torsdag 18. oktober 2012

The Price of Comradeship in Norway

The personal connection and loyalty of friendship, and even just working-relationship, is stronger than internal policy and even serious laws which are  in the Øygard case, there to protect children and make it easier to prosecute offenders.

This has two notable symptoms or rather disabilitating effects on companies and individuals : for the first it leads to " we are good old comrades, and we will fix this without stressing about it" and the related side effect of level of trust placed in comrades to actually fix things. Secondly as in the case above, it means that rules and even laws are there as far as they don't go over the power of personal relationships and respect for long term connections.

It applies to many aspects of life, but expecially unfortunetly personnel policy which is quite lacking or just lip service to the rules and laws when it comes to loyal employees getting their way at the expense of others!

I have been moved to a rather back water job for the moment, same pay and conditions, because of this chummyship. Seen it all too often.

mandag 15. oktober 2012

Avoid Being Had in a Job. Playing Hard Ball in the Norwegian Labour Market

A huge proportion of newly created positions in norway are going to immigrants. Dagens Næringsliv, the FT of the country, quotes over 3 of four going to "invaders".

A lot of them are going to be "had". I have, many of my pals from abroad have. It will continue.

Being had means basically not getting as good a deal as a Norwegian would get, but being conned into thinking it is "par for the course" in terms of pay and conditions.

It means being on contracts, having monkeys dumped on your back ( happens in any country), and runs as far as being moved or sacked so a norwegian can get your job, as has happened to me 2.5 times in 8 years here.

How do you avoid "being had"?

Well it all boils down to being hard nosed and taking it not just to-the-wire, but over it. It starts with interview and job offer stage.

1) Work round recruitment consultants and temp agencies: they will only prolong your rather undesirable period as a temp and reduce your potential earning if you went direct. Firms in general are pretty okay with direct applicaitons while they are using a temp or recruiter bureau.

2) Say at interview that you know the going rate for the job and you would expect that. Find out the going rate for graduates ( between 280 000 and 380k )  and then add about 2.5 % per years experience you have in that field. Add another 10% for a technical college education / apprenticeship earlier in life and another 10% if you have a masters, 20% with a good MBA.

3) Be very clear on what you want in any "possibilities for extension or permanancy": either great experience, no rubbish, but temporary OR something that you will hope becomes permanent. You should not need to temp in Norway for more than 6 months,  in most professions where your qualificaitons and experiences are recognised.

4) Buy time to think about a low offer on a job. Ask to come back to a final discussion on the position and see the location, ask about what tasks they have planned for you. Norwegians are terrible for dumping monkeys off their backs onto temporary immigrants, and that can include dead end projects and dead end sales leads. Balance up though if the experience is worth while,

5) On a low offer, you may want to take an 80% position: sounds contradictory, but then you can use the other day to enjoy yourself, shop around for cheaper stuff you need in life and most of all looking for better paid jobs.

6) anything they promise at interview in respect to future wage reviews, commission on sales, bonuses etc you have to get in writing

7) also in writing, you want to get your right to over time in black and white, over for the terrible abuse of flexitime: hour for hour instead of your deserved overtime and a half or more. This is a legal gray area, the employer can land on the employee as having "chosen flexible Working Hours". If you are required or asked to work more than 8 hours then it is overtime. If you choose to work longer and take out the hours later, it is choice. But be clear: Norway is so expensive that you MUST earn time and a half on weekday overtime. Walk out the door, or say you were hoping to do something with the night, make it damn clear you are taking overtime.

8) Contracts should detail your job description., all you remuneration as above, period of notice and pay review point then.

9) When you get an okay-ish job, yet you know your skills are in at least some demand, then keep on looking for work and applying, so you can do 10

10) If you are p**d off with temping, lower wages that colleagues, less job security, ever changing work tasks etc, then make sure you have a job to move

11) If you want more pay or better condiitons in the job you have, then do 10. Be hard nosed, make sure your other offer (s) is unconditional and walk into firstly your boss with the letter and also have a meeting with Personnel or the MD prearranged to explain your reasons for leaving.

12) play hard ball: wait to do this until the point at which they most need you. If you are a temp on a large project, then wait until it goes critical and is boiling over and threaten to leave if they dont give you a permanent post with your time served to good as trial-period months.

The latter is all because mysteriously they will offer you quite a good deal if you threaten to leave.

A little more background

There are several  sources of trouble for you as an immigrant.

 For the first they have a UK 1950s view point on immigration- a bit of a novelty, we can use you for temporary work, then you can probably disappear back home please.

Secondly there is a very high "on cost" of social security and pension payments for employers. This means that permament employ can evade many and in fact even large institutions have been caught breaking the law. Small companies, as in the UK and other places come out with the old " we cant afford to pay you very much" or " we have a lot of people here who work really hard and earn just a little more than this even" Bullshit. For a graduate with five years experience on shore, ask for 420 000 minimum in business or academia.

Then there is experience: Norwegians go up about 3 to five percent a year and often you will be offered the basement price on a job even if you have the experience or related experience. This is discrimination. Some experience will not be accepted as relevant enough for pay negotiation.

Lastly there is the "rødt, hvitt og blått " glass ceiling. You are very, very unlikely to be promoted to middle management unless you have very special skills and abilities. So think that you are likely to remain at a fairly low level, or as a consultant without real management responsibilities and you need to aim to earn as much as you can because it is so expensive to live here.

onsdag 10. oktober 2012

Let's Be Careful ....your job ?

Immigrants in norway now account for over two thirds of employees out of all newly created positions.

This is for several reasons: one, like me, they accept a lower wage because they do not quite know just how darn expesnive it is to live here and neither do they know that many long term employees have crept up the scale and earn about 20-30% over average despite being in quite lowly positions. Employers can get round tariffs by ignoring education from abroad.

two: employers world over would rather employ someone who is trained elsewhere than bother to train them themselves.

three: because immigrant labour is expendable: it takes up all the positions which Norwegians fly from - the indefinite temp. Norwegians only keep these jobs if it suits them! Otherwise they rightly so look for permanent employ,

But being expendable has come a little too far for me.

And here is the Irony number one:

In the UK if you are going to be treated a little unfairly in terms of a change of department, of responsibilities or just plain "monkey shedding" then usually the boss will be a bit sheepish and sugar coat it and maybe if you squeek even a little with the ends of the mouthy down, then they will negotiate some upside for you. They may well invlove you and break you in gently or even give you the option of trying it out.

 Here, in the socialist paradise, they just land it on you. Bomp, the decision is made that your plum job is going to a Norwegian ( happened three times to me at least that I know of!!)

The second irony is this:

It is me as a man ( and an immigrant) who is being discriminated against in favour for a woman.

This is in my case due purely to rich daddy and toy-out-of-pram politics but in other cases you may know of, and when I have been at a longer distance away in the recruiting process, my line of work is often the area where companies try to make up their female head count and be seen to be promoting into management.

In all three cases where it has DIRECTLY happened to me, I did or would have done a better job and colleagues were suprised I either got sacked, moved or did not get the one position I was more or less ideal for in favour of a pretty little Norwegian age 24 with two years in business and a rich daddy who knew the right people.

Alll three were plum jobs. If you want to hammer nails in -20'C for 150 krone an hour, then you are welcome in norway however!!!!

tirsdag 18. september 2012

My Own ...Personal...Lidl

It has really dawned on me that I am actually a walking version of Lidl - personified in the Norwegian society.

A successful formula elsewhere, I am hitting the buffers of being taken seriously here and am once again being side lined for a Norwegian to get a creamy job like the one I have had until now.

In my line of work they are just looking for something and won't see that other products may fit perfectly.

Just like Lidl, I lack the recognisable, colloquiol brand names on my CV: , Grimstad Høyskole, BI, Statoil and so on...

Lidl was great- huge success in many countries who get the thing about central purchasing and no frill service and shelving. Here in Norway it bommed while over the border in Sweden it seems to be thriving.  Why ? It was full of immigrants and although they did a cow turning on local brands on the shelves, it never got the high spending, once a week fill ups which other countries did. It didn't establish credibility because it was both alien and did not try hard enough to fit in.

Hmm, where do I get the feeling I could be describing myself? 

tirsdag 11. september 2012

Once again I have broken my own rules and taken a job which has, ahem, evolved in a direction I have no wish for it to go, and in effect not just a boring one but also a dead end for me.

It does give me however, 6 months of useful experience: but then all the invoices and VOR's will come in and it will be a nightmare.

Actually this isn't particularily Norsk : if you start a job with poorly defined responsibilities you will continue that way at the mercy of who ever drops the monkey off their back.

However the sly way this has happened is quite norsk: and discriminatory.

So what; it happened because I needed the job and I did not have any power to determine my responsibilities exactly. Now I am all bitter and pissed, but in fact I have to see that I was super lucky to get the experience I have had the last ten months. Usually you would need to haver...erm....more experience to get this! Experience being the quality you acquire the moment exactly after you most needed it.

Well well, put it down to experience and now I will try hard to utilise my experience to do what I never, ever do and that is NEGOTIATE conditions in a new job before I leave the old one!!

onsdag 5. september 2012

Now I have completed the first 8 years of my survey into Norwegian management and can only conclude that I hope it is misrepresentative!

How to summarise ? Well a substantial proportion of middle and higher managers show the uncharming traits as follows: Arrogance, under communication, discrimination, croney-ism and being coated in a good lick of Teflon: nothing sticks.

Again I find myself the victim of the "gutter klubb" and to some extent it is understandable. Also someone my own level is lurking to take away my ambitions. i appreciate that people are used to much longer periods at one employer, but I do not like when my performance is completely stamped upon by someone coming in from another place and reducing my responsibility and therefore future, to about 70% of what it was last week. If that in terms of future.

It seems the BI oslo is not a glass ceiling it is a bloody reinforced concrete, brand stamped boundary to foreigners getting promoted in Norway. You can suffer small companies and get on faster with lower pay and longer hours than in a large company, but you will not be able to do the reverse.

It comes down for me personnally not only to the whole BI /NHH thing but also the futher means in which confidence is built between norwegian males. There is all the false modesty and under communication to deal with. Then there is the obtuseness- playing smarty pants devils advocate all the time. Further there is then the language "barrier" which works in kind of reverse: if you can speak very good norwegian it works against you: you move from that "welcomed guest" I wrote about earlier to that "interloping invader" which so nearly is what "innvandere" (immigrant) inholds for many Norwegians: Xenophobia and the clanish way they stick to the Oilberg and it's rather dull traditions.

Cast in my own personal foibles of some neurosis, passive-agrression, up-and down moods, up and down confidence, risk taking initiatives and then the whole big big question mark lies over me as a person DESPITE any actual measureable performance.

There is a fundamental lack of trust in immigrant labour here and also a bad attitude that is is immigrants who are always expendable. I get paranoid about it being my own foibles but so often I hear that this is the case or that an immigrant must totally over perform and cover two norwegian's jobs ( not that hard if you have either worked in London or for an american multinational).

So there sit the "fløtepuser" the cream fed cats with their mamma and pappa perm and their 500 thousand krone a year, tax deducted loan on an Audi and detached house with big capital gains. Lazy sods, they are positively rewarded for having their head above water many of them " permierte" they say: however I also have many hard working colleagues and very competent ones: they just by in large don't want to include me much.

My head is just underwater all the time, bobbing there in the belief I will one day breath the air of the norwegian lifestyle I deserve already given my effort and input! It doesnt take much, but the very flat wage structure for those not premierte means I could creep up quite slowly in reality.

This time I have anyway slipped through the perment employment net which so often is used to screen out immigrants : from temp bureau to contract to not making your six months to permanency. Instead they are conspiring a little to either make it constructive dismissal if they dissolve the tight area I am responsible for, or just by patronising me by reducing my responsibility they hope I will get the message

tirsdag 24. april 2012

Are Norwegians so really deadly effective at work that they can afford to work the short hours and weeks they do? Or are they purely floated on oil so-to-speak? What can other countries and employers learn from Norwegian "arbeidskultur" ?

Well the pico blog says this: It is not so much a fact that Norwegians are so much more effective minute for minute in actually executing "value added activities" and " critical processes", it is just that they spend far less time on BS: blunt and simple, they do not jump through hoops-

Well let us first exclude offshore oil fields, and shipping. People work long boring hours, and then get a lot of time off. With net export of oil far larger than the USA, who guzzle their own "gas", Norway is in a complete situation exclusion on that front: blue-eyed arabs. However it does not need to go to say that the on shore industry would necessarily be so widespread here, despite the ethos of statoil : state-owned-oil. It is pretty effective in delivering solutions to this huge local market and holding on to those "valie added processes" when metal bashing finally floats away to low cost low low land.

So out in land based industry and services, they avoid the BS: they don't read general, long winded e-mails often and tend to skim read them when on a flight for example. They are often late out with all but absolutely critical information or even tenders for jobs. '

In just doing core activities you not only of course are perhaps overall more effective in terms of hours you can tackle in a week, but also the "noise" of corporate crap is filtered and your brain works more effectively in those minutes you actually use on the core!

The fact is though, that even here, the "value added activities" tend to attract workaholics, who rise to become divisional managers or start their own companies. I know the type quite well- usually they have a domesticated wife who keeps house, home and second job together while their man works 10-12 hour days and travels 100 days of the year. Also they travel business class and go to a good few seminars, and tend to take winter, easter, juletide holidays and a week here and there rather than the common holiday in july. See the pattern: the are what some call male chauvinsists, what otherwise you should maybe call the bread-winner who follows what is described as a "traditional roles " in the family.

Finally you have to come to another pair of cultural points: there are a lot of clever engineers who have grown up on a farm or with a dad  who was a first engineer. Or been both themselves! Also they have a bit of a bloody minded way of looking at things, and egalitarian: why cant a junior engineer or I just fix this issue without a lot of meetings and permissions and approval for ideas? 

So the real back bone of "norwegian effectiveness" in my opinion is that there are some conclusions 1) work is number two in life: work hard, but short hours. 2) ignore stuff you don't think is important and focus on only the real McCoy 3) be a smart alec and ignore the glass ceiling.

lørdag 24. mars 2012

Cool or cold look warm countries

Seems i ride the back of cool and fall off it too. I was in glasgow in the late 80s when it was the cool under ground, indy reply to manchesters post punk poets

I lingered too long but inverness was happening for itself. The antichrist of aberdeen, a necropolis to faith, camraderie and goodwill for the most. Mountian biking was a saviour.

Then back to manchester when it became look cool. Then life took off to ireland when it was the coolest and hottest. It overcooked in  a Corrs drenched euro sell out, my girl friend being the epitomy and breaking my heart.

Cheshire suddenly became cool and i ran a mile to the liquid nitrogen near zero kelvin coolness that was edinburgh in the late 90s.

Edinburgh had been cool for me personally for ever and a day. Deltics , the look, the pancake lace and spudulike. Haymarket depot. Hot little studenty sluts.

Then i laid routes downin oh so coola nd aloof and best in the world quilty of life, terra norvegicus. But it shows its greedy face polluting the wolrd for ski cabins and audi 2:4s.

Where is cool now? Well where it is beat. Instead of a war we have had a defeat for everyone. The rich lost a huge battle but regrouped to be able to counter attach and make poorland pay war reparations to a sub prime shit fight they werent even involved with.
Beat means finnaky there are places cheap enough to be beat.

onsdag 7. mars 2012

Us ...AS

Strategic Review
2011 saw a change in strategic direction to meet market conditions which have been prevailing and anticipated to continue. Following an earlier matrix analysis of core competancies versus opportunities, the company restructured around two main competance centres and revenue streams.

The matrix analysis reveraled that two divergent core competancies would secure adequate revenue streams in reshaping the strategic possibilities. The finance crisis has threatened to render activity tactical and therefore both higher risk and lower long term reward scenarios. However, the new strategy as mentioned plays to the market and maintains direction and development of the core business and creative skills required for the long term growth and enrichment of the firm.

The two focus areas are divergent : namely within purchasing, specifically oil field drilling equipemtn and education. Education took little adjustment to place resources into the public sector and excellent performance was rewarded with extended contracts utilising more than 80% of capacity. Moving into oil related markets required some major realignment however, with the route chosen being tactically through shipping supplies. Oil drilling is one of the few industrial markets showing double figure growth since the finance crisis and resulting recession began in Q3 2008.
Another key factor is the willingness to accept a far higher level of risk and to take advantage of subdued prices in capital assets. The company moved from renting large premises with high upkeep to leveraging their new income to buy new premises which are smaller and more economic. The additional cost of leasing premises in the new location for purchasing is expected to be offset by tax deductions and the proximity to a long term market centre.
Income growth was then projected as negative with a positive cash flow expected only by September. However the company was forced to meet market demands and relocate the major competance centre of purchasing to the customer and supplier centre some 120 km to the south. Growth is expected to be low with cautious estimates and a degree of dependency on reduced tax burden in order to generate enough gross margin for any profitability in 2011. The following two years however are anticipated to be a period of high growth in top line while projected costs can be contained within those of today. Cost pressures in the new location are expected but a longer term lease is to be secured mid Q2.

So to summarise in 2011 the firm was able to utilise its non material assets, namely intellectual property and hired-out services, to leverage into their own premises and enter a new, high growth market which is running counter recessionary in line with dollar-barrel price.

Through 2012 we will maintain financial stability and aim to grow income by 4%. In terms of profitability, Tax deductions are yet to be fully negotiated so we continue to issue our long standing profit warning while maintaining strict cost control and willingness to reduce expenses further in the event of unforseen circumstances. The small surplus from tax deduction pay out 2011 paid out in june 2012 however this is expected to be consumed by the loss of income during the summer period and holiday payments to employees at this point.

2013 is expected to be a major growth year with more lucrative contracts in both public and private sectors being sought before competitors are expected to be in a position to react. This is in part a willingness to accept higher risk to exploit opportunities than most competitors, but due to turbulent times an alternative strategy of slower growth and consolidaiton of current revenue streams with potential for cost reduction in 2012-13 is also in place. This would postpone higher risk movements and reloactions to 2014.