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Axon and Probation periods

#1 Axon and Probation periods
29/11/2007 20:18


Axon has a very high number of people failing their 3 month probation periods in business consulting. In fact, it is so high that one can't help thinking that it is a deliberate policy to staff projects on the cheap for 3 months rather than paying for a contractor. So be warned if you are considering leaving a good job to join them.

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#2 RE: Axon and Probation periods
30/11/2007 14:12

Jules Beck to anon (#1)

Rather than allowing a clearly one-sided view of what happens in Axon to perpetuate I thought I’d provide some facts:

2007 has been Axon’s most successful year enabling the UK business consulting practice to increase staff numbers by more than 40% (>50) in the last 12 months.

Of those that have joined in this period, almost 90% continue to be part of the Axon community, doing great work for our clients.

Of those that have left within 1 year – 4 failed their probation.

Whilst a failed probation is a disappointment for everyone involved, the reason why we (and the rest of the industry) have this mechanism is to avoid individuals remaining in the company who have either not demonstrated Axon’s values or have shown they are unable to deliver at the same level of excellence the rest of the team achieves.

To say this is a ‘cheap’ option is absurd – we would have likely spent several £000’s on agency fees, management time through 2-3 rounds of interviews, HR costs, on-boarding sessions, a 3 day induction programme, buddying and investing in bringing that individual up to speed so that they can add value to our clients.

Every probation decision is signed off by me – the vast majority are successful and should be rightly proud of this achievement. They have joined a company that is ambitious, growing fast and delivering great outcomes for our clients.

We are not willing to compromise on the high standards we set for our consulting community. This is the right way to operate and I make no apology for it.

Jules Beck

Axon – Head of Business Consulting

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#3 RE: Axon and Probation periods
30/11/2007 14:25

anon to Jules Beck (#2)

another clear example of someone posting so they can quickly respond with points that wanted to make but couldn't just come out and say without some form of prompt

we're on to you

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#4 RE: Axon and Probation periods
30/11/2007 14:46

Stephen M. to anon (#3)

Dear Mr Beck,

I am a consultant who is trying to move up the consulting ladder, hopefully to become a managing consultant within a few years. I have been told that I need to develop my own stream of business in order to achieve this, but as you can imagine I am finding this very difficult. I work for a small company (around 30 staff in total) and have 5 years experience of IT management consultancy.

I understand that this isn't the right place for me to be asking this question, but I hope you will appreciate that I simply have to grab the bull by the horns and cannot waste the opportunity to put a direct question to somebody as senior as yourself.

Therefore, my question is this: Do you have any little tips or pieces of wisdom/advice that, if you were in my position, you would want to know? I'm talking about general advice to do with career management and generally making sure I'm successful in my career and happy in life. I guess I'm really just hoping to tap into the experience of somebody who has obviously been very successful in their career, and to ascertain anything whatsoever that might help me also be successful.

Thank you for your time and I will understand if you would prefer not to answer at this time.

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#5 RE: Axon and Probation periods
30/11/2007 14:56

Stephen M. to Stephen M. (#4)

In support of Bryan's comment, I think it goes without saying that this thread wasn't started by anyone from Axon. And 10 out of 10 to both the Top Consultant team and Axon for not taking the easy option and deleting the post. I think that on its own says an awful lot about the values of these two companies.

Returning to the original point for a moment however, my own view is that 4 people out of >50 failing their probation is a healthy sign. It shows that Axon are setting their standards at the right level. I for one thought it was very revealing that Mr Beck mentioned in his post that one reason why somebody might fail their probation at Axon is "to avoid individuals remaining in the company who have either not demonstrated Axon’s values". That little remark is VERY revealing... to me, it says they take their values just as seriously as the quality of the work. I wish more employers were this enlightened in the way they do business.

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#6 RE: Axon and Probation periods
30/11/2007 15:09

Bryan - to anon (#3)

Anon - if you are the same 'anon' that posted the initial comment then you and I both know (for I can see this on Top-Consultant's system) that Axon didn't start this thread themselves as you suggest. Bryan -

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#7 RE: Axon and Probation periods
30/11/2007 15:22

Mike to Stephen M. (#5)

Hats off to Axon for actually coming back and laying out the facts + justifying why they've taken these decisions. I mean what's the point in having a probation period if no-one ever fails to get through this?!

I hope some of the other consultancies see this thread and take the lead - it reflects well on a firm to take the time to respond to the criticisms on this forum rather than just ignoring them or leaving others to write speculative replies.

Good work. Mike

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#8 RE: Axon and Probation periods
30/11/2007 15:58

julian beck to Stephen M. (#4)

Stephen - thanks for your post.

I'm going to suggest you look at your question from a slightly different perspective: What is it that consulting firms really value from their consultants? Get this right and the rest (wealth, influence, career progression etc) will follow.

In simple terms it's those consultants who are of highest value to their clients. Clients value many things from a consultant. My top 5 are:

- Having a 100% track record in delivering on your promises and doing great work - every time no matter how inconsequential. This is especially true when it comes to other people's time. I dont care who they are - the CEO or the night watchman - if you make a commitment you stick to it.

- Providing independent thought and insight which challenges the established view - even if this means taking a personal risk. At the end of the day, if you can look yourself in the mirror and say I gave the best advice and help I could then you will always be wanted.

- Brining passion, enthusiasm and energy - making change happen isnt a desk job. Its tough, hard work and you take a wehole bunch of knocks on the way. Sometimes all you can rely on is your own desire to achieve and this is vital to clients when things get tough.

- Investing time understanding your client - and I mean really invest. I remember a colleague of mine spending the whole his Sunday off sitting with a client sorting out her accounts and paperwork - it had nothing to do with our work, but he just wanted to make a difference.

- Being confident but have humility - alot of consulting is about helping clients make difficult decisions. Ones which impact many peoples lives. This requires them to have confidence in what you are recommending. That said I always remind myself that the fees and salaries we earn for this great job is invariably many times greater than the people we work for. Don't ever take this privilege for granted.

Hope this helps. Jules

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#9 RE: Axon and Probation periods
30/11/2007 17:01

Stephen M. to julian beck (#8)

Dear Jules (if I may),

Thank you for your advice, I really appreciate you having taken the time to give me a steer in the right direction. Your advice makes perfect sense and believe it or not, I'm actually going to print those words out and keep them in a folder I have (like a little scrapbook where I keep useful bits of advice and interesting things) to periodically remind myself of what I should be doing and to make sure I stay on the right track.

This forum is incredible. Never in a thousand years would I have expected to have such direct and immediate access to a very senior consulting industry professional. Thank you again.

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#10 RE: Axon and Probation periods
30/11/2007 17:51

Ex Axon to Stephen M. (#9)

Well think makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. For the record, I liked working at Axon. The SAP people are top notch. However, on the business consulting side I've been at client site with the client and business consulting bod and they didn't have a clue about 1. business (how could they as they were only about an average age of 12 with NO business experience whatsoever or 2. And they hadn't a clue about SAP, Axon is an SAP house. Axon is a lot of good things, SAP house being one of them but as for business consulting the department seemed in disarray and the business consultants had no business nonce. Axon needs to move away from the body shop model and employ business consultants who can add value not just billable hours.

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#11 RE: Axon and Probation periods
02/12/2007 15:00

Anon to Jules Beck (#2)

"Of those that have left within 1 year – 4 failed their probation."

What is the staff turnover in Axon for people employed =< 1 year?

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#12 RE: Axon and Probation periods
02/12/2007 21:48

Jules Beck to Anon (#11)

Without giving the exact number suffice it to say that the vast majority of business consultants who left within 12 months, left because of failed probation. You do the maths.

Ex Axon - I've not looked at this forum until I was notified of this thread. May I make a suggestion: Get over the fact you are no longer working for us - I can promise you that we have.

For those who want to get a balanced view of how Axon operates; how it develops, rewards and motivates staff; and what we do for our clients, then I'm happy to take your call.

Here are some additional facts to counter-balance some of the one-sided press we seem to be getting from the 2-3 critics using this site:

- We are one of the fastest growing, most successful FTSE 250 companies - ask yourself why

- Most of our business is fixed price programmes in the several £10ms - hardly a body shop

- Our clients are long-standing - the majority partnering with Axon for more than 5 years

- Much of that success has been through the development of our business consulting capability - which has helped establish us as the most successful firm providing large companies with SAP enabled business transformation

- We have a clear policy of hiring experienced staff in all roles - I would challenge any other FTSE consulting firm to show a cross section of consultants with our experience and capability

- Because we are successful we have paid close to 100% of bonuses in the UK over the last few years - how have the other consulting firms done in this period?

- We also have a bonus policy that allows consultants to be rewarded in excess of 100% when they have overdelivered

- I cannot disclose pay information, but I will vouch that we made cross the board pay rises and promotions at the last formal round

Are we perfect? No. But I would hope the above messages do show a clear intent and one which puts our consulting community at the heart of our business.

Thank you.


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#13 RE: Axon and Probation periods
02/12/2007 23:03

Taxman to Jules Beck (#12)

Well most companies dont give 100% of bonus, they give 50% on how well you done as a person (good luck there) and 50% based on some obscure element of the company that you suddenly find yourself aligned to just before the results are published.

As for culture, values blah blah...thats just a nice way of saying....Most of our consultants could not get directions from kings cross to cockfosters due to their poor levels of English, or the fact that we shipped em in on the last boat.

Money, tis the root of all evil, for a damn good reason :)

Im off to look at the axon HR page and see whats going on there....

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#14 RE: Axon and Probation periods
25/01/2008 20:44

Axoner to Ex Axon (#10)

I'm an Axon Sr Consultant in the USA on the SI side and have been for about 3 years. For what it's worth, I love working for Axon and have never worked with such bright, fun, smart, and fun people before. It truly is a great company to work for. Ask most of the people that work for us, and I'm sure they will have similar feelings in that it's an excellent company all the way from the top (CEO, VP's, etc.) down to the Consultants and in between and that it is extremely fair. It's simple really: If you do what you're hired to do, meet expectations, deliver on what you should...then you will be recognized and rewarded. If you go beyond what is necessary then you will be rewarded accordingly as well.

For those that are no longer w/ Axon and are bitter about it, it's usually because they have hard feelings for not being able to keep up or produce results & deliver. Don't blame us for refusing to compromise on your behalf.


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#15 RE: Axon and Probation periods
26/01/2008 11:12

Ex Axon to Axoner (#14)

To be clear, I am not bitter my statement read: 'I liked working at Axon. The SAP people are top notch'

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