12 July 2016

Michael Page employees go skiing ... downhill all the way

Michael Page International has been operating in Australia for around 30 years. When I was a temp accounting recruiter in the Sydney CBD, back in the 1990s, Michael Page together with Morgan & Banks represented my strongest competition. I respected the company’s competitive nature and the skills of their consultants.

Until this past weekend, I would have regarded the Michael Page brand as a strong one, one to be respected.  

Unfortunately this past weekend has turned into a brand trashing nightmare for all Michael Page staff and shareholders.

All the major news websites around Australia published an account of an (unofficial) Michael Page staff weekend at Mt Buller in the Victorian snowfields, best summarised in Business Insider as Michael Page employees allegedly trashed a Victorian ski lodge with 'the biggest party of the season.'

The story opens as follows:

“Employees from the Australian arm of the global recruitment firm, Michael Page, have been accused of trashing a Victorian ski lodge at Mount Buller retreat and threatening staff, leading to the police being called.

Stephanie Sparrow ('Steph Eisma' on Facebook), who runs Reindeer Ski Club with her father, said on Facebook (in a post shared over 2900 times) that the group of more than 20 were heavily intoxicated, destructive and abusive.
 
She described it as “the biggest party of the season”, and alleges two men even threatened to "kick down her door and kick her head in.”
 
The post includes a photo of two easily identifiable men with a caption from Eisma reading “Below is the photo of the two men from "Michael Page Recruitment" who threatened to kick down my door and kick my head in early this morning.”
 
As The Age further reported “She (Eisma) called police. After police left, she pleaded via Facebook with Michael Page Recruitment to help discipline any staff members involved.
 
"I'm not sure what you expect of your employees when they head out on work trips or how you hope they represent your company, but the legacy left by Michael Page Recruitment at Reindeer Ski Club ... it's one of verbal abuse and alcohol-fuelled [threats of] violence."

Michael Page in Australia issued a statement that was reported by industry news service ShortList:
 
A Michael Page spokesperson denied the trip was "company funded or sanctioned", but nonetheless said the company had been in touch with the lodge and "offered [its] unreserved apologies", adding it was "very disturbed by the allegations made".

The company is investigating and will take appropriate disciplinary action, the spokesperson said.

"Michael Page has an extremely strict code of conduct for employees and we are extremely disappointed in the behaviour of the individuals involved in this incident. We are taking this extremely seriously and will do everything that we can to protect our company's reputation."

Whatever action is taken will not undo the enormous damage done to the Michael Page brand in Australia (and probably elsewhere).
 
When I typed ‘Michael Page’ into my favourite search engine this morning this is what appeared …


The Michael Page Australia Facebook page was awash with comments from angry posters who were appalled at what had been reported about the Michael Page employees’ behavior. The first official response from the Michael Page FB administrator occurred at 10.44pm on Sunday evening.

At the time of writing, no statement from Michael Page has been forthcoming advising of the action taken against the employees involved in the weekend’s wild behavior.

Unfortunately for Michael Page International this very ugly event has undermined all the work the company has done to position itself as a responsible community citizen.


From the Michael Page website we are told about ‘Giving back to others’ ...


One of the charities listed, White Ribbon, is a “male led campaign to end men’s violence against women”.
 
This is a very worthy charity to support but this support is dramatically undermined when the behaviour of the supporting company’s staff is the exact opposite of the charity’s aims. Here’s how Steph Eisma concluded her Facebook post:
 
“For me the name Page recruitment will bring forth memories of being abused by men and being left to fear what harm may befall myself and my family at the hands of your staff.”

It’s hard to imagine anything much more damning and brand destroying than a comment like that.

Although we may not like to admit it this incident will create fallout for the broader recruitment industry. The image of inexperienced young Brits on 457 visas coming to Australia and making merry as fly-by-night recruitment consultants will only be reinforced by this ugly event.

Let’s hope that the response from the leaders at Michael Page will be decisive and appropriate. Our industry cannot ever afford, in any way, to be or seen to be condoning, minimising or excusing violent behaviour or threats of violence by people who work in our industry.
 
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12 comments:

  1. Andy Hardaker12/7/16 4:33 PM

    Since both the guys on the now famous Facebook photo are senior Australian recruitment managers, I don't see the relevance of your 'young Brits on 457 visas' comment. Disappointing.

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    1. I don't know the nationalities of those 22 Michael Page recruiters and it's not relevant to the point I made. It's about a commonly held perception, fairly or unfairly, of the recruitment industry (in Melbourne and Sydney at least). The perception seems to particularly apply to UK-headquartered recruitment agencies, such as Michael Page.

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    2. So is your point that it's mainly 457 sponsored recruiters from the likes of Hays, Robert Walters and Michael Page that give the Australian industry a bad name? That seems pretty absurd to me.

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    3. No, that is not my point. I wrote about the 'image' or perception that I hear frequently from others, both inside and outside our industry. It is not a view I stated as mine, nor have I ever agreed with this view.

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    4. Andy Hardaker13/7/16 9:19 AM

      Well it's a new one on me. There are - in reality - very few UK headquartered recruitment firms in Australia. If it's not your view it's a shame that you feel the need to perpetuate it, you're simply fanning flames that are better put out. The comment adds nothing to your article apart from a bit of sensationalism (which I guess is good for your web traffic). Hope you're not training any UK recruiters on 457s soon (who incidentally have university degrees and two years' industry experience - hardly fly-by-nights?)

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  2. Thank you for writing about this embarrassment to our industry, Ross.

    Firstly, I applaud Stephanie Sparrow for using the power of social media to expose the appalling behaviour of this group of louts and bullies (other colourful nouns come to mind).

    Secondly, the collective group made it very apparent to Reindeer Ski Club and other guests that they were employees of Michael Page. Whether their employer organised or sanctioned the 'holiday' at Mt Buller is, in my opinion, irrelevant. The group clearly identified and associated themselves as employees of Michael Page.

    For this reason, I expect Michael Page to accept responsibility that a group of its employees represented the Michael Page brand last weekend and literally trashed it .

    If the comments on the Facebook posts are correct, and the 2 men in the photo are senior Michael Page employees, I have to wonder who is placing these types of people into those positions or leadership and authority? It is that person who should be fired first!

    I'll go out on a limb and say that I don't think I'm the only one expecting Michael Page to reimburse the Reindeer Ski Club for damages and clean up costs, write a formal apology to the owners of the Club and make a public statement about what course of action Michael Page have taken to 'deal with' the guilty people who are their employees and have represented their employer in this manner which is an embarrassment to the recruitment industry in Australia.

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  3. My concern with this article Ross is that it basically assumes that the recruiters in question are guilty as charged based on a Facebook post. I think we can reasonably assume that there was poor behavior given the circumstances but it is still just the comments of one person on Facebook and lets face it, not everything you read on Facebook is a balanced account. Is it?

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    1. I agree, David. There is a risk in me posting as I did with only the news reports, based on a FB post, to go on. I did consider this before posting. On balance I decided to post when, after having a day and a half to respond with a denial, rebuttal, clarification or 'the whole story hasn't been told', Michael Page remained silent. If subsequent public information reveals my post to be unfair to Michael Page and their employees, I will edit, or, if appropriate, remove my post.

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  4. Andy

    I know Ross can speak for himself but I think you are being overly defensive, Ross has worked at Hays (one of those U.K recruitment agencies) and from his many blog posts, he is a fan of the company, and for good reason it is a leading recruitment agency, however like several of its competitors it does have a habit of hiring Brits, often fresh out of uni with no Australian work experience or experience for the industry they are recruiting for.

    Also if we talk about Hays, there is no requirement for their recruiters to have industry experience, I know of several recruiters that are basically straight out of uni or have some sales experience.

    Of course for every such example, there are recruiters with extensive experience both in recruitment and int he industry they recruit for and as a candidate it usually shows within the first phone call, as the recruiter with minimal industry experience will often misrepresent both how the Australian workplace operates and how the client hires.

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  5. We are a group of people who work up here on the mountain. We come from Australia and all over the world for one or many seasons. News travels fast up here and everyone knows everyone. We had never heard of you before this Michael Page incident at Reindeer and came across your blog when we did an internet search to see if these people have been dealt with properly. Your obviously a heavyweight in the recruitment industry so we have been watching your blog for an update, hoping that someone like you would take this on because we don’t want these a***holes back up here ever again. It appears you have let this go like everyone else who has been hushed up because your new blog is about some mob getting a recruitment award.

    We are a bunch of lifties, wait staff, ski patrol, admin, bar staff, just to name a few. We know who these people are. They didn't just behave badly at Reindeer. Some of us have had the misfortune of having to bite our tongues when dealing with these arrogant pigs.

    The customer is always right. Smile and be pleasant and always polite. Be of assistance. Be chatty and friendly. The list goes on. Even on the most miserable of weather days, we have to behave as we have been trained. Even with the rudest and most aggressive customers, we have to behave as we have been trained. This was our recruitment process and we take a lot of pride in our jobs because we are trained to provide a fun and enjoyable environment for everyone that comes up here.

    These people who abused and threatened one of our own and were rude to others are from a high profile recruitment company and they hold very senior roles. Where's their training about how to behave? It's a bit late to be giving them training about how to behave now!

    We all wants answers and we want the people named and exposed especially because they are senior management at Michael page and we want to know what action has been taken instead of the pissy stuff Michael Page have said on their Facebook page. Case closed? We dont think so.

    Why hasn't anyone spoken to Mt Buller reservations and management? Or maybe they have and they have been hushed up as well or had a really good talking to by Michael Page's lawyers because everyone up here knows but is afraid to talk.

    The word recruiter is a filthy word up here now. If no one is going to do anything about this, we will.
    Can we name the people on here?

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    1. Thanks for your comment. You can be assured that I have not been hushed up nor have I lost interest in this story. I have been exploring various 'lines of enquiry' since my original blog post in order to gather additional information for another post on this subject that I will publish on 4 August. If you, or anybody else who has relevant information to share, is prepared to have a confidential conversation about the behaviour of Michael Page employees at Mt Buller then I can be contacted via any of the channels listed in the 'Contact' tab on the top right hand side of this page.

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  6. Way to go guys!!!! From us at Falls we've got your back. You know who we are and we're about to turn in. There's room in our pads if they sack you over this. But if Buller does sack you for speaking up we reckon that will be a much bigger story ;)

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