Yesterday brought a sudden summons to the chief executive’s office.
“HR, answer me this,” he said as I shifted uncomfortably on the secretary’s chair at the far end of his laminate-effect power desk. “Who was John Logie Baird?”
Easy, I thought. “He was that boffin who invented television.”
“And Alexander Fleming?”
“He discovered penicillin.”
“And Tim Berners-Lee?”
“Didn’t he invent the bagless vacuum cleaner?”
“No, HR. That was James Dyson.”
“Now,” continued the CEO, “what do those people have in common?
“Well, none of them have worked here,” I replied.
“I know that HR – that’s what worries me,” he said. “The answer I wanted was that they were all innovators. They swam against the tide. They had drive. They did things differently. They created industries. They had the ‘I-stuff’. Where is our ‘I-stuff’?”
“That’s the point of our diversity policy,” I told him. “We created it precisely to help us recruit a wider range of people. Our talent pool is deeper than ever.”
“Is it?” he asked. “Our workforce is now more ethnically-diverse and there are more ladies about the place. But scratch below the surface, and they are all the same – process bunnies obsessed with reality TV.
“We need people with minds of their own, not Stepford staff who agree with everything I say. Get it sorted, HR.”
Not a very pleasant experience, I can tell you.
But needs must, and I’ve convened a meeting of our recruitment policy team. And there’s just the one item on the agenda: who on earth is this Berners-Lee bloke?