October 14, 2015 | Kelly

Being in Turkey this week


Simon being interviewed by Murat Yesildere of Egon Zehnder. Istanbul, 12 October 2015

It is not often that I have found myself on a business trip in a place reeling from recent tragedy and division. Yesterday, in Istanbul, I spoke on the Employer Brand at Bogazici University having been invited by Ali Ayaz and his team at Realta with the conference also being sponsored by Finansbank, ADEL, Vodafone and L’Oréal.

Two days after the explosion in the Ankara peace rally had killed (so far) 95 people, the organisers told me that many events in Istanbul had been cancelled but, given the training aspects of this event, they decided to proceed. The fact that 438 executives with Turkish and global firms attended (more than planned) says something about the fortitude and ambition of the Turkish business community. I was being interviewed on the stage by Murat Yesildere of Egon Zehnder and we started at 9:30am. Just before 10 sirens sounded and the Dean led a silence for those lost.

This was the third time I had spoken in Istanbul and on each occasion I have been struck by the new buildings and construction sites in this superb city of now 15m people. The delegates are as well informed and interested as those in any major centre and they share the same aims – to be involved in all it takes to make the best of themselves within a multinational environment. Yet despite their lively interventions they were of course carrying the unwanted and depressing shadow from so many present issues, the deep divisions, mistrust and anger in Turkish politics, religious prejudice within this apparently secular state, the long running internal violence in the east and the involvement in the nightmare of Syria and Iraq over the border. Plus of course the vast refugee crisis.

The attendees are intelligent and well educated people, they just want to be themselves as in any Western city but here on the border of Europe and Asia they are stuck with a situation they in no way deserve. As I went through the discussions on truth, respect, humanity, productive relationships at work and the necessary active involvement of senior management, I could not help thinking that these subjects should also be a top preoccupation for the region’s political leaders.

Employer Brand management is for the good of organisations and their people; national leaders need to show they share the same aim.

Simon Barrow