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The importance of flexibility in a lockdown… by Davey Peyton

Flexibility is key to maintaining some semblance of normal life right now and what we might have considered flexible before has been thrown out of the window. As we all adjust to these weird new conditions one positive that’s coming up again and again is innovative solutions and most of it isn’t particularly ground-breaking it’s just different from the norm.

The most obvious change to affect millions of individuals has been working remotely, having video meetings and calls daily and using a variety of instant messaging apps to update each other on whatever new series you might be watching (if you haven’t seen Tiger King it’s an amazing distraction for a day or two!) and work when necessary. There’re also the personal aspects of video calling friends and family, just yesterday I celebrated my dad’s 70th birthday with 40 of his friends. As you can imagine this was a nightmare not least because half of the assorted participants couldn’t work Zoom but even so being willing to try it meant a huge amount.

Then there are businesses and business leaders innovating to help those they can and stories from schools/universities about their ideas to help children stay engaged and students attend graduation.

Finally, there are the smaller changes to help us not only carry on but keep enjoying ourselves. Whether it be online pub quizzes, parties, exercise classes, virtual tours or watching plays put on at The National, who have kindly made them free on Youtube, there are a huge number of regular activities still achievable with a bit of flexibility and a good internet connection. In some of the more innovative examples I’m booked in to do an escape room via video using the owners as avatars and my cousin spent his Saturday climbing the 3 peaks for charity using his stairs and at one point a fan/water bottle combination to simulate the awful weather.

I find seeing people and businesses carrying on gives a great deal of hope and security at a difficult time. With flexibility and innovation the world will always keep moving at a pace but it might just be a very different world at the end of the year. If you’re working or not or you’re just interested in what others are doing to keep going please get in touch via email or on LinkedIn. I’d be happy to discuss everything we are seeing in the market and hopefully make sure you’re in the best position possible to keep going.

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The Situation Seems Bleak – but Crisis Navigation is all Part of the Job…. by Tariq Siraj

No business or economic crisis is a neatly isolated and contained incident, and this COVID-19 situation is exceptional by any standards. It is wide in both scope and in the levels of uncertainty. The UN trade agency suggests a cost to the global economy approaching $1 trillion, the IMF and OECD have massively downgraded growth estimates and pretty much every country’s own policy makers are looking at what level of recession to tackle, not strategies to avoid one altogether.

All pretty bleak reading right? Well, perhaps reading between the lines gives us more hope. The consulting market – and the wider economy itself – has been bracing for a big impact for some time. In late 2019, before the first coronavirus cases had been reported, more than half of the CEOs surveyed in a PwC report believed the rate of global GDP growth would decline in 2020 and only 27 percent of felt “very confident” in their companies’ growth prospects – a low not seen since 2009.  Coronavirus has amplified the situation – no doubt – but it’s at least a little reassuring to know that plans were already in place for tackle a big ‘hit’.

It’s also worthwhile noting that no shockwave to the economic norm in modern history will have as much daily or hourly attention poured over it than this one. Whatever geography, industry or size, every entity has the same common goal; to reduce the impact.  It’s also worth remembering that crisis management is part of the job; 7 in 10 leaders have experienced at least one corporate crisis in the last five years.

It may seem slightly crude to suggest at the moment, but the management consulting market is also about as insulated as any market right now.  There are and will be tragic consequences for many of course – including the implementation and transformation service providers who rely so much on face-to-face, on-site client interaction, and we have already seen some mid to high level firms having to sadly make redundancies – but consulting by and large exists as a crisis navigation service.  It’s a ‘How To…?’ market; how to generate more growth, improve efficiency, cut costs, navigate new situations…it’s all part of the service, and it’s a service that should come to the fore at times like these.

- Tariq

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Routine or going with the flow …what’s working for you? By Catriona Cookson

Last week I wrote about some handy advice I’d seen written by a chap called Jon Bailey – @SloopJontyB, who had spent long periods of time in a submarine while he was in the Royal Navy. Each week I’m going to take a look at one of the topics he addressed – the first one is routine, this is what he said:

ROUTINE: Life at sea is dictated by shifts and routines. You can tell what day it was by what was for dinner. Make a routine now, test it then write it down & stick to it. Divide your day up in to work (if home working) rest, exercise, meals, hobbies, etc. Do the same for kids.”

When we started working from home the message from the Directors at BLT was clear – “Do what works for you”. For some people that may be starting work very early or some may have a longer break in the middle of the day, or there may be children to consider so we have a huge amount of flexibility. I am sure everyone drifted through the first few days trying to make sense of it all. The increased restrictions came into place on the 23rd March just after I had read Jon’s post, so it seemed a good time to think of routine.

After years and years of living my life to the clock, of having to do things and be places at certain times, I thought I might welcome some real flexibility. But no, I know (if I didn’t know it already)…I like routine and structure, and at a time like this it makes me feel safe. And so over the last ten days I have developed a routine and stuck to it……

  • I have lunch at 1pm every day.
  • I have a tea break at 3pm and a biscuit (because that’s what we do at BLT in the office)
  • I switch off the laptop at the end of the day.
  • I cook every night , no batch cooking at the moment, as there is something very comforting about moving into the next phase of the day and preparing a meal.
  • I work four days in the week, on two of those I run at the start of the day , and on the other two I walk at the end of the day.
  • And what to do on a Tuesday, when I’m not working?.Normally I’d be out for a quick run and then off for a long walk or to a museum or gallery with a friend. So now Tuesdays are a longer run, the day for the supermarket trip as it now takes some time, and some “sorting out” one cupboard at a time.
  • I watch no news after the early evening on any device.
  • Before I go to bed, I get the yoga mat out. Sometimes I do an online session (Yoga with Adriene is very good), sometimes I practise some of the postures I can’t do very well and sometimes I just lie on the floor and breathe and listen to the old tunes on Mellow Magic.
  • And then there’s the weekend ….I run on a Saturday and Sunday morning usually so I’m keeping that going, although I miss the company of my Sunday morning running group. And the rest of the time, well last weekend I spent in the garden making a start after the wet winter, and there are several online screenings available of opera, theatre, ballet so I’m planning to catch up on them sometime soon.

And it feels better ……..there is routine, structure and boundaries. Crucially within the routine there is some choice ……shall I run or walk today? shall I watch tv or call a friend / family this evening?….. and where there is choice there is an element of control and that at this time is definitely very welcome!

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What’s your recruitment message? by Guy Barrand

I’ll be the first to admit it – I spoke too soon.

My last post was a couple of weeks ago, in the immediate aftermath of Boris’ work from home instruction. In it, I waffle on about how it was business as usual, that clients were continuing to recruit, nothing will change. I sound quite blasé actually; confident that the BLT infrastructure was working effectively to allow us all to work from home; delighted to hear that clients and candidates were merrily pressing ahead with video-conference interviews face to face to interviews, and there was no sign that there was going to be much adverse impact. How bad could it get after all – over our 32 years of existence BLT’s business of recruiting Indirect Tax and Management Consultancy specialists has been largely impervious to economic rollercoasters and we’ve always come out smiling the other end.

And then it started. Beginning of last week, it became very evident that ‘business as usual’ it was not. The messages were commonly one of the following:

‘Dear Guy, I just thought I’d better let you know that we are implementing a recruitment freeze across the board, and are putting all roles on hold’.

‘I think we’d better pause for now, Guy, you know how it is.’

‘I’m really sorry Guy, but those candidates you had got to final stages with us? We really want to offer them a job, but we’re going to delay getting the paperwork out until things get back to normal.’

‘Those CVs you sent us look great, we’ll arrange to meet them in the office in a few months’ time when we’re back at our desks.’

It’s all perfectly understandable of course; the world has been a bit in shock, and the instinctive reaction is retrench and assess. In the immortal words of the Spice Girls….’Stop right now, thank you very much’.

But just think how that looks. Companies are very fond of saying that people are at the heart of their business. Surely, by freezing recruiting people, you’re effectively saying you’re stopping business? Not a great branding message by any means. Also when things are back to normal, you’re going to want to be back on the hunt for great people to join your company to fulfil ‘essential roles’, whether it be functional roles, or whether to meet growth targets. By doing effectively nothing about recruitment for six months (or however long it’s going to be; hopefully less!), just think how much ground you’ll have lost. And the missed opportunity to get positive messages about your company out there into the market. At the moment, when the practicalities of work are restricted for many, there’s potentially a talent pool out there with maybe a bit more time on their hands to think about their future careers and what they want to achieve in the new world of work that will emerge when we come out of the current lockdown. They could be more prepared to listen to your employment opportunities, and what it’s like to work with you more than ever before. Particularly when some companies are not exactly covering themselves in glory when handling their existing staff’s welfare in the current difficult circumstances. There’s a good number of people out there feeling rather disillusioned about how their current employer has responded to the coronavirus pandemic.

How refreshing then to hear the following messages from some of our more enlightened clients (not as many as I’d like though!):

‘Nothing’s changed; we’re well used to working from home after all, crack on…’

‘The need for that person isn’t going to go away overnight, by the time we’ve found someone and they’ve worked their way through a notice period before starting, everything will be back to normal anyway, so press ahead’.

‘We’ve had a look at our needs, and whilst some of the hiring plans were more nice-to-haves, and we ought really to be a little more cautious about hiring in some areas, these are the roles we’ve identified as being key to our future success; please keep hunting’

‘We’re admittedly going to have difficulty starting new people in our business in the next couple of months. But we don’t want to stop interviewing or making offers, we’ll just agree on delayed start dates.’

‘We’ll talk to anyone who wants to talk to us; we’re taking this opportunity to get some good messages out about our business into the market’

This kind of messaging around people strategy sounds much more positive and forward-thinking. And realistic too!

As for the practicalities of getting people started in new jobs in the current situation, where there’s a will, there’s a way…..we have several people starting new jobs at BLT clients this week ….laptops have been couriered, online induction programmes arranged, and virtual coffees arranged with new colleagues ….it can be done !

Whilst it’s definitely not business as usual, nor should it be, we should all remember that the next line of the Spice Girls song talks about the need for ‘somebody with a human touch’. People will always be key to a business’ health and success, after all.

So think twice before you put a freeze on recruitment, and therefore your business. Now that the initial shock of the current working reality is starting to recede, now more than ever is the time to focus on ways to attract people to your company, whether for immediate needs, or for later in the year.

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What can we learn from a man in a submarine? By Catriona Cookson

There are plenty of articles around at the moment offering advice for dealing with the unprecedented situation we all find ourselves in at the moment ….lots of people who have worked from home for many years sharing their practical tips, IT experts offering virtual solutions and eLearning and psychologist offering mental health support.

I am a great believer in “trusting the experts” and one of the best things I have read is this by Jon Bailey – @SloopJontyB . I don’t know Jon; I just saw his post and it resonated with me – he is ex Royal Navy and spent prolonged periods in a submarine…..so I figured he knows what he’s talking about. This is his recent post – it’s clear, concise and manageable. I’m intending to write about some of the topics he covers in the weeks to come , (and please feel free to respond with any tips you may have) but for now I thought I’d share Jon’s thread of Twitter posts below.

“During my time in the Submarine Service, I – along with many others – endured many weeks and months cooped up in a steel tube under the waves. I just thought I’d share a few coping strategies for many of you now facing a Covid-19 “patrol”.

ROUTINE: Life at sea is dictated by shifts and routines. You can tell what day it was by what was for dinner. Make a routine now, test it then write it down & stick to it. Divide your day up in to work (if home working) rest, exercise, meals, hobbies, etc. Do the same for kids.

PRIVACY: the only place private at sea was your bunk. Make a dedicated private time / place in the routine. Even if you timeshare the front room get everyone a couple of hours alone. Do whatever you want: watch shit films, pray, yoga, arrange matches: whatever gets you through.

EAT: scran onboard was usually pretty good and broke up the monotony of patrols. Take time to prepare meals. A good mix of “feast & famine” will stop the pounds piling on – one boat dis Steak Saturdays, Fishy Friday, Curry & Pizza nights. On other days soup & bread was enough.

EXERCISE: you’ll have the advantage of not having to use a spinning bike in a switchboard. 20-30mins a day of whatever as a minimum. Fitness Blender on YouTube has workouts for all. It’s a natural antidepressant, breaks up the day and keeps you healthy. Get outside when able.

CLEAN: that house is going to get grungy now you’re spending a lot more time in it. Put time in your daily routine to clean and stick to it.

CONNECT: even during radio silence we still got a weekly telegram from loved ones back home. This was a weekly highlight. Keep in touch with your people. My current work has agreed a daily “coffee” catch up online even if there’s no work to discuss.

PERSPECTIVE: like all other patrols, this one will end. It’s a shit sandwich but better than dodging barrel bombs. Don’t obsess the news or Twitter shit. Bring your world closer, focus on little things that you enjoy & make plans for the future . At least you should have a window!”

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