Any questions… Sort your life out!

any questions?.001In the next part of Karen’s series she suggests some considerations for how you approach your career future… That said these questions can equally apply to your life… Get busy with them and see how happy you really are and whether you need a change in your life…

Over to Karen…
“If you are contemplating your job / career and the future, you might want to take stock and to ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • Why do you work? – for money / financial necessity? Status? Personal fulfilment? To fill the time? To socialise? Because others expect or need you to?
  • What about the financial side of things? How much do you need to bring in to get by?
  • Are you content to ‘get by’ financially or do you want / need more than that? (would you choose to have a bit less money but more work / life balance, for example?)
  • What do you like about your job? What motivates to go in to work each day? (hopefully there is at least one thing here, if not that tells you a lot….)
  • What don’t you like about your job?
  • How would you feel if you were still doing the same job in one / three/ five years’ time?
  • What can you do to change your job / work to address the things you don’t like? (if you don’t try, you shouldn’t just moan about it…..)
  • If you can’t change things, what will you do?
  • What happens if you leave your current job? What else is out there for you to do?
  • What is your plan B if things don’t go as you hoped?

So what are your answers to the questions above? I now know what mine are….”

What the Election results mean for employment, pensions and immigration law

 

POST-ELECTION ANALYSIS:

After last Thursday’s unexpected election result with the Conservatives winning a small, but outright, majority Amelore look at their key proposals based on their manifesto and key pledges:

EMPLOYMENT

The main points are:

  • Exclusivity clauses in zero hours contracts will be banned at a date to be decided
  • Industrial action will require a turnout of at least 50% of union membership and support from a minimum of 40% of those entitled to vote in strike ballots in respect of core public services
  • The provisions which prevent employers from recruiting agency workers to cover employees on strike will be repealed
  • Companies with more than 250 employees will be required to publish their gender pay gap information to be introduced by March 2016
  • To accept the recommendations of the Low Pay Commission which means the NMW is on course to increase to over £8 per hour by 2020. They will also support the Living Wage and will encourage businesses who can afford it to pay it
  • Entitlement to three days paid volunteering leave per year will be introduced for those working for large employers or in the public sector
  • A British Bill of Rights will be introduced to replace the Human Rights Act 1995

This also means that for the moment employment tribunal fees will not be abolished and neither will employee shareholder status.

PENSIONS

As ever, pensions remains a political topic. The Conservative Party manifesto is to reduce pensions tax relief for higher earners – those with earnings over £150,000. As well as causing administrative complexities, this is noteworthy because for the first time this will break the link between tax rates and tax reliefs. The manifesto is light on detail so it is difficult to know at this stage exactly what the changes will involve. However, the hope is that a pro-active minister will be appointed to implement these changes.

In addition, the Tory aim to implement more devolution to Scotland means that this is likely to lead to there being changes to taxation in Scotland. This will result in further complexities in the taxation of pensions and further complexities in how they are administered – none of which is welcome.

IMMIGRATION

The main points are:

      • Keeping net migration in the tens of thousands and not in the hundreds of thousands
      • For economic migration they will maintain the cap of 20,700 (for Tier 2 General restricted sponsorship applications)
      • Clamping down on illegal immigration and abuse of minimum wage
      • Employers regularly using the shortage occupation list to sponsor workers in the UK will need to provide long term training plans for training “British” workers
      • Implementing changes to the student visa system
      • Enhancing border security and strengthening enforcement of immigration rules
      • Develop a fund to ease pressure on local areas and public services experiencing unexpected volumes of immigration some of which will go on enforcement
      • Controlling migration from the EU by reforming welfare rules
      • Introducing an English language test and maintenance requirements for non EEA spouses of EEA nationals

Finally, given that much of our UK legislation on employment, pensions and immigration issues originates from the EU the most significant change under the new Tory government could be the proposed in-out EU referendum which is due to take place by the end of 2017.

Watch this space…

Diversity strikes back

Today has been an interesting day in politics and not one that the opinion polls or the press predicted.

However you voted there is one fact that we can all celebrate.

The results once the 650 seats declared show female MPs make up 30 per cent of Parliament, an increase of 23 per cent since 2010.

That is just AMAZING NEWS!houses_of_parliament

So despite the results of the 2015 general election being divisive, the growing number of women in Parliament is one thing the British public will surely agree is an improvement.

The gender mix is getting closer to actually representing the electorate.

Today 191 female MPs have been elected which is the biggest increase since 1997 – the year when Tony Blair was famously photographed with 101 women Labour MPs after he was elected as Prime Minister.

And Mhairi Black for the Scottish National Party is now the youngest elected politician in Britain. A YOUNG WOMAN! How exciting!

So will women making up a third of parliament influence how it governs and the decisions it makes? And the age range starting to lower?

I have observed that bringing women into all male or male dominated environments is always positive.

Both sexes tend to behave better when there is a gender mix and men especially are less angry or aggressive when there are women present.

Women are great at being thoughtful courageous leaders. Yes they work hard, always strive for 110% and are critical of their own performance. But that just adds an exciting dynamic to the mix and creates some healthy competition raising standards.

Women also tend to work smarter and flexibly. They are more discerning about their time and may challenge the long hours and drinking culture we know is prevalent as it is not family friendly or healthy. And what will Westminster do about everyday sexism? Will they allow it or will they deal with it?

What also interests me having worked in the City which can be a bit like a male public school and having often observed that parliament can behave like that, is how increasing women, may challenge some of this outdated behavior.

And what of things like the MP’s expenses issue and how that was handled. Will more women around effect greater change to deal with such matters in a fair and transparent manner. And to challenge outdated and strange practices in a helpful and progressive manner?

I am confident that with female MP’s numbers increasing it will add momentum and I hope MP’s will work together across all parties to improve how we are all governed. That is something that will benefit us all and that we can be positive about.

Good luck to everyone that was re-elected or newly elected today.

Should I stay or should I go now…?

The ClashWhile Karen is settling into her new life in France here are her thoughts about her decision for the Grand Depart…

“We spend a large proportion of our waking time at work, travelling to work and thinking about work. But does it make us happy? In my experience managers and HR professionals often find themselves giving career advice to other people but don’t always apply the same advice to themselves. Due to the busy-ness of many management and HR roles and the focus on other people rather than themselves, it often means we don’t always have the opportunity to take stock and evaluate where our own career is, where it is going and what we actually want it to be now and in the future.

Is there actually such a thing as one career or a job for life now?   Even during my time in HR there has been a shift that means that there isn’t. Sometimes this happens for reasons outside of people’s control, such as redundancy, but it also happens because people take an active decision to make a change. Surely it is better to choose to make a change than continue in a job that you don’t like, no longer motivates you or no longer fits with your life/responsibilities? This doesn’t necessarily mean leaving where you work, but it could involve changing some aspects of the job you do.

It is rare that people change jobs too early, but often they will stay in a job or with an organisation for too long, getting more frustrated and unhappy as time passes. This can be really destructive and not healthy – so if you are thinking it’s time for a change, then it probably is, (a former team member, really brought this home to me a few years ago….)

There are lots of reasons why I chose to take a career break now but what has been really interesting is people’s reactions to my decision – the reactions have varied a lot. As you would expect there has been some very positive reactions (‘Wow! Lucky you, moving to France…’) and also some negative ones (‘you are choosing to give up a well- paid, secure job – why?!) – and they haven’t always been from the people I would have necessarily predicted them coming from. Certainly people’s reactions have been a lesson in their own right but that shouldn’t stop you from making the decision that is right for you.

For me, I chose go! It has been about taking a personal decision to make a positive change for the future. I see it as an opportunity to take stock of what I want from my job and career and am looking forward to a complete change of scene. Rather than seeing the ‘bad’ side of people that sometimes a career in HR or perhaps being a manager can predispose you to, I am looking forward to working with people because I enjoy working with people. Let’s see how much the ‘Happy Holidays’ customers remind me that I am a people person really and how often I get to use my HR skills and experience…”

Karen

 

 

It’s 2015 – but my interviewer wanted to know how I’d juggle work and motherhood. An alternative response…

Many of you will know that I used to reply to the Dear Jeremy readers problems a lot as ExBrightonBelle and then started doing it formally for Moneywise magazine after Mark King left the Guardian.

I don’t deny I’d love to return and become ‘Dear Ruth’ (when Jeremy retires) but I don’t think he has any plans to as is his legal right and correctly so.

The thing is I think (despite my personal interest) that many of his responses are very off message for a paper like The Guardian and in fact this one today is just plain sexist.

Have a read – of the problem – Jeremy’s response and mine and tell me what you think.
It’s 2015 – but my interviewer wanted to know how I’d juggle work and motherhood

I recently had an interview at a well-respected commercial organisation. I have ample relevant experience for the position and felt that the interview was going well during the section where I was asked technical questions, gave a presentation and had to answer questions related to my field of work.
I was interviewed by two men (I am female). I was asked by one of them how I would cope with the work bearing in mind I have two children – I had disclosed this in my application form only to explain a short gap in my career.

I was stunned to be asked this in 2015, and while I wanted to challenge them by asking whether they were putting the same question to male candidates I answered along the lines of “Fine, obviously, or I would not have applied for this position as I am not stupid and have worked since my children were small”.

The interview continued and it was made clear that successful candidates would be chosen largely on whether they would “fit in” with the organisation and other staff. I have yet to hear whether or not I have been successful.

Leaving aside the issue of whether I want to work for an organisation that asks such questions in interviews, I am not sure whether and how to raise the issue with the company. If I am unsuccessful I do not want to appear that I am acting out of “sour grapes”, but I feel very angry that I was asked such a question when I suspect male candidates would not have been. I feel that future female candidates should not be put in such a position and this large organisation should know better than to interview in such a way.

How do I, and should I, raise this issue with the organisation in question?

Jeremy (says….)
 
I have every sympathy for your feelings and understand your reaction, but I’m afraid I am not going to agree with the intensity of your response. You may think that this is because I, too, am a man, and you may be right. But I hope you’ll at least give some open-minded thought to my reply.
 
At a cool, factual level, it is indisputably the case that when women are carrying the majority duties of bringing up young children they need to be more inventive than their male partners in programming their various work and home responsibilities.
 
And when a child’s illness or demands from school intervene, it is often the mother rather than the father who chooses (or is chosen) to do the necessary juggling – which may well have a brief impact on her timekeeping. Most are skilled at covering or working late, and take pride in ensuring that the impact on work is minimal. This allocation of responsibilities between parents may be unfair and may well be unnecessary – but it’s certainly not uncommon.
 
The male interviewer who asked you how you would cope bearing in mind that you had two children was certainly guilty of clumsiness and insensitivity – but to his not very empathetic mind, he was simply acknowledging an understood reality and wanting to know how you managed it. In that respect I honestly don’t see that there was anything inherently offensive about his question. I think your immediate reaction was a bit extreme, and I fear this reaction may have disproportionately coloured your view of the entire company.
 
Whether or not you’re offered this job – and let’s hope you are – I suggest you write a measured letter to your main contact there. Explain the reasons for your writing though more temperately than in your letter to me. Simply and helpfully suggest that such a question, however tactfully phrased, could well deter excellent female candidates from wanting to join. Even if you don’t get the job, that won’t sound like sour grapes.

Ruth says:

I’m sorry to hear about this and can well understand your anger. Sexism like this that is sadly experienced everyday in the workplace reinforcing the past when men were in charge and women could at best do small unskilled part-time jobs.

I had my first child when I was 19. I didn’t go to university as a result and instead began working for American Express who even then (1988) had a Non Graduate Development programme as well as one for Graduates. This meant my career progressed rapidly and I relocated to the City doing a number of senior HR roles. I never told my employers in investment banking that I was a mother as I knew they wouldn’t have hired me and even if they had, they would have treated me differently and expected less. So I’ve been a working mother for my entire career.

Jeremy Bullmore will never have experienced sexism like this. Ever. Though he almost certainly will have been part of it. Sexism that means whatever you do, how ever hard you work, you are still just a single mother. Or a woman. It is a very distressing experience and makes women very angry. And some men I am pleased to say (view twitter today). Now I have my own business where it is my husband who works part-time as he is the main carer to our two young children. All our employees have children and work flexibly and I actually prefer it as they give me 110%.

But there are still men in the corporate workplace that think that if women have children they are worth less, can do less, should be paid less but luckily we work in the UK and it is 2015. Such attitudes are against the law. The Equality Act to be precise. The clue being in the title.

You say the organisation you wanted to work for was large and commercial. Well I’d say they weren’t commercial on two counts.

Firstly to remain commercial they need to hire talented driven people. That has to include female as well as male employees. Clearly, they treat women differently from men and the fact they were so happy to share their attitudes with you, during an interview, with no fear of recourse gave you a much needed flavor of the environment you nearly worked in. A bit like an attractive man making a small racist comment on a first date. It’s called ‘unconscious bias’ and that organisation will probably have a big problem with it.

Secondly, it’s a bit of a waste of money to risk having to pay financial compensation to people like you who will have an excellent case, whether they offer you the job or not, for discrimination on the grounds of your sex. There is no way they have asked men the same questions and are therefore treating you less favourably in the interview process. The comments about hiring you if they felt you fitting in sounded very much like the old “does your face fit culture” (well it probably won’t if you are female and have children).

All of that said I do think a letter, carefully worded, unemotional, cool and factual, to the CEO is in order. He (I’m taking a wild guess here) needs to know that he has a problem. He may want to do an independent investigation and possible actions may include all his managers being training on how to conduct a proper interview. It may be they don’t know what is or isn’t acceptable but the HR team should be aware and managing and monitoring the situation. It’s just not competitive to turn off talent in this way and I would hope he would understand that.

Whether you go a step further and make a claim to an Employment Tribunal is up to you. I think any action should be about trying to influence and change behavior. It would be public, so terrible PR for them but you need to find a job. So think it over and take advice. They would probably offer to settle the claim. I certainly would if I was their HR Director.

You sound very articulate and highly employable but not someone to thrive in a stifling male dominated environment. Find an employer that is more progressive and be glad you had this experience to help you avoid working for a company you may have been pretty unhappy in.

Good luck!

New Job? Follow these 7 key points to make it a runaway success!

firstdayCongratulations! You may be reading this because you have recently accepted a new role or started one. Perhaps you are talking to a potential new employer or maybe thinking about that next role.

Whatever stage you are, read our top tips to make your first 100 days a firm foundation for another significant and exciting stage of your career journey.

  1. Work out what you are there to do

Might sound like crazy advice but it’s not. When employers start writing job descriptions or talking to headhunters they start to believe that there is a person out there that can do everything that is written down, much of which will be aspirational or someone else’s job or just plain impossible. Your task in week 1 is to work out what they are actually realistically expecting so you can deliver. Quickly.

  1. Identify the key people to know

This won’t be the obvious, that is for sure. Hopefully your boss is seen as a key mover and shaker but you need to know. You may have been hired to replace your boss and everyone knows it but you. It’s reasonably common. Who are the people that influence corporate thinking? Ask people. Get in their diary. Who is constantly mentioned, who knows everyone and can help you with the stuff not written down but critical? Might be the long-serving PA of the MD or someone on reception or without a glamorous job title. Or even someone external or that has left.

  1. Get to know your team – properly

This is an area that people can really get very right or very wrong. If you are being paid to manage people make it your business to get close to them quickly. Find out what makes them tick, what motivates them, what frustrates them and what they can and can’t do. Dive in deep to understand how they are doing things. If they are good they will appreciate it and if they aren’t on top of things, you need to know. Fast! If your team is happy, it’s good PR for you in the same way that if they aren’t and morale dips, it will almost certainly be terminal for you.

  1. Brand is important. Very important.

Lots of talk at the moment about ‘brands’. You need to quickly get into the DNA of your new company and properly understand it. If there are still founders this is all the more critical as not being 100% on brand will be a barb in their side. But also think about your Personal Brand as it’s how people get to know you – the individual they have hired or are working for. What are you going to wear? (Sometimes people take the opportunity of a new job to have an image makeover. It’s a great time to do it. Men and women!) What hours are you going to work? How contactable are you going to be outside the office? How will you treat people? What practices or customs are you going to introduce? What are your values and how will people see them?

  1. Communication strategy

Seriously you need one. It’s a big area. What is your tone of voice on email? Are you going to bash out sloppy ones with typos or be more considered? How quickly are you going to reply? Or will someone else? Whatever your speed of response you will set expectations. Are you clear about what you will talk about face to face or on the phone and what you email? Who will you copy in? How will you store or file emails. It needs some serious consideration especially if your new role is more senior or more demanding. The volume will increase and having a PA may actually make it harder initially as you need to lead and establish a system from Day 1. Ask yourself whether you are going to become another slave to corporate emails or recognize they are other people’s priorities and keep them in their place?

  1. Be clear on the governance and your responsibilities

This is something that can derail people. Not knowing what they are signing or the ethos or corporate structure behind a document. When you are new you can make it your job to properly understand things and challenge if necessary. Don’t sign something to be helpful if you don’t understand why you are doing it. It could end badly for you.

  1. Consider enlisting some external support

Depending on how you were hired, you may have been in contact with external professionals (psychologists, coaches, external HR consultants, head-hunters) who got to understand you and the company you were going to work for. It may be something to consider so you have an external sounding board that can support you. Pretty much everyone at every level benefits from this especially if you engage someone before you join so they can help negotiate favourable terms for you. Well worth considering.

Good luck in your new role. Enjoy it and make those first 100 days really count!