In praise of the Polish employee brand

July 2016

If you know me or indeed read my last month’s blog, then you’ll be aware that I was none too happy about the Brexit vote. And I’m still not, albeit I am a tad less grumpy than I was for the days immediately after the tragic event.

Reflecting on those heady days when the reality of the UK electorate’s xenophobia and general lunacy started to sink in, a conversation I had with an elderly chap who lives up the road from me pretty much sums up the mind-set of the typical leave voter. Apparently there are “too many of ‘em” (meaning immigrants though, as it happens, zero where he and I live); it was “a protest vote and I never thought we’d win”; and “we weren’t told all the facts about what would happen if we voted to leave”. On the latter, ‘the facts’ were of course all available but if your basis of research to establish them is largely reading right-wing press such as the Daily Mail, then don’t be surprised if you’ve been sold a lemon. In any event, he’s at an age where none of the negative outcomes from Brexit will greatly affect him, but they will most certainly affect his two teenage grandchildren – and for decades to come.

So let’s return to the bit about immigration, and specifically focus on the biggest group: the Polish. There’s apparently getting on for 850,000 Polish nationals in the UK, with the vast majority arriving since 2004 when their country joined the UK. Of course not all of this number will be working (many workers brought their families) but overwhelmingly they are – which is the simple reason they came to the UK. So not to sponge off the benefit system as many UKIP and Britain First (a nasty Christian hate group) supporters would have you believe, but to work and therefore pay taxes just like you and me. But for me it isn’t just about the simple reality of Polish people making a meaningful contribution to the UK economy, it’s more about their typical ethos which means they do it so well. I’ll use an example of one of my current clients . . .

It’s a business which has meat processing factories which produce snack products for all the UK’s major supermarkets, and one of these factories is located in the northern half of Scotland. The Scottish facility employs over 40 people on the factory floor, with the majority of these being Polish. So why not local Highland folk? Because the typical local Highland folk don’t want to do the work, or if they do want to do it then it’s on their terms – e.g. not turning up in the morning on time, or not turning up at all. This contrasts with the typical Polish worker, who not only accept the job for what it is and happily get on with it, but turn up a bit earlier in the morning so they’re ready to work when the bell goes. And they do all this because, culturally, it’s what they’re about and stand for.

Some of my other current clients which include those in industries as diverse as manufacturing kitchens to growing spuds for a frozen chip brand which you’ll definitely know of, also employ Polish workers (albeit in less numbers) and all will tell you the same thing about them: hard working, dependable and inherently decent.

Of course the majority of business owners, senior managers and educated younger people who may go on to become the former two, voted to remain – and all the stats show that clearly. So for these people my message above will be preaching to the converted, and for most of the rest it will fall on deaf ears – such is the way of the xenophobe.

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