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Supporting Emerging Talent: Mental Health in Young Workers…by Liz Watt

An article I read recently by Barbara Harvey, an MD at Accenture Research about supporting the mental health of young people entering the workplace, really resonated with me:

It seems of fundamental importance to me that businesses take the mental health of their new joiners and emerging talent seriously. The world of work is ever more challenging, and the expectations on Generation Z as they enter the workplace are high. These people are our leaders of the future and so ensuring we have a healthy, happy and robust pipeline of talent able to take on the professional and environmental challenges of a post-Brexit landscape is a bit of a no-brainer.

In the Coaching and mentoring work I do, I come across a number of recurring themes that this strata of the workforce talk about. Issues include:

  • Imposter syndrome
  • How to balance a burgeoning career with family life
  • Caring responsibilities / creating a manageable life balance
  • Financial pressures – student loan debt, house purchase affordability, lack of saving and investment
  • Anxiety around business imperatives such as business development, networking, dealing with confrontation
  • Career management, how to make a positive impact, developing your personal ‘brand’

Of course, many of these issues are not new and those of us who have been in the workplace for some years will have come across variations on these themes many times over. However, I think that there are added pressures on this generation’s shoulders, not least that they can expect to experience a much longer working life, non-linear career paths and quite possibly a number of changes of career direction throughout their working lives. Then there the is the relentless nature of social media which means you are constantly on-call. And let’s not underestimate the impact of an uncertain political and social landscape.

Harvey’s article suggests 3 key actions that can be taken to help tackle this issue. I would agree that all of these are very relevant.

To these, I would add:

  • Introducing 1-to-1 coaching programmes at a much earlier stage of career development. Historically, Coaching has been seen as the preserve of senior or board level executives, but I would argue that introducing coaching at a much earlier stage would provide young employees with a safe space to discuss and find solutions to issues that are concerning them. Harnessing technology to deliver on-line coaching programmes can make such initiatives more widely accessible and cost-effective.
  • Establishing and supporting networking groups, discussion groups, industry related forums and events – anything that will encourage people new to the workplace to establish networks with their peers and extend their connections in ‘real-life’.
  • Mentoring schemes within organisations, including upward-mentoring. These encourage 2-way knowledge sharing and break down barriers in a multi-generational workplace. I am always amazed at the lack of communication that can exist within businesses and sharing ideas and encouraging positive communication amongst all employees has got to be one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways of fostering open and healthy dialogue amongst colleagues.

The fact that so many people in the public eye are prepared to speak up about their own mental health challenges – from royalty to sports stars and celebrities – has got to be a good thing. However, it’s important that we whilst we appreciate their candour, we don’t forget to look closer to home and recognise that our colleagues and co-workers might be labouring under similar challenges. We can’t applaud those in the public eye if we don’t extend the same support and generosity to those we’re with every day.

So my challenge is this: What could be the one action you could take to help support a younger colleague who might be facing a mental health challenge?

If you would like to discuss any of these issues for yourself or your team, please contact me at :

Mental Health

Retaining Talent – Do you measure up? by Liz Watt

One of the key issues facing businesses today is attracting the right talent, especially in niche markets, and vast amounts of time and money are spent on creating a compelling brand to lure the brightest and the best to say ‘yes’.

However, what happens then? Do your company’s brand values, so carefully constructed in attracting talent, follow through once the honeymoon period is over? According to a recent survey conducted by Glassdoor – , they found that employees increasingly value company culture over cash. Providing gimmicky perks is no longer enough – the survey demonstrates that that the three biggest drivers of employee satisfaction are a clear mission, high-quality senior leadership and career opportunities. These factors are set to drive talent retention in 2020.

Adding another layer of complexity to the talent retention agenda is balancing the requirements of a multi-generational workforce – Generation Z at one end, and at the other end, those who may well be working well into their 60’s and beyond. Add into the mix career returners, employees taking parental leave and you have a truly diverse workplace population. This is great on so many levels, as it brings a rich blend of experience to the workplace, but the challenge for the employer is to understand the requirements of each of these groups and offer them the incentives and support that will retain their talent, and all the while creating a harmonious workplace environment that fairly supports all. No mean feat!

As 24/7 working lifestyles have become the norm, employees are increasingly looking for an employer who will recognise the challenges this brings and support them in managing the balance of their work and personal lives. This reaches across generations. Examples of strategies demonstrating a commitment to retention include:

  • The quid pro quo for being available 24/7 is that the employee has access to first rate technologies and systems to ensure easy access to work as and when needed. The ability to work flexibly without raising eyebrows about commitment, treating employees as adults with the capacity to manage their work and domestic commitments in a responsible fashion.
  • An effective and far reaching wellness programme that offers real support – so this doesn’t just mean a fruit bowl on the desk and the occasional talk about mental health. It means a properly thought through programme that has C-suite backing and has demonstrable options to support physical, mental and financial wellbeing at all life stages. Forward thinking employers are offering a pot from which the employee can select the options that are best suited to their particular circumstances, and that support their personal health and wellness goals. Making it easy to access schemes through effective digital programmes is crucial.
  • A diversity and inclusion programme that supports all employees within the organisation, and crucially, that the actions of the business are in line with the public statements that the business puts out on its website and social media platforms. Pay lip service to this issue at your peril!
  • The opportunity for continued learning and development. This doesn’t necessarily mean technical or job-related training. It could be a programme that supports personal development in an area of interest to the individual, development of language skills, Executive Coaching, soft skills training – the list is endless. The key point is that the opportunity for life-long learning is proven to have long term physical and mental health benefits.
  • Tailored support at key ‘points of change’ – for example, preparation for promotions and support once promotion is achieved, post maternity / paternity leave, return from long term health absence, pre-retirement planning.

Employee retention is a constantly evolving issue and one that the best employers, whatever their size, are playing close attention to.

We are operating in a resource constrained environment that is set to get tougher. The blurring of lines between work and personal life means that the workplace experience has to be different, and a multigenerational workforce means that a ‘one size fits all’ strategy is no longer enough. So whatever your business size and budget, it is vital that you think creatively about how you retain the talent you have fought so hard to attract.

If you would like to review your retention strategies in more detail, please contact me for a confidential discussion :

Retaining Recruit

Executive Coaching at BLT….by Liz Watt

As BLT Executive Coaching begins its 4th year of operations, it seems like a good time to remind existing and prospective clients of BLT – whether in the Indirect Tax or the Management Consultancy space – what this service adds to BLT’s core recruitment business.

BLT has always believed in delivering ‘inch wide, mile deep’ recruitment expertise, working closely with clients and candidates to deliver a bespoke, tailored service.   Whilst fully subscribing to all the benefits that technology and social media bring to the recruitment process, our business is still people-centric and we firmly believe that developing close business relationships with our clients and candidates enables us to deliver a top class recruitment service that is relevant to 2020 and beyond.

The People agenda is a key business driver for all organizations large and small, and to win the war for talent, the best businesses are building an environment that values diversity and attracts the right people to grow their business. Hiring and retaining people who fit the company’s culture and share its purpose and vision will be crucial to success in this new decade.

And likewise, individuals expect the business they work for to support their personal and professional development and provide the tools they need to help them at all stages of their career journey.

BLT want to provide a range of relevant services that assist clients and individuals achieve their goals and this is where Coaching comes in. It is now recognized that Coaching can be a powerful tool at all stages of the career journey – it is no longer the preserve of Senior or Board level executives, so the addition of an Executive Coaching Division was an obvious step.

Examples of situations in which Coaching can have a real impact include:

  • Help rising talent reach their full potential at earlier stage
  • Target specific areas for career and personal development
  • Develop the talent and potential of those in leadership roles
  • Improve the performance and effectiveness of Managers and Senior Leaders
  • Facilitate change in attitude and behaviour to ensure people deliver on desired results
  • Build effective teams that ultimately contribute to bottom line improvements
  • Manage the transition arising from promotion or new employment (First 90 Day Coaching)
  • Provide a sounding board for senior management
  • Tackle deep rooted patterns of behaviour which may inhibit growth

BLT Coaching is a discrete service line, but it links in with BLT’s brand values and mission to enable individuals to achieve their career goals, and businesses to acquire and retain the best talent.

BLT Executive Coaching is led by me, Liz Watt. Before retraining as an Executive Coach I enjoyed a long career as a recruitment consultant with BLT. So I understand the demands of the businesses and individuals who work within professional service firms, corporates and consultancies. This informs my work as a Coach, and really makes a difference to what I can bring to my clients and the businesses that sponsor their coaching programmes. Given my background, I have a particular expertise in managing transitions at all stages of the career cycle, Career coaching and helping individuals negotiate their transition into retirement.

If you would like to find out more about BLT Executive Coaching and the coaching programmes i run, please contact Liz Watt :



What next for UK Aid? by Tariq Siraj

The future of DFID has been a talking point ever since the idea of bringing it under the umbrella of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office was mooted in 2018 and 2019. Since Boris Johnson’s resounding election victory in December it then seemed a matter of ‘if’ rather than ‘when’. However if the most recent reports are to be believed it seems that DFID will remain as a stand-alone department in its own right, but perhaps lose a dedicated secretary of state – currently Alok Sharma – and instead be handed to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

The long-term future of DFID has actually been up in the air since mid-2016; the Brexit result – as it did with so much else – created a ton of uncertainty. Since then, International Development advisories have been trying to shake off an over-reliance on DFID projects and instead expanding their scope more and more to the myriad of other national, regional and global aid funding institutions and banks. As the growing assumption is of a diminishing level of importance for DFID, that will probably prove to be a sound approach.

But what will DFID’s role actually be? If it loses a dedicated head and cheerleader then the feeling is that it’s £14 billion budget will simply be enveloped into the FCO’s wider portfolio and DFID’s impact as a globally-admired aid entity will be no more. Keeping it’s status as a stand-alone department no more than an empty gesture to appease those championing it.   However, recent history tells us that there are a few ways such a policy can end up…

In 2013 both Australia and Canada merged aid and foreign policy departments with offering results. The fairly reckless nature of Australian government’s move – which took everyone by surprise – resulted in a clash of cultures which still exists today and a loss of strategic vision around the use of aid, transparency and evaluation capacity. In Canada the move was planned far more in advance and has had positive results regarding efficiencies and less of a shock to the system culturally – but the over-arching view seems to be a negative one and that aid has become to politicised and influenced by foreign policy strategies.

Norway then followed suit in 2014 – again to fundamentally keep closer control over aid operations in the face of an ever growing budget and level of autonomy.  Norway implemented a hybrid model which has left NORAD semi-autonomous and many feel leaves the programme in limbo.

So what should the UK do? Most experts believe the motivation itself is key in driving a successful transition and whether there is genuine will to keep development interests separate from national self-interests. The UK’s aid budget is legally ringfenced at 0.7% of GDPR and one would hope the long-in-the-making policy will create a smoother cultural transition – but fundamentally a merger itself will surely signal a decline in DFID’s standing around the world as a model development agency. British leadership and influence more generally in the developing world has been declining and maybe DFID – as a benchmark to others of how to do things properly – is exactly what’s needed as we enter the slightly unknown world beyond Brexit.

by Tariq Siraj


Is sleep the answer to a healthier life? by Catriona Cookson

I noticed over the last few weeks as we left one year and entered another, there was a lot of coverage about sleep and how important it is, not just important but really important! I heard the Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation asked on television “What is the one thing we could all do in 2020 to improve our mental health?” His answer was simple – “Get more sleep”

Last week on my commute to work I listened to a fascinating Desert Island Discs episode – even if DIC is not your thing, this one s well worth a listen! The guest on the 8th December 2019 episode is Professor Russell Foster, professor of circadian neuroscience at the University of Oxford. For a man whose specialist knowledge is sleep and rest, he is fizzing with energy and a fascinating guest. He describes sleep as “the single most important health behaviour we have”.

So, while we are all full of good intentions at the start of the New Year, going to bed a little earlier may be one of the easier ones on your list to aim for. And if you haven’t had your flu jab yet and think we haven’t seen the worst of the winter …an interesting aside from the Prof was to have your flu jab in the morning as you produce more antibodies then so it will be more effective!

So take more exercise, eat well, moderate your drinking by all means but for a healthy 2020, find time for some more sleep!


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