Are All Targets Appropriate?

As a Noun TARGET is commonly defined as: a person, object, or place selected as the aim of an attack. The Verb TARGET simply modifies this to: select as an object of attack.

I have done a few ‘Sales’ jobs — First with NTL (Cable TV) — this paid a basic wage with highly incentivised bonuses. Sell 3 basic packages a day and you got your basic wage and got to use a company car. Sell a couple of additional basic packages or even better sell enhanced packages and things really to begin to look up money wise.

I loved getting out and meeting people — I enjoyed the challenge of selling at the door but got more and more disillusioned at the half-truths and sometimes down right open lies I spoke to just to secure a sale. My Target 3 sales deals a day.

Moving on but still in the sales vein — I read an advertisement for sales reps to sell bespoke kitchens — I was offered a basic salary — traveling expenses and a huge commission on the successful sale of a kitchen — So I signed up — did the training and ‘Qualified’ as a Kitchen Architect. Sales leads were generated from a mixture of advertising and competitions — so no cold calling. Typically you would get the lead around 10 am make a few calls and arrange to meet a family with aspirations of owning a shiny new kitchen — ideally that evening.

You would turn up — dressed in a smart suit and carrying a nice briefcase — spend the first hour discussing their old kitchen, agreeing with them that it was old and tired — then you’d offer to redesign a new kitchen on the spot! And at no charge! — Who could resist such an offer? — Pulling out state of the art pads and pens from your briefcase you set about this task — measure up and then do nothing more than a mental jigsaw puzzle. Tea and anecdotes flowed while you put pen to paper and your fingers jabbed on calculator buttons.

At the start of the 3rd hour you would pop out to your car and drag in door & handle samples and that all important ‘Silent Close Mechanism’ demonstrator — “look see how this dovetails with this” and “yes I agree that the gold plated handles really do accentuate the doors you have chosen”. Sell the male the practicality — sell the female the looks.

Nearing the end of the third hour you would have your design and a price of the goods and services. You knew this was at least 3 if not 4 times what they would pay if they went to B&Q and got a local installer to install. Yes it was first class carpentry and lots of fancy gizmos — but at the end of the day way overpriced.

So by the beginning of 4th hour they were either so sold on the idea of purchasing a new kitchen or they were on the point of killing you and burying you in the garden alongside the last — ‘Long Sell’ rep trying to convince them they needed a new roof or new rendering.

Whilst I would have made really good commission selling just one kitchen a week — it did not take me long to realise I was part of a scam. — I was not selling a kitchen but a dream of a kitchen — I was in fact selling the most expensive of things — Finance. “Yes Sir, it is £20,000 but sign this and you can have it for £150 a month for the next 20 years and we give you a 20 year guarantee — just think of the value that it adds to your house”.

Never closed a single deal — did not last long in that game. My Target one deal a week.

My next venture was back to door-to-door sales — this time on the Energy game — convincing you to change your supplier and telling a myriad of half-truths to achieve that aim. Needless to say I soon parted company with that venture. My Target 3 Sales and generate 1 additional lead a day.

So with my little bit of sales experience I can understand the necessity of sensible and achievable targets — otherwise what is to prevent a salesperson just turning up and eking out a living, albeit at the subsist level, from the basic wage?

But what I cannot understand is “Targets” being assigned inappropriately — where they are not really needed or warranted — where someone — probably not that high up in the management chain, thinks that it might be a good idea to incentivise their staff and implement something totally off the wall — potentially damaging to the most vulnerable people in our society and moreover — well just plain wrong.

Certain sections of the British press have run quite a few ‘Whistleblowing’ stories recently on the “Targets” DWP front line staff are being set by their management. How true are they?

My initial thoughts were questions around the validity of these stories; wondering if they are just Myth, opposing party-political-spin or indeed are they real.

The weight of evidence seems to suggest a realness about them.

We have witnessed DWP staff resign over issues such as imposing Sanctions — heart-rendering letters to editors detailing how helpless some DWP staff feel when the just don’t have the time or skill-set to help those that desperately need it.

Then the more anecdotal stories at a local level — staff in tears after their supervision sessions; being told to be thick skinned: promoting ‘Us and Them’ rather than dispelling it.

If it is all Myth — then what is needed is a categorical public statement to all DWP Staff from the head of that organisation that there are no such targets — none are needed and nothing of this is sanctioned by law or otherwise.

If it is true the shame on us all for allowing this to be.