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Enough of this theatre of cruelty

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At TALiNT Partners we’ve been banging on for ages that the workforce and talent agenda isn’t just something that has never been more important but is actually the most important issue organisations face, and it seems the chancellor agrees with us.

Rarely has a budget been more focused on the issues of helping employers find and keep the people they need and support for families with young children (code for ‘get more women into work’), and the ‘returnerships’ for us oldies will hopefully stimulate employers more generally to think differently and more creatively about how to build the workforces for today’s economy. These are important and necessary proposals that help to address the structural challenges facing the UK in improving labour accessibility and, hopefully, in time the wider challenges around productivity.

But sober and sensible is not always the order of the day. There has also been a lot of noise this week around a University of Exeter piece of research on the impact of ‘Sunday night blues’ on mental health and wellbeing. Where to even start with this? The infantilisation of people and this propensity to treat everyone as a victim or somehow vulnerable needs a short, sharp poke in the eye. It would be laughable if it didn’t have the effect of actually doing a dis-service to people with genuine mental health issues.

But just when I thought I couldn’t be any more incensed, it turns out it’s interview week on The Apprentice. I have written about this before and how the The Apprentice’s approach does a terrible dis-service to genuine entrepreneurs and business more widely. But watching Karen Brady (or Baroness Brady to the plebs or anyone she doesn’t like) conduct ‘interviews’ took my blood pressure to a whole new level. I get that it’s really an entertainment show but watching her humiliate the various candidates was simply of cruelty cruel. And her pathetic attempts to build them up wasn’t kind, it was condescending. What sort of message does this send to anyone, especially young people, about how they might be treated, or worse, how they think they should treat other people in the workplace?

The Apprentice is a throwback to a different time. I’m not sure it was ever reflective of how business gets done this century, but it now doesn’t feel funny, or quaint, just nasty.

The UK has some significant challenges on how to engage a post-pandemic workforce effectively, and we have a long and successful track record of entrepreneurs being a fundamentally important part of the answer. So, whilst I applaud moves to get more women and older people into the workplace, and even yield a little bit on trying to minimise the ‘Sunday Scaries’ there are only two words I have for The Apprentice, and we all know what they are.

“The UK has some significant challenges on how to engage a post-pandemic workforce effectively.”

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