The Kiske field
The Kiske field is the second part of a series about British IT industry. Instead of a large article, I decided to split it in smaller chunks. A very important disclaimer: I have not been able to talk with the people involved in the story below nor check it out extensively, so please treat the story in the next section as fiction. First part is here: https://medium.com/@dimist/problematic-business-relationships-44dc00aeb05c.
Definition — first story.
More than 10 years before, Iron Maiden was the biggest heavy metal band around. At some point their singer, Bruce Dickinson decided to leave the band pursuing a solo career. Remaining members wanted to continue, but someone had to replace the empty seat. That’s why the band decided to do an international competition in order to choose their next singer. Being in an before-MP3 era, people where sending recordings of themselves singing or other material mostly in cassettes over the post. Leader of the band at that time was their bassist Steve Harris.
At about that time a hot discussion topic among genre’s fans was who would be the next “Dickinson”. It ended up being Blaze Bailey, who was at then singing in an English niche band that almost no-one had ever heard of. Another candidate among the many, was the well known heavy metal singer and front-man Michael Kiske, which brings us to the next part.
Many years later, I was operating a fanzine and was working part time as a metal journalist, so I had the chance to meet Blaze Bailey for an interview a year after he had left the band. The funny thing was that when asked about the Iron Maiden years, he was stressing on how lucky he felt -even if it didn’t last long- and how surprised he was. Another friend of mine had interviewed Michael Kiske. Kiske was not affected from the rejection always doing many things, but when asked off the record (this is what I cannot prove or confirm) he said that the rumor “in the business” was that “Steve Harris would never accept a non-Englishman to lead England’s best heavy metal band, so he did an international competition in order to choose the best candidate from his country”.
Based on the (unconfirmed) story above we can define the “Kiske law” on HR: Choose the best English-person from a list of international candidates.
And for ease of use the lemma-definition of a “Kiske field”: A company with hiring and promotions strategy influenced by the Kiske law (see above).
This is a real story, with the industry and the names of the people involved changed. It’s about a friend of mine named Daniella. Daniella is one of the best account managers on her field whom I lately meet her at about once per year. Two years before, she was talking to me about why she would look for changing employers “soon”:
”When I joined the company almost everybody on our team was from Europe’s south (PIGS), we were handling a range of client accounts, usually working long hours. After first two years down the line the company got established and decided to stabilize on the number of clients and customer acquisition rate.
I found out that as old employees started leaving, having a normal turnover, the new hires were being paid more for less amount of work. Also all all of them where locals. This was the first the signal that I had to move on.”
Following Daniella on Facebook and Twitter, I saw that some months later she became head of European operations on her sector, working for a large multinational. The multinational though is a company based in Scandinavia. Couldn't help myself from wondering if the same story would possible for a UK multinational of any size.
I have heard many stories, I also have mine. The one in the previous paragraph though perfectly describes the “Kiske effect”. I am not sure if the above could be described with the recently popular term “gentrification” within a company instead of an urban area.
There are many opinions on why the above happen that belong to a wide spectrum of social, economical, and historical reasons. I’d like to discuss about temporary nature of foreign employees, because I believe things there have changed.
Generally the following pattern has been observed, at least in the IT industry:
- First generation foreigners are prone to return back to their country of origin. That’s why they are usually treated as glorified temp employees. (I use the term temp-plebs).
- As a result promoting them specially into mid-level management bears the risk of creating a gap once they leave (or the possibility of a domino effect if replaced by another person from the same pool).
- This in turn affects their (our) mentality and psychology: being artificially marginalized impacts corporate loyalty; hence
- They (we) in effect are prone to switch jobs, since there is no attachment with the “current” employer.
Some additional observations on the points above, after discussions with many and different people:
Point (1) is still holds for many cases. I strongly believe that this was true in the not so distant past, but not currently. Allow to elaborate:
As the story goes the “unspoken deal” for a newcomer to the UK, specially in London involved a short career trajectory among those lines: Study (BSc), maybe study some more (MSc), optional internship, bang!, permanent work for a couple of years, bang! or a promotion and then… bang!.
Where “bang!” is the return to the country of origin moment. Person’s CV would include UK experience or moreover London experience, which in many places is a big salary multiplier. Something similar seems also to be the case with people from rural Britain. It is supposed to be a temporary thing, but not any more. Having many countries in recession and Britain as a major job generator lowers this as a possibility. As an example people from PIGS countries cannot return, even if they want to. So point (1) above is now not as valid as it used to be. It is possible that the business world has not yet adjusted… Maybe.
Second point enhances the side-effects of point 1 — again in the past. Getting promoted increased the perceived value on the country of origin. Being a manager “here” translates to Sr Manager “there” so a promotion can even accelerate the speed towards the “bang!” point.
Last points (3 and 4) are about what’s happening on the other side: Imagine that you start working in a company, you do your best for a couple of years. You don’t see promotion, a change in your salary or even a discussion about your career. You see this happening with other people. What would you think? How would you react?
Observing a vicious circle: Is your company in a Kiske field?
In the next and last article about “culture shocks”, there will be some arguments on why a company should operate inside a Kiske field, which by reading this post seems a controversial proposition.