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Morning Briefing Strap Line
Fri 21st Jun 2013 - Friday Opinion
Subjects: Gender balance, getting the most out of LinkedIn and upping our game on training
Authors: Paul Charity, Ann Elliott and Tim Hulme

The importance of gender balance by Paul Charity

I once attended an awards night for the railway industry and found a 1,000-person room with scarcely a woman in attendance. All well and good in this industry where men still tend to predominate in areas such as engineering. But in our sector, any gender imbalance is generally in need of a rebalance. Things are changing, I know, but until very recently any gathering of people running pubs tended to have fewer women in the room than a similar get-together of restaurant executives.

Last week, Bramwell Pub Company chief executive Roger Moxham stressed the importance of the female perspective offered by his commercial director Sarah Weir in creating the company’s new female-friendly and aspirational brand Lime Bar & Kitchen. And our larger companies are not bereft of women in key roles – Trish Corzine has served as a board member at The Restaurant Group for a decade, Suzanne Baker holds the commercial director position at Stonegate and I don’t need to remind you how Karen Forrester has galvanised the service culture and performance at TGI Friday’s.

Yet it seems to me that it is in the dynamic emerging part of the sector that women are playing the biggest role, although it’s often men who receive the plaudits or still take and adopt the front-facing role in the company. A host of our most successful smaller pub companies rely – or have relied – on the unique combination of husband-and-wife skills. Rupert Clevely may have headed Geronimo Inns but it’s his wife Jo who provided the key design input. At six-strong Lovely Pubs, described yesterday at our Propel Multi Club Conference by former Mitchells & Butlers executive David Singleton as one of the best small pub companies in the UK, Paul Salisbury and his business partner Paul Hales have won numerous industry awards and recognition. But Paul Salisbury’s wife Sue oversees design and ensures their pubs – and the 80-odd Premium Country Dining Group pubs they built for Mitchells & Butlers – are attractive spaces for both sexes. At TLC Inns, Jo Haslam provides operational drive and superlative people skills while her husband Steve concentrates on strategy. In the emerging restaurant sector, Stephen and Juliette Wall provide the combination of skills that is driving Pho forward – and at Giraffe, Russel and Juliette Joffe forged the retail format that ensured the brand appeals to the family market.

Of course, there are plenty of women within HR and marketing departments – and 75% of public relations and marketing agencies within the sector seem to be run by women. And when I was running a pub company we found that our best managers tended to be women – they often offered a broader range of skills and an unerring eye for detail. Yet the boards of our larger companies are still light in terms of female representation.

But perhaps there are more fundamental issues at stake here. This week, a parliamentary commission on banking standards called for a better gender balance at the heart of investment banks. “The culture on the trading floor is overwhelmingly male,” it says in its report. “More women on the trading floor would be beneficial for banks.” Andre Spicer, professor of organisational behaviour at the Cass Business School argues: “Research suggests that high levels of testosterone on the trading floor fuels greater willingness to take high risks. If you want to reduce the risk, reduce the testosterone. And one easy step is introducing more women on to the trading floor.” This is not to suggest that women are more risk averse that men – Jo Clevely was, for example, famously keener than Rupert to take a pitch in the Westfield shopping centre.

However, there was a period between 2003 and 2007 in our sector that is analogous to the poor risk assessment of the major banks that led to the credit crunch of 2008. This was the period when the property market was overheating and anyone who bought large numbers of freehold properties risked burnt fingers. The outcome was some of the most monumental value destruction the sector has ever seen. Some companies bought, well, vast numbers of freeholds on easily available money – and have struggled for years since (or gone under). I can’t recall too many women on the boards of these companies when the testosterone was pumping. 
Paul Charity is managing director of Propel Info

How to get the best out of LinkedIn by Ann Elliott

Last time I checked, I had 2,089 LinkedIn contacts. Whilst I thought that was a relatively high number, I didn’t know for sure – and I had absolutely no idea what to do with them all. People would tell me to post comments and get involved in groups. But, to be honest, I wondered who on earth had the time to do all that, never mind read what everyone else posts and comments on. ‘People with too much time on their hands’ – that’s what I thought. I did wonder (somewhat secretly though) if those who told me how great it was, might be on to something? Perhaps I really was missing out. Three years ago, LinkedIn only had three million users. It now has 12 million. They can’t all be wondering what on earth to do with it, can they? 

I quite like networking and introducing people I know to others – so wondered if I could learn how to use LinkedIn better to help here. Here is what I’ve found out:

1.  Personalise my invitations to connect: Like everyone else, I used to – up until about Tuesday this week – send invitations to connect using the stock text LinkedIn provides: “I’d like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” Seemingly, people think ‘You want to connect with me so much that you didn’t even bother to add your own cover note? Thanks, but no thanks!’ So from now I will be personalising each invite. 

2.  Use my best practices in email and apply to LinkedIn: I am trying to link with professional people and am much more likely to get a positive response from them when I use the same best practices as I do when sending emails in Outlook. No smiley faces from now on then.

3.  Learn to use the search tool properly: Rather than relying on the basic search bar atop the LinkedIn page, I need to get to know Advanced Search. If I am looking for a supplier, I need to use a Boolean phrase (use AND/ OR) to obtain results that exactly match my search. I haven’t tried this yet but when I do I should see the quality of my searches improve.

4.  Join groups: Few users actually join LinkedIn groups but seemingly they are great places to find connections, post job vacancies or look for potential suppliers. LinkedIn won’t normally let you message somebody if they’re not a connection, but it will if you share a group.

5.  Expand my network: Expanding my network and adding connections will increase my second degree connections (people linked to my connections) and my third degree connections. I will receive more informed LinkedIn searches, which will prioritise people connected to my trusted contacts, and in turn I will appear higher on other people’s searches. It’s like increasing my LinkedIn SEO.

6.  Add an Outlook button so that I don’t miss any opportunities: I can download a button extension to my Outlook that, when someone sends me an email, will automatically identify whether they’re on LinkedIn and allow me to connect with them at the click of a button. I like that idea.

7.  Treat LinkedIn as though it’s one, large open room: Everyone is on LinkedIn for a reason: To network and connect. There’s no point in being timid: People want to be approached. I can do that.

I am now a bit better informed about LinkedIn but suspect there’s still more I can do to really make the most of it. Watch this space.
Ann Elliott is chief executive of Elliott Marketing & PR (www.elliottmarketingpr.com)

Let’s up our game on training by Tim Hulme

How pubs train and develop their people remains a massive issue. It surely must be the over-arching aim of the industry – and importantly BII, given its position as the only professional body – to establish qualifications that define a structured career path for everyone working in pubs today. When you consider the ways in which professional bodies support other sectors, there exists a great opportunity for the industry to shape something very exciting for the future and which drives reform. I draw a parallel with where the construction industry was over 60 years ago where very little structure or regulation existed, where personal growth and certainty of employment were confined to the few.

Today the construction industry offers a very clear and credible career pathway for all its vocational trades and for those wishing to progress to professional qualifications. The same exists too for many other sectors. Think about the 15 year old at school, the 18 year old at college and the 21 year old graduate at university. If they aspire to be a nurse, an electrician, accountant or chemist, the professional bodies representing those industries offer much in terms of structured qualifications and importantly those qualifications are directly linked to their professional membership classes. Those sectors also have well developed career routes for those seeking a professional qualification as an alternative to going on to further education or university.

Compare that to our industry, which is supported by a workforce, 46% of which are aged between 18 and 24 and yet, most of whom do not possess any qualifications at any appropriated level related to hospitality or retail. Why is this important?

It’s not just about creating a highly-skilled workforce, it’s about credibility for the industry as a profession. The skills gap and high staff turnover that exists in our industry does impact on profitability and productivity. Given the powerful influence that personal development and attainment has on long-term economic growth, our focus must be on four key ‘R’s for our workforce: recruitment, retention, recognition and reward. Having a highly-skilled workforce is not just about having people with the ability and pre-requisite training, and it is not about sending people back to the classroom. It’s about recognising the vast expertise which any operator demonstrates every day of the week, be it financial, legal, compliance or best-in-class communication and customer care. Our industry needs to recognise that expertise through a universally-recognised standard – a standard that links experience (through accredited prior learning (APL) or Qualification by Experience (QBE)) and / or formal qualifications, to professional membership. It’s important to state, though, that this doesn’t rule out certificated training as this is integral to a model which should promote a minimum level of CPD every year for the workforce.

I am asking industry leaders to jointly embrace the challenge of establishing a credible industry-wide career framework which reflects all aspects of our diverse industry. The reforms that would bring about will start to attract and retain those best-in-class staff who form the next generation of the pub workforce. And, of course, the next generation of BII members.

For that to happen, the qualifications the BII’s awarding body accredits must be appropriate and, more importantly, developed in partnership with you. Getting a universally-recognised career path in place in this industry is one of the two over-arching objectives of my tenure as chief executive of BII. 

In going back to our grass roots, the other key aim of the BII is to deliver unrivalled support and benefits to our members throughout their career. This means providing expert information, advice and guidance even before they have served a single drink or looked at a pub agreement. This should then extend to the provision of professional benefits which drive footfall and from which they derive market advantage as an operator. The third element of support in providing continuous professional development (outlined above). The fourth element of service is fundamental to our role as a professional body: supporting members when they need it most. This business objective is underpinning a current review of all services we offer and I look forward to sharing these with members in the near future.
Tim Hulme is chief executive of the BII, the industry’s professional body

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