The Demise of Experience
The Demise of Experience
In   the   words   of   the   late   Fred   Dibnah,   “There’s   a   lot   to   be   said   for   the   olden   days and   how   they   did   things.      They   were   better   craftsmen,   better   everything,   …   now they’ve no respect for anything …”
Yes,    in    the    days    of    yore,    up    to    the    1980s    and    before    the    start    of    the    era    of monetarism,   there   were   opportunities   to   add   one’s   own   perspective   on   how   things were   done.   The   mentor   in   this   relationship   could   then   discuss   the   suggestion   and decide   if   or   not   a   task   could   be   done   in   a   certain   way. Apprenticeships   were   a   vehicle for   two   way   communication,   both   participants   learning   from   one   another,   amassing experience in their chosen vocation to carry forward into the future.
Very   few   seem   interested   in   succession   by   the   passing   down   information   through   the   generations.      The   situation is akin to teenagers being uninterested in listening to their parents experiences. Under New Management In   these   days   of   large   conglomerates   it   seems   that   people   with   experience   and   local   knowledge   are   irrelevant.     The   ‘craftsmen   and   women’   are   overtaken   by   new   managers   or   directors   whose   sole   purpose   seems   to   disregard what went before.  Within   these   less   enlightened   companies,   after   very   short   time   by   drawing   on   the   one-size-fits-all   free   market ideology,   a   new   manager   arrives   at   an   organisation   is   seemingly   able   to   assess   the   situation   and   know   what   is best.
Many   of   these   managers   have   a   degree   often   in   some   generally   unrelated   financial   subject   and   then   attend   in- post   courses   on   a   chosen   vocational   career.   History   shows   what   little   in-depth   knowledge   is   gained   by   attending this   type   of   course.   It   is   said   that   if   20%   of   knowledge   is   imparted   to   the   attendees,   a   course   is   a   success.      In   my experience, some course tutors can be so up themselves, they fail dismally at teaching others.
The   members   of   the   board,   usually   of   little   more   experience   than   the   new   manager,   go   starry-eyed   with   £   signs and think the plans are wonderful.  Little do they realise that this is window dressing. 
Outsource Syndrome The   first   thing   to   experience   from   the   new   manager   is   the   “outsource   syndrome”   Everything   is   greener   on   the   other side   of   the   fence,   especially   when   the   third-party   salesman/consultant   says   so.      The   outsource   company   offer   a partnership   and   to   take   existing   staff   off   the   payroll.      This   move   is   to   appease   the   organisation   and   their   clients alike.   The   outsource   company   may   have   also   realised   the   value   of   importing   local   knowledge.      Savings   will   be made   as   predicted   by   the   new   manager   until   the   honeymoon   with   the   third-party   is   over.      History   shows   that   costs will   then   rise   for   the   same   original   level   of   service,   but   it’s   now   too   late   because   decades   of   experience   and   local knowledge have already been lost. Knowledge Not   all   companies   are   guilty.   Some   have   woken-up   and   realised   that   as   the   baby-boomer   post   war   generation retires, knowledge is being lost. 
Take   an   engineer   called   Jack   who,   after   working   at   Squires   Gate   airport   on   the   Fylde   coast   on   Wellington Bombers   at   Vickers Armstrong,   moved   to   London   to   broaden   his   career.      He   worked   for   Metal   Box   company   and invented   the   turn-button   we   see   on   shoe   polish   tins   and   take   for   granted   today.      Jack   also   worked   for   Cambridge Instruments   working   with   the   team   who   invented   the   portable   dialysis   machine .   He   was   instrumental   in   designing an   apparatus   critical   to   the   project.   In   the   1960s   he   worked   for   Landis   and   Gyr   on   prototypes   of   the   note counting   mechanism   for   today’s   ATM   machines.      Jack   had   the   ability   to   solve   problems   and,   working   with   a team, was respected for his knowledge.
Apprenticeship Schemes I’m   pleased   to   say   that   some   forward-thinking   organisations   are   already   seeing   the   benefit in    passing    on    knowledge    through    apprenticeship    schemes.    There    are    many    good apprenticeship    schemes    already    coming    on    stream,    for    example,    the    well    known companies   include   NHS,   Taylor   Wimpey,   British   Gas,   Balfour   Beatty,   UK   Power,   Network Rail,   IBM,   Microsoft,   Jaguar,   Halfords,   BBC,   Thomas   Cook,   DHL,      BAE   Systems   and   a number of financial and retail organisations.
Re-applying   for   your   job   could   be   considered   a   fair   way   of   selection,   but   to   be   told   to not   bother   at   a   pre-selection   phase   smells   of   skulduggery.      Who   is   at   fault   if   the applicant   is   considered   unsuitable   after   a   considerable   time   in   post   doing   the   job?      In my   opinion   it   is   not   the   applicant.      If   there   was   some   ongoing   performance   issue,   this should   have   been   identified   and   remedied   by   the   employee’s   line   manager   years   ago.     To   destroy   a   loyal   employee’s   career   at   this   late   stage   using   a   pre-selection   process   is corrupt and unjust. 
Staff Profiling by HR A   second   scheme   to   off-load   staff   for   small   to   medium   size   organisations   is   to   profile   the   company’s   future   needs   in terms   of   skills   then   fit   suitable   existing   staff   into   each   skill   set.     This   is   done   through   a   review   of   performance   records with   senior   management   and   Human   Resources   Department   armed   with   their   Croner   Guide.   Those   left   over   are then   deemed   not   to   fit   and   are   nominated   for   redundancy.      There   is   an   ‘appeals   process’   usually   taking   the   form   of   a meeting between the outgoing employee and senior manager.
Again,   to   any   CEO   this   scheme   also   seems   fair.      However,   unbelievably   this   profiling in   my   opinion   has   the   scope   for   even   more   corrupt   practices   than   the   first.      It   has been   known   for   senior   managers   to   use   this   process   in   reverse   and   first   profile   their workforce   negatively   grouping   the   staff   they   want   to   off   load.   The   remaining   staff they    want    to    keep    are    then    grouped    into    separate    skill    sets.        Finally,    these unscrupulous   managers   may   purposefully   create   fictitious   company   skill   sets   which match the staff they want to keep and exclude the off-load group. 
Re-train or Redundant The   process   of   creating   the   workforce   profile   before   a   company’s   actual   long-term   skill   needs   could   be   used   to circumvent    any    redundancy    and    diversity    legislation    problems    by    identifying    the    ‘unwanted’    member    of    staff’s background   in   advance.      In   the   absence   of   union   representation,   it   would   be   difficult   for   the   individual   to   prove   any wrong   doing   by   a   company   in   either   of   the   above   scenarios.      Someone   who   values   their   career   may   not   even   want   to have on record that they challenged such a situation whether the outcome was successful or not. 
So,   the   fresh-faced   manager/director   reports   to   the   Board   or,   say,   in   the   case of   local   government,   the   Councillors.     They   start   with   a   meeting   in   which   they inevitably   give   a   Power   Point   presentation   of   figures   and   their   plans.   They show   how   after   decades   of   steady   business   growth   they   can   improve   on   the status   quo   and   make   savings   at   the   same   time.   They   talk   of   reorganisations which is a euphemism for redundancies.
The   first   is   the   ‘re-apply   for   your   job’   redundancy   scheme.      To   any   business   CEO   this   seems   a   fair   method   of selection   to   ensure   the   company   has   the   required   expertise   for   the   future.      However,   what   is   very   unfair   is   the   pre- amble   to   the   job   interviews.     Although   a   staff   member   has   been   doing   a   job   successfully   and   efficiently   for   20   or   30 years   updating   their   skills   over   time,   they   may   now   be   asked   to   go   for   an   initial   job   assessment.      Quite   often   in   this assessment   unsuccessful   re-applicants   are   told   to   not   to   bother   applying   for   interview!      But   we   all   thought   they were re-applying for the job they were already doing!
Most   importantly   is   keeping   up   to   date   with   best   practice   and   health   and   safety.   However,   there   are   other   spin-offs, including: - Communication with peers and management - Community Involvement within the business sector - Respectfulness of colleagues from a diversity of backgrounds - Team building - Pride in work contributing to promotion of brand image
Familiar?      Yes,   but   to   date   most   companies   prefer   to   not   to   invest   in   apprenticeships   and   instead   spend   enormous sums   of   money   on   consultants   who   make   a   speciality   of   each   of   the   above   ‘spin-off’   disciplines.         Not   only   do companies   have   this   added   expense,   they   are   then   likely   to   employ   a   new   director   to   oversee   this   new   overhead expense of the business.  Pride and respect comes from within.
For   example,   in   the   1970’s   the   British   Gas   (BG)   engineer   used   to   service   our boiler.   It   was   the   same   person   for   several   years   who   visited,   regularly   bringing an   apprentice   with   him.   The   engineer   knew   our   boiler   and,   if   there   was   a problem   and   there   was   no   spare   part   on   his   van,   he   popped   down   to   the   local depot solved the issue, then returned immediately to complete the job. The   local   BG   depot   closed   around   the   1980s.      The   engineers   now   operate   on a   call-out   system   by   region.      Once   they   complete   a   job,   they   log   into   the system   to   be   told   the   address   of   the   next   job.   They   can   drive   several   miles between   one   call   and   the   next.      In   my   experience,   if   they   do   not   have   a   spare part   on   their   van,   they   have   to   order   it   from   a   plumbing   supply   centre   and make a second appointment for delivery and a third for an engineer’s visit.  Not   what   one   would   call   good   customer   service,   or   putting   the   customer   first.     One   seldom   sees   the   same   engineer   from   visit   to   visit   and   only   occasionally with an apprentice. In   the   case   of   BG,   what   was   once   an   opportunity   for   an   apprentice   engineer gain   local   knowledge   and   experience   involvement   with   the   community,   by comparison   to   the   past,   seems   to   have   turned   into   a   short   visit   by   a   mobile technician/driver.
Local   experience   and   knowledge   have   given   way   to   larger   regional   operations.      What   chance   does   an   apprentice have in learning about their surroundings and interacting with their clients. 
Pride and Respect When   Fred   Dibnah   said,   “There’s   a   lot   to   be   said   for   the   olden   days and    how    they    did    things    …”    I    believe    he    wasn’t    referring    to    best practice   and   safety.      He   was   referring   to   technique,   ability   to   solve problems,    taking    a    pride    in    what    you    do    and,    above    all,    being respected for it.
Vickers Armstong and Welligton Bomber
                  Home Dialysis -1965       with Cambridge Instrument monitors
Re-applying for your Job On   the   flip   side   of   the   coin   one   encounters   other   organisations   that   do   not   value   experience   and,   furthermore, can have some unbelievable schemes to off-load staff.
Apart   from   the   obvious   benefits   of   apprenticeships   to   both   employee   and   company whilst    ‘earning    and    learning’    there    are    also    hidden    benefits    over    classroom courses alone.
The Days of Yore