Who’s Got Talent?

This week is a comment blog, one that I cannot avoid and feel compelled to add my tuppence worth.

Well, the BBC has some challenges. The uproar that has followed the release of salaries and pay levels has shown the folly of thought in so many ways. Why does it matter and where is the real problem? Firstly, because it is the license payers’ money.

On the second question, it is not the gender pay gap. Although annoying, this is the result not the cause. It is the mindsets of those who deemed it appropriate and acceptable to pay certain individuals so highly. What lies behind that? Is it fear of headlines relating to being unable to hold onto them or fear of internal politics, or a genuine belief that these are extraordinary talents?

I would ask the BBC to sit down and give real thought as to what constitutes ‘talent.’ If it is someone who cannot be replaced then the pay levels may possibly be justified. However, one would objectively ask – are they really?

There has been much written over the gender pay gap. This is a fact, if taken on the evidence comparing those at the highest levels. We do not have the evidence of those being paid ‘normal’ salaries and so the headlines are not necessarily true throughout all levels. We don’t know.

In this specific instance, there are two ways to bring the gender payments more in line – one way does not increase the pay for the ‘female celebrities’ but re-calibrates that being paid to the male ‘stars.’  Ideally it would be about a realistic pay level for all. Recognising and calculating the value each adds would be a start. It is the unbelievable levels of the few that should be reconsidered. Be brave, would you really miss them? Are they ‘irreplaceable,’ are they outstanding in their field?

Such irresponsible pay offers, potentially based upon fear of losing, are not the restricted domain of the BBC; It happens in many industries. For example, there was and is a similar feel in investment banking and to some degree in the increasing gap between executives and staff. Contracts which allow for the reward of ‘failure’ or at least not meeting expectations are often negotiated. Is it time to stand up and just pass. There are many examples of the executive merry go round attracting individuals at ever increasing pay levels who are not the only people able to make a difference. Some may not be making the difference that the PR has portrayed. I wrote recently about the ‘Management Balance Sheet’ where net value is identified. Perhaps we could extend the use beyond managing performance into recruitment and the reward of ‘talent.’

Whilst making comment and focusing on the BBC, the lack of ‘spend’ control does not rest with pay levels – just look at the way in which weather and business news presenters travel the country. Or the overuse of past performers in athletics coverage and other sports. They often appear more important than the action.  Back to ‘talent’ then, clearly very good in their day yet less so in this role.  There are so many being paid to utter platitudes and offer much less insight than the air time would suggest their pay levels warrant.

The established practices should be reversed.

I would ask that the response from the BBC to the claims of the ‘celebrity women’ are thought through and from the other end of the telescope as noted earlier. Call the bluff of those perceived as being paid extravagantly and seek people who can be professional and deliver higher levels of skill for less.  Extend such reviews to the sheer number of people being paid at high levels to add nothing. 

The world of ‘celebrity’ should get real. When they are earning that many times more than the Prime Minister then the level of decision making complexity or the quality of delivery and skill levels being used must be significantly higher to justify the rewards.

Equality should be consistently and fairly applied for the right reasons in the right way and in the right context without bias or discrimination of any form. It is not simply about ticking equality boxes, it is about doing the right thing in every situation in ways that can be easily understood.

What are your thoughts? I’d be interested in hearing your views………

OK, back to normal in the next blog!


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