The aftermath of the FutureYou series

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.

Since 3 September, when Part 1 was published, the aggregated page views of the FutureYou series make it my second-most viewed blog ever (this blog remains my most-viewed blog).

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:
Now Hiring 32 Professionals: All Agencies welcome to submit candidates* (40 comments)
Rec-to-recs: What should they deliver?  (38 comments)
Who the #&%! does Gen George think she is? (36 comments)
‘Sorry, they are already on our database’: The lazy corporate rip-off (20 comments)
Another moronic ‘the recruitment industry is dead’ article (15 comments)
Why PSAs Suck (13 comments)
Michael Page employees go skiing … downhill all the way (12 comments)

 

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What are you on about, Ross?

 

9 Comments

  1. Anonymous on 26/09/2018 at 1:58 pm

    Ross, I am glad that freedom of speech is alive and well in the recruitment industry. Good on you for having the investigative nous to sniff out a story that certainly seems worth telling. It is just a shame that FutureYou seem to have taken such a negative stance – rather than welcoming some constructive criticism and improving their business.

  2. Recruiter1468 on 26/09/2018 at 2:01 pm

    I don’t understand the purpose of this article. I think the Future You article originally was a bit rich (even if true) and I don’t know how it added value to your readers. This blog seems like a big gossip fest! In my opinion I think our industry should be talking & reading about innovation, up skilling and opportunity not ripping apart a group that are merely having a go!! Small poppy comes to mind ….

  3. Simon Cox on 26/09/2018 at 3:14 pm

    I think it was great for you to shine a light on what doesn’t work in our industry, including business models that don’t work. Yep, I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end, but I go to a great deal of effort to do as I say I will do.
    I also think it was crazy that FutureYou did not engage with you early and often,….
    Keep it rolling Ross!

  4. sharon on 26/09/2018 at 4:01 pm

    The article serves to keep us all accountable – its a wonderful reminder to be the best version of yourself as an Agency and accept responsibility when its not working. We are not perfect but we do have a choice to either accept responsibility and make solid changes or hide and pass the blame.
    it is definitely to their detriment that FutureYou did not engage you and take an opportunity for their Brand to be somewhat redeemed. Again that becomes their choice.

  5. Robert van Stokrom CEO DFP on 26/09/2018 at 8:34 pm

    Hi Ross, I read your all blogs with interest, some more comprehensively than others such is the nature of journalism. Can I say I was not surprised by the series of FutureYou articles. Unfortunately there are firms in our space that are directed, not led, by incompetents, meglamaniacs, egomaniacs, con men or a combination of all the above. Unfortunately low entry barrier industries such as ours and others suffer the attraction of these undesirables. Thank you for your honesty and accuracy driven by research so we can all get the picture. We should all be vocal and shout out about poor practices in our industry, not just you Ross. I encourage all who love this industry as I do to expose this behaviour, it has no place in any industry especially ours.

  6. Andrew on 27/09/2018 at 1:46 pm

    You’re deluded if you think you’re a journalist. Journalism 101 – you get the other side of the story for balance, to do the story, the sources and the truth justice. Justifying otherwise is self-serving, self-important, bubble-thinking – the opposite to the hallowed leadership standards you say you defend.
    In truth, your whole weird explantory missive is mostly about you. You open gleefully with stats about how well your mucking did. Logically it’s not surprising seeing as you stalked every ex-employee – that’s a numbers game. You know what else gets good numbers? The Kardashians… but I think we’re on the same page about the good they do.
    You literally said that if Meyer did you ”a small favour’ then you would have ‘felt an obligation to return that favour. He didn’t’ so I didn’t. It’s as human and simple as that.’
    Wow… that’s some seriously small-minded, petty stuff (and again, you’ve made it about you). Agreed, it is simple, I’d call it basic, because it’s a base side of the human character. Remind me about those leadership traits you defend?
    You’ve reported one side of a story and aside from self-confessed pettiness, your other reason for not presenting a balanced, fair view was, ” the consistency of the narrative… left me in no doubt as to… the causes of the company’s problems.” Dude, it’s not about you. It’s about the truth in a story. Not validating your sources’ stories with the other side’s story tarnishes their value. To that extend you’re not defending ex employees, you’re exploiting them.
    Have you spoken to any of the dozen’s of people who are still there after two years? Have you reported any stats on start up attrition/retention rates, especially in recruitment? Have you made comparisons? Did you speak to the ex chair guy about the real reason some of them were dismissed? Have you done anything to balance your own bias?
    No, because you’re ‘in no doubt’. Because you’re not a journalist.

    From my reading of the amusing tattle taling you publish, you’re a tabloid sensationalist preying on people’s lesser natures. It’s writing for people who like smelling farts.
    As for Leadership – your compass is way off. I think Meyer’s silence on this topic speaks volumes about a nobler character. Acutally, it reminds me of a saying, “Never fight with a pig. The pig likes it and you’ll end up covered in mud.”

    You betray yourself. All I see is a gossipy old priviledged white man shouting from behind a purpose build purpose-flag, contridicting himself, consistently.
    But kudos, you do it well. #BrandRoss

    PS. You wanna know what’s interesting about getting two sides to a story? It’s what I heard from many other recruiters about you – You probably are well aware, and I’m not after ratings or profile, so I don’t need to repeat it. And even though I’m tettering toward ‘no doubt’ I’m also a fair person, and you know, it’s just a bunch of opinions from people who – rightly or wrongly – have a grudge against you – and that’d be unfair of me to believe just one side of a story, right?

    • Ross Clennett on 27/09/2018 at 3:25 pm

      All opinions welcome but I would prefer to hear what factual aspects of my blog are incorrect rather than personal attacks.

    • Interested observer on 10/10/2018 at 11:08 pm

      I’ve read both of Ross’s articles end to end – his original post, and his follow up – and at no point does he refer to himself as a journalist. In fact no where on his website can I see any reference to himself as a journalist. He’s a recruitment professional who blogs about the industry. And in that blog he gives his OPINIONS – well researched and thoughtful as they are – but still opinions.

      As far as I’m aware, he makes no admissions of journalistic impartiality or “fairness” to any one party by committing to take both sides of an argument.

      He simply posts his thoughts on what he’s found.

      If you are on the wrong end of that, tough luck. Instead of slinging insults and muck back, it might be more fruitful to look at why he’s writing a blog about FutureYou in the first place and the clearly significant errors they made when establishing the company.

      My take, for what its worth, on why the blog took off as it did, is based on the way Meyer et al at FutureYou decided to establish the business so very publically with weekly boastful articles about the next great hire they’d just poached from a competitor.

      When you do something so publicly and at such a huge detriment of your competitors, its likely to build up quite a significant amount of ill will against you within the industry itself.

      Its one thing to poach a key member from a competitor, its quite another to run around town shouting about how fantastic it is – endlessly…

      Hence, in my opinion the high levels of interest in the blog – people were interested in reading something that punctured the veneer of arrogance that the business projected at its launch.

      Maybe Meyer and his “nobler character” should’ve thought about that when lauding it up in one of his many, many, Shortlist articles…

  7. Sydney Recruitment Agency Veteran on 02/10/2018 at 9:41 pm

    Thank you Ross as always for your blogs and articles.

    It takes time and effort to generate such credible, factual and relevant content.

    It also takes guts to write about firms that may not be complimentary. This could be detrimental to the Ross Clennett training brand but it shows you aren’t a greedy person but merely a decent person willing to offer a different view point and be the industry’s watch dog or “back page” for the recruitment industry.

    We hear complimentary stories from Ross when credit is due (lets not argue with Hay’s results -like them or loathe them) so why cant we hear about underwhelming performance?

    The recruitment industry needs more people like Ross Clennett.

    I applaud you for all the work you do!

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