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BEWARE THE PROMISED LAND: politics, job searching, throwing punches and Chuck Berry

Election Blog

Change is a good thing – but not for its own sake, and not at the expense of what we believe is a good idea.

The general election here in the UK is on Thursday 8th June and many will be happy to see the back of the TV debates, polling updates, negative advertising and a seemingly never-ending quest for soundbites and headlines – and I’m no different. However I have found one thing about this campaigning period particularly interesting; it has reconfirmed the power of promises. 

They might be empty, genuine, well-intentioned or with some malice behind them. They might well be broken later or completely fulfilled – but fundamentally the offer of hope and the offer of a bright future is extremely powerful stuff – especially to someone who doesn’t have much of either.

The dangers of ‘The Promised Land’ can be summed up nicely in two of my favourite songs with that very title; Chuck Berry’s rock n’ roll classic is upbeat about ‘the poor boy’ taking a life-changing road trip and landing in the perfect place at the end. Bruce Springsteen’s version is more downbeat, intense and hard to work out.

If you just go for the headline, you don’t know which version you might end up with.

This is by no means an indication of where I stand on the political spectrum or who I will be voting for on Thursday, but more than ever during this election build-up it seems evident how easy it is to promise the world when you’re not in a position of power and, conversely, how difficult it is to engage in those debates when you have an actual record to defend.

There are no U-Turns when you’ve never had to make a meaningful decision. The challenger only needs to attack, and then make grand promises about how they’ll make things better.  The belt holder needs to somehow throw punches while keeping their guard up the whole time.

I thought Theresa May was right to stay away from the TV debates; 7 people standing on a stage shouting across each other, desperately trying to get the headline the next morning does not make for particularly adult or reasoned political discussion. Also, when only one of the seven is from the government, it regularly ends up in a 6 vs 1 slanging match.

It might seem crass to draw parallels with job searching – but as a head hunter I can’t escape those instincts, and there are clear similarities.

Change for change’s sake

I guess I’m supposed to promote the idea of leaving your current employer – but change just for the sake of changing is usually a misguided attempt at finding that perfect scenario and it most often doesn’t leave you in a better position. Change for change’s sake is a strand of thinking which results in a highly unpredictable President in the US, extreme right wing contenders in France, Holland, Austria and elsewhere, and very left wing options in various places too.

Over the years I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve spoken with who have found themselves in the wrong job – either because they made a change for the sake of changing, or because an organisation (or recruiter) promised them some nirvana situation to solve all of their problems.

We all probably wish our situation was at least slightly better than it is, but our reasoning behind how we improve that needs to stay as logical and sensible as ever. Picking something or someone because it’s non-traditional or offering a different path is fine – but not at the expense of what actually matters to you for your career, or what you believe is needed in your local or national community.

I think most promises are well intentioned. I don’t believe any potential new employer – or indeed your existing one – actually want you to make a bad career choice. If they make you big promises they are most likely aspirational if not a current reality.

Also, I don’t think any of the mainstream political leaders here in the UK sit up in some dark tower stirring a pot and cooking up nasty or evil schemes to keep homeless people on the street, or make sure the disabled have no assistance, or indeed support the idea of bombing people to further a cause. None of them has a monopoly on wanting a better, fairer society – it’s just the approach in how we get there that differs.

As Chuck and Bruce have shown, everyone has a different version of The Promised Land.


What do you think about “Pawternity leave”?

An article on the BBC website recently caught my eye:

A new dog owner in Columbus, Ohio, working for Scottish brewer, Brewdog, has been given a week’s paid leave from work to spend with her new puppy. Brewdog has announced  one week’s paid leave for all workers who adopt a puppy or rescue dog. The sceptical amongst us might think it’s a clever PR stunt, particularly as Brewdog have just opened a 100,000 sq ft (9,000sq m) North American brewery in Columbus.

Whatever the reason,(and it would appear that Brewdog has always been a dog friendly employer) it’s a welcome perk. While money will always be important, there are benefits which firms can offer which really make a difference to employees, don’t necessarily cost the employer a fortune, and take into account an employee’s individual circumstances.

Whether it’s a day off for your birthday, a Christmas shopping day, some time to spend with your dog, children or granny, the appeal of the non- financial perk will only increase in the future. And, as employers look to secure talent from the millennial generation and beyond, the recognition that everyone’s personal circumstances are different requiring a varied suite of benefits will differentiate one employer from another.

Pawternity Leave


What’s the latest in the Gender Pay Gap?

UK companies with 250 or more employees will have to publish their gender pay gaps within the next year under a new legal requirement. About half of the UK workforce will be affected by the new reporting rules, which encompass 9,000 employers and more than 15 million employees.

Firms must publish a snapshot of their employee pay as at 5 April 2017 if they are a private business or charity, or 31 March 2017 for those in the public sector.

All the data will eventually be available on a government database, and the early results are starting to filter through. According to a recent report in the Independent,  asset manager Schroders reported a pay gap of  31 %, while at utility firm SSE the pay gap is 23.4 %. PwC reported a 15% difference in pay and Virgin Money 36 %.

As with everything, it’s all very well having the statistics, but what’s really important is what happens with it…otherwise all we have is yet another government database groaning with a weight of information and data.

An interesting viewpoint from  Sam Bowman from the Adam Smith Institute, described the new reporting measure as “counterproductive”.

“It reinforces the idea that the gender wage gap is caused by discrimination by firms against women,” he said.”In fact, it’s more to do with the fact that women are expected to take quite a lot of time out of their jobs after they have children, which interrupts their career progression, and many switch to part-time work when they do return to work.We have more of a motherhood pay gap than a gender pay gap. That gap can be closed by encouraging men to handle a more equal share of child-rearing time and by consumers preferring firms that take the lead in giving flexibility to working mothers.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence then that the UK is in 20th place, according to the World Economic Forum’s Gender Pay Gap Index…..while the country with the smallest gap is ……….Iceland !


Gender Pay Gap

2017 marks BLT’s 30th year in business!

We’ll be no doubt getting out the party hats and partaking of the occasional glass or three of champagne throughout the coming year, but it’s worth pausing for a little nostalgic reflection on the past three decades – such longevity isn’t exactly the norm in the world of recruitment!

When we were founded by Mssrs Beament, Leslie and Thomas all those years ago, the aim was to provide ‘inch-wide, mile-deep’ specialist knowledge of the recruitment markets we operated in; we wanted to be the recruiter of choice in our specialist markets, and we wanted to be known as good people to do good business with. Those values remain to this day and we find the BLT of today remaining at the top of the game in all matters related to Indirect Tax & Management Consultancy recruitment.

2017 will be remembered for shock results (cf. the Brexit referendum here in the UK, the surprise Trump presidency etc etc) which has resulted in a general sense of uncertainty in many quarters. However: looking back to when BLT was founded back in August 1987, a few months later ‘Black Monday’ on Wall Street happened – £50 billion wiped of the value of shares on the London stock exchange. Whilst we’re sure there was no link (or was there?!), we’re well used here to expecting the unexpected. Having lived through a number of recessions as well as taking advantage of those market upturns as and when they happen, there’s not much that fazes us round here at BLT!

A quick glance at the well thumbed ‘placement book’ from ’87 sitting proudly on a shelf at BLT towers (and held together by yellowing Sellotape), sees appointments in Tax and Consulting on salaries between £11,000 and £24,000 – these days recent BLT appointments have ranged between £25,000 and £200,000! The other thing that immediately strikes you is the range of accountancy firms recruiting: Arthur Andersen, Arthur Young, Binder Hamlyn, Coopers & Lybrand, Ernst & Whinney, Grant Thornton, Hays Allen, Moore Stephens, Pannell Kerr Forster, Peat Marwick McLintock, Price Waterhouse, Spicer & Oppenheim and Touche Ross all took staff on from BLT in those early months – what it must have been for a candidate to have so much range of choice! Lovely to see that all those early clients back then are still our clients of today (albeit in rather changed forms post a zillion mergers/acquisitions!). On the corporate front, British Gas and Prudential hold the honour of our first ‘in-house’ placements – these days our work is split much more evenly between corporate in-house appointments and the professional services firms, with key recent clients including the likes of Amazon, Bloomberg, BP, Burberry, GSK, Legal & General, Liberty Global, Samsung, Thomson Reuters etc etc.

Our work has taken us beyond the UK borders too – we’ve worked in Australia, Bahrain, China, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Guinea, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Kenya, Malaysia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Romania, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, United Arab Emirates and the USA.

So what else has changed in the world of recruitment since?

In the last three decades, BLT have gone through 3 offices, the retirement of the three founders and employed a mere 75 recruiters and 22 support staff. Looking at the current BLT gang, the average length of tenure here at BLT is just over 12 years – unheard of in the world of recruitment!

Some highlights from the Management Consultancy team: the first recruitment firm to specialise in the recruitment of Management Consultants; consistent winners of team and individual awards in the annual Top Consultant Recruiter awards; assisting the Big 4 to build specialist consulting practices, partnering with boutique and niche consulting firms to establish their brand; introducing fast stream Public Sector individuals to the growing Public Sector consultancy market in the 80/90s; recruiting individuals from all walks of life into strategy consultancy; supporting a range of corporates as they look to build their own in-house consulting capability; extending our reach to the international market.

And from the Indirect Tax team: Identifying Indirect Tax as a niche field in its own right separate to the rest of the tax profession; helping those early Indirect Tax pioneers move into the private sector in the late 80’s; establishing in-house Indirect Tax functions in the 90’s and working with the large accountancy firms on setting up the graduate training programmes at the end of that decade; working in Australia on GST implementation at the turn of the Millennium; giant growth of the Indirect Tax profession in the 00’s and adapting to the increased scrutiny on Indirect Tax compliance post Enron and Sarbanes Oxley; technology advancements in the last decade and currently Middle East VAT implementation and being poised for the growth of the Customs & International Trade market in the run up to Brexit.

We’ve worked hard to remain consistently relevant in a rapidly evolving recruitment landscape, one such example being the addition of our new Executive Coaching Division.

I’ve just typed in ‘longevity’ into an online thesaurus, and it came up with some dubious results such as ‘old age’, ‘lifetime’, ‘endurance’ and even ‘dotage’, so I won’t be using THAT online tool any more. Typing in ‘constancy’ comes up with more cheerful synonyms: ‘dependability’, ‘trustworthiness’, ‘loyalty’, ‘tenacity’, ‘determination’, ‘integrity’…all these sum up what BLT has been all about, we feel.

We’d like to say a big thank you to all those we have worked with over the years, whether as clients, candidates or former colleagues. What great fun we’ve had on the recruitment rollercoaster, and we look forward to keeping our recruitment offering as fresh, relevant and agile as it was back in the day.


30th Anniversary

Small (baby) steps and a giant leap (of faith)

By Tariq Siraj

I will very imminently be going on paternity leave as daughter #2 is due to arrive in the coming days. I won’t lie to you, this blog was a bit of an afterthought; by ‘imminently’ I actually meant “I’m leaving the office in about 60 minutes to go on paternity leave”.

I was very keen to write something about it – but unsurprisingly my mind has for the most part been elsewhere; making sure hospital bags are packed, making sure we have child-minding cover for our 2 year old, making sure our 2 year old kind of knows what to expect, deciding on a name, working out ways we can avoid the dreaded ‘double buggy’, being amazed at the amounts of new born clothing we have, washing said mountain, getting back into that mind-set of ‘does this need sterilising? – let’s sterilise it anyway!’ and, of course, making sure my wife is happy with the levels of Häagen-Dazs in the freezer.  That, along with being at work, doesn’t leave much time to write a blog.

So, here we are, 54 minutes from leaving for 3 (or maybe 4) weeks and I’m wondering what to write about.  Actually it’s 52 minutes now as I’ve just re-read the above – and it’s hit me; uncertainty. Or rather – the joy of uncertainty.

You can attach that to anything; having a baby, work, lifestyle, sports, travel – and there is a certain beauty to not knowing an outcome.  Of course there’s a definite comfort in the safe and secure – particularly where our families or livelihoods are concerned – but in a way don’t we also live for those moments that require a bit of spontaneity? I’m not saying we abandon knowledge, due-diligence or common sense – but nothing quite compares to those times when we take a bit of a leap of faith without the security blanket.  Those slightly scary moments.

It could be the conclusion of a deal at work, the nervousness of whether you’ve beaten your PB on that half marathon, the last 20 minutes of a flight into a country you’ve never visited before or, indeed, having a baby. In fact, being a parent at all qualifies pretty well.

Reproduction is the one thing our species have always done and always will do, yet there are endless mysteries surrounding this most fundamental of human endeavours. When my wife and I get back from the hospital with our first daughter we fell onto the sofa, considered this new family member in their cot in the middle of the room, looked at each other and said ‘now what?’. And don’t even get me started on those weird black tar poos in the first 2 days – no-one told me about those!

Now, a great life example of spontaneity is not knowing the sex of a baby until they arrive – and I’ve not taken my own advice on that one. We already know it’s a girl but I have to admit, it was partly to understand in advance the levels of recycling we could do with our existing baby girl clothing, and partly that it’s just too big a piece of information to not know!  Let’s be clear, my rule doesn’t apply on that issue – it’s a step too far. I really just don’t know how people do it.

Anyway, it’s now 27 minutes to go and I really should tie up those last few lose ends. I know I’ll forget something or leave something crucial at the office which I’ll realise tomorrow – but, hey, maybe there’s a beauty in that.


TAS Blog - April 2017

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