Nice in Nice


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Words of wisdom at the Kelly & Schalk show

Me and my boy headed up to Old Albanians RFC clubhouse on a wet and windy weeknight for a Q & A session with Saracens stalwarts Schalk Brits and Kelly Brown. The evening was a charity fundraiser for the Hospice of St Francis; we put some money in the pot for a great cause and took away plenty of intel in terms of the tries and tribulations of the modern-day rugby professional.

Lots of good questions from an audience of rugby connoisseurs old and young, and some candid answers. Here’s a few of the messages I took away from the Kelly and Schalk show:

A question of culture. One of the questions from the audience was ‘what sets Saracens aside as a club’? Continuity in terms playing and management personnel, team ethos and doing things differently were some areas flagged by the two players. On this last point, a great example was preparing for a crucial game a few years back by taking the squad to the Munich beer festival. That’s a pretty different sort of heavy lifting!

When measuring performance, the little things count. One of the big factors is Saracens’ success is how individual performances are measured. When Schalk first joined the club, the coach was Brendan Venter who devised an intricate points system which totted up the specific contributions made by each player: kick chases, rucks, types of tackles made etc… As well as providing objective analysis, this was a way of recognising the often unseen contributions that all add up and make for a good team performance.

It’s all about process and hard work! The Saracens mantra is to focus on process and doing the right things; the outcome will take care of itself. Schalk and Kelly explained that players are encouraged to express themselves, if a technical mistake is made that’s the coach’s fault, they haven’t working on the right skills in training. What this means in practice is that players go out on the pitch with just one clear objective which is within their own control: work hard!

Living & breathing the growth mind-set mantra. The focus on rewording effort not talent, on not being afraid of failure but always learning from it and on using data to analyse performance are straight from the pages of Matthew Syed, Malcom Gladwell and Michael Lewis! You could argue that the Saracens success story is a living and breathing case study of growth mind-set and ‘Moneyball’ principles.

Things have changed on the rehydration front! As an interlude during the Q&A session, OAs club captain and host for the evening Chris Butterworth laid down a challenge: Which of the two Saracens men could down a pint first. The twist was that these were pints of mineral water. I tried to explain to my boy how this would have been unheard of in previous eras, when big men would sup down pints of strong ale for fun with the odd after-shave chaser!

So what else did we learn on this Wednesday night at Wollams? Kelly Brown is a great singer, Schalk Brits is a next gen front row forward who loves literary pod-casts and Chris Butterworth deserves to host his own late night chat show. Most of all, the chat around hard work, doing the right thing and enjoying your rugby were a great message for the younger generation in the room – as was the demonstration that you can be a professional sportsman at the top of your game and remain humble, approachable and always looking to learn.

Well worth being up late on a school night for, I reckon!

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All inclusive – Making things happen on the diversity agenda

Despite the change of administration following Theresa May’s anointment as Prime Minister and the flurry of new ministers, one thing has not changed: the government’s focus on providing more life chances for under-represented groups. This is a huge opportunity to showcase how employers and recruiters can make things happen when it comes to inclusive recruitment practices.

Earlier in the year I was invited onto the DWP’sDisability Confident’ steering group – a great platform for exchanging views with other business organisations, diversity experts and government officials. In parallel to the work on the disability agenda, we recently hosted a couple of rumbustious roundtables at REC HQ with the Minister for Pensions on opportunities for older workers and with Baroness McGregor Smith who is leading the review of career progression for BME applicants. These events were a great platform for government officials to engage directly with recruitment professionals and to take stock of where we are with the inclusion agenda.

There are some signs of progress – for example, 28% of REC members on a recent webinar poll reported that clients were more open to hiring to people with disabilities. However, the majority (67%) said that companies remain ‘fearful’ of hiring disabled people and it is clear that we have not yet reached a tipping point. During the recent BME roundtable, Baroness McGregor Smith bemoaned the fact that only a minority of FTSE 100 companies currently hold data on the ethnic breakdown of their workforce which makes it difficult to chart progress. Speaking at the same event, the Baroness also underlined the “crucial role that the recruitment sector can play in making change happen”.

In the words of Socrates “the secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new”. So, how can recruitment professionals help to build this brave new world of opportunities for all? Working with clients to embed inclusive recruitment practices is one of the building blocks and we will continue to foster this partnership approach through the REC’s Good Recruitment Campaign. Schemes like the Recruitment Industry Disability Initiative (RIDI) are a key means of showcasing good practice and recruiters will continue to provide practical feedback on proposed new initiatives like ‘name-blind’ applications.

Jobs transform lives. That’s why we’re building the best recruitment industry in the world and want to work with government to build the best jobs market in the world. Doing our bit on the inclusion agenda is part of this journey.


Note: A version of this blog appeared as an article in the October edition of Recruitment Matters.


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Getting in with the in-crowd

Fair to say, it’s been an interesting time on the political front. If the last few months had been written up as an ‘In the thick of it’ style political satire, the script would have been dismissed as the work of a deranged fantasist!

As well as taking stock of the EU referendum vote, the last few weeks have focused on engaging with the legions of incoming ministers. What are some of the key factors at play when it comes to building links with the new in-crowd? The fact that the REC represents over 80% of the UK recruitment industry by turnover is an important marker and our commitment to professional standards and to working with government to drive effective enforcement is also an important bridge-builder. Our jobs market data and regular research are also key to positioning our voice on key labour market challenges facing the incoming administration.

Our core message is that we are ready to work with government to build a post-EU jobs market that provides opportunities for individuals and gives UK businesses the skills they need to compete on a global level. REC members have told us that retaining membership of the single market would boost business confidence and have underlined the need for clarity on the status of EU workers already in the UK. Our data shows that even before the referendum, candidate shortages were a major problem in many sectors. So we will be impressing on the new ministers that the need to ensure that recruiters can access the people they need has not changed.

Over the coming months and years, government will be in a position to review EU-based regulations. However, the steer from REC members is that the priority should be to re-evaluate domestic employment and tax regulations currently in the pipeline, such as IR35 and the apprenticeship levy. We need to create the best possible regulatory landscape, one that facilitates growth and job creation whilst maintaining effective enforcement to protect the interests of compliant businesses.

We are starting from a strong base and our ongoing influencing work has involved giving evidence over recent weeks to the Low Pay Commission and to the Work & Pensions Select Committee. Our aim is to help build a successful post-EU jobs market; the insight of REC members will continue to drive our messages to the in-crowd of incoming ministers.

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