Could Benefits Cap Be Bad For Business?

I was having a discussion with some friends over the last few days on the future of business.
As the discussion moved from disrutive technology to the economy and the event I’m hosting in September “Predicting the future we don’t yet know about”  we began to discuss the effect on business of the welfare cap championed by Iain Duncan Smith
“How can that be bad for business?” someone asked…but I think it could so let me explain.

Iain Duncan Smith
Iain Duncan Smith

Firstly let me say that I’m not against people being encouraged to find work, nor in saving money from people not willing to work. However, I think that Ministers have fostered the impression that all working families will get a fair deal compared with those that don’t. However, DWP’s impact assessment has been reported to have quietly revealed that any couple working up to 23 hours a week and receiving housing benefit, income support and job seekers allowance could still be affected!

If this is so then I wonder what the future holds:

a) The amount of benefit is capped so that it forces people to move to another part of the country then parts of the UK may become a “out of work / benefits Ghetto”. Could increase crime and social unrest in deprived area? Could it also reduce the labour pool which business needs to draw upon or make what labour there is expensive…a charge that will have to be passed onto customers?

b) There are also questions as to whether the cap will, in fact, deliver a fiscal saving. Eric Pickles, Sec of State for Communities and Local Government, wrote to the Prime Minister saying “We think that it is likely to generate a net cost” as a consequence of homelessness and migration. I question the sense of having an area like London that has a labour shrortage

c) Vince Cable has said that benefit cuts will have a devastating impact on poor families because the Government is doing little to create affordable housing. House prices are likely to rise in some areas whilst fall in others!

d) The BBC and other parts of the media are already beginning to record details of hardship and I wonder in the future might see it lead to social unrest.

Stories of big business avoiding tax does nothing to foster the feeling that business is supporting the country and even if employment is rising, people are feeling bettter about the future, summer has arrived…spending cuts have only just begun and soon there will be rises in interest rates…

What’s the solution?…I’m not sure and that’s why I’m not an MP but I guess it won’t be as clear cut nor as rosy as some ministers would have us believe

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Work for FREE…no way!

I’m not surprised that Appeal Court judges agreed with a university graduate’s claim that unpaid work schemes were legally flawed. It also, in my opinion, had all the fingerprint of having been designed by some well paid civil servant or minister who was only counting numbers as opposed to looking to actually benefit the people it was meant to help.

Cait Reilly, 24, claimed that requiring her to work for nothing at a Poundland store breached laws on forced labour.
She was also forced to work for a company that has £millions in turnover.

Wouldn’t it have been more sensible for the scheme that requires people to experience work that this also included the joy and benefit of being paid for it. An employer should be asked to pay for the work, even if that was less than NW. That way the Government would benefit, the employer (Poundland) would benefit with a shelf-stacker and the person on the scheme (Cait) would also have gained more money for the two weeks she was working.

For Gov’t and ministerial information it’s called a WIN-WIN-WIN solution!
A basic premise for making any work place scheme work

Cait Reilly
Cait Reilly

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How to bully effectively!

I am facinated by the diplomatic row between the UK and Ecuador over the Foreig Secretary sending in Police into the Equadorian Embassy to arrest Julian Assange. It makes The UK look like a bully. The problem is that, like all threats made by bullies, the threat has the potential to backfire badly. This is because bullies fail to think through the consequences of their actions.

In this case:

  • If the Equador Embassy is invaded then other countries could do same to ours
  • UK Diplomats abroad could be placed in danger
  • UK could find itself in International Court
  • If the UK fails to follow up on the threat it makes the Foreign Secreatry and UK look weak and ineffective

The bully at work
It reminds me of the very worst techniques of the bully who is also the team leader. By my definition an inexperienced leader who imposes their poor decisions and personal will through threats and punishment.

Some of the effects of such actions in a work environment include:

  • Team members comply but only to the minimum
  • When able complaints are made by team members
  • If the team leader is too poweful people will wait till he/she stumbles and then put the boot in
  • Team members will cover up errors
  • Sicness and absense increases
  • Team gains a reputation for being poorly lead

There’s no room in business for a bully.
It’s better to be thought of as an effective negotiator and diplomat. Someone who can convince others of the validity of an argument and negotiate a conclusion that is acceptable to all parties. Then, even when the leader has to insist on a single course of action, the process at arriving at such action is seen to be fair and reasonable by the team. (Because it’s the norm!)

I wonder if the Foreign Secreatary would like some training on this business approach when dealing with foreign governments?

William Haig



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The Lady’s different

I spend a lot of my time talking to managers on team improvement and productivity and it always amuses me how so many managers have difficulties explaining change to their team.I will be told “They just don’t understand how important it is…” and “When I told them the new plans they became all negative…”.

Time is the enemy of change
Some years ago I had published an article titled “Time is the enemy of change” where I proposed that change catalysts were always focused in a future time frame having thought of, developed and planned the changes being proposed. When the team is told of the change their focus is in the past time frame where strict rules of work have been followed. Now, in an instant they are asked to change.  Fairly understandable. But last week I was told a new problem. “The new boss is a lady and she doesn’t understand things like a man!”

The female boss who’s different
 I was told by her all male team that her management style different to the past. “She doesn’t think like a man…” is what I was told and they were surprised when I agreed with them. Then I showed them the YouTube film below.
They laughed and we were able to discuss the issues in a more relaxed and constructive manner. At the end of the meeting they agreed that it was a “difference of management style to their old male boss” and that she did have attributes that weren’t evident previously…such as supporting the team to senior management, being aware of personal issues and discussing work targets and problems.



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When the party’s over, what then?

I was having a discussion with a friend last night about the Queen’s Jubilee and the Olympics and how business is going to cope with the distruption to travel in London and the time off taken by staff. However soon the discussion moved to what happens when it’s all over

However, I wonder what happens after the party’s over?
Once the Jubilee and the Olympics are over will there be a sense of anti-climax.
Will people feel less enthusiastic at work as winter comes and economic troubles hit us again?
Or will one of the legacies be that a “Feel good factor” will last though the winter?

The challenge for business leaders
The challenge could be to assess the possible legacy on our team and how to keep the team motivated once the fun has ended.
It’s a challenge that managers should start to think about now.

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How Useful Is Your Fool?

“Who’s your business fool?” was a question I asked a senior Executive yesterday

“I don’t expect you mean that idiot in HR!” came the reply

“Indeed not” I replied, “In days gone by Kings employed what was called ‘the fool’ to keep them company. Now these people were, in fact, no fools, they were intelligent enough to contradict, insult, comment on court politics and advise their masters, on things that others would consider life threatening, and they did so without losing their heads. The use of the fool to the King was that they could be honest and provide an alternative and independent point of vie because the fool had no lofty position to protect, no personal power to promote and no allegiance to anyone but the King.”

What should your fool tell you about your latest idea?

Question to think about
I continued, “So my question is who do you ask when you’ve got an idea, plan, change in procedure or direction to provide unbiased, truthful criticism and observation. In other words do you have an intelligent fool that’s able to tell you the truth and help you avoid costly business mistakes and who won’t get his/her head chopped off?”

If you want to know more or find out “how to find and recruit your fool” you can email me at

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Two Questions That Increase Profits

“How much time do your people waste reading information that has ZERO value for the way they do their job?” Was a question I posed a team leader last week.

It really is important because the average employee has to wade through huge amounts of information each day from paper, email, web and other distractions and unless the information is useful then it wastes their time and harms the company’s profits.

Indeed it’s been calculated that: Two days at work is unproductive

  • The average worker receives 300 pages of information each day and yet only uses 5
  • The average worker loses about three hours each day trying to figure out the meaning of what they’ve received, what needs their attention and what to do with the information.

The total time taken to determine the information received eats up 15 hours each week.
So two days a week is unproductive time

Waste paper
not worth the read

Question two
The second question I posed the team leader was “What would be the increased profits of the business if the amount of information sent to each employee was reduced by just 10% and how could it be achieved?”

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Business with built-in inefficiency

I was talking to a Chief Executive yesterday about his team efficiency and he wasn’t surprised when I told him that almost everything at work, workstations, business processes, team personnel is often so poorly designed that it actually harms productivity.

Who gets most attention to help them?
I told him of some research done by the Jensen Group some time ago that asked a large group of people

  • Which group consistently gets the most attention paid to simplifying things for them?
    Answer: 85% said Senior Executives
  • Which group consistently gets the least attention paid to simplifying things for them?
    Answer: 85% said the Workforce

Naturally he asked me for some solutions and one that I gave him was to insist that whenever a new process or step is introduced into the workplace that the designer has to identify one that needs to be removed.

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Diplomacy at work: The art of …

Much of my time is spent mediating team problems it never ceases to surprise me how often people become annoyed by “things that don’t matter”.

Sometimes, more often than you would think, a very small problem escalates into a large one. Too often I’m called in when the situation is about to end up in a tribunal, legal letters and a complete breakdown in the relationship. At that point it’s often too late to resolve and it wastes money and valuable management time.

Yesterday I was asked for my top tips on being diplomatic at work…so here goes

  1. stick to facts and avoid name calling or statements such as “You always do that when…”

  2. Even when you disagree with a colleague’s viewpoint or decision, it’s
    important to allow superiors, subordinates and coworkers to express
    themselves unhindered by interruptions or counter-arguments, and to show that you have digested and understood what they have communicated.

  3. If a problem arises, don’t assume that It’s a personal
    attack on you. Investigate the matter by
    speaking directly, and in private, with the individual(s).

  4. Avoid involving coworkers or your supervisor in the conflict unless necessary. Trying to gain verbal or actual support from coworkers and friends only increases the problem and will upset the other party.
  5. Remain calm. Always maintain a relaxed stature and never raise your voice or lose your temper.
  6. Meet the other party as soon as possible and express a desire to solve the problem amicably.
  7. Be ready to apologize if YOUR communication has been interpreted badly. Many emails are read in a different way than the sender intended. Be prepared to admit your fault. In fact always finish an email with a polite ending such as “Best wishes” or “looking forward to meeting up on…”.
  8. Avoid being a gossip. Remember that if you listen to someone gossip about coworkers the gossip is also telling others about you!
  9. Don’t be too fast to criticize change, decisions or actions. Find out the background to the decision or change before pointing out potential pitfalls.
  10. Be generous with praise. Invite people to join in your successes and promote other people’s good work. Give other people opportunities to shine.

    Have you any other suggestions?

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How Important is humor in business?

in this current financial climate there’s a danger that we can lose our sense of humor (spelt Humour in UK). We have all becoming increasingly entertained by the incompetence of the Government when they all suddenly pretend that their favorite food is Cornish pasties. But how important is humor in business?

Business Humor?
I’m not talking about playing jokes or being silly at work. I mean the humor that attracts people to it and relieves pressure and stress of day to day work. That management encourages humor and is even prepared to initiate it rather than take itself too seriously. 

Let me give you some examples:
Given the choice of two networking meetings which would look most attractive to join?
A group talking seriously with each other or another group that’s obviously having a good laugh and being entertained as in the picture above.

At work do you mix with the individual who’s always smiling or the person with a depressive nature who when he smells flowers looks around for a funeral.

Humor and success

In my experience I often note that the person with appropriate business humour skills, as well as qualifications and experience, is the individual that’s more easily promoted.
The problem with so many people at work is that they have great senses of humour, but manage to hide it well.

What are your experiences of humor and success and your favorite stories?

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