This week marks the 11th anniversary of the very first issue of InSight.
In that time I have published over 500 blogs. Only a small number of these blogs have generated a strong reader reaction.
However, there is no parallel with the response I have received as the FutureYou series of blogs (now posted as one, very long, blog) was published across the past three weeks.
A large majority of my blogs generate no comments. It’s very uncommon for a blog to attract more than two or three comments. Over an eleven year span of weekly blogging only 1.5% of my blogs have attracted a dozen or more comments*. To date the FutureYou series has generated 15 comments.
At the recent RCSA Conference many people initiated a conversation with me about the blog (only part 1 had been published at that point).
The most common two questions are: “Did you speak to FutureYou before you published?” and “Have you heard from FutureYou since publishing?”
I did hear from FutureYou. Executive Chairman, Chris Adams called me within two hours of part 1 being published and we had a 15 minute conversation. As you might expect, he wasn’t very happy with what he had read and he told me so. Adams asked me a number of times what my motivation was for writing the blog. I told him, honestly, that I thought it was an interesting story, one that I wanted to tell and one that was worth telling. It was clear Adams didn’t buy it. He seemed to think that I had some sort of axe to grind with unspecified FutureYou employees or investors.
The reality is that I have never met, nor had anything to do with, any of the current FutureYou investors, ex-partners or ex-associate partners. Nobody suggested that there was a story to write. I found the story purely by following my own curiosity.
My interest in the story started when I wrote the previous week’s blog about where Michael Page found itself, two years after their infamous Mt Buller ski trip. In researching that story I discovered a number of Michael Page employees had departed in the second half of that year (2016) and three had joined FutureYou, subsequently leaving within two years. Given how publicly FutureYou had announced the hiring of partners and associate partners I wondered whether this discovery might point to a larger pattern.
To test my hypothesis I set up a spreadsheet and methodically went through every ShortList announcement that featured FutureYou and reconciled each appointment to that person’s LinkedIn profile and the FutureYou About Us page. It didn’t take long for the spreadsheet to reveal that many ShortList-announced partners and associate partners were no longer at FutureYou.
Even with this discovery there was nothing to write about until I knew what led to the departure of these senior employees. The only way to find out for sure was to speak to these ex-employees myself, if they were willing to talk. I made a couple of calls and sent a handful of messages, not expecting much.
What happened next surprised me. Almost everybody I reached out to responded promptly and most, but not all, were willing to talk to me, off the record.
What I heard from the half dozen people who spoke to me was very consistent. The personal experience of each person was remarkably similar. What each person told me about the FutureYou leaders and the sequence of events matched up with what others had shared.
After I wrote the first draft of the whole blog I sent it to the people who I had spoken to, asking for their corrections and feedback. I received back a few minor corrections, but each person who responded confirmed the core truth of what I had written.
After publication I received messages from a number of other ex-employees of FutureYou. Each was appreciative that the truth was being told. Some of these people also gave me additional insights into the demoralising culture of the Sydney office.
A couple of people suggested I could have gone much harder.
A conversation with an ex-client of FutureYou’s, who contacted me after part 2 was published, was another intriguing insight into the FutureYou culture.
I can’t go into any specifics of what was recounted, as that would compromise the person’s identity, however what I was told just further reinforced what I had already heard about the lack of effective leadership and why the financial results have been so underwhelming.
In his call Adams also asked me why I didn’t contact FutureYou for comment before I published. It’s a fair and reasonable question.
I did consider contacting FutureYou for comment. I didn’t do so for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, the consistency of the narrative related by each person I spoke to, left me in no doubt as to the key events and causes of the company’s problems.
Secondly, the last time I requested assistance from Meyer with respect to this blog he declined, In June 2017, just after the one year anniversary of FutureYou, I requested his participation in a Q&A of the type I have published numerous times previously. In my email response I left the door open for him to participate in the future. I never heard back from him.
When I related this story to Adams he asked me whether my blog was some form of pay-back for Meyer’s knock back. Fair enough to ask but, as I told him, I’m too old to carry grudges and it’s not in my character anyway (my #2 character strength, of 24 strengths, is forgiveness & mercy, btw). If Meyer had taken the opportunity to connect with me (I had never interacted with him before) and do me a small favour then no doubt I would have felt an obligation to return that favour. He didn’t’ so I didn’t. It’s as human and simple as that.
At least I can say I am consistent in this aspect of my blogging. All my (rather uncomplimentary) blogs on Michael Page, Rubicor, Clarius, HJB and Boston Kennedy (to name just five agencies) that I have published over the years, were written without putting questions to the executives of the company under scrutiny.
I’ll leave it up to you, the reader, to decide whether I compromised my credibility by publishing without seeking FutureYou’s side of the story. A review of the comments on the blog (including a couple from ex-FutureYou employees) would suggest that my research was sound and my conclusions were, at the very least, defendable.
What is my motivation to write analysis and commentary blogs, such as the FutureYou series, and similar blogs that I have also named here?
I do so because having effective leadership in this industry is absolutely critical. I was lucky in that almost all my past employers provided me with effective leadership; helping me make the best of whatever raw ability I had as a recruiter and as a leader of recruiters. I was also on the receiving end of an incompetent and narcissistic leader which led to my involuntary departure from a company I had devoted a very large chunk of my professional life to.
I know what both ends of the leadership spectrum look like and I also know that the employees that suffer the most from underwhelming or incompetent leadership are the recruitment consultants at the coal face. They are the people most impacted, yet least able to do anything about it (other than leave) when the company’s leadership is found wanting.
Company owners and leaders decide what gets provided to ShortList or posted on the company website. They get to control the narrative about their company and departing employees. What about the employees? Where do they get to have their say? How does their, equally valid, narrative about events at their ex-employer get told? The reality is, it doesn’t get told in any public way. Understandably, departing employees don’t want to do anything that may upset an ex-employer, potentially leading to unhappy consequences for them. The balance of power is clearly with the employer.
When I write the types of stories such as the FutureYou series, I occasionally receive a message from an ex-employee of the company I have written about. Here’s what a bruised, former-recruitment industry employee emailed me after one of my company-dissecting blogs was published:
“It was an absolute shit show, and has taken me a long time to move past the mental harassment and heartbreak of what was ALL lies. Thank you for putting that article out there, I feel somewhat vindicated.”
I hope there are others out there who feel in some way validated, simply because their side of the story (however imperfectly I do it) was told.
If we are unwilling to have an honest conversation about the good, the bad and the ugly of leadership in the recruitment industry then we are compromising our future.
I hope my contributions, however uncomfortable or unwelcome they may be for some owners, help the recruitment industry’s leaders honestly confront what we need to change to ensure a healthy future for all industry participants, not just the owners.
*The full list of my blogs with 12 or more comments is:
Rec-to-recs: What should they deliver? (38 comments)
Who the #&%! does Gen George think she is? (36 comments)
Why PSAs Suck (13 comments)
Michael Page employees go skiing … downhill all the way (12 comments)