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The effects on business of rising unemployment Peter Savage looks at the challenges faced by employees new and old, and business owners, in times of rising unemployment W hen I was asked to write this article I was intrigued about the angle to take as the economic argument points to one clinical fact: in austere times, the power lies with the employer. In a poor economy with high unemployment, jobs become unstable and competition for them increases; this pushes down the cost of employment and shifts the balance of power away from the employee. What does this mean, in practice, to you and me who have already made it to broadcast street – or for people trying to get onto the broadcast ladder? To pay or not to pay? I recently asked around Soho on behalf of a couple of people looking to get into television – and, boy, is it tough. Flipping the emphasis of control over to the employer means that wages fall and this is something we, as a company, have seen in the last few months, especially with the latest crop of school and university leavers. People are desperate to get onto the employment ladder and with more competition for fewer jobs, wages for new starters have dropped by about 20 per cent since this time last year. What has also happened, and this is very much government-endorsed, is the growth of internship-style employment. Companies, and it isn’t only large blue chip businesses, have so many applications that they can ask potential employees to work unpaid for a probationary period. I heard recently of a large software company that took on new people, asking them to work free of charge for six months during which they could apply for jobs, within the company, 44 | TV-BAY MAGAZINE is good news for your employees so be sure to tell them if you have successes, or even if things are ticking over. It will give them a much-needed feeling of security and encourages enthusiasm. as they came up. If after six months they had not been taken on, they were, to use a horrible but pertinent cliché, let go. Start small So, what advice would I give to people trying to get into the broadcast industry at the moment? The reality is that you do have to make big compromises to start building a CV: • Use whatever networks you can to help you get your foot in the door ; indeed, put time into building a network from the people you meet as you job hunt; • Remember that you have to start somewhere so, in this Olympic year, there will be a lot of small two week or three week jobs going that will help you start your CV; • Take a job as a runner – yes, it is cheap labour but it gets you into the industry; • Take an internship – if it is all you can find; • Be prepared to cadge a bed on a friend’s sofa or floor – your first step on the ladder might not pay enough to cover your living costs. It was the same for me when I started out in the 1980s (not that my attitude is that because I had to do this, so should you; it is the current market now and it was the current market then; the trick is to make something of it); What should employers do? On the flip side of this, as an employer in hard times, you might find that employees want safety, rather than to move on. So, as long as they are the right people for the jobs, it is always sensible to make sure you communicate any good news you have to them. As we know, good news isn’t good news in the mind of broadcasters – rarely do you hear that a company is doing well. But it Review often: it is important for all employees, good or bad. There is nothing better than getting a regular good review from your boss; equally, you need to review a poorer-performing member of staff to encourage them to improve. Many managers shy away from tackling underperforming staff, hoping that the problem will go away. But in tricky times people do not just up and leave secure employment.. Remember the training conundrum: if you train your staff they might leave … if you don’t train them, they might stay. Good management means identifying underperforming people and helping them work at peak performance. Which brings me to the myth that reviews are about pay. They are not; they are about tracking how staff are performing. Yes, the outcome of a performance review is relevant to the outcome of a salary review but the salary review should never be driven by the performance review. Give your staff a clear explanation of the review process so their expectations aren’t raised – which, in turn, makes it easier for you. Yes, as always, communication is key . Protect your interests Finally, there is a common misconception that staffing and employment issues are expensive. They are if you get it wrong – but not if you get it right. A client gave us a very good tip and suggested that we join the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB). It’s a non-profit-making group that promotes and protects the interests of self-employed people and owners of small businesses – which encompasses the majority of broadcast s industry. Membership (from £150 for sole traders) provides you with free legal and tax advice, and other benefits. I recommend it: http://www.fsb.org.uk If you would like strategic advice on managing your business in tough times, do email me on peter.savage@azule.co.uk and/or write to the TV Bay editor. For more information about us, or to read other articles in this series, look at our website: www.azule.co.uk.