5 Minutes with Neekhil Shah

With many issues on the table for working Australians, we recently sat down with Neekhil Shah, Principal to discuss his take on the future.

What do you think has been the most interesting issue discussed during COVID-19?

While working from home during COVID-19, we have had a more in-depth look into everyone’s homes and family lives, which have sparked very different conversations. We have become part of a more flexible structure to help support people to work from home. This has fostered discussions around bringing your whole self and hence your best self to work. What I mean by this is many people have adapted to remote working, combining distance education for children, endless teleconferences and deadlines because they have brought their best version of themselves to the table every day.

We are witnessing very clearly for the first time the family systems that deliver ways for people to be their best. Conversations around mental health, wellness, competing family demands and the need for flexibility are much more part of the mainstream when once they may not have been part of the daily debate. We can see everyone’s need to be recognised and rewarded for their collaboration and contribution as we are all in the same boat.

Another thing that I am interested to see is a move away from the concept of rewarding the most valuable player, but rewarding the team. I think the stereotype of the corporate deal maker at the expense of everyone on a team may have just about had its day. It’s much easier to see the juggle of everyone on the other side of the camera, and that points out it’s a team effort more than being compartmentalised in different offices and different locations. Rewarding a stronger team effort, with diverse collective efforts, will result in better outcomes than rewarding traditional strong individual performance.

You have often said you want to see more people like you in the business community. How do you believe recent events and discussions are influencing this?

The transparency of teleconferencing and taking us into the personal lives of those we work with, I believe, has influenced our awareness levels of who is around us. Do we live like those people on the other end of the camera? Maybe not. And this also leads us to question why. Is it because we have a lack of people who look like me in senior management roles or on the Board? Diversity, whether its race or gender-based, is a complicated issue to discuss and resolve.

There is no shortage of talented people of colour or women. But we maintain a “merit-based” promotion system led by current management and leadership, who unconsciously continue to promote individual behaviours, thoughts and ultimately skin colour and gender which mirror the current leadership. However, if we put the right framework in place where we can move beyond the current issues of glass or bamboo ceilings, then we will have far more diverse views on how to tackle the next larger and looming issue the world will face – climate.

While we micro-focus on the COVID-19 challenges and economic responses, the issue of climate change remains. It shouldn’t be for naught we solve the COVID-19 pandemic to be in a worse climate crisis position. Ultimately, we need leadership that sees things differently and holistically.

What do you think the most significant positive change for working females has been during COVID-19?

Women make up more than the lion’s share of frontline employees in hospitals, schools, supermarkets and other essential services. For many Australian families, COVID-19 provided free childcare and so provided an opportunity to lay it on the line for the business community.

Productivity and gender roles are impacted when there is little or no choice in being able to afford childcare. Without further financial support, working was going to be an impossibility for front line workers. It gave all of us a chance to take a more holistic view of what makes a community and a family.

One of the big things that have been made very clear is the issue of being a working parent and the affordability of childcare. When it’s economically more beneficial for one parent to stay home rather than combine paid work and childcare into the family unit, there is a long term and holistic issue we need to face.

Those childcare subsidies are now being rewound, and many are describing it as a ‘looming disaster’.