We're not all doomed!

By Charles Cotton, CIPD Public Policy Adviser - Reward

Reading Jeff Randall’s comments about the CIPD being a pedlar of doom last week and the Armageddon Alliance message being pure Dad’s Army: “we’re all doomed!” made me reflect on that popular TV show.

Watching the programme back in the 1980s I believe that we were then encouraged to laugh at the characters. Here was a bunch of amateur soldiers made up of those who were too young, old, or ill to fight in the great conflict. They would be certainly no match if the professional might of the Wehramcht coupled with the ruthless ideology of Nazism managed to cross the English Channel.

We were encouraged to snicker at the sight and exploits of this bunch of misfits thrown together by the war and to chortle at the likes of Sergeant Wilson, Captain Mainwaring and Lance-Corporal Jones, examples of all that was wrong with British society and industry, amateurish, poorly led, ill-equipped, class-riddled, I could go on.

Twenty years on and I think most viewers are more sympathetic and laugh with the characters and their antics than at them. Demographic changes and low pension investment returns could mean that our workplaces will start to resemble the Platoon with more workers staying on past the state pension age. Employers should start to consider how they can accommodate this shift. It is also noteworthy that in Dad’s Army there was at least one youngster, which is unusual in many workplaces today. Again, as we are encouraged to employ both young and older workers, lessons on how this should, or should not, be done can be gained from this TV series.

Similarly, the sight of all these individuals from different backgrounds volunteering their time and coming together for the common good illuminates a period of time when indeed we were all in this together and the team tried to ensure that no one got left behind. The upper-class, privately-educated Wilson now no longer seems such a museum piece, though perhaps his noblesse oblige does.

Even Mannering, whose hidebound beliefs were often a source of derision, may now be seen more positively in light of the antics of some of his successors in the Banking sector. It is unlikely that he would have been involved in Libor manipulation or PPI mis selling. We may even see a return to previous reward practices where most peoples’ earnings came from base pay and bonuses were expressed as a percentage rather than as a multiple of salary. That customer or client service becomes more important as a factor in reward as does taking a longer term perspective. Leadership could be seen as less individualistic and heroic and more facilitative and collaborative

What makes for a compelling TV series is that these characters are trapped by circumstances largely beyond their control. We should start to recognise the UK economy (or for that matter, the world economy) is going to take longer to get out of its current troubles than we all hope and that the current tough times may be simply the new normal for at least the next few years. Once we admit this then we should adapt our people management practices accordingly. But we must never lose sight that this new normal will in time change and, rather like the characters in the programme, by working together we can try and make a brighter future.

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