Are employers solidifying employees’ fears?

The BBC News online featured a piece from the PCS (Public & Commercial Services) union today whose research suggest the majority of JobCentre Plus staff fear returning to their offices. Out of 1,299 members the PCS surveyed, their results shared showed 3 in 5 workers want to continue working at home and are fearful of returning to the workplace due to Covid.

PCS claim they should be allowed to continue to work from home as they’ve proved this is effective during Covid restrictions. Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of PCS union warned industrial action could follow.

The fear of returning to the workplace after so long working from home or on furlough during Covid will be many employees’ fears and this is something their employers need to address BEFORE they are asked to return.

There is so much fake news on social media and possibly amongst friends, families and community leaders. Add in the continuous illogical updates from Government, it becomes completely understandable the fear that can be brewing. Trouble is, this fear and be intrusive and longterm.

We all know facing our fears are the only way to conquer them. If we give in to this, anxiety, isolation, debilitation will grow and possibly cripple individuals, business and communities.

As individuals we have to find evidence from experts we trust to enable us to make decisions and resist listening to opinions/views of non-experts.

JobCentre Plus staff do a difficult job supporting the most vulnerable in our communities. If they go on strike, what happens to those in dire circumstances?

If Employers don’t support their employees to overcome their fears and gain confidence to living their lives to the full again – what happens to those employees? Remember not every person has gone through the pandemic living in a nice, safe home, in happy, nurturing relationships. For the majority, it’s been one of the hardest, loneliest periods of their lives.

Business is a core part of our lives and communities. If businesses aren’t flourishing, growing and employing people, taxes aren’t being paid to support the vulnerable, provide healthcare, education etc. Where will the money for these come from?

For many businesses, continued working from home for their employees won’t be tenable. If work can be done from home, might some employers start to ask why can’t it be outsourced overseas to a cheaper workforce?

Giving in to fear is not an option. As actor Will Smith said some time ago –

“Success lies on the other side of fear”

What say you?

If our children are growing up hungry – where are businesses getting their future talent from?

Listening to the radio this morning, the above question jumped into my head. I have my solution at the end of this post. What would be your thoughts?

Time for us all to have an uncomfortable conversation maybe?

The radio feature was on free school meals and the excellent spotlight the footballer Marcus Rashford has shone on this.

Children going hungry is shamefully not a new problem for the UK. Following the end of WWII, free school meals were introduced to ensure no child went hungry. Bearing in mind this was a time when food additives, were a lot less intensive than they are now. Basic, nutritional food that ensured healthy growth for all children in the UK was the norm.

Over the following years, we seemed to lose this ‘collective’ thinking that we are all responsible for the health of the next generation.

I well remember the endeavours of chef Jamie Oliver from 2004 to address putting ‘nutrition’ back into school dinners cost effectively. This would ensure concentration in lessons resulting ultimately in social mobility. Education on an empty stomach is totally non-productive and a complete waste of money. Children can’t concentrate with their stomachs rumbling. As adults, we know when we’re hungry we can think of nothing else. Why would we think it’s different for children?

The radio feature this morning spoke about Jamie’s work and the fact two of his chefs are working in Schools in Greenwich to help feed children nutritionally during school holidays.

Marcus has re-foccused the spotlight back on the need to feed vulnerable children during school holidays as parents struggle through coronavirus.

Many parents will feed their children fast foods because they are cheap. Quantity is better than quality thinking. We know fresh food doesn’t have to be expensive. It does take effort to buy and prepare especially when trying to hold down a number of poorly paid jobs to provide a secure home.

A few of ideas spring to my mind:

  1. Tax cheap, fast food so it becomes a ‘treat’ and heavily discount fresh foods so they become the norm.
  2. I know from experience many families won’t apply for help even when they are entitled. Pride gets in the way. Radical thought here – provide free school meals for every child so not one child is ‘singled’ out as being ‘poor’. From 5-18. Schools become community hubs. Open through school holidays. This would create:

a. Employment throughout the UK

b. Community cohesion

c. Brain power amongst all our children to take advantage of education, realise their dreams, become the innovators of tomorrow, feeding our businesses making the UK a vibrant country of integrity for all.

Of course there would be a huge cost for this. But, what is the cost of not doing it?

As a business owner, I’d be in favour of increased taxes if they were going to this worthwhile cause. I wonder if very wealthy people, would be willing to make annual donations to this cause and write this off against their taxes? Some people earn telephone number salaries and are reluctant to pay HMRC. No one likes paying taxes. But if part of their taxes went to a specific cause like this, would their attitude change if they could see the good they are doing?

A minority of the UK are living in a bubble where they have so much money they will never be able to spend it. Maybe social taxation could be the answer.

Maybe it’s time to do something radical and something different.

What would be your thoughts?

The benefits of virtual learning

For the 10+ years I’ve been a MHFAEngland Instructor, I’ve been looking for a mental health and wellbeing programme to deliver which was accredited by a qualifying body delivering real value rather than the usual courses that just end with a Certificate of Attendance.

I stumbled across http://www.i-act.co.uk who devised mental health and well-being products specifically for the workplace. Both courses come with a 168 page manual, 50 self-help tools to use and 95 referral organisations for different mental health issues.

Having done the manager’s course – Managing and Promoting Positive Mental Health and WELLBeing – accredited by the Royal College of Psychiatrists with CPD points – I knew this was a key product which would deliver real value to my clients.

I decided to apply for the Instructor’s accreditation to deliver both the manager course and the ‘Understanding and Promoting Positive Mental Health and WELLbeing in the Workplace’ for non-management employees.

At the start of this week myself and others from all corners of the UK, Bahrain and Hong Kong met online with one of the co-founders Pete – a Clinical Psychiatrist and mine of information – also our Instructor. After watching Pete deliver, we then had to deliver the whole programme in our own style with a couple of peers giving feedback.

Solid connections were made. Messages of encouragement flowed over WhatsApp as we all became accredited instructors.

I now intend adding these two excellent courses to my portfolio of training to employers looking to ensure their staff at all levels are maintaining optimum levels of wellbeing duding real value to their bottom line and brand reputation.

The opportunities that open up when you least expect them can lead to incredible places.

History repeating itself? Technology helping or crushing humans?

Watching a feature on a news channel this morning about the pros and cons of capitalism has left me wondering if we have learned anything from the Industrial Revolution to the financial markets crash of 2008.

 

I’m not sure I’m any clearer on an answer!

 

Hundreds of years ago machines started replacing humans’ physical labour.  Less people were employed which more was produced.  But workers laid off faced destitution with no money to feed, clothe themselves or provide shelter – remember this was before state unemployment benefits.

 

With the advancement of machines cracking codes in WW2, computers reducing in size from huge rooms to pocket size and robots being used in medical sciences we’ve seen many pluses to this technology.  But is it now going too far?

 

The online news feature showed Bob Pisani, On-Air Stock Editor for CNBC – American news channel who liaises with stock traders and explains the markets to the general population.  Bob passionately believes in capitalism without which he feels  there would be no financial support within the economy.  Markus Koch a Stock Market Correspondence stated traders have been reduced from thousands to hundreds in recent years as machines have taken over.  More thought provoking for me was Tarek Mashhour, Audi Plant Germany explaining their goal is to have a production network of communicating robots meaning increased productivity with the same resources.  But if less humans are working – who is buying the Audi cars?

 

Dirk Heitmann of IBM Germany explained they are developing cognitive machines capable of learning on their own!  Dirk feels this increases human creativity capabilities.  But could this be at the price of human jobs?

 

Anthony Scaramucci, Hedge Fund owner believes capitalism is the only system which works.  ‘There is tremendous opportunity for growth over the next fifty years.  We can mine for minerals essential in technology in asteroids in space’.  Now that idea might sound completely out there but we have computers that can talk with each other, robots used in manufacturing, healthcare and so on.  Is it really out of reach?

 

An interesting thought concluded the news feature by Professor Tim Jackson – Economist at University of Surrey who believes ‘we live on a finite planet therefore the expectation we can all grow and profit from capitalism is false – we can’t’.

 

We seem to get richer in technological advancements but the divide between rich and poor seems just as wide and just as unbalanced.

 

We watched with baited breath…..

 

Something in the air?………

Every time a new technology is introduced, it’s hard for everyone to see its potential and viability to work changing lives for the better.  Where would the world be without the great inventors throughout history devising their ideas into prototypes and trying to get backing to bring it to market?  How many laughed at their endeavours?  Yet they didn’t stop.  The kept going with their belief this would benefit people.

 

We’d all agree we couldn’t do without computers in our pocket – also known as smart phones.  Yet when computers first came out they were viewed as not making any great differences to our lives.  Only their inventers saw the future potential for humankind.  Now we couldn’t do without this technology.

 

So looking at the report that Dominic Cummings is supporting this ‘new’ technology of sucking CO2 out of the air seems incredulous.  But it’s proven to work in submarines for decades – why not in the atmosphere too?  Of course at the start of any new technology, the invention is hugely expensive and the equipment massively bulky but history shows it will not stay that way.

 

Imagine the jobs that could be created, the better health of humans breathing better air, better vegetation and so on.  The potential knock on industries and jobs to this technology could be huge.

 

The State of the Planet, Earth Institute at Columbia University blog has really interesting facts about the potential to use CO2 collected through this proposed initiative.  McKinsey & Co (global management consultants) estimate there is $800million – $1trillion business in realising CO2’s possible wider uses in the building materials industry for one.  It can be converted into either a liquid or a solid.  So many potential uses for a byproduct of air that could be used to our benefit instead of detriment.

 

We know CO2 is currently used in refrigeration, cooling systems and fire extinguishes.  If it works well here, why not in the new industries this initiative could open us.  Climate change is crucial if we want the planet to be healthy for those following us.

 

On paper it seems very exciting.  According to the press, £100million has been won to invest in this new technology.  Will we seize the day and open up this portal of opportunity or will we over analyse and see someone else pick up the ball?

 

We’ve got to try, haven’t we?

 

Thinking outside the box when you business takes a hit

Coronavirus and Covid-19 have put some businesses into positions of having to explore new markets and make themselves attractive to new customers whilst still being accessible financially to their new customers.

 

One such business is a ‘club’ of fishermen and women who had their usual market stopped overnight due to the pandemic with the immediate shutdown of restaurants, gastro pubs etc.  Under the Pesky Fish website, the daily catch is advertised at 8am each morning – be quick though most things are sold by 9am!  You can elect to have the fish filleted or left whole.

 

I made my first order a little nervously.  How can fish be delivered by courier and still be good quality and fresh?  I need not have worried.  My first order arrived today.  Sealed in an insulated box – full recyclable with a really nice touch of information cards about who caught the fish, their boats etc.

 

Not only have I got a good quality selection of fish that will last 4-5 days, it’s cheaper than supermarkets and higher grade but I also feel I’m supporting a niche industry too.

 

So Dean caught my Pollack fillets:

 

 

Matt caught my Mussels

 

Ian smoked my Salmon!

 

 

Fancy some fish? why not check these guys out and support our fishing industry as well

 

https://www.peskyfish.co.uk

 

Growing Talent 25 has completed…… bring on GT26!

In January, we started off with 40 enthused, unemployed people applying for Growing Talent.  Following the Employer Speed Dating held mid-January, 15 were selected by employers for a 1-2-1 second stage meeting.  Offers were made, some rejected so we commenced Growing Talent 25 with three participants from diverse backgrounds who all shared one thing in common – they wanted to work!

 

Michelle & Tara from PwC joined the session and selected Annarita , below, to join them!

This is a big departure for Annarita.  Following a background in textile design she is now part of PwC’s secretarial community.

 

Kate – a regular recruiter on Growing Talent – from Firmdale Hotels, selected Kerry to join their Haymarket hotel within the housekeeping team.  Kerry is loving the role and already got her eye on progression not to mention the staff perks!

 

Annarita & Kerry – trained first aiders in Mental Health during the holistic part of Growing Talent.

 

Lastly, Sergio and Lina from ISS selected Nazzarriey to join their waste and segregation team.  Naazzaariey – seen below with Kerry is getting used to the routine of working and planning things she can do with her wages….

 

 

We wish them well on their adventures ahead now they have a regular salary coming in…..

Highlights of their journey include:

Awaiting feedback on their excellent Social Enterprise presentation and more importantly the winner!

 

Emma from Unravelling Minds showing how art helps with wellbeing….

 

Lesley mid-flow delivering her 3Rs – techniques for staying healthy in the workplace.

 

This is one of the few times Growing Talent has experienced 100% who started completed and went into work!  Great outcome for all…

 

What does the road ahead hold for them? who knows – but that’s part of the excitement of life – right?

The 26th programme starts in March…. watch this space!

 

The end of Growing Talent for 2019

Our Graduation on 16 December marks the closure of Growing Talent for 2019.  Thanks to the funders, it will be back in 2020 with 6 new programmes confirmed.

 

As we approach closure of this year, I reflect back on the trials and triumphs of 2019 for Growing Talent.

First the trials!

January 2019 we kicked off with the new format of Growing Talent – reducing down the time spent training in the vacant role with the employer from 10 weeks to four.  The Orientation and Holistic weeks remain the same. This has caused a few concerns.  For those people who have multiple barriers to employment, four weeks isn’t always long enough to grow in confidence to be sure the end role is the right role.

JobCentre Plus has been restructured with leads who knew Growing Talent well moved to different roles.  This has meant a vastly reduced support from East, West and North London districts.  Unfortunately, this meant we lost an excellent employer with great roles based around the M25.

With the full roll out of Universal Credit, JobCentre Plus has little contact with unemployed people who just need a confidence boost.  Each JobCentre is authorised to display what posters they want.  With so many of their own Government programmes, Growing Talent posters were never put up!  Therefore, those people submitted by JobCentre Plus often have more barriers to overcome in their quest for employment.

 

Now the Triumphs! – which for me eclipse the trials!

From January – December 2019 we had 34 unemployed people start Growing talent from all social, educational backgrounds.  Out of these, 27 completed Growing Talent and secured their permanent jobs.

 

We had our first father and son success story!  Referred by a friend who secured their role on Growing Talent in 2018, Navin applied and secured his role with Mitie based at Embankment Place.  Navin introduced his dad Nalin to me.  A fascinating career with diverse experience including a long tenure supporting the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to London!  After multiple senior management roles, Nalin decided to retire.  When he realised it was too early and he wanted to return to work, he encountered employers looking at his past experience rather than what he wanted to do now.  After an introduction, Nalin started a night role as hotel manager with Club Quarters.  He told me last week he’s now secured the day role he wanted at another Club Quarters Hotel and is very happy!

 

Bernie who was on the same Growing Talent with Navin, wanted to go to Canada and see a bear.  He told me a few weeks back he’d achieved his dream.  Bumping into the Graduates of Growing Talent and seeing them achieve their goals and grow so much is awe inspiring.

 

I know from the feedback all participants give me at each stage of their journey, Growing Talent has literally changed their lives.

 

The triumphs far outweigh the trials!

 

Orientation Week – What Is it? What happens?

The Orientation Week is a series of workshops to boost confidence of those applicants selected by employers for a place on Growing Talent, delivering a permanent, full-time job on completion.  It’s carried out at a central London location prior to applicants going on site with their employers.

 

For the whole of 2019, we’ve carried out all speed dating events, orientation and holistic weeks are Etc Venues in Eastcheap.  Breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea is provided along with fresh fruit, tea/coffee/hot chocolate, herbal teas and smoothies/orange juice with breakfast.

 

From the start of the Growing Talent journey, all participants – known as Growing Talent Associates – feel invested in and start increasing their self-esteem.  Their #YesICan attitude increases massively.

 

During the Orientation Week we have visiting professionals to share communication, art therapy and workplace choices to increase knowledge.

 

Within 10 minutes of arriving for the start of the Orientation Week, Associates are tasked with their first challenge.  To draw a set number of images about milestones in their life and then present them.  Yes, public speaking in front of strangers!  It works every time to showcase just how strong Associates are.  They start believing in themselves, not the perception of their labels.

 

During this week, Jade from CCF (Customer Care First – an excellent training company Jade started) delivers her bespoke 2 hour workshop with the Associates sharing all the nuances of communication from body language, spatial awareness, tone, emphasis etc to the topics to avoid in effective communication.

 

Daniel going to Pertemps and Tequila going to Churchill Services discuss topics that are ‘safe’ and ‘unsafe’ to discuss with clients…..

 

Debbie and Juliet – both going to Park Plaza Hotel in Westminster, doing the same task as Daniel and Tequila above but addressee colleagues/managers….

 

Jade and the guys above discussing the importance of tongue twisters for loosening facial muscles making it easier to speak for longer.

 

Tequila and Juliet experiencing how important communication is.  Juliet is holding a picture of a pair of boots which she has to describe to Tequila who draws what she hears.  Laughter aside, it proves the point we need to ask questions and probe to make sure we have the right information to complete our tasks at work.  As Tequila said ‘I never asked if it was a pair!’

 

The Jade’s session ended with smiles all round in the knowledge the Associates have more knowhow in communication!

 

Lesley, Head of Health, Safety & Environment at PwC always delivers her excellent ‘Zest for Life’ workshop featuring the 3Rs – Refuel, Rejuvinate and Renewal.  Knowledge, information and tips for Associates to look after themselves on the Growing Talent journey and beyond!

 

 

Lesley introduces herself and shares her journey of how she got her current role which was unplanned and totally unexpected but ended up being something she loves.

 

Explaining how humans were not designed for the predominantly desk based jobs we do now, she asked the Associates to think of their roles and come up with suggestions of a body to do their tasks adequately.  As you can see the two heads/multiple arms in the drawing below look like something of a SciFi prototype!  However, if shows we must be vigilant in taking care of ourselves so our bodies do not suffer.

 

A key thing is our body bank balance!  Things such as coffee – too much is bad but if we follow each cup of coffee with a cup of water it balances out.

 

Lesley then shared tips on nutrition, saving money by making our own lunches, batch cooking and freezing as well as top tips on relaxation and finding what works for us.

 

She then set the task of each pair of Associates thinking of three questions for the opposing pair to answer based on her workshop.

 

Tequila & Daniel devising their questions…..

 

Debbie & Juliet devising their questions for Tequila and Daniel.  I’m glad to report all gave the right answers #payingattention

 

Smiles all round as Lesley left after sharing key knowledge…..

 

Emma from Unravelling Minds attends to deliver her Art Therapy workshop and join the Associates for lunch after.

 

 

Emma shares her journey from high powered/pressurised career in fashion to complete mental health breakdown.  Art was a particular feature in her recovery and she now shares her learning with others.  Previously involved with Balloons and the Brain and now Unravelling Minds, Emma runs a unique cafe.  A safe non-clinical environment for people to bake and talk together – CBT_Cafe (Cake Before Therapy – what’s not to like!). Check out the remaining dates and information on Emma’s journey below.

 

Whilst sharing her journey, Emma invites the Associates to select one of three challenges to see how art during their lunch breaks or at any quiet time calms the mind.

  1.     Heart full of favourite things
  2.     Graffiti newspaper
  3.     Illustrate your Growing Talent mantra
  4.     Start with a doodle and see where it takes you

The concentration and quiet in the room was amazing!

Daniel’s mantra with it’s hidden message uncovered

Debbie taking up the graffiti challenge!

Juliet focussing on her favourite things.

Tequila starting off with a doodle which soon filled the page!

Juliet also shared her steps of affirmation.

Time for a group shot before an interactive lunch together.

Various workshops with me continued throughout the week ending with the Social Enterprise Challenge.  Up for grabs was £50 cash.

 

The running challenge throughout the week is to devise and deliver a social enterprise to benefit a local community and vulnerable group living there.

 

Judges l-r seated are Anna – JobCentre Plus, Judith – Churchill Services, Pedro – Head Judge from Pertemps and Shennell – Growing Talent Ambassador who completed Growing Talent on the 5th programme!

Associates standing l-r are Juliet, Tequila, Debbie & Daniel.

First to present was Debbie delivering her Brighter Futures.  Based in Wandsworth it focussed on upskilling ex-offenders by teaching them skills to refurbish a venue given by Wandsworth Council.  These skills would enable them to apply for roles with the Council in maintenance as well as FM companies.  In return the ex-offenders would share their bad choices and consequences with excluded 10-13 year olds with the target of enabling them to make the right choices.  Professionals from law, social services, medical etc would attend to help with any issues the participants experienced.  A safe space to learn, grow and become more productive.

Next to present was Daniel with his Health Hotspot based in Orpington.  Daniel described the location and need for information and choices for better health.  Many people develop intolerances to certain food groups.  Learning from others with the same intolerance on recipes, adapting ingredients etc would be hugely beneficial and break down barriers.  Equally people making choices based on media/fashion such as ‘clean’ diet, ‘sugar free’ – often includes sugar under a different name!, ‘vegan’ – how to ensure you get enough protein and so on.  Learning together builds community spirit.

Juliet’s presentation ‘Brotherhood Marching Together’ targeting the stigma within the Afro Caribbean community towards prostrate cancer using colour, music, joy and information was delivered with passion based on Juliet’s own family experience of the disease.  ‘Afro Caribbean men don’t talk about such things’. Mindful of inclusivity Juliet wanted all men in the Brixton area where she lives to be included.  So men can support men regardless of their cultural background.  Using the 02 at Brixton for the end music extravaganza, the day would start at the Museum of Black History with cancer charity specialists in place to talk about the stigma.  Affected men and their families can ask questions in a non-clinical environment.  Moving to the square where a plethora of stalls for music, food, clothes would highlight all cultures in the area breaking down barriers.  All money raised from entry fees etc would go to research.  The event would build support structures for all concerned.

Finally, Tequila shared her vision of Take Action.  A unique idea to upskill low income parents in turning their houses into homes and also making them more employable with these new skills such as painting and decorating, tiling, plumbing and so on.  Tequila shared her view that children of low income families are often introverted and don’t have a voice.  Take Action would enable the children to design their bedrooms to be their ‘space’ and give them confidence in using their voice.  Supported by local colleges and organisations like B&Q the change delivered would be lifelong and really make a different.

The judges had a tough time whittling down these great ideas to just one winner.  Who was it????

Juliet collecting her £50 prize from head judge Pedro….

Ahead of lunch with the Associates, the judges shared their journey to the current roles along with their top tips for shining at work.

 

After completing their evaluations after lunch, the Associates left to relax over the weekend ahead of starting on their employer sites.

 

Check back to see how they get on…..

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