Friday, 11 October 2013

Thoughts from the LEP conference 2

So a quick review of the LEP conference today at Worcester Sixways, some great thoughts and ideas on how to improve the structural positioning of Worcestershire and how we can be involved.

Awesome overview on employment and skills especially apprenticeships from Karl at Thermo Bosch Group, I am a huge fan of this and can see real value especially where companies have significant long term contractors in the business that they could add real value by training apprenticeships up.  Great target of 10,000 by Karl and his team and well on the way to achieving it. If you are a business in Worcestershire, you should sign up for this!

Lots on younger people and skilling them up,I thought the focus on linking schools with businesses up was a really strong innovation and added real value, especially as it would help drive our youth to make proper career choices rather than blindly following a education route. I wanted to question on what the strategy for older people who need to reskill especially given the demographic in Worcestershire.

For more information on the 'Connecting Schools and Business Programme' and Apprenticeships then email

A new service - Tweetups's, using twitter to organise meetings in the interval worked for me but not sure about others, but well done OGL computing Maybe put the WIFI password in the main room as well though as quite a few of us had to get it at the break.

Overall, I thought the LEP was going in right direction, I was shocked to hear about lack of inward investment capability,they have made a great start especially around the video and a brochure but needs significant work and ambition, I do think this is a key role for the LEP and needs to be in conjunction with the economic development arms of the various councils, but knowing how focused that Birmingham, Manchester and other cities are, while we will probably never punch at that level we should do more.

Finance - Not another one, how many more portals are there for SME's to find finance? I did have a great thought that we should look to follow the example of the Oxygen Accelerator model in Birmingham and start to attract innovative startups through new funding models though. If we focused this onto particular sectors such as food, green technology and cyber security we could really build some depth and strength there.

Brilliant examples of turnaround from Brintons and Holywell Malvern, especially the move to export internationally.

I did think that compared to what used to be the RDA, a little surprised at the lack of money they are being given!

Good strategy around clusters and sectors for the region and very true that while we need to work with our surrounding LEPs, they are really in competition with us for the same funds and workforces.

A good conference, and great to see Worcestershire finally uniting Business and government to drive the area forward, I look forward to next year and seeing what progress is made.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Hiring Locally vs Relocations

Should I recruit more locally? Thoughts from the Worcestershire LEP conference 1

I was talking with a HR manager today at the Worcestershire LEP conference about their hiring practices and recruitment when we touched upon the topic of localism and CSR; not your usual recruiter speak I know but I thought I would pen some thoughts that might be of use to other HR managers. 

1.     The Benefits of hiring locally:

1.1  Reduces Greenhouse gas emissions and improves health for workforce through the promotion of walking, cycling and car-sharing. Reduces stress in employees with long commutes.
1.2  As mentioned in Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community (reference) each additional ten minutes spent commuting leads to a 10% decline in all areas of civic engagement; if you are a small village or town this can have a major impact.
1.3  Keeps money invested in the local community. The salaries you pay are likely to have a significant impact on local businesses; a multiplier of 3-4 would not be uncommon. When Longbridge in Birmingham shut down overnight, so too did many small business.
1.4  Fosters an engaged workforce through social activity. If a significant number of your workforce live close to one another they are likely to develop more engaged social networks.
1.5  No relocation costs. 
1.6  Reduced turnover of staff.  One of the key reasons people leave a job is that they are “fed up” with the commute, and whilst the age of homeworking is still developing, hiring people locally who are committed to the workforce and area will have a key impact on attrition.
1.7  On-going attraction. Referrals and attracting former colleagues are key factors of hiring in today’s economy.  Hiring local people means that they are more able to do this (unless you are a football manager and able to bring whole teams with you!).
1.8  Locals job-search locally.  People often begin their search for work locally resulting in the lower search costs on both sides and consequently, a greater chance of success in hiring and finding a new role.

Lots of positives for companies here to hire locally, far more than I had initially thought however before I get too carried away with the localism agenda, perhaps some thoughts on the disadvantages first.

2.     The Disadvantages of hiring locally

2.1  Restricts the supply of workers to the organisation. This can be especially important if you are in a service or creative industry using skilled workers that are hard to find.
2.2  May mean the local community are too reliant on one employer, as seen throughout the North of England when coal mining was shut down in the 1980's.
2.3  The costs of hiring may increase as the supply of labour within a radius goes down and employees bargain for greater salaries or rates. This can certainly be seen in London currently as salaries rise for particular skills sets especially in programming or programme management.
2.4  Settling for the available talent and missing out on the best talent.  Research has shown that recruiting top performers has a greater than expected impact on company productivity and growth.

3.     The impact upon your recruitment options

3.1  The type of job.  If the job is a permanent hire then going locally may be the better option; conversely contractors and FTC or temps may be able to travel more if the rate is higher.
3.2  The skill set needed.  If a job requires a particular skill set or expertise then you may need to look further afield, particularly if the role holder is a very rare skill.
3.3  Commuting.  Have you looked at travel time?  What would you call local? In London local may mean within a 1hr commute which can be as far as Brighton.  However, for somewhere like Worcestershire this might mean Central Birmingham to Bristol? Use tools like to work out what are realistic commute times - you may be surprised!
3.4  Location. What is your location? Do applicants have to drive? Could they walk, cycle, take the bus or train? This may have a major impact on whether you are able to go further.   Recruiting in city centres may be a deterrent to drivers given the traffic delays yet may also attract more candidates as they will be better served by public transport.
3.5  What is the competition? If you work in a particular market or industry segment that requires specific skills i.e. optoelectronics or software programming, do you know where to find other sources of talent?
3.6  What is the level of the role?  The more senior the role the more likely you are to have to widen the search area unless you are in a major city. Even then I would argue that the more important the hire the less location matters and the more the emphasis is upon getting the right candidate.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Top 10 things for startups and founders to think about when choosing their technology platform and hiring.

As a founder or senior leader within your startup, have you asked yourself these questions and got answers you are happy with, if not make the time to work through them, you could regret it later down the line especially when you do finally get investment.

1. Are there staff available in the local area?

It might be obvious but it is amazing how many startups will go with the latest technology like Scala, paper.js, Clojure or Slate, Faust or Squirrel and build an amazing new product but then when they try to recruit the extra programmer they really struggle to hire. Spend some time thinking about where you can find the skills locally or will you have to cross train or relocate talent. Even languages that are becoming more mainstream like Ruby can be difficult to obtain. Resources like IT jobswatch can give you an idea of demand, a quick search on Linkedin might give an indication of supply.

2. What are the rates for permanent/contract staff for your technology stack?

Assuming you are going with your favoured technology when you are preparing your cashflow and hiring plans, take a look at salaries/contract margins. Many startups are amazed at what they might have to pay to get that right skillset especially outside of London where the assumption is to pay less, but competition is really hot for tech skills right now.

3. Where are the big technology companies that use your skillset?

One of the reasons that clusters grow especially around technologies is that there happens to be a large employer of that skillset locally. The reason there were so many start ups in California was Xerox Parc, so many embedded software companies in Cambridge was Acorn and networking technologies in Scotland was NCR and 3Com. Have you looked at the local big tech employers and their tech stack to see if its easy to get people from there.

4. Are you part of a community already?

Have you joined and are active in the local User Groups, Meetups?T his will give you an idea of the quality and depth of local talent.

5. Universities

Have you made links with the local universities, especially the Computer Science courses? One reason for successful startups around York was the quality of their C Science course especially around AI and Vision.

6. What happens when you get funded? Do you have a plan

One of the key bottlenecks for startups is planning, from building and launching a product, creating great customer service and doing the investment rounds when you finally get that magic funding, typically a lot of it will go on hiring. If you have not pipelined and thought about how to do this it can create a major challenge for companies.

7. It's OK, we will just bring in overseas candidates!

Think again, the average time to hire, process and gain a work permit is likely to be around 3-6 months especially if they are not in the country already. On top of which, Visa's are becoming much scarcer now under new legislation. Yes you can still hire from within the EU, but the competition is fierce and most candidates want to live in London as that is the area they know.

8. Beware the unicorn!

While research suggests that recruiting the top 5% of programmers will have a disproportionate effect on your productivity, the reality is they are few and far between for a reason and you have to pay disproportionate salaries and benefits to attract them and present them with the right challenges otherwise they will move on swiftly. A good solid team to start will pay good dividends and if you see one them make a decision then otherwise you could miss delivering waiting for the unicorn.

9. Are you attractive compared to your peers?

Have you undertaken a review of your hiring competition? Not just the local startups but major employers, startups within 1 hours commute which if you are in Nottingham, Birmingham or Manchester could almost be London to see how you stack up on benefits, culture and salaries?

10. Do you actually tell people you are hiring!

A common issue for startups is to focus on their product and sales and not have their website telling people they are hiring or what they are looking for in the future. The key is to make sure that its very visible on the front page.

If you would like to get a free review of hiring practices at your startup or just advice on where you might be able to improve then pick up the phone to Peter on 01299 833980 or email me at

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Why recruiters can add more than just sourcing candidates?

Many organisations view recruiters as just databases of candidate CVs that they search using keywords and then send them an invoice when they hire the person. I thought it might be useful to demonstrate how I worked with one client that hopefully changed this perception.

A legal company in Bristol asked me to talk to them about their recruitment for paralegals as they were having problems in the department with people not working out and the managers were continuously hiring but struggling to see enough good candidates.

While the initial conversation was focused around how we could source better candidates for them, on further investigation we formed the view that their issue was not around sourcing candidates, they actually had a very strong pipeline and a great employment brand in the market with plenty of applicants.

Speaking to the hiring manager, it became apparent that their issue was selection of candidates, both in how they managed their time and assessed candidates, we advised adding a number of written tests which could be completed earlier in the process thereby allowing managers to only interview successful candidates. We also advised on having a much more rigorous process around performance management in the first six months to raise the overall quality of the team.

We formed the view that these changes alone would have a significant impact on their recruitment, firstly in reducing the time managers spent interviewing poor candidates and secondly by changing the impact of bad hires through faster managing.

Early indications are this is having a good impact on their hiring processes.