It's freezing at Barclays

There will, I assume, be little sympathy in the news that the tough times continue for Barclays, as CEO, Jes Staley announced an “indefinite hiring freeze” this week.

A previous freeze, in place since September, had been due to be reviewed in the New Year, but Staley is adamant that the ban will be in place “for a long time.”

This is great soundbite policy. I am not questioning Mr Staley’s honesty, or his bank’s - the intentions are, undoubtedly, true. However, such grand gestures are invariably, unworkable. How do you police the specific resource demands of a range of departments, some of which will be growing quicker than others? Departments are managed by different people who will exercise a different interpretation of the policy and who will have varying degrees of influence with their HR peers.

Such top-down edicts are prone to inconsistency, which leads to frustration and anger among permanent team members. I have yet to see a business manage this situation effectively.

My main point, however, is less to do with the management of such rulings, but about the messages that underpin these measures. Specifically, employees need to know that such a freeze is worth it – that it’s part of a bigger plan to propel them to a future that is brighter than the current picture. To that end, it’s a leader’s role to visualise that future for their staff.

A vision is needed to maintain morale among existing employees and to ensure the business continues to attract the best in terms of would-be employees. Ultimately, the process of organisational change stands a better chance of succeeding if you can ‘make a compelling case for why?’ and as seasoned corporate watchers know, cost-cutting rarely makes for a compelling case. Now is not the time for the blinkers; the situation calls for confidence and inspiration.

Barclays has been around for long enough to handle such change; it has done it before and is led by some smart people, but they should avoid looking to the past to ensure a more meaningful future for its people.