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If the grass looks greener, beware the brown patches

Posted by Alfie McDonald on February 9th 2022

The last three years (and in particular, the last 20 months) have been full-on at BCN Group. Thanks to some excellent testimonials from existing customers, who we’ve helped transform digitally, we’ve won some sizable new accounts, trebling our revenue from £10m to £30m and growing our team from 35 to 200. While we love to celebrate BCN’s stunning growth and the fantastic team behind it, it’s also brought some major challenges. Not least, recruitment. 

As we know, the whole IT industry is facing a shortfall. It seems there just aren’t enough engineers, developers, project and service delivery managers, connectivity specialists, support specialists… the list goes on… to go around. As a result, salaries have skyrocketed making retention much, much harder.


The battle for talent

Suffice to say, we’ve tried to get ahead of the curve when it comes to recruitment, but it’s like having a bucket with a hole in it. As we top it up with new talent, we lose a bunch out the side, and it’s going to be tricky to plug the hole as long as people are being enticed with crazy money to move elsewhere. So what can we do?

Well, in this battle for talent, I think our company only really has two options. First, to counter offers where we can and, second, highlight the one thing I believe we do offer that very few other companies can – a genuine opportunity to build careers.


How green is the grass, really?

In my experience, the grass often looks greener on the other side, but once you’re there you start noticing the discolouration and the bare patches. Sure, the financial rewards may distract for a while, but if you’re not happy doing what you’re doing, or you move to a role less suited to your skills, you’re going to struggle. So what else, besides the salary and benefits package you receive, is important? Well, I think there are three key questions to ask yourself before you join a new company. In no particular order, and as they come to mind, these are:


Is it a fun place to work?

You spend more time at work than you probably do with your friends and family. So it’s really important you enjoy the workplace vibe and feel you can have a bit of fun. Otherwise, really, what’s the point? I’m not saying it’s all 9-5 wall-to-wall hilarity every day at BCN, but it’s definitely not the serious-minded, humourless, and unsmiling place many tech companies can be. A fun, happy, and relaxed workplace helps the time pass, brings people together, and helps dissipate any tension in what can sometimes be a high-pressure environment. So while we definitely take what we do for our customers seriously, we definitely don’t take ourselves too seriously. In my 25+ year career, a happy workplace means happy colleagues means happy clients, which, ultimately, means a more successful business.

Where will opportunity knock?

To me, a job opportunity isn’t necessarily moving from one business to another business or, in fact, from one role to another within a business. It’s about being constantly challenged to keep your brain active, your mind interested, and your soul excited. When I wake up in the morning, I like to feel I can’t wait to get to work to solve a problem or take on a new challenge. But if people feel like they’re on the set of Groundhog Day, their talents are going to waste, or they’re not being given the opportunities they deserve, then chances are, they’re working in the wrong company.

Whether I’m recruiting for apprentices or more seasoned hires, I like to say, in my own cheesy way, that at BCN you’ve not got a job, you’ve got a career. We have so many opportunities across the Group for people that push themselves and deliver. Often, this has meant people adjusting or radically changing their career trajectory because they’ve found a new direction for their talents they previously hadn’t thought of (more on that later). A direction that, ultimately, has made them happier and more successful in their work.


Will your efforts be noticed?

Few things are more demotivating than putting in the hard yards and it going, at best, unrecognised or, at worst, unnoticed. This is a particular bugbear of mine and something our senior leadership team takes great pains to get right. We want to recognise and celebrate people for doing a good job – and not just for the big things. It’s a little thing, but once a month our Head of Operations, Myles, publishes all the positive comments we’ve received about team members from customers and colleagues. These are sent to the whole business, so if you are mentioned, I’m afraid there’s nowhere to hide.


The interview that never ends

Besides those three questions, my only other bit of advice is that once you’ve got a job, imagine you’re on a permanent interview. So don’t get comfortable, keep doing all you can to deliver, deliver, deliver because people will notice. I cite myself as an example. The opportunities I’ve been given throughout my career have happened because my higher-uppers knew I always delivered what I said I would. It’s the same at BCN.

Take my colleague Raj, for example. In three years, Raj went from Apprentice to Engineer to Pod Leader – a junior management position – and is now Service Continuity Manager, a Group-level role. He’s there because when we restructured the business and created a Service Continuity team, he was the one person we thought of to run it. Why? Because besides his other talents, he’s delivered in every single role we’ve given him.

Drew is another good example. He joined as a Tier 1 Support Engineer, progressed to Tier 2, and was all set to follow a technical career path when a Pod Leader role came up. He took to it brilliantly, then when the business restructured we looked internally for a Service Desk Manager, and Drew jumped out as the obvious choice.

Then there’s Shaun. He started with us in Tier 1 Support, before becoming a Pod Leader, then Support Manager, then finally Account Manager in a completely different business department. The point to make here is that when opportunities arise in BCN, we first look to the people in the company with a track record of delivering – even if they have seemingly unrelated skills or experience.


Interaction before transaction, every time

Of course, a business like ours always needs plenty of high-caliber technical people, but we also need “people people”. The ones rating highly for soft skills, who can build a rapport and a genuine relationship with a customer – the ones whose customer interactions – no matter how brief or challenging – feel like conversations, not transactions. In our experience, if you’ve taken the time to develop deeper, more meaningful customer relationships, then if something does go wrong, we’re more likely to have some credit in the Bank of Forgiveness.

So we’re always on the hunt for people with good people skills, especially in Support Desk and Professional Services roles.

A case in point is my colleague Catherine, who recently joined us as a Pod Leader from Sainsbury’s where she ran the IT Service Desk. At the interview, Catherine’s communication skills and ability to connect and interact with those around her really stood out. And she’s thrived in the six or so months she’s been here. In fact, she’s already become something of a mentor to several junior people in the business.


Last word

If you know anyone looking for a career in IT, especially in support desk and professional services, please do tag them in the comments. We’re looking for people at all levels to join our team. And when people ask me what makes for a great job in tech, my truthful answer has always been the same: a career at BCN.

Want to see what roles we’ve got going at the moment? Check them out

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