Nov '12

(How) Can You Sustain Ability?

The second BDO seminar posed a thought provoking question about the role of sustainability in talent acquisition and retention.  Is it leadership, as Simon Bailey suggests, or best in class internal communications to engage employees as Sam Lizars suggests, or a thorough brief with high values as Debby Lloyd said, and what makes Goldman Sachs the fourth “Best Company to Work For” according to Wayne Clarke’s Best Companies survey?  That seems a surprise, to say the least, but staff love GS!

Though we all like to think we are good employers the reality is that the stresses and strains of business life frequently lead to compromised decisions that can have a dire impact on staff morale, and jobs.  I’m sure that Comet staff will have a very different view of sustainability from DSG staff, and even though Starbucks may source Fair Trade coffee they won’t woo British customers by avoiding paying tax here.  It will be interesting to see if UK consumers punish Amazon and Google too.

Once again the lowest common denominator is doing the same things as before but with a different awareness, a sort of moral compass that the Brundtland Report suggests “meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

It looks like us Martians (see previous blog) are entering a new age of ambiguity, we need to change the behaviours of our people to make sure we do the right things the right way. … Read the rest

Oct '12

Is Sustainability Sustainable?

I’m a Martian, so I like fixing problems.  We all love our planet, we’re down to our last one and already we need 2.5 of them just to keep the human race going.  Ooops.

With that in mind I went to an excellent seminar on sustainability hosted by BDO last week, it was part of a series with this particular discussion about how sustainability and brand fit together.  The 4 speakers were Simon Pringle from BDO, Gareth Rice from O2 (mobile phones), Clare Hierons from Carbon Leapfrog (a charity focusing on carbon reduction projects) and Alisa Murphy from Life Size Media (PR), and it was chaired by Kevin Schofield from BDO; all were excellent.

Each speaker talked passionately about what sustainability means to them and their organisation; each view was different, yet equally valid, it was very thought provoking – us Martians in the audience were left scratching our heads.

Some built environmentally friendly social housing at increased cost, yielding the same rents, yet giving occupants the benefit of cheaper running costs – even though today’s “Green Building” is just “a Building” in 5 years time.   Would others pay a premium for sustainable goods?  Maybe; you might pay more for a hybrid car if your mileage is high enough to pay you back.  Many might use Ariel 30 if it’s the same cost as other detergents because the product design will save you heating costs in the washing machine.… Read the rest

Sep '12

Culture Club

Every organisation has its own culture that is built up over many years, and hiring managers are always at great pains to ensure that new hires will fit in with the rest of the workforce and the “style” of business.  Certain staff become benchmarks of the organisation and its way of working.  Misfits are expensive, not only in terms of their subsequent redundancy but also because of the cost of repairing the internal upheaval they cause and rebuilding harmonious working relationships.

Sometimes companies make a positive decision to change culture, in the way that Barclays has just done through a desire to replace the Investment Banking style created by Bob Diamond with a softer Retail Banking style associated with Antony Jenkins.  They will be aware that culture does not change overnight and that a full programme of change will have to be carefully managed, starting from the top.  Personnel will be coached, shaped and “reprogrammed” into the expected new ways of working, and this will take some time – possibly 18 months.  A lot of money will be spent, money that will reduce the bottom line.

So why do football clubs always think they are different?  How many times do we see a “round” shaped manager forced into a “square” shaped hole that ends in tears?  Why is anyone surprised that customers (fans) are up in arms when a new broom is hired that changes the style from one the customers like, fires the staff who everyone respects (customers and employees alike), and the end product deteriorates – but the price has gone up?… Read the rest

Aug '12

The Holiday is Over!

Summer, when was that?  WHAT was that, is a better question?  It’s when we waved bye bye to “that mace” and said goodbye to one of the best captains England Cricket has had in many a year.

Well, it’s all over now and Q4 is staring us in the face, September is traditionally the month when corporates gear up to deliver projects before the year end and budgets vanish; but will that happen in 2012?

Initial signs are very mixed; some companies are asking for people and others are delaying spending.  It seems there is still some concern about the €, ironically especially amongst exporters! Will they get paid?  Or will the € collapse, or will it be propped up into 2013?  The key question is how the ECB (European Central Bank) will ease the flow of capital from richer Northern Europe to the poorer South, the so called PIGS.

Excellent and skilled leadership is called for, a calm head with wise decisions – and maybe there is just the right man currently picking up his P45 from the other ECB (England Cricket Board).

Welcome to the City, Andrew Strauss.  Come and save us and make England No 1 again.… Read the rest

May '12

Hire, buy or sell?

I always expect a lot of questions from candidates about the prospective client before they meet: how many are they seeing; where do I rank; what are they really looking for; what do you think I need to emphasise?  That sort of thing.

Do you know, only once have I ever been asked the same thing by a client, I wonder why that is?

The point here is that recruitment is a two-way process, especially head-hunting.  OK, there’s an argument that when someone responds to an advert they are already buying, but search is all about finding exactly the right person for a role, referencing them both formally and informally and selling them the role.   It’s true.

When someone is in a role with a good career path we always have to sell them a new job elsewhere.  Why should they risk a change?  I talk about the push-factor and pull-factor of jobs; if the pull-factor of a new role is not greater than the push-factor of an existing role then it is dangerous to move – for all parties.  Our job is to work out whether the candidate will be well served by moving – and that isn’t always the case, sometimes we have to tell candidates that too.

The next critical phase is introducing clients and candidates, and this has a number of bear traps.  … Read the rest

Sep '11

More Red Tape for Decent Businesses

The Agency Workers Regulations, or AWR as it is known, is a  “TLA” (three-letter acronym) to strike fear into the heart of many a …..er, well, who exactly?  Let’s see.

What’s it for?

The general principle is that permanent employees should not receive better pay or benefits than workers supplied though an agent.  So how many times has this happened?  I don’t know.  Nobody does, but in the same way that the fallout from “Cockle-Picking” handicaps decent businesses so AWR adds another “business prevention” layer.  If a business is not reputable I really can’t imagine this legislation will make an ounce of difference.

When will it happen?

It came into force on the 1st October 2011 so like many of my recruitment colleagues I have spent weeks trying to find out who now does what, and why, and do you know what?  There is no clear answer.  Like its close interbred cousins before, IR35 and the snappily titled “Conduct of Employment Agencies and Employment Businesses Regulations 2003”, it has all the hallmarks of a sledgehammer to crack an egg-shell, let alone nut.  It seems that we are all presumed guilty until we can prove ourselves innocent.

Who must do what?

At this stage I apologise to both our clients and candidates alike; we, and all other reputable agencies, will now need to keep more documentary evidence of each role we source.  … Read the rest

Sep '11

Beware Greeks bearing gift-horses in the mouth!

Confused?  You will be!

“Beware Greeks bearing gifts” and “don’t look a gift-horse in the mouth” are two conflicting statements that we wheel out to support whatever argument we are making at that time.  We’ve all done it and we’ll all do it again.

Hiring people you have worked with before is known, but what about “friends of friends”?  In 2008 we released an article called “Why you should not hire a friend of a friend” based on our experience of clients coming to us for help in rescuing situations that should never have arisen and all caused by hiring without going to the market.  Just think of the list of people who would have been well advised to read it before they made career threatening choices: The Labour Party elected Gordon Brown, David Cameron hired Andy Coulson and Ed Milliband took on Tom Baldwin to name just three recent high-profile examples – each reputation tarnished because of the totally avoidable mess they have had to mop up.

It seems really easy though doesn’t it.  The Financial Controller leaves, someone has a friend who is available now and who was in the finance department of a local firm; one meeting, a cheap and quick hire of someone who can start on Monday!  Job done.  But why is he available now?  What did his former colleagues think of him?  … Read the rest

Aug '11

Consultant or Interim

We are often asked to differentiate between the skills and capabilities of management consultants from one of the big professional service firms and their close cousins, interim managers.  The popular perception of a branded management consultant is of a high flyer, with a good brain and sound business school training.  An interim manager, by contrast, has to prove they are not of a lesser ability simply because they are sole traders without a brand.

This may have once been true, but now interim management is fast becoming a career of choice for the most successful managers and former consultants, particularly those who are action oriented.  Successful businessmen and women, usually disenchanted with corporate politics or promoted successfully up and away from a role they really enjoy, are increasingly turning to a more flexible life as an interim; today many have Big 5 training.

There is, however, a distinct difference between specialist interim managers and consultancy employees acting in an interim capacity.  Here’s how we see it.

Why use Management Consultants?

Many companies use back-fill resource from consultancy firms because it’s easy and familiar.  We all know the joke “lend me your watch and I’ll tell you the time” but consulting firms can rapidly mobilise teams of people to solve complex issues and if the project needs more resources they can usually offer them too.  They take the problem away from the company and provide one solution: – but at some cost.… Read the rest

Jul '11

Filthy Lucre

Once again, it will be a hot and sweaty summer for Spurs fans as rich suitors flutter their eyelashes at the club’s prize assets and lure them with promises of riches beyond the dreams of avarice.

Luka Modric and Gareth Bale, arguably two of the best players in the premier league, have discovered that they enjoy playing the game at the highest level and on the biggest stage.  The only surprise is that anyone IS surprised by that at all!  But what about club loyalty I hear you cry, Spurs took massive gambles buying each of them, surely they have a debt to repay?

This sticky situation hits the headlines for two main reasons, assuming you ignore tribalism in football for one moment:-

  1. the vast sums of money involved
  2. the rather grubby public perception of football agents, bungs and alleged double payments

Well, how does that compare with the “Real World” we recruit for?  As executive search specialists our job is to find and place an expert from a competitor for our client.  Top talent will move from one business to another for more money or greater exposure on the world markets (or both).  Businesses become successful because their leadership set strategy and managers execute it, just the same as football, so what’s the difference?

In our world, just about every employment contract has a notice period, a get out clause that suits both parties, we are only paid by the client and there is no transfer fee paid to the donor company.… Read the rest

Jun '11

Share the Love Around!

What a great idea! 

We love the red hot news this morning that we, the public who have bailed out the banks, should become part owners in a grand gesture designed to restore our faith in the Financial Services Sector.  This seems wholly justified as every family has apparently contributed over £5,500 of our taxes to the rescue and we are taxed to the hilt as a result.

At the outset the average family will not quite break even but in the medium to longer term we expect both the public’s faith and, through that, the banks’ profits to return even if we won’t be able to retire to the West Indies on the profits.

One thought, as the bankers all seem to have been able to pay themselves bonuses as a result of our largesse, perhaps Cleggers might go one step further and exclude bankers themselves from any share distribution?… Read the rest

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