Our fifth anniversary

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I started this blog not long after founding MyWorkSearch in 2009. We started product development in February 2009 and provided our online service to our first customers in September 2009. In what seems like a blink of the eye, our portal is now five years old. We have a reasonably large team, numerous customers and are about to expand overseas. Whilst I still consider MyWorkSearch to be in startup mode I often hear others refer to us as an established business and the benchmark in our sector.

Fifth anniversaryThe five-year milestone has resulted in my thinking back to our original plans and how they have evolved over the years. The technology world often refers to business ‘pivoting’. This is a fancy way of describing when a company discovers that its anticipated business model has not worked out and survival necessitates a change of strategy. MyWorkSearch has certainly done its fair share of pivoting and it has only been in the last year or two that we have had a clear sense as to who our target customers are and the value we bring that will result in them paying for our services.

Our original rationale was that most people find job search a challenge. They approach the task in a chaotic and haphazard fashion and this reduces their effectiveness. Having paid consultants/advisors provide job search assistance is in most cases simply too expensive. We believed that technology would provide an effective and affordable alternative and this led to MyWorkSearch. We decided to create a portal that would provide all the resources a jobseeker would find useful as well as the tools to stay organised. We knew that this would increase job search effectiveness and real-life experience has demonstrated this to be the case.

Which brings me back to our business model. We have identified five types of customer. However, our ‘compelling value’ proposition only works well with four of them:

  • Motivated jobseekers see immediate relevance in MyWorkSearch. They access the resources they find useful and recognise the value they have received from their MyWorkSearch account.
  • Providers delivering a programme for the unemployed also appreciate MyWorkSearch. Our portal provides the structure and reporting that both enable effective job search and demonstrate that it is happening. MyWorkSearch ensures that systematic job search takes place and the provider can require that those they are assisting use it. We are a low cost, scalable and efficient way of delivering business performance and we can readily communicate this to our prospects.
  • Employability is important for colleges and vocational training providers and they can see how MyWorkSearch helps them systematically achieve progression. MyWorkSearch is part of how the students’ courses are delivered and they just get on and use it. Study Programmes, Traineeships and employability courses all generate customers for us.
  • Some organisations, such as libraries and job clubs, want to have a range of useful resources available to their users. MyWorkSearch is a readily accessible portal that service users will appreciate and a sector for whom we have a clear proposition.

Our challenge is the fifth type of customer. This is the unemployed individual who lacks job search motivation and is not on a programme where MyWorkSearch usage is mandatory. We know that MyWorkSearch can help this person, however, we also know that there is a high chance that the individual will either fail to open a MyWorkSearch account or quickly give up. As matters stand we don’t have a compelling proposition for these customers as our service cannot benefit them if they won’t use it.

As we look to the future my hope is that we find some solutions for this fifth customer group. How can technology engage with and motivate individuals who have got into the habit of giving up and who are not on mandatory programmes? If we can solve this our next five years will be even more successful.

Catch 22 with British and EU bureaucracy

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My blog-silence has been broken by my frustration at some very silly and wasteful EU / British rules that cost us all a lot of money and bring negligible benefit. Let me explain. Those who know of my company, MyWorkSearch, will be aware that we have an online portal that provides a wealth of resources to assist individuals on their job-search journey. We have recently added content and functionality so we can deliver employability courses that are funded by the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) and European Social Fund (ESF). The payment for an employability course is not that much, however, a technology delivery model makes it viable. To be entitled to the funded course Paperworka person must be unemployed and eligible for benefits in the UK.

Our funding comes via a contract holder, known as a Prime. Our Prime is subject to strict audit rules and should any process or paperwork be incorrect can be required to repay monies they have received. This can be several years down the line and in a low margin sector risk the on-going viability of the Prime. Clearly this creates a risk-averse approach.

So far I am sure that all who read this are nodding their heads and thinking that this is as it should be. Unfortunately, what it has created is a monster of bureaucracy that prevents help being provided to people who need it and adds overheads to providers and government that ultimately we all end up paying for. Meanwhile, the system appears to be designed in a way that stops intelligent change taking place.

The latest example we have run into is with regards to eligibility. In order to provide a short (20 – 30 training hours) employability training course we need to see a copy of a person’s passport or birth certificate. This presents us with two problems. The first is that many people, especially those who find themselves in need of these funded employability courses, don’t have a passport and have long since lost their birth certificate. Getting copies requires time and money. The second is that an employability course can be effectively delivered online, however, demonstrating eligibility and getting a learner signature requires face to face interactions and thus limits who can be assisted and where they are located.

If employability courses don’t make a difference they should not be funded at all. If they are helpful there should not be barriers that prevent their swift provision. What is the point of restricting or delaying assistance that gets people from costly benefits recipients to contributing taxpayers? We have a cumbersome system designed to prevent fraud without anyone stopping to consider how many people are really likely to masquerade as unemployed and entitled to benefits in order to get a free employability course. Nor do they appear to have considered the relative costs of the occasional eligibility mistake versus the bureaucracy overhead that every party bears for every assistance recipient.

Notwithstanding that self-certification would probably be fine, there is a middle-ground solution. Only an eligible person can claim unemployment benefits and Jobcentre Plus could readily issue a confirmation that the checks have been undertaken. Indeed they already have a process for this. The challenge is that the SFA and ESF won’t categorically confirm that a Jobcentre Plus document is sufficient proof. A Prime naturally needs to avoid the risk of clawback so in the absence of a clear SFA statement it insists that its supply chain dots every i and crosses every t.

I regularly speak to other small providers. We all have our examples of how the system has been daftly designed. But what truly adds insult to injury is our inability to get this changed. The SFA only deal with the Primes and smaller providers who are at the mercy of the rules have no route to dialogue or mechanism to obtain clarification. The Primes do not wish to jeopardise their contracts and have to conform to a system where they are informed of the rules they must follow and know that any mistakes can prove very costly. Meanwhile, now that much of the SFA’s funding is mixed with EU monies, there is always the ultimate joker card that trumps all arguments. Brussels makes the rules and we have no choice but to enforce them.

Entrepreneurs tend to be passionate about what their business does and also adept at finding solutions to problems. I really value that our service helps people find employment. We change for the better the lives of many people. I am so frustrated that I work in a system that is so poorly implemented and where there is no route to effect change. I could make it my mission to expose ineptitude and obsessively campaign for improvement. However, doing so would no doubt commercially hurt my business and take time I don’t have. So I just grit my teeth and get on with it, observing considerable waste at a time when we are all told that government expenditure must be cut. How very sad that I and so many others are put in this position. It does not make me proud to be British or European.

Just ask Apple

Over the past nine months I have visited numerous further education colleges and met with a wide range of staff and learners. I have also attended several conferences and listened to politicians and representatives of funding bodies.

Further Education colleges are vitally important. They are responsible for educating millions of young people each year and in many cases they will be the last step before entering the world of work. How they prepare their students directly affects the learners’ lives and also the prosperity of our society.

Unfortunately the sector is experiencing real challenges. Funding is getting cut, targets harder and meanwhile many operating overheads are difficult to reduce. Often properties were designed many years ago and are both expensive to maintain and inflexible. The students they are helping are facing a harsh jobs market where work is scarce and tenure uncertain.

All of these are problems that would tax even the best of managers. But to make matters worse colleges have another major challenge.

Two well known business maxims are “Deliver what the customer wants” and “He who pays the piper calls the tune”. For colleges the customer can be the learner or the employers that hire the college’s students. Meanwhile the paymaster is a bureaucratic government department operating under national policies set by the government of the day.

So college leaders are pushed and pulled between competing interests. In some colleges this is very apparent and their future does not look good. Death by a thousand cuts until a forced merger puts them out of their misery. Other colleges are coping better. Sometimes this is fortunate geography creating opportunity and sometimes it is just a question of better leadership.

I have a simple perspective. The product that really counts is talented students. Produce confident, capable and highly employable students and the college has a viable future. It will have a sought after ‘product’ and when there is strong demand the money normally follows. Just ask Apple.

Much ado about rather a lot

It has, to put it mildly, been an interesting week in the welfare to work sector. I even found myself whisked to BBC TV Centre for a live interview so I could add commentary to the war of words raging across the Internet and media. I don’t know if I bring anything new to the debate, but here goes!

I have worked in the employment market for over twenty years and in the welfare to work sector for three. Much has changed, however, certain themes have not.

Employers may not always select well, however, hiring the best people available to them is always their objective. Some prospective employees don’t have the required skills. Others may not know how to sell what they offer as a candidate. Still others get jobs but do not keep them, as they are ineffective at fitting in within the workplace. And finally there are people who for any of several reasons prefer unemployment to the work opportunities available to them.

Meanwhile, government is always looking at ways to reduce unemployment. They do this because it feels the right thing to do given their electoral mandate and the normally well-meaning intentions of the politicians. They do this because unemployment is socially corrosive; it is also very expensive. And in a democracy governments experiencing high unemployment tend not to get re-elected.

Government can employ civil servants to deliver solutions, or it can outsource. Where a provision is tightly specified a competitively procured contract will normally drive down delivery costs. However, the risk of tight specifications is that the deliverers can be mandated to provide services that are ineffective, and it can take a long while and considerable wasted resource before the government identifies the need for change and makes it. An alternative is to pay by results and not specify how these are to be achieved. Darwinian competition amongst providers will lead to innovation and improve the chances of successful outcomes. This is the model of the current Work Programme. Of course whatever model is chosen, the quality of outcome and value for money will be dependent on the procurement process and the extent to which there is genuine competition. Executed well, providers will generate profits however these should be far less than the additional value obtained by the customer.

The current political furore over work experience is somewhat ironic, as it is the Work Programme itself that is far more coercive than the workfare programme so much in the news. To me it boils down to a very simple question. To what extent do we as a country accept unemployment on benefits as a lifestyle choice? Notwithstanding fraud, a life on benefits is not comfortable. If one believes that it is the right of a citizen to choose this over work, then anything other than opted into training and support will be considered an injustice. If one believes that welfare should be no more than a safety net, enforced job-search and employment will be considered reasonable. If a person’s skills, domestic circumstances or location limit the quality of jobs open to them then so be it.

I have real sympathy for A4e. Human beings make mistakes, some are foolish and some are dishonest. When an organisation has thousands of staff, things will go wrong from time to time. If management step in and deal with the problem in a way that is generally regarded as correct, that should be the end of the matter. A4e have succeeded because over the years they have done a lot of things well. Destroying their business will do nothing to improve welfare to work provision. It will simply ruin one of the more experienced and effective large scale providers and deter talented managers and organisations from working in the sector. I don’t begrudge Emma Harrison her dividends. If procurement has focused on the best provision why should one complain when an organisation has found a way to meet its customer’s demands better than anyone else and also make money. If procurement is flawed or the fraud systemic then there is cause for serious repercussions. As matters stand today this does not seem to be the case.

So what next? I hope that the debate moves from A4e, Emma’s dividend and Tesco to our attitude to skills and employment. Our economy is weak, we have a less skilled population than is ideal and we are facing ever stronger global competition. If we don’t address these problems our employment choices will be the least of our problems.

I am very busy

The trouble with being an entrepreneur is that there is always something that needs doing. An area that can be improved, a new initiative to be got off the ground or simply a fire to be put out. And then there are the demands of family, from pleasurable activities with spouse and children to the inevitable chores. All in all, finding spare time is challenging.

It was in this context that I attended Silicon Valley Comes to the UK this week (http://www.svc2uk.com). This is an annual week long programme of events around the UK aimed at audiences ranging from university students to established company CEOs. What makes it special is that almost 40 extremely successful US technology entrepreneurs and investors (http://www.svc2uk.com/speakers) gave up their time to spend a week in the UK, freely giving of their experience and advice. Over the week they influenced thousands of people, inspiring them to achieve more and providing invaluable real-world guidance. I am certain that every one of the visitors had many other pressing demands on their time. Despite this they made the trip and enthusiastically participated. All too often one hears of self-interested entrepreneurs and financiers. I wish these critics could see what good this group of businesspeople did in the UK this week. Whilst writing this blog I want to especially thank Sherry Coutu (http://www.svc2uk.com/speakers/61) and Reid Hoffman (http://www.svc2uk.com/speakers/28), the main drivers behind SVC2UK. I really liked Reid’s comment that “Entrepreneurship is important because it is how you invent the future” and I think the future will be better because Reid, Sherry and their network made the time to selflessly share. Certainly my MyWorkSearch to-do list just got longer!

Dragons’ Den in Welfare to Work

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For many years the government has, with the best of intentions, funded programmes that for one reason or another failed to deliver the anticipated results. So long as the provider has undertaken the specified services it is paid its money and the government is left with the frustration of having spent considerable sums without achieving the desired outcome. When existing solutions fail to solve social challenges there is a need to try new things. Meanwhile it must be exasperating for government ministers to recognise that all the risk of failure rests with them. Payment by results is very attractive to government however very few providers have the resources to fund service provision up front and accept outcome risk.

One can argue that it is the role of government to take these financial risks but given the public’s reaction to failed projects it is easy to understand why ministers and civil servants become risk averse. In addition, the nature of procurement means that the provided service has to be clearly specified as an open cheque would be an invitation to actual and suggested fraud. However a clearly specified service cannot react flexibly to changing circumstances. Far too often major projects proceed with all participants knowing that failure is inevitable but without an obvious mechanism to solve the problem or end the programme.

A possible solution is Social Impact Bonds. The government pays for results and investors make available the project funding. The provider can focus on effective delivery without needing deep pockets and meanwhile there is a funder that can be pragmatic whilst also taking a very close interest in project outcomes and not losing its money. The objective is that spending decisions are made as though it is one’s own money because for the investor it is. In the same way that venture capitalists can take informed risks and achieve more successes than failures, Social Impact Bond investors will ensure that projects they fund are effectively managed and failures are swiftly halted.

Providing a financial return to investors means that successful projects will cost more. But if there are fewer failures along the way the overall costs should be lower and meanwhile society benefits from better delivery. I think this method of funding could be positive for all, however there are a few pitfalls that I hope are avoided.

The more risk the investor is required to take the greater the return that will be demanded. Think Dragons’ Den and the challenges of asking for money to support an idea! Welfare programmes, especially the more innovative ones, will simply become unaffordable.

However if used smartly I think this finance method can work extremely well. In my view the following are key:

  • The government should only use this funding model where providers can specify a measurable outcome that will be the payment trigger.
  • The investors’ risk should be their profit margin and at most only a small part of their capital. This will encourage them to work for the upside without charging a huge premium for downside risk.
  • The government should be wary of philanthropic investors. The key to success is an investor breathing down the neck of the provider, focused on achieving the outcome targets and thus the investment return. A philanthropic investor may not attach the same importance as a traditional investor to attainment of the outcome targets and consequent payment of the success fee.

My company, MyWorkSearch, has submitted a bid as part of a consortium where the funding will be via Social Impact Bonds. At this stage I don’t know whether we have been successful however the bidding process has been an interesting process for all the consortium members. My experience so far is that both the government department procuring the service and the providers are feeling their way, not totally sure what model is best and where exactly to pitch risk and return. This is a topic I will return to as I learn more over the coming months.

Cabinet Office Innovation Launch Pad

It has been almost two months since I last wrote a blog entry. The summer has flown by and what is normally a quiet time has been anything but. I am not complaining as the alternative is far worse. However a little time to catch my breath would be most appreciated!

A lot is happening this week however the most exciting item is on Tuesday 19th July. Some months ago it was suggested that we apply for the Cabinet Office Innovation Launch Pad. My understanding is that the Government has recognised that SMEs will be the engine of growth for our economy and should be encouraged. However it was pointed out that it is very difficult for most SMEs to do business with the public sector and therefore if the Coalition is to give meaning to its intent it needs to make some changes. The Innovation Launch Pad, run from the Cabinet Office, is a high profile way of doing precisely this.

Any UK SME could submit their ideas on how they could deliver improved value for money for Government. There then followed an in-depth evaluation process including public commenting, expert review, civil service voting and presentations by the short-listed companies. From this nine companies emerged as the ones selected as being most promising and MyWorkSearch is one of them. We put forward two ideas and the one that has been chosen is that every unemployed person in the country should be offered MyWorkSearch free of charge. If we can help just a small proportion find a job slightly faster than they otherwise would, we can save the Government over £250m per year in unemployment benefits and lost tax.

On Tuesday there is an event at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills where the nine selected companies will put forward their ideas. Present will be Government ministers, senior civil servants, business leaders and the media. In the evening there will be a reception in Downing Street.

The nine companies are:

It is a tremendous honour for MyWorkSearch that we have been selected to get this far and I am delighted. What is most exciting are the many conversations and introductions that have already occurred as a result of getting to this stage. I am getting a real sense that there is a commitment from the civil servants I have met to be open to the ideas we offer. The public sector has been risk averse for as long as I can remember and more of the same will not produce the outcomes our country requires. Making it acceptable to take a few risks and potentially have some initiatives fail is exactly what we need. The ideas that work can be scaled and those that don’t can be learnt from.  Meanwhile a generation of entrepreneurs will see that the public sector is open for business and will create solutions, some of which will deliver huge benefits.

I hope that the Innovation Launch Pad is a success. It will be great for MyWorkSearch however it could be superb for the country.

Sour grapes and transparency

Many psychological studies have emphasised the importance of fairness. We can all put up with considerable hardship however what makes it feel far worse is when our situation has arisen as a consequence of unfairness. In business all too often we are unaware of why a decision has not gone our way and therefore do not know whether it was our fault through not being as good as necessary or someone else who simply did a better job. We very rarely have insight into a patently unfair process.

One of the positive things happening with government procurement is the greater transparency into the decision making process. Far more data is published and therefore one has a better, albeit not perfect, insight.

Two things have happened this week that I have found very frustrating and I cannot get away from the feeling that I am suffering from a severe case of sour grapes! That having been stated, what has happened is still wrong and is very disappointing.

The Cabinet Office are sponsoring what is a great initiative. In an effort to benefit from the innovation that tends to come from smaller enterprises and to encourage government to do business with this type of company they have created the Innovation Launch Pad.  Here companies can submit ideas and the best ones get a higher profile and access to help in advancing their proposition to government. MyWorkSearch submitted two ideas (idea 1 and idea 2) and in the first, expert review stage, they both were scored 5 out of a maximum of 5, something achieved by only a handful of submissions. Whilst I am clearly biased, given these scores I think it reasonable to claim some merits for both proposals. The current stage of the competition is for those with civil servant email addresses to register and rate each idea, clicking on a thumbs-up for those they like and a thumbs-down for those they don’t. Our second idea has the distinction of – by some margin – receiving the most negative ratings of all the several hundred submitted proposals! Given that the idea clearly is not daft my only explanation for this level of antipathy is that civil servants are associating our idea with public sector redundancies and that a vote against us is a vote against redundancies. Absurd and unfair though this is, there is nothing I can do about it and it is therefore highly unlikely that what on the face of it is a good idea, will have a chance to progress to the next round.

The second occurrence this week was the announcement that The London Boroughs Recruitment Partnership, a consortium of twenty-five boroughs and three associated bodies, have appointed a firm as their sole supplier of recruitment advertising and strategic HR services.  The announcement includes the fact that the contract has been expanded to include additional services such as outplacement to help LBRP members during the current period of change. MyWorkSearch looked at bidding for this major contract however the published requirement was that whoever bid for outplacement also had to offer recruitment advertising. The two services have nothing in common and I can see no logic in requiring both from the same company, especially as there is only one large provider in the UK that within its range of business lines has both services. We knew we could not win and therefore decided not to bid. Several months later it is this one organisation that has both offerings that has secured the contract. They are are a reputable and professional company and will in all likelihood do a good job for their client. However they won a major piece of public sector work in what was superficially an open but in reality a shoddy process. This is not fair to the companies that would have liked to secure the work and it is not fair to the tax-payers and employees of the twenty eight organisations that procure through The London Boroughs Recruitment Partnership.

And this brings me full circle. Two instances of poor practice that have negatively impacted upon my company, an enterprise I care very much about. Ironically the transparency of the process has made the unfairness that much more obvious. But what to do? I could obsess over it and have it churn away. I could try and fight the process and bring about change. I think instead I’ll just write this cathartic blog and then move on! Sometimes life isn’t fair and in business this rough goes with the smooth.

Year 3

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We are just signing off our second full year of accounts and this brings home to me that MyWorkSearch is not quite the startup I consider it to be.  Indeed to be totally accurate the company is now 27 months old.  The business has gone from an idly discussed idea to fully formed business with a wholly functional technology product, numerous awards, management structure and processes, employees, customers and multi-million sales.  I still have my original business plan and whilst our core proposition remains the same it is amusing how wrong I was about so many aspects of who we would sell to, how and at what price.  On the one hand I can take pride in our ability to adapt to the market and opportunities, however I also have to recognise that a considerable sum of money was speculated on a venture that turned out very differently from the forecasts that underpinned the investment decision.  I don’t think that this is inherently bad, however it is important to recall this lest hubris sets in.

We now face our next set of challenges.  When we started we were pioneers in suggesting that the labour intensive process of (re-)employment transition assistance could instead be delivered using technology.  The prevailing wisdom was that our type of service could at most be a support resource to the assistance provided by a consultant.  We were not calling into question the value that a consultant could bring.  We just observed that in many cases there simply was not the funding to provide help in this way and that an effective alternative was necessary.  We thought it could be done through smart technology and decided to invest our time and money in making this happen.  Now that we have proven it is possible and become successful we have competition.  In many ways this is a good thing.  With very few exceptions, the absence of competition indicates the absence of a market.  Also, having competitors keeps us on our toes and ensures we do not assume our current market leadership is an entitlement.

So where to next?  We have made good progress with our employer proposition. Each week new organisations subscribe to our services and we are winning repeat business, demonstrating customer satisfaction.  We are partnering with an expanding number of organisations and it is clear that so long as we don’t do anything daft we will continue to develop our market presence.  Our government work is also progressing well.  This summer, in the UK, the Department for Work & Pensions starts the Work Programme.  Many hundreds of thousands of people per year will be assisted first into employment and then helped remain in work.  Delivery is sub-contracted via regional ‘Prime Contractors’ and with funding tight and the numbers requiring assistance high, technology solutions are one of the few methods of making the Work Programme viable.  This presents us with a huge opportunity and this week we launched our Work Programme mini-site at www.myworksearch.co.uk/wp.

Working with those whose employment challenges are more severe has allowed us the opportunity to once again embark upon intensive product development and stretch ourselves as we consider how to meet the needs of this client group.  We started work last year on our Nudge Engine® – functionality throughout our site to examine a person’s progress with MyWorkSearch and make personalised, useful suggestions – and have significantly expanded this for the Work Programme.  Our head of research, an occupational psychologist, has created a number of transferable skills questionnaires that can elicit what a person has the potential to do and then MyWorkSearch takes this data and helps both author a CV that presents the client’s capability in the best way and also finds relevant vacancies.  Other innovations include sophisticated activity management with jobseeker performance reporting provided to the Work Programme advisor helping the client, integrated chat to provide jobseekers with help when they need it and user journeys that can be customised and locked-down.  We created a table of MyWorkSearch features and were pleasantly surprised when we reviewed just how much we had developed.  At the very least we expect to positively impact upon the lives of many thousands of people who are struggling with the difficulties of extended unemployment.  However if our approach proves successful with those whose employment problems are more severe it is quite possible that we will have a transformative effect upon the welfare to work sector.

So we may no longer be a baby startup – but it certainly doesn’t feel like we are coasting or can rest on our laurels!

Yes – this does matter!

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I am the CEO of a company and I am also a salesperson, responsible for ensuring we win as much business as possible.  So I do appreciate both sides of the coin: receiving numerous approaches from enthusiastic vendors, all keen for my time and budget and meanwhile being that self-same person trying to get a prospective customer to focus on our offering.  I am quite certain that in my haste I have rejected offers that it would have made more sense to accept.  But this is just one of those things in a busy business life.

I was pondering this as I discussed some of the challenges our business development team face.  We are convinced that:

  • MyWorkSearch through taking an innovative approach solves a fundamental problem that affects the entire outplacement industry.  The level of assistance that can be provided by a conventional outplacement provider is directly related to the budget, as the main cost is a consultant’s time.  The lower the budget the more the service is rationed and at some point the offer becomes of very limited value.  Delivering through technology breaks this link as we do not have a delivery cost.  Our service is 24/7 ‘all you can eat’ with the user taking as much assistance as s/he wants.  On the basis that we have got our solution right – and the evidence suggests we have – we have created something truly special that transforms what is possible in our sector.
  • Whilst every employer I have met has stated that they would like to provide career transition help to former staff, many have said that they simply don’t have the money to do this.  MyWorkSearch, using technology, has dramatically reduced the cost of outplacement assistance and I quite simply do not believe that any solvent employer can now use lack of funds as a reason to refuse provision.

Executives who do not spend their employers’ money wisely are doing a disservice to the organisations that pay their wages.  But unless the sums are very large the consequences are normally trivial.  However those responsible for outplacement decisions fall into a different category.  Not to put too fine a point on it, their employer is firing people who will need to secure new employment in what is clearly a tough jobs environment.  Since very few people are sufficiently wealthy to be able to fund their lifestyle for long without a salary the consequences of redundancy can be severe indeed.  I therefore find it very hard to accept the cavalier attitude to outplacement that my colleagues and I observe all too frequently.

I don’t believe that HR executives who fail to put time and effort into their choice are callous.  Nor do they fall into the category of the careless pathologist whose inattention results in a cancer being missed or the inefficient MOD administrator whose error results in a soldier being without essential equipment.  However their casual approach to this responsibility has consequences far further reaching than I believe they realise.

I remember seeing a cartoon of a man with a machine-gun standing outside a tent next to a medieval army whilst inside the king points out to his servant that he has a battle to fight and no time to see some salesman.  So how should we handle the employer who refuses to look at what we offer, citing either an existing supplier relationship or lack of time or the inability to countenance outplacement due to absence of budget?  If anyone who reads this has some ideas please do get in touch.  And I promise to make time to listen!