Category Archives: For Employers

Military Values in the Workplace

“To fight and conquer in all our battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting.”
Sun Tzu

Applying military values to the workplace and career works; it is from discipline and a combination soft and hard power that spontaneity evolves. “What is this guy on?!” you may ask, you may suggest “This is the era of ‘Soft Skills’ and ‘Digital Natives’! Military-style disciplinarians at the office are history, they were the worst!” Or you may even think “not another traditionalist.”

There are numerous articles on avoiding toxic workplaces and the invaluable lessons on ‘Soft Skills’ . There is an increasing focus on the needs of the emerging graduate workforce and employers are often expected to match graduate expectations. According to the Telegraph, “graduates are struggling to wade through generic company messaging to find their way to the right job…and the result is 1 in 4 graduates quit within a year of starting work.”

Hannibal Barca marched his Carthaginian army across the Alps. He lost half his army along the way to the winter cold. Similarly Alexander the Great marched his army from ancient Greece to India in the space of eight years. What did these men and their armies achieve by pushing themselves to the extreme? They won remarkable victories and they both achieved historical fame. How did the Roman Army become the best the world had seen in its time? It was disciplined, relentless and adopted new strategies and tactics to not just survive but evolve. The reward was loot, treasures, empire, fame, and being the subject of debate for military scholars and historians hundreds of years after they had gone.

What defined Sir Alex Ferguson, Jose Mourinho and Brian Clough? They were ruthless and defeats were guaranteed to be few and far between. They got results, whatever the cost. However more importantly they got the balance right between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills. They won piles of trophies in the footballing world. At the other end of the spectrum Paulo Di Canio had a mutiny on his hands at Sunderland in 2013 after he cracked the whip too hard whilst Arsenal F.C have been defined as a ‘friendly club’ and therefore easy to bully in the crunch games. With all the new trends emerging across the globe, the rise of the millennials and digital natives, the ever strenuous push for ‘world peace’, and the technological revolution you’d be forgiven for thinking that the past, particularly military history, has little to teach us bar substantial barbarity.

Granted, a hard-core disciplinarian without a reward system, trying to impose their views forcefully on other and the lacking ability to be flexible is not a good leader. Balance between sacrifice and reward, balance between discipline and innovation, balance between compassion and discipline and timely daring and timely caution. These are the military qualities have served the best military commanders and the best businessmen. Generals and leaders have only failed when they got this balance wrong. The digital natives don’t want to be too nice for their own good. Field Marshal Hague technically worked from home in the First World War, dishing out archaic strategies and orders miles behind the trenches. The result? This reoccurred across Europe a century ago with the deaths of millions of young men.

Dramatic? Certainly, but why does this affect the new generations pouring into the workplace? We expect employers to accommodate our needs, expect success and above all we have instant expectations.  Everything that happened yesterday is largely forgotten and we operate at break-neck speed, preparing graduates for jobs and roles that have scarcely been invented or taken off as projects. The digital world dominates in its entirety in the workplace. There were there were 4.2 million UK home workers in the first three months of 2014, amounting to 13.9% of the workforce. . This was the highest since records began and according to Futureboard’s research this looks like a trend that is set to increase with the introduction of the ‘Millennials’ and ‘Digitial Natives’ into the workplace. The latter facts are disconcerting to some extent.

“Too many bosses still don’t trust staff to work from home and instead force them to trudge into the office so they can keep an eye on them,” said Frances O’Grady, the TUC’s general secretary. “Employers’ attitudes to new working practices must change to make a much better use of modern technology in all workplaces.” Since when has an email be more effective than a face to face discussion? I have learnt more in a conversation than I will in the content of an email. I have worked from home before, yet I find it restrictive, anti-social, and a monotonous experience. There is less reward from working from home and technology for its wonders and the capability of our generation to utilise it is merely technology, it does not improve human instincts which have served us so well now and in the past.

We might be known by future generations as ‘the Softies’ and our ancestors would likely brand us as such in a heart-beat. Why lose our ruthless streak when it has served the best of us so well in the past?

Matthew Williams

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Big Things Have Small Beginnings

“Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”

Vincent Van Gogh

 Habits cut both ways; they are either good for you or they are bad for you. At both ends of the spectrum they are difficult to change, for example when you quit exercise, you notice the loss of tone and perhaps put on weight and when you decide to break a habit of laziness and begin exercise, the first few days is one of the pain of rusty muscles clicking into gear. The same can be said of applying yourself to jobs, long-term goals, and the workplace, how do almost microscopic life choices make the difference?  Each New Year brings the same question “What are your New Year’s resolutions?” The resolutions vary from the smallest changes in lifestyle to all-encompassing changes to a lifestyle. The smaller changes ultimately make a bigger difference in life.

Mastering the mundane, enjoying process, making important daily choices and operating comfortably outside the fabled comfort zone. These are crucial to making the average person stand out from the rest. Habits are an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary. Old habits are hard to break and new habits are hard to form because the behavioural patterns we repeat are imprinted in our neural pathways.

Success is achieved through inches, not miles, of progress. Making the small changes and consistently applying those changes whether it be eating breakfast every day, exercising daily, innovating and being creative at work every day will shine through. The Grand Canyon was not formed in a day, the Roman Empire wasn’t built in a day, love them or hate them Manchester United would not have dominated the Premier League for two decades unless they changed the small things we didn’t see behind the scenes in the late 1980s and Mark Zuckerberg wouldn’t have created Facebook if he hadn’t had the cheek to create FaceMash from his room in Harvard and cultivated it overtime.

The modern-world is instantaneous and moves faster than at any previous time in human history. Instant results are expected, instant internet access, instant coffee plagues the workplace, we expect instant success, and even instant happiness. Habits distill themselves into finances, health, business, personal development, and relationships and these subtle differences often determine the difference between success and failure in an interview or the workplace and they are so subtle no one will ever notice them or see them until the crucial point. Thinking big without attention to tiny and at times seemingly insignificant details of life can undermine personal development and career. Changing habits requires conscious discipline and changing a tough habit requires discipline and strong mental strength against temptation to do something which is easy to do, but easy not to do. Patience, process, practice, repeat, balance, time; these are words that are not emphasized enough to undergraduates, graduates and postgraduates. Have a look at some of the links below and make those little changes that will benefit your performance in workplace and personal life.

Matthew Williams

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Enter the Millennials and Digital Natives

“Our technological powers increase, but the side effects and potential hazards also escalate.”

Alvin Toffler



The rise of the ‘millennials’ and ‘digital natives’ will in the coming years produce a new and combustible working environment. The old-timers (so to speak) will have to accommodate the habits of the tech-savvy generation while the young (so to speak) will have to learn and retain some of the invaluable skills left behind by older generations. Naturally part of the problem is that people’s skills in the digital and technological domain will have to be honed and improved in the face of the momentum the world of technology is gathering.

Florence Broderick noted, “It’s fundamental that we understand that no social network, platform, app or technology will ever really help us with our soft skills.” These ‘soft skills’ in the age of a technological revolution are becoming an increasingly, if not an essential part of the workplace.

In Futureboard’s recent article two members of the technology community noted that while the pace of software and technology is moving fast technology; businesses require a mixture of individual’s and profiles, not simply introverts who love to code.

They need business leaders to manager technical projects, graphic designers to create memorable brands, business developers to sell their products and entrepreneurs to innovate and make bigger things happen. It is important to remember that not all millennials and digital natives will end up being cyber-robotic organisms, an extension of AI incapable of effective human communication staring at computers screens indefinitely.

By 2025 (10 years will disappear quickly!) millennials will account for 75% of the global workforce. This 75% will have a different view of how work should get done and come into the workforce with a different set of expectations from their employers.

However on the flip side employers from Gen X and the Baby Boomers generations (despite being the minority) will and should in many aspects expect Gen Y and Gen Z to be able to adapt to certain attitudes and behaviours in the workplace. According to Futureboard’s Student Survey conducted in 2014, these would range from strong work ethics, the ability to engage effectively in a face to face discussion when required, and be competent by email and telephone when necessary. There are disadvantages to Skype as there are to email.

Perceptions between different generations are of equal importance. There are workplace assumptions that millennials need to be prepared to challenge. According to a survey of 6,361 job seekers and veteran HR professional in 2013, 86% of HR professionals described Millennials as tech-savvy with 1% loyalty to their employers. The reality is that 82% of Millennials describe themselves as loyal to employers and 35% would describe themselves as tech-savvy. This is one example and illustrates that narrowing the gap between workplace perceptions and expectations of employers and employees is important for companies.

What will the outcome be if the integration of a broad set of different generational skills is successful in the workplace? Particular companies will thrive if they are able to absorb ‘digital natives’ and ‘technoholics’ and make the transition from a predominantly hierarchical organisation to one that is predominantly based on networking, fluidity and constant evolution and adaptability.  The ‘digital natives’ are career multitaskers, they will move between businesses and pursue careers without boundaries and the millennials will prefer working with organisations, rather than for them and generally lead flexible lifestyles with an increased importance on work-life balance.

However the emerging workforce must learn and understand the skills and motives that drove previous generations as strong work ethic, the ability to communicate to large and small audiences in person, respect, loyalty and input, regardless of the changing working hours, remain an absolute essential in any working environment. Old and new have to merge so that markets can accommodate Gen Y and Gen Z in a comfortable manner.

Matthew Williams

(P.S: Happy New Year!!! Bring on 2015!)

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The City’s Got Talent – How attractive is the City to graduates?




With a General Election scheduled for May 2015 I was asked to participate in a debate about what a potential change in government could do to the graduate marketplace, particularly within financial services.  As a way of tackling this large subject, I thought it would be worth comparing the market in 2001 (peak of Labour government) with current state of affairs and then point out any emerging trends that current employers should be aware of.

From the late 90s – early naughties, external political and economic developments have meant positive and negative influences on graduates. You may remember Tony Blair’s (May 2001) pre-election pledge to invest in ‘education, education, education.’ Labour went on to win that election and cemented their goal of having ‘50% of young adults progressing to higher education by 2010′. Blair said: ‘Our top priority was, is and always will be education, education, education. We believe that this will prepare Britain for the knowledge economy.’ What is interesting to note is how the political and economic decisions of 2001 are affecting graduates in 2015 and beyond.

Since 2001, the number of graduates finishing under-graduate and/or postgraduate courses has risen by 56%, there are more degrees on offer at a wider variety of institutions.  We have experienced a boom in education in Britain and many graduate employers have noticed this as application numbers per vacancy have risen correspondingly.

The graduate job market in the City has suffered due to economic changes in the last five years.  According to data from the AGR, there was a decline in vacancies in 2009/2010 in investment banking by 14.5%.  During this time, most City graduate recruiters will tell you that they tightened or reduced hiring numbers and as a result expected fresh graduates to come into the workplace appreciative of the opportunity and that they should be “chomping at the bit”.

Research-The-Company-job-interviewDespite the economic crisis and muddied reputation, the City has remained an attractive place for graduates to work.  One of the downsides, for applicants specifically, to the decline in vacancies has been the increasing expectation of City recruiters on students.  It is not enough to be an Economics student from LSE; you need to be an Economics student that has a CV with internships, self-study, voluntary work, be heading up the Investment Society and so the list continues.

Most of the investment banks have introduced pre-internship programmes – these are taster internships aimed at students in their first year of an under-graduate degree.  JP Morgan state on their pre-internship site that for those graduating in 2017 or 2018, ‘past participants have gone on to secure internships and then full-time positions in London. These pre-internship programmes which will normally include spring programmes or weekly programmes can also reach as far down as A-Level students.  This offering is to help build a talent pipeline that starts several years prior to students graduating from university.

This puts an enormous amount of pressure on first year students to start making career choices that they are not realistically ready to make.  It also creates a huge barrier for students with an alternative degree background, e.g history, to enter certain areas of the City if they decide later on that this is a route they wish to take.

On a more positive note, the AGR Graduate Survey 2014 found that ‘banking and financial services’ predict an increase of 54.1% in graduate vacancies.   While expectations are increasing on graduates to enter the workforce with more rounded employability skills, the labour market generally is improving and the national average graduate salary has increased to £27,000 and the City average has increased to £29,250.

On to future trends what’s next and how should financial employers prepare themselves?  A change in government in 2015 is unlikely to change tuition fees, what we might see is an increasing pressure on universities to be accountability to the corporations that are starting to fund degree programmes.  In addition, we have a new generation of graduates about to hit the job market.  Many of us have spent the last ten years adjusting to managing Gen Y in the workplace, but now we need to prepare ourselves for Gen Z.  Those born in the early – mid 1990s; also being described as the ‘digital natives’ or ‘multi-generation’ (multi-family, multi-cultural, multi-media) and typified by debt, desire for security, distrust of politicians/CEOS and they will be the generation that will work the longest.

As a City graduate employer, you need to be thinking about your proposition to this group.  You shouldn’t assume what works for your current workforce will continue to be appealing for future generations.  What can you do to support this generation?  A more fundamental question is your leadership team aware of such potential trends?  What benefits can you offer that might appeal to ‘plurals’ – mortgage funds, pensions from the outset and technology that supports flexible working practices;  a career pathway that excites and engages for the long-term and a structure that allows people to pursue professional interests outside of work.

It might feel premature for employers to be thinking about Gen Z, but with increasing vacancies, increasing personal debt and expectations of graduates from a skills perspective, I think the very best students will differentiate between employers that want to genuinely ‘engage’ them very quickly.  In my mind, employers should at the very least be trying to meet this group in the middle.

Katherine Travell, CEO, Futureboard


Futureboard’s report on socio-economic diversity in graduate recruitment

Last year, Futureboard Consulting commissioned a report to understand graduate recruiters’ perspective on social mobility. The report found there was a clash between their wish to repeat past success in their profession and increasing diversity in the candidate pool. Tracking diversity in the application process also proved to be a problem. One year on, we talked to some experts to see if this situation has changed. By Carolina Arefutureboardconsultingsticker Continue reading

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Futureboard’s Katherine Travell on Guardian Careers

Last week Futureboard’s Managing Director Katherine Travell took part in a Live Chat on professional development hosted by Guardian Careers.gp_careers-logo-v2_rgb_colour_1-line

The main questions focused on career changes, dealing with difficult bosses and finding out recruiters’ requirements.

Katherine says: “I was really happy to take part, I really enjoyed it.”

Katherine says the Guardian’s Live Chat was something completely different from what she had done before: “It was quite challenging! Here at Futureboard we’re used to talking to people in person or on the phone, so it was strange and interesting to answer such interesting question while dealing with online speed.”

Katherine adds: “It was really fun, I’d love to do it again!”

If you’d like to get in touch with Futureboard, don’t hesitate to contact us through social media or to give us a call on the number you find on our Contact Us page.

Picture by: Guardian Careers

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What do employers look for on social media?

“Look after your personal brand” seems to be these past few years’ mantra when it comes to matching employability to your online presence. But what do recruiters actually look for on social media?onlinerep

After almost 80 per cent of employers has admitted to have Googled candidates, it’s becoming increasingly important to have a good online reputation.  Futureboard’s staff makes a point out of being Internet savvy: everyone here uses social media to headhunt the best graduates and students in the market. Continue reading

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Futureboard’s plans for 2014

Happy new Year! 2014 has already kicked in and Futureboard’s Managing Director Katherine Travell shares her hopes, expectations and goals for Futureboard Consulting this year. ArticleImageHandler

Continue reading

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