Susan's Musings

Just Thinking Out Loud

The Bribery Act Does Affect You

I take it that by now you will have of the Bribery Act that came into force on the 1st July?  The Bribery Act 2010 makes it a criminal offence for an individual or commercial organisation to offer or receive a bribe to bring about or reward the improper performance of a function or activity

My concern is that if you work with or run a small organisation, most especially a charity, you may have the force sense of security that it does not apply to you.  Unfortunately, however this would not be true as the legislation applies to all organisations.

It would be easy to assume that the legislation targets the prevention of the cases of large scale corruption and bribery, involving large multinational organisations that occasionally appear in newspaper headlines and at times lead to custodian sentences for it’s top executives.  It does have a focus on this, but goes further as it also aims to stamp out facilitation payments that are often paid to low ranking officers (particularly in developing countries) to facilitate the smooth and expedient processing of a service.  This is something that most definitely has implications for any organisation that operates overseas – something that is becoming increasingly commonplace with the increased globalisation.

The challenged of this is enhanced by the fact that an organisation is now
liable for bribes paid by its agents and joint venture partners, even if made without the company’s knowledge, unless it can demonstrate that it has taken all reasonable steps to prevent such illicit payments.

The truth is even if your business is entirely focused within the UK you still need to be cautious. The legislation goes on to specify that  Corporate hospitably that is given with the intention of winning a financial advantage would become illegal.  This led to concerns that business lunches and days out with clients would become illegal.  It has, however, been clarified that Corporate hospitality is not affected by the Act as long as it is proportionate and reasonable.

It is however important to be aware of the Principals of the Act which are as follows:
*  Proportionality – their procedures are in proportion to the bribery risk the organisation faces)
* Top-level commitment from the organisation to a zero-tolerance on bribery –  and communication of this to staff, customers, suppliers etc. plus appointing a senior executive of the firm to have responsibility for bribery prevention.
* Regular risk-assessment of the nature and extent of exposure to potential external and internal bribery risks
* Due Diligence – a thorough examination of those 3rd parties acting on the organisations behalf and their trading partners
* Communication of these measures – including training so that bribery prevention policies and procedures are understood throughout the organisation, and the likelihood that all types of employment contracts will need amending to refer to bribery in the context of gross misconduct/termination.
* Monitoring and review all of the above principles regularly

In order to minimise the risk of falling foul of the Act, companies should put in place:

*  Whistle-blowing procedures (setting out how staff raise concerns about bribery and request advice and support)
* Prevention policies to cover financial and commercial controls (invoices, remuneration)
* Prevention policies to cover rules on gifts, hospitality (a reasonable amount of corporate hospitality is still permitted), promotional spend/sponsorship (including charitable donations)
* Procedures on recruitment (including work experience) and discipline/grievance that include anti-bribery measures
* Details of how anti-bribery measures will be enforced.

Top Tips to Avoid Bribery
How to Reduce the Probability
–    Have a clear framework for tenders and negotiations, ensuring these include anti-bribery clauses
–    Make sure your negotiation team has a clear mandate and the customer knows that the team won’t exceed it
–    Identify decision-makers in the procurement organisation to determine where a solicitation could come from.
–    Involve banks and export credit agencies in anti-bribery initiatives.
How to react if a demand is made
–    Inform your management and define an appropriate strategy (for example, changing the negotiation team)
–    Go back to the soliciting person with a witness and reaffirm your willing to proceed as normal, ignoring the solicitation.  If the solicitation is reiterated.
o    Inform the person that it is not acceptable
o    Threaten to back off from the bid and go public
o    Set a deadline for proceeding in a normal manner
–    Tell a senior person in the customer organisation that you believe that you have been asked for a bribe
–    If sufficient evidence is available, go to the national-anti-bribery body.

Source: Resisting extortion and solicitation in international transactions. October 2010

Copyright 2011. 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

New Orleans – The Working Poor

You may remember in the days immediately after Hurricane Katrina – a lot of questions were raised as to why people did not leave New Orleans before the hurricane set in.

Different reasons were given for people not leaving; such as people not wanting to leave their pets behind; the lateness of the evacuation notice; evacuating in the past only for nothing to happen; and not having cars.  Above and beyond everything else was the issue of poverty that inhibited people from acting.

Sadly there are those that concluded that the people were poor for the simple fact that they were lazy and refused to work.  The reality that I have since discovered is that although there will be people that fit this definition.  The vast majority are, however, what is classified as the working poor i.e. people who work (possibly even multiple jobs) whose income does not, however, cover their costs of living.

The fact that New Orleans economy is primarily based on Services Industry with a lot of low-income jobs makes the presence of the working poor more prevalent in New Orleans.

I could try and explain the implications of poverty in a developed country such as America, but I’ve come across a report from the Center for American Progress entitled, “What You Need When You’re Poor” which does a much better job that I could do.


Copyright 2011. 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

New Orleans – Making a Difference

I’ve always felt a connection to New Orleans as my all time favourite group – Maze featuring Frankie Beverley, recorded their popular album “live in New Orleans there.

Subsequently, when I sat glued to the television watching the events that followed Hurricane Katrina unfold, I felt the need to do something – the need to physically go their and to help to make a difference.

It took me a couple of years to make my first visit, but I clearly remember that when I mentioned my plans to friends who lived in Houston they told me that it wasn’t a good time to visit New Orleans as the place had not yet recovered from Katrina. I was, however, convinced that this was the exact reason why it was an important to visit.

You see when any place faces a disaster – our natural inclination is to stay away. However, whilst donations in cash and kind unquestionably go a long way to make a difference – the presence of people coming back to visit the area really. Lets the local people know that we care. I’m not talking about immediately after the disaster as this could be in the way if we do not have a specific role to play in the clean up process. (For this reason it is best to check first before visiting immediately after a disaster)

However, visiting after the immediate clean up process not only says that you care, but it helps the economy of the area to come back as regardless of what they have been through, the shops, the hotels, the entertainment centres and tourist activities need our custom more so than ever before.

It’s even better if you have the opportunity to volunteer. For a long time I had the impression that in order to volunteer to work on a house-rebuilding programme you had to be available for weeks or months on end – frustratingly, this is not a practical option for me.

Over recent years, I’ve got into the habit of going to New Orleans for the annual Jazz and Heritage festival, which spreads over two weekends. This leaves me with a few days in between the weekends to do tourist things and catch up with friends.

I was therefore delighted when I came across an advert from a volunteers’ organisation named Project 195 earlier this year. They were looking for people to help with reconstruction over the Jazzfest period for anything from a day upwards. They also made it clear that no prior experience was required. I therefore signed up and spent three of days in between the Jazzfest weekend laying floor boards, fitting and painting doors and skirting boards for the house of an extremely grateful and excited man who was going to be able to finally move back to his home after over five years.

During this process I learnt that while it is common for people to volunteer for weeks or months, there is also a place for people who can only help for a day or two or even half a day. During this process I also learnt about the diversity of people that volunteer, from school children, to numerous young adults; to professionals inclusive of a group that had come to play golf in the morning and then volunteered in the afternoon. I was also told about a group of nuns that came in their habits to work for a day. Of further fascination was the number of young American who decide to permanently relocate to New Orleans following on from a volunteering experience.

I’ve also had the opportunity to become an advisor for a small non-profit organisation and with modern technology I don’t have to physically be there to be of help. Ultimately, what I have learnt from my visits to New Orleans is that there is always a way to help even from a distance or whilst having fun.

Copyright 2011. 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

New Orleans – Recovery?

As Hurricane Irene impacts the West Coast of America, I can’t help but think of New Orleans.  It is now the six years since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans as other places along the Mississippi.

I have visited New Orleans four times since then and each time I’ve returned to England people have always ask me to the same questions.  How is New Orleans now? Has it recovered yet?

During my first visit back in November 2007 I spent most of my time in the Tourist area of the French Quarters – one of the least affected areas. If not for a brief visit to the 9th Ward which was one of the worst affected areas, I would have left thinking that New Orleans was well on the way to recovery.  In the 9th Ward however, I saw damaged homes, boarded up homes and overgrown patches of grass in places where there used to be homes – with a few reconstructed homes. I saw a school that had been damaged and was now relocated to another area leaving me wondering what would happen to the education of the children that used to go to that school. I saw the levy that had been breached and was amazed that this was what was to protect a city from major floods.

All in all, I came to a clear realisation that there was so much that needs to be done, so many lives disrupted if not completed devastated. I cried feeling hopeless, not knowing what to do, but knowing that I had to do something.

In my subsequent visits between 2008 and 2011, I went on bus tours, which show the damage, how it came about and the gradual recovery. I spent time speaking to people from different backgrounds about the recovery. I listened to local musicians speak about what has helped and what has got in the way of the recovery and in 2011 I even did a little bit of rebuilding work myself. (In between I’ve also listened to the news, to podcast and read books) On each visit, I left with mixed feelings – happy to see progress in some areas, but sad to see that some areas looked very much like I left them safe for the redevelopment of a few houses here and there; and the major redevelopment work of organisations such as Habitat for Humanity and Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Housing Initiative.

Although the Hurricane Katrina television coverage focused on the poorer neighbourhoods, other areas were damaged as well, though not typical as bad. The poorer neighbourhoods are typically at lower levels and as a result they are more susceptible to flooding.

At the same time recovery in the poorer neighbourhoods is unsurprisingly much slower.  Look at it this way, if you come from a more affluent background – referred to in England as middle class, but in the States as working class – the following will likely apply in case of a disaster:

  • You are likely to have proper insurance cover on your home
  • You are likely to be able to argue your case or get a friend with the knowledge and the background to advise your or do so on your behalf if your insurance claim is disputed
  • You are likely to be able to fill out all the paperwork required for compensation from Government and provide the supporting documentation for proof of ownership of your home
  • You are likely to have some savings that you can use to rebuild and even if not you are likely to be able to go to a bank and obtain a loan
  • You are likely to have friends and/or family outside of the area who can provide you with financial support or support of some other kind.

I could go on, but the ultimate point is that you are likely to have a support structure in place to enable your recovery.  If on the other hand you come from a poorer background, a lot of these things may not be in place for you:

  • You may not have insurance cover or at least not the right type and even if you do – if your claim is disputed you’re less likely to be able to argue your case; you’re also less likely to know someone who can do so on your behalf.
  • There is strong possibility that you inherited your home through generations of family members and that you do not have the full paperwork to proof ownership
  • There is a strong possibility that you are of the demographic classified as working poor i.e. you work possibly even two jobs, but your income barely covers your living costs, talk less of providing you with funds to save.
  • You might not even have a bank account talk less of an overdraft facility and there is no way in which a bank will give you a loan.
  • Most of your friends and family members live in the same area as you and are facing the same circumstances.  They are therefore in no position to support you.

As a result my answer to the question about New Orleans recovery is yes New Orleans is recovering and has in fact recovered in some areas, but there are other places in which the evidence indicates that the recovery is going to take a very, very long time.


Copyright 2011. 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

The Importance of Succession Planning

The resignation of Steve Jobs as the CEO of Apple has brought the subject of Succession Planning to the forefront of conversation. The importance of Succession Planning cannot be overemphasis as a key requirement that must be satisfied if organisations are to survive and prosper is that replacement leaders and officials must be available to assume critically important leadership and specialist positions as they become vacant. Many research studies have emphasised the importance of succession planning – primarily at the senior leadership level, but increasing across organisations as the scarcity of crucial skills and ensuring war for talent grows.

Chief Executives and Corporate Boards consistently point to succession as one of their biggest concerns, with a growing recognition that they have the same obligations to protect the human resource asset base for shareholders as they do to protect the balance sheet. This is particularly the case for professional services organisations whose value derives in great measure from the specialist skills and knowledge of their people.

Some of the most compelling reasons for any organisations leadership to seriously considering putting a succession planning process in place are:

  • The continuing survival and prosperity of the organisations depends on having the right professionals and leadership in place
  • Leaving leadership development to chance and hoping that qualified successors can be found either insider or outside of the organisation on short notice when needed may have worked at one time, but the war for talent in the present and future years makes the approach highly risky. There is therefore a need to systematically identify and prepare high-potential candidates for key positions.
  • Middle management is the traditional training ground for leaders. Because of the scarcity and subsequent competition for skills, there is a need for great care to be taken in identifying promising candidates early and to actively cultivate their development. There is otherwise the risk of losing individuals who are high performs in their present job and/or high potentials for future leadership positions.
  • When Succession Planning is left informal and thus unplanned, it can have a number of undesirable consequences. Suspicion about secret lists and shoulder tapping is highly demotivating and at odds with building a high performance culture. There is also the tendency under informal approaches for job incumbents to identify and groom successors in their own image with the potential for limiting the quality of the successor pool.
  • On the other hand, a robust and well understood succession planning program can be very motivating, and a powerful driver of a high performance culture. Such a program will signal to staff that the organisation is an environment where career goals can be mapped out and pursued and where learning and development is encouraged. In short, an environment where people are highly valued.

Copyright 2011. 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

Zapping Up The Talent

There is a trend in the war for talent – with the rise in tuition fees, some employers have taken to attracting candidates by offering to sponsor their university fees.

Most recent cases of organisations adopting this practice are KPMG and Morrisons. They share this is practice with organisations such as GlaxoSmithKlime, Barclays, Logica, Experian, PWC and Ernest & Young.

Students studying under this schemes are often likely to work part time with their sponsoring organisations whilst studying

Such schemes can be a win win for both employers and students. Employers not only have access to a pool of talent they additionally have an input into their development. Students on the other hand are not only rid of the worries of debts from tuition fees, they are often able to work whilst studying with the assurance of a job when they complete their qualifications.

Those that are set to loose out are organisations that sit by and watch see organisations zap up the talent.

The Future Market by Hashi Syedain. People Management. August 2011
Morrisons offers fee lifeline to 1,000 students, Personnel Today, 15 August 2011

Copyright 2011. 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

Who do You Believe In

Believing in People until they’re forced to believe in themselves

I have a coach. He’s probably unaware of this but while he was determining whether or not to take me on there’s certain criteria that I used to determine whether he’s the right person to work with me. Critically, i needed to know that he really and truly believed in me and what I stand for with the confidence that I have the ability to achieve my goals. Secondly I needed to know that he would hold me to account.

You see whether it’s articulated or not no one is truly successful without the help and support of at least one other person who believes in them and spurs them on. – even against the odds.

I saw this in action a number of years ago when I watched a reality television programme whereby politicians lived the career lives of everyday people for a week. Clare Short was one of the politicians and she worked as a primary school teacher for a week. For the first day or so, she shadowed the class teacher, then she took over the class, observed by the class teacher. I clearly remember there was a young boy in the class who habitually got into trouble for coming late to class. On the second day or so he came late but not as late as usually. To the consternation of the class teacher, Clare praised him for getting in earlier than usually. (The teacher didn’t like this because from her perspective, late was later) However, her perspective began to change when she notice that under the praise and Encouragement of Clare the young boy was making a concerted effort to get to school in time and hard started coming earlier and earlier (regardless of, if I remember correctly his lack of support from home). Not only did the young boy’s time keeping improve, but with the encouragement of teacher Clare his whole attitude towards school began to improve and he even became a bit of a teacher’s pet.

The message was reiterated earlier this year when I watched an NBC ‘Making a Difference’ report about the singer, Usher’s community mentoring programme. A young man interviewed stated that his whole life had been changed by the fact that Usher had believed him to the point that he was forced to believe in himself.

I believe as individuals we can achieve way more than we imagine if we have the support of people that see the potential in us and are ready to take the time to spur as on. The reality is that everyone has someting special to offer.

Copyright 2011. 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

A Post Riot Conversaton About Youth

On the Saturday evening after the London riots, I went to Lewisham to catch up with friends. I guess it was inevitable that we got into a debate about the riots – not only is it one of the most topical issues at this point in time, we were in one of the areas most effect by the looting.

It’s also unsurprising that we very rapidly got onto the topic of parental responsibility. We debated on the need for parents to take responsibility for their children; the capability of some parents to effectively bring up their children; the criticality of parenting in a child’s formative years in order to form a firm foundation; the concept of community and the role of community in the upbringing of children.

Although we all started of from divergent view points we ultimately came to the conclusion that there is a need for effective parenting, but as with the African proverb which says that “it takes a whole village to raise a child” it is a community responsibility. We further agreed that we all needed to do more if young people feel alienated from the rest of their communities and society as a whole. It’s unacceptable for people to feel so alienated from their communities that they are read to destroy it.

We then moved on to other subjects until it was time for us to all go our separate ways.

As we were in a tower block, we had to use the lift to get downstairs. As we exited the lift a young boy of about 14 entered the building. I watched as he walked past us not uttering a word. At the same time none of us said anything to him even though the person who’s flat we were coming from had lived there for years so would have probably seen the boy before.

Reflecting on this, as we all walked towards our cars, I pointed this out. I noted that there is a common expectation that younger people have the responsibility to first acknowledge older people, but what really stops us from doing so and subsequently build up relationships.

We all went our separate ways, acknowledging that although there is a need for wisdom in our approach, there are little things that we can all begin to do immediately.


Copyright 2011. 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

Free Labour – but is it right?

I recently spent a day in meetings in London inclusive of meetings at a multi-national bank and a very small publishing company. During the discussions that ensued, both organisations made reference to the interns that were working with them.

The use of interns is nothing new to me. I was, however, fascinated by the demonstration of the extent to which they are being used within different sizes and types of businesses.

Based on the conversations that I had, I can confidentially say that both of the organisations that I spoke to treat their interns well ensuring that their interns gain real experience from the process. Additionally they pay them a salary or at the very least expenses.

I believe this is right and proper. Unfortunately, however some organisations use interns as cheap labour and don’t even pay expenses. Even if this is not actually illegal due to minimum wage legislation it is unfair. I further believe that organisations treating people this way should be prepared for the fact that their reputations may ultimately be damaged by this.

Copyright 2011. 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

The Essence of Feedback

I once received a testimonial that stated amongst other things “Susan is a delight to listen to and debate with. She questions anything and doubts everything.”

I didn’t like this at first because while I’ve come to realise that I do analyse everything by default but at the same time I trust people, expecting the best of them unless I find that their story just doesn’t add up or they do something directly to me or someone else that betrays that trust.

Then there are those people that I just connect with at some level due to common interests, values, visions, experiences or something less tangible that just can’t be defined. I trust them more because there is that connection.

There are also the people that I would virtually trust with my life or at least aspects of it. They are people that I’m confident have my best interest at heart even though they might make mistakes and get things wrong from time to time. (I recognise that without a doubt so do I)

Now moving on from there, I know we are supposed to do our own due diligence, but when people I really trust introduce me to someone they know or make a referral, the person that has been introduced has more credibility with me then if I’d just me them on the street. I suspect most people operate on these bases.

As a result of this, I’ve been feeling somewhat concerned following a few conversations I’ve had with friends whereby feedback not provided on experiences could potentially lead to the heightened risk of further problems in the future.

I first started really thinking about this when I met up with a friend for drinks a few weeks back. Sally was feeling fed up with people taking her for granted as she had just terminated a business relationship with someone who was good at what he did but never delivered to agreed timeframes. She had found it difficult to terminate the relationship with James, because a close associate had introduced him to her. What, however, made things worse was that when she spoke to her associate about the situation he admitted that he knew the problems with James, but thought she could manage things. What her associate failed to realise is that by not giving Sally a true assessment of James he had virtually set her up to fail.

It was against this backdrop that I subsequently met with Peter for lunch. The last time I met with him he had been raving non-stop about Simon who had done some work for him. Noticing that Peter didn’t once mention Simon during the course of the conversation, I asked him how Simon. To my surprise he virtually started spitting venom speaking about how Simon had duped him and how he was lucky to of got of lightly.

Knowing that a mutual friend had introduced Simon to Peter, I asked him whether he had let the introducer know. He responded he hadn’t provided any real feedback because he didn’t want to cause any upset. What he forgot is that without the feedback the introducer could very easily introduce Peter to more people that he knows.

The lack of feedback also extends into employment situation when we don’t tell an employee that he or she is not doing well because we don’t want to cause upset. The only problem is that by not providing feedback we rob the individual of the opportunity to improve, to gain promotion and possibly get good bonuses.

So maybe it’s time that though with sensitivity we all start providing feedback where necessary.

Copyright 2011. 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

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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