#54 A diversity and inclusion champion – Victoria Butt Founder, Parity Consulting and Recruitment (s03ep10) | Workplace Mental Health

Sep 22, 2023

Victoria Butt established the recruitment company Parity Consulting, in 2012 when she was just 29. She is passionate about hiring the best employees who also share Parity’s values. As an authentic leader who is prepared to be vulnerable and admit mistakes, she has championed rapidly growing work issues such as mental health and how the workplace can be more understanding and helpful to women going through menopause.
"When you're looking for a job or you're between roles, you are at one of your lowest, and I think as a recruiter, you have an absolute duty of care, to wrap your arms around that person, look after and help them, and even just give them a kind word. It goes a long way. And I love that I can make a bit of change in someone's life."
- Victoria Butt


  • What caring means in the workplace for Victoria
  • Authentic leader who is prepared to be vulnerable and admit mistakes
  • Growing work issues such as mental health
  • How the workplace can be more understanding and helpful to women going through menopause


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Transcript from the interview

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Graeme Cowan, Victoria Butt

Graeme Cowan 0:02  

Excellent. It’s a real pleasure to welcome Victoria Butt to The Caring CEO. Welcome, Victoria.


Victoria Butt 0:11  

Hi, Graeme. Good to be here.


Graeme Cowan 0:13  

What does care in the workplace mean to you, Victoria?


Victoria Butt 0:16  

Two things. The third thing is a bit of a personal mentor of mine, which is where I or leadership, and people think, Phil say and do the same thing. So having that real congruence between mind, body and action, I think that that is the first thing. The second thing is to be person first and person lead. We often talk about being child lead parenting, little bit like that person lead, leadership or just person lead. Sometimes you see people that are morning, morning and how you sort of really get into it, but it’s about really seeing people for who they are.


Graeme Cowan 1:07  

Very good. And I saw on LinkedIn that it looks like your very first job in 2004 was in recruiting. Is that right?


Victoria Butt 1:15  

Yes. So yes, I’m a recruiter by trade. Although I did, I was a ski– I was a ski guide in Austria. Actually, that was my first paid job. But um, but yes, let’s just say first real job. So, my first real job was as a recruiter back at that, then Jesus quite a while ago now, isn’t it? Yes. So, and you know, what I can honestly say that I don’t think I will deviate from although I’m an entrepreneur, and I do other things now, I think I’m very fond of the recruitment industry. And I don’t know if I’ll ever stop doing it in some way, shape, or form.


Graeme Cowan 1:53  

And why do you love recruitment so much?


Victoria Butt 1:58  

You, and it’s, we used to say this, like ages ago, back in, in the UK, you can sort of change people’s lives, you can change people’s lives. You know, my husband recently had a really terrible experience. And he, you know, business experience, and it was nothing, nothing to do with him. But the business basically, you know, ultimately folded. And he was between roles. And I saw my beautiful husband of 10 years, really, you know, take a significant knock, it has nothing to do with him, he did nothing wrong, it wasn’t performance manager or anything like that. And when he secured his new role and started that first week, I mean, I’ve just got my husband back. And I just think that that is another real, a real-life kind of example. Likewise, I’ve got a very good friend who has recently been exited from a business for reasons beyond their control. And it really is so attached to lots of people’s self-worth, that when you’re looking for a job, or you’re between roles, you are at one of your lowest, and I think there’s a recruiter, you have absolutely duty of care, to wrap your arms around that person, metaphorically, and look after them, and help them and even just give them a kind word. And, and it goes a long way. And I love, I love that I can make a bit of change with someone’s life.


Graeme Cowan 3:30  

Yeah, I think that is so true. Work or meaningful work is so important to our self-esteem. And if we feel that we are contributing is just a positive element. And I think it’s quiet, quite pivotal. I remember the Gallup organization, we’re looking at various parts of our wellbeing that five, I think was physical, mental, financial, social, and career. And they found that the career was actually number one. Number one. So, you know, if you’re having a career, you’re happy the rest of your life, and if you weren’t, it really challenges your life. And it means that you gave your husband is so telling about that.


Victoria Butt 4:16  

It is and I think that what I have to say do not like about my industry, is that the way it’s structured from a commercial standpoint, doesn’t yield itself to care. It doesn’t yield itself to looking after the people that actually need it the most. And so, and this is not necessarily I’m not certainly not pitching my business, but I call my business parity consulting, purely because I was so pissed off with that lack of equality and that treatment of candidates so we believe that everyone is equal and we invest in all relationships regardless of whether your client candidate partner, but then completely, you know, frank about it because of the way the industry structured. It doesn’t yield that behavior. And my team are incredible. But there, they’re not, they’re not. You know, we all have, we all have development areas. And when, when you’re getting paid by your client, and you have 150 candidates, and you’re paid by, you know, 10 clients, you only have so much time. But there’s some basic things you can put in place to look after people and just communicate with people. I mean, there’s so much automation these days, when I was getting in back in recruitment, you’ve reminded me in 2014, it was almost manual. It wasn’t quite manual. I’m not that old. But it was really it was– it felt really manual. And so, you would have to schedule meetings almost face to face all the time and things. So, we’ve come a long way. So, there’s no reason why candidates aren’t treated with care and respect.


Graeme Cowan 6:05  

Yes, you may recall, I worked in recruitment for quite a while as well. And I remember working at Morgan and banks, which is no longer around, but a very, very successful company. And I remember when the first computer arrived, the first computer arrived, honestly, it seems so bizarre, and I think computers in our life, but there wasn’t back then there really. I also worked in outplacement as well–


Victoria Butt 6:33  

How is that? I’ve always wanted.


Graeme Cowan 6:35  

Will. The thing is, it’s a different model, because you get paid by each person that you help. So, for every person that comes in, there’s a financial incentive to treat them well. And of course, a moral incentive, but maybe just something has to change in the recruitment to help make that happen. I once saw an advert. There’s some of these new AI recruitment groups out there. I think one of them is called Zapier, and one of their claims to fame is that it gives every candidate feedback based on their answers and stuff. It’s all AI, but have you heard anything about that? Or who do the anecdotes?


Victoria Butt 7:17  

Ah, look, there’s so much popping up with AI, I’ve got some initial views on AI recruitment. Recruitment has changed in the years that I’ve been doing it and it will continue to change. And I’m really for that, providing, you know, providing change, the trouble I have at the moment with AI, and I don’t think I’m gonna have this view in a year or twos time, I’m hoping. But the trouble I’m having with recruiting with the AI at the moment is that it talks about not discriminating, right? So actually, talks about leveling the playing field, and most of it, unfortunately, where AI and things get their data from is fundamentally a discriminatory place. So you know, and this is a, this is a, you know, a bit of an example, but I’m hoping it will illustrate if you put in Chat GPT at the moment, a woman in business, or a business owner and business, it will come up with 10 images of a woman in business, all very kind of sort of, you know, old, I think old school, but almost that investment banking, kind of, you know, full black suits, you know, not pant suits, because that’s too, you know, that’s, that’s aggressive for a woman, right, we have to wear a skirt, you know, all those sort of things. And then if you put the same in for a man, it comes up with 500 different images of different you know, and these men come from different walks of life, and then they’re colorful, all of the women were white, and all of them, there was some color in there. And there was some diversity in there. But broadly, they’re all white too. And so, I think that AI has got to the real governance piece to this. There’s an ethical, there’s integrity, and then there’s, there’s the sort of the governance piece and the integrity of the data I’m referring to. And so, I’m not stressed about my business taking a hit because of these things at the moment. And actually, I think a lot of my clients are really looking into the discrimination, sort of pain of it, because it’s coming out to say, hey, we’re not going to discriminate because you know, everyone’s equal, well.


Graeme Cowan 9:40  

It’s based on past trends. It’s based on past trends. So–


Victoria Butt 9:44  

I mean, and how can we how can we base a progressive future on past trends that aren’t necessarily progressive, and also what’s also really friggin worrying is that these structures, these boxes, these processes essentially set up by three to four people internally within them. I mean, there’s different businesses, it’s three to four people will be the main stakeholders to bring this AI recruitment bot in house. So, it will be set up in line with their preferences and how these they see the world. And so, you can’t get four different types of people odds are two are going to be from one gender and maybe more, two are going to be one from one ethnicity. And so– So for me, it’s like, yes, let’s really use AI, I would love to see more data out there at the moment. It’s a lot of bells and whistles and smoking mirrors. I’d like to, I’d like to really, really look at the unintended consequences. And my fear at the moment is that it is, it is going to send the DIB agenda. Backwards, not forwards. However, I think we can leapfrog that maybe in two to three years’ time when everyone’s kind of, you know, or some of these startups that perhaps haven’t made it or perhaps we’ve had some things ironed out. I’m hopeful that it will really improve the recruitment process.


Graeme Cowan 11:19  

You grew up in UK and came to Australia, what brought you here?


Victoria Butt 11:27  

I came here on a holiday to see my best mate who was living here, and I am, I just realized how unhappy I was in England. And how maybe it’s I’ve got the seasonal affective disorder. But I was just really sad all the time. And no, I wasn’t sad all the time. But I came here, and I just felt happy. I just couldn’t describe it. I sat on the Noosa Beach, looked around and when I just want this life. And so, I went home and told my parents I was 25 told my parents, sold my car, rented my flat and jumped on a plane.


Graeme Cowan 12:03  

And you had some recruiting jobs in Sydney. And but when you were 29, you started parody that what was the drive for that you mentioned that you were a bit disheartened with how candidates were treated in the traditional recruitment firms. What was any other drivers for starting your own business was always and it’s a big thing.


Victoria Butt 12:26  

Yeah, it was a big thing. And I know this is not the answer that I should give. But it is the, it’s the truth. I didn’t see any other way forward. So I was in a business that was imploding. There was some bad behavior amongst the senior leadership team. I had asked for a seat at the table, I was outperforming everyone else. But I was young, and I was inexperienced as a leader. And I think I said too much of why though. And they were five men, and they had their thing, and I wasn’t included, and I can see, I can see why I wasn’t included. But I don’t think they were really overly progressive in their thinking about inclusion which was, which was fine. But for me, it was like I just can’t be here anymore. Because there was some sort of internal bullying going on. I felt really uncomfortable not bullying me, but just internal bullying each other. It was awful. And so, I touted the market I went and met some CEOs of recruitment businesses. I was just uninspired I was like, you know, a bunch of, bunch of white men you know, that basically just wanted to, wanted to– this is gonna sound terrible, but they just– it just wanting to get the yield from their staff, you know, it was all about yield, all about, you know, performance and all about everything else. So, it’s kind of be life has got to be more than just making money, and screwing people to– I mean, it’s just not I just didn’t feel right. So, it’s like, no, I’m gonna do it myself. I’m gonna be a one or two man band, I’m gonna be my own boss and I’m gonna put my money into the money leftover I want that to go into philanthropic stuff that meant something to me and we still do that 10% of our profits still now go into our parity plus salon tropic font. And essentially, I did that, and I started with one of my teammates from my previous place and never intended to build, didn’t want to grow, just didn’t want to work for someone else and not have that respect and kind of, you know, inclusion. I built my own table. That’s what I say to people. They didn’t give me a seat at the table. So, I built my own.


Graeme Cowan 14:47  

And what have been some of the highlights of the business?


Victoria Butt 14:53  

One in particular, just after COVID hit I just decided to hire people based on future sort of merit and future skills, I wanted to prove to my clients that a CV was useless. And that really, you need to take people on face value, you need to look at the not what they’ve done. But actually, their potential going forward, and I ran an online, anyone gets an interview, it was called was called the Role Change project. And so basically, we went out into the market, there was a lot of people out of work at that point. And we went out to the markets, and we will guarantee you an interview. We’re recruitment business, and we’re running this, we want to hire five people. We’re on a growth trajectory. We know the markets, not very good, but we’re confident in ourselves. And we wanted to use the experiment to show clients. Because we wanted to prove to clients that this whole kind of reviewing CDS is just archaic. And we did it, we got over 500 expressions of interest. So, you could get in, so you get an interview only if you filled out two questions. The first question was, you know, I just can’t remember the first question. It was a very generic question. The second question was, why are you unique? And the third question was, sorry, I don’t think there actually was a third question. So, 500 people expressed an interest. We had over 300 people turn up to the first introduction. So, what we did is we did an introduction, because it was all very weird. What is going on? This is within because it was it was scaling, we, we couldn’t have one, two ones. And it was COVID. So, everyone was quite comfortable online. And so, we had over 300 people and me and my team presented and said, hey, this is who we are. We’re doing this. It’s very unconventional, but we want we believe in future. And we don’t want any kind of, you know, previous experience to impact you and your chances. And so essentially, we went through that process, three rounds of interviews all online, and we decided that we didn’t want to bring any discrimination or bias into it. So, we renamed the candidates as they got into a smaller group. We’ve renamed them superheroes. So, the– although you have a visual buyer, and you have all sorts of other buyers, we didn’t want the name to buyers. So, we had that. And we had a sort of a, a very objective scoring system type thing. Anyway, we hired the five people. And it was an amazing experience. And over the last three years, we still have two of the five. So, we hired 5, 1 dropped off quite quickly. So, we had four. And then we basically essentially have two left if you like, for various reasons. But they are the most incredible staff. One of them is an ex-data scientist, fresh off the boat from another country was significant, super smart, but just on paper, perhaps wasn’t desirable, because not local experience and English second language, and that can cause problems for some employers, highest performer. And another individual. In fact, I don’t, I still couldn’t tell you what lovely Eva used to do before she joined us. She gets she tells me it’s a bent. So, she used to do something else. But you know, I’ve never seen– I can tell you how old she is. All I know is that she is absolutely incredible. And we couldn’t work without her.


Graeme Cowan 18:40  

Extraordinary and what were the lessons you learned from that? And were– have you been able to convey those to your clients?


Victoria Butt 18:48  

So, the short answer is no. I don’t know if we did it enough times to get that sort of real solid evidence point. And actually, grab the market move so flippin quickly. So, we did this when we had additional time and resources in and then by the time we launched, that was sort of sort of the COVID hire in surge. And we were so busy that unfortunately, as a small business, we just sort of, you know, you know, cracked on and so the lesson I learned is that although I went into it with best intentions, and I genuinely wanted to use it as a case for our clients, and we still talk about it. We do some social media campaigns on it, and we’re always offering interviews without prejudice. But it didn’t have impact. Well, it did, and I shouldn’t say that it had absolutely impact for people but not the scale I wanted.


Graeme Cowan 19:52  

You’re being always very passionate about diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging. What have to come from where did you get the passion for that?


Victoria Butt 20:06  

So, I think, I think the whole leveling the playing field and you know, given people a voice that don’t have a voice, it’s always best kind of how I was brought up. So very, I’ve got a very sort of a quality orientated family in, in some respects. And so, I think there was some sort of nature as part of that, but I was actually discriminated against, quite significantly, a few years back in a group of peers, actually. So, this was because I’ve worked for myself for nearly 11 years. So, this was a group of peers, and I was treated incredibly poorly. And I just, I just remember thinking, oh, my goodness, like, if you’re treating me this way, where, you know, quite a strong character, I’ve got a privileged background, I, you know, can hold my own and, you know, blah, blah, blah, what are you doing to people that are, you know, really, really, genuinely need a leg up or knee need to be included. And so, it just set, it just set me off on a bit of a mission. And I haven’t looked back. So, I’m actually very grateful for my awful experience. And since then, I’m really proud of some of the DIB stuff I’ve done. I, that same, that same peer group I set up at the regional DI group, I lifted the lid on some of their issues. I traveled around the country speaking to my peers, entrepreneurs, and really proud of some of the work that I’ve done there. I got, I got them to change all of the graphics, the photos, we have we got a DI statement. I mean, look doesn’t sound a lot I know, but I am really proud of what I did. And since then, I’ve been asked many times to speak at DI conferences and gigs and I mentor some people in DI I mean, I’m very much a self-taught professional really. So that’s kind of like one of my little jobs on the side. It’s not a business, it’s just a hobby.


Graeme Cowan 22:20  

And I’m sure you’re very proud of Parity Plus, can you just explain to our listeners why is that? And that what’s it about?


Victoria Butt 22:29  

Yes, thank you. And I want to bring you into this, Graeme, because you were our keynote speaker for Parity Plus a few years ago, and I’d like to, to explain the impact that’s had for the community as well. So it was really on the back of set in the business hours, I didn’t want to just make money without I didn’t want to become one of these people that I was interviewing for, you know, all of these, you know, you know, talking about yield all the time, you know, what’s the, what’s the profit on that person? Well, that person is a person. But um, yeah, so essentially, I said, when I started Parity that 10% of their profits would be parent go into Parity Plus, and Parity Plus, it would be a fund, essentially, to help add to the community. So, we do give money, two to five different charities, those charities are aligned with our values. We have the Women’s Resilience Center run by Simone Allen, who is a friend of both of us, a–


Graeme Cowan 23:29  

It was Simone who introduced us. it was Simone that introduced us, yeah?


Victoria Butt 23:32  

It was and Simone actually was one of my sisters in that peer group I just mentioned, and we supported each other through some of the difficult times. But um, it we, yeah, so we have our five charities dress for success. We also support to good CO which is run by Rob Catholic, and he does an incredible thing with homeless women and rehabilitation and just incredible what to do. So, we– so all of our charities are very much based on sort of women, and you know, DIB staff and just leveling the playing field. And the remaining amount of money we put into essentially give back events. And so, we work together, the months before COVID Here, you gave a keynote presentation to 130 of my clients and kicked it out of the park. And it was, it was so interesting because mental resilience by that stage wasn’t on my radar. And I remember sending the invite out to all of our clients and we always get, we get people sign up, but often you have to really push these events, you know, and I couldn’t believe it, sent it out within 48 hours it was I think it was 85% for, and I remember phoning you going, oh my goodness. But it was great. And I don’t know if you remember, but COVID here, and obviously, that was just a really awful time for, for people. And you and I stood up a seminar within one week of actually, it was two weeks of COVID, you and I stood up a seminar that had 500 people attend or mental resilience.


Graeme Cowan 25:26  

Unbelievable, wasn’t it? It was extraordinary. And even though there was a little bit of talk about COVID, then we had no idea the implications, then, even though it was only like about a week or two later, it all locked down. But it just moves so quickly, didn’t it?


Victoria Butt 25:41  

It moves so quickly. And the fact that you were talking about mental resilience at this event, and then we sort of followed up with a webinar, I do believe that the work that you did, and that we facilitated in that sort of two, three months period, helped people I do, I just found to see how a subject can be so popular with an expert like yourself delivering messages and help and assistance, and that you didn’t touch all those people’s lives in probably one of the worst times in our generation, because we just didn’t know did we? It was all very scary.


Graeme Cowan 26:23  

It was the unknown, I surveyed audiences regularly about what was the greatest stress. And everyone said that number one was uncertainty. And humans don’t cope well with uncertainty, you know, I’ve actually seen a scientific study where someone will choose to get a little electric shock, rather than know that they could or could not get an electric shock. So, people were further certainly get electric shock compared to not knowing whether they will or not. And, yeah, it was just, it’s sort of a bit like our dream now. We dream but it was incredible how it played, it played out so quickly resulted in so much change. And there was a, there was no doubt there’s a real need for building personal resilience and focusing on the things that we can control. And even now, you know, a lot of people think well, things are back to normal. But I spoke an event yesterday, and I shared some research from Deloitte, which came out in June 23, so just a month ago, and it basically showed that it looked at four countries Australia, UK, Canada, the US, and show that half people were still experiencing overwhelmed stress, always, or often, always or often. So, it’s, it’s not going away, it’s still a very, very important issue. And I think the thing that is become just so obvious, is that we must run teams in a way that, that provides good mental health, provides support, provides connection. And that’s why, you know, we were just talking before we came on air about this belonging. And, and this belonging is just so important. And when there was a lot of hybrid work, we have to work differently to make that happen as well. You know, you have to as it’s going to ask you about that type of work, because I’m sure you and your team are working in a hybrid way. What have you done to help build that connection, care and belonging when you’re not always in the same room?


Victoria Butt 28:46  

Yeah, not always in the same room, my goodness. I think if a business can get that, right, you’ve really now life, haven’t you? You know, because it really is about if you look at productivity, like if you want to really get micro monic productivity goes up where people feel safe and where they belong, right. So, I mean, I don’t think you’ll get many people that argue with that. Oh, I’m sure you would actually. Everyone wants an argument about something. But you know, broadly speaking, most people appreciate if you’re feeling safe, and you belong. Or look, we’ve done a few things. I’m not convinced that we’ve got it, we’ve got it right. I think it’s incredibly difficult either. As you grow a business and as the business gets bigger, it is sort of quite difficult to and margin pressure and financial pressure typically can bring the worst out in people. They feel pressurized, they behave differently. You feel pressurized, you manage differently, so I think it’s– I honestly think, Graeme, every day is a new day, making people feel that they belong. Because, you know, if you can just, you know, go out for a couple of drinks, Graeme, let’s do monthly drinks, that is so kind to cut it. Yes, you know, sending your beautiful stuff on courses that really interests them and putting in a unique EVP together, we do this cool thing where you can pick because I don’t believe everyone’s wired and motivated the same. So, I could give one of my staff 50 grand bonus. And it actually just did not, they wouldn’t appreciate it what 50 grand actually, I think they would appreciate that, let’s call it, you know, you give it a 5 grand bonus and say, you know, well done for a particular piece of work. However, if I took that same staff member out for lunch and spent a bit time with them and invested in them, which wouldn’t cost me 5000, they would be in you know, they would be so much more engaged and feeling good. So, we have, we have a unique employee value proposition. We’re still a small business really. So, you know, we can kind of do this. So essentially, you get to bid like a health fund to a point because we also have unlimited annual leave, because we believe because we’ve got expats and I’m also from the UK, I believe in rest and relaxation and holidays and things. We don’t pay for unlimited, unfortunately. But we do provide unlimited. And so yeah, the EVP stuff is really important. So, people can kind of take what motivates them. We’ve, we’ve done a few things over the years with, you know, with people with kids, so we’ve done a Christmas, we’ve lots of philanthropic activities, so we did a volunteer day recently a dress for success. We do monthly, sort of set up celebrations, if you like and these are purposeful celebrations to Bali. Sort of International Women’s Day, we’ve done the biggest morning tea, you know, so we do amongst these sort of charity events when important that you know, people seem to really like. We have employment engagement surveys and stuff just sort of temperature check where people are, but I, I am not going to sit here and say for a second that we’ve nailed it, I just think it is a continuum is hard bloody work as a leader, but it’s the most important job to do. Because if you can do that, rather than coming in, like I do sometimes and get straight into client work or get straight into the team, come on, what are we doing bigger, better, faster. You know, my, I’ve got a couple of GMs who are much better than I am. And they will come in and they will leave into the belonging before they go into the work talk. I’m not, I need to get better at that. I’ve got 150 million different things in my brain. So, I almost need to sort of get them out. But I do believe that if you can go people first, like I said in the start, you know that that sort of you know, human first always, and you can just look after people, then that helps a lot. 


Graeme Cowan 33:08  

You know that Gallup engagement survey question was statement is my supervisor or someone at work seems to care about me as a person. And they’re all people that strongly agree with that the higher the productivity, the profit, the customer service levels, and employee tenure. And it’s been asked, I think 50 million times now and 135 countries. It’s ironclad that that leads to results. And whereas before, I think we’ve you know, feel it intuitively makes sense. But it’s actually been shown that it does, it actually works it is that providing that care, the psychological safety and the mental health. It is the strong skills going forward. It’s the difference between a business being successful and not being successful. Because, right that environment, it leads to innovation that leads to try new things it needs to persist and learning but just having a common a common goal as a group going forward. It it’s the number one priority. No, it has to be.


Victoria Butt 34:15  

It has to be you know what I am– I am quite pained to see that the pressure that people are being put under to return to the office and the fact that in COVID I found, I really genuinely found employers were exceptional. I couldn’t then you one employer that wasn’t great. I mean yes, people got stood down. Yes, people were let go but generally speaking, my clients and people around us did a great job people first genuinely because I think we all thought we were going to die. But you know as people first and now it’s going back. It’s going back. And it’s just I hate I hate it. I hate it that it’s going back to where it was pre COVID. And we do sort of a salary survey every year, it’s quite big thing for our community. And we’re just about to launch it. And 70– it was about 78%. And like, don’t quote me on this, but it certainly wasn’t, wasn’t sort of between 75 and 80% said that their main gripe at work, was this sort of lack of flexibility. And I think that I think that some of this stuff is tied to each other is that how you treat your people also ties into that flexibility piece as well. And look, I do think people do need to get some perspective. And I do think that it is difficult to work from anywhere, even though I think we all would love to, is not doing relationships any good. And there is definitely a case for genuine hybrid working.


Graeme Cowan 36:09  

Definitely, definitely. And I interviewed earlier this week, funnily enough, Charlotte, who was from four day a week, global based in New Zealand, and she helped oversee the 60 plus pilot, 60 plus company pilot in the UK, trialing the four day a week, and, and they’ve got evidence, if you go to the website, it’s four day week, global, there’s a there’s a report there, which show that absenteeism went way down, stress went way down, quality of life went right up, and the outcomes stayed the same or got better. So, you know, forcing people back is dumb, it is really dumb. Because, you know, there will be some enlightened employees that say, you know, and I think, I think the most enlightened actually, I saw a guy who was the head of the future work for Novartis, he was based in Switzerland. Olivia, I interviewed him on this podcast as well. And he talks about hybrid two and hybrid two is where the team works it out. What happens, you know, the team works out where and how they work. And if the team can work out that people stay at home people get back is their decision. And I think that just makes so much sense compared to some ironclad rule, which is dumb.


Victoria Butt 37:37  

It’s incredible, I have to look that out and love to listen to that and look up hybrid two. It is pretty much consuming about 75% of our time at the moment to talk about it with our clients. And it is we speak about it internally, we are definitely you know, we’re not, we’re not immune to the challenges that hybrid with the brain or remote can bring on. I mean, we will never go back to Philly in the office. But I love that team, that trust in the team to come up with that it just goes back to that empowerment. And that that like controls, probably not entirely the right word. But what I found really interesting is that in so COVID hid in the control, let’s say the power, power, because that’s probably the better word. The power was firmly in the employers’ hands. And most didn’t abuse it mostly bid did great things. You know, the shareholders understood that they wouldn’t get the yield board members were signing off, you know, more annual leave and more. Everyone, you know, I think dealt with it quite well. And then what’s actually happened is that then the pendulum swung to the employee having an hour, which was the great resignation, the Yolo movement, that kind of, you know, I want 35% pay rise, and I want it now type thing. And what’s actually really interesting is that when that was happening, the remote work from home and everything that actually was being done, because as an employer, if you had forced your team back in and not leaned into what their needs were, you weren’t going to have a team because the power was sitting with the employee. The power is now back to the employer. It’s not fully back because we still have really low unemployment rate and we still have skills, gap shortages, and we’re still busy as a recruitment company, you know, but there absolutely is a shift in the markets and it’s shifted in budgets and things. And so, what is really upsetting for what you do, what I do with DIV, you know what we all do, and is worse so hard to educate leaders to care and to, to really lean into their staff. Unfortunately, all of that work we’ve done, I’m seeing that I feel like it’s dissipating again. I feel like we’ve just jumped back to this authoritarian, you must be back in the office five days a week. And if you don’t, you’ve not got a job. And it’s like, oh, we can we haven’t come as bad as I thought, perhaps.


Graeme Cowan 40:27  

Yeah, I, I’m optimistic, I think the people will walk for the right environment. And, you know, it’s like a pendulum really is that, you know, we went extreme work from home, nothing else, then we went hybrid. And now people are trying to, there’s an effort to get everyone back in the office full time. But there’s pushback as well being pushed back, you know, the Commonwealth Bank, their union, is pushing back and taking the employee to court about being able to work from home. So, all these things are playing out every day. It’s, it’s a moving, it’s a moving feast, that’s for sure.


Victoria Butt 41:09  

I think our children will have some incredible case studies for university in 10 years’ time, 20 years’ time, I think.


Graeme Cowan 41:18  

This would be a case study for 50 years, I reckon. Victoria, what about hardships and your business? What’s been some of the tough things about having your own business?


Victoria Butt 41:33  

Look, I think there’s two main ones, the people, the people stuff, so when, you know, when you, when you work, work with someone, and it sort of doesn’t work out for various reasons, whether it’s their side, or your side, and the impact of that on them. And you and others, I’ve taken that, I’ve taken up pretty, pretty hard, I haven’t probably have set people’s free quick enough, in some respects. And then perhaps, you know, said hi, not quite the right fit. Because we are, we are as of quite a specific, you know, specific business. And we do like to hire culture add and not culture fit. So, we’re always looking for someone to bring something to the business that’s different. But unfortunately, that can be disruptive, disruptive at times. But I think the main one was, I set up another business about 18 months ago, and I stepped away from my recruitment business. And the new business just tanked. Like I set it up wrong. The product was wrong, the pricing was wrong, the– everything was wrong. And I just, I just I just really struggled, like I’ve really kept hold of it for too long as well. So, I get hold of it for a year. And I’m just about to shut it down because it’s just not right. And I have to be all in with what I’m doing. And so, I was trying to be a mum, a business owner, and then a startup person. And essentially, I think I probably failed at all of that. I’m hoping I didn’t overly fail at the mum stuff but expected it a bit. But I definitely didn’t do anyone else justice in that process. So yeah, I’ve been licking my wounds for about six months on that one. So, I’m ready to talk about it. But it’s still not quite ready to send Asik a letter to say shut it down.


Graeme Cowan 43:39  

And that’s, it’s really interesting, isn’t it? Yeah. You’ve you had, well, have very successful recruitment business has experienced great success. How did that impact your self-esteem?


Victoria Butt 43:53  

Oh, it was it was horrendous. It was awful. It was a shadow of myself. I lost, lost, lost the plot for imposter syndrome was very, very, very back on my shoulder every day. I remember I was in Fiji with my in-laws and my beautiful children, and my husband and I was just so sad. Like, I was like, the self-talk. It was real. You know, you’re crap. You’re worthless. You can’t do anything, you know, really bad. Totally extreme, like, you know, not logical. And I know it wasn’t logical. Even at the time. I knew it wasn’t logical, but it was how I felt. And you know what the worst thing was, is that when I went back into my recruitment business, I nearly blew that up as well. So, I really been very frankly, I went back in and because I was so desperate for validation. I was so desperate to be confident again and know what I was talking about. That I basically disempowered my senior leadership team, and it was trainwreck. And my GM who runs the main kind of business, she sorts of, you know, in a meeting in the kitchen with her, and I said something, and her whole face changed. And she looked really upset. And I was like, oh, what did I say, you know, anyway, we had it out. And poor thing was basically said, look, if you’re, if you’re not going to allow us to do what we’ve been done, while you’ve been sworn in off on another business, then then I’m out here, like, you know. And that was so difficult, because that was one of my and is one of my key members of staff, I just can’t bear the thought of her leaving. So, I had to, so my confidence was low. And then I blew up a couple of things. And then I messed up some other things. And so, I really, I really wasn’t feeling very good. But that was about two months ago. Now I’ve since taken a step back, really reevaluate them working so much more on what is, what is sort of best for the business, and less about what’s best, the kind of my confidence and getting myself to feel better. So, I do believe I am a caring CEO, and I’m so grateful to be talking to you. However, I can totally see how that takes a backseat when you’re in threat, you’re in danger.


Graeme Cowan 46:31  

Yeah, it’s one of the people who interview earlier on with Mike Schneider, the CEO of Bunnings, and Bunnings have just been, you know, just an amazing success in Australia. And they made the decision to expand into the UK and Ireland. And then work it was a different market, different environment. And he talked about that being, you know, really personally devastating. He talked about needing to get a mindset coach to get back on the right path. And but you know, just wonderful that you talk about that he talks about that it’s a vulnerable thing to discuss. But people relate to it, they’re attracted to that sort of honesty, and, but also lessons, and also realizing that some of our worst mistakes are our greatest lessons, like I went through five years of depression where it wasn’t working, I never thought I’d work again. But it led to, you know, different values, different priorities. And I now look upon it as a gift. And I’m sure that you will, as well pick one day and just really see it, and it will take a bit of distance to get that perspective. But I really believe that you will see that as a gift.


Victoria Butt 48:03  

Yeah, I do. I’ve already started to, you know, see it like that, but I do a bit of bit of time. And I’m just really grateful that my leadership team called me out as well, and said, you know, what, are you doing? Your behavior so poorly and, and I hadn’t been honest with them, about how much it affected me to sunset, a business. I told everyone I was sunsetted the business, and I put a smile on my face, and you know, acted as though it was like I did it in my sleep. But I was really upset, and I didn’t, I didn’t show any vulnerability at that point. And so, they just moved on, of course that you know, they’re just like, oh, well, Victoria’s sunsetted another business type thing, you know, which, which is not how I felt it was deeply wounded from it. And so, I started behaving differently, which is why that whole Congress things like thinking feel insane and doing is my absolute mantra. And it annoys me when I don’t live by those rules. But I I’m trying very hard, I have to say to always be really upfront with what’s kind of going on in the background so that people can conceptualize or sorry, contextualize, you know, set of decisions or behaviors.


Graeme Cowan 49:23  

Came from quite humble beginnings as I understand it, you know, in the UK, does it surprise you where you are now how far you’ve come? Or did you always have the view of that you’re going to do great things?


Victoria Butt 49:43  

Oh, like I think even I saw my mom and dad recently and they laughed and joked and said how I’m not really part of the family because I’m like this weird anomaly and it sounds weird, but it was actually completely in jest. Although somewhat true. No, I just– I don’t think, I don’t think I’m, I don’t consider myself particularly successful. I think I have worked really bloody hard. And I provide for my family. I’m very proud of some of the cool things that we’ve done. But no, I just, I’ve always just followed how I’ve felt about the world. If I felt sad or happy, or you know, I’ve always followed that. For me, I think, because I’ve never had wealth or money or anything very much working class, British upbringing, very humble beginnings. I don’t want for it. And so, time are a bit difficult at the moment, we’ve got rising interest rates, we’ve got a I have some personal things going on. We, you know, things are a bit tight, you know, financially, things aren’t, you know, what they seem, you know, but I think when you don’t have money, you don’t miss it when you, when you don’t have it again. And so, when I have money, I tend to spend it. And, you know, I probably haven’t been as I haven’t been as careful as it should have been. But whenever I have money, I spend it, I spend it on people that I love, I spent it on experiences that when Paul lost his job recently, we went to Vietnam with the kids for two weeks and traveled around Vietnam. And, you know, the kids are only seven. And so, they’re very young, take them out of school for a couple of weeks doesn’t make any difference. And you just spend it and we, we, we were careful with what we were spending, we’ve really wanted the kids not to have a four- or five-star hotel experience, right? Because they’re just gonna grow up to be awful humans. So, we, we, you know, we went really low. And we wanted to make sure the kids understood what it was like to travel, and it was just wonderful. And you know, and then we go later on in the year, we’re going away for quite some months again. And so, you know, for me, it’s about spending on experiences, but also people that I love, I’ve got a couple of people that aren’t in a financially good position at the moment. And so, all my job is to help them just to make sure that they just, you know, get a bit of relief. So yeah, I think, I think people that do have some success, have a duty of care to pick their friend up, and embrace, embrace that so they can all enjoy the world.


Graeme Cowan 52:28  

It’s been an absolute pleasure catching up, Vic, it’s– love working with you previously. And we’ve had some great conversation in the past. I’ve loved our chat today. I asked this at the end, you know, what, what advice would you give to your 18-year-old self? Knowing what you know, now, you know, as a, I guess, a working-class girl going to university? What advice would you give that person?


Victoria Butt 52:56  

Yeah, I’ve been thinking about this. Look, I think, I think back yourself, I think the self-doubt and the self-belief were real inhibitors for me, and so real confidence killers. And the second one would absolutely be do not compare yourself or charged others. The comparison is a killer. Because it really consumes you and you’re not living in your own. You’re not living in your, you know, call it authentic self, but you’re not living it in your own skin. Because you’re constantly looking, you know, those type of people, but also, I really believe in no judgment. Because, you know, we’ve all had times we’ve done some it’s probably undesirable, and we’ve all done great things and we’ve all got our own issues. And so, you’re not to judge others and to put yourself in their shoes where possible. So, I don’t think I’ve– well, I’m not perfect on any of those. But I really do hope that I stopped. I would have loved to have stopped comparing myself early and also not looking on others as harshly as I was looking upon myself. I would always judge myself so hardly, you know, harshly. And I used to hold others to the same standard.


Graeme Cowan 54:28  

Yeah, I love Maya Angelou, his definition of success. She says success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it. And that’s different for everyone. And I think, you know, when we can tap into what’s, what’s our authentic self, how do we thrive authentically that is really when we can have, you know, a very good sense of wellbeing and because it’s us, it’s not someone else’s, and I’d fall into the trap of envying other people as well. But I guess through all my work and, and you know, the fact that I’ve been through really tough times and attempts to take my life. People tell me stories. And what I’ve learned is that you have no idea what’s going on behind closed doors, you have no idea and, you know, our friend, Simone who women’s resilience center sees that every day every week. And yeah, you know, being true to us is, is the way to go. Thanks so much for your time. It’s been a wonderful chat; we might have part two sometime.


Victoria Butt 55:38  

You know, it’s a real pleasure and thank you for including my initiative doing some incredible work. Thank you for your, your investment in this.


Graeme Cowan 55:50  

Excellent, excellent. That was so quickly. I can’t believe it.


Victoria Butt 55:54  

Yeah, it was. It was. It was great. Thank you. I hope that was okay.


Graeme Cowan 55:58  

It was fantastic. It was fantastic. I love your honesty, and I really hope that yeah, we’ll let you know when it’s gonna be released. Probably, probably about four weeks. We’ve got a few in the pipeline. We’ll get plenty of notice and stuff. So, you can share it as well. But–


Victoria Butt 56:24  

Yeah, you know, please, yeah, please do. Are you okay, if I get a screenshot for social. 


Graeme Cowan 56:29  

Absolutely, absolutely. I’m gonna get one as well. I’m just gonna take a photo.


Victoria Butt 56:34  

Yeah. Take a photo.


Graeme Cowan 56:41  

Good work. Excellent. Excellent. That’s great.


Victoria Butt 56:46  

All right. So, if you, if you, if you’re good first screenshot,


Graeme Cowan 56:49  

Yeah. 100%. 


Victoria Butt 56:50  

Okay. Great, thank you.


Graeme Cowan 56:56  

And yeah, check out the four-day week logo. It’s, it’s faster, because we’ll have time to go into it. But what she talks about– because your focus is totally on outcomes. And that’s it, she talks about the 180-100 rule. And so, the 100 is you get paid 100% of your salary. The 80 is you work 80% of the hours and the 100 issue, you focus 100% on the outcomes. And she also, she also talked about how it varies people, like some people love to take one day off. For some people. They want to take a nine-day fortnight. Some young parents want to work five days, but they don’t start till 10 o’clock so they can take their kids to school. And then what’s even more telling for people of my age is that because I’ve got my kids over time, is that, you know, someone to take time off to be with their parents, you know, they’re very frail. And you’ll know and but it’s all about, it is all about outcomes and just doing things, things clearly like, you know, Microsoft, Japan, you know, Japan has been workaholics. I had the honor for a week. And they said you can have more than five people in a meeting. The meetings are only can be no longer than 30 minutes. And you’ve got to use team. So, this was even before that, for the pandemic and Microsoft photogs his Teams. But they ended up their productivity increased by 50%. It’s, it’s just and it’s something that just has to be challenged now. It’s, it’s just bullshit. So, you’re gonna come back to the office? It’s bullshit.


Victoria Butt 58:48  

Yeah, it is. And it’s gonna really, it’s gonna divide. It’s going to divide the employees of choice to others. I think, I think, I think that they’re, you know, we do need to focus on belonging, we do need to focus on collaboration. And that does need to have some in person time where humans were built for interaction. But I think– It’s just how to do that. It’s how it’s how and I think that it’s a difficult problem to solve. And I’m, I’m fortunately, I’m not seeing enough creativity around solving it.


Graeme Cowan 59:27  

Yeah. Well, I’ll send you a link to leave it at his bars in Switzerland. And he’s the one that says the team’s got to decide. The team works it out. That’s the nucleus. You know, that’s a nucleus. They’re the ones that know, individual person’s circumstances. They’re the ones that can support each other if someone has to be.


Victoria Butt 59:49  

Yeah. Oh, absolutely. I’d love to see that. Graeme. And please, you always know that if you ever need anything, just you know, just give me a call. Or if there’s any connections that you’d like, or whatever you think you need, please always reach out.


Graeme Cowan 1:00:06  

Yeah, well, one thing that might help is, I’m really, very, very assertively pushing the need for team’s psychological safety, and this sort of stuff at the team being the nucleus of the organization. And, and it’s really landing, and I’ll send you my brochure the topic around, but you might think of clients that, you know, that could really benefit from it. It’s really, really landing and resonating it really.


Victoria Butt 1:00:41  

I, you know, what I, I 100% back here, and I think that the work you do is incredible. And why don’t you send it over. And it might be worth a follow up session for both you and I for me to really understand the types of clients that you think, because, and also the types of contacts because I can open my black book, but I think it might be better just to specifically open it to specific companies, specific sizes, whether you’re going to heads of business, HR, procurement, di, you know, whatever you do, so if you’re happy to send it over, I’m going back to UK soon, but if we can just do an online session, and just, I can understand it more than I can absolutely– And, and we could do some marketing on it as well. We also sort of we don’t do anything sophisticated like you, but we absolutely have partners that we promote. Would love to, love to assist.


Graeme Cowan 1:01:41  

Yeah, and you may consider it for your audience and another breakfast or something like that.


Victoria Butt 1:01:46  

Yeah, yeah, no, absolutely. Yeah, good point, actually, because we are doing some more. So, we did. Um, so since you’re one we haven’t actually done much, because it’s been COVID. And we’ve done lots of online stuff. But we did one on menopause recently. Leadership through menopause. 


Graeme Cowan 1:02:03  

Yeah, I was almost gonna bring that up until we’re running out of time. It takes time. But I had seen on LinkedIn, how you really put a wonderful event on good, you know, great, great involvement, great feedback, and all that sort of stuff. And, yeah, maybe we’ll cover that next time. But–


Victoria Butt 1:02:22  

Yeah, I know, it was really good. But yes, we are, we are still doing those big breakfasts, we’re just looking at, we’re very much making sure that we’re doing really meaningful subjects that are really, you know, really forward thinking. And so, it definitely would fit that. Let’s, if you’re happy to send me the details, we do a session, and we can sort of so I can understand it better.


Graeme Cowan 1:02:43  

Great, sir. All right, lovely to catch up. And–


Victoria Butt 1:02:46  

Yeah, and you, too. Thanks again.


Graeme Cowan 1:02:47  

When are you going overseas?


Victoria Butt 1:02:49  

So, I, we fly to Queenstown on Sunday for a few days. Back-to-back and then England from the second to the 21st.


Graeme Cowan 1:02:58  

Lovely. Actually, funnily enough, I’m going over to Scotland, mid-August to early, early September. And yeah, yeah. So, Karen’s are doing a wonderful walk. They’re called the Five Coastal Walk, which parts just north of Edinburgh, and that’s eight days walking around the coast up to St. Andrews sort of thing. So yeah, we’re looking forward to that.


Victoria Butt 1:03:25  

Enjoy. Love it. Very good. Well, nice to– Nice to speak to you again, and we’ll speak soon.

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