The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world as we know it, turning the way we live, socialise and work on its head. In the wake of over three million job losses, lockdown 2.0, and the onslaught of recession, managing director David Woollcott is determined to help business professionals facing redundancy get back on their feet, or ‘saddle up’.
With the help of high-level UK volunteers from an array of industries, including leading companies such as BMW, Barclays, Fisher & Paykel, Vodafone, Foyne Jones, Haier Caesarstone and Aldi, (supporting both in front and behind the scenes), David wants to change the way that redundancy is viewed by offering support from those in senior positions. SaddleUp! aims to link people who have recently been made redundant with peers and leaders from similar organisations to help them ‘saddle up’ and get back into the working world. Some of the ‘saddlers’ – including David himself – have experienced redundancy from both sides of the fence allowing them to offer an extra layer of understanding and empathy.
“Redundancy is one of the most stressful experiences a person can go through both professionally and personally. SaddleUp! is born from an urgent and immediate need to restore employees’ worth and help them refocus so they are ready to re-enter the jobs market in a positive frame of mind,” explains David Woollcott, founder of SaddleUp! “Right now, we are experiencing a sharp period of change – but there is opportunity out there.”
After hearing the news of how many people were facing redundancy in his own industry in July this year, David felt compelled to post on LinkedIn to offer anyone in his 11,000-strong network an opportunity to talk. “Having experienced redundancy first-hand, I wanted to offer support to someone going through the same thing in the hope I could restore some focus and self-worth. Even if they just needed to vent, it would be time well spent.”
Overnight the LinkedIn post received 70,000+ views, countless shares from all over the world, and 70 requests for a 20-minute call. Within two months David himself had completed more than 50 calls with would-be strangers to support them through this challenging time, with the newly forming team of volunteers answering many more.
One caller speaks of their experience of SaddleUp!: “I found speaking with David extremely useful, it was wonderful to hear about his experience and his thoughts on the state of the market. I am looking forward to the next 12 months and hoping that it will be a fun challenge for me.”
Through the high-level, executive volunteer-based service, those facing redundancy can request a peer to peer, human to human call. The purpose of the call is to share experiences and insights, and display empathy with the hope that the person calling will feel empowered to ‘saddle up’ and get back into the jobs market with confidence. They also aim to tackle the mental health repercussions of redundancy and address the damage to self-esteem to allow a bounce back from the negative.
Speaking about the conception of SaddleUp! David Woollcott explains, “Our vision is to reduce the personal and psychological impacts of redundancy. By understanding their circumstances, giving them hope, and by encouraging meaningful, forward-facing steps we hope to change the way that people view redundancy. Career goals and progression shouldn’t end because of redundancy, there is still time and energy to invest in people and we shouldn’t cast them to the side.”
David’s vision for Saddle Up! goes beyond just the initial point of contact offered. He aims to create longstanding employment reform in which a redundancy process is outlined before employment, opening a wider conversation around redundancy to creating more decisive action from every business and civic leader across the country. Currently, funding for the project as a long-term opportunity is being considered as well as looking in to building the team even more to develop a future strategy. There is no shortage of experts and industry and civic leaders wanting to get involved and David hopes that SaddleUp! will be a driving force for redundancy reform in the UK.
Whilst SaddleUp! already has some impressive and experienced Saddlers on board who are dedicating at least two hours a week, David still hopes to inspire other leaders across the industry to get involved. SaddleUp! has now completed almost 300 calls, with those who have been made redundant. These calls are led by experienced industry peers, offering time, tips, and shared experiences as they travel through their career paths.
SaddleUp! volunteers (also known as ‘Saddlers’) come from a variety of professional backgrounds including:
Automotive – Mark Dixon Chartered FCIPD
Mark brings more than 20 years of global experience at the highest levels of BMW Group Human Resources. Mark will be joining SaddleUp! as a volunteer Saddler offering 6 x 20 minutes sessions per week to those impacted by redundancy in the #automotive sector. Like most industries, the automotive sector is going through seismic change to its distribution model, the move away from carbon-based energy, government regulation and a public who are ever more demanding.
Banking & Finance – Nick Chuter
Nick currently heads up a team at Barclays Private Bank, has 18 years’ experience within Financial Services, weathered the Global Financial Crisis in 2008 and will lead the Banking & Financial Services area of SaddleUp! Nick also has global experience having worked in the Middle East, France, Coventry, and London.
Young Professionals – Amandeep Dhillon
As a young lawyer with experiences at a great law firm, as well as supporting his own family business and charitable projects in the Sikh community, Aman brings much to the conversation and am convinced will provide solid and like-minded advice to young professionals who find themselves either in consultation and facing redundancy.
KBB and Consumer Goods – Jonathan Stanley
Jonathan has a long and successful career in senior marketing roles, including luxury brands Rolls-Royce Motor Cars and Vertu. He has swapped sectors successfully and now leads a growing team at Caesarstone UK and EMEA
Construction and Builders Merchants – Peter Jones
Peter of Foyne Jones has kindly agreed to support the SaddleUp! effort, for the construction and builders merchants industries. Peter brings incredible experiences and giant heart to everything he does; a passionate fund raiser, mental health champion and a highly experienced business owner and recruiter.
Advertising, Media & Start Up – Lucy Shutt-Vine
Lucy has been incredibly successful and has suffered setbacks too, making her ideal to talk to about the feelings that surround redundancy, career upheaval, rebuilding and restarting. As a qualified coach, a media, advertising, L&D and start-up expert, she brings a huge amount of experience.
Performing Arts, Content & Digital Marketing – Alessandro Fragiacomo
Alessandro has experience as on screen talent in Italy, an employee at #disney and a marketing entrepreneur in his own right and a qualified coach, he has much to offer during a free, 20 minutes conversation. The Performing Arts has been particularly affected during the pandemic and requires urgent support. Alessandro has a strong track record of standing up for Diversity and #LGBTQI+ causes within many organisations – Diversity and Inclusion being key pillars at SaddleUp!
Consumer Electronics and Domestic Appliance Sector – Jim McEwan
Jim leads a great commercial team at Haier in the UK and Ireland and has had extensive experiences at Whirlpool, BSH and Samsung. The consumer electronics and domestic appliances industries are faring better than many sectors currently as people focus on their experiences at home and Jim is happy to share his insights on the industry as well as his own career journey.
Culture Development – Jo Geraghty
Jo is one of the nation’s leading experts on all topics related to the employee experience. She is a published author, guest lecturer and partner in her own business, specialising in culture development; arguably needed now more than ever. Despite having plenty on her plate she has agreed to offer time to those considering stepping out on their own, wishing to innovate or who are having general questions relating to career development. Her knowledge within Banking & Financial Services is also born of exceptional experiences.
Learning and Development – Amanda Livermore
Amanda has experience as a learning & development expert and trainer at BMW Group , with a unique but inspiring approach to learning and development. Amanda will be joining SaddleUp!, as a seasoned L&D leader to large blue chips and smaller organisations, her council and experiences are worth their weight in gold. She now owns and operates her successful consultancy and has had Porsche UK, Allianz, and the London Fire Brigade as clients.
Professional Skills – Joanne Gaudoin
Joanne has carved a unique niche and a successful business in guiding professionals, within the financial services and actuarial industries. She is one of the U.K.’s leading experts on creating personal impact and working through professional barriers. Jo has run a successful consultancy for 9 years and her seminars and webinars have received great reviews. She has several large clients to her name including HSBC, AAT and Forsters LLP, as well as a number of private clients. Joanna also has a long and dedicated history of giving back and charitable work too.
Fashion & Retail – Melissa Woollcott
Melissa has great experiences in the fashion design, retail and product development spaces having worked in senior roles at MYER, Arcadia Group Ltd, Just Group and Kmart Australia Limited. Having been made redundant in the past too, she has a unique perspective on bouncing back and reforming a career, whilst raising children and working globally. Mel has always supported those in need and is offering her time and availability to those who have been made redundant or in need a confidential conversation.