Category Archives: Social Responsibility

A warm welcome to the real world Amazon.

 On the back of great news that the mighty grim reaper of great independent retailers, Amazon have actually opened a bricks and mortar store a sense of guarded euphoria has began to breeze through the world of shopping generally. I say guarded, because it’s a tentative, dip the toe in the water move from Amazon. They’ve only stepped outside the front doors of their Head Quarters, squinting in the sunlight perhaps. But they have opened a store in their home town of Seattle.

Hot on the heels of Apple who have dedicated the last few years cementing a physical presence in our high streets and shopping malls, the penny has finally dropped for Amazon. People actually enjoy shopping. Fundamentally the whole retail experience is precisely that. An experience.

From being dragged wide eyed and often in a state somewhere between terror, amazement and amusement around a town centre as a snotty nosed toddler to buying Xmas presents on your day off many of us actually like shopping. Oh, many of us may indeed protest when our wife is in the changing room trying on the 16th version of the same dress, but secretly we love it. It’s our time, we mix and match it with a coffee, a spot of lunch and a beer. None of which you can do whilst scrolling through an online store.
I’m delighted Amazon and Apple have swallowed their pride and entered the real world. A world where people stop and say hello. A place where men acknowledge each other’s pain outside yet another changing room. A world where I stop and actually engage with a product because the lustre of an object caught my eye. A place where we do what human beings really truly do best, interact with our environment and each other.

The smell of roast chestnuts, the sound of laughter, that dash out of the rain into the nearest bar are all things that stimulate me, engage me and make me happy I’m alive. No amount of surreal virtual or augmented reality in the online world will ever replicate the simple joy of being outside, amongst my fellow human beings. I want to feel stuff, touch things, sense them not simply be told about them by a load of reviews from people I don’t know and whose judgement I probably wouldn’t trust if I did.

So bravo to Amazon, I look forward to seeing you soon on a high street near me. Hopefully a hustling, bustling, thriving one.

Social Media – A Cautionary Tale Featuring The 3 Bears, Humpty Dumpty and Gerald Ratner

“The thought police would get him just the same. He had committed–would have committed, even if he had never set pen to paper–the essential crime that contained all others in itself. Thoughtcrime, they called it. Thoughtcrime was not a thing that could be concealed forever. You might dodge successfully for a while, even for years, but sooner or later they were bound to get you.”
– George Orwell, 1984, Book 1, Chapter 1

A Gentle Introduction – like a walk in the woods before the wolves come out to play

George Orwell was possibly not the most entertaining writer I have had the good fortune to read, Robert Rankin and his musings about Hugo Rune and the Brentford area is far more amusing. Whilst of course a real piece of escapism for when the infernal imbecile sat next to you on the train spends 2 hours shouting down their phone to their obviously paranoid and untrusting wife that he is on his way home is Jasper Ffordes, Nursery Crimes Divsion stories, I can particularly recommend The Big Over Easy, Humpty Dumpty is hilarious as a mixed up philandering gambler and delusional fraudster, as is the depiction of Reading. But back to less entertaining things, I remember reading Orwell’s, Keep the Aspidistra Flying and fighting right to the very end to keep my eyes open in the face of such absolute mediocrity and blandness, which was precisely the point of the book of course. But in many of his dark cynical observations and perceptions of life, politics and humanity such as Animal Farm and especially ‘1984’ he was indeed as many of us suspected a visionary.

Social Media – A Bright New World or a Disaster Waiting to Happen

Consider the quote from 1984 at the start of this post in light of the modern situation with our New Social Media World for a moment. Consider the frantic drafting and re-drafting of corporate social media policies to protect them against every imaginable, definable and perceivable scenario that their legal advisers can envisage, and this sort of envisaging does not come cheap of course. Review the constant media reports of amendments to public law, the perception and interpretation of acts likely to cause offence, a breach of the peace. How many media reports are there already of commercial suicide because they underestimated how disappointed a customer was, career suicide because they posted something offensive about their own employer or boss. Then consider the global concerns about elements related to privacy and marketing possibly even brainwashing. Remember the furore over subliminal imaging? How is that different from source amnesia? Except one is legal because we don’t really understand it yet and it is also big business, and the other was banned because we thought we understood it in the 60’s and 70’s when the World was in awe of such things. Governments and Judicial organisations around the World are trying to define what is acceptable, what is within the law, what you can say, who you can say it to and what the punishments are for breaches of these new first Social Media World laws and legislations. In my opinion they are rushing headlong into a mind field that will last for generations.

Can You Tweet Yourself to Death?

Professionally – YES! Incorrect utilisation of social media can ruin your business, your brand, your reputation, your career and possibly your life in literally minutes. I am a recruiter or a Head Hunter and I operate internationally across various markets, diverse cultures and religions. I only have to make one ill thought out post on twitter or Linkedin and I can easily offend someone somewhere amongst all the cultures, religions, belief factors and ethical perceptions. I may never actually know who I offended or why, but they can alienate me from hundreds of people who have never met me, but will judge me without even uttering a word to me. For recruiters in a World where our entire business is people related and based upon relationships and reputations social media is literally a dream opportunity or a potential disaster waiting to happen, as Gary Chaplin found out when he accidentally blind copied an insulting email to thousands of people. He intended the sentiment of the original email, he maybe thought it was funny, he was undoubtedly a little angry at the time. But he never imagined it would go as far and as fast as it did. Bad news has never travelled so fast and so persistently as it does today. Imagine if someone made the same gaffe as Gerald Ratner did in 1991 today? For those who don’t remember it here is a little sample:

He said: “We also do cut-glass sherry decanters complete with six glasses on a silver-plated tray that your butler can serve you drinks on, all for £4.95. People say, ‘How can you sell this for such a low price?’ I say, because it’s total crap.”

He added that his stores’ earrings were “cheaper than an M&S prawn sandwich but probably wouldn’t last as long”.

He wiped almost £500 million off his companies share value, that was in 1991! The damage was limited in many ways because bad news didn’t travel so fast. You could get PR Gurus and agents like Max Clifford (who has finally been dealt his cards) to disaster manage and spread counter claims almost as fast as bad news moved. Not today.

Personally and privately it can cost you your friends, your relationship, your family and even your liberty almost instantly. It isn’t just you as the individual who drive this by the initial insensitivity or stupidity or possibly even correct but unwarranted or illegal statement or thought. It is also the media who use the same tools to drive and create a social frenzy out of a little piece of social media because the more visits, the more hits, the more advertising they secure the more money the company earns. I have even heard of one guy whose own wife exposed him for buying and reading pornography, her tweets became a hit in Japan, he was ridiculed to the point of attempted suicide. It is that culture thing again, reputation and status are worth more than your life in Japan, yet Bill the Mechanic from Sheffield probably reads Playboy (I almost inserted a hyperlink here, but thought better of it. Who is interested in Sheffield after all) on the bus with his wife present.

The power is amazing. The sheer concept of literally millions of people reading within minutes, something that was intended for a small, private select audience of my friends or family is mind blowing. It used to take PR Companies weeks, months and maybe even years to get an advertising or political message out but now one carefully choreographed and stage managed strap line can do the same job as dozens of PR and Branding Execs in hours if not less.

I find it frightening on so many levels. Yet despite my fear of it and probably in spite of my naturally outspoken, passionately driven and often strongly opinionated personality I still play with it and experiment with it just like I am right now. Almost all of us, even the so called guru’s who charge to train and teach and maximise our use and a firms investment in it, are really like that first human who  played with fire out of curiosity, hypnotised by the mystical flickering flame. When he subsequently set fire to his enemies dwelling and realised its other potential they hadn’t invented the offence of arson. Nobody considered it a crime of passion, it was just one of those things.

We haven’t even educated one single generation yet about the benefits and the dangers of social media. As far as I am aware it isn’t part of the school curriculum, it isn’t discussed as part of the moral guidance delivered in churches. When I was a child there was a splendid Community Police Sergeant called Keith Ellis who used to come to my school. He brought people to talk to us about the dangers of railway lines, swimming in lakes, crossing roads, riding bicycles safely and later during our teenage years he warned us of the dangers of drugs, alcohol, glue sniffing, aerosol abuse and going off the rails. Who tells our children today about the dangers of social media? I know that we are quite rightly abundantly clear and aware of the dangers of strangers on the web, but how does a 17yr old know what Facebook can really do, how does a 40yr old know how to utilise his privacy settings? Who has told him? How does a job seeker know that he is actively alienating every recruiter and potentially lot’s of prospective employers due to his blogs success or his rants on discussions on Linkedin.

Make-Believe

We are basically making it up as we go along, changing the rules to suit public opinion, jumping to conclusions about what everyone thinks, responding en-masse in an almost hysterical manner. Forgetting that just because it is the majority choice doesn’t make it right. I may not like your sexual orientation it doesn’t make you wrong, it doesn’t make my opinion right either. Yet you can flaunt your sexual preferences, your likes in public, but I am legally prohibited from voicing mine ( this is just an example). Sexuality or Race is taboo as it should be, yet my political preference is fair game. You can slander their heritage and their culture because they come from a council estate in Yorkshire, but they can’t criticise your religious beliefs or cultural differences. The problem is if people don’t truly understand how it works, how can they be responsible. There are no written rules, we don’t have a moral or ethical guide or compass on Social Media, because it is still happening and it is too complex.

In recent months we have had examples of people imprisoned for making statements perceived to be inciting a riot. In a couple of cases individuals who appear to severely lack any kind of sound moral guidance or social responsibility claimed they were joking, they didn’t mean it, they were just having a laugh with their mates. How do we really know they were not, after all none of the ones convicted and jailed were actually caught in the act of public disorder or affray. In effect it was a ‘thoughtcrime’, it was a brain-fart, it was an outspoken moment of stupidity, but it was probably shared and understood by their desired audience, they just didn’t realise it wasn’t shared and understood by mine and yours. If they had known that a second of misguided humour could secure you 3-4yrs in prison do you really think they would have done it? Really!

Education and Prevention is Key

In the UK it is extremely difficult to obtain a gun, at least legally anyway. There is good reason for this, people don’t understand how to use them safely, can’t secure them properly and are often tempted to use them negligently or in moments of anger. The never ending images of brainless, moronic individuals who actually post photographs of themselves on facebook posing with pistols, sub-machine guns, machine pistols clearly demonstrate this. Get this, very often it is an illegal weapon. It is like giving a child a sushi knife. Similarly with cars (cars not cats okay), you have to be taught how to drive one safely so that you don’t kill someone or yourself. But even then there is massive investment in telling us the obvious, don’t drink and drive, don’t speed, cautionary signs on motorways for example.Despite the fact that we have all taken courses and passed a test.

Where are the public notices warning us about the consequences of social media? You can hit and run a 10yr old boy and escape with a suspended sentence, you can speed and kill a car full of passengers and get less than 12mths in prison. If you get burgled and your shotgun gets stolen the police provide you with an insurance claim number. Yet you post on Facebook “Let’s have a riot” and get 4yrs? You slander your boss to your friends on facebook and lose your job, become a national laughing stock and essentially become unemployable.

If you are Parents and your children are engaging with social media, tell them about how to use it properly while you are explaining about the birds and the bees and how not to communicate with strangers.

If you are an employer who encourages your employees to use social media then appoint a volunteer social media representative, encourage them to stay ahead of the game, to train, to issue advice. It isn’t enough to assume that everyone knows what they are doing, just because you have issued a Social Media Policy. You have an obligation to protect your employees just as you do to protect your revenues and your business.

If like me you are using social media but feel like you are often wearing a blindfold, then be cautious, never post in anger and always review, have reviewed by someone else or think twice before posting.

——————————————————————————————————————–Many of the examples used are for effect only and do not represent the views and opinions of the author / authors. Any tips, suggestions, legal advice, insight, education references are extremely welcomed on this subject matter. Please share, re-post and feel free to enlighten me, make constructive comments.

The Dream Job Delusion – Talent Drain versus Recruitment Pain

Its everywhere I look, BBC, Sky News, CNN, The Times, The Daily Mail and even political satire shows and those neanderthal useless, feckless TV presenters like Jeremy Paxman (who has no interest in the truth beyond his own personal welfare and ego) shower me with pie charts and graphs outlining the plight of the unemployed. So many people of all ages, all walks of life and all degrees of experience wandering the country aimlessly, like zombies out of some apocalyptic movie searching frantically not for food but for a source of income, for some self respect, for a means to keep the roof over their head and to support their families.

So where are all these people? Why don’t they respond to job postings? Why don’t they pick up the phone and call? What are their skill sets? What experience do they have to offer?

Why are they not calling me? Is there really a massive skills shortage as reported in the Telegraph?

I am currently recruiting for a number of vacancies which I personally (okay so I am biased) believe to be exceptional opportunities. Instead of my usual approach which normally consists of almost 90% headhunting in a bid to identify and secure passive talent, I decided to test the market and advertise these positions extensively. To give those people who are actively as opposed to passively seeking a new position the opportunity to apply, to open the door to some of this vast landscape of talent, approximately 2.7million apparently.

So where are they all? Maybe they are frightened by the challenges inherent in these positions. After all, who wants to take a job that has some form of challenge within it. Maybe it is the travel, not everyone wants to spend a couple of weeks a year in Chicago at company expense, we don’t all dream of having to visit vendors in Berlin, Milan, Paris and Dubai after all do we.

Maybe it is the fact that I can no longer use terms such as vibrant, youthful dynamic, creative, buzzy, energetic in a job advert for fear of implying that it might be for those under 50. Or is it because I can’t define the role as being mid management and requiring circa 6 years business experience for fear of offending and restriciting applications from graduates who don’t have the required skills and experience (something only acquired through the actual work place) but should be able to apply and waste everyones (including their own) time anyway?

I can’t even specify a nationality, although this is incredibly important for one of these vacancies. It is important because the successful candidate may have to travel at short notice to Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Qatar, Bahrain and the USA on business. These countries have rigid restrictions on nationality. Some of them don’t give two hoots if you are an EU citizen, if they have blacklisted your country, you are not getting in. Some nationalities require visas which can take weeks if not months to secure, in advance to visit Kuwait, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and of course the USA. But I’m not allowed to caution this in the job advert, for fear of offending someone. It doesn’t matter that it may be a total waste of time for everyone, as long as we all feel okay about ourselves.

But basically I have 2 great job vacancies, one based in Dubai for Regional Sales Manager for a UK national with experience selling solutions, hardware, tech, IT or similar into retail and retail property developers. The other is UK based for an Implementation Manager, someone with project management experience within hardware installation, a desire to travel, great client management skills and a high degree of charisma and a fun loving personality (note that those attributes are not in the adverts, in case I offend the miserable, Jack Dee).

In my opinion they are dream jobs for those mid level professionals with ambition, desire, energy, a love of autonomy, a willingness to work in a global environment.

5 job boards, all over Linkedin, twitter, facebook.

200+ applicants from India, Malaysia, Russia, Poland – all credit to these people, someone is at least awake and many of them are great applicants with great potential, just not for these positions. But not one single application from a UK national living within 100miles of High Wycombe for jobs paying £50K+ basics and OTE’s £70K+. If you consider where High Wycombe is, 100 miles is a hell of a radius.

Is this whole credit crisis, unemployment and recession stuff a conspiracy to control the masses?

Do we have a talent drain, has all our ambitious flexible and dynamic talent disappeared to places that can ask for what they want, to locations that can be more explicit about who fits within their culture, what the intended dynamic and ethos of their business identity is?

Or is my idea of a dream job, one that offers great rewards, career progression, personal development, travel and state of the art market defining technology 2.7million people wide of the mark?

In the event that you feel you meet the above criteria, please do get in touch with me

The English Premier League and Islamic Banking May Have More in Common Than We Think!

The English Premier League and Islamic Banking May Have More in Common Than We Think Encouraging Compliance as a Virtue and an Obligation

“Should Islamic Banking & Finance Companies, source service providers who meet some form of ethical or moral code?”

On the 22nd February I attended the last in a series of absolutely excellent lectures at the London School of Economics; this one was titled Global Calls for Economic Justice: the potential of Islamic finance. The general air of anticipation was electric, the attendance exceeded expectations and the organisation and content was exceptional. Speakers were Mr Mukhtar Hussain, CEO of HSBC Malaysia and Professor Volker Nienhaus, visiting Professor at Reading University.

I was sitting next to a very charming Lady from Vietnam who was undertaking Doctoral Research at Southampton University. During the lecture she asked me a very interesting question;

“Surely if all of these organisations operate under such a strict code of practice and with such a keen focus on their moral compass, they should source and use suppliers and service providers who meet a similar criteria or at least comply in some similar way?”

I had no ready response or clever retort. All I could do was agree with her sentiment. Why wouldn’t I? It seems so simple really. If this was the case imagine the impact the whole industry and its related service providers could have on communities.

Imagine if all businesses and organisations within the Islamic Banking & Finance sector were compelled to undertake a certain code. Imagine if all the training and certification providers, all the event organisers, all the magazine publishers, business consultants, technology and systems solutions providers and everyone else who essentially operates within this industry or on the periphery of it and as such profits from it, had to agree to a simple set of virtues and operational protocols?

So I began to think about this scenario and even asked on various social media sites specialising in recruitment what elements, attributes or endeavours would a recruitment company need to develop to appeal on this basis to an Islamic Finance Institution who wanted to work with service providers sharing similar virtues and morals.

There were few answers. No surprise really as people don’t generally like being asked moral questions, the old adage ‘If it isn’t broken don’t fix it’ springs to mind. However, I sat back and I considered the business I work within and what we do.

We have a preferred charity; in fact we have 2 which we donate a % of profits to. This year we didn’t send out thank you cards and pointless gifts to clients in December. Instead we bought a whole bunch of presents, wrapped them all up and donated them to a local Orphanage. We sponsor a young athlete who has great potential and we do volunteer work in the community with the unemployed, one of my colleagues even visited a women’s prison to coach them on how to find work when they were released.

It sounds like I am blowing our trumpet, and I am. When I sat and considered these things, it became apparent that inadvertently we do stand firmly on a moral context and have a positive social impact. Many companies do of course. You look at major football clubs in the Premier League in the UK for example and you don’t see the community schemes they are involved in, such as Arsenal’s support for the Teenage Cancer Trust. Okay so not all footballers and not all football organisations are virtuous or shining examples of how to live your life and be the best person you can. But many of them are, research Didier Drogba, David Beckham, Zinedine Zidane and Lionel Messi and read about what they do. I also appreciate that connecting the principles of Shariah Compliance and the Teachings of Islam to football maybe flippant, please forgive me. But I am trying to reach a broad audience.

None of this is actually that radical, in many ways lots of sectors and organisations operate policies of this sort. In the UK for example Public Sector organisations will and can only work with service providers who comply with ISO 9000 / 9002 to ensure standards and a minimum level of compliance. Supermarkets such as Walmart, Tesco, Carrefour and others will only work with suppliers who meet strict food safety or agricultural policies.

So why is this necessarily so different?

We may not even come close to the kind of compliance and scrutiny undertaken by those truly Shariah Compliant Institutions, but we can at least try.

How much good would be achieved? How much wealth would be shared more appropriately? What could we change positively? How many people’s lives could we impact forever?

I would be interested in any comments that can add to this discussion, elucidate ways in which this kind of idea could be achieved or of course valid points which indicate that this could never work.