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CMCE Next Gen initiative: The post-pandemic world of work: Interview with Rhonda Best and Tudor Baron

Submitted by karol.s on

Just before Christmas we launched our CMCE Next Gen initiative, a series of discussions on the post-pandemic world of work that will consist of 7 consecutive conversations on Clubhouse, every Thursday starting from 20th January 2022. The series will conclude with a live, virtual event on 10th March. Rhonda Best and Tudor Baron, two members of the project team, explain to us why, today more than ever, this is one of the most relevant topics for the next generation of professionals and why we should join the conversation and share our experiences and opinions.

Rhonda, Tudor, why did you decide to support this initiative and why do you consider it important for you and your colleagues and peers?

RB:  Over a decade ago I started out in management consulting without practical experience in the field.  I learnt from books and I have built my company, Alexander Bain mainly through trial and error.  It has not always been an easy journey.  What I’m sure of though, is that my approach to consulting and entrepreneurship changed when I joined the Worshipful Company of Management Consultants and started interacting with established practitioners. They were further ahead in their consulting careers than I was, and they were a source of inspiration, invaluable knowledge and wisdom.  That had a positive effect on the way I worked and has helped me to grow as a professional. That’s the reason why I strongly believe in collaborative initiatives like this one.  They are essential to support the next generation of consultants as they find their voice and strengthen their profile as experts and thought leaders.  The initiative is a great opportunity for those new to the profession to apply and refine the core skills that they acquired during their formal studies as well as to acquire knowledge that may not be available in the workplace.  Engaging with others is a very important factor in an individual’s professional development and growth.  The value of both explicit and tacit knowledge transfer while collaborating with peers with different backgrounds and at different levels of seniority is priceless.

TB: After completing my Master studies in 2020 I had applied for several jobs in consulting, within both large and smaller consultancy firms.  These attempts were unsuccessful although I am also a Certified Management Consultant. During the pandemic employment in the UK has become increasingly inaccessible for newly qualified professionals, partly because many employers expect graduates to have several years’ experience. Considering that Universal Credit applications reached 6 million in January 2021 the country seems to be faced with a mounting underemployment problem. As a result, I find myself wondering whether we are doing enough to support the younger generation to find high-quality work.  I also ask myself whether a reform to our recruitment system could be beneficial. These were the two key thoughts and questions that prompted me to join this initiative and I very much hope it will snowball into a wider discussion that could help employers reflect on the relevance of current recruitment barriers and review how they identify and acquire talent among the next generation of professionals.

What are the key topics that you are planning to explore during the different discussions?

TB:   We will roll out a 7-week series of discussions on Clubhouse with each week focusing on a different topic question:

20/01 Do entry level jobs require interviews?

27/01 'How important is 'gig economy' training for our youth?'

03/02 Can every employee contribute to marketing?

10/02 Can every employee contribute to innovating?

17/02 Do employees understand the value of the work they perform?

24/02 Do current management practices sufficiently value the contributions of all employees?

03/03 How might labour laws need to change to prepare for the future of work?

However, the questions may change to reflect the themes that emerge through discussion. Everyone with an interest in these topics is welcome to join. The initiative is mainly aimed at aspiring and existing management consultants but we would encourage professionals from different backgrounds, geographies and levels of seniority to get involved. We believe that a multiplicity of perspectives would enrich the discussion invaluably!

You are going to host the series on Clubhouse. That is an important first for CMCE, how do you think this channel will help make the exchange of ideas and opinions even more meaningful?

RB:  Yes, I’m looking forward to hosting some of these discussions.  And I will be joined by other members of the CMCE network to host some of the future events as we attract more volunteers over the seven weeks.  I do believe that digital technology can play an essential role in developing important discussions like this one on the future of work, especially as a way to provide a platform where the voices of our future thought leaders and management consultants can be heard and their opinions shared.

This channel will help expand on and further the research into the concepts proposed in the published paper on the post pandemic world of work that inspired the creation of this initiative.  That’s really important because the exchange of ideas and opinions is what truly develops a subject, in the same way that dialogue and engagement enrich research.

Tudor, as a young management consultant, what are the most common challenges and employment barriers that you and your peers have observed or experienced?

TB:  The entire application process can be filled with challenges and job descriptions can sometimes be vague and not tailored for the newly qualified, although the vacancies were advertised to this group. The use of computer algorithms can mean that some applications are immediately discarded because certain key words were not used. Unsuccessful applications are often met with a standard rejection letter that can erode a candidate’s confidence, especially when they don’t include any feedback that could help applicants improve their chances next time. Shouldn’t the automated process help applicants understand where they fell short and make the process more effective for both sides?

Interviews can also be a big barrier. In certain cases, they seem to consist of a checklist of requirements to attract a ‘standardised’ type of employee.  If you have unique characteristics that seem to fall outside the listed criteria, you may not be considered for the role.  Isn't that the opposite of encouraging inclusivity?  It is also at odd with the idea that many employers expect their employees to be innovative.  Aren’t inventors supposed to bring different perspectives and approaches? Also, what does things like whether you had free meals during your school days and what your family’s jobs and incomes were when you were a child have to do with an application? How do they help understand whether you will perform well in a job?

If your education consists of courses taken in another country but you are resident here in the UK and you can do the job, why are you considered to be less valuable? Also, can immigration status be considered in a different way now that work is increasingly becoming virtual?  From public to private sectors, small and large organisations there is some important work still to be done to improve inclusivity. Existing employment barriers seem to deter candidates.  A rethink of these out-dated practices can definitely support the next generation of workers.

The pandemic definitely accelerated the speed of change and it now looks like it will last longer than initially expected. How do you think this will affect the future of employment and the creation of a strong talent pipeline?

RB:  The pandemic certainly has accelerated changes that were expected to shape the future of work as artificial intelligence and other new technologies become more accessible. Most leaders who were reluctant to introduce work-from-home flexibility for all staff before Covid, suddenly had to implement hybrid working throughout their business.  According to reports from McKinsey, KPMG and others, investment in digital technology is up as digital interactions with customers rose globally (from between 18% to 41% in pre-pandemic conditions, to over 53% in all markets worldwide).

As you can imagine, due to travel bans, the global talent acquisition has undergone some major modifications too.  Recruiters have had to expand their networks and build partnerships to support clients exploiting this new opportunity. As most new office staff are being onboarded remotely, foreign talent pools are an attractive, less expensive option for some employers.  Reported trends show that businesses are updating their knowledge of international employment laws and hiring experts to help them navigate the red tape, so new starters can continue to reside in their home countries. With the talent market widening on an international level, competition is bound to be on the rise and who knows, the migration habits of highly skilled professionals may change too.

When there is change, there is also an opportunity to grow and improve, so how do you think we should leverage the current conjuncture to overcome barriers and make the world of work better?

RB:  Well, I’m thinking about this problem with management consulting clients in mind, there will come a point when the traditional rules for attracting, acquiring and retaining talent will be unsustainable.  Massive online courses have removed some long-held barriers to education.  And now that those blocks are gone, trying to retain the recruitment status quo will mean losing out on accessing a talent pool that pursues continued learning.  Organic expansion is possible when the barriers to some jobs are removed to match education’s open accessibility.

For example, if we narrow our focus to just social media marketing and look at the impact that independent marketers have had on how we conduct business and achieve new market growth, then, it’s safe to say that it’s not business as usual just yet.  The world of work is in a transitionary phase and requires management innovation to support clients through the process.  

In your opinion, how will your peers benefit from sharing their experience and perspectives during these discussions?

RB:  The benefits of sharing your experience and opinions during this series depends on your individual motivation.  Some may want to network and learn as they exchange ideas, others may want to support those new to the profession.  And, of course, this can all be done while building their own profile and contributing to the creation of marketing collateral that clients will find valuable.  The rewards of contributing to the series are far reaching.  Because, once we’ve concluded the pilot, we can quantify the value of facilitating future collaboration.

Rhonda, in the article you recently published on the topic, you reflect on the role of intangibles and propose the concept of “open access jobs” as one of the potential solutions going forward. This is a concept that is already quite popular in the US but only starting to appear in the UK. Can you explain it further to our readers and tell us why you think it could be an effective solution?

RB:  Open access jobs is a term that I’ve coined to describe when businesses engage communities and online groups strategically.  By providing open access jobs employers can scale their companies and enter new markets remotely. This growth strategy caps the usual risks and costs associated with employing full time workers. Opening access to jobs also helps sustain a healthy working capital position because costs become indirect, and so cash outflows adjust to fluctuations, volatility and uncertainty in the market. These ‘open access jobs’ remove the typical application and interview steps when recruiting for certain roles.   And it breaks down the work so remuneration is calculated differently.  Jobs offered in this way tend to fall under the marketing and/or product development budgets.  Another benefit of using this strategy is that it builds an active talent pipeline and meets the millennials’ desire to own their own businesses and intellectual assets.  As knowledge workers, they can work flexibly.

Finally, remind us how those interested can join the conversation and get involved.

TB: This is an exciting time to have these discussions and contribute towards a wider debate on the future of recruitment practices.  Plus, it is an excellent way to support professionals who represent the future of our profession. As management consultants we have a great deal of influence in the world of business, and we are often the catalysts of change.  We are well-placed to adopt new approaches and look at things from different perspectives. I would encourage anyone reading to join the conversation as a speaker at one of our events.  There they can have their say and take an active role in shaping the future of work. We are also looking for more members to get involved as administrators, event hosts and co-moderators. Please contact either Rhonda or myself for more details on how you can help.

This initiative is mostly aimed at professionals who are planning to move into our profession, are studying to become a management consultant or has just started to work as one. But how can more experienced professionals, who want to get involved, join the conversation?

RB:  Working with professionals across a range of disciplines and with different levels of experience are the factors that transforms a career.  These conversations are enriched by the participation of experienced professionals who understand the intricacy of transformation and  know who the key stakeholders are, and how they can make change happen.  There is so much scope as the post-pandemic world of work takes shape, and encouraging diverse perspectives is what will create vital insights to seize opportunities of the pandemic and overcome its challenges.