Susan's Musings

Just Thinking Out Loud

Developing a Skilled Workforce for the Upturn

As we are now unfortunately in a recession, the current focus for most businesses is unlikely to be on recruiting staff, but now more than ever there is a need for organisations of whatever size to ensure that they are are as efficient and effective as possible.

A critical key to this is having staff with the right skills, in the right roles within your organisation. You may have noticed politicians talking about upskilling staff affected by redunancies to find the new jobs. This leads me to two inter-related questions. 1. Do prospective employees know what skills they require in order to work within your organisation? and 2)Beyond the knowledge that you need skilled staff do you know what specific skills you require, such that anyone could readily be able to identify individuals that would be suited to work within your organisation?

If the answer to either of these questions is no, then I believe you as an employer are missing something, asemployers are known to complain that young people coming into the workplace do not have the required skills. Now is the time for you to stand up and clearly articulate your requirements so that individuals going out for retraining and the people supporting them can make sure that they will be able to fulfil your business needs.

This is also important for your current workforce as through schemes such as Train to Gain there is currently a considerable amount of financial support is available to help you to develop your Staff.

I would recommend that you seize the opportunity and take a few steps as follows:

1. Review your business objectives/ plan for the next few years

2. Identify the skills and competencies you are going to need to meet your business objectives. If necessary get help in doing.

3. Develop this into a framework of roles which identifies not just the skills and qualifications, but also the wider abilities and attitudes that enable effectiveness such as communicatin skills and confidence to undertake different activities.

4. Assess the abilities of your current staff against both your immediate and future requirements in order to identify where you can develop current staff to fulfil roles and where you are likely to have gaps going forward that need to be filled external.

5. Make sure that the processes that you use to identify staff for development and promotion are open and fair taking into account the views and interests of your staff. This is important in order to prevent any legal claims of unfairness, but it’s of equal importance to ensure your staff remain engaged and positive about working with your organisation.

6. Begin to think about how you are going to fill the gaps (when the need arises) by recruiting employees, contractors or possibly outsourcing.

If you miss this opportunity and don’t begin to prepare now, when we come out of this recession in a year or two or whenever it may be, you may be caught of guard in a reenergised battle for skilled employees.

Susan Popoola

Conning Towers
HR Transformation & Talent Management
Leveraging the Power of People
Copyright 2008 This document is the specific intellectual property of the Conning Towers Consultancy. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated from content obtained from other sources and such content is referenced as appropriate.

BNP on Question Time

It’s now close to a month since the BNP’s leader, Nick Griffin appeared on Question Time and I think it would be fair to say that the jury is still out on whether it did more harm than good.  In fact in all honesty, I doubt if there will ever be a consensus.

For me more than anything else it highlighted our limited ability to address the root causes of issues and as such although the intentions may have been noble, I believe it was a wasted opportunity.  At the beginning of the programme I was pleased to see that politicians were actually uniting and agreeing on points being raised.  However, I shortly after I made this observation while watching I became aware that it seemed that the other panelists  were more united in showing Griffin up than anything else. It seemed that due to the controversy proceeding the programme they needed to justify the presence on the panel the Question Time panel that night by showing him up.  Furthermore, by the time the conversation moved on the subject of immigration, the sense of unity that I had previously observed dissolved.

This is not, however, the key reason why I believe that the programme was a wasted opportunity.  More pertinently, I believe the programme location and therefore studio audience was flawed as West London is not an area with much BNP support as reflected by the questions/comments from members of the audience.

Rather than the attempt to show Griffin up, I would have preferred an opportunity to gain a greater insight into why there are a significant number of people in the UK that support the BNP, so that their concerns can be addressed.  As it stands, even though Griffin may have been shown up, there were subliminal messages behind some of the things that he said that the less liberal minded amongst others would have agreed with.

For instance people may have sniggered at Griffin’s comment about public kissing in response to the question about homosexuality.  However when he went further to speak about the teaching of Sex Education in Primary schools , without defining terms, he was touching on a concern that (like it or not,) a number of parents hold. However, the only response to this that I heard was from a politician tweeting who exclaimed   “Why is he bringing primary school kids into this?”

As such while there will be many that disagree with some of the fundamentals that he stands for, they will at the same time believe that he (and his party) are the only ones that understand and address the issues that concern them.  Yes Alan Johnson is now talking about the need for a debate on immigration.  I would, however, venture to say that at this stage (after over 12 years of labour in office) we shouldn’t be debating but acting.  The sad thing is whether or not you agree with their policies, Labour have started to do something.  There is a question as to whether people are aware of  what they are doing.  For instance, how many people are aware that Britain now has a points system for immigration, fashioned after the Australian system? For those that have heard mention of it, how many kow how it works together with the impact that is likely to have over time?

The lack of explanation/response may explain why when I recently came across a list of BNP members and allowed my curiosity to get the better of me; I reviewed the list and came across the name of someone that I believe I know. Assuming the person on the list is the person I think it is, I very much doubt if she joined the BNP because she hates people of colour and sees no place for them in this country.  This is a person I have conversed with at length, had lunch with, who has discussed the possibilities of working jointly on projects.  You may say think I’m naive and that there is no explanation for her BNP membership  other than hatred or race.  I, however, do not believe it’s that simply and hope to unveil at least some of the real issues in my next book, “Consequences”

Copyright 2009 This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated

Lakes Youth

“Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea,

never regains its original dimensions.”

Oliver Wendell Holmes

In 2006 a young man named Ray Quinn appeared in the talent show The X Factor. I couldn’t help but like him. While he remained true to who he was he was extremely grateful for the opportunity of being on the show and wanted to make people, especially his mentor, Simon Cowell, proud. He went on to the finals and finished as the runner-up. In 2007, I felt proud to see him judging on Baby Ballroom, another talent contest.

In some many ways, he reminds me of some other young people I know of in Milton Keynes who live on the Lakes Estate. I guess like most young people they were of the opinion that they never had enough to do – they were bored. On the Lakes Estate there is an officer called a Community Mobiliser who has responsibility for community development within the area.

Described by a local parent as “someone who gets things going or keeps things going in the community.”, recognising the frustrations of the young people, the community mobiliser worked with them to arrange a number of sporting events. This included the rare opportunity to go away for an event outside of the estate and as such broaden their horizons. To her credit the events were a great success. They both involved and effectively engaged a lot of the young people. Significantly, they have carried on since the first event. What stands out about the events now is that they are no longer organised by the Community Mobiliser. Rather they are actually organised by the young people themselves. The only thing that the Community Mobiliser does to help is provide them with support at their request.

Their activities have had such an impact that they received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services in 2005. And some of these boys, though still quite young now are very conscious of their community needs and are working to help fulfil the needs of the young children on the estate who look up to them. They also work to support the older people within their community. To this end some of these young people also go to meetings within the Council Offices to represent their community’s needs.

It’s amazing how little things have such a huge impact. After all, these are young people that the typical adult would not think of talking to, who on their own part were very shy and would not have even contemplated conversing with adults, who now go to meetings and clearly articulate their viewpoint on behalf of the whole of their community.

There are a total of eight community mobilisers in Milton Keynes, working across the most deprived areas. Taking the time to understand the community needs and support the communities in fulfilling them through a number of different means inclusive of activity groups, workshops, trips and outings, but ultimately providing local people who sincerely care about their communities with the opportunity to improve on things for the collective good.

On YouTube there are a few videos which much better highlight the work of Community Mobilisers than I ever could. [i]


[i] Community Mobilisers – http://www.youtube.com/user/CommunityMobiliser

Copyright 2008 Extract from Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective

This document is the specific intellectual property of Susan Popoola. Content may not be reused or reproduced without the specific permission of the owner or a reference to the source. Opinions may be generated from content obtained from other sources and such content is referenced as appropriate.

The Demonstrated Beauty of Credit Unions!

It’s been quite saddening to learn via the BBC of atrocious stories of how people have been charged ridiculous interest rates on loans from loan sharks. Interest that they could never practical pay, but have accepted out of desperation.

The stress that the resulting pressure of being chased for payments causes cannot readily be explained. However in what some may see us an extreme one young man ultimately committed suicide recently.

It’s therefore pleasing to remember that in Milton Keynes there is a credit union to help people who may otherwise have no other choice but to go to a loan shark.

I recently read the story below which clearly highlights how credit unions can help to transform lives!


Christina has been a member of Milton Keynes Credit Union (MKCU) for some time now. She told Kim Davis, MKCU, Development Officer about her experience of borrowing money with MKCU.

“I’d known about credit unions for a while so I searched on the internet to find one in Milton Keynes. I’d heard food things about credit unions from my mother, as she had been a member nearly 50 years ago when she lived in Canada. Mum had gone there to live and decided she wants to come back home. Using the local credit union, she saved up her fare home! Having heard such a positive story, I got in touch with MKCU and joined.

When I became a member, I wasn’t managing my money very well. I’d borrowed from a ‘doorstep lender’ and was paying a high interest rate. Even when I got a loan from my own bank to pay off an overdraft they charged me 50%in interest! I’d been with them over 20 years and expected more support, instead I got a really high interest rate.

I had no savings and no means of saving – no one wants you to save just a few pounds a month. Nowadays most banks require you to keep a certain amount of money in your account of you have to pay charges.

Since I joined Milton Keynes Credit Union, I’m still not great with money, but I’m improving. For the first time for years, I have some savings behind me – I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I borrowed money from MKCU to pay off my Provident loan, as the credit union charged me a lower interest rate, they talked to me about repaying too, we agreed a repayment which was affordable, and left me able to save too.

Borrowing with MKCU is different as I began to know some of the people there, it was a very personal service. I’m now on top of my repayments plus I’m building on my savings too – in fact, my savings are now greater than what I owe on my loan, which makes me feel good. With MKCU, the interest is charged on the decreasing balance so the more I repay, the less interest I’ll be charged, much better for me than doorstep lenders or my bank.

It’s good that money I’m saving also helps out other people in Milton Keynes with loans when they need it. You have to live or work in Milton Keynes to join the Credit Union so I know I’m helping other local people.

Now I’m looking to the future and planning a family holiday for my birthday – I’ll be using the Credit Union to save for this and it helps to know I’ve got the option to apply for a loan if I need it too”

As told to Kim Davies, Development Office. (story retold with permission from Milton Keynes Credit Union – ref: http://www.mkcreditunion.org.uk/ )

About The Author

Susan Popoola

Susan is a Human Resources Capital Optimisation Specialist specialising in areas inclusive of Talent Management with additional interest in a number of other areas inclusive of Education, Community and Social Justice.

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