All Change

Crikey, so many people I spoke with this week were either changing jobs or new people who were leaving and struggling to recruit for open positions.

And, this was not just in the UK but across other markets, it seemed.

What is going on? Questions have been racing through my mind.

  • Has a year working from home been too much for us. We cannot stand it anymore and need a change to get back to the office? Or
  • Are people now being asked to return to the office, but they secreting like the remote working, so no thank you and time to change role?
  • Have we had just had enough? We are now getting bored with what is the same in the same room at home, and…. JUST NEED A CHANGE OF SCENE… rather urgently in fact?
  • Or is this the same change that would have happened normally over the last 18months, but now crunched in to September and October? Probably to be honest.

Whatever the answer, but it is really happening and causing issues with filling roles. With the laws of supply and demand if this continues this will undoubtedly have knock on impact to salaries. Great news for candidates, but for the rest of us this will also have a knock on effect on prices too.. is this the start of the inflationary cycle, the one we all expected, I wonder?

A little bird told me

My other experiment this week was live tweeting during the Credit Connect Technology Think Tank conference. The conference itself was interesting, with as normal plenty of good discussion and new ideas.

As is usual at events these days, the social hastags were up to use at the start. Normally there is not much activity and I wondered if it was possible to get some dynamic conversations going on the side?…. not much success I am afraid…

It seems collections industry people are just not twitter people, and although there was a better response on LinkedIn, it was still not that dynamic. Instagram, Pinterest, SnapChat, TikTok are clearly still a long way off!

This is of course in stark contrast to the (particularly younger) customer base, who, together with Facebook, seem to live on these social media platforms. (certainly in my house).

Are we missing a trick here?

This is of course a potential opportunity to connect, build brand relevance and have conversations with these segments. It probably really is and if you want to understand, be relevant and hire from what is a growing segment of society we are going to have to learn how use this medium.

What’s next then?

Of course, even social media itself is getting old. Many conversations have already carved off into private WhatsApp groups. A bit like a private club, these are great if you are included, but not much help if you are not.

So what is next best for a work application? I am experimenting with Discord. Yes this was primarily for gamers, but you can also think of it as an Open Source version of Slack and anyone, not just those in a limited set of companies, can join. This could be an interesting location for more interactive, yet public, discussion. I will let you know how it goes… you can join the channel here if you are interested too.

This week has undoutbedly been a long week and the tweeting also much harder work than I expected.

So it is time for a rest, maybe some TV, even a book(!), instead of social media tonight… that would be novel.

Have a good weekend everyone.

…. if you want to follow my twitterings, I am @chris_w_tweet.

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Do you cut the grass at work?

This week I came across a video for the book, “The 4 hour workweek“.

Now, may I be the first to suggest this is not suggesting that working 4 hours a week is on the cards, or even possible for us mere mortals. Let’s face it for many folks, 40 is normal and sometimes more I suspect.
However, the video did tweak an interesting idea, the concept of relative value.

To explain I am going to illustrate with something close to home. Should I cut the grass in front of my house, or pay to have someone do it for me?

Of course, I normally mow the lawn myself. This is usually on a free afternoon, at the weekend, with the grass normally at ankle height!
It is a bit of a chore and not that much fun. It is just something that needs to be done (albeit halfway through an audiobook, which is a plus).

But back on campus

However, now let’s assume we are not at home during a lazy weekend, but at work on a Tuesday in a busy week and the lawn outside the building needs mowing. Would you do it? Nope, most of us would likely outsource it.

Cutting the grass at work, requires investment and maintenance of machinery, training to operate and some skill to make it look good.
Also, then if invest in all of this, it would soak up valuable work time. Time which could be being used to earn revenue and help customers elsewhere.
I could be actually losing money, by trying to save money.

Most of us do not work on campuses anymore, nor do we run gardening companies, but how different is this example from many other tasks we do at work. For example, running an operation or call centre, decision science, collections strategies, business intelligence, finance, HR or even credit risk, each of these tasks can be outsourced

Why would I even do it?

Of course it feels good to have a large team around you, develop your own software and be in control of all elements of strategy. It is a bit of a comfort blanket, the idea of self-sufficiency making one feel somehow safer.

However, unless we are running a sheep farm in rural Patagonia, the reality is we are already pretty interconnected these days. Most businesses run on this interconnected interaction between people and systems, whether you are inside the company or not. Unfortunately, any sense of self-sufficiency is largely an illusion I fear.

By considering outsourcing of processes or process elements, it can free up time to focus on other revenue-generating areas, in your core area of expertise.
If you get this judgment of relative value correct this can result in more revenue, cash flow, as funds to invest in greater customer satisfaction/return.

When not to do it?

Of course, let’s not be naive too. If the process you are looking to outsource, is also your strategic advantage and USP, then maybe outsourcing this to another company, is really not such a great idea. (as arguably Dell discovered outsourcing computer part production to ASUS in Taiwan, who then ate their lunch, becoming a competitor).

The other reason for caution is if actually are sitting around doing not much, then the sunk costs of doing some of these tasks (off the side of a desk) falls to zero. Sometimes we just need to get one with it, and who knows if you get good at it, maybe you can do it for other people… a new product line.

Get time back, maximising your relative advantage

However, if you have processes or sub-processes that are shrinking in size or no longer offer a strategic advantage, or processes and technology which has become commodified, then this is well worth considering.

Fundamentally this comes down to, what am I good at, and where I am not can I get time back or an increase in relative value by outsourcing to someone else.

Certainly something worth thinking about Monday…. but for now it is still the weekend, so in the zero sunk cost zone, which means I still have to cut the grass… sigh.

Have a good week everyone.

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The last hurrah… for summer

This week, being the end of summer, was the last hurrah for the holidays and the experience that comes with it.

  • Sitting in holiday motorway traffic discovering the ‘wonder’ that is techno rap
  • Re-discovering the joy of putting up, taking down and packing tents only to find, once again, that they never quite seem to fit back in the bag they came in
  • And, pretending that the meals you prepare ‘al fresco’ on an underpowered camping stove are really actually quite tasty – before being forced by hunger pangs retreat to the pub for a proper meal

Time to reflect

However, summer does normally grace us with a little more time than normal to think and reflect. This year was no different. So, these were the ‘big’ questions of Summer 2021.

  • Are the gardens in Yorkshire actually better tended than the rest of the country? It certainly seemed that way, maybe it is worrying sign of getting older…. what is next growing vegetables!
  • Why have people stopped wearing masks so quickly? Everything seemed super busy, and many seemed to just not care much anymore
  • Have I become sensitised to large crowds? Crowded streets, and restaurants all still seemed to tweak some pandemic anxiety… it does no bode well for the 6:57am commute to London Euston, which is normally chock-a-block
  • And, with the English seaside so busy… I wondered was this what seaside towns used to be like before mass airline travel?

Back to work

Of course, with all things being connected, thoughts also strayed back to implications for work too.

  • Does all this activity mean that the UK economy will bounce back more quickly than expected?
  • Many of us last year talked about a massive wave of debt. Will this be in fact little more than a large ripple, on what was already choppy waters anyway?
  • Are employees be also going to be feeling similarly nervous about commuting, crowds and being with lots of people?

Based off the discussions this summer, it does seems some of this may indeed be the case.

Certainly, for businesses that made it through the last 18months, the summer trading seems to have been good.

Many I spoke to, especially in hospitality industries heavily hit by the pandemic, were reporting it as super busy. Hopefully, they will have made up for at least some of the lost revenue. Of course, for those that did not make it (and there were still many closed stores), the outlook is no doubt less than favorable… but on balance it seemed like things were somewhat bouncing back positively at least.

Less Doom and Gloom?

For those of us in Collections, we are always expecting the next big event, getting ready for it, making sure we can manage the risk. It is kind of the job. It is also easy to always talk about and think the world is falling in.

In this case, hopefully, the impact will be indeed less than some of the grim scenarios we expected. I have little doubt it will be more nuanced.

But, time will tell and next month, with the end of furlough support, will be a critical time to watch, track the data and monitor for impacts (it is still worth getting ready now)

As for the commute and people’s anxiety, we just need to be respectful. It is just everyone is not necessarily fully comfortable yet. With time (and improving COVID infection/outcome numbers) it will gradually improve… but, one step at a time.

Have a good week and welcome back everyone.

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