We are as we act, even at Christmas

Many, many years ago as a young student activist campaigning against the apartheid regime in South Africa I learnt a lesson about consumer politics that has stayed with me to this day. At the time we were handing out leaflets outside of a high street brand that was known to sell jewellery made from South African gold, at time when there was a voluntary boycott in place. The store manager came out and politely but firmly asked whether we knew the provenance of the clothes we were wearing, whether the conditions in the factories were ethical and whether there was any abuse of workers in the supply chain.

1-0 to the store manager.

The fact that almost thirty years later I’m still rehearsing the arguments I should have used is in some way testimony to the massive contradictions and tensions that exist in consumer politics. It is almost impossible to be entirely clean. There is always a trade off. And yet that shouldn’t be an excuse for inaction or used as some moral get out of jail free card.

Every action, every purchase is in some ways a political act. The topic comes to mind as I think about the preparations for the Christmas period. I’ve written before about the treatment of shop workers by angry Christmas shoppers. Young people who are paid minimum wage, not provided with proper training or uniform and then pushed out in front of the masses who are busy, anxious and pressurised. How we choose to act towards them is a reflection on ourselves and not them.

But it also relates to our arguments about the demise of the High Street as we shop on our phones. How we rage against work insecurity and zero hours contract as we wait for the same day delivery. How we worry about single use plastics as we order unnecessary and unneeded presents for people we don’t really like.

Of course no-one can be entirely righteous and one persons actions can’t change the whole, but we can choose to act in line with our own moral compasses, wherever they may point, and challenge ourselves when there are contradictions between our beliefs and our choices. Simply, we are defined not by our words, but by our actions. And at this time of the year too often we act in a way which falls short of our own moral standards.

All in the name of Christmas.

And on that thought I’m going to check out for a couple of weeks and come back at the beginning of the new year and the new decade when I’m sure there will be countless articles on new years resolutions, “look aheads” and “look backs” to rip into. In the meantime, however you choose to celebrate (or not) this Christmas time, I wish you peace, love, kindness and safety.

Peace out.



Recruiting stupidity

Sometimes we get an unexpected lens on the profession. Too often we look from our own position of knowledge and insight and not often enough do we put ourselves in the shoes of a user, whether as an employee or candidate. We talk about “candidate experience” and the role of technology in providing this and  we applaud ourselves on the implementation of systems that improve our speed to hire.

And then we have the chance to look at it from the position of the candidate.

I had this opportunity to do this recently as my daughter applied for Christmas temporary roles with some of the biggest brands on the high street. And I’m here to tell you that your approach well and truly sucks.

Hold in your mind that we are talking about temporary roles here. Maybe four or five weeks. We are talking part time, low paid, customer service roles. We are generally talking about roles that get little training or direction and that are insecure and  disposable.

Which of course is why you need to have an application process that takes on average an hour per role, that includes psychometric testing and situational judgment tests and that results in a standard email telling you that someone will contact you. Which they never do.

Could it be that she just has bad luck? Maybe. But when I talk to her friends they all have experienced the same treatment. And two years ago I had the same experience with my son, resulting in this brilliant message exchange (it was January).


So of course, your brand just looks a bit stupid and a bit out of touch. When you’re 16, 17, 18 you don’t understand why companies use such laborious and clunky approaches and particularly not as part of an exchange that doesn’t feel fair. You want me to complete all these hoops and hurdles for a minimum wage job with a life expectancy of weeks? No thank you very much.

So yes, it might make life easier for your resourcing teams, but frankly it makes you look stupid. Many years ago I was responsible for recruiting 20,000 Christmas temps for a UK wide high street brand. We put posters up in store asking candidates to speak to the manager inside – ridiculously old school, but funnily, that always seemed to work. And the candidate ALWAYS got to speak to a human being.

Now that’s candidate experience.




The questions for 2016

No, don’t worry…..it’s not a predictions post. I’ll leave that to Laurie and others who’ll do it better.

It’s nearly Christmas and I’m done. I could crack out another couple of posts for you on a Monday morning, but frankly I’m tired and you’re tired of me.

I don’t blame you.

I’m off to reflect for a few weeks, recharge the batteries and come back with more inane babbling and half baked ideas in 2016.

In the meantime, here’s the stuff that’s going to be going round in my head,

  • Is technology the driver of our low productivity?
  • Will wellbeing be the end of engagement?
  • Should you only allow people to recruit who have a growth mindset?
  • Will the Living Wage result in an increasing geographical divide?
  • How do we get a grand coalition of disciplines to tackle the future of work?
  • Are we living in increasingly changing times, or do we just have more information?
  • If Big Data is the future, when is it going to dish up some answers?

And of course, in these festive times…..as an atheist, does my insurance cover an act of God?

More on this anon. Have a wonderful festive period, enjoy the break and allow others to enjoy it too.

Peace out.

Give me a break

It’s that time of year again when we’re all starting, or thinking about starting, our Christmas break. The jumpers have been worn, the sherry drunk and the Christmas misdemeanours almost, ALMOST forgotten. It’s time for a break. A well earned rest.

And yet, whilst we all yearn for a break, I’m not so sure we give each other the same respect.

Meetings scheduled for the first couple of days back, reports sent on the last day before the holidays, actions completed and requirements passed on.

Because we need to get this off our list, off our backs and settle down for a Christmas break.

The thing is, have you thought about the person that you’re sending that email on to? The one that receives that report the day they are due to go on holiday, or has an important meeting land in the diary for their first day back?  Is this about getting things off your list, or do things really need to happen?

Are you making sure that those around you have a decent break too?

And it isn’t just about our work. What about those people working in the shops, for the courier firms, keeping our transport system going, our lights on and our internet working? Answering our calls and dealing with our queries, helping us to…..well switch off.

As you go away for your well deserved break, ask yourselves what you could do to give other people a break. At work, at home, when you’re out shopping, or dealing with that last minute issue. How do you want them to feel over the holidays, how do you want them to wake up on Christmas day?

Respect isn’t a once a year phenomenon, but once a year we can focus on how we can do more.

Enjoy your break and let other people around you enjoy it too. They may be working, but it doesn’t mean you have to make their lives harder. They may be off, but it doesn’t mean you need to make sure they’re thinking about the return.

Take a break and give others a break too.

It’s what we all deserve.

I’ll be back in the New Year with more ramblings and general grumpiness. Until then.

Peace out.