have always done ‘dress for the day’ yet it’s now becoming a  ‘thing’ in the city.”

“Wellbeing and mental health are now regularly discussed in company board rooms. Imagine not having to travel two hours a day, freeing up employees time to exercise, spend time with children, cook a healthy meals instead of picking up takeaway again. This is not just important for working mothers.  I’ve recently been reading Madonna King’s work about the father/daughter dynamic and how important that interaction is within the family. All of these things impact the wellbeing of the family unit.”

That of course is if we’re talking about local people working locally. Can residents outside of the area be attracted to come here to work? 

“Of course! The new aerotropolis, the Science Park, the incubators in Macquarie Park and Penrith, the medical precincts will all give people opportunities they won’t get elsewhere. These opportunities combined with housing affordability challenges in the inner city is making Western Sydney increasingly more attractive proposition. Parramatta council is positioning themselves as the next CBD. They already have the Big 4, Government departments the new stadium, sporting teams. They’ve also become good at engaging with their communities as have sporting teams like Western Sydney Wanderers and Parramatta Eels.”

“Connectivity is helping companies move out West. We are connected to devices and work for so much longer – we don’t need that two hour commute on top of it or the big city rent bill.”

So what needs to be done to help with this?
“I think there’s a concern about infrastructure but we’re working on it.”

There’s still a brain drain of young people moving to and working in the city though isn’t there?
 “There’s a perception issue. There needs to be attraction and engagement of the next generation with the arts, café culture, entertainment and the social scene. That still remains a challenge. We need to engage the new workforce and they need to know they can have a life where they live and work. Councils and government need to step up in the arts, culture and entertainment for everyone.”

“Theres’ groundbreakingly low interest rates which will help housing affordability and  will eventually push out boundaries. Sydney house prices aren’t entry level to grads. In Parramatta you can get an affordable 2 bedroom unit. There’ll be a trend for young people to move to where they can afford and more comfortably integrate their work and home life.  This will increase the pool of talent. Businesses as they move to Western Sydney are banking on that.”

Seek are quoting job ad numbers are highest since the Covid-19 pandemic and we’re definitely feeling it at Norwest Recruitment.  Not all companies are thriving of course and my heart goes out to those but many are and recruitment plans for our clients in Western Sydney are pedal to the metal.  So that means that skilled job seekers have choice.  Not only are they a little gun shy at leaving the company that kept them through the tough times of Covid but they now have plenty of options. Their counterparts who were let go when Covid hit will also be wanting to make it into your shortlist.  It’s going to take some due diligence to work out which one you want in your business.  We all know the cost of a bad recruitment hire.   

One hiring mistake I’ve seen a few times in the last month may be because some hiring managers aren’t aware of the changed market conditions and are feeling over confident.  Maybe they think there’s 900 skilled professionals applying for every job.  Four times this month I’ve heard of offers to candidates being less than the salary they were represented at. What???  One thing I’ve learned in life – don’t mess with people’s salaries. It’s very personal and it’s often attached to their status and ego. We all live to our salary capacity.  There usually isn’t any wriggle room to drop.  Don’t mess with it.

This is what happens next.  You will not get another bite at that cherry.  Don’t think for a minute you’ll be able to come up to meet their salary expectation once they’ve rejected your low-ball offer. It’s over.  Very rarely have I seen job seekers accept the reduced salary offer. It’s a risky move. If they’re talking to another company you’ve lost them. Sometimes I’ve seen them decline and then accept the second higher offer.  Sometimes. But here’s how that scenario plays out.

It’s can be even worse than the jobseeker declining.  They accept it.  They accept it with a bad taste in their mouth and then keep their eye on the market and feelers out with recruitment agencies.  As soon as a Recruiter represents another role to them they’re gone – two months into starting in the new job.  It’s disruptive, costly and time consuming. Back to square one for you.

So, recruitment 101 tip.  Unless the job seeker doesn’t meet the job criteria and hasn’t got the right experience do not think this is a good time to save money.  Don’t risk the best person in your shortlist going to your competitor.

Here’s to attracting and retaining the very best people in 2021.

Written by Erica Westbury, Managing Director of Norwest Recruitment.

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