Inclusive recruitment? Really?

So much talk of inclusion. We are barely scratching the surface. I have recently had a couple of interviews – I am not used to them, most of my work comes from conversations, word of mouth and/or head hunting – and it was very clear that in standard interviews anyone with any neurodivergence is immediately disadvantaged. Most roles, even those at this level (CEO/ED/NED) do not often require immediate decisions and when they do there is backstory and planning to support those decisions. And yet mainstream interviews have little real space for reflection and pause, ebb and flow. A snapshot of instant answers, many of which are sound bites learned by candidates to offer “correct” answers, is almost all that is achieved. I understand the need for engagement and assessment of capacity during recruitment, I have been on all sides of that table! And I get that good recruiters have a “sense”. But surely by now we can think more creatively? And I don’t mean those little “IQ” tests or forced and awkward tea and bun moments, although those are in reality probably more helpful. I would have thought a record of achievement, a relevant history, a degree of synergised character and vision, and a clear commitment were at the top of the list for recruiters and those are often not best assessed by rote. The best have a conversation with candidates, questions are almost invisible, answers elicited with skill and care. There is a way to ensure that all candidates have a similar experience, and therefore equal opportunities, without tick-boxing our way through it.

This isn’t a pop at recruiters (some of my best friends…), or a complaint, it is a look at how we can recruit more inclusively. As someone with a level of neurodivergence perhaps I am more keenly alive to areas for improvement. Also having been around a long (long) time I have many and varied experiences to compare and differences to note. We have come quite a long way but I think it is clear we have further to go.

Finally, I think it is likely that recruiters and employers sometimes miss the very people who would bring the most value to the role they wish to fill simply through adherence to traditional ways of interviewing or recruiting. That is both sad and a waste and to my knowledge has led to challenges and problems further down the line that may have been avoided by better recruitment. I should also add that I had a good “interview” recently, with people who didn’t mind being human, who seemed actually interested in the person and responded to that, and who had charm and empathy. It isn’t hard…

#work #recruitment #opportunities #people #inclusion #engagement

Bird Life part one

Today Ronnie and Reggie ©, our thug life magpies, are demolishing mountains of old cheese and hillocks of stale bread in a Mischiefs version of a pub lunch, seeing off the opposition with an ease formed by long hardman practice. Let me tell you about this pair of gangsters…

During the Summer we were woken daily by the clash of seagull squawks and magpie clacks, the gangs,The Gulls and The Pies, forming along our walls for a standoff while waiting for us to feed them, which we do as regularly as we can. They must have a clock tower in bird land because they arrive at the right time every morning and evening and claim their territories with a vengeance. Ronnie and Reggie are always on the lookout for ways to reduce the enemy and get a sly punch in, a way to annoy or hurt the rest of the bird kingdom, they could start a fight in an empty room. Every bird in the garden is their enemy. Hopping around the seagulls who out rank them in terms of size and beak they jab here, jab there, cunningly look as if they are hopping away and then swoop back with another jab and a clack. Their favourite tactic is to attack the weak and vulnerable wherever possible.

Gull babies are ungainly beings, wobbly, they seem unable to manage their bulk and they hunch like tall women do when ashamed of their height or bulk. They squeak meaningfully and sadly from the rooftops for their parents when they are off finding the family dinner. It takes a while for them to learn to fly properly and there are sometimes tragedies in the gardens where we find dead baby gulls who have fallen from the rooftops before they gain their Blue Peter flying badges, leaving the parents keening and sad. But overall they survive and we get to know them well over the following few months. For a long time we had Kevin, Mrs Kevin and Son of Kevin breakfasting with us each year, but we now have Son of Kevin only and are looking forward to Mrs SonOfKevin joining us. And she will. Grandson of Kevin will be a welcome addition to our household.

A few weeks ago when the gulls were busy making more gulls – and the babies always seem bigger than the parents, I wait to see if next year they produce baby gulls the size of shetland ponies – Ronnie and Reggie watched and waited, beady bright eyes monitoring the flight paths and timetables of the parents, studying the competence of the babies, assessing their naivety. And as always happens, one hunched-over baby becomes ambitious and optimistic and thinks independence is prematurely attractive, hops down clumsily when Ma and Pa are away and settles on the wall where the Gangs meet and face-off. Swaying from one side to another, unable to gain a proper web-hold and slipping about almost tumbling but keeping a tiny bit of balance sufficient to stay upright Baby is confident enough to attempt a walk along the fight-path and soon finds it is perhaps a wall too far. And Ronnie and Reggie go into action. They swoop repeatedly one at a time from left and right, boom boom boom, close enough to send a breeze over the baby but not touching her, clacking alarmingly as they go, producing from Baby a wobble and a squeak of fear. Baby shouts for Ma and Pa but they are shopping for dinner out of earshot. In an impressively co-ordinated tactic the Pies dive bomb, alarm and harass baby Gull into a panic and she begins to slip from the wall. If she falls she will die, if not from the fall – which is quite likely – from the assault that will inevitably follow from the Pies.

But hang on – just as the denouement becomes horribly clear here come Ma and Pa Gull shrieking into the tableau. The Pies look up, their hard black eyes sharp and quick. You can feel and hear them weighing it up, should they have a final swoop and peck Baby to her death beneath the wall or will Ma and Pa be too quick for them? It is certain that if they could kill Baby and get away they would but Ma and Pa fly straight into Ronnie and then Reggie, squawking fiercely, huge wings beating into the Pies, hard clever beaks ramming them amidships and sending them reeling. The sound of solid dangerous Gull beaks clapping themselves together against the black and white armour of the Pies is ferocious and loud. Clacking, shrieking and squeaking fill the garden with malice and danger. And then it is quiet.

Cautiously looking at the aftermath, seeking out Baby, we search the garden with our eyes – it would be beyond foolish to go out and risk the wrath of Gull parents especially when adrenalined up after a fight. They will take your fingers off at the knuckle just for one of your chips, the carnage if you go near Baby would be unimaginable. And there she is! Baby is as safe as she will ever be with Ma and Pa who are squawking their annoyance at her and I imagine she is grounded quite literally until flight is a reality. She flutes an apology but I think I see a gleam in her eye that tells me she is a bit proud of surviving, fluffing her feathers with a bravado she fails to conceal, now that it is over…

Up next time in Bird Life 2, the tale of Fatneck Tony © the virile and handsome pigeon who rules his harem with warmth and vigour but isn’t above some sly sexism and privilege.

Love and War in the Apennines. And you.

The above extract is from Love and War in the Apennines by Eric Newby. It describes experiences as a POW after WWII. I idly picked it up, having bumped into the pile in which it was living, and re-read it. As you do.

I was reminded by the extract above of all the people like them that I have known, and their clones that now inhabit our government. I could never understand the apparent public charm of Johnson, people actually seemed to like him, inexplicably. I have known too many people like him back in the day to be suckered; some of whom I liked, some I suppose I might have thought myself in love with, some, most, I despised . They have always drifted towards some sort of leadership regardless of their lack of talent and ambition – the only ambition I ever saw in that cohort was self driven acquisitive ego based usually cruel ambition, such as Johnsons somewhat pathetic need to be PM and the cocks on the table struggle between him and Cameron for supremacy. And reliably enough they generally messed it up and someone with actual skill had to mop them up, usually someone from the “lower orders” or outside of that stable who had been there, done that, and understood the territory. And of course those saviours were derided for their humility and their heritage. The absolute lack of self reflection, the entire entitlement, of those men – it was almost always men – was breathtaking. The women in that stable were, generally, after a husband and saw no problem with ignoring the braying feckless self interest if it brought with it social standing and money, and the education they enjoyed was a means to that end. A generalisation, true, but no less accurate for that. The women who were not in that mould were terrific company and despised the men as much as I did. Happy days.

Those men, a la Johnson, knew no boundaries when it came to their satisfactions; they lied, cheated, networked with the most appalling people some of whom were de facto terrorists or tyrants, made pacts with anyone who “mattered” regardless of integrity. They used people without shame, as shame was not a characteristic on their radar. Why would it be? They could bribe, blackmail, intimidate or simply pay away any barriers or troublesome truths. People of no use to them were non-people.

I said I knew them “back in the day” because mercifully I escaped that demographic, it was a temporary madness. I got myself back, not intact, but salvageable. The struggle to compete, align, keep up, was gone, and I returned to human form. But I had learned more than I would ever find in an education or a social group, I learned what matters. It didn’t all leave me, I still sometimes had to be careful in everyday life not to confuse charm with veracity, but over time and with more experience that also dropped away. And then of course I worked with some charming and deadly men, prisons, mental health, other interesting groups, and recognised where charm leads, or should lead. Habitually, these days, I am by default mistrusting of charm, which has been a healthy state of mind.

We are a nation being groomed by those charming charmless men, by their chums, by their paymasters and handlers. They have sold themselves to the highest bidder and got themselves in hock with the devil because why not, and they will take us with them if we are not careful, militant, and aware. It is already almost too late. People, humans, need to allow themselves to see what matters, to see what doesn’t matter, and to shuck off the shackles of the servitude that those worthless people assume as their due. We are worth better. You are worth better. Charm belongs on a bracelet, not in public life where it deceives and destroys.

And I thoroughly recommend Eric Newbys Love and War in the Apennines. I am happy that I fell over it again…

Optimism? That’s Life!

I was putting my many and glorious pills into my dosset boxes this morning and it occurred to me how optimistic that made me. I put over a weeks supply out so they are easy to remember and locate – assuming, therefore, that I will still be around to take them. Why else would I do it? We all do things like that – we go to bed at night planning the next day, we do our weekly shop with the next few days in mind, plant herbs for our meals expecting to be here to eat them, arrange coffee dates, apply for jobs, have babies, plan the sale of the house and dream of where we will end up (ok that’s my current daydream), have pets, start reading a book. We assume we will be here to complete those actions. Unless we have reason to doubt.

People, humans like you and I, are suffering extreme and illegal sadism from Russia, in Ukraine. Those remaining there have little idea how long they will be around or how they will survive. When a friend of mine had a terminal diagnosis her world tipped over and she had different plans to make, seeing it from a fresh viewpoint. And yet. We still make plans: we plan breakfast and make sure we have enough milk and bread, walk the dog, cook dinner for our friends and family, clean the loo, put the hoover round, go to bed, do homework with the kids and grandkids. We smile. We love. And we even sometimes laugh.

Our optimism, sometimes against the odds, is what makes life bearable, even as we gather proof of its cruelty. I see this time and again in the many people I have had the privilege of working alongside in the Beyond Profit sector. Parents of children with disabilities who joined forces against enormous odds with often almost entire professions and sometimes eminent people telling them it was useless and a waste of time, to create new, revolutionary ways to support their children and in doing so made a new world for themselves and for people after them. Stephen Sutton, a young man who changed course, withdrew his application to uni when given a terminal diagnosis and campaigned to raise awareness and money for the Teenage Cancer Trust and whose smile lit up the room. Ben Parkinson the most severely wounded soldier to survive the war in Afghanistan – where my son in law also served. He campaigned and still does and his experience and campaigning forced the MoD to increase compensation to wounded veterans, and he has raised money, defied expectations, has carried the Olympic flame through his home town and has published a book. Extraordinary people and there are many of them all around us – and that optimism, the almost unconscious recognition that life goes on, is what gets us out of bed in the morning and creates more and more interesting extraordinary people.

Some of the most extraordinary people I know are also the most ordinary. In the same way that, for many people who are marginalised or disadvantaged, an ordinary life is a meaningful aspiration, the ordinary extraordinary people I have met have only ever wanted their ordinariness but things turned out in unexpected ways and their optimism and extraordinariness was forced into the open. That extraordinariness is inside us all and some just need that circumstance to light the fire. I know that there is fabulousness in all of us, and I also know that sometimes you have to dig a little to find it. But it is worth it.

Onward and Upward, chums. Onward and Upward.

At what stage will this challenge get dealt with?


Back in April last year Johnny Mercer is claimed to have told the Conservative Chief Whip that he intended to resign and he was dismissed by Boris Johnson. His comment which appears here was collected by a series of newspapers. Late yesterday a chap called Jeff Stone @JeffSto40037019 published this image with his statement “This speaks for itself. Please retweet so the whole world can see what this government is really like.” and a friend of mine Bernie Mayall @MayallMMent retweeted it with the statement “One of the good guys.” which I certainly agree her with. The fact is that along with Johnny Mercer another 147 Conservative MPs voted for Boris Johnson to be removed as the leader of their Political Party on the 6th June and then as I wrote here back on the 24th June, that along with these 148 Conservative MPs at least one other Conservative person…

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