The Tale of the Fish and the Bicycle – Part 2
[In Part 1 we heard about how Frank the fish had started working for a rival company. We pick up the story as he goes home to tell his wife about his pending transfer to the cyclists’ team]
‘You can’t be serious Frank!!’ His wife was crying; she was frustrated and scared. Her job at the farm had gone and she was only able to get a few hours’ work filling in at another farm.
‘How are you going to ride a bicycle?? And not just ride it, but ride it fast? What about all the things you’ve told me about the other cyclists. How they don’t like to spend time with the customers?? You’ll never be able to do it. You’ll have to try and get your old job back’
‘I can’t‘ said Frank ‘I saw one of the old guys after work. They’ve trained up a new fish and he seems to be doing well. They don’t need anyone else. Let me give it a go…it may be good for me. Maybe I can ride a bicycle after all. The HR manager said they’d give me all the help I need over the next three months…’
‘THREE MONTHS!‘ his wife shouted ‘You’ll never master it in three months‘.
‘Well that’s the time they’ve given me. I’m not thinking about what would happen after that. Met my cycling coach today, he told me it was all in my mind. That if I really put all my positive energy into thinking like a cyclist it would happen…’
It was a harsh autumn on the Island. Hard enough for the regular cyclists who were used to bad weather, but for a fish it was almost impossible.
Frank tried. He tried very hard. He had to change coach after a few weeks as the original one got himself a better assignment with Frank’s old company coaching the fish in customer engagement techniques. He put in a good word for Frank but that door was closed.
Frank’s new coach believed that anyone could achieve anything and spent ages getting Frank to concentrate on the tyres going round. When that didn’t work he got him to focus on the people at the end of the journey ‘if you feel their joy at seeing you it will inspire you‘ he used to say.
But it was all to no avail. The end of Frank’s three months came and he went to see the Regional Director and the HR Manager. They explained to Frank that they had given him all the support that they could but that he hadn’t been able to meet his target to be an operational cyclist. He argued his case that he had met his targets when he was swimming but they said that wasn’t relevant to this assessment meeting.
‘It’s only four weeks to Christmas‘ he pleaded ‘the busiest time for you. Let me deliver parcels by river. I’ll swim night and day; I won’t stop to talk to the customers. Just let me show what I can do for you‘.
They told him to wait outside whilst they had a short meeting but at the end of it they told him that his position was terminated. It seems that there were also cultural issues; that he didn’t really seem to fit in with the other cyclists.
‘We’ve invested enough time and money trying to get you up to speed here Frank‘ said the Regional Director ‘we’ve been more than fair to you’
Frank hadn’t realised that because his termination was down to poor performance then his notice period was only 1 week. He hadn’t really read the contract before he joined as the Regional Director had been so persuasive about his vision for a two tier offering. The clause about 3 months’ notice for his role at the premium service, but if that was closed his contract would revert to a traditional cyclists contract had passed him by.
He promised his wife he would move boulder and driftwood to get a new position. He knew that he would have to get a job on the adjacent Island but at least there was work there. Some new village communities had been built and they had just expanded the Port. There were also many more delivery companies than on his own Island.
‘I don’t understand. You were a swimmer but then you decided to become a cyclist. Why?’ The recruitment consultant who was interviewing Frank seemed very perplexed. Frank had already explained twice about how Parcels4U had changed their business model, and how he wanted to show he was a fighter, a resourceful fish who could overcome any challenge (surely exactly what a new employer would want, he thought) but the recruiter still didn’t seem to get it.
‘I’ve got jobs for swimmers but they want people who are swimming at the moment, not slow cyclists who want to swim again’ he said.
‘Can’t you just forget the last few months and explain that I was the top delivery operative at my previous company. That I was headhunted by Parcels4U to head up their new premium service but that they changed their business model and only had a job for a cyclist’ Frank was getting exasperated. This was the fourth of fifth recruiter interview that he had sat through this week and they all went the same way.
‘Look Frank, I’ll try to explain. It’s a Catch 22 type thing. Most employers are interested in what you’ve been doing most recently, and for you that’s cycling. To get round that we have to say that you tried it as something different but you really want to swim. And they will say to me – Why? Why would a fish want to try to ride a bicycle? If I say that the company made you then they would want to know why you didn’t just leave. If I say that you wanted to take on the challenge then it looks like you wanted to try something new so your commitment to swimming is in question. It’s a very competitive market out there. They want either swimmers or cyclists and you’re, well…you’re kind of in the middle now. Do you understand?’
No, Frank didn’t understand. He couldn’t understand. He was the number one delivery fish on the Island and less than 6 months later he’s a has been. Washed out. Of use to no-one.
‘Why don’t you freelance?’ said the recruiter in a Eureka moment ‘I may be able to get a client interested in you on a pay as you swim basis’.
Frank was unsure but went for the interview. He got on very well with the interviewer, who happened to know one or two fishes from Frank’s old company. He said that he knew of Frank’s reputation and he felt sure that there was room for someone of Frank’s experience in the company. He even talked about giving Frank a month’s trial after which he would take him on permanently, not on a freelance basis. He said that he would speak to HR and get back to Frank the next day.
But the next day became the next week, and Frank found himself contacting the recruiter every day but was unable to ever get through.
And then he heard from the company. The HR Director wanted to meet Frank. The original interviewer said that he felt it should be a formality but that the HR Director would need to be convinced that Frank was focused on swimming and that he hadn’t tried cycling because he had lost his swimming mojo. It was important to the company that every hire was effective.
By it was now almost Christmas and the interview wouldn’t be taking place until the New Year.
Frank and his wife talked to their children that night and explained that there wouldn’t be any Christmas presents this year, but that if Frank got his new job then there would be New Year presents. The children understood. They had taken it well and had been making things at school to help cheer Frank up. He really liked the Christmas card they made him and their attempt at painting a picture of him holding a ‘Delivery Operative of the Month’ award like he used to win at his old company.
The fishes faced an uncertain few months but were drawing strength from their friends and family who had rallied round and showed support. Some of Frank’s old customers, who really missed his regular visits, had started a collection and they had bought him and his wife a Christmas hamper.
So will Frank be able to overcome objections and prejudices, show that he is a focused delivery operative who can add great value to a new company, and be able to buy his children New Year presents?
That, dear readers who earn a living in HR and Recruitment, is for you to decide……