Qualifying success

I’m currently in-between receiving A-level results and GCSEs for my two kids. Having been through the exam period with them and now awaiting results, I’m reminded how frankly barbaric this process is. As a means of assessing potential and capability, it ranks up there with Russian roulette.

Having spent 25 years in the HR profession, I can’t think of a time when I have knowingly and meaningfully taken the school exam results of a job applicant into consideration. As a candidate I’ve never stated my exam results on my CV, nor have I been asked by a prospective employer to detail the grades or results.

Yet when I talk to my kids, they’re told that the exams and their results are critical to their success in life and in work. They’re told that if they don’t fulfil their potential in their exams, they won’t fulfil their potential in life and this is something that I’ve heard from other parents and young people from across the country. This belief is as dangerous as it is wrong.

As a long standing champion of disregarding educational qualifications in the recruitment process, I believe business has a big role to play in changing this dialogue. Our job is to identify potential, to seek out talent and to build capability – yet we know that there is no direct correlation between this an academic results or educational establishment. This is why not only should we fundamentally limit the use of academic qualifications in assessment, but we should be open and clear that we do.

Imagine a young person that has accepted the view that qualifications determine future success, receiving results that are below the average or below their expectations. At 16 or 18 they are building a belief system that is already closing down opportunities, they are already limiting their potential, when they’re not even a quarter of the way into their life.

Education is about learning, it’s about curiosity and growth. The moment it becomes about disappointment and containment, it has fundamentally lost its way.

 

Reasons to be cheerful

  1. We’re talking about gender pay – After a week of headlines about the BBC, this might not feel like a positive but the fact we are even having the conversation is. It is very easy to single out the BBC, but I wouldn’t mind betting that the details of their commercial rivals wouldn’t look any better – and potentially could look worse. And that’s before we turn our attention to other entertainment sectors – like sport. We have the introduction of gender pay reporting this year, which will also undoubtedly make headlines of the wrong sort. And whilst no-one can reasonably defend the differences – at least they’re starting to be highlighted, discussed and rectified.
  2. There’s a shift in routes into employment – As someone who has been banging on about this topic for the past six or seven years, I genuinely believe we are seeing a shift in the perception of routes into the labour market. The increasing cost of university education (of variable quality) combined with an improvement in the breadth and range of apprenticeships and more creative thinking by employers is starting to provide more routes and opportunities for young people.
  3. The immigration debate is getting more realistic – OK, I know this one is a little bit sensitive, but the rhetoric on immigration has changed substantially over the past months and there is an increasing understanding that immigration is necessary for the successful functioning of the British economy. Not just in terms of the “professional” classes, but across all labour groups. The end result of Brexit on the labour market isn’t known yet, but if you listen to the messages coming out from both sides of the political debate, there is an increasing consensus.
  4. The robots aren’t taking over the world – Well not yet, at least. I remember watching Tomorrow’s World in the 1970’s and 80’s and being fascinated by the fact that in my thirties I’d be travelling in some sort of hovercraft, whilst my robot workforce cared for my every need. Truth is, I’m in my forties, driving a Skoda and still having to do the washing up. There is no doubt that technology is advancing and in a good way, we just need to channel out the noise made by conference organisers and “gurus” who want to sensationalise the natural progression of technology in the workplace for their own economic ends.
  5. We’re having a better conversation about work – As I wrote last week, I believe the Taylor Review is a thoughtful contribution to the debate about working practices in the UK. We need to get beyond the “ban zero hours contracts” rhetoric and start to understand how we provide a balance between protection and flexibility. We need to start understanding how our “demand” as consumers impacts on the labour model that employers are increasingly needing to explore. If we want good and services around the clock at the tap of a screen, that requires us to think about our workforce planning. It cannot be without good protection and support, but the answer will only come out of discussion and thought – not from trying to roll back time.

The most entitled generation

They don’t care about the impression they make on other people.
They think everything evolves around them.
They don’t care about their reputation.
Yet they want constant acclaim.

Are they the most entitled generation that has ever existed?

The baby boomers.

Yes. The generation that has single handily robbed future generations of financial prosperity, of social equity, of political stability. I’m talking about my parents, their friends and the people they never will have met but they let commit these crimes against future generations.

I’m talking about the people that ripped the wealth out of businesses, that increased inequality. That were responsible for the financial crisis, the political and social unrest. The people that sold off our state treasures and bought reduced price shares for personal profit. That robbed us of our natural resources for financial gain.

I’m talking about the generation that has single handedly made sure that it benefitted from the best health service, but then made it unaffordable. That benefitted from a buoyant housing market, but then made it unaffordable. They benefited from free and subsidised higher education, but then made it unaffordable.

And I’m talking about the generation that has led the charge to isolation and exile. That wiped millions, if not billions off the pension funds of the next generation so they could live in a whimsical bubble of post war tea and spam sandwiches. That will remove the opportunity for the next generation and the one after that to enjoy the privileges that they have had, because of the fabricated fear of different faces – and the notional concept of “gaining control”.

The generation that doesn’t see the irony in the fact that most of them will be dead before the real ramifications of the decision are ever felt. Which in all this sorry mess, is the only upside.

You should all be ashamed. You did not do enough.

But then I say this. This is not your country, this is ours. This is not your future, this is ours. This will not be your vision, it will be ours. I tell you this,

We will make this right.

As your hips start to go and the catheters slip in. As the memory fades and the eyesight dims. As we push you quietly in to the corner to await your final moments.

We will sort this out. We will make this better. We will build a world and a society that will put you to shame. We will confine you to the history books as the most selfish, most entitled and most negligent generation ever. We will remember what you’ve done and always strive to be better than you.

We will undo what you’ve done and we will build anew.

And we will never, ever let this happen again.

 

NOTE: This was written on Friday, when emotion was high. But I’ve decided to post in full – realising that in places it may stray into vitriol. It was also before I saw this earlier post from my friend at Flipchart Fairytales. Which deals with issue much more sensibly.

I am legend

Here’s a question;

When you leave your organisation, will you leave it better or worse than you found it?

It’s a pretty pivotal test for all of us, even more so if you are a senior leader or a CEO.

Have you extracted more value to your organisation than you’ve added? Is it better for having had your presence? Will it be after you’ve gone?

The simple fact is that we are all caretakers. Our job is to leave our organisation in at least the same state as we found it and our focus and intention should be to leave it even better.

It isn’t easy. Our financial markets, our economic model compel us to extract value and to return it to shareholders. Our leaders are rewarded for it, in this imperfect model.

Even in not for profit organisations, the public and third sector. It is very easy for egos and personal agendas to cloud the perspective of leadership teams.

It doesn’t matter what circumstances our business is under, our thoughts should always be beyond our own safety and security, our own comfort, our own personal gain.

Our reward should not be in personal adulation, false empires or the trappings of power.

Our reward should be knowing we’ve left a sustainable legacy.

We should not put off the decisions, hide from the challenges or avoid the truths of today, but face them head on to create the hope for tomorrow.

When we leave our organisations, we should leave them ready for the next generation to build and grow. We should leave them fit, healthy and ready.

Judgment is not when we are in situ, but when we are not.

So when you’re facing a tough decision, a change, a need to repurpose, rethink and realign. Ask yourself not whether this suits the needs of now, but whether it has to be done for tomorrow.