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Almost two-thirds (62%) of companies prioritise experience and technical skills when recruiting, despite admitting that cultural fit and a candidate’s overall potential result in more successful hires.


According to research by Robert Half, close to nine in ten business leaders (87%) made successful hires when evaluating cultural fit – congruent values, beliefs and outlook between the candidate and company – as well as their potential. Only 8% of such hires were deemed unsuccessful.

The study suggests that current market conditions are causing businesses to undervalue soft skills – such as creative thinking and communication – in favour of candidates that appear to have the required skills on paper. The result is that many businesses are potentially missing out on top candidates due to inadequate approaches to recruitment.


Key considerations

Experience and technical skills were the most important considerations for new hires, with almost two-thirds (62%) citing them as the most influential factors during the decision-making process. Soft skills (15%), cultural fit (11%), and potential (11%) ranked lowest in hiring considerations.

The research also reiterated the importance of training, both during and after onboarding new staff, with upskilling reported as a contributor to successful hires. Indeed, 61% of business leaders said internal and external training were key to turning hires that lacked technical knowledge but showed potential into successful recruits.

“There is no doubt that if candidates have the right attitude and aptitude, coupled with the right training, they can be excellent appointments. In fact, what looks good on paper – such as experience or technical skills – does not guarantee a successful recruit. Soft skills must also be taken into account,” said Matt Weston, Managing Director at Robert Half UK.

“Employers should strike the right balance between experience, skills and personality – only through planning can they evaluate gaps in a team, rank the required characteristics and tailor training accordingly.”

The research also highlighted the reasons that lead to unsuccessful hires based on prioritising cultural fit. Almost half (45%) of managers cited procedural and managerial problems, including unclear job requirements (26%), lack of leadership/guidance (11%) and insufficient training (8%), as the main reasons for unsuccessful hires.

“Leaders are clearly seeking a ‘safe pair of hands’ as they pursue growth and transformation strategies in a time of great change. In doing so they may be losing out on some of the most promising talent. With 81% of business leaders reporting that it is more challenging now than five years ago to find suitable candidates, this is something that must change if they are to combat the intensifying war for talent,” concludes Weston.


SOURCE: Robert Half

Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialised recruitment consultancy and member of the S&P 500. Founded in 1948, the company has over 300 offices worldwide providing temporary, interim and permanent recruitment solutions for accounting and finance, financial services, technology, creative and administrative professionals.

Business and finance journalist Matt Packer discusses key news stories with the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) head of research, policy & standards, Kate Cooper


When it comes to appointing leaders in a business, choosing a seasoned expert seems like a given, whether this be someone from within the company or an external hire.

But what kind of experience is most important? Does knowledge of the sector trump management experience? And what about a person’s ability to handle failure?

Making wise decisions based on previous track record can perhaps be easier said than done.

A massive new US healthcare partnership set up by three of the world’s biggest corporations will be led by a man with no prior corporate experience. The yet-to-be-named organisation is the brainchild of Jeff Bezos at Amazon, Warren Buffet at Berkshire Hathaway and Jamie Dimon at JP Morgan – and will exist to provide health cover for the firms’ combined workforce of 1.2 million people.

Instead of headhunting a seasoned CEO from America’s vast roll call of private healthcare companies, Bezos, Buffet and Dimon have secured the services of Dr Atul Gawande: a Boston-based surgeon who has achieved recognition in his field for research and writing focused upon novel methods of healthcare delivery.

Indeed, Gawande’s most prominent leadership role so far is his position as head of Boston think tank Ariadne Labs, which is dedicated to looking at traditional healthcare-delivery modes in critical and innovative ways.

Gawande sketched out his mission by saying: “My job […] is to figure out ways that we are going to drive better outcomes, better satisfaction with care and better cost efficiency with new models that can be incubated for all.”

Gawande noted that the current problems with US healthcare are that “doing the right thing is incredibly complicated”, and patients are routinely given “the wrong care in the wrong way at the wrong time”.


Outside the box

In a column for, venture capitalist, founder and business author Sean Wise describes the decision to pick an inexperienced CEO as a “genius move”, and argues: “Hire from within when things are going well … Hire from outside when things aren’t going well, or when doing ‘the same old thing’ simply isn’t working.”

Is Wise right to be so confident, or are there risks attached to this hiring strategy, too?

Kate Cooper says: “This is a really good example of the potential to disrupt, to introduce new thinking and to harness the intellect of someone who understands the systems, processes and complexities of the industry. But Gawande’s tenure will stand or fall on his willingness and ability to be receptive to those who understand the industry’s workings from within.”

Visionary, strategic thinking, Cooper notes, is of course important. “However,” she points out, “very often in cases where disruptors emerge to challenge existing practices, a gap will open up between the strategic vision that is compelling a leader to do things differently, and the people who are charged with actually delivering on those ideas.”

Cooper says: “what we must hope for is that Gawande doesn’t become impatient or take the view that a lack of progress automatically indicates a lack of willingness on the part of his people to implement his ideas. It appears that he has a firm grasp on the complexity of the offer that he is about to square up to – after all, he has acknowledged that daunting influx of more than a million patients. But the very fact that he is determined to find new ways of solving old problems suggests that his ambition is at least aiming to equal to the scale of the brief he has taken on.”

She adds: “Is it risky? Yes. But unless some new approaches flow into this industry – and there are lessons for us here in the UK, too – the consequences will be dire. We have to look to technology to provide us with innovative solutions, open up new ways of working and disrupt in the way that Uber, AirBnB and eBay have disrupted their respective sectors. So let’s hope that Gawande has the tenacity and patience that will enable him to stay the course, the listening skills required for building a loyal team – and the knack for recruiting people who will help him disrupt existing frameworks and improve the service on offer.”


Risky business

For some, taking risks is uncomfortable, dangerous and simply not worth it. However, the creative disruption caused by a multitude of startups is often built on shunning the status quo and daring to do something different, no matter what the consequences. This entrepreneurial spirit embraces the failure sometimes associated with risk not as a sign to quit but as a learning experience to be better next time.

Fascinating insights into this never-say-die spirit have emerged from a Business Insider interview with US entrepreneur Eddy Lu: co-founder of meteorically successful online sneakers market GOAT (short for Greatest of All Time).

In the piece, Lu explains why he and his business partner Daishin Sugano took the path into startup culture following stints at Lehman Brothers, saying “I realised I’m not a good employee”, and lamenting: “I dreaded every Sunday afternoon when I was working at a big corporate job. I never felt that ever since we started doing our whole entrepreneurship journey.”

However, he and Sugano have bumped up against more than their fair share of failures in the course of that journey, spending more than a decade working through a series of costly flops across a range of sectors.

Initially, they tried a tech route by developing 99-cent phone apps that nobody wanted. Then they moved through golfing apparel and a cream-puff franchise. In its early days, GOAT was almost sunk by a Black Friday promotion that backfired, because its warehouse didn’t have enough stock and the firm’s social media channels were flooded with negative feedback.

Asked about the key to wading through those setbacks, Lu says: “Definitely be resilient. I mean, GOAT’s had extreme success, thankfully, but it took a long time to get there, and it’s really easy to give up. It’s really easy to burn out being a startup founder … it’s probably very unlikely you’re going to get it right on the first time. Or the second time. Or the third time.” He adds: “my belief is, let’s try something, and if it doesn’t work, we can always change.”


Failing up

With that in mind, how should entrepreneurs record or log the lessons that stem from their failures, so that they can build an ordered body of knowledge that may help them towards success further down the line?

Kate Cooper says: “My question here is, do we need to turn our experience into an ordered body of knowledge and in some way externalise it – or is that essentially what our brains already do? Every time we have an experience, our minds order it and rationalise it in all the ways that neuroscience has emerged to explain. It also depends heavily upon our level of identification with the project. If you over-identify with the product or service that you’re hoping to deliver, then it’s only natural you’ll take the failure personally.”

Cooper notes: “what really stands out from the experiences of Lu and Sugano is that they didn’t take their setbacks personally at all. Instead, they saw them as great learning opportunities. From the interview, it looks as though they are motivated by – or even addicted to – the whole notion of ideas that work. Therefore, if they’re mired in an idea that isn’t working, they’re compelled to find another one that will.

“In many ways, Lu and Sugano’s travails show that they have programmed their brains to see that failure is not the end; that you can come back from it. It’s not a personal affront. You can be more resilient on the other side and better equipped to spot the pitfalls. It’s all down to how you process failure – if, indeed, you do process it at a conscious level.”

Cooper points out: “another interesting aspect to this story – which ties into the inherent romance of startup culture – is the approach that entrepreneurs take towards innovation itself. You can have a clever, new and innovative idea that feels utterly fresh, and yet that concept can run aground if customers don’t get it and there’s insufficient momentum to give it legs as a business concept. But by the same token, you can apply innovative thinking to a model that already exists – so you’re basically modifying it – and yet you can break that model, thereby sabotaging something that already worked.

“You’re looking at two, very different types of pain there.”

She adds: “I would think it’s highly likely that there are entrepreneurs out there who have experienced both types of pain in the course of their careers. And you can be sure that they will remember those feelings for some time to come. With each experience of failure, an entrepreneur will become incrementally better at predicting what’s likely to go wrong. But what every entrepreneur must grasp is that to operationalise an idea is a very different – and far more challenging – process than simply having that idea.”


For more on these topics, listen to Episode 5 of the ILM podcast in partnership with LID Radio:

About the authors


Matt Packer

Matt Packer is a business and finance journalist who provides expert comment for organisations such as CPA Global, Inemmo Leadership Development Consultancy, The Institute of Leadership & Management and the Chartered Management Institute.



Kate CooperKate Cooper is head of research, policy and standards at the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM). She has appeared on BBC Television, BBC Radio 4, has a regular column in Dialogue magazine, is a key note speaker at conferences and provides expert commentary on a range of topics arising from the Institute’s research agenda.

Writing a business plan within the first six months of launching a business can be worthless and even counterproductive.


Research from the University of Edinburgh Business School looked at the school of thought that advocates “learning by doing”. This is favoured by many entrepreneurs and lean startups who argue it is better to act, improvise, and pivot than to waste time and resources on a 20-page plan that won’t survive first contact with the customer.

Professor Francis Greene and his co-author found that the key to starting a successful business is being flexible and responsive to opportunities – not having a rigid plan.

The researchers discovered that the most successful entrepreneurs are those that write plans between six to 12 months into starting their business.

“Our research shows that writing a plan first is a really bad idea. It is much better to wait, not to devote too much time to writing it, and, crucially, to synchronise the plan with other key start-up activities,” says Greene.

“Writing a plan between six months to a year increased the probability of venture viability success by 8% – but writing one earlier or later than this proved to have no distinguishable impact on future success.”

However, the study did find that startups who write plans are more likely to achieve external funding.

Learning to adapt

Entrepreneurs often have to adapt their business dramatically once it becomes clear what their target market actually is, meaning a plan too early is often just a waste of valuable time.

When it came to writing a plan, the optimal time to spend on it was found to be three months. This increased the chances of creating a viable venture by 12%. Spending any longer than this was futile, mostly because the information used loses its currency.

These results come from studying over 1,000 would-be US entrepreneurs. The researchers charted the entrepreneurs’ attempts to create a viable new venture over a six-year period, from 2005 to 2011.


SOURCE: ResponseSource


Most of us dream of being super healthy and fit.


More and more people dream of creating a health food or drinks brand in this dynamic market sector.

Navigating this market with its constantly shifting trends can be tricky. Here are some principles and practical tips for starting a new business; one that has the potential to grow healthily too.


Define your idea

Start by define your ‘what’ and most importantly identifying your ‘why’. As Simon Sinek says: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” The ‘why’ is critical as it will form the foundation of your brand story and the passion that drives you.

My ‘what’ is simple – fresh juice. My ‘why’ is being healthy, fewer hours shopping, and less time in the kitchen putting together ingredients to make fresh juice for my family. INIU was born to avoid having to choose between convenience and healthy eating. I located and solved a problem on a small scale.


Expand your idea

The next important step that you can take with your idea was asking “why keep this idea small?” Ask where and when. How big can your idea get? Keep stretching it to find out where it breaks (hypothetically).

For example, I wanted to think globally because, as a father of four, I can’t help but think about the future. And I’m aware of the impact that the processed foods and livestock farming industries have on our health and the health of our planet. The possibility of impacting that is part of the legacy I’d love to leave for my children.


Future-proof your idea

Then ask are there new markets you can push into in the future?

For example, with INIU, we can potential expand with tasty, nutritious and sustainable snacking products. Don’t think big – think huge!

Once you have your what, why, where and when – ask yourself, “what would just one step before that huge idea look like? And one step before that?” And so on. With these answers you’ll have created your plan.


Finding a market

To figure this out you need to test your idea or product on as many different and diverse people as possible. So gather your friends. Get them to try the product and give you feedback. Listen to the feedback and learn from it. Analyse what they actually expect from your product or one like it. Adapt if necessary.

Even with a small test-group, if people are willing to buy your product, it suggests that you could have a market.

Investing in market research is an investment in the fine-tuning of your product and for example testing with larger focus groups. Everything you learn will contribute to your marketing plan

Learn from your competitors, locating pitfalls, opportunities, strengths and weaknesses. If you can get a hold of their annual reports, you can see their plans for the future and their past successes. If you can draw parallels while avoiding repetition, this research will be invaluable to moulding your business plan and possible future product development.


Making the product

Having validated your idea, you need to figure out how and where to produce it.

In our case, to get the recipes right we worked with several professional nutritionists. Experts can help you balance ingredient combinations so that they not only taste great but are also good for you. Even if you think you have the knowledge in-house, bringing external expertise into the process is a good idea; you don’t know what you don’t know!


Your brand identity

You’re not just launching another drink or food item, you are launching a new brand with its own identity. It’s important to start thinking about this early and to trademark it so that no copycats can steal the results of your hard work.

Part of creating your brand identity requires knowing what makes you different to (and hopefully better than) everything else out there. This differentiation will be vital for targeting your chosen consumers. Your brand, its story and potential are all part of what they’re buying into. The way to introduce this story and your brand’s personality to consumers is through marketing.

With limited resources you need an effective way to reach your target market. Work with influencers who truly believe in your product. Treat your loyal customers well and nurture that special relationship so they become brand ambassadors, sharing your message over social media. It’s true – there’s no better marketing than word of mouth. However, look at options for PR, social media, blogging, YouTube, paid advertising and exhibitions too. Although your budget dictates a lot of what you can and can’t do – it’s best to consider every option and to understand its benefits, challenges and costs. Then you can make sensible, helpful decisions.


Get stand-out packing

Your packaging is a consumer’s first impression of your product and plays a vital role in making your brand recognisable. It needs to stand out from your competitors. Go to a wide variety of shops; study your competitors again. How your design will fit within and stand out once on the shelf?

While initially you might be tempted to DIY your packaging, I would strongly advise against it. Get it done professionally; keep working with the designers until you’re happy that it has your voice, style and individuality.

There are practical considerations: how the packaging will handle when delivered by post; and how the product will interact with the packaging? You don’t want packaging that’s easily damaged or looks tatty quickly. And with a health product it’s likely that customers will expect both the product and the packing to be environmentally friendly.


The business of business

Work on your finances, particularly your pricing and cashflow. Understand all your costs and margins. You won’t expect profit immediately, but you need to plan your financials as if your survival depends on it, because it does.

To attract retailers you need a clear USP. Leveraging customer feedback and demonstrating demand will improve your chances of bagging a retail contract. Retailers need to be confident that it will sell – not just take up valuable shelf space.

The retailer route takes resources; time to negotiate these contracts and the facilities to meet their volume demand. There may be other channels, including direct to consumers, which will get your product out there.


Team and teamwork

If you try do it all on your own, it will not only take you longer, you’ll find every struggle will be tougher. You’ll very quickly find yourself second guessing every decision. The key to scaling up quickly is utilising the experience, knowledge and innovation of others.

Find highly skilled people, with an incredible work ethic, who are passionate about the brand. Look for people who are different from you, and have complementary skills.

As the great Pelé said: “No individual can win a game by himself.”


About the author

Joao GouveiaJoão Gouveiais the founder of INIU – a range of functional fruit and vegetable juices that are 100% natural, with no added sugar, preservatives or other additives. Cryogenically frozen, INIU juices retain up to 99% of their nutrients and taste; as good as if you’d made them yourself. Store the juice in your freezer and when you’re ready simply add water and blend. A fresh, 100% natural juice with all the best bits of nature in under a minute.

Launched in Portugal in 2017, INIU was nominated for the Innovation Award at the Food Entrepreneur Show 2018 in London and is now launching in the UK. INIU’s mission is to develop products built on the foundations of health and convenience.





Turning up late, wearing the wrong attire and bumping a colleague’s vehicle in the car park are among the worst first impressions made by new employees.


This is according to a poll of almost 3000 workers, which revealed that the first day at work can be a humiliating affair if things don’t go to plan.

Other blunders include arriving to find you are completely over-dressed, spilling tea everywhere, getting lost en route to the office and saying something inappropriate because you’re nervous.

Almost half of workers have had a terrible first day at a new job, with 95% stressing how important it is to them to make a good first impression on others.

And more than three quarters (82%) believe they’re more likely to make a positive impact on their first day if they know they’ve got their clothing spot on.


First impressions

The study was commissioned by 4imprint, as part of its ‘First Impressions’ campaign.

A spokesperson for 4imprint, said: “Starting a new job can be intimidating for a variety of reasons. From not knowing who you’ll be working with, not being 100% sure how to get to your new workplace and worries over what to wear can make for a nerve-wracking first day.

“Our study found the importance of what you wear to work can make you feel as comfortable as possible on a first day and help create a great first impression.”

According to the survey, workers admitted to having turned up on their first day either being wildly under or overdressed.

More than seven in ten employees (72%) wish they had a uniform for work, claiming it would have made their first day – and consequently first impressions – easier to manage.

Other first-day nightmares include finding there was no allocated desk or computer to work at and being late due to nasty traffic.

However, those who excelled on their first day put it down to being fully prepared and sufficiently knowledgeable about the company.

And when it comes to making a good impression, 58% say arriving early works wonders while 57% try to ask intelligent questions.

The spokesperson for 4imprint, added: “A decision can be made about a person within 26 seconds of meeting them – which is why appearance is so important.

“Corporate work wear can provide reassurance to new starters and if your organisation operates in the service or retail sector then staff uniforms can also be vitally important for customers.”


Top 30 First Day Nightmares

1. Learned someone’s name then immediately forgotten it
2. Got someone’s name wrong
3. Was just too nervous
4. Finding I had no computer / desk to work at
5. Said something stupid due to nerves
6. Arrived at the wrong work address
7. Turned up completely overdressed compared to everyone else
8. Worn shoes that ended up being agonisingly painful by the end of the day
9. Had to have something simple explained numerous times
10. Got there late due to traffic
11. Being told I wasn’t the ‘first choice candidate’
12. Forgotten the code to get in or out of the office
13. Got there late due to public transport problems
14. Put your foot in your mouth during a conversation with someone
15. Turned up completely underdressed compared to everyone else
16. Been over friendly
17. Accidentally sent a sensitive email as a ‘staff all’
18. Made someone’s tea wrong
19. Said something inappropriate to a new colleague
20. Got there late due to other reasons
21. Damaged company property
22. Spilled tea everywhere
23. Took too long on a lunch break
24. Got the company name wrong
25. Went to the wrong address
26. Asked how to turn your computer on
27. Had a wardrobe malfunction like trousers splitting
28. Took a personal call that was frowned upon
29. Worn a tie when nobody else was wearing one
30. Had to leave early due to a family emergency.


SOURCE: ResponseSource


In today’s world presenting yourself well on the small screen is becoming an essential business skill.


It’s so easy now to film short pieces on a camera phone and upload them to social media in nanosecond.

When you are sharing with friends, the quality isn’t a big concern. However, when you are presenting a professional webinar, hosting a virtual meeting (possibly with people around the globe), making a marketing video, or having an on-line interview you need to up your game.

Consider the following points as you prepare for your next small screen appearances.


Are you and your kit positioned well?

If you are delivering a webinar you are likely to be sitting in the same chair for at least an hour so ensure you are comfortable; good back support will help. Then there’s the position of your laptop or camera in relation to where you are sitting, which parts of you can be seen? Movement is tricky, if you lean forward towards your camera, the audience will receive an unexpected close-up.


Who are you? And who is there?

If someone has booked to attend your webinar, they may have done so for a variety of reasons. Providing a brief introduction about you and the purpose of the webinar helps settle the attendees and allows you to briefly indicate you’ll be addressing all their needs.

If you have over 20 attending, it may not be possible to allow time for them to introduce each other. However, if it is a business meeting, a small conference or an interview, it is definitely worth knowing who else is there. Allow time for simple introductions such as name, position and company. This will assist you in knowing if all key stakeholders have joined and, if not, have they sent a representative instead.


Can everyone hear?

This is the biggest issue when delivering online training sessions. You need to check in with your online audience and determine that they can actually hear you. You don’t want to be distracted battling with software when you should be focused on delivery. Equally, the audience doesn’t want to fight to hear you.

When joining virtual meetings, there can be surprisingly loud background noise. If you can control muting attendees, do. If not, then encourage them to mute themselves while listening. There may be times when, despite all the checks, the signal just isn’t good enough. Be prepared to redeliver key points when you recap.


Is your choice of language clear?

There are many turns of phrase that are quirky and local. For example, will an audience of retailers understand the British BOGOF or the North American Twofer? When you add local phrases, consider how your attendees will interpret them. To avoid confusion and wasting time explaining what you’ve said; think about the language you use and make it appropriate to the audience.


Lighting and Mics

You need to ensure ample lighting for your face, particularly if your background is very bright (as it will darken your face) or the room is dingy. Does any of the lighting cast shadows on the wall behind you? If it does, change this.

A mic or headset may be required, and if you are waving your hands about, you may knock this. So, endeavour to keep your hands out of shot, if need be, sit on them


What’s in the background?

Whenever possible a clean background is best. If you work in an office that has glass screens, walls and doors, it can be distracting for your audience to have people walking behind you when you are delivering your presentation or pitch. If it’s a virtual interview, definitely clear up the clutter and check what photos and artwork are on the wall.


Testing, testing!

Treat online presentations the same way as you would face-to-face presentations and practice with a test session. If you are handling technical aspects, it’ll give you one less concern when you are delivering. For webinars, definitely consider recording and watching the test session. You can use this to make any necessary changes. Also, if you have technical problems on the day, you can always use this version to send out to the attendees of your webinar later.


Notes or not?

Try to avoid reading from notes. You will look down and your audience will see the top of your head. If the notes are on screen, the movement of your eyes will look odd. All the warmth you will have generated will be lost as you are more likely to come across as somewhat robotic. Know your presentation inside out, so that you appear natural. Having prompt cards with key words on that you can glance at can help if you feel you need some additional reminders. You could try post-it notes stuck on the edge of the screen.


Looking your best?

Just like meeting people face to face, you have to look the part; your appearance matters. Clothes, hair, beard etc. should be neat, tidy and professional. Consider how to take the shine from your forehead, taking out redness from the face or concealing dark circles under the eyes. The camera picks up all those blemishes and to you, they will seem to be magnified and you will focus in on them. Be confident and use makeup if you need to.


Any questions?

Be prepared to answer questions. Some systems allow attendees to message you rather than interact vocally. How will you manage this? You may want to consider having support to deal with the online questions as they arise. They are likely to follow themes based on what you have said so you can address them in groups. You can have some standard responses ready which you can add into your webinar as you go along.

If you are managing the live stream and the questions by yourself, pause after key points check in with the audience that they are following you. This is a good time to ask for questions, which you can then be addressed before you move on.


Start with a smile

Start punctually at the scheduled time. Greet your audience, colleagues or potential employer with a smile. All the skills that you have developed presenting in person apply here too. You have to engage your audience to ensure they receive your message. Be aware of your non-verbal communications, your eye contact, body language and facial gestures; they all come into play. Allow the best of your personality to shine through.

By following the suggestions above, you soon gain confidence and become more comfortable delivering on the small screen. Your professional credibility and your business will benefit.



About the author

Helena Brewer is from Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland. Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit

@Toastmasters. @ToastmastersUKI





Owning a second property abroad, having penned a novel, and having been in a band are just some of the ludicrous tales told by Brits at dinner parties.


A new study has revealed as many as one in ten Brits have exaggerated their salary at a dinner party. Meanwhile, 11% have embellished the places they have travelled and 8% have over egged their literary knowledge.

Other exaggerations Brits frequently wheel out to impress fellow guests at “spinner parties” include job titles, foodie credentials and even the value of property they own.


The webs we weave

But when it comes to getting caught out, a brazen 86% said they usually get away with it, however a red-faced 14% said they were caught out when their child or other half gave the game away.

More than one in ten has lied when it comes to qualifications and 7% have spun the tale that they can speak another language, according to the survey by online furniture company Swoon.

The research revealed one in five blames nerves over meeting new people for exaggerating, but 14% said they were prone to embellishing the truth after a few drinks.

One in five people stretch the truth to impress a new crowd and one in ten said it was purely to ‘keep up with the Jones’.


Saving face

Psychologist Dr Becky Spelman said: “The tendency to ‘show off’ is ingrained in human beings and is largely an unconscious effort to establish a pecking order. Just as in the natural world, animals do all sorts of things do make themselves look bigger and more impressive than they really are.”

“This is a natural trait that has evolved through sexual selection because the animals that manage to convince potential mates that they’ve got it all going on are the most successful, and the most likely to leave a large number of offspring to carry on the boastful genes.

“Many of us are anxious that we don’t measure up to the other people in our social circle and after a few glasses of wine it can be very easy to turn our college anecdotes about inter-railing into a tale of derring-do worthy of Indiana Jones.”

“Women and men alike are prone to this sort of behaviour, although traditional default gender roles can influence the sort of things they brag about, with men more likely to show off and exaggerate how much money they earn, and women are more likely to inflate their postcode or value of property.”


Off limits

A third of respondents agreed that ex-partners should never be discussed at dinner parties and four in ten said politics should be avoided at all costs. Some 42% avoid conversations about religion and 35% felt sex was an uncouth topic to discuss around the table.

Three in ten said the atmosphere always turned sour when Brexit was discussed, and 23% said debates about the death penalty, breastfeeding and veganism were off limits.


Making a good impression

Six in ten said they often become obsessed with creating a good environment when they are due to host a dinner party.

In fact, the research showed the average Brit spends £79 on food and drink each month (that’s £936 each year) for entertaining and we also splash out a further £388 a year on soft furnishings and home décor to spruce the house up when guests are due.

Noel Eves, CMO of Swoon, which commissioned the study said: ”We know that our customers are obsessed with the finer details of their homes and making a statement, and the survey results highlight the lengths that they’ll go to in order to impress their guests.’’

Most Likely Topics to Exaggerate at a Dinner Party:

  • Film knowledge
  • Your qualifications
  • Where you have holidayed
  • Your salary
  • Literary knowledge
  • Your partners job title
  • The car you are planning to buy
  • Being able to speak a foreign language
  • Your wine knowledge
  • Home renovations
  • Having a famous friends
  • Your foodie credentials
  • Where you bought your furniture from
  • The value of your property / properties
  • Your singing ability
  • Your child’s exam results
  • You write a blog
  • Your child’s sporting triumphs
  • You are writing a book or poetry
  • Your postcode
  • You have a second home abroad
  • Being in a band in your youth
  • Your share portfolio
  • Knowing / being related to a distant Royal


SOURCE: ResponseSource



Business and finance journalist Matt Packer discusses key news stories with the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) head of research, policy & standards, Kate Cooper

Building and maintaining good working relationships between co-workers, managers and employees is vital to any business, no matter the size.

But finding the right balance between realistic expectations and relying too heavily on these relationships can be difficult to navigate.

As a manager, having the right team around you can hugely affect your productivity, both as a team and an individual, as demonstrated by recent research conducted at Harvard Business School into how CEOs use their time.

Over 12 years, the research team tracked some 60,000 working hours performed by 25 CEOs of publicly listed companies to see how they allocated their personal presence across their organisations’ various constituencies.

One of the most significant findings was that CEOs place significant weight in the assistance of their direct reports: often highly talented leadership figures themselves, who help CEOs to decant their messages throughout organisational levels and departments. But the relationships can falter if the bond of trust breaks down, according to the researchers.

“We found that it’s critical for each member of the leadership team to have the capabilities to excel and earn the CEO’s full trust and support,” they wrote in Harvard Business Review. “Any weaknesses in this group significantly reduce the CEO’s effectiveness, because dealing with work that reports should have handled, and cleaning up after them, eats up valuable time.”

In fact, they explained that the number one regret among newly appointed CEOs was not setting high-enough standards in selecting direct reports.

“Many CEOs told us this was because they focused too much on the present and not enough on the future when they first stepped into the role. Direct reports who could manage the status quo were often not the ones who could help the CEO take the company to a new level.”



Finding the balance

Given the intrinsic value of close working between CEOs and direct reports, how can each side of the bargain ensure the relationship is working?

Kate Cooper says: “The most important thing to remember with regards to this research is that you can only be good as a leader if you surround yourself with good people, but finding the right people is a challenge for any leader – particularly CEOs. The findings also reinforce or restate a recurring theme that crops up in our own research, which is the importance of trust. At that level, you are appointing people who could potentially be your successors.

“However, if you’re new to an organisation, it’s very difficult to look ahead and say, ‘This is what I need now, but actually I’m not going to go for that – I’m going to go for what I think I’ll need in the future.’ For the majority of CEOs, that’s really a leap too far.”

Cooper notes: “in the end, it’s about developing people. Get the person who’s right for the organisation’s present pressures – then help them grow and develop into the person who could respond to, and play a key role in surmounting, future challenges. That will enable you to build and nurture that all-important trusting relationship with your direct reports. And along the way, be mindful of the need for effective succession planning.”



Maintaining boundaries

CEOs are often in put in difficult positions as they navigate how to best manage their direct reports while steering the company in the best direction for future growth. Knowing you can trust your staff is key but developing personal relationships can be dangerous.

One CEO who was recently nudged out of his position for becoming too closely involved with a colleague is CEO Brian Krzanich, formerly of Intel.

Under his watch, Intel captured some 40% of the $260 billion date-centre chips market – and that is just one part of the firm’s business.

Despite the romantic relationship ending some time ago, the firm has a strict non-fraternisation policy that applies to all managers.

In an official statement, the chipmaker said: “Intel was recently informed that Mr Krzanich had a past consensual relationship with an Intel employee. An ongoing investigation by internal and external counsel has confirmed a violation of Intel’s non-fraternisation policy, which applies to all managers. Given the expectation that all employees will respect Intel’s values and adhere to the company’s code of conduct, the board has accepted Mr Krzanich’s resignation.”



Unnecessary upheaval

Intel’s policy of banning leadership figures from becoming romantically linked with staff has in this case triggered the hasty assembly of an entirely new leadership team, with CFO Bob Swan – who held the same role at eBay for nine years up to 2016 – appointed as interim CEO.

The company’s statement added, “The board believes strongly in Intel’s strategy and we are confident in Bob Swan’s ability to lead the company as we conduct a robust search for our next CEO. Bob has been instrumental to the development and execution of Intel’s strategy, and we know the company will continue to smoothly execute. We appreciate Brian’s many contributions to Intel.”

Regardless of the “robust succession-planning process” that has been put in place, all of this organisational turbulence has flowed from a policy designed to safeguard against one of the world’s most common occurrences: relationships between co-workers. Does this demonstrate that non-fraternisation policies are inherently unreasonable?

“We actually did some research on this subject three years ago called Love in the Office,” says Cooper. “The majority of people we surveyed didn’t have a problem with relationships at work. Are you more loyal to someone with whom you’re romantically involved than you are to someone with whom you have a long and close friendship? The kind of concerns that some firms have over how romantic loyalties could skew perspectives are unrealistic.”

Cooper points out: “A 2016 survey of 1,600 adults by the TUC found that one in five people who are married or in a civil partnership met their partners at work. It also found that a third of people have, at some point, had relationships with colleagues. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘It’s hardly surprising that relationships start around the water cooler – after all, we work longer hours than anyone else in Europe.’ Clearly, you’re never going to prevent this with non-fraternisation policies. All you’re going to do is make people more secretive about their relationships – and that could be even more damaging than the relationships themselves.”



Professional protocols

“If you are open and transparent,” Cooper advises, “then arrangements and contingencies can be put in place to safeguard against conflicts of interest. Really, it’s all about the professionalism of those involved. I know people who have been in romantic relationships while they have worked together, and their relationships haven’t undermined their professionalism in any way. That said, if there was a policy line in place that Krzanich overstepped, then he did the right thing by resigning. After all, it was part of the company’s internal rules and, as CEO – particularly one with a strong track record – it was up to him to show an example.”

Cooper adds: “In terms of the potential struggle that Intel faces with replacing him, a well-managed succession policy should ensure that no one is irreplaceable, and that options are always on the table for emergencies like this. The alternative is simply too risky.”


For more on these topics, listen to Episode 4 of the ILM podcast in partnership with LID Radio:

About the authors


Matt Packer

Matt Packer is a business and finance journalist who provides expert comment for organisations such as CPA Global, Inemmo Leadership Development Consultancy, The Institute of Leadership & Management and the Chartered Management Institute.



Kate CooperKate Cooper is head of research, policy and standards at the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM). She has appeared on BBC Television, BBC Radio 4, has a regular column in Dialogue magazine, is a key note speaker at conferences and provides expert commentary on a range of topics arising from the Institute’s research agenda.


Start-ups are everywhere but do they generate economic growth?


A report Does Entrepreneurial Success Generate Economic Growth? published by the Institute of Innovation and Knowledge Exchange (IKE) asks that very question.

The results are startling and go a long way to understanding why only 10% of start-ups are still in business past the 15-year mark.

Successive governments have seen entrepreneurship as the silver bullet to boost productivity and stem economic decline. Over the years, they’ve pumped millions in accelerators, regional innovation initiatives and promotional activities, but has this investment really delivered the growth expected?

The report shows nominal growth in the number of enterprises starting with 0-4 employees. But is this genuine start-up activity, or labour market programmes instituted by government to reduce unemployment figures?

Much has been made of the gig economy phenomenon producing clever start-ups, but in reality, the report shows all it has driven is low paid and insecure work. Most new enterprises do not grow and nearly 60% fail before five years.

Despite investment, there was very little change in survival rates across a five-year period, with 10% failing in first year, 25% by the second, 40% by the third and by year four almost half had died.

The survival rate per sector shows that 51% of enterprises set up in Property survived, following by IT and Comms with 49% surviving. The sector where the most business deaths occurred was in Accommodation and Food with nearly 65% having failed after five years.


Staying afloat

So where is all this high growth that’s being touted actually happening? Where are those Gazelles that business schools talk about? IT and Comms have the highest proportion of high growth enterprises, followed unbelievably, by the water supply, sewerage, waste management and remediation sector. Well they do say where there’s muck there’s brass!

Half the would-be entrepreneurs cited the perceived barrier to starting a business is funding. Once again, perception and reality show very different pictures. The UK invested £10 million of risk capital into high tech accelerators producing 1,124 start-ups.

Crowdfunding has also been successful in the UK for generating funds for start-ups totaling 2.4 billion Euro targeted at 419 funding initiatives across 16 platforms, giving an average of 5.7 million Euro per funded initiative. The next country to have a good crowdfunding investment is Germany with 108 million Euro but still some 2.29 billion Euro less than the crowdfunded investment in the UK.

There is also a high intensity of venture capital investments primarily focused on innovative tech start-ups, with 0.081% of GDP going into venture capital, ranking the UK third across Europe, topped only by Denmark and Luxembourg who have considerably smaller GDPs.


Lack of data

It is therefore incredible, despite huge investment in start-ups, data on ‘Gazelles’ or fast growing enterprises less than five years old is not collected in the UK. The UK provides Eurostat with data on high growth enterprises defined as those with at least 10 employees and an average employee growth rate of 10% or more per year, over a three-year period. These enterprises are not necessarily start-ups or new, but the data gives an indication on which sectors are growing the fastest.

Across Europe, the UK is middling, with a 10.82% of all enterprises with 10 or more people growing year on year. Higher enterprise growth rates are being experienced by smaller countries (Ireland nearly 15% and Malta at almost 13%). This growth is perhaps related to the fact that smaller countries have less overall business stock and can target their policies more accurately than larger countries.


What’s in a name

Innovation, it’s said, is intrinsically linked with entrepreneurship and often spoken in the same breath, but are start-ups always innovative? The report found that product or process innovation activities are predominately found in enterprises of 250 or more employees with 69% of all activity produced by this enterprises in this size range being innovation-focused. Overall, Germany has the highest proportion of innovative companies in Europe.

The UK’s stagnation in productivity has also fueled a renewed focus on entrepreneurship to drive up growth. Gross Value Added in Euro in the 0-9 employee enterprise size range in the UK stands at 71% in productivity gains, however productivity drops in 9-49 employee range, and this could be aligned to the lower innovation activities in 10-49 employee at 58% of all activities being innovative in nature.

The report identified a key measure of whether or not the UK has appropriate conditions and polices to support entrepreneurship is ‘how many jobs are created 15 years’ after the enterprises were formed. In 1998, 239,600 were established and 15 years later 26,200 were surviving, a 10.9% survival rate.

Across the 15-year period, the 1-4 employee sized enterprises were particularly hard hit by attrition and overall, there was a fall in employment of 4,200. However, in the long term, major gains to net employment came from those enterprises that started up at birth with more than 20 employees.

The main losses arose when smaller start-ups expanded to 20 plus employees, which suggests problems in trying to manage growth. It is also possible that the start-ups didn’t have the skills or capital to come through the 2008 recession, as the majority of losses occurred within the first nine years.


Born to fail

So why are almost 60% of start-ups failing before their fifth year of operation? Is it that the policies and interventions aren’t supporting these new businesses? Or is it something else?

A lack of more diverse skills than the ones needed to create the business in the first place, has been found as contributing to start-up death. Larger teams in bigger start-ups have better survival rates, are more innovative, become successful exporters, have greater business longevity and drive employment growth. Perhaps, a greater emphasis on the building of entrepreneurial teams, with a focus on developing business innovation skills, would deliver the employment and productivity growth so often sought after by the policy makers!

It is of course ironic, that despite the significant investment and promotion given to start-ups, enticement to start a business is still not an attractive option for many, with one in five and one in ten people respectively thinking it is easier to work for someone else and are happy with their current situation. Clearly, the risks outweigh the benefits, and the grass, for many across the UK is definitively greener where they’re already sat!


SOURCE: ResponseSource


Organisations must proactively encourage a culture of flexibility across the entire workforce.


If they don’t, they risk negatively impacting employee engagement levels and the ability to attract and retain top talent, according to Alexander Mann Solutions.

The advice comes in response to a report from the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee, Fathers in the Workplace, which recommends that all new jobs should be advertised as flexible to reflect societal change.

The paper reports that fathers are even more likely than mothers to perceive that they will be viewed negatively by employers if they request to work flexibly, and that women with dependants are over three-and-a-half times as likely to report working part-time as men with dependants.

The report also highlights that while 96% of employers say they offer a level of agile working, research by the Timewise Foundation has found that only 9.8% of ‘quality job vacancies’ – that is, jobs paying over £20,000 full-time equivalent – are advertised as being open to some kind of flexibility.


Flexible working options

In response to the findings, Paul Modley, Director of Diversity & Inclusion at Alexander Mann Solutions, said: “While the recommendations in this report are designed with fathers in mind, the benefits of promoting working options which appeal to a wider pool of available talent should not be underestimated.”

“The CBI’s advice to the committee – that is, if a company feels a job can be done flexibly, it should advertise it in that way from the start – is a strategy that we at Alexander Mann Solutions have long promoted. As Timewise’s data shows, the majority of businesses are, in theory, happy to consider role flexibility if it means that they are able to access the skills they need. However, the fact that this is not reflected in legacy-laden recruitment processes means that jobseekers may not even consider a role unless a flexible working culture is celebrated and promoted at the earliest stage of the recruitment process. The best person for the job may never apply.”

“The right to work flexibly should not be viewed as the preserve of females with young families or individuals in lower skilled roles. Society on the whole and expectations of employees are changing. Regardless of age, gender or level of seniority, individuals are increasingly seeking to work in a way which fits with their wider lifestyle and commitments. Employers who fail to respond to this desire risk missing out on the skills and experience of a huge proportion of the working population.”

SOURCE: ResponceSource