Category Archives: Life & Style

How One Supplier Pivoted From High Fashion To Scrubs

How do you pivot your operations? Here’s how. We discover how one fashion house started making scrubs. 


Imagine, for a second, that during this pandemic, procurement simply wasn’t needed within your organisation. Your boss then came to you and said that the business valued you and thought you had some transferable skills, so they had decided you should switch into a sales role, immediately. How would you feel? What would you do?

Admittedly, in this situation many of us would panic. But right now, we don’t need to look far to find people that that exact situation has been thrust upon – namely, our suppliers. Throughout this pandemic, we’ve witnessed this exact, almost instant change, occurring from Ford and Tesla switching their production to making ventilatorsto 3M making face masks. But how does it feel to have your world changed, overnight? And as the pandemic rolls on with no vaccine in sight, can we expect more suppliers to be doing this? 

To get an insight into this fascinating transition from a supplier’s perspective, we spoke to Martin Kristensen, Director of the House of Kristensen. Incredibly, over the last few weeks Martin and his team has transitioned from manufacturing high fashion to making homemade scrubs, which are now being used by the NHS. 


Martin, tell us about your business prior to now making homemade scrubs? 

Sure, so House of Kristensen is a couture fashion house specialising in made-to-measure, bespoke designs. We create unique feature pieces for both private and public/professional clients, with our public pieces being quite high-profile. 

For our private clients, we design mostly for special family occasions, such as weddings, birthdays, bar mitzvahs, etc. For our professional clients, we do everything from gown design for famous TV shows as ‘Strictly’ or ‘The Voice,’ to dressing stars for stage performances(we’ve worked with Katy Perry and Dame Shirley Bassey, to name a few). We also create stunning outfits for red carpet appearances, including Cannes Film Festival, the BAFTAs, and many more. 

We understand that you’re based in London. Tell us how the coronavirus unfolded for you. What’s your personal experience been and how has it affected your business? 

I couldn’t have been in a stranger situation when the Covid-19 escalation was first announced. I was actually running around a woodblock with camo-cream on my face on a training exercise with the British Army Reserves!

Prior to departure, though, I had left an action plan for my team with guidelines about what they should do if the situation escalated. My training was cancelled, so that allowed me to return to my team.

When I returned to London, immediately our focus was on adapting our workforce to be able to work from home, at least temporarily. This involved significant kit & equipment prep as well as material allocation so we could still execute our production schedule. 

Beyond that – honestly – the outlook for us wasn’t that rosy. We’re fundamentally in the events business, and with Covid, most events were axed. We had a quarter of a million pounds’ worth of cancellations, and little room for new opportunities. 

Everyone was afraid, there was no certainty. All we could do was focus on being proactive, strengthening existing relationships and forging new ones. 


With everything that was going on for you, how on earth did you think of switching to produce scrubs?!? 

Scrubs4Heroes was born out of recognition of the extremely challenging situation facing our frontline staff and a desire to help in any way we could. 

For those of us in the leisure and luxury sectors, It is not every day that we are able to be a part of helping safeguard peoples’ lives. 

I will always remember the amazing care I received after my hand was broken in a cycling accident. So when I heard about the shortages at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, where I’d been treated, I called them to offer support with scrubs if any were needed, the response was clear and more requests followed, pushing us to capacity. 

I then decided volunteers were needed to help us meet demand and we then created Scrubs4Heroes. I am proud to say we now have almost 200 volunteers and are burning through about 3000m of fabric per week to meet our urgent orders.

We’re intrigued! How do you actually make scrubs? 

The process is very interesting and there’s lots of different design features you definitely wouldn’t think of. 

Firstly, you need to find the right fabric. We discovered quickly that poly-cotton was best, as it provides a resistance to shrinkage when cleaned at higher temperatures as well as a resistance to wear/tarnish, whilst also ensuring a degree of breathability. 

The next step is the creation of the garment, from a specific NHS-approved pattern. We also need to consider details relevant to practicing medicine such as colour. Colour is a lot more important that you’d think – research shows that looking at blue/green helps keep doctor’s eyes more sensitive to variations in red. So if you are a terribly busy doctor, nurse or surgeon looking at blood frequently, operating or trying to detect an infection, typically indicated by levels of redness, blue or green is invaluable to refresh colour perception

That’s amazing! How many scrubs are you making now? 

Lots! The list of places we are supporting has grown significantly in recent weeks. We now have 14 NHS trusts and clinics we are working to supply, as well as six GP surgeries and just this weekend we delivered to NHS Glasgow. 

We are also now supplying HM prison service with instruction packs and material to help them produce scrubs for the NHS. We think that’s pretty special – I think it would have to be the first couture house and correctional facility collaboration! So far they anticipate adding 50-100 sets of scrubs to our relief effort per week.

Congratulations on your great contribution Martin! Where to from here? 

It’s hard to say. There’s a high degree of uncertainty at the moment and we’re not anticipating a flood back to the sort of events we cater for. We need to remain nimble and agile and adapt to our changed circumstances. One example of how we’re doing this currently is with our Couture-In-Situ Service where your own personal shopper comes straight to your home, hotel or office with a selection of 30 carefully styled looks. This enables us to provide the same level of couture and expertise, but within your own safe setting. 

Way to go, Martin! Is there a thing or two you think can you learn from Martin’s transformation? What does it tell you about how you personally are dealing with change? And how are you currently remaining nimble and adapting to changed circumstances? Tell us in the comments below.

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What A Two Year Old Taught Me About Emergency Procurement

Think parenthood and COVID-19 have nothing in common? Think again. Read on for 5 lessons that parenting a toddler has taught me and how these apply to emergency procurement situations.


It is pretty difficult working from home with a toddler at any time, but even more so during a lockdown.

I fell into despair last week.  The pressure was on. Two phones were ringing off the hook from an emergency situation, when my toddler ripped off their pants and became the entertaining backdrop for my video call.

COVID-19 lockdown is one of those moments that will be earmarked in my time capsule. It seemed to hit at once across all fronts. Work and home life were hurled into turmoil.

But rather than spiralling into a work/life balance death spiral, I called on some of the valuable lessons I have learnt as a parent.  Rather than being a distraction, they have been my secret to success in managing myself and my team through a series of emergencies bought on my the COVID-19 crisis.

Emergency procurement

COVID-19 has been impacting business both domestically and internationally for some months, requiring rapid action from commercial teams. My role is to provide support, to draft contracts, create requirements, obtain pricing and negotiate. It’s a team effort, but a mammoth amount of energy for each person involved.

Take on board these 5 simple lessons from my time dealing with emergency situations.

1. Set your pace and do so carefully

Just like parenthood, the COVID-19 pandemic is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s the adrenaline that comes with working on critical and time pressured projects makes you want to sprint. In fact you tell everyone you’re fine and can take on even more work! Foolish. This is a recipe for burnout and one I learned the hard way.

During a recent time pressured day, I drew on the parenting experience of trying to be an octopus. The dinner is about to boil over the kid comes running in with a live grasshopper and someone is knocking at the door.

I had 20 minutes to review 6 contracts and make a determination about next steps. The only thing you do in these situations is scan the most important details that you need to check and be a speedy risk mitigation machine! It pays to have your manager on stand-by to ratify your decisions.

2. It’s practical not technical

You can read all the parenting books you like, but it’s not until you have sole accountability for a human being that you really know what the job is all about!

In procurement, getting the call to undertake an emergency project can be quite unnerving. My first thoughts were to start questioning all my technical knowledge, but I needn’t have worried. Commercial acumen in practice can look like asking the obvious questions and checking the basics. It is surprising in the pace of the environment and the revolving door of personnel what is not pieced together. Back yourself to ask the tough and difficult questions no matter what your title or rank.

Questions that should be asked when delivering goods overseas at speed: what happens if the recipient country situation changes in transit? When should ownership and transfer of assets kick in? Check warranties, support and training. How useful is it if the helpdesk is in a different time zone?

3. Don’t forget the day job

Parenting is a 24/7/365 day job. It never ends. Managing a procurement team during an emergency situation is not much different.  During the COVID-19 crisis, the biggest thing I’ve struggled with is providing quality leadership and management to my team. I hold myself to high standards. When I answer the call on a Sunday to work on the next emergency situation it is hard to find the time to run the day to day. Being honest with the team and sharing what I’m working on helps them to contextualise their work. Leaning on management and peers to share the management load relieves a lot of pressure for me. I had to know when to stick my hand up and utter those difficult words “I’m at capacity”.

4. Pants are optional

When emergency situations have arisen in the past, I tended to try to shoo away the other aspects of my life. This is pretty difficult to do with a toddler in my bubble in lockdown. Particularly when they have taken their discarded pants and walked into my zoom meeting with their pants on their head. This is a leveller.

It reminded me what is most important. When I started opening up about this and other life necessities like going for a walk or going to the supermarket I found a willing and supportive environment ready to cover me.

Negotiating with two suppliers for two separate but interrelated contracts with different time zones will not be done in an hour. Looming press conference announcements weigh heavily and it is easy for anxiety to set in about securing signatures quickly. I learned that my butt in the chair is not going to speed the process up any faster. I needed to go out for walks and prioritise what self-care I needed.

5. Protect your space

When you’re working from home the environments can bleed into one another. It is important to have a separate workspace that is away from other areas. For me it caused confusion about when I was working and when I was not, I defaulted to work mode and learned the hard way that I hadn’t switched off.

Working in a different space changed my habits and it caused me to make a mistake in my work. I didn’t pick up on something in a contract before it went for signing. I realised that it’s because I usually print a hard copy off first before signing.

I realised my “work self” identity needed to change during lockdown. I can’t hold myself to the same standards when the game has entirely changed – mistakes will happen when working at speed. It’s called being human.

I showed kindness to myself and it caused me to think more deeply about the others in my team. It’s taught me to be kinder and patient.

Play it forward

I’m determined to keep these lessons front of mind for the transition phase of returning to work. We’re all likely to be in limbo mode for a while and must be mindful of the ongoing impacts that the lockdown will have and how these can play out.

Kindness and compassion for yourself will invariably lead to more kindness and compassion for others. Put yourself first.

This article is solely the work of the author. Any views expressed in it are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the official policy of the New Zealand government or of any government agency.

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It’s The #1 Must-Have Skill Right Now… And The Good News Is You’ve Probably Already Demonstrated It.

“Intrapreneurs” – named the most in-demand skill of 2020


A few months ago, it would have seemed impossible. A motor manufacturer making ventilators. A fragrance brand producing hand sanitiser. Or a luxury fashion firm sewing scrubs.

Businesses across the globe have demonstrated an incredible ability to pivot on the head of a pin and change out entire manufacturing and distribution processes in the space of a few short weeks in response to the Covid-19 crisis – and it is procurement and supply chain professionals who are helping to make this happen.

That’s because many of them are “intrapreneurs” – which was named the most in-demand skill of 2020 at the start of the new decade. Who would have predicted back in January, that being an intrapreneur would become even more essential in just a few short months?

Being able to think outside the box and come up with solutions to problems that didn’t even exist a few months ago, is going to help to change the way organisations respond to this unprecedented crisis.

Prolonged decision-making in slow-moving risk-averse corporations has no place in a post-Coronavirus world.

Today it is even more vital to be more nimble and agile – adapting quickly to identify opportunities just like an entrepreneur (although in this case it’s to do good rather than boost profits).

SO WHAT EXACTLY IS AN INTRAPRENEUR?

If you are not sure what the term ‘intrapreneur’ actually means, don’t worry – you are not alone. Nearly nine in ten people polled found the term a complete mystery.

So, here goes…

Intrapreneurial describes someone who “thinks and acts” like an entrepreneur but who works “in” an organization rather than for themselves.

In simple terms they see new opportunities and then take advantage of them. And that’s why they are in such high demand.

Procurement is at the forefront of much of the current innovation – supply chains have been disrupted, borders closed, logistics are a nightmare and yet, procurement professionals are finding new solutions… and quickly.

Forget months or years waiting for answers, procurement professionals are having to identify opportunities and solutions and then innovate even if this involves an element of risk. They are trying new things to see what works. The adapting when they do. In other words, they are having to become entrepreneurial.

THE GOOD NEWS IS YOU ARE PROBABLY ONE

Two in three people possess intrapreneurialism as a skill according to recruiters Michael Page which complies the annual top 100 most in-demand skills list. So, the chance are… you are one of them (even though you may not know it).

How do you know for sure? Well, are you the sort of person who is brimming with ideas and takes ownership of your own success and that of your organization? In effect, you see it as your job (even if it isn’t) to make things happen and bring about change.

Day-to-day, this is how an intrapreneur approaches their role.

An intrapreneur:

  • Is great at identifying opportunities – in this respect the intrapreneur is treating their organisation as their own business and looking for ways to grow it.
  • Is proactive – again this is about ownership. Instead of doing the same things in the same ways, you will be the type of person who thinks of new ways of working or introduces new ideas – before being asked.
  • Is not afraid to challenge the status quo – if something is not working, you are the sort of person who is brave enough to speak up and put themselves on the line to bring about change. This is more than being proactive, it is about risk taking (a trait that is highly entrepreneurial).
  • Is resilient when things do not go to plan – you will be the sort of person who is prepared to learn from trial and error and accept that some ideas might fail, but you do not give up and instead bounce back with other ideas.
  • Is a brilliant collaborator – bringing about change or challenging the status quo is not easy (particularly if this is not your role), so you will be great at bringing people on board. Your ability to build relationships and enthuse others will ensure you get things done.
  • Is great at thinking outside of the box – this is a mindset that goes beyond being innovative. Entrepreneurs succeed because they can see opportunities that others don’t.
  • Is prepared to trust their instincts – entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs need a strong sense of self-belief to push ahead with their ideas and overcome any set-backs.

Why would an organization want an intrapreneur?

Now this is where you might think there is a dichotomy. Afterall, entrepreneurs are risk-takers, free-thinkers and mavericks who want to take ownership of their own business – and these are traits that do not sit well in a corporate culture. After all, you don’t own the business and you have to report to someone higher up.

Well, Nick Kirk, managing director of Michael Page (which identified Intrapreneur as the No.1 skill for 2020), disagrees saying, “Great employees are those who are invested in the company and want to help it improve, which in turn enables them to create a working environment that they enjoy, so it’s a win-win scenario.

“Intrapreneurship may sound like a daunting term, but at base level, it refers to that person who is willing to go the extra mile to improve their workplace.”

And that is exactly what organisations need right now. So whenever you demonstrate your intrapreneurial abilities, make sure you shout about it and promote your achievements on your Procurious profile… you have a skill that is in high demand.

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Easter Procurement – How Do They Make Yours?

They have been a staple in the Easter diet for many children (and adults too!) for decades. But just how does Cadbury make the Creme Eggs we enjoy so much?


The humble Cadbury’s Creme Egg has been an Easter staple since its launch nearly half a century ago. Global sales of the eggs are over 500 million per year, with the UK alone accounting for approximately 200 million per year (that’s around 3 each per year in the UK), with the majority of these manufactured in Birmingham, UK.

The Creme Egg brand has a value in itself of £55 million, which certainly isn’t bad for a confectionery item that’s only available between January and Easter each year.

Like them or loathe them, Easter just wouldn’t be the same without the instantly recognisable purple, red and yellow packaging (or green, blue, red and yellow if you happen to live in the USA). It’s no small feat to produce the volume of eggs to satisfy global demand, at such a specific time of year to take full advantage of the condensed sales period.

Before we delve into the supply chain and production process, some facts about this famous egg…

All Gone a Bit Egg Shaped – Fun Facts!

In fact, all Cadbury-manufactured chocolate is banned in the USA, Creme Eggs amongst them. The Hershey Company has the rights to manufacture all Cadbury chocolate in the USA and the move was to limit competition with imported items.

This is down to the recipes being altered slightly to adjust to different tastes, as well as to account for some ingredients that are banned in certain countries.

More on this below, but let’s just say that it did not go well…

Not only are the Eggs themselves shrinking thanks to ‘shrinkflation’, but in 2015 the multipacks dropped from six to five eggs. But that probably helps with the next fact…

  • They are really unhealthy (but you knew that and it doesn’t really matter anyway).

Each egg contains around the same volume of sugar as two bowls of really sugary cereal. And at around 6 teaspoons of sugar, it’s what the American Heart Association considers to be a full day’s worth of sugar.

Raw Materials

The Creme Egg that we buy and eat today has been in production since its introduction in 1963. It’s recipe has been the same since this time, using the same key ingredients. There was a brief period in 2015 when Mondelez, who currently own Cadbury, and Kraft, their parent company, changed the recipe. This involved changing the use of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate for the egg’s shell to a cheaper, cocoa-based shell.

And much like the ill-fated New Coke recipe, the outcry was much the same. After much protest the recipe was changed back, but not before the organisation had seen a loss in sales estimated at £6 million in 2015. FYI, for those of you outside the UK, don’t get a Brit started on what their feelings are on Cadbury’s chocolate in general since the firm was taken over by Schweppes and then Mondelez!

The key ingredients we’re looking at here are, of course, cocoa and, in Cadbury’s own words, “a glass and a half of milk in each bar”. The majority of the milk in the UK, over 50%, is supplied by dairy farm co-operative, Selkley Vale farmers, from Wiltshire and Gloucestershire.

The cocoa is a bit more complicated and, in the past, a lot more controversial. As with most chocolate manufacturers, Cadbury sources its chocolate from countries with high volumes of cocoa production – Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Indonesia, the Dominican Republic, India and Brazil. Previously fully affiliated with Fairtrade, Cadbury drew criticism  of practices and its supply chain when it dropped this in 2016 in favour of a new scheme, Cocoa Life.

The scheme, which is, as of 2019 working in close partnership with Fairtrade, aims to use over $400 million to aid 200,000 cocoa farmers worldwide. Not only will this mean that more Cadbury chocolate is made from sustainably sourced cocoa, but farmers will still have benefits in line with Fairtrade goals, such as improved income, competitive pricing and tailored investment suited to their needs.

Cadbury has been able to leverage its supply chain well in recent years to provide a solid and stable foundation for its production in the UK, Canada and the USA. How do they go from that to the magic end product?

The Production

Ever wondered how Cadbury manages to get the very unhealthy, yet absolutely delicious, fondant filling into Creme Eggs? Had discussions over whether it’s an injection mould for the outer shells and then the fillings? Then wonder no more!

It’s actually quite simple really. The two halves of the shell are made separately and then filled with the fondant to create that ‘fresh egg’ look inside. The halves are then shut in a book mould to create the final product, that is then wrapped for sale. If you want to see everything in action, there’s a great video on YouTube (and below…) from Bloomberg on the full UK production process.

Probably the most bizzare thing in the whole production process, apart from the fact that there’s someone working for Cadbury whose job title is ‘Easter Shift Manager’, is that all of this happens in winter. Supply chains are year-round anyway, but production processes need to be done in such a way that the hundreds of millions of eggs are ready for shipping for the 1st of January.

There you have it – a brief history of, and the not-so-secrets behind manufacturing one of the pillars of Easter. Now, I don’t know about you, but we’re off to the shops for a few Creme Eggs before they disappear for another year…!

Working From Home? WFH Is More A Case Of Warring Family Hell

What are the perils of working from home?


Many of us have dreamt of this moment. No commuting. You can work in your PJs. Watch daytime TV. Do a spot of gardening. Eat your lunch on the sofa. And still get all your work done. Yes… it should be heaven.

Instead, your internet speed is something out of the dark ages – remember the days of dial-up modems?

With everyone online, all-the-time, forget video conferencing with the office… buffering is back!

This is just one of the stresses and strains of self-isolation, which are compounding the crippling anxiety of financial fears and job insecurity.

With millions of people worldwide being forced to WFH, many are also being locked up 24/7 with their partners/families… and the two are just not compatible.

WFH is fine, when it’s just you. Trying to do it whilst also looking after children, foraging for those elusive items such as toilet rolls, while remaining well and healthy, checking in on loved ones, and keeping the boss happy, is virtually impossible.

Aside from slow internet speeds, there are just too many distractions.

Space invaders: keep them out

Even if you don’t have children fighting over food or bellowing into their headsets (why do they have to shout as they game?), there will be plenty of your neighbours whose offspring are going stir crazy.

A kick around in the garden sounds like they are playing a real-life game of Fortnight rather than football particularly when it is magnified a dozen times (who knew there were so many children living so close?).

Along with the continuous squeals from trampolines and parents shouting in frustration ‘stop fighting’, you will need more than noise-cancelling headphones.

Finally, there are the space squabbles.

You like working from the dining table or breakfast bar? It’s close to the coffee machine and normally quite peaceful. However, every inch seems to be covered with unfinished homework, half-built Lego sets and crayons and paints. It’s great that the kids want to be creative, but you need peace and quiet. You certainly don’t want someone to scribble a picture of a rainbow over your end-of-year report.

You need boundaries

So, it’s time for some rules. The sooner you set these the better – before everyone else has got set in the new routine.

  • Set your own ‘office hours’: Tell everyone “I’m going to work”.  This will put you in the right mindset – and also give you some demarcation. When you finish for the day, you want to be able to “leave” the office, shut down your laptop, and put work out of sight, and out of mind. Also, it should signal to your partner that just because you are at home, now is not the time to mow the lawn, put up a shelf, or chat endlessly.
  • Limit screen time: Keep the rest of the household’s use of the internet to a minimum during your critical working hours. It will be good for them!
  • Ask for some quiet time during the day: Even if you’ve shut the office door, you will probably find the household noise a distraction. If you need to concentrate or make calls, you cannot have a blaring TV or toddler tantrums in the background, so try to set a few hours a day when the house is quieter.
  • Claim some space:  In my household there is a current battle over the best office chair – and who gets the biggest desk. So, claim your own home office space (even if it is in the corner of the bedroom) and make it as work-friendly as possible: this might be your workplace for several months.
  • Find a lockable cupboard: Your printer paper will vanish, the family will use up all your printer ink, you will find someone “gaming” on your office laptop – or worse spilling a soda into your computer. Keep work tech for work only.
  • Invest in some protection: Make sure your anti-virus is up-to-date and all of your online devices are secure. Working from home might be designed to protect you from the coronavirus – but what about computer viruses.

But remember, it’s not forever

At some point people will return to work, schools, colleges and universities will open their doors and your home will no longer be for work, rest and play.

So try not to stress too much about poor internet speeds, a lack of space (both headspace and physical space) and too many competing demands.

You may never get an opportunity to spend so much time with the ones you love – even if, right now, you are hating being with them day and night. So try to enjoy WFH.

Need crowdsourced confidence during this crisis? Join our exclusive Supply Chain Crisis: Covid 19 group and get access to expert advice, news, views and the ability to intimately connect with procurement professionals worldwide. 

Will They Still Want You, When You’re 64?

How can you make sure you’re not overlooked for jobs and other opportunities if you want to keep working in your 60s and 70s?


When Paul McCartney wrote “When I’m Sixty-Four” as a teenager, he probably thought he would be retired in his mid-to-late 60s.

Instead he has continued to work well into his 70s and will be 78 when he takes to the stage at Glastonbury 2020.

McCartney is not alone: things have changed since 1967 when the Beatles released the hit on the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Clubs Band.

Today more than 1 in 10 of those aged 65 is still working and the number is set to soar.

The scrapping of the default retirement age (which makes it harder to put us out to pasture) and an increase in the state pension age (which is set to rise to 67, and then 68), means growing numbers will be working until they are nearly 70.

There is only one problem: who will employ us?

Employment drops off from the age of 50, making the lyric ‘Will you still need me?’ take on a whole new meaning.

We all need to mind the age gap

While a lucky few might have quit the ‘rat race’ because they can afford to retire comfortably, many of the 3 in 10 in the 50-64 age group who are not in employment are not out of work through choice – the majority might not be able to work due to ill health, disability or caring commitments while others may struggle to find work because of their age.

Even among those still in employment, many are working part-time or in jobs that do not reflect their expertise and experience.

So how can you remain relevant in a world of work that still does not always value the wisdom of age?

De-age – from an early age

Age discrimination is illegal. But it happens – even if it is not deliberate but a case of unconscious bias.

So it is important to appear younger than you are if you do not want to be written off.

As it is easy to search for information about you online (yes – nearly every employer now checks out candidates before inviting them for interview), start thinking about what information is being posted about you or that you are posting yourself well before you hit 50.

  • Never, ever put your age or date of birth on any job applications, CVs or social media profiles. Employers cannot ask your age, so don’t let them find out.
  • Get rid of anything on your CV and online professional profiles that screams ‘ancient’. Change your qualifications from O Levels to GCSEs. Change your polytechnic to its new university name. Delete jobs from the 1980s and early 1990s.
  • Clean up your social media profile and change your settings to private. A series of postings of you at your 55th or 60th birthday might inadvertently lead to a recruiter thinking you are ‘past it’.
  • Also change your mindset. If you ‘think’ you are no longer able to go for that new job or that promotion, other people will think the same, too. One in 4 professionals over the age of 55 believe it’s too late to change things according to research from Think Forward Consulting – they are wrong. You just need to overcome the fear of rejection that often comes with age.

Get your words right

Job adverts often specify that candidates need to be ‘hungry’, ‘ambitious’, ‘energetic’, ‘driven’, ‘innovative’, ‘dynamic’ or other words automatically associated with youth. Include a few of these in your job applications and your personal statement to reflect the fact that you still have the passion to succeed.

At the same time avoid descriptions that sound ‘ageing’. Stating that you have ‘decades’ of experience is unnecessary. It is far better to detail what you have achieved not how long it took you!

Emphasise your adaptability

In a world of constant change, adaptability is a key skill yet one that is not always associated with more mature members of the workforce.

So, make a point of highlighting ways in which you have adapted to – or perhaps anticipated – change. Managing a transformation project, changing career path to reflect a change in the market or demonstrating how you have been innovative, will all prove to potential employers that you can ‘move with the times’ and remain relevant.

Show you can learn new skills

Forget the saying that ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ and prove that you can learn new skills. Make a habit of doing courses in the latest technology, remain inquisitive about new developments in your sector and demonstrate that you have a curiosity about the future – it will show the enthusiasm that employers are looking for (and associate with younger members of staff).

Have a Plan B (for business) . . .

One of the most popular ways to remain in employment later in your career is to employ yourself.

In fact, the number of self-employed people aged 65 years and older more than doubled between 2009 and 2017.

You can start with a sideline (provided it does not conflict with your day job), grow your venture and then do it full-time if it’s a success – or enjoy it as a part-time role if you plan to flexi-retire.

. . . Or be a master of your own destiny

While employers are often reluctant to hire more mature staff as full-time permanent employees, the same does not apply to consultants, contractors, freelance project managers, interim managers and non-executive directors: they are hired for their expertise, so the longer they have been being doing the job the better. In fact, 2 in 3 interims are aged 50–70+.

While you will have to give up the day job to start in one of these roles, the pay can often more than compensate for the lack of job security. Interims, for example, earn £500 to £1,500 a day. See the Institute of Interim Managers for more information: https://www.iim.org.uk/knowledge/.

So if you’re planning to carry on working well past when you’re 64 and into your 70s, like Paul, follow these tips to get your plans in order and make your profile attractive.

What Do Women – And Men – Really Think Of Valentine’s Day?

We offer a woman’s and a man’s-eye view of the Feast of Saint Valentine …

You want how much for those flowers?! Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day has become part of the global calendar and good luck ignoring it. 

Shopfronts are dining out on the day, while emails advertising spray tans with headlines like ‘Fake it for Valentine’s Day’ are sliding into your inbox. 

But we want to pop a different spin on it. A woman’s perspective on the day up against a man’s perspective. And while Emily and Dave don’t speak for everyone, you may see yourself in some of their thoughts.

Woman’s-eye view: A day of celebration and (very) high hopes

I secretly love this day and if I ever pretend I don’t or that I’m ignoring it, it’s only out of self-preservation. 

You see, unlike Dave below, I am not married. I am single. Valentine’s Day can serve as a reminder that you’re not with anyone and the only flowers you’re buying are ones ‘to you from you’.

I am a die-hard romantic. The Notebook to me is still the best movie of all time (forget the fact she cheats on her fiancé). And Titanic will never sink in my heart.

So it only follows that I have high hopes for this one day of the year.

Last year I was given the loveliest bunch of flowers by a guy I was seeing with a note in French (yes, he was French). I doubt that will be bettered this year.

But I live in perpetual – unrealistic! – hope that the guy I went on a few dates with recently . . . whom I’m not overly into . . . will suddenly have a moment and think, yes I want to spend $90 on roses for Emily and get in touch with her colleagues (whom he does not know at all) to find out where she works and at what desk. So the flowers can be delivered to her right there.  

Okay, in reality the chances of that are slim.

So I thought why not take matters into my own hands and be the ‘giver’. I mean, who said that was just a man’s job?

Women as the givers

I got ahead of myself recently and went out with a guy a couple of times, decided we were certainly going to end up together and proceeded to order his Valentine’s Day gift from Amazon a whopping four weeks ago. 

Yes, I did that. 

He was a doctor working with heart surgeons. So I found a lunch bag with ‘Live organ for transplant’ on it. The idea was to have it delivered to him with a six-pack of beers in it with ice on top. 

I would have him come to reception at his work to collect it and when he opens it and sees ice on top (like a real organ would have) he would freak out . . . and then suddenly find the beers and think it was literally the best (and most memorable) Valentine’s Day gift ever.

But after date four recently I decided it wasn’t meant to be – and now my colleagues have to open the work fridge to see a ‘Live organ for transplant’ lunch in there every day.

As I said, I’m a die-hard romantic. Here’s hoping for the flowers and even if that doesn’t come about I still have my ‘live organ lunch bag’.

Love, Emily x

The man’s-eye view: The day of the year on which more people break up than any other 

I don’t wish to throw a wet blanket on what has become a global celebration of love and romance, but Valentine’s Day – otherwise known as the Feast of Saint Valentine – does nothing to whet my appetite, or make my heart flutter.

My friend Kev has a restaurant in New York, and he maintains that Valentine’s is every restauranteur’s nightmare. A sea of two-top tables waiting for couples who barely speak to each other at the best of times but feel obliged to have that special night out together. 

Kev says that the sight of couples holding hands across the table and gazing longingly into each other’s eyes is as rare as hen’s teeth in his gaff. Comparatively very little food or booze is ordered and invariably one person is left to pick up the bill or storm out without paying.

Apparently, more people split up on Valentine’s Day than any other day of the year.

The best thing about Valentine’s Day for me was the birth of my youngest daughter, Saskia. I love her to bits. 

The downside of her joining us on 14 February is that she insists on being taken out for dinner on that night. 

I have tried to persuade her to have two birthdays (a bit like the Queen) just to avoid the misery meal. Not a chance.

Romantic meals – no thanks

So we’ll be in TGI Fridays (certainly not my choice) in Guildford, Surrey, UK – witnessing young people with soon to be arthritic thumbs communicating with friends who are not in the room rather than enjoying the company of the person they are about to split up with. What fun!

I do enter into the spirit of Valentine’s Day, however, and remember to buy a card and some flowers for my wife – who has a heart of stone and always forgets. 

No, please, I am not craving sympathy. The end of 14 February for me will be spent in the company of talkSPORT Radio and a bottle of 12-year-old Macallan!

So, in the words of the song from The King and I, ‘good luck young lovers wherever you are’ – or something like that!

Love, Dave x  

So where do you fit in? Do you agree with Emily or Dave? And what are your plans?

Whatever you do today, enjoy it. And remember that love in any form is something to be celebrated.

In Need Of Some Fun At Work? Try These 5 Things.

Tomorrow happens to be ‘Fun at work’ day, so get in the mood with these 5 tips…

Work struggles can be real. Whether it’s a toxic work environment, a terrible boss, an annoying colleague or menial, soul-destroying tasks, there are times when we find our vibe is far from flying high. 

How can you begin to turn the tables and take control back?

Following these 5 tips will help you live your best (work) life.

1. Ask what drives you

Understanding your career drivers can help to work out what you can change in your current position. Or to unlock what you could be doing instead.

If you want to change your current situation or outlook, then first you need to understand yourself. 

Use the free resource Career Drivers Assessment by Crowe Associates.

The exercise helps to figure out your motivations in life. What drives you? Is it material reward? Power and influence? Creativity?

The resource then asks you what you can do to amplify your drivers. And to minimise anything that blocks your drivers. 

From here you can brainstorm tasks within your current job that align to your drivers. Or have fun mapping out new career options.

2. Know your values

Your career drivers should align with your personal values. Take the free assessment at the VIA Institute of Character to see what your values are. 

Many studies have shown that playing to your strengths in the workplace lays the groundwork for achieving success. 

It is better to build on your strengths than work on your weaknesses. 

Choosing a career or opportunities at your current workplace that align with your values – aka your superpowers – will set the scene for you to thrive. 

Use your values and career drivers as a checklist to assess any opportunities.

3. Stick to what you can control

Stephen R Covey’s 1989 classic The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People outlines a tool that helps you figure out what is within your control and what isn’t – and therefore should be dropped.

To understand how to use it and its application to the workplace, visit habits for wellbeing

In the exercise you brainstorm things that are out of your control. For example, worrying about the next election. And you think about what is in your control. For example, who you can vote for. 

4. Nurture a growth mindset

Over 30 years ago Stanford University psychology professor Carol Dweck took an interest in students’ perception of their failure. 

She developed the concept of a growth or fixed mindset. This has been making a comeback as one of the basics of positive thinking. 

Dweck encourages us to remember that the human brain is plastic. It has the capacity to learn new behaviours or rewire old patterns. 

In the workplace it is important to use the circle of control above combined with the growth mindset outlined below. 

It doesn’t mean there will be no rainy days at work but it could eliminate a large amount of noise. 

5. Follow productivity 2.0

In 2019 I wrote an article on productivity hacks

These are tools that can help with streamlining tasks. They are about taking a step back and looking at time management. 

How can you be effective with your time?

Nutshell. Look at your job in a nutshell. Break down the core components of your role. What are the key tasks that make up your day? 

Many job descriptions are different to what we actually do day to day. But don’t forget to check the job description.

You could be spending your time doing additional work that is not within your core role.

Batching. Group your key tasks into categories. For example, customer relations, data input, report writing, phoning suppliers, strategic planning or updating systems. 

Now think about the pomodoro approach and undertake all tasks within a category in one go. Each batch should last 20–60 minutes. I find it useful to spread these out over a week.

3 things. Prioritise the tasks above and take the 3 most important things that need to be done that day. 

Think carefully about what needs to be done versus what you want to do or what you are trying to avoid.

Focus. Make time for these 3 things, even if you have to block out time in your calendar or work away from your desk.

The hardest thing of all? Work until they are completed!

Connect. With all this newfound knowledge of your skills make sure you don’t forget the number 1 way to increase fun in the workplace. Connect with people! 

Find a work wife/husband/partner. Hang out with inspiring people. Find a mentor. Mentor someone yourself.

Join a network or club. It’s more than just having a chinwag, it’s about building a lifeline. You never know when you’re going to need it. 

So if work is sometimes a drag, try these 5 tips to take back control and build a better future.

Avoiding a Cultural Festive Faux-Pas

How can you avoid making a cultural faux-pas when it comes to this holiday season and others throughout the year?

cultural diversity

With the end of year and festive season rapidly approaching I am always mindful of the significance of religious holidays to different cultures.

Continuing our discussion around cultural intelligence and working across cultures, I thought it might be apt to discuss acknowledging religious holidays in the workplace and how best to navigate this topic in a respectful and inclusive way.

Agile and Aware Approach

Religion is a key component of how people and societies make sense of their existence and provide meaning to their lives. Religion can also act as a moral and ethical guide for behaviour and is a defining element of many cultures. It is only natural then that some of the practices and beliefs people have as part of their religion intersect with the workplace.

As many workplaces exist within a cultural setting dominated by one particular group, it is increasingly necessary for businesses and leaders to adopt an agile and aware approach so they can be inclusive and supportive of their staff.

A situation I encountered with an organisation in Australia a few years ago demonstrates how contentious and uncomfortable it can be when awareness around the importance of religious holidays is not in place. The organiser of an event to be held in Melbourne for an Asia-Pacific team could not understand the response he received when the event dates were released. Members of the team in Asia Pacific were upset and distressed at the timing of the event and there was a lot of push back.

As it happened, the event was scheduled to take place during the Chinese New Year celebrations. These are, of course, a significant time in a number of Asian countries.

We discussed this issue further in light of the reaction. I mentioned that it would be the same as scheduling this event during the Christmas/New year period in Australia. He then realised his error and made changes to the event dates to avoid causing further offense.

Acknowledging Diversity in the Workplace

This example highlights the importance of using Cultural Intelligence (CQ). If we apply it in terms of the components of CQ- Drive, Knowledge, Strategy and Action, we have a complete and practical guide to unpacking and evaluating the best way to manage situations like this in the workplace.

So if we take into consideration the theoretical steps that can be taken when acknowledging religious holidays in the workplace, what are some of the tangible actions we can take to navigate this type of challenge in the workplace?

Be Ahead of the game

Use a diversity calendar that notes the important dates from many religions. This way you are able to be aware of timing and scheduling for meetings, busy periods, etc. There are numerous available on the internet.

Be Inclusive

Find the shared values within religious holidays that can be used to unite and connect people regardless of individual religions.

Be Flexible

Allow staff time off during important celebrations. Be aware of when they occur during the year so major conflicts can be avoided.

Be Aware and Respectful

When organising parties ensure that non-alcoholic beverages and religious dietary requirements are considered.

Be Mindful

As with all of the above, be aware that there will be cultural diversity in your workplace. Take time to understand the overall impact and bring everyone on board with your activities.

Recognise and Educate

Use the opportunities of religious celebrations and holidays to highlight the benefits of diversity. Allow people to appreciate cultures beyond their own and perhaps encourage an education session on the particular event.

Through the use of CQ we are able to better understand both people and culture whilst also creating a space where diversity and inclusion is valued, and the benefits realised. As globalisation and its impacts continue to change the way we work, it is vital that we take conscious steps to be more inclusive and accommodating in our approach to different cultures.

Lastly, I would like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a safe and happy festive season and a wonderful year ahead in 2020!

Procurement Across Borders – Managing Situations In Which Culture Can Influence The Outcomes

Differences and similarities between cultures can be assessed in terms of core values, beliefs, norms and behaviour…

By Rawpixel.com/ Shutterstock

In the previous articles, we began looking at CQ Knowledge which relates to your personal knowledge and understanding of other cultures. We introduced the idea that differences and similarities between cultures can be assessed in terms of core values, beliefs, norms and behaviour and provided a cultural mirror which plots Nine Dimensions of Culture.

Having already discussed the first six dimensions, this month we will move onto the seventh, eighth and ninth dimensions, explore their application and give some tips and ideas on how to navigate these dimensions in cross cultural situations.

Dimension Seven: Polychronic- Monochronic.

Polychronic and monochronic are the terms used to describe the time orientation in cultures. The terms were coined by Edward Hall. People coming from Polychronic cultures view time as being very loose compared to monochronic cultures who view time as needing to be managed very tightly.

In monochronic cultures, people believe that time is money and it should not be wasted. Meetings tend to start on time and there is an orderly sense to the way people do things such as queueing and traffic movements. There is a methodical logic in how things work. Countries that are monochronic include the UK, Taiwan and Switzerland.

In polychronic cultures, people believe that time is life – there is plenty of time and you need to be in the present. A meeting set to begin at 9am may in fact start later than that or once everyone has arrived. In these cultures, people don’t generally queue for things and traffic can be chaotic and arbitrary. Cultures with a polychronic approach have a different sense of time which can be one of the most challenging aspects to working across culture. Countries that are Polychronic include Indonesia, Chile and Portugal.

Tips for those coming from a Monochronic Culture when working with Polychronic cultures:

1) Be fluid with timelines

2) Ensure flexibility in setting up appointments and meetings

Tips for those coming from a Polychronic Culture when working with Monochronic cultures:

1) Be punctual

2) Establish timelines for projects and ensure you deliver on them

Dimension Eight: High-Low Context Communication

High and Low context refers to the way in which cultures communicate. People coming from high context communication cultures understand that communication is multi-dimensional. In low context communication cultures, you say what you mean and mean what you say. In these cultures, “yes” means yes and “no” means no. Countries that have low context communication styles include the USA, Germany and Finland.

In high context cultures, “yes” may mean yes, it may mean no or even maybe depending on how the yes is articulated. It is not just about the spoken word, it is also about the facial expression, tone of voice, pitch and body language. Countries that have high context communication include China, Greece and Algeria.

Tips for those coming from a Low context culture and working with a High context culture:

1) Be patient and listen carefully to what is the message being communicated

2) Use metaphors and analogies to describe situations and outcomes

Tips for those coming from a High context culture and working with a Low context culture:

1) Be direct and straightforward in your communication

2) Do not be offended by the directness of responses.

Dimension Nine: Femininity – Masculinity

In feminine cultures, there tends to be more of an appreciation of values around cooperation, communication, teamwork, and collaboration. In feminine cultures, males and females will often do all sorts of similar jobs and gender roles are less clearly defined.

When discussing Femininity – Masculinity in terms of the cultural mirror continuum, we refer to the attributes that are most prevalent and valued within a culture.

Some examples of countries with feminine cultures are Denmark and Sweden.

In masculine cultures, there’s a far greater emphasis on competition, being assertive and ambitious and having a strong point of view. In masculine cultures gender roles are highly differentiated. Some examples of countries with masculine culture are Japan, Venezuela and Hungary.

Tips for people coming from feminine cultures when working with Masculine cultures:

1) Be assertive and convey your point of view

2) Be concise and rational in your discussions

Tips for people coming from Masculine cultures working with Feminine cultures:

1) Avoid being overly aggressive

2) Be willing to compromise

In order to be more effective when working across culture we need to be culturally intelligent and develop a repertoire to be able to manage situations in which culture can influence the outcomes. Regardless of where you sit on each element of the continuum it is essential to have the agility to adapt yourself.