Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

My New(ish) Site!

Posted: December 14, 2016 in Uncategorized

You can visit my new WordPress site, you’ll love it, promise! Dan Rich Cash Poor.

So I’ve found a new gig to go along with making the digital magic I do at Brighton Toy and Model Museum

I recently started as a copywriter and editor at Surf Digital writing for several clients but my core activity revolves around writing wedding blogs!

Now, for someone who has such little interest in weddings and the institution of marriage, I think I do quite a cracking job! After all, I may not be a fan of getting tied down, or ‘tied together’ as my sister put it when she got married (yes, now divorced!)but who doesn’t love a party!

I’m still also working at the toy museum, the Toys In The Community exhibition is going well. I’ve taken it out to a couple of venues and people are finding it really interesting. I’ll post up a few pictures when I’ve grabbed them off the museum’s camera.

Since 2012 corporations including LinkedIn, Google and ad agency Mother have been encouraging their staff to “bring in your parents” with the hashtag #BIYP. The event is growing as more and more employees reverse the pattern of schemes like ‘take your daughter to work’ and instead show their mums and dads what they do all day.

Parents are naturally proud that their offspring have jobs in such high profile companies as Google but often don’t understand what it is that they do all day. When asked, many parents are stumped. Reports by LinkedIn have found that more than a third of parents aren’t sure what their kids, who they put through school and university, actually do while at work. (I wonder how many of those are also among the 50% who say they could be of benefit if they understood what they did. I can picture my mum now: “I don’t know what it is that you’re doing, but I know I could do it better!”)

Bringing parents in for a day has a number of different benefits for your company. It enhances cohesion as employees scuttle away into a corner to hide from parents while they share embarrassing anecdotes with one another in front of the marketing assistant that you’ve been crushing on for the past 4 months. There’s nothing like adversity to bring people together and if anybody knows all the worst secrets about you, it’s going to be your wrinklies.

In fact Bring In Your Parents days do offer a good deal of ROI. Giving people the opportunity to talk about their jobs in tones that would insult the intelligence of a bright six year-old means that interdepartmental awareness is increased, therefore improving communication channels and breaking down barriers to innovation. People work for years a few desks away from others without knowing exactly what it is that they do. The opportunity to explain to outsiders with little grasp of what it takes to run a forward thrusting 21st century company means that colleagues with a vague idea of other people’s functions, skills and responsibilities learn exactly who does what.

Alongside increased cohesion and communication, another thing #BIYP is good for is to generate free publicity. This week my local paper covered a story of a minor celebrity from the 90’s apologising when his kid’s balloon burst in M&S, giving some people a fright. If it’s a slow news day you’ll probably make the front page.

You don’t need to be a big name on children’s TV to accrue column inches provided you do something out of the ordinary that fosters engagement with your company, especially if you can tie it in with a hashtag that has its own special day.

“Companies are now realizing that it’s really hard to maintain loyalty and retention, and one of the things that they found is that millennials listen to their parents,” Lindsey Pollak, who has written several best-selling books about millennials in the workplace.

Kids listen, and do as they’re told too. So a nagging parent telling them not to jump ship when they want to pursue a career as a levitating street performer really does have a genuine effect of staff retention. Make the parents realise the importance of staying in place and you’ll keep staff longer. Because, let’s not forget, parents have a vested interest in the career their kids choose. You’re not going to be able to afford a top-end care home if your entire career has been ricocheting from job to job, are you?

You might be worried about how you’re going to cope with having your parents sitting beside you for eight hours. I couldn’t even get through a Christmas Dinner without a fight these days so I shudder to imagine what a work-day of inquisition, criticism and passive aggression would look like. LinkedIn tried a half day to start with in their Dublin office. Giving staff a chance to get their things done and then a few Guinness under their belts before the real work of keeping their parents in check began. There was a presentation, Q&A and a tour of the building and an end-of-day cocktail reception, so all in all they got off pretty lightly.

Parents can be intimidating for other people too. They’ve had a lifetime of telling people off and getting what they want through trickery, coercion and threats. Imagine being the manager of a disgruntled employee whose dad is staring you down. The conclusion of such a scenario could only be redolent of Fight Club meets playground taunts of ‘my dad can beat up your dad’ made horribly real in the multistory.

I’m making it seem a lot worse than it is in fact. In reality many people find BIYP days to be fun and rewarding. Proud parents gain a better understanding of what their kids have chosen to do as a career, see them respected in the workplace and find themselves able to offer insight that they have gleaned from their years of experience that they may not otherwise have shared, not fully appreciating until they get to know the job that, although separated by years, sector and industry, people are people and work’s work.

“My team was talking about how their parents have had wonderful careers and they have wonderful advice to give but they don’t always know what we do,” explained Danielle Restivo of LinkedIn. She went on to describe an email her mother had sent asking her to summarise her job in a easy to understand paragraph that she could use when she had to explain what Danielle did. Considering many jobs that Londoners do today wouldn’t even have existed five or ten years ago, and the process involved in more traditional roles has changed beyond recognition, most of our parents could probably use an aide de memoire whether it was to read to their friends or just to keep for themselves.

As the population ages and the generation gap shrinks, younger people are more likely to do things with their parents. That can be social activities, entertainment or career based. It may surprise you to learn that Adecco in the US found that 8% of interview attendees got a parent to go with them to the interview and 3% of actual, real people took a parent with them to the subsequent job try-out. Perhaps helicopter parenting really has gone too far in the case of these individuals but for the rest of us, people who are socialised to an adequate level and no Oedipus complex

‘A job for life’ sounds like a judge passing sentence rather than an ambition to most people these days. Our parents’ generation saw things like the closing down of coal mines, shipyards and industry; our grandparents talk about leaving school, walking into their first job on Monday and if they weren’t happy, they would find another job on Tuesday. Anyone who talks about the halcyon era of ‘a job for life’ today is harking back to a time that would in fact be unrecognisable to many.

As the very notion of a job for life dissipates so does the rigid structure that once supported it. Around half of employers have had a policy which specifically forbade previous employees from returning in the past. Now 76% welcome ‘boomerang employees’ back again. Re-hiring a former employee who left on good terms enables an employer to welcome back somebody who not only knows the company, its culture, ethos and hierarchy in advance, but someone who has also gained experience outside of that particular corporation’s bubble. Another upshot of this is not only a more highly skilled workforce, it also results in greater employee confidence. If you know that your boss will have you back if you try to take a punt on a new career, you’re more likely to take a chance that would once have once been seen as ‘burning your bridges’.

People who’ve performed well in a variety of roles have different techniques, insights and attitudes which they have seen working in competitors’ environments. From these they’ve cherry-picked the ones they know to be most effective. As Rosemary Haefner, vice president of Human Resources at CareerBuilder puts it: “More workers are pursuing opportunities with various companies to expose themselves to a wider range of experiences, build their skill sets, or take a step up the ladder in pay or title.”

But some people still don’t see that when you’ve been working short-term contracts and ad hoc gigs you’ve been adding disparate skills to your toolbox. Rather, they see you as a job-hopper and potentially unreliable. That’s a blinkered way of looking at someone with a unique spectrum of skills.  Migration creates a talented asset who can bring far more to the party than HR could ever fit in the job description.

Embrace change and know how to handle it

Today people are bearing the pressure of uncertain times and not only coping, but turning the turmoil to their advantage. Looking to the future, people who can adapt quickly are going to be recognised as the workplace heroes industry needs rather than the unreliable flibbertigibbets who are overlooked in favour of the solid slogger.

Futurologist and founder of Fast Future Rohit Talwar says that “This generation of children will work until they’re 100 and work 40 jobs” with as many as 80% of the jobs we know today ceasing to exist within the next 20 years. And the reason for this? Automation and artificial intelligence (AI).

As the world we live in becomes more digital, so many more processes can be handed over to robots and computer programmes which will take much of the drudgery out of the workplace. AI will take the place of what many call “knowledge workers”. As the human / machine interface become more intuitive it won’t be necessary to have humans do jobs such as call handling, reception and administration. Instead of completing these tasks, staff will be able to employ their minds, solving problems in a haphazard, imaginative, inspired way that, as yet, machines are still incapable.

Make room for the avant garde

Among the things affecting change from the human to the machine is the retirement of Babyboomers. This creates space for younger people who are more inclined to ‘think digital’ than their analogue minded forebears. The adaptability of GenY and Millennials, their familiarity with technology and the way it should simplify our lives will propagate an ethos which is already present in many modern companies. This outlook means a solution based environment where the outcome will always outweigh the process. Never again will we hear the Voice of Doom crushing innovation with the phrase: “That’s just not the way we do things here”.

As automation continues to proliferate the workspace and take care of the everyday chores, we’ll have more time to spend on things such as thinking, collaborating and communicating in the office. Although that begs the question, ‘what will the office look like?’ Working remotely is becoming increasingly popular for many reasons, including saving time and money commuting. Employers can reduce the number of seats they need and therefore downsize the amount of rented office space they need. Nobody can have failed to notice the number of people working away at their computers in coffeeshops the length and breadth of the country. Perhaps that will be the new model for the rest of the century. No more cubicles in banks of identical pods but a cafe style layout where people can move freely to work with different people on different projects.

Asking future generations “What do you want to be when you grow up?” will become understandable only as an outmoded concept. While there are enough rewarding, satisfying jobs out there, why stick to one? If Mr Talwar is also right when he says “Within the next five years, 20 per cent of all the jobs that exist today will have been automated away. By ten years that could be at least 50 per cent and by 20 years, 80 per cent” we’ll all have the time we need to experiment with whatever career we choose. What’s more, with all the additional abilities we’ll have accrued from our broad experience, we’ll be able to do those jobs better than ever before. By remaining adaptable we ensure that the possibilities for our futures are endless.

 

Give Until You Feel Better

Posted: December 1, 2015 in Uncategorized

It’s Christmas, so it’s a time for office parties, shopping, eating too much, definitely drinking too much and then feeling bad when you’re hungover or a bit iffy after eating an entire packet of mince pies in one go.

At the back of your mind you remember your teachers or your grandmother or someone saying something about ‘it’s not about the presents you get, Christmas is a time for giving’ then you see yet another mawkish advert on TV with someone going out of their way to make someone more unfortunate’s life a bit better. It kind of hits you right there, doesn’t it? Putting some loose change in a collection box is one thing but there must be more you can do. Something that will really make a difference to your community.

No matter how big or small your company, people are waiting for your help

You’re far from the only person feeling this urge to do good things for people less fortunate at this time of year and there are so many things that you can do if you pull together with the people that you already work with. It doesn’t matter what size your company is, there is always something that you can do.

If you work in a small company you might be limited to the amount of time you can devote to charity. Charities are always short of money, especially at this time of year when everyone is preoccupied with making sure they have the best for their own families. If everyone where you worked could come up with just a little bit of cash, then it soon mounts up. Something as simple as a whip-round, a bake sale or buying an extra present for a local project can make a difference. A Fancy Dress Down Friday can be a lot of fun and if you are feeling brave, you can take to the streets at lunchtime to shake the collection bucket at your neighbours. (Remember though, some people really hate this kind of thing, so maybe they’d just like to pay a tariff to wear their ordinary clothes to work instead.)

Helping out does more than just get you on a charitable organisation’s Christmas card list for next year. Monetary donations made through Gift Aid will not only benefit the charity as they get the income tax that would have gone to the treasury, such donations are also eligible for tax relief. (You’ll want to talk to your accountants or a tax advisor to find out about limitations.)

Bolder charity fundraising ideas could involve getting your colleagues to take part in sponsored events. Justgiving.com and localgiving.com are but two sites that make it easy to oragnise sponsorship for your events, meaning that raising and collecting money is far easier it ever was in the past. You can be as imaginative as you like with the events you want to attract sponsorship for, fun-runs, sitting in bathtubs of custard and silences were popular once but things have come a long way since then. Challenges can be used in a way that really drives the plight of the people you’re trying to help home. Some companies will do a Sponsored Sleep-Out, sleeping rough on the streets for a night in January in the rain or snow, to highlight what a truly awful experience it must be find yourself in that predicament. And if you want to donate more than just a few pounds, then how about donating your time and labour as well?

Another way of helping your local community directly is taking time out of your regular working week to go help out with the work your charity is involved in. Helping decorate, clean and run a kitchen at Christmas, taking food around to rough sleepers, helping out at community centres, care-homes libraries, schools, animal shelters and food banks are all possibilities. Crisis, the charity for single homeless people, have several centres in London and works with several other charities who offer food, a bath, advice, shelter and companionship to people in need and they all require help with everything from cooking, serving and cleaning, drivers, translators, entertainers and everything in between. To find who else is looking for people offering their time, just Google ‘volunteer christmas’ and the area you work in. Alternatively contacting organisations such as the Royal Voluntary Service will give you more great ideas of what you could do to support your community.

Real challenges build real relationships

Employers shouldn’t see this as simply a way for staff to get out of the office for a day, instead, look at it from this angle: Volunteering gives people the opportunity to solve real problems, to develop leadership, listening and delegating skills. What would you rather, Pay a team-building specialist to take your staff for a weekend of trust exercises and raft building in an outward-bound centre in Shropshire? Or genuinely put something back into your community while building real camaraderie, morale and cohesion among the people who work for you? Much better, in my opinion, to generate a genuine feel-good buzz in the office having made a real difference to people who needed help. This is your opportunity to reach out your hand and do some good rather than annoy your staff by dragging them outside their box and forcing them to try blue-sky thinking about some fenceposts and a plastic barrel.

A lot of businesses have a community involvement policy and those that do champion community action are viewed favourably by their consumers and have happier staff. As many as 82% of consumers claim to bear Corporate Social Responsibility in mind when they are deciding what to buy and where to shop. There is a genuine interest among consumers that when they buy something the money they spend isn’t just going into a fat-cat’s offshore account but being used to help people, pay a fair price for goods and resources that are sustainable and environmentally sound. Take advantage of this interest by incorporating your community involvement into your public persona, build relationships and remember, like your nan said, it’s better to give than to receive.

Seven Steps to Christmas Bliss

Posted: November 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

The main thing about enjoying your Christmas is making sure it’s as stress free as possible. Of course it will never be entirely plain sailing, but it is possible to make things easier on yourself. As Christmas approaches, naturally enough it’s the shopping that begins to make us feel a little frayed at the edges. If you’re organised enough to start doing your shopping when the first adverts start appearing on TV you’ll have most of the hard work done by the beginning of November, for the rest of us, shopping starts in earnest now.

To get the festivities off on the right footing you’ll want to ensure that you can find everything you need with the fewest hitches possible. To that end, here are a few recommendations that might help you get through the lead-up to Christmas without incident, panic, stress or tears. Some of these suggestions might seem to be along the lines of teaching your grandmother the basic principles of egg-sucking, but you can’t argue with the evidence. Every year thousands of people are still trying to find The Perfect Gift on Christmas Eve with only minutes before the shops shut.

Write a list, check it twice

Taking ten minutes to put together a list of people to buy for cuts down on wasted time and anxiety. Once you know who you’re buying for you can then plan a rough budget and avoid forgetting to buy for anyone too. It would be nice to be able to buy something unique and perfectly suited for everyone, including those for whom you buy presents only because you feel obliged. The reality is that tough times call for tough decisions, maybe the people you buy for out of a sense of obligation can make do with a card this year.

Novelty wears off

Now that you have your short list of people to buy for, think about what they’d like if it weren’t Christmas. Despite all the ads, nobody really wants a novelty gift. Instead, think about a gift that they will really appreciate. Some people are just impossible to buy for, that’s why socks and hankies were invented, right? But have you tried asking them? OK they might not get that child-like thrill of a totally unexpected surprise, but you’ll be sure of getting them something that you know they wanted. Alternatively, think about genuinely unusual gifts. From beekeeping courses and dance classes to taxidermy and goldsmithing, if you can’t find something interesting to introduce a loved one to in London, it probably doesn’t exist.

Small is beautiful

If someone’s surprised you with an outstanding act of compassion or you’ve made a new friend over the past year, buy them something small and thoughtful. There’s the temptation to buy something that is going to impress but It’s much better to give something discreet and personal.

Timing is everything

Unfortunately there’s no getting around it, Christmas shopping is going to give you a headache at some point. However, there are certain things you can do which will make it bearable. First thing, avoid shopping on your lunch hour or on your way home. Not only is this going to cut into time that‘s meant for other things, it’s when the streets are going to be most crowded. Stopping into shops on your way into work is a better idea, there aren’t so many people about and the staff aren’t exhausted from serving droves of panicking shoppers yet. Alternatively, do it at night as many shops will be closing late at this time of year. But don’t let the temptation of late opening hours lull you into procrastination, later opening hours afford you several hours of extra buying time, use them wisely.

It’s all in the preparation

It’s no good going shopping if you’re tired, hungry, stressed or up against the clock. You’ll make rash decisions or find yourself frustrated when you can’t find what you went out for in the first place. The key here is all about getting yourself ready. Make sure you’re properly fed as having to take time out of your tight schedule to queue for a sandwich is only going to increase your stress. If you’re rested, relaxed, and not fixating on what you’re going to have for dinner you’ll be in a position to cope far better than if your stress levels are already increased.

Not on the high-street

With click and collect you can do all your browsing online, pay for it now and collect it when it’s convenient for you. This is especially good if you like to check the goods for colour and size in-store. Alternatively there’s doorstep delivery. most online retailers offer same or next-day delivery which you can have sent either to your home or office depending on which is most convenient so no more worrying about missing the postman with a very important parcel.

Remember the Christmas Spirit

You can run yourself to a frazzle at this time of year, getting so stressed trying to please all around you that you can’t enjoy the season yourself. Don’t forget that if it all gets too much, you can turn it all off by just saying “no”. Instead, spend Christmas with the people who mean the most to you. People put themselves under a huge amount of pressure to create the perfect Christmas, most of the work going unnoticed by those around them. Instead of wearing yourself to the bone, relax. So many things that you think are necessary probably aren’t so long as you’re with the people you want to be with, doing the things you want to do when you want to do them.

Christmas is never going to be absolutely stress free. Yet taking advantage of strategies that are there to make things easier on yourself is like reaching a Zen like state of tranquility. As if a curtain is pulled back to reveal the intricate workings of a machine, you’ll see how it’s put together and better yet, how to operate it to suit you, rather than exhausting yourself trying to keep up with it. And once you have this enlightenment, you’ll find you have more time to really enjoy that elusive ‘Perfect Christmas’.

Work Wellness

Posted: November 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

Here in the UK the NHS is something that’s more than an establishment, it’s a part of the British state of mind: if you get ill you will receive world class treatment, free and (mostly) promptly.

However, the NHS can only do so much. They offer advice about public health and wellbeing but given their limited resources, have to concentrate on making people better, rather than preventing people from getting ill in the first place.

And health is an issue most people shy away from. If you’ve ever watched Embarrassing Bodies you’ll know that people’s willful ignorance means that they won’t go to the doctor until something is really wrong with them. You find yourself asking “how could anyone have possibly let it get that bad?” when they finally present with a limb that’s all but atrophied itself off. But I think we’re all guilty of it to some extent, we find excuses, we don’t have enough time, it’s not bad, it’s just a twinge, it’ll pass… All the while we’re just storing up trouble for the future.

Companies from cleaning outfits to international banks carry out drug screenings to weed out potential problems before they impact on their bottom line so why not initiate health screening too? Maybe you’d find it a little intrusive to have your employer carry out a raft of health checks on you, you’d be worried about what they might find or that they might use the results to limit your chances of promotion or advancement if you had something that might mean you’re knocked off of your career path for an extended period of time.

But that’s not the point. Some middle managers in unscrupulous corporations might use such data as leverage but in the most part companies will be able to use this information to help and support you, identifying concerns and addressing them in a timely fashion means that you’re not likely to take unpredictable days off or go on long term sick. Nobody wants you to be ill and replacing your unique skillset is laborious, expensive and boring. Instead it’s much better to keep you fit in the first place.

It’s not just your physical health that’s being monitored either. Many of us feel uncomfortable talking about stress or issues that affect our mental health. Ask a Briton how they are and you know things are really bad if they say “yeah, fine.” “Could be better” portends disaster of a global scale. If we’re like this with our friends, consider what we’re like when an employer asks. Is your chair ok? are your eyes alright? do you need any help with that? will all elicit the reply “everything’s fine, really.” If we can’t answer basic questions like this honestly, then how can we be expected to talk about stress, anxiety, insecurity and worry in an honest way.

Tackling these issues in a neutral space with a qualified healthcare professional as part of your terms of employment would offer a chance to improve the health of all concerned. You’d be seeing the benefits of preventative healthcare, your employers would be able to make the workplace a healthier space, cut down absenteeism and improve staff retention as found in a report published by RAND in response to a survey they conducted in 2014.

It’s important to target these programmes to the individual. Generic programmes to improve a nebulous notion of “health” often fail to hit the mark. People find them boring, embarrassing or irrelevant. Telling people about diet and fitness is all very well but I think everybody knows that they should probably get more exercise and take care of themselves better. Again, it’s finding the time, inclination and motivation that holds them back. On the other hand, if people were given a battery of tests, a thorough exam, not only of themselves but their working environment too, then they would know that their health was being taken seriously and that they are valued as a person as well as an asset.