Susan Popoola

Leveraging The Value of People

Archive for the ‘Career Development’ Category

February 10th, 2015 by SusanPopoola

Do You Give Due Credit?

I’m looking forward to watching the film, Selma. Everything that I’ve heard about it indicates that it is a film that is well worth watching.

With it being award season, the frustration has been expressed about the limited diversity and representation of black artistes amongst the various categories for different awards ceremonies, especially when you have a film, which is as highly proclaimed as Selma released within the season.

Against this backdrop, it was nice to learn that a few songs from the film SELMA would be featured in this years Grammy. This has, however, led to some controversy of it’s own. The song, “Take My Hand Precious Lord” was sung by Beyonce at the Grammys. However, in the film itself the role of Mahalia Jackson is performed by a lovely Jazzy, earthy soul singer named Ledisi who I’m sure very ably sings the song in the film.

When John Legend was asked was asked why Beyonce was chosen to sing the song (instead of Ledisi) he is said to have responded, “Beyonce requested to sing the song and the offer was to good to pass up”. He is said to have said, “You don’t really say no to Beyonce if she asks to perform with you” he is said to have told a magazine.

When asked about the situation, Ledisi who would have been sitting in the audience provided a very gracious response, saying that she had, had the privilege to sing the song following on from legends such as Mahilia Jackson and Aretha Franklin and that now Beyonce was singing it and taking it to a different generation/audience.

I must say that I question John Legend’s defence that he could not turn Beyonce down. Maybe that’s the type of argument that comes to play when it comes to nominations for the various awards ceremonies, which do not represent the diversity of society.

Critically, I found myself reflecting on this in relation in relation to the workplace. You’ll probably say you don’t do things like this or if you do, it’s totally justified.

However, if you have capable staff with a fair amount of experience who work around the clock for your organisation, providing input to key projects, who are never thanked or publically acknowledged them maybe you are.

If you see the role of such staff to be to sit quietly in meetings without expressing an input; if you expect them to adhere to changes without ever having any say in what the changes may be, then you probably are.   I could go on, but I won’t. Hopefully you can see my point.

There are obviously limits, but if you want them to continually give their best; to be fully engaged and stay with you for the long term. Do ensure that you f recognise what they have to offer, fully acknowledge them; involve them and make the most of them. If the people that we don’t fully appreciate have half of the talent of Ledisi, then we are doing not only them, but also ourselves a major disservice.


Susan Popoola runs Conning Towers Ltd, an HR organisation focused on Talent Management and HR Transformation and Engaged For Success a Social Enterprise. She is also the published author of Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective and Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain. She is also Winner Women4Africa Author of the Year 2013

Copyright 2015. 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


January 17th, 2015 by SusanPopoola

The Talent Left on Your Doorstep

I was at one of my favourite music venues, The Stables in Milton Keynes on Sunday. I went to listen to a lady named Sally Barker play. If you live in the UK and watched the TV completion, The Voice last year you will probably know who I’m talking as she was the first runner up.

Sally was great on The Voice. I absolutely loved her rendition of songs or better, put her interpretation of them. When I heard that she was going to be playing in Milton Keynes, it was a given that I was going to be there to listen to her.

It was lovely to hear her perform a number of the songs that she had sang on The Voice and I can say that she gives Dionne Warwick a run for her money with her version of “Walk on By”. Equally, it was lovely to hear her sing a number of her own songs that she has written herself over the years. She also does a very good job on the guitar, a skill that she didn’t display whilst she was on The Voice. In addition, I discovered that she has a great sense of humour, she’s a great conversationalist and has a deep interest in history.

I found out that following on from The Voice, she had been offered a contract with Universal Music. She had, however, turned it down. They wanted her to record an album of covers, but she was not satisfied with this. Remember I said she writes her own songs. She therefore wanted to record her own material. She has since re-released one of her older albums, “Maid in England” including some of the songs that she sang on The Voice.

I believe that Sally is a talented, world class performer and that by not accepting her for who she truly is and what she represents and has to offer, Universal Music actually lost out. As she told the story, I found myself thinking of the talent in the workplace.

We typically recruit people on the basis of job descriptions – totally understandable. We’ve got to have some parameters. However, do we ever take the time to understand the additional skills that people have to offer and where appropriate make use of those skills. I’ve seen research that indicates that a third of employees are likely to look for new jobs this year. I believe highly skilled and capable employees that don’t fill full appreciated or utilised are likely to be high on the list of people looking for new opportunities where they will be truly fulfilled.

Equally common, is the habit of recruiting staff with great skills and talents that we identify and indicate that we very much admire during the recruitment process, which we then fail to utilise once they are in our employ. Dictating that they perform a role which does not utilise these capabilities or that they perform tasks in a (procedural) manner that does not optimise that which they have to offer, that we originally said we admire.

It’s not just about talent. I’ve heard people express the frustration that they can’t fully express themselves and be who they are within the workplace. This is especially true of people from diverse backgrounds who have been told that they should act in a certain way in order to conform and be accepted. Yes, there are limits, but do you encourage the people that work with you to freely be who they are within the workplace?

If you do, I believe that you will find yourself with a much fulfilled and effective workforce. If not, I would strongly recommend that you start to do so.


P.S. Oh, and if you appreciate good music; if Sally Barker is ever in your town make sure you go along. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Susan Popoola is an HR Specialist at Conning Towers which specializes in HR Transformation and Talent Management.  Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain which explores Disatisfaction, Disengagement and Diversity within Britain is her second published book.

November 2nd, 2014 by SusanPopoola

The Myth About Who You Require for The Job

Recently I was walking past a small café. Outside was a sign – “Full Time Position Available. Experienced Only Need Apply” I smiled whirly as in some ways it reminded me of the stories that you hear about rooms for rent in properties back in the 1960s (or even later) with signs in the windows reading – “No Blacks, No Irish, No Dogs”

On the face of things, there is no correlation between telling people not to apply for a job if they don’t have experience and telling people that they can’t rent a property because of the colour of their skin or where they originate from. However, if you stop and think about it, in both circumstances people are being excluded, without being given a chance. No one is or was taking the time to find out who they are and what they do have offer.

The experience case is probably easier to justify – people say they need someone who can come onto the job and get on with what needs to be done. The requirement for experience often comes with assumptions. About eight years ago I came across an organisation that was looking for HR experience in a specialised area. The organisation specified the requirement for five years experience. I had about three years extensive experience in the relevant area so, I decided to contact the organisation outlining the projects I’d work on over a three-year period and the impact of my achievements. They decided not to see me. About three years later, they were once more looking for help. In the interim period I had done a few small pieces of work in the specialist area, but not much. I contacted them once more, specifying my experience over five years. They met with me and they absolutely loved me and my work. The funny thing is that what really stood out for them from the conversation was the experience they I had gained from my earlier years. The experience that I had when I first contacted them. Ultimately, what was more pertinent, the length of my experience or the quality of my experience?

You may go on to say, that a place like the Café that I mentioned needs to employ someone with experience – they don’t have time to teach people from scratch, you might think! However, if you think about it, who would the Café or for that matter anyone else be best of with – a person with a fair amount of experience who is used to doing things in certain ways which may not actually be appropriate to the culture or general way of working of the new environment, who thinks they know it all or someone who is perhaps a quick and keen learner with no preconceived ideas.

My driving instructor explained it best. She said the easiest person to teach to drive is a person who has never been behind a steering wheel. It’s much harder, she said to teach someone who has got behind the wheel and picked up a lot of bad habits.

I believe there are other areas in which we consciously or sub-consciously exclude people without giving them a chance because they don’t have the experience or capabilities that we think we need. For instance with Christmas coming up I’ve just received a little card through my front door from Royal Mail. “Santa isn’t the only one who needs help this Christmas” because of the increased volumes of mail over Christmas they are looking to recruit people from the local community to help deliver their services.

They specify that it “is a fast paced environment where you will need to be flexible and adaptable, changing from one role to another to move the mail quickly along the processing chain” Imaging the environment I could immediately understand why they had specified the requirement like that. However, I couldn’t help but think that if I was someone with a mobility problem of some kind that I would immediately think that they did not want someone such as me. The truth, however, is that Royal Mail could cope with a few such people that would be perfectly good for the job if they were allowed to work in specific areas without having to move from one role to another. In fact they might actually benefit from some people focused on specific roles whilst others move around as required.

It’s easy to exclude people that could add a lot of value without realising it or without meaning to simply by taking the obvious, routine approach without thinking of the implications.

On the other hand,  if we take a little bit of extra time to think of how our messages come across, who they may exclude and then think a bit outside of the box, we may be surprised by the gems that come knocking at our doors.


Susan Popoola runs Conning Towers Ltd, an HR organisation focused on Talent Management and HR Transformation. She is also the published author of Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective and Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain.



October 27th, 2014 by SusanPopoola

Enabling Creativity

Employability skills has become mainstream terminology in the business world, especially when it comes to the employment of young people who are often criticised as not coming out of education equipped with the appropriate skills for the workplace i.e. employability skills.

As defined by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) the key employability skills are:

  •  A Positive Attitude – readiness to take part, openness to new ideas and activities, desire to achieve
  • Self Management – readiness to accept responsibility, flexibility, time management, readiness to improve own performance
  • Team working – respecting others, co-operating, negotiating/persuading, contributing to discussions
  • Business and Customer Awareness – basic understanding of the key drivers for business success and the need to provide customer satisfaction
  • Problem solving – analysing facts and circumstances and applying creative thinking to develop appropriate solutions
  • Communication and literacy – application of literacy, ability to produce clear, structured written work and oral literacy, including listening and questioning.
  • Application and Numeracy – application of numbers, general mathematical awareness and its application in practical contexts
  • Application of Information Technology – basic IT skills, including familiarity with word processing, spreadsheets, file management and the use of internet search engines.

In my mind, a number of these are related and are aligned to the natural curiosity and creativity that we all have as children. In many ways we process this out of children, by dictating not just what has to be done, but specifically how things need to be done. I believe this is followed through into the workplace. Without question there is a need for guidance on the how, especially when people are learning. However, there is a need for people to be able to use their initiative, to be flexible and to be responsive to specific needs.

I often see how over prescribed processes limit employees ability to work effectively. I believe this is, however, best highlighted by an episode of the television programme, Undercover Boss that featured DHL. On one particular day, the boss worked with a member of staff in the call centre, which had very specific flow chart processes on how staff responded to customer calls. This meant that when a customer called from Australia with a concern that she had previously called about which was yet to be resolved and asked to be put on hold, the staff member refused, as it was not in line with protocol. The undercover boss was quite annoyed by this, however, when confronted at a later stage, the employee pointed out that she had followed the (target driven process) and if she had done otherwise she may have got into trouble. It could be argued that she took things to the extreme.

However, if we really want to encourage skills amongst employees such as positive attitudes; self management; business and customer awareness and problem solving; we need to enable them by adopting processes that provide frameworks and guidance without dictating the details of how things need to be done.

Dictating the how, not only limits creativity in the workplace, I believe it also limits trust as it send a message that says that we don’t trust in employee’s capabilities and we therefore need to tell them precisely what to do and how to do it.


Susan Popoola

Susan Popoola is a professional Human Resources Specialist with close to 20 years HR experience working on numerous HR related projects across the Private, Public & Voluntary sectors.

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September 3rd, 2013 by SusanPopoola


My challenge to you is simple – dare to dream…. 

If you follow that dream, who knows where you will end. 

Sir Robin Know-Johnston



 As the football world raced around trying to cut deals on the last day of the football transfer window, 12 yachts ‘quietly’ set of from Portsmouth on an 11 months race around the world.  I’m talking about the Clipper Race started about 20 years ago by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston who was the first person to sail solo non-stop around the world in 1969.

I’m not about to have a go at football – I do love the beautiful  game!  It is, however ironic that each 70 foot yacht has around 22-24 members of crew; a number almost equivalent to the number of football players on a football field.

According to Sir Robin Knox-Johnson, when he first had the idea of organising a non-professional around the world yacht race 20 years ago, he couldn’t possibly have imagined just how big the event would become.  Or indeed how many lives it would change and how many opportunities it would present to those brave enough to rise to the challenge.

Sir Robin goes on to explain…

The Clipper Race has changed immeasurably but its core values remain.  It is still a truly unique yacht race, open to anyone no matter how experienced or inexperienced, no matter how old, mo matter what background.  The beauty of the ocean is that it doesn’t care if you are a seasoned ocean racer or a nurse on your first crossing; it still serves up the challenges at the same intensity.  People take on the Clipper Race because they have a desire that sets them apart.  They want to live life to the full.

The easy choices in life often offer no pleasure; it is the hard and difficult challenges that bring the satisfaction or real achievement.  I remember my first circumnavigation, the challenges faced in 1968 to raise the money I needed to get my campaign up and running.  The sacrifices I had to make, that my family had to make.  My dream was always to make the globe’s oceans more accessible and to give people the opportunity to do what I had done, with far less of a sacrifice but with the same weather – gales, the Doldrums, trade winds, freezing cold and blistering heat.  You will be tested, pushed, challenged and ultimately inspired.

Against this backdrop I guess it’s no surprise that when I had the opportunity to speak to Sir Knox-Johnston he told me that the most important things for young people to learn are literacy, numeracy and character.

In many ways literacy and numeracy are obvious – they form the bedrock for all other subjects in school; together with the great ability to interact with the world. Character however provides the how of how we interact. The Clipper Race crew members live in very close proximity to people that were literally strangers to them before the trip commenced; navigating the oceans at times with nothing in sight but the sea and the sky will go a long, long way to further develop their characters whether they are 18 or 60.  However, what about the rest of us?

I think the way in which we interact with directly interact with others over the course of our lifetimes will take us a long way.  Critically also is what we read, learn from others and the places that we travel to.

With this in mind, I’m working on a website with the help of Milton Keynes College to enable young people (between the ages of 16 and 25) from across the world to tell stories about themselves that other young people can read. and learn from. Its early days yet, however who do you know who might like to contribute or would just find it interesting to have a read from time to time.




Clipper Race –

BeingMe –


Susan Popoola runs Conning Towers Ltd, an HR organisation focused on Talent Management and HR Transformation and Engaged For Success a Social Enterprise. She is also the published author of Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective and Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain. She is also Winner Women4Africa Author of the Year 2013

Copyright 2013. 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


June 28th, 2013 by SusanPopoola

In Fairness to a Generation

The Most Competent, Capable and Caring Generation

 this Nation has Ever Produced

Vice-president Joe Biden gives the commencement address 

at the University of Pennsylvania’s 257th commencement 2013


I like the opinion expressed by Joe Biden, which I personally will extend to apply to young people across the world.  Overtime, however, I have found myself increasingly question whether we are generally fair to young people as we seem to continual critic them.

We refer to them as a “me, me, me generation” or the likes, in other words we call them selfish and spoilt. Ultimately they do need to take responsibility for themselves and their behaviour.  At the same time they are a product of their upbringing and the influences from the society that they, as we all live in. After all it is my hope and belief that for the vast majority of them – we did not just leave them to bring themselves up by themselves.

I could go on further about the social environment. Like the observation that although not yet updated in the dictionary; growing up, young people often find that whilst a number of adults standing together in a shopping mall are referred to as a  group; a similar number of young people are called a gang.  In milder terms it might just be said that they are loitering or hanging around.  Furthermore, whilst adults can buy coffee from a coffee shop and sit down for hours; young people are often made to move on as soon as they finish a meal talk less of a drink. They can only go into a number of shops in small numbers and if they stay at a hotel they are often looked at as if they are pests – even though they are paying.

I know I’m generalising and on the basis that it may be said that young people could choose to shop, eat, drink and stay in places where they will be treated with greater respect, let me not focus too much on this, but rather move on to education and the workplace.

Now when it comes to issues and concerns about the literacy and numeracy skills of some young people, even though I have some dyslexic tendencies and my spelling is far from perfect, I don’t feel able to defend them. Not even with the argument that the School system has failed them.  Yes, at times employers may be a bit too trigger happy dismissing applications because they spot minor spelling mistakes – possibly dismissing people that otherwise have a lot to offer. I believe there should be balance though so even I have dismissed applications when I have noticed masses of spelling mistakes including mistakes with 3 or 4 letter words.  I do recognise the criticality of literacy and numeracy to the business world as fundamental skills.

This isn’t what bothers me. Even though I don’t have children, as a School Board member (School Governor) I’m generally mindful of the time at which exam results come out and I know that time will be spent analysing the results to determine whether they are in line with expected results. I also know that there will be a fair amount of commentary on the news and elsewhere with people criticising the quality of qualifications – suggesting that exams are much easier than they used to be and that qualifications are not of the same standard.  At this point I constantly find myself contemplating how I would feel if I was a young person who had done everything I was told to do to meet a standard only for people to turn around and suggest that my qualifications are substandard.

We go on further to question the degrees they take in University.  I recall someone recently saying that he decided to take his degree because it was on offer in a University of choice and it sounded interesting.  If the courses are not valid to the workplace, why are we offering them?

Up until recently, even when we started levelling fees for qualifications, we told young people that the way forward, in order to secure a good job is to go to University and get a degree.  Again they did as was required of them.  They went to university in large numbers and obtained degrees.  For many the jobs have not been forthcoming.  Well the world has been in recession so maybe it’s understandable that this promise has been broken.

It’s not just this though. We’ve removed that entry level ladder, we’ve told them to come in with degrees and to come with employability skills yet we still want them to start of by making the coffee and doing the filing and we try to micromanage them. Then we get upset with them when they challenge us wanting work that is more meaningful. Remember they’ve paid good money for those degrees. I wonder how many people leave work or sacrifice whilst in work for an MBA without the expectation of better opportunities.

When they are not satisfied or are unhappy in a job and decide to move on, we again critic them for their lack of loyalty and for wanting it all.  We forget about another message that we are increasingly sending to them. i.e. if you listen to the typical talk to students by guests speakers and teachers alike, there is a strong possibility that they will be told that for them it’s no longer a job for life.  They are told that that they are likely to have 7 or 8 jobs or even different careers in their working lives. Therefore under these circumstances, why should they be faithful to your organisation – especially if they don’t believe that they are have understood or treated right?  I believe they are much more aware of what they want and what is acceptable to them.

This is compounded by the growth in unpaid internships and other unpaid work. A lot of employers tend to get young people to work for free, saying young people should be grateful. Now I’m not against young people doing some work for free to gain experience in situations where organisations can’t afford to pay. In fact I will immediately declare I’m looking for some to do some work for me at the moment, but though they may not be paid financially at this point in time, I would want to understand what they are looking for and support their development and progress to their next steps.  Critically, I would only not pay if I simply couldn’t afford to do so.  I see this as very different from the multinational organisations that have put their graduate recruitment programmes on hold or the high-income organisations that can afford to pay.  What are we telling them about our perception of their value.

A key question for me is how capable and prepared are we to on-board and engage young people in the 21st century workplace.

As the likes of Ken Robinson have been saying for a very long time, I believe that there is a need for a full reform of the education systems that was designed for a different era.  At the moment we seem to just make superficial changes and change assessment processes.  This does not in of itself align Education Systems to the 21st Century workplace.

Directly relating to the workplace – a few things that I believe we need to focus on and do more of:

¨     Young people need to be provided with better career guidance – both via career services and employer interaction with young people before they even start looking for work.

¨     Young people also need to be made aware of the different education routes beyond just degrees and apprenticeships.

¨     Organisations need to have and communicate clear purposes and value systems to perspective employees so that they know if it is the right environment for them.

¨     Organisations need to have robust on boarding processes in place.

¨     Organisations should be clear about career paths within their organisations.  This is one reason why I have always advocated for competency frameworks.  They provide roadmaps to the capabilities required at different levels and within different roles.

¨     Role Clarity and Job Enrichment – provide clarity about what a job entails and also making sure that it includes responsibility that are meaning and interesting.

¨     Organisations need to have the confidence to delegate some responsibility to the people that they employ, with the acceptance that they may possibly make mistakes; embracing a culture that enables people to admit when they have made mistakes so that they can be rectified.

¨     Have a focus on clearly defined outcomes rather than tasks or presenters. Moving away from a culture that dictates how tasks should be done and moving towards letting people know what the necessary outcomes are (with timeframes where applicably), allowing them to work on the how, with whatever support they need

¨     Providing coaching and mentoring support and other development as required.

¨     Having realistic expectations of them – not expecting more from them than we could actually deliver ourselves when we first entered a workplace.   After all most us were educated through similar education systems as them – think, how well would we do entering the workplace of today and what support would we want/need.

Ultimately, I believe we need to focus on and value who they actually are and what they have to offer a lot more, than the utopian focus on who we want them to be.



Susan Popoola runs Conning Towers Ltd, an HR organisation focused on Talent Management and HR Transformation and Engaged For Success a Social Enterprise. She is also the published author of Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective and Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain. She is also Winner Women4Africa Author of the Year 2013

Copyright 2013. 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



June 16th, 2013 by SusanPopoola

Uncovering Employee Value via Undercover Bosses

Once in a while I watch the television programme Undercover Boss.  Currently viewing in the UK is Undercover Boss Canada. In many ways the programme is flawed as it simply highlights a lot of what organisations should already be aware of about the way in which their organisations work or not; and the people that work for them. I’m also conscious that it singles out a few of the people that the undercover boss meets whilst undercover and lavishes them with professional and personal rewards. Whilst I’m always pleased for the people receiving these rewards I do increasingly find myself thinking about the rest of the workforce, which may work equally as hard, face equally as challenging personal circumstances and have similar hopes and dreams.  I therefore hope that after the programme the employers work on schemes that provide personal as well as professional support to their entire workforces.

Beyond this though, I enjoy watching the programme because it talks about the hearts and values of people in mainstream workforces. – it highlights the things that are important to them like their families; the challenges they have faced or are facing; their dreams and aspirations and the dedication to and efforts of so many to their jobs.

Recently I watched an episode, which was focused on The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC). It very much followed the normal format with the undercover boss in disguise working with employees from different parts of the organisations.  In this case the boss (who happened to be a female) as per the norm shadowed employees on their jobs, gaining insights from them without them knowing who she was. At the end, the key people that the undercover Boss worked directly with were called to the organisation’s Head Office to meet with her. She gave them feedback on the experience inclusive of some of the actions that she was going to take as a result of her experience with them. She then went on to offer them a series of rewards, which leave the employees speechless, in tears or what have you. Ultimately as one employee says – “Being acknowledged is quite humbling”

I won’t go on about the fact that all employees should be acknowledged on such a regular basis that it is the norm and no big deal. I will move on to the case of an employee named Carmen who really stood out for me.

Carmen worked a 10 hours night shift in a bus depot – running around fuelling buses, checking the oil and cleaning around 50 buses each night. She specifically worked nights because she spent time during the day caring for and providing support to elderly relatives inclusive of a mother with health problems.

She probably fits into the category of working poor – those people that work very hard, yet struggle to make ends meet. Some such people have significant formal education, however a significant number such as Carmen less so – she would have liked to continue her education, unfortunately her circumstances until the intervention of the undercover boss did not allow for it.

She falls into the category of people often classified as unskilled, yet as illustrated by the attempts of the undercover boss, the likes of me and probably you with all our skills and capabilities could not do her job. Of people doing her job, she stated “We’re not perfect, we’re not machines, but we’re trying our hardest”.  As such shouldn’t we show greater appreciation of people in what we typically classify as low skilled jobs.

You make ask how? I’d say at one level – in things such as pay and benefits – the difference between minimum wage and living wages i.e. a wage that covers the cost of living.  At another level the way we talk about and refer to people in such jobs – remembering their humanity and input and not referring to them in the condescending manner, which we subconsciously do on many an occasion.  Finally, in the little things we all do and how we behave. In line with this case not leaving litter or food on public transport with the recognition that someone is going to have to clean up our mess.



Susan Popoola runs Conning Towers Ltd, an HR organisation focused on Talent Management and HR Transformation and Engaged For Success a Social Enterprise. She is also the published author of Touching The Heart of Milton Keynes: A Social Perspective and Consequences: Diverse to Mosaic Britain. She is also Winner Women4Africa Author of the Year 2013

Copyright 2013. 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


March 13th, 2013 by SusanPopoola

Working 9-5 or 24-7

I had the privilege of watching Dolly Parton’s musical, “Nine to Five” last Saturday – incidentally the day after International Women’s Day.

Although it was at least a tad exaggerated, it was horrifying to think of the way that men or at least some men viewed women in those days. I found it so disconcerting to watch that I turned to my friend’s husband and asked him whether he actually felt comfortable watching it.  He thought it was too exaggerated for one to be really concerned about it.

I’m not sure that it was that exaggerated though. Ultimately I’m thankful that things are so much better now – at least for the majority of women.

One bemusing part was when one of the ladies said imagine when we stop working 9 to 5 and start working 24-7.  Questioned about the comment she said she doesn’t know where she got the idea from.

Thinking about it, in as much as things are so much better for some, one must ask – is the 24-7 culture a justifiable price to pay?

Personally, I think females of younger generations will and in fact already are beginning to fight against this, so what will we move on too and will it be another “compromise” or the ideal state of play?

Susan Popoola


Copyright 2013. 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


September 20th, 2012 by SusanPopoola

Social Capital in The Workplace

On the soft side of things, talent management within the workplace is important because diverse, mutually respectful, happy teams with shared values perform best. ref: Carol Long, Three Triangles Performance Ltd. This is beneficial for organisations at an individual level, but there is also an economic imperative for effective talent management. I recently read that Brazil now claims to be the fifth largest economy in the world. France is also a threat to Britain’s position. This means that Britain is now moving backwards and is potential ‘just’ the seventh largest economy in the world. Even if Britain has still managed to maintain its position at the moment, where will Britain be positioned in 10 years time if we do not become more strategic in our actions and approach to the management and utilisation of talent?

I believe that we are still in a privileged position where people look up to us and want to work with us or do business with us. There is therefore a need for businesses to create and implement strategies that ensure the effective and efficient development and engagement of the local and global talent offered by all within communities.

At a basic level there is a need for a clear, strategic understanding of where British industry plans to go within the next 5, 10 and even 20 years. Individual businesses both large and small need to have an understanding of where they fit within that plan and what their subsequent strategy to deliver and achieve results is. When we talk about strategy, more often than not, we tend to focus on the operational and financial elements of the business but we tend to play little attention to the people side of things until there is a more immediate need.

I think the shape of the economy and global talent market that is developing means that this must now change and we must start thinking about people management – or to be more specific skills – from a more strategic perspective.

I always advocate for a skills or competency framework approach which highlights both the immediate and future resource requirements of an organisation from a skills basis.

It means that industry can broadcast skills requirements such that the education system is best positioned to prepare individuals with the flexibility to meet actual and potential needs and professions that currently don’t exist but which may exist in the not too distant future. It also enables government to have a more strategic, pragmatic view on immigration so that it is aligned to the country’s needs rather than simply pandering to those who are simply and plainly against immigration with a big full stop. It also enables better planning for jobs that may be best outsourced, with the enablement of processes to prepare and redeploy individuals who will otherwise be rendered redundant by such structural changes.

I believe a skills/competency framework also better enables open engagement with the wider community. Where it is clear to people what the competency requirements to work at different levels within an organisation are, it is more difficult for them to claim that they did not get a job because they were discriminated against for one reason or the other. It also better enables people from within the different British communities to mentor and support people from within their own communities to enable them to develop the skills required to obtain jobs at different levels. In fact, I was impressed to go into a McDonald’s store recently and pick up a little booklet with the basic framework of the different roles within the organisation and requirements to work at each level.

As we are now what is popularly described as a ‘global village’, I believe Britain, with its vast diversity has an advantage as it should be able to use that diversity to effectively interact with and understand different cultures around the world. I believe that British organisations should be mindful of this and look to use this to their advantage.

This, however, will only work if workers also do their part. I believe there are currently too many organisations, especially in retail, where the workforce is highly multicultural but highly segregated. I specifically remember doing some work in one such organisation. I went to their canteen at lunchtime and found that a large proportion of employees sat together with people from the same background as themselves, often speaking in their own language. As highlighted with a recent case involving McDonald’s, you can’t legislate against this, but I don’t believe it is very constructive and would venture to say that it is a poor reflection of multiculturalism where the gains are minimal.

Copyright 2012. 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.

August 17th, 2011 by SusanPopoola

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