The Apprentice

Simon Ambrose has been announced as the surprise winner of the BBC series The Apprentice (BBC video clip). The programme showed the long and arduous selection process that candidates undertook to try and win a £100,000 per year job with Sir Alan Sugar. Whilst Simon's enthusiasm, high academic ability, and strong presentation skills in the final task meant that Sir Alan was able to justify his decision, the selection process has not been without criticism during the series.

Following the episode where applicants undertook a more conventional interview procedure than the task based selection in the rest of the series, Sir Alan was criticised in his questioning of Katie Hopkins. This criticism stemmed from his questioning of her ability to undertake the job given her childcare commitments and her current location in Exeter. He defended his criticism”I can sit there and be condescending, or I can say, 'I think you've got potential, how's it going to work? (BBC, June 13th 2007). He further explained his decision about questioning her commitment in an interview on BBC television explaining that the location of the job was clearly explained to contestants when the applied for the programme (BBC video clip).

Part of Sir Alan Sugar's nervousness at employing Katie Hopkins might be driven by his previous experience from winners of the Apprentice. Last year's winner of The Apprentice, Michelle Dewberry, left Sir Alan's firm within months of landing the high paid job (BBC, 29th September 2006). What might have motivated Michelle to stay at the firm?

The Times 100 case study looking at the Royal Bank of Scotland examines ways in which the company rewards employees to increase motivation and therefore employee retention levels. The rewards include pensions schemes, reduced rate mortgages and even shopping vouchers.   Perhaps not enough to keep a high paid Apprentice in the job, but perhaps other suitable rewards could have been considered at Sir Alan's company Amstrad.

Sugar defends interview technique – BBC News, 13 June 2007

Apprentice winner quits prize job – BBC News, 29 September 2006–motivating-through-total-reward–106-258-1.php

The Apprecentice

Video clips

BBC – The Apprentice – Simon is Apprentice winner

BBC – The Apprentice – Sugar previews Apprentice final

Possible Study Questions:

– How did the different Apprentice tasks test the different skills required for a job with Sir Alan? (details of tasks on the Apprentice website)

– What legislation exists that might influence the selection/interview process/criteria that businesses use?

– Who do you think should have won the Apprentice and why?

– How might Sir Alan have tried to improve motivation and therefore improve employee retention levels?