Scanning media coverage on demise of Carillion, we have, rightly seen scrutiny of the execs that caused this shamble and the political fallout. There has been some focus on the impact on ordinary working people but for the media this is a bigger story. I am writing this with not much distance between the announcement, so maybe anger is still the prominent emotion. But I feel it is right to vent this for my own reasons but really for the many people affected, who are less fortunate than me.
Like the previous corporate disasters (I am thinking of the banking crisis) the damage, financial, emotional and personal is long lasting and we are yet to really see the havoc that will be caused to employees, the supply chain and pensioners. The SMEs that politicians like to claim as the heartbeat of the nation have been sold down the river, as they always are at the first sign of trouble, with consequences yet unknown but far reaching. For all involved the impact is emotional, financial and personal.
Emotional why? Thousands of people employed have been committed to their customers and colleagues (this was the one amazing characteristic of Carillion), in spite of heavily controlling and contradictory behaviour at the top. A schizophrenic approach to leadership, preaching empowerment but denying responsibility, whilst not being open about the real challenges the business is facing, grinds away inside.
The financial bit is fairly obvious. There are thousands of people this week who through no fault of their own, will be little more uncertain, despite government assurances and again face the prospect of more change through TUPE not of their choosing. Once again a big company will give them a shiny brochure (uniform, if they are lucky) and spin a line about values whilst trying chip away at working conditions and benefits. More importantly, the long list of suppliers who will never see the money they were owed. The consequences of this are long reaching. Again, the contradiction of the companies’ stated values and the way suppliers were treated, is probably not unusual but something that Corporate Responsibility and governance codes need to cover in future. Carillion was very prominent in promoting CSR credentials but let down suppliers on a systemic basis. No one was was accountable…
Much of this will come under scrutiny over the coming weeks and months. What changes happen are yet unknown but it once again shines a light on governance, behaviour and structure of corporate organisations.
On a personal level there is sadness for a team that achieved huge amounts in a relatively short period of time, were recognised externally for various programmes. I first hand saw many people grow in skill, capability and in confidence, both as Recruiters and as people. The efforts made professionally and as volunteers in their communities is something to be proud of. At times it was hard work, frustrating but overwhelmingly positive. I would like to thank everyone in my team for their patience and dedication. I am sure there are many managers across the business who feel the same about their teams and some of the great client work and real innovation driven at the front line.
I think it is right to express disappointment,anger and frustration at those who perhaps because of the wrong incentives, perhaps because egos were over inflated or maybe even fear has left many thousands of people more insecure and disrupted their jobs, careers and retirement. Actions that were irresponsible implemented by executives but on the watch of the ‘great and the good’ (non execs) who we all thought are their to safeguard stakeholders. I guess humility and shame are no longer fashionable in corporate life as we have seen in the collapse of BHS, the banks and now Carillion.
Maybe its fair to say that these executives never saw those working in the company, nor the supply chain as important stakeholders. Perhaps there are lessons here about how we want to run corporate life in the 21st Century?
I save it for the history writers to describe the actions of those who were responsible, and maybe leave it for them to reflect on the damage they have done….