David Parkin ponders the future of work and plays LinkedIn bingo

HANDS up if you are a fan of Dolly Parton?

When I asked that question at an event I was hosting this week the only person who put their hand up was the barman.

The audience of entrepreneurs, finance directors and professionals from the legal and financial sectors weren’t going to admit that they liked the Queen of Country – or perhaps they were a bit shocked by the question.

Considering they were attending a panel discussion called The Future of Work I suppose they had a right to be surprised.

I mentioned Dolly Parton because I said she was wrong – work is no longer about 9 to 5.

Now I know Dolly’s got her knockers, but I’ve been a fan for years.



Don’t groan, if I hadn’t said that, you’d have asked me why I didn’t say it.

Well I enjoyed it.

Chatting to the barman after the event, he said he didn’t just admire Dolly for her music, but her business acumen too and said there was a very good podcast about it.

It’s amazing what you learn.

The event was held by financial recruitment firm Woodrow Mercer Finance at the Northern Monk Brewery in historic Holbeck in Leeds.

This is the fourth event we have helped create and run for the firm.

They are great to deal with – probably because they don’t act like usual recruiters.

You know the type – cocky, loquacious and only interested in placing candidates, whether they are right for the job or not.

Woodrow Mercer Finance is different.

Run by finance directors, their approach is all about building long-term relationships.

And when it comes to their events, they make it less about them and more about creating something engaging and interesting and perhaps why they get such a good turn out.

When I sat down with James Roach and Neil Muffitt from Woodrow Mercer to talk about the subject for their latest event, we looked at the previous subjects which had covered cycling, food and drink and leisure.

And they said: “We might have to talk about work this time!”

So we decided to look at the Future of Work.

That is an area of working life where everything has changed and as far as the world of work is concerned, things show no sign of slowing down.

Whether it is flexible working hours, different working environments, how companies and their people are working has changed and the only thing we know for sure is that the way people work will change further.

We were very fortunate to be joined by a very talented and experienced panel of experts at the event to discuss this subject.

Natasha Sayce Zelem is head of technology at Sky for Digital Service at Sky.

Based at the group’s Leeds Dock campus her “tribe”, as they like to be called, are responsible for supporting Sky’s customer service platform, using the latest technologies to allow customers to use Sky’s products easily. 

A self-confessed technology geek, Natasha has worked with the BBC, ITV, O2 Telefonica and at Sky was part of the team that developed Sky Q and has been named one of the UK’s top 100 women working in technology.

 Claire Salter is head of employee relations and policy at Arla Foods

She oversees employee relations in the UK, as well as contributing to the Arla Foods global employee relations strategy.

Interestingly she said her flexible approach to working hours and environment has been shaped by having three young daughters – all with busy social calendars!

“They have much more interesting lives than me!” she told the audience.

Phil Parkinson is finance director at Rolf C Hagen Inc.

Canadian-owned and of German origin, the company is a pet products supplier which is based in Castleford in the UK and sells everything from fishtanks to Nerf guns for dogs.

I knew what he was talking about because I bought my sister’s dog one for Christmas.

It is an entertaining way alternative to throwing a ball for your dog – load it into a plastic gun and fire it off across the field.

Phil said he hoped I would become a repeat customer.

I said definitely, I fancied having two Nerf guns and playing the part of a Wild West gunslinger on my dog walks.

With my imagination it wouldn’t take long to create that vision – you’d just have to ignore the anorak, wellies and pocketful of poo bags.

Phil has worked for 25 years in finance, strategy and HR for the likes of Aviva, Premier Farnell and the Land Securities property group.

He is currently an active member of not for profit business support organisation “Be The Business” and the Bank of England decision maker panel.

He told the audience that 10 years ago his favorite author was Tom Peters.

But now, with three children in their teens and early twenties and a vastly changed world he says  his reading has switched more to sociology and emotional intelligence.

Rebecca Aberdein is human resources director atTransUnion UK.

You might not have heard of the firm because it is a US group that only arrived in this country in 2018.

It bought Leeds-based Callcredit, one of the UK’s largest credit reference agencies.

I told her I remembered the early days of Callcredit, when it was set up within what was then called Skipton Information Group by Skipton Building Society under the late John Goodfellow, a gruff, chain-smoking Scotsman.

It rolled a number of businesses into SIG including GMAP, a successful University of Leeds spin-out started by geography professor Martin Clarke.

Rebecca said she thought I might know more about the background to the company she works for than she did.

I might have got Martin an order for the book he is currently writing recounting the GMAP story.

TransUnion is a global information and insights company and its UK business operates across .sectors including finance, retail, telecommunications, utilities, gaming, government and insurance.

Our final panellist was Tim Hyde CEO and founder of TWH Media – and the owner of the best trainers in the room at the event.

To be fair, they were probably the only pair of the trainers in the room but they were very impressive.

For a guy under 25, Tim has an impressive background as an award-winning marketer who specialises in social media and brand strategy.

He has pioneered the top nine most engaged live streams, by a brand, ever and has created and executed marketing plans for six and seven figure crowdfunding raises.

Having worked at TheLADbible – he was its 11th employee – and Social Chain, Tim has managed some of the biggest social media communities on the planet and leveraged these channels to engage young people and influence their purchase decisions.

I mentioned that Tim has spoken in front of the likes of ASICS, Eurosport, Apple Music and Unicef as well as cage fighting championship organisation UFC – which I told him might be good experience for dealing with our audience at the event.

All the panellists were knowledgeable, good humoured and, importantly, had opinions to share.

They all work in very different environments too.

The focus now might be all about flexible working, working from home, choosing what hours you want to work, but when you are running dairies and production facilities like Arla, Claire said that isn’t an option for all of its many thousands of employees.

She said that Arla is “still on a journey” when it comes to flexible working.

Phil said if they were on a journey, “we are still in the camping shop”.

His firm work 9am to 5pm (4pm on a Friday) and all staff are advised to leave their laptops in the office rather than take them home in the evening.

All of the panel agreed that there is a positive impact from shifting the focus to output rather than input.

And all of them are positive about how the changing approach to work will provide improvements for both companies and their employees.

There was some discussion about the current coronavirus outbreak.

But it is such a changing situation on a daily basis it is difficult for employers to make hard and fast rules.

I’m told that several banks have told their bank managers not to attend meetings and events.

Just think of all those interesting conversations we are missing out on.


I HAVE a new game I like to play.

It’s called LinkedIn Bingo.

It is where you look at your invitations to connect on LinkedIn and then guess how long it will take for them to send you a sales message after you’ve connected with them.

Some can be quite creative in the way they prospect for work.

Others are a bit more agricultural about it.

Take the message I had last week from someone I had connected with minutes before.

Hi David,

Thank you for connecting with me.

Can I ask, what is the quality of lighting in your workplace?



I have to say the quality of lighting wasn’t that great in the office as I turned off the lights and had a lie down after reading that.

I’ve currently got one pending from a bloke at a content marketing company in New York who tells me he wants to discuss two things:

++ possibly getting work projects that you can help on

++ asking your feedback on my new tool that can help you get higher-paying projects

I think I’ll avoid the tool.

Have a great weekend.

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