After one of the most challenging years many of us will remember, there’s never been a more appropriate time to think about how we engage our workforce and support them on their wellbeing journey. It’s just as important that we don’t forget out own.
We know that employee engagement and wellbeing are inextricably linked. It has never been more important to shine a spotlight on the environment we create for our employees, giving them the very best opportunity to be happy, motivated and productive.
The pandemic has naturally created huge feelings of anxiety for many of us, whether about the security of our employment or about our health – not to mention the health of our loved ones – and widespread remote working has left many feeling alone and isolated.
The vaccine and lifting of restrictions in the UK have created a more positive outlook for the year ahead. However, 2021 will bring new challenges in our return to work and our ability to successfully interact with our colleagues in a hybrid working environment.
With this insight report, we want to talk openly about how the pandemic has challenged our wellness and offer practical advice for improving both your own, and your employees’ wellbeing. We also look at how you can take a holistic approach to engaging your workforce and providing an environment for them to flourish, as well as publishing the results of our most recent survey on what’s important to employees for their wellbeing at work.
Many thanks to our contributors and to everyone who participated in our survey. We hope you’ll find this insight useful, and if you’d like to discuss any of the issues raised or to talk to a member of our team about how you can better look after the wellbeing in your organisation, please contact us.
Although technology has become more important than ever in a distributed working world, there is still a lack of tech experts on company boards. Investigo held a panel discussion on Thursday 8th April on the journey from CIO to non-executive director, hosted by Matt Smith, Chief Revenue Officer and Chris Seel, Director. They were joined by a panel of Peter Reichwald, an expert CV writer, and experienced CIOs and non-executive directors, Sarah Flannigan and Paul Coby, who offered practical tips for CIOs looking to achieve non-executive director roles.
The application: Peter Reichwald
It’s important first to understand why an organisation is looking for a non-executive director. As a CIO, you may have the expertise in transformation, organisational cultural change, technology or digitalisation to help them achieve their strategic goals, or regulatory experience across different jurisdictions to help them achieve governance oversight.
Take a dispassionate look at the criteria on whether a role is for you, where you can add more than the other candidates. If you hit 75% of the criteria, you should take it seriously. At the same time, you shouldn’t narrow the pool of opportunities down too far.
How should you approach the search for a non-executive director role?
You need to demonstrate passion, why you want the role – where your passion crosses a need, there’s likely to be a role for you.
Remember it’s all about what you can do for the company, not what the company can do for you. The door opens outwards.
Accept that you will have to deal with adversity.
Be happy – people often walk into the interview room with their shoulders drooped. Be upright, smile and engage with the panel.
CIO CV tips
A CV should be a factual evaluation of your career progression and achievements, yet directed at each specific role. You should never use the same CV twice.
Aim for two pages, not more than three.
Your profile should be three or four lines long.
Include details for the last 10 years and no longer, as the world has changed.
Provide the name of each employer along with its activity, size, turnover and number of staff, as well as your job title and responsibilities, in two or three lines.
Avoid colloquialisms and inhouse speak, which will mean nothing to the people reading your CV.
Include work outside of your day job – charity work, school governor positions.
The covering letter
Your covering letter should be up to two pages long and the person specification should guide you on the points you need to cover. Your motivation to apply has to be in black and white. What is it about the company that you like, and what are the challenges that appeal to you? Illustrate your achievements with bullet points of first-hand examples, including the objective, how you achieved it and the quantifiable outcome: ‘by installing this system, I reduced operational costs by a certain percentage.’ Remember, not ‘we,’ but ‘I.’
Everyone needs to know your aspirations. If they don’t know you want to be a NED, that you have the capacity to be a NED, they won’t think of you. Above all else, your network is crucial. During conversations at social events and the little places where people meet people, drop in that you’re looking for a NED role. One of the first places people will hear that a company is recruiting a new NED will be when the chairman is telling the board.
“The door to winning your role opens outwards. Be your own estate agent and sell yourself.”
The CIO juggling act: Sarah Flannigan
“I love it. The variety, the challenge of context switching from one organisation to another hour to hour, several companies in different sectors every day. It keeps your brain sharp. It’s exhausting but wonderful. I’m learning at a level I’ve never learnt before, and I’ve become more useful as I share what I learn with other organisations.”
As a non-executive director on the boards of eight companies, Sarah has to play very different roles depending on the needs of the organisation. She’s working with various CIOs and tech teams at various stages of evolution and maturity. Being able to keep abreast of so many different challenges is incredibly powerful.
Becoming a non-executive director
It’s important to be a chair. Sarah fell into non-executive directorship by jumping off the exec career ladder. Being a chair fulfilled Sarah’s need to be driving something forward, which she was able to do through the CEO and leadership team.
With an intense portfolio, it’s about playing with the graphic equaliser of roles where you always know where your next opportunity will be, and are able to feed in one role to replace another.
What makes a good NED?
If you get the chance to work with a board, watch how they work. What impact do they have on the organisation and what can you learn from it? A NED is there to lead through others, not to show everyone how much they know. Able to subjugate their ego for the sake of an organisation, a NED will know they’re there to help the chair and the CEO to be successful. A CEO needs critical friends who will challenge, support and provide fresh ideas. You’ll probably only make about 10 contributions a year, so no word should be wasted. NEDs often do their best work outside the boardroom, for example through an informal, quiet one to one with a CEO who’s really struggling with something, or by mentoring a CIO.
Why are you useful to that board? CIOs make great NEDs as they work across the piece. They have to be strategists and delivery people who are interested in processes and transformation, and understand how every bit of the organisation works. Don’t hide your battle scars in interviews, as boards want to know you’ve learned from them.
The time commitment – this varies enormously. Do your due diligence, speak to other NEDs on the board. There are usually about 20-30 days a year, half of them meetings and half of them reading papers and preparation.
Fees – these will start at about £5,000 a year for a government body and rise all the way to six-figures sums for a FTSE 100 company.
Balancing – you’ll need to graft to fit it in alongside your day job. No one should think for a moment that your eye’s on another interest – but your day job has to come first. The board want to know you’ve got live, relevant experience.
Starting off – joining a board of governors is an amazing way to give something back to the community and learn how to be a non-executive director. It’s pro bono but if you’re serous, those are the hard yards you’ll need to put in to start with. The NHS trust or cabinet offices are good places to start.
“Network and network and network. Tell everyone you’re looking for a role. You just never know when someone will be looking for your skills. Get ready to grab your chance when it comes along.”
Becoming a non-executive director: Paul Coby
How do you get a non-executive director role? What are you committing to? Why do it?
The worst case
You’re on the board of a company that’s been accused of misrepresentation or remissions in its accounts before you join.
The company is subject to a hostile takeover from activist shareholders who feel the board has mismanaged the company.
You attend daily board meetings that clash with your day job.
The company is subject to anonymous allegations of various illegal activities. They might be completely unfounded but they have to be dealt with.
You’ve been hired as a specialist IT director by a startup.
Why do it?
It challenges you to see the whole business like a CIO, CFO or CEO. You’ll have a lot you can add to the board, running core systems and probably adding to the digital strategy. You will understand your own company better and what’s going through execs’ heads.
Your job as a NED is not to do the jobs of execs – it’s to help and support them. You need to challenge in a constructive way, do your due diligence on what sort of board it is. You will probably be hired for your ability to help generate business as well as to support on digital. Your relationships with people on boards of companies are really key.
How do you get one?
“Make sure sensible and trustworthy headhunters know you want to do this.”
Build a tailored CV talking about what you will bring to the company and where you can add value, whether that’s helping with IT, supporting on cyber security or developing a digital strategy. You’re there for your overall value and your ability to see the big picture. Target a sector where you think you can add value. It’s important to be realistic – build a ladder, maybe starting as a school governor. Build that network and get the right intros.
The top five things to look out for
Is it a solid, well run company? Do your due diligence. Commit your reputation, skills and career to doing this.
Will you get on with the key people? Talk to the chair and the CEO to find out.
Can you afford the time commitment? Your day job is number one. If something has to give, it should probably be your NED role.
The culture of the board – light touch or interventionist?
Are they really hiring a non-executive director to do the IT director or CIO role? You’re not being paid to do this and it’s not in your job specification.
With their technological and digital expertise and the global oversight afforded by their roles, CIOs can bring real value to non-executive director positions while enriching their own knowledge and experience. It’s a mutually beneficial cycle for the individual, for their employer and for the companies they support as a non-executive director. As more and more organisations wake up to the importance of technical knowledge in the boardroom, we’ll undoubtedly see an increase in the accountabilities for non-executive directors – and in the number of CIOs being given these positions.
Many thanks to our panel and if you’d like to find out more about becoming a non-executive director, or you’d like to attend our next event, please contact us.
Barry Byrne is the Global Senior Director for Marketing Procurement at adidas. He is a passionate champion of innovation in procurement and has supported some of the most influential marketing campaigns of a generation, including Guinness’s ‘Made of More,’ Smirnoff’s ‘Night Life Exchange’ and Budweiser’s ‘Light up the World Cup.’
Barry has more than 20 years’ experience working with some of the biggest names in the industry and is a true people leader with an excellent track record of developing teams that live to take on challenge and deliver outstanding business outcomes.
In his spare time Barry likes to attend his son’s soccer games and watch his daughter horse riding. He also attends Ajax games at the Johan Cruyff Arena and never misses a Leinster or Ireland game.
Barry is one of the most authentic and influential leaders I have had the pleasure of speaking to, and I believe this has been key to his success to date. I hope you enjoy the interview.
Was procurement an intentional career for you?
Procurement was never the plan. To be fair, there was no plan! I finished up in college and floated. A friend of a friend asked me if I would be interested to take a three-month contract working for Guinness, filing invoices. I took the role, and the rest is history. Three months turned into 15 years, Guinness became Diageo, I moved from invoice controlling to procurement process to procurement and eventually landed in marketing procurement. I was very lucky to find myself in a company with great leadership, great culture and people who believed in me and supported me to grow and develop. After 15 years I left Diageo and joined Carlsberg as the Global Head for Marketing Procurement. So, I guess you could say procurement found me!
What skills does a career in procurement give you and how has that toolkit enabled you to fulfil your role today?
My biggest strength has always been and remains today my ability to tell stories, make connections and drive change. Procurement lets me play to my strengths. But along the way procurement has given me a fantastic grounding in how business operates end to end. You really need to understand this to develop strategies that make your organisation stronger.
How do you think the procurement market has changed and what do you think it will look like in five years’ time?
When I began my career journey, I was lucky in that Diageo was already quite advanced in this space. Procurement was integrated into the organisation and we worked hand in hand with our stakeholders to drive value. I was to learn that this was not the case across industry and that many companies operate a far more tactical procurement organisation with a very clear focus on cutting cost. In this environment procurement really isn’t fulfilling its potential. I also believe that many procurement processes and ways of working need to change. If the COVID pandemic has taught procurement anything it’s that the industry needs to be quicker to react. One-hundred-page category strategies hidden in drawers don’t add any value when a crisis hits. I believe in the next five years procurement will become more embedded in organisations, more CPOs will join company boards, there will be a pivot from cost cutting to innovation and sustainability delivery, and most importantly, procurement will become a faster, more agile function, ready to react to business conditions. If I have my way, procurement will also see a huge increase in female leadership.
Which procurement professionals have had the biggest impact on your career?
When I look back at my career to date it’s quite easy to pick out individuals who had the greatest impact on my career but I think it’s also important to recognise the companies that impacted my career. Without a shadow of a doubt Diageo gave me the best procurement and culture education anybody could ask for. I’ll forever be grateful for that. SABMiller was also a fantastic organisation to work for and now adidas is a truly unique organisation with great people and enormous potential. I’m in awe of the brand that is adidas. In terms of people, well what can I say, women make better leaders, that has been my experience. I believe I have worked for, been coached by and developed by five of the best in the world – Christina Ruggiero at Diageo, Natasha Lee, Katharina Stenholm and Michelle Baker at SABMiller, and Paula Martinez at adidas. They all taught me a similar lesson: collaboration eats competitive tension for breakfast and your people are your most precious resource. Supporting, growing and developing people to reach their potential is not only incredibly rewarding but it also drives incredible results. Working with these leaders has been the highlight not only of my career but my life in general.
What do you do differently as a leader?
When starting a new role as a leader I invest a lot of my time getting to know the people and building a team that can connect with itself. Team is not about individual, it’s the collective that drives results. I make sure to create connection with every member of my team and understand their motivations, their requirement, what makes them who they are. I don’t just want to know them as work colleagues, I want to really get to know them on a deeper level because I believe getting to know your people creates stronger relationships and stronger relationships lead to breakthrough results. Procurement struggles with diversity and inclusion. I believe to change culture requires action. I build gender neutral teams – in fact right now I have some work to do to bring some men into my team. My focus on growing and developing female procurement talent has led to a leadership team of 100% women. Few teams in procurement can relate to this. That said, I’m convinced together they have built the best marketing procurement team in the world.
What are your three non-negotiable behaviours for you and your team?
Trust – I give trust up front. No need to earn it but it comes with a condition: put the team first, grow together and deliver outstanding results.
One team. Be the best – Always strive to be the best you can be in everything that you do. It’s okay to fail but learn and come back stronger.
Freedom to succeed – I will always give my people the freedom they require to balance their lives with their work, their family, their ambition and their aspirations. All I ask for in return is to ensure the success of our team.
What are you passionate about?
I’m passionate about people and I’m passionate about my family. I’m a dad and I’m a leader, the two most important parts of my life. I’m passionate about the ability of people to come together to deliver great outcomes. I’m passionate about gender diversity and ensuring my daughter has all the same opportunities my son will have in life. I’m passionate to leave this world just a little bit better than I found it.
If you’d like to speak to us about finding your next senior procurement role or hire, please contact us.
Although flexible and remote working were already becoming more commonplace before COVID-19, there was still that barrier of reluctance in a lot of companies. Some leaders’ attitudes were still embedded in traditional working practices and presenteeism, resulting in a reluctance to move with the times.
On Wednesday 5th February, Investigo hosted a networking breakfast focusing on IR35 at the Ivy City Garden in London. With the IR35 legislation due to come into force on 6th April 2020, private sector organisations will have to rethink their approach to hiring interim service providers. At the same time, contractors will need to look at the way they define, present and deliver their services.
Outlining their respective journeys with IR35, our
expert speakers, David Kershaw and Max
Curzon-Hope, provided real-life examples and practical advice for
how clients and service providers alike can work within the legislation. They also
discussed how IR35 has enabled them to establish their business, Curshaw,
to focus on delivering outcomes. The breakfast was attended by change and
transformation leaders from various professional sectors.
New for the private sector, IR35 aims to ensure
contractors pay the right amount of tax. It’s set to come into force on 6th
April 2020. Under IR35, individual contractors who operate like employees –
otherwise referred to as “disguised employees” – pay the same tax contributions
on their earnings as those in employment, regardless of the structure they work
through. IR35 applies where an individual provides their services, through an
intermediary, to another person or entity.
David is an experienced procurement delivery
specialist who has worked in the public sector for over 10 years. He’s vastly experienced in
delivering intricate procurements for the public sector in a wide range of
complex environments, including digital, data and technology, marketing and
communications, transport and the emerging ‘Brexit’ space.
Max is a
commercial specialist with 10 years’ experience at the heart of government, delivering
major complex commercial change and transactions. He is a leading expert on the
Private Finance Initiative hand-back/expiry and complex infrastructure and real
firm, Curshaw, is a commercial transformation consultancy which helps
organisations transform and thrive in complex and uncertain environments.
“Both service providers and their clients need to
invest the time to understand IR35, do it properly, not cutting corners,” said
David Kershaw, who provides defined specialist procurement services. “It’s an
opportunity to go in and actually deliver and then leave.”
IR35’s nothing new, but it seems to have caught up
with many organisations in the way an overdue essay catches up with a
distracted student. Even for the prepared, the coming weeks will be pretty
busy. “Over the next six to seven weeks, we’ve got 400 contractors waiting for
determination,” said Derek Mackenzie, Executive Director at Investigo. If a
reminder were needed on the urgency of the issue and the timeliness of the
discussion, this was certainly it.
To say that the IR35 legislation was greeted with
trepidation in the public sector would be something of an understatement.
“There was a kneejerk reaction to IR35 and people were concerned,” said David.
At the time, he’d been working on a transformation project at the heart of government
and had actually received IR35 very well. He took the view that this provided
more rigour to his contracts and the way he delivered specific services
permanent staff could not.
The Summer Budget 2015 document, ‘How to make IR35
more effective in protecting the Exchequer,’ reignited the subject. “When it
was first rolled out,” added Max Curzon-Hope, “there was huge uncertainty.”
Such was the immediate effect on the public sector. Now it’s the private
sector’s turn to ride the wave.
Aiming to provide some clarity for the public sector,
HMRC launched its IR35 checker. While companies are using it to
determine contractors’ status, some clients are nervous when determining the
middle ground. The information on the government website offers a starting
point, it gives a flavour of the questions, but professional case-by-case
advice is still recommended.
Comfort in anonymity
Contracting presents an interesting contradiction –
the desire to quickly make an impact offset by the need to stay in the shadows.
From that point of view, contractors are in many ways the hero organisations
deserve, if not the one they need right now.
As such, contractors should not be part of the
organisational hierarchy and structure:
Don’t be a line manager.
anything outside your contract.
embedded in an organisation.
your own workday based around how you will deliver your services.
If you are a genuine service provider then act like
one. It’s about delivering the contract, not about being part of the
As an interim chief, your role is to provide strategy
and to deliver big projects. That’s the role. Not line management. A permanent
member of an organisation’s board needs to carry that management burden so
you’re very explicitly focused on the project and not involved in things like
management and other employee-related matters.
A world of opportunity
The key to evolution is the ability to adapt: to
adjust your way of working according to the changing conditions around you.
David Kershaw said: “IR35 gives more opportunities than people think.” One of
those opportunities comes in the form of substitutions, which can be
interesting and fun.
Think about publishing case studies to give the market
an insight into what you can do and open up a world of potential new contracts.
Demonstrate where you’ve delivered, and how this has changed something in a
client organisation – what difference has your discreet service made?
IR35 is obviously something that needs to be
respected, adhered to and worked around, but in many ways it’s very much a work
in progress with a number of grey areas. It’s therefore important that
contractors continue to keep the government aware of their concerns. One
attendee used the very apt analogy of the New Zealand rugby team: “Play what’s
in front of you head on.” He talked about how he’d challenged government –
local MPs, chancellor and even the Prime Minister – with varying degrees of
response. While MPs tend to reply very quickly, response-times become somewhat
longer the further up the chain you go.
But it’s important to keep the dialogue open, to think
about how you can influence grey areas that can’t be worked around, to explain
to legislators that you want to help the nation become more productive. The
organisations you work with can advise you on who else to contact for advice.
At the same time, understand and challenge the
client’s decision on whether you’re inside or outside IR35. A small company may
have a different position to a large company concerning IR35. If the company
uses the HMRC IR35 calculator and there’s a particular answer, ask them why. If
you’re inside no matter what, ask them the reasons. You’re learning and helping
them at the same time.
The discussion provided several simple tips to help
contractors acclimatise to IR35:
Get guidance from the government website.
Keep your own diary and control your own day and how you deliver.
Don’t be supervised or receive direction.
Ensure your time with a client is a fixed term with clear deliverables.
Don’t be named in the contract – list the role.
Ask a professional to review the contract. Although most will charge an additional fee, their opinion is certainly valuable.
Consider IR35 insurance.
Ensure you have a contractual right to substitute.
Deliver multiple contracts.
Publish case studies – think about what you’ve achieved, what you’ve changed and what difference you’ve made. Tell the story on LinkedIn so your network can spread the word.
Understand the client’s decision about whether you’re inside or outside IR35.
Use your own equipment – laptop, phone, even stationery.
The introduction of IR35 has no doubt presented huge
challenges to hiring companies and contractors alike. While many are still
trying to get their heads around the implications of this legislation, professionals
are gradually waking up to the realities and understanding how it will affect
them in their working lives. For organisations, there are resources out there
to help with determination. For contractors, there’s a world of opportunity.
The key, as with any significant change, is to adapt your ways of working.
Professionals who can do this in a way that fits in with their chosen lifestyle,
and satisfies their professional needs, will have the best chance of thriving
in this new environment. For them, the transition will present countless
At last night’s annual Recruiter Investing in Talent Awards (RITAs) we were delighted to take home the award for “Most Engaging Social Responsibility Programme” – a real testament to our charity commitment, volunteering and fundraising efforts.
A new award for 2019, the accolade for Most Engaging Social Responsibility Programme recognises the most motivational, creative and inspiring CSR initiatives, both in generating results for beneficiaries and in attracting the greatest engagement from employees.
At Investigo, we are incredibly proud of our charity commitment. Indeed, it is one of the elements of working for us that our people enjoy and recognise most. As a result, everyone at Investigo gets involved with charitable activities. The enthusiasm and energy surrounding fundraising and volunteering is infectious, you can’t help but feel inspired to get involved. Each year, we strive to support a charity where we feel we can make a real and lasting difference both through raising money but also through raising awareness. Selecting our annual charity partner is also a collective decision and we encourage every Investigo employee to put forward a cause close to their hearts.
In 2018, we raised £50,000 for Centre for Mental Health. This year, we wanted to go even bigger and better in our fundraising efforts by launching “The BIG Investigo Give” in support of our 2019 charity partner, Panathlon. Panathlon brings sporting opportunities and competitions to over 20,000 young people with disabilities and special needs every year. So far this year, we have raised £65,000 to support Panathlon’s inspiring work. And the ways in which our people have fundraised have been pretty inspiring too – from hosting a talent competition, charity quiz and exclusive Investigo gig to taking part in a gruelling three-countries-in-three-days bike ride.
Commenting on last night’s award win, Investigo CEO Nick Baxter said:
“We are truly overwhelmed and delighted for our social responsibility initiatives to have been recognised in winning this award. We pride ourselves on being a recruitment agency with charity and culture at its heart and our CSR programmes are a vital part of what makes working for Investigo so enjoyable and rewarding.”
As part of our entry to win the “Most Engaging Social Responsibility Programme” at the Recruiter Investing in Talent Awards, we were required to submit a video demonstrating our charity commitment, and here it is: https://youtu.be/5rpINHSzJts
As well as looking to employers to offer some practice support, there are a number of things that individual returners can do. empowher.com offers a number of tips for individuals who are returning to work following a period of absence due to a mental health condition. I think we can apply these 6 tips to a range of illnesses:
Seek out help from professionals
It’s important that the individual doesn’t try and re-enter the workplace alone; without the support of HR colleagues and other experts. You may be taking medication which could impact your performance or requires a routine. Share this with colleagues as this can help to elevate the stress of covering.
Take care of yourself
There are multiple ways to accomplish this including taking control of your work load; getting enough sleep at night; ensuring you are eating the right foods; taking regular exercise and balancing work and life goals.
Setting the boundaries
How much you wish to share with colleagues when you return back to work is up to you. You are the one who sets the boundaries. Deciding on these before you return will help you to feel more in control.
Talk to your boss and colleagues
Talk to your boss and colleagues about the limits of what you can do and what you can’t do. These may change over time, but setting limits and expectations early helps to establish boundaries which in turn reduces stress levels and stigma.
Maintain a healthy work-life balance
It’s important to balance work and your health from the start. Set yourself some rules. Make sure that you factor in enough personal and family time to prevent a work-life imbalance, which could trigger a future health issue.
Don’t be afraid to take time off when you need to in the future
Always bear in mind that taking time off work to maintain a healthy mind and body is essential to being productive at work. Taking a break from work doesn’t mean that you’re weak or a bad employee, it means you’re in now in control.
To read our accompanying Insight: Inclusive Workforce, Return to Work please click here. If you would like more information on future D&I events pleased contact Angharad Kenward, Angharad.Kenward@investigo.co.uk
Martin Sockett, Director of Finance at Grafton Merchanting GB talks candidly about his personal experience of returning to work after life changing injuries as the result of a car accident.
At the time of the accident Martin was successfully building his career within the Audit Practice at PwC. His partner, Rachael, also worked there and they shared a network of friends who regularly socialised. Having moved to Nottingham after graduating from the sporty Loughborough University it is no surprise that Martin was a regular in both his five-a-side football and cricket teams, and listed walking and skiing amongst his hobbies. He and Rachael had just moved into their first house together and were planning a future that could see them working overseas as they shared a passion for travel.
The road traffic accident that Martin was involved with happened only 200 meters from his home, in which the petrol tank caught alight and the vehicle was consumed by flames. He suffered 3rd degree burns to 31% of his body, with extensive burns to head, back, hands and right arm resulting in facial disfigurement and loss of his right ear. The severity of the injuries received saw Martin and his family being faced with the possibility that he would not survive the accident. He had severe full thickness burns to a significant portion of his upper body and head which would need to be treated by numerous skin grafts and plastic surgery. This alongside the long term wearing of compression garments and silicone face mask to help with maintaining the scar tissue.
Thankfully Martin did survive. He spent the first 6 months in the Burns Ward in Nottingham City Hospital, the initial two months of which were in a high dependency unit where he spent time in an induced coma. Subsequent hospital stays for further skin graft operations and scar tissue releases followed alongside 12 months of attending a specialist occupational therapy centre, which not only assisted with him using his hands and fingers again but helped with the social aspect of having to interact with other patients and staff.
Martin spent approximately 20 months in full time recovery, not only away from work but also from the life he had known before. He has kindly agreed to share his thoughts and feelings about his injuries, his recovery and his subsequent return to work.
We have heard about the devastating physical injuries you suffered, could you tell us how you felt emotionally after the accident?
My initial emotional reactions centred around the fact that I couldn’t look at my facial injuries for example I had to have the mirrors covered in the hospital bathrooms. I worried that the changes to my physical appearance would result in my partner leaving me and left me with a real fear of being alone unable to find someone that would accept me for the way I looked now. I was reclusive after the accident, I would avoid people other than close friends who came to visit me. My confidence in social situations had disappeared so I made excuses not to go out to where there were crowds of people such as the PwC summer and Christmas balls. At times this made things worse as I felt I was letting my partner down as she was having to attend these alone or with friends.
Even today I am more selective about where I go, partly because of how I feel but also because I still wear a hat in public which can create issues as some places do not allow hats to be worn like pubs, restaurants and even golf clubhouses. To this day I still experience heightened emotions in everyday circumstances whether this be in reaction to watching a film to reading a news article and this is something that has stayed with me.
When you started to consider returning to work what were your main concerns?
My first concerns was being accepted because of the way I looked, which was considerably different than prior to the accident; would people still want to work with me or socialise with me?
I was aware of my lack of confidence and had concerns around whether I could effectively do my job as it involved working with numerous clients in different locations with different audit teams.
I’d worry that if I couldn’t do that job, would I be able to get another one? Would I suffer at interviews because of the way I looked? In hindsight some of these concerns were unfounded but at the time I was always worrying about the worst case scenario.
I also had concerns about the work itself, how much had things changed over the course of the last two years and would I be behind with my knowledge? Would I need additional training to catch-up?
The nature of the structure in my early career at PwC created peer groups and one of my concerns was the fact that I had lost two years, my peer group had moved on without me. Instead of mentoring/training the intake two years after mine, I would now be part of that intake and they would be my peer group.
What support were you offered to make the transition back to work from your employer and medical professionals?
During my hospital stay and when recovering at home I was appointed a clinical psychiatrist who would visit the hospital, and then subsequently my home, to discuss how I was feeling and encourage me to go outside. Other than visits to the hospital or occupational therapy centre I had not been outside in public for more than a year. Once at home I had weekly visits from the clinical psychiatrist and this would eventually build up to going for walks outside, then going to a small shop, building up to going to the local supermarket and then eventually going to a local coffee shop with the intention of building up confidence.
Whilst I was in hospital the nurses suggested that they could bring in previous patients that had suffered life-changing injuries to discuss their experiences. I met a couple of previous patients which was very helpful in demonstrating that it would get better, that the negative thoughts were normal but assured me in most cases the reality was different.
PwC, my employers, were very supportive both to me and my partner which made a huge difference and had a massive positive impact on how I coped with returning to work. Before I returned both friends who were also colleagues and senior members of the practice, some of whom I had little or no interaction with previously, would visit me occasionally at hospital and then subsequently at home.
On returning I was able to build up my hours when returning to work. I was placed in a couple of teams where I knew the team leader as a friend which helped. Also clients were informed of my situation prior to working at their sites which all helped to reduce my anxiety and fears when first going out to new clients.
This is a life changing event, what affect did it have on your confidence? If affected what have you done to counter any loss in confidence?
Historically I had quite an extroverted personality and often assumed the ‘team leader role’. I was football and cricket captain at high school and subsequently sport secretary for my hall of residence at Loughborough University for two years. I was always one of the people. The results of the accident had a detrimental effect on my confidence, I would no longer go out to places where there are crowds or put myself in situations where I didn’t feel I had an element of control, I wouldn’t contribute to conversations in social gatherings.
As time went by I had to force myself into some of the situations I was avoiding, not just for my own sanity but also because I felt I was holding my partner back. By attending more social gatherings I got more comfortable with myself and I think my natural behaviours started to come back. I don’t think I will ever get back to the confidence levels prior to the accident but I don’t feel I need to either.
You speak very positively about your experiences. How do you deal positively with people both in public and at work?
Work and public are quite different situations, with work you expect a degree of professionalism but in public there is little you can do to control your surroundings or what people you will come across, both positive and negative.
Initially at work I think people found it hard to look me in the eye when having a conversation and some steered clear of the topic of my accident and resultant scars. In general I would turn the conversation to the way I looked or if I felt comfortable I wouldn’t upset the other person, I would make jokes about my appearance to try and break the ice and put them at ease, which in turn put me at ease.
In public quite often you will notice people/strangers staring at you, I think it is human nature for people to be curious about things that are different. My initial reaction in the early days was to look away but this grew into making eye contact and smiling at them almost if to say “I know you are staring at me”. Interestingly I would generally get two opposing reactions, some will look away (almost embarrassed) but occasionally some will initiate conversation and ask about what happened to me which I am more than happy to explain.
Encountering children still offers challenges. Quite often I see them staring or even pointing and saying “look at that man’s face” and often it is the parents’ reaction that determines the outcome. Some will tell their children off and pull them away but others will apologise which can more often than not result in me explaining to the kids (and parents) what happened or them asking if they can touch my scars to satisfy their curiosity because it is something different. Quite often this approach breaks down barriers and helps to educate children that everyone is different and that those differences are not a bad thing.
I do experience negative comments, most of the time I brush them off but it does remind you that you do look different. This can have a negative impact on your mood or state of mind for a brief period before I just move on again.
What advice would you give to someone experiencing the same challenges?
No matter how bad you picture things in your mind, it is never as bad in reality. This can be difficult to do but was true for me.
Talk about how you are feeling or what happened, don’t bottle it up. Most people want to help but do not know how to for fear of upsetting you. By talking things through, at times I felt was helping them as well as me.
Communicate with your employer and tell them what you need. They are not experts in “you” so they also need guidance.
Expect setbacks and times when circumstances are going to be challenging. Whilst I didn’t specifically plan ahead how I would react to different scenarios I had thought about “what if” scenarios or talked about the concerns I had with my partner.
What advice would you give to employers to support ‘returners’ in your circumstances?
I think PwC got it spot on with their approach. I was lucky that I worked for such a big company and with lots of different people which allowed this to happen. My advice to others would be:
Keep in touch. The home visits by various different people helped me because it meant that a lot of people had seen my change in appearance and would be expecting it when I first returned to work. Knowing I wouldn’t be walking into an office on my first day back seeing everyone for the first time was a huge relief. In a way it also got the rumour mill going as the visitors would tell other colleagues so they also knew what to expect – preparing them as well as me.
Build up hours and exposure gradually. This was a big help to me as was working in teams where I knew the people prior to my accident as this helped put me at ease.
Ultimately, every employer and work environment is different so the most important advice would be to ensure the lines of communication were open in both directions. Work to understand what works best for the individual because I expect different people will be feeling various emotions and require different support.
As both Rachael and I worked for the same company it was important also that she was given support and time which PwC dealt with very well. I would suggest to any employers to consider the family of those returning to work and offer them support too.
To read our accompanying Insight: Inclusive Workforce, Return to Work please click here. If you would like more information on future D&I events pleased contact Angharad Kenward, Angharad.Kenward@investigo.co.uk
On Wednesday 18th July, expert speakers provided invaluable insight and guidance to a packed-out audience, during an Investigo-hosted seminar that aimed to advise clients how to prepare and plan for the impending private sector IR35 reform.
The IR35 seminar formed part of Investigo’s continued support for and partnership with our clients, and with over 100 people in attendance it certainly proved a popular subject.
IR35 was introduced by HMRC to tackle “disguised” employment – that is, to determine whether a contractor is working independently and through their own limited company or as an employee of an organisation. In April 2020, the same regulations will apply to contractors in the private sector.
Welcomed by Marie Cuffaro who heads up our new consulting service, Investigo Consulting Solutions, delegates enjoyed two in-depth presentations; the first by Kevin Barrow, partner at international law firm Osbourne Clarke. Osbourne Clarke have been advising on IR35 since 1997, when it was first proposed for contractor and sub-contractor workforces.
Kevin opened his presentation by speculating that Investigo’s breakfast briefing may indeed be the first seminar on IR35 since the draft legislation was introduced on 11th July.
He continued to explain that with high-profile tax avoidance cases frequenting the media spotlight, HMRC have taken a more stringent approach to defining the tax status of contractors and sub-contractors. As such, April 2017 saw IR35 rolled out for the public sector, and the autumn budget of the same year announced the proposed reform of the private sector. Indeed, HMRC estimate they could lose £1.2 billion in tax avoidance if legislation is not brought in for the private sector.
In the majority of cases, the public sector’s response to IR35 was to blanket every contractor as being inside IR35 – that is, deemed an employee. But what can be learnt from the impact on the public sector for the private sector? This is where our second speaker Matthew Bullen took to the floor.
Matthew was previously a senior civil servant and so provided an insight on his experience of the impact IR35 had on the public sector – and essentially, what lessons could be learned ahead of the private sector reform.
Observations included the importance of effective communication, as it is often fear of the unknown, a lack of information and assumed understanding that hinders adjusting to new legislation. Above all else, communication helps to negate unnecessary panic. Effective planning and critical decision making are also key in order to mitigate risk; for example, is a blanket approach to bring all contractors inside IR35 or should they be assessed on an individual basis?
This and many more questions were also raised during a highly engaged Q&A session to conclude the event.
Commenting on the IR35 seminar, Investigo Consulting Solutions Director Marie Cuffaro said: “Our IR35 Client Seminar was a huge success, there wasn’t one empty seat in the room. We’ve had some fantastic feedback from clients already, many of whom are eager to attend future sessions on IR35 and similar subjects”.
“A qualitative study of the experiences of working mothers in the UK recruitment industry” is research guaranteed to grab the attention of anyone in the sector, parent or otherwise. As a working mother within recruitment myself I was surely going to be amongst the reports’ most engaged readers, eager to see myself reflected in the participant interviews, looking to draw parallels with my own experiences, and I was. That said, whilst the industry held particular interest to me, I found myself thinking that many of the aspects covered by this research are not unique to recruitment. As such I wanted to look at what insight this report could offer to the experiences of working mothers everywhere.
The research itself had been carried out by Katrina Hagan, as part of her Masters degree in Organisational Psychology. We, at Investigo, are fortunate to have Katrina as one of our Business Partners, where she provides professional development coaching across our workforce. Katrina not only has over 10 years’ experience within the recruitment sector but is also a trained Business Psychologist giving her an ideal vantage point from which to carry out the research.
When discussing the study with Katrina, the first question I wanted to ask was what had drawn her to this area of research? She explained that whilst the recruitment industry employs over 100,000 staff in the UK there has been limited organisational or workplace wellbeing research undertaken into it. Katrina’s study looked at the “unique psychosocial demands and resources working mothers feel they have experienced during critical periods”. In plain terms, she explains, how did the social factors present within the recruitment industry affect the thoughts and behaviours of working mothers? I was eager to know what ‘social factors’ her study had drawn upon and how these factors could affect the thoughts and behaviours of working mothers and further if they were felt beyond the recruitment industry.
Katrina’s research, along with her experience of working within recruitment herself, drew out two dominant social factors that place unique demands on working mothers:
Demands of the Job
As Katrina states in the introduction to her dissertation the unique set of challenges faced by sales-based professionals is well documented. I and most of my colleagues could testify to the “dynamic and unpredictable environments” the job has to offer. This coupled with a “long hour culture to meet demand” that Katrina references “predisposes individuals to the risk of stress”.
Recent gender pay-gap disclosures seem to suggest that the recruitment industry remains male dominated. As Katrina states “it is possibly not a coincidence that females typically hit the ‘glass ceiling’… around the time of them choosing to start a family, with the archetypal ‘career building years’ arising at the same time as a woman’s fertility”. She goes on to state “this may also be further compounded by the perceived unspoken demand…to not fulfil traditional female stereotypes and to conceal your mum status in the workplace.”
Whilst this study looked at recruitment, the social factors above are not unique to it. With stress the most common cause for workplace absences, it is clear the effects of constant responsiveness and increased competition have, as such it is not just those within sales-based industries that face such demands. In the same vein many organisations have been called out over their Gender pay gaps, lack of female representation at board level and pervasive bias towards female workers. If these are the socially present factors within not just recruitment but many businesses, how are they effecting the experiences of those returning to work after becoming a mother?
Through the interviews Katrina carried out, the below social factors manifested themselves as three key experiences.
Personal performance demands that working mothers placed upon themselves to be successful in dual roles.
Challenges of returning to work following maternity leave.
Demands to conform to a male gendered organisation’s model of an ‘ideal worker’
Throughout the study Katrina found that the greatest performance demands experienced were the ones the working mothers placed on themselves. Comments repeatedly reference feelings of, “proving themselves” or “doing both jobs badly” as mothers resume their place in the workforce with the increased responsibility and demands of child rearing. The findings are something I can personally attest to having frequently attempted to live up to ever-increasing societal pressure to “have it all”. We all know this is a parental ‘keeping up with the Jones’ that will see you spreading yourself ever more thinly but still we feel we should prove, mostly to ourselves, that we can do it all. I, like all the women interviewed for this study, wanted to resume my place in the workforce, and like them believed that my professional life is important for my wellbeing and fulfilment. This, again is not unique to recruitment, so what can working mothers and their employers do to ask for and find a realistic balance?
Return to Work
This is a special kind of vulnerability that anyone who has been out of work for any length of time will be able to relate to. Alongside the lurking doubts of “will I still be able to do this” you have the changes that any business will naturally have undergone in your absence. Procedural change and staff turnover can often erode self-confidence, as one of the interviewees stated it’s like you’ve slipped “through a void”. Katrina’s research discovered that many of those returning to work after maternity sought less responsible, visible roles as a protection from their self-doubt. At the opposite end of the scale some of those interviewed returned to roles that had been diminished in responsibility and restricted their opportunities for promotion. This cocktail of circumstances often left those returning feeling like they lacked the personal reserves to challenge decisions made to their detriment.
The Ideal Worker
Katrina’s research found that all the women interviewed experienced some form of gendered demand placed upon them on their return to work. They all referenced a pressure to conform to the industry’s model of the ‘ideal worker’, which they felt were the workers with no commitments outside of work and this tended to be a male dominated group, a model present in many organisations. The interviews suggest that these demands were either implied through covert messages surrounding cultural norms “we’re work hard play hard” or were more overt in the interactions with their supervisors and colleagues “Dave is an example to us all that hard work pays off…always first at his desk in the morning and last to leave at night…”.
Many experienced attitudes to flexible working ranging from the jovial “part timer” or “leaving already?” type comments through to an ignorance which saw colleagues disregarding or demanding more flexibility from working mothers around their working patterns. Many interviewed referenced being made to feel of less value due to their part time status, despite the contribution being made during this time being equal to that of their full time colleagues. Some commented further that their “career had been put on hold” as payment for the privilege of part time hours, with the overriding feeling being that full-time workers are preferred.
Another measure against the ideal that working mothers felt they were falling short of was visibility. Alongside many taking part time or compressed hours reducing office ‘face time’, commitments outside of work kept them from the bonding opportunities offered socially. Recruitment, like lots of sales businesses, often further incentivise employees with trips and in/formal events. These are predominantly evening and weekend based and naturally given the responsibilities of parenthood, working mothers cannot attend all those offered. Many of those interviewed commented on feeling ‘excluded’ but also many regretted that these events were often where relationships and bonds are built, and they were missing out on these opportunities.
Whilst this research looked at the recruitment industry the experiences recorded are certainly not exclusive to it. Lots of employees experience stressful working conditions and many organisations are still male dominated. The factors measured against for this report could reasonably be applied more generally for working mothers. Whilst many steps have been taken to increase flexibility and create a work-life balance that allows mothers (parents or primary carers) to remain in the workforce, it seems there is still much work to be done to improve the experience of those returning to work.