Thursday, August 03, 2006

All Hope Abandon Ye Who Enter Here

That's the original English rendition of Dante's Latin rendering of what was or perhaps is inscribed at the entrance to Hell. When I started this post I was going to call it The Penny Has Dropped, but I've had time for reflection and gathered further information.

Our head of greengrocery (HOG) has left for a more senior job in a smaller store, after giving us nine years as girl and woman. She's bright but not well educated. She's energetic, motivated and will probably do very well. Okay, she's a total lick-arse too, but kudos; she's got what she was aiming for. There were tears when she signed off on her last shift.

We've also lost the no. 2 on the dairy/chilled goods department in the last week - he's off to become a web designer.

The young guy who's recently been filling the soft drinks shelves has been offered the role of HOG. Now this morning this is what I went on to say: "and been generally useful, always willing to do anything asked of him and almost inevitably getting done what's asked of him provided sufficiently detailed instructions are given... cheerfully, promptly and willingly."

I do love the guy to bits (in an entirely platonic way); I admire his persistence and his courage in overcoming certain obstacles to hold down a full time job and establish himself as one of the most highly valued members of our team. I do believe that with appropriate training and support he can take on more and more responsibility with time.

But... and the big but(t) in this isn't mine: the young guy in question has what might be called 'learning difficulties'. They're not glaringly obvious until you look very closely and spot what he avoids. So while this morning I was going to reflect on how great the challenge he faces given the paucity of training he's been offered, the brevity of the 'hand over' and the total absence of potential support within the group of staff he'll inherit ... I now have to say that the future of our greengrocery department: ordering, staff cover and all, has been placed in the hands of someone who can't read well enough to be trusted to complete the Incoming Goods Book which is the log of everything entering the store. He simply can't read well enough to cope with the demands of that task, and in all honesty I can't see how he could possibly cope with what he's now being asked to do.

No-one will be happier than me if I'm proved wrong. If by some miracle real support from above emerges that will be a godsend and it is just possible that the Lads who work shifts in the department will actually turn out to be supportive. I wish him all the best and I'll be furious with all the appropriate people if this hastily knocked together experiment fails.

In the mean time the departure of this young man to pastures new has created a vacancy in the soft-drinks-filling-department. The Bulldog offered those 'hours' to one of the young lads who's recently shown a degree of real willing. Initially he said yes, then he said no, then he said yes, but ... I still don't know where we stand except that next Sunday he'll be working on the Dairy/Chilled goods section to cover for the No.2 in that department who, as noted earlier, as scarpered.

Now, to the reason for the previous choice of title: The newest member of the management team has had an epiphany: she's discovered the downside of our relentless pursuit of flexibility through part-time working and shift-based contracts of employment.

We're not an option for someone who actually is driven and motivated and willing to work full time. There are people out there who want the responsibility and the remuneration of full time work and will settle for us and what we offer only until what they really want comes along.

Partly this arose from her experience in attempting to get some kind of commitment over the soft drinks 'role' but partly it came from a subsequent interview with someone who to all intents and purposes drifted in with the expectation of being taken on by us to do 'oh, a couple of hours here and a few hours there, to top up what I'm earning in my other job'. Oh, yes? This young woman's mind-set became apparent when she took a look at the application form she was asked to complete (name and other personal details, education and work experience) and wanted to know 'if this was really necessary?"

We were interviewing her in the first place because all the choicer prospects on our books had already secured a better offer. We didn't offer her a job, though.

I'd love to say otherwise but don't rely on us for your salad ingredients in the next few weeks.


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