At Stanton House, we are driven by the belief that diversity and inclusion is inextricably linked to business performance and employee engagement and retention. We are passionate about unlocking potential at the individual, team and leadership levels to drive high performance through inclusive practices. We regularly partner with Diversity and Inclusion experts to bring our customers insight, advice and guidance. This week we bring you expert insight from our guest blog author, Liz Johnson. Liz Johnson, Founder, The Ability People & Podium Liz Johnson is a Paralympic gold medallist and disability campaigner. She is the founder of two organisations which aim to close the disability employment gap. The Ability People is the first disability-led employment consultancy, which works with companies to change their outlook on disability and transform their operations to be authentically inclusive. And recently, Liz has launched Podium, the first jobs marketplace for disabled freelancers. The new platform empowers disabled people to access meaningful remote work which meets their needs, and enables employers to access diverse talent across any sector and from any part of the world. Implement policy, don't just pay lip service The benefits of diverse workforces are as multifarious as the people which make them up. Different backgrounds and experiences lead to new insights, which in turn foster stronger decision making, better innovation and ultimately more revenue. So how can employers reap the rewards of a diverse workforce? Firstly, employers must not treat diversity as a box-ticking exercise. They must also ensure that diverse hiring translates into true inclusion in the workplace.Events of late have put diversity back on many businesses’ agenda, and rightly so. Businesses have an important role to play in empowering minority groups to access equal opportunities. But there is a risk that their support will be limited to lip service unless they implement inclusive policies, too.For companies to be truly inclusive, they must not only recognise that value lies in people’s differences, but also the ways in which these differences impact their needs at work. Crucially, they must proactively put in place processes to accommodate these needs. Team members with disabilities are a good example of this, and incidentally are one of the groups who are routinely overlooked by employers. People with disabilities often rely on remote work; but until working from home became the norm just recently, few employers took action to accommodate the flexible working needs of disabled colleagues.Prior to the pandemic, staff had to ask and were often denied permission to work from home. One of the few positives to come out of COVID is that we’ve debunked the idea that remote work is a ‘perk’, and paved the way for more inclusive policies on a permanent basis. But the reopening of offices now threatens progress for disabled staff. For those who continue to work from home, the renewed emphasis on office culture threatens to exclude them. For disabled staff who return, working around structures designed for able-bodied people will increase the physical and mental demands of going to work, making it harder for them to do their jobs effectively. Whether COVID remains a threat or not, flexible working policies are necessary for many disabled people to work comfortably and safely. And for companies to be inclusive of this group, remote work and flexitime need to be a prerequisite.Of course, this is all assuming disabled people are able to work at all.Remove accessibility barriersBarriers to access and failure to address them mean that disabled people in the UK are twice as likely to be unemployed. This is a tragedy; not least because a wealth of talent and skills is going unnurtured and underutilised.Workers with disabilities have so much to offer employers. Flexible contracts often suit their needs better, meaning disabled people are ideally placed to support companies who depend on freelancers to plug gaps in knowledge and skills. Workers with disabilities could also play a crucial role in ‘new normal’ business models, as offices downsize and teams restructure in response to the pandemic.But the benefits of employing workers with disabilities goes beyond contractual convenience. Since they have to overcome obstacles every day - which their able-bodied colleagues simply need not consider - people with disabilities offer a unique perspective, as well as resilience and resourcefulness by the bucketload. That is, only for employers who are prepared to support and empower them. And this goes beyond facilitating remote work. Accessibility is also key. Just as coronavirus has demonstrated that working from home is feasible, the redesign of workplaces in line with COVID-secure guidelines has highlighted how it’s possible to make physical adaptations to office spaces quickly. There’s no reason why we cannot make accessibility changes just as fast; whether this means providing access to wheelchair ramps, or introducing equipment with speech-to-text software. True inclusivity also depends on equal involvement in company life; wherever staff are based. For those outside the office to feel connected to the wider team, managers will have to make a special effort to maintain communication and extend opportunities. Wellbeing support and access to HR resources will also become central.Provisions such as these are the difference between a workplace which meets the needs of a member of staff, and one which enables that person to thrive. It means setting employees up for success. But, whatever their needs, the onus for this should not be on the individual.Those with needs which are not considered the norm shouldn't have to fight to access what others have as standard. Employers and managers need to take responsibility. And the buck doesn’t stop there; inclusivity is everyone’s responsibility and should be treated as such.Ingrain inclusivity into your company culture Workshops and training can promote a better understanding of diversity and inclusion for all members of staff. Carefully considered sessions should offer minority groups a platform to share their experiences and assert their needs, as well as make it the collective responsibility of the team surrounding them to support them. Only when inclusivity is ingrained in a company’s culture at every level can employers hope to facilitate the honest conversations and trust required for all staff to feel truly included. So, whilst inclusive policies lay the groundwork to attract and retain diverse workforces, a culture of inclusivity is key in order for everyone to reach their full potential. For more information about The Ability People or Podium please get in touch with Liz. Share your insights Stanton House would also love to hear from leaders on how you are adapting, implementing and assessing your workforce inclusion strategies in this new era of work. Please get in touch to share your insights.
23 Sep 2020
In previous instalments of this blog series we brought you expert insight from Paul Anderson-Walsh, Co-Founder of the Centre for Inclusive Leadership, where he explained the I.D.E.A.S © model on being and becoming more inclusive. This framework enables organisations to better understand where they need to focus their efforts if they are to develop and sustain an inclusive environment in which everyone can be their best self and do their best work. Part one explained the difference and importance of integrating new hires into an organisation rather than inducting them, part two explained the importance of developing employees rather than letting their value depreciate, part three looked at enabling managers rather than expecting them to know how to lead and part four discussed how to align talent rather than forcing people to assimilate. This week we take a look at the final element in the model, sustaining the shift to a culture or inclusion, rather than superficially ticking boxes. Paul Anderson-Walsh Sustaining the shift to a culture of inclusion The alchemic power of inclusion has been lost in the (critically important, but critically different) Equal Opportunity and Diversity agenda. Many of the initiatives that have been offered have produced superficial rather than sustained change. They have produced a change that failed to produce change. For instance, well intended or not one might reasonably ask how much lasting change Starbucks gained from shutting 8,000 stores for four hours recently to conduct racial bias training for its employees. Inclusion is aiming at something more sustainable. It is aiming at driving high performance through culture change. Charles Handy defined culture as “the way we do things around here”. Ultimately, it is how we do things that determines whether any change sticks and becomes a new habit. To sustain the behaviours consistent with an inclusive culture (one in which there is integration rather than induction; development rather than depreciation; managers being enabled rather than expected to know how; and where there is alignment rather than assimilation) leader-managers must be the embodiment of new habitual ways of being. They need to be able to lead in such a way that they inspire those who work for (and indeed with) them so that they are motivated to learn, grow and develop and become more adept at managing inclusion – their own and that of others. There are many barriers to inclusion, bias (in favour of, as well as against) being chief amongst them. Bias, as a result of stereotyping, assumptions and prejudgements is often the major cause of a shift to a more inclusive organisation culture not being sustained. We have developed a model that can enable individuals to embed new ways of “doing things around here” and thus support and sustain the organisation shift to inclusion by deliberately seeking to become bias interrupters. This is achieved when the organisation H.E.A.R.S. ™ An organisation that H.E.A.R.S. can be identified by the way in which all its staff interact with one another, with their clients, customers and other stakeholders. H.E.A.R.S. Top tips for sustaining the shift to inclusion Being our best selves & doing our best work Change entails new ways of thinking, being and doing, consequently, for change of any nature to be sustained it must be anchored in the culture. In order to do that we believe that you need to be intentional about inclusion so as to foster an environment where your people feel comfortable reaching out to all their colleagues to gain greater awareness of each other's experiences and perspectives. You need to have ongoing dialogue but without tolerating any incongruence between behaviours and your inclusion values. You need to build trust encouraging compassion and open-mindedness and reinforcing our commitment to a culture of inclusion. For information about the Centre for Inclusive Leadership’s Inclusive Leadership Programmes, please get in touch. Share your insights We’d love to hear from leaders on how you are adapting, implementing and assessing your workforce engagement and inclusion strategies as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. Please get in touch to share your insights.
20 May 2020
In parts one, two and three of this blog series we brought you expert insight from Paul Anderson-Walsh, Co-Founder of the Centre for Inclusive Leadership, where he explained the I.D.E.A.S © model on being and becoming more inclusive. This framework enables organisations to better understand where they need to focus their efforts if they are to develop and sustain an inclusive environment in which everyone can be their best self and do their best work. Part one explained the difference and importance of integrating new hires into an organisation rather than inducting them, part two explained the importance of developing employees rather than letting their value depreciate and part three looked at enabling managers rather than expecting them to know how to lead. This week he looks at how to align talent rather than forcing people to assimilate. Paul Anderson-Walsh Aligning your talent, rather than forcing them to assimilate One of the primary reasons that organisations, even those who really value diversity, don’t get value from diversity is that their culture is designed to assimilate people rather than align them. When people are assimilated they lose their essential identity. Their difference is homogenised. Over time the uniqueness of the individual (which goes way beyond their ethnic and gender identification differences) is lost as people ruthlessly edit themselves to adapt to the new culture. Where there is a dominant prevailing culture, assimilation, a one-way process, is the order of the day. The newbie adopts the majority culture and when fully adapted he or she becomes virtually indistinguishable from the dominant group. Quite apart from the tragic loss of individuality, assimilation creates the perfect conditions for groupthink to flourish. When that occurs all hope of creativity is lost as individual thought bows the knee to the most powerful person in the room as people set aside their own personal beliefs or adopt the opinion of the rest of the group. Would-be detractors remain silent rather than disrupt the uniformity of the crowd.Aligning the talent to the organisation, and the organisation to the talent is an important building block of an inclusive organisation. Whilst it is vitally important, it isn’t easy. Alignment requires a high level of commitment to generating value from diversity as well as a willingness to flex and be supple in order to get that value. We often talk about aligning our talent to the organisation but we don’t so readily think about how the organisation could benefit from aligning itself to its talent. Consider for a moment how the English language, once a minor Germanic dialect has raised to the position it enjoys today as a, if not the, global language. How was that achieved? Well one reason, among many, is that it is a language that allows it to be infiltrated by other tongues and cultures (popular culture included). It embraces new words and consequently has an ever-expanding, ever-relevant vocabulary. The inclusion-savvy organisation knows only too well the value of “clean-eyes.” The management commentator Peter Drucker once remarked that ‘ignorance is the most important component for helping others to solve any problem in any industry.” And so, it is. Yet so keen are we to get people to see the world through the lens of our corporate spectacles that we miss the opportunity to see what they see, with clean eyes.Organisations where the talent is aligned to the organisation and the organisation is aligned to the talent, produce a very coherent signal to their customers. Top tips for aligning your talent 1. Think fitting together and not fitting in 2. Remember that it is about all of them not some of them 3. Value difference 4. Don't allow any disconnect between beliefs (values) and behaviour 5. Foster an environment where people feel comfortable reaching out to their colleagues to gain greater awareness of each other's experiences and perspectives. For information about the Centre for Inclusive Leadership’s Inclusive Leadership Programmes, please get in touch. Look out for my final blog in this series where I explain the last element of the I.D.E.A.S.© model ‘sustaining’.Share your insightsWe’d love to hear from leaders on how you are adapting, implementing and assessing your workforce engagement and inclusion strategies as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. Please get in touch to share your insights.
15 May 2020
In part one and two of this blog series we brought you expert insight from Paul Anderson-Walsh, Co-Founder of the Centre for Inclusive Leadership, where he introduced the first two elements in the I.D.E.A.S © model on being and becoming more inclusive. This framework enables organisations to better understand where they need to focus their efforts if they are to develop and sustain an inclusive environment in which everyone can be their best self and do their best work. Part one explained the difference and importance of integrating new hires into an organisation rather than inducting them and part two explained the importance of developing your employees rather than letting their value depreciate. This week we turn to the next crucial element enabling your managers rather than expecting them to know how to lead. Paul Anderson-Walsh Enabling your managersFar from being a confirmative short step, the transition from being an individual contributor (or producer) to a manager (or reproducer) is a journey. What makes people successful as individual contributors is different from that which makes them successful as leaders. The individual contributor (by and large) succeeds through his or her own efforts. Managers on the other hand succeed through the efforts of others. Being a manager calls for a different skill set. As well as maintaining their own performance, they must now focus on the development of others and the creation of an environment in which they can nurture and grow a high-performing team. In today’s complex, diverse and currently indefinitely home-based workforce that is a sophisticated ask which requires, agility, acuity and adaptability. My experience is that managers (often) feel ill-equipped to be able to support the learning growth and development of all their people. Sometimes, struggling with their own feelings of inadequacy, which can show up in, for example, the form of imposter syndrome and sometimes feeling inadequate because they did not have the benefit of seeing development modelled for them by their line manager and therefore despite wanting to develop others, they simply don’t know how to. The manager population tend to be the most under-resourced and under-invested-in cohort in the business. The number of managers I encounter who ‘make it up as they go along’ is concerning. At a minimum, managers must be helped to understand why inclusion matters; how to delegate; how to coach; how to have difficult conversations; how to manage change; how to give feedback and how to manage teams; how to manage conflict; how to manage up and how to carry-out mid-year and end-of-year reviews. This is a necessary investment for any organisation, seeking to get more from more of their people, more of the time.Organisations know that it is their leader-manager population who are the engine that drives the culture. Knowing this, inclusive organisations strategically and systematically invest in their enablement to ensure that they, the managers are fuelled to make sure the business is powered by inclusion. The leader-manager role can look different in different organisations. In some, they are expected to give up their individual production target/responsibility and are measured against the results of their team. For these managers the transition is from producer to leader-manager. (Model A). For others the leader-manager adds rather than sheds responsibility. They are still expected to produce whilst adding the leader-manager function to their list of responsibilities (Model B). In Model A the manager needs to be a Mentor, whilst in Model B the key feature of their role is to model the organisational values, behaviours and best-practice. Inclusive organisations don’t expect that good producers will automatically be good leader-managers.. Consequently, organisations may need to reimagine the support they need to offer their leader-manager population to enable them to be able to lead their organisation toward achieving its goals. The popularisation of Emotional Intelligence has shone a light on the fact that there is a link between self-awareness and empathy. For your leader-managers to develop and empower others you will need to invest in them to enable them to address the things that disempower them.The shape and form of the investment you will need to make in your leader-managers will differ depending on circumstances, but your reimagining may be helped if you ask yourself how your manager population is distributed across these possibilities: A) Leader-manager promoted from within B) Leader-manager hired externally C) Leader-manager/producer hired externally D) Leader-manager/producer promoted from within Whilst there will be development needs that are common to all your leader-managers, there will be needs that are particular to different groups. New hires will have different needs and opportunities to those internally promoted, in the same way, leader-managers will have different-needs and opportunities from leader-manager/producers. The more forensic you are in determining an individual’s particular needs the more likely you are to enable all your leader-managers to lead and support all your people. Top tips for enabling your managers 1. Role model inclusive leadership to them 2. Tailor an inclusive leadership programme to their needs 3. Provide them with a coach 4. Provide them with a mentor 5. Provide them with a learning resource including moment-of-need resources For information about the Centre for Inclusive Leadership’s Inclusive Leadership Programmes, please get in touch. Look out for my next blog where I explain the next element of the I.D.E.A.S.© model ‘Aligning’.Share your insights We’d love to hear from leaders on how you are adapting, implementing and assessing your workforce engagement and inclusion strategies as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. Please get in touch to share your insights.
07 May 2020
Inclusion is critical to every aspect of any business that is about peopleIn our last blog on this topic we explored the reasons why, in a world where most of us now live and work from home, inclusive practices matter now more than ever. Inclusion is a critical success factor for employee performance and retention, and this has never been so true now that so many people across the world are practicing varying degrees of self-isolation and social distancing. This week we bring you more expert insight from our guest blog author, Paul Anderson-Walsh, Co-Founder of the Centre for Inclusive Leadership. Read on to learn about the I.D.E.A.S. © model on being and becoming more inclusive. Paul Anderson-WalshInclusion sits at the heart of creativity, innovation and productivity In truth, in almost every community there are groups that often feel vulnerable, afraid and sometimes isolated, because they don’t have a sense of belonging. They feel excluded. In organisational life, when people feel excluded there are huge implications for companies seeking to be more creative, innovative or wanting to maintain or increase productivity and reduce costs. We believe inclusion sits at the heart of creativity, innovation and productivity. Our research tells us that when people experience exclusion, they feel – isolated, depressed, misunderstood, ashamed, devalued, angry and frustrated. These emotions do not make for a great in store experience for anybody. Yet many organisations act as though inclusion was just a word to add on to the ‘equal opportunity and diversity’ agenda, which, they assume is about compliance, and miss the fact that inclusion is about performance. Whilst some organisations still perceive diversity as a problem to be solved, the inclusive organisation sees diversity as an asset that adds value and, moreover, knows how to manage inclusion in order to get the added value from diversity. We assert that the extent to which people are included is the extent to which you get value from diversity and can expect to drive profit and sustained performance along with enhanced brand reputation.At The Centre for Inclusive Leadership, we have developed a model that organisations can use to turbo-charge their journey towards being authentically inclusive. We call this model I.D.E.A.S.© The I.D.E.A.S.© modelThe I.D.E.A.S.© model provides a framework that enables organisations to better understand where they need to focus their efforts if they are to develop and sustain an inclusive environment in which everyone can be their best self and do their best work. Organisations need to be intentional if they are to create inclusive ecosystems in which everyone is integrated, developed, enabled, aligned, and able to work in a sustainable way with one another and guarantee that everyone gets the five-star treatment. In an inclusive organisation success is underwritten by... Integration, rather than…InductionDevelopment, rather than…DepreciationEnabling, rather than…Expecting Align, rather than…Assimilate Sustainable, rather than…Superficial In this first of a series of articles I will explain the first element of this model, ‘Integration’… Integrating all the talentIt is reported that between 30% and 50% of new hires off-board in the first two years (and at no small cost to the business, I might add). It is therefore worth asking how, in an inclusive organisation, on- boarding is an integral part of the development and retention process.In organisations that aren’t fully alive to inclusion the on-boarding practice typically takes the form of an induction “day”. This might take an hour, and pretty much consists of exchanging a few documents/bank details, P60 etc. In exchange for which, the newbie gets shown where their hot desk is, given an e-mail address, a log-in code, pointed in the general direction of the photocopier and the kitchen and given a staff handbook which she needs to familiarise herself with and subsequently confirm that she has understood and is prepared to adhere to the company’s rules and regulations and policies. Parody aside, in an inclusive organisation, the on-boarding process is about integration not induction. We call something (or someone) Integrated when it or in this case the new joiner is related to the new organisation in such a way that they form a new (expanded) united whole. I can recall that at a recent workshop for one of our retail clients that in the plenary feedback from an exercise that involved each of the participants sharing a story about a time when they felt different from others around them, that one participant began her recount by saying: “I’m new here. I’ve only been here two years…” after a predictable point of clarification from the facilitator she continued, “… and well, I found myself trying to fit in as you do.” Rather than becoming part of an integral entity, all too often “new” joiners are left with the unenviable problem of finding a way to fit in. Fitting in nearly always involves selective editing of the parts of ourselves and our stories that we don’t think will “fit” here. A meaningful EVP is key to integrationAny organisation that charts a course towards inclusion needs to have at its fingertips the forensic evidence that allows it to measure to what extent, if any, people who are different from “us” are having to edit or crunch themselves in order to survive in the roles.Inclusion is about fitting together. It is about true integration – rather than simple induction. The prize it’s aiming at is to unleash the extraordinary power that comes from fitting together rather than just fitting in... One of the features of an inclusive organisation where the goal is integration rather than induction is that they have a very clear and compelling narrative around their (Inclusive) Employee Value Proposition (EVP). Just like your customers, your top talent have choices. They don’t have to work for you. So, you need to be clear about What’s in it for them…? What will a person gain (that are more than merely hygiene factors, like salary) in return for their capability, creativity, know-how, advocacy and discretionary effort that they are going to bring to your organisation in order to help you achieve its objectives? Organisations have rightly focused their attention on developing compelling Customer Value Propositions CVPs. A couple of memorable examples being: L’Oreal’s “Because you’re worth it” no doubt your organisation will have its own CVP. But one of the key reasons that talent retention is so poor is that employers either don’t have a clear Employee Value Proposition (EVP) or worse, they do, but fail to live up to them and so message to their EVP rather than being core is tokenistic and susceptible to being compromised. A meaningful EVP is key to integration. There also needs to be a resonance between the EVP and the CVP. The two must be aligned. Neither can be compromised. To compromise on one of the statements is to put the other at risk. By enabling your customers to achieve what they want and to enable your employees to do the same is the surest way to achieve what you and your organisation want. 5 Top tips for integrating rather than inducting 1. First commandment of retail: Love thy customer. First rule of I.D.E.A.S. is love all your people2. Have and live out your company’s EVP3. Be clear about your why and theirs 4. Ensure that the working environment is psychologically safe5. Recognise that the on-boarding process might stretch itself to at least one (probably two) performance management cycle(s)Look out for my next blog where I explain the next element of the I.D.E.A.S. model ‘Development’. Share your insights We’d love to hear from leaders on how you are adapting, implementing and assessing your workforce engagement and inclusion strategies as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. Please get in touch to share your insights.
23 Apr 2020
As a recruiter for technical leadership roles across Asia, I spend my days and nights speaking with people from different backgrounds, with diverse demographics and life experiences.I am especially passionate about representing the many senior women that are making a splash in the notoriously male dominated world of technology; understanding what has helped or hindered their careers and taking these learnings to the employers I help.Employers are addressing gender imbalance, but more needs to be doneFor any organisation to transform, innovate and grow it is vital that their workforce is representative of their customers, clients, and the communities they serve. And gender is of course, just one aspect of this.When it comes to attracting and developing tech talent in Asia, organisations are making strides to add more women to their upper echelons. Employers who understand the competitive advantage they stand to gain by having more diversity in their workforce, are actively pursuing and embedding more inclusive talent attraction and retention strategies. The biggest reason is that they stand to be the major beneficiaries. According to a McKinsey & Co report about 43% of entry-level positions in Asian companies are occupied by women, but at the C-suite and senior-management levels, this drops to 25% in Singapore and as low as 4% in Japan. This is a huge loss of untapped talent. Although more women in tech are starting to make their mark, there is still more work to be done and it’s up to employers to showcase their commitment to women across their business. One woman I spoke to recently who holds a senior technical role based in Singapore in a global organisation commented that: ‘in my experience women’s views in the organisations I have worked for in Asia are not taken seriously as “expert” and they are sometimes valued less than their male counterparts, despite their ability and often exceptional backgrounds.’ Who’s helping women up-skill? There are some fantastic organisations in Asia that encourage women into technology and provide tailored training programs. Cloud Seeders, in Singapore, is an AWS backed program providing women with a structured and guided approach to learning a diverse set of cloud and digital skills as well as working on the confidence levels of their members.She Loves Data, another organisation founded in Singapore, equip women with data science and data analytics skills and in turn partners with banks and other businesses to bring women back into the work place and into technology. So, what should employers be doing more of? Partnering with expert and specialist recruiters and organisations such as Cloud Seeders and She Loves Data to tap into new talent poolsShowcasing their commitment to diversity and inclusion in recruitment materials and throughout the hiring processPromoting flexible working policies internally and externally Training leaders and hiring managers on how to mitigate unconscious bias in the selection processFostering a culture of inclusion, community and conversation amongst employees once they joinProviding unique and transparent career progression and development opportunities At Stanton House, we are driven by the belief that diversity and inclusion is inextricably linked to business performance and employee engagement and retention. We are passionate about unlocking potential at the individual, team and leadership levels to drive high performance through inclusive practices.I’d love to hear your opinions and thoughts on this topic. Please get in touch.
05 Mar 2020
We have all heard the phrase ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ but when are we going to apply the same rule to recruitment? I am not talking about judging a candidate by their appearance, culture, religion, age or anything that could possibly discriminate against them; in fact, I am not talking about how we perceive candidates at all but rather how today’s top talent judge potential opportunities far too quickly. Holding job titles in such high-regard, they are missing out on their perfect opportunity by failing to read job descriptions and organisations are partly to blame. We are all admirers of great job titles, take Sandwich Artists at Subway and the countless ‘gurus’ we have on LinkedIn as examples of that but looking closer to home in the Finance World, we are having the same conversations and its debilitating our top talent. Candidates are getting so caught up in job titles that they aren’t even entertaining a job description and be it a result of keeping up appearances or working as a coping mechanism to filter extensive search results, its hindering their and your success. Take a Financial Controller for instance. They are no longer purely transactional but commercial and strategic in the same way Finance Directors are now expected to be engaging and approachable leaders. Roles change but job titles haven’t and while I would encourage every candidate to be open-minded in their search, organisations need to be mindful of the role they are advertising or rather, how they are advertising the role. Hiring managers are fantastic at looking at a professional’s CV and looking beyond the buzzwords – identifying key achievements over titles and seeing adaptability and competencies first and foremost. Unfortunately, candidates aren’t following the same thought-process and looking straight to a job title that may not carry the term ‘senior’ and it’s an instant no. It’s a problem elevated by the start-up culture we find ourselves in which offers huge job titles for smaller responsibility. A CFO in a start-up for instance may be a Head of Finance within a larger firm and on the reverse, a Financial Controller within a corporate may find themselves as a Senior Business Partner in a smaller organisation, contributing to one of the many reasons professionals move to the disruptive world of work. For instant growth. With this in mind, a professional heading back into the corporate world would no longer appreciate a smaller title as despite being a side-step to their current role, the job title doesn’t match their progression. I met with a FTSE 50 organisation recently which is a microcosm to the organisational issue we find ourselves facing. A hugely attractive business that entices great talent across the board but attracting and retaining financial talent is an issue for them and it’s clear to see why. The Financial Controllers manage the Senior Business Partners who in another company would be a Head of Finance and then on the reverse, the Finance Business Partners who sit underneath them would otherwise be known as Analysts. The organisational structure almost has it that you come in on a fantastic title and digress as you grow which matters more to the professionals filling the role than they realise. Ultimately my advice is simple. If you are a candidate embarking on a new search, be open-minded, look beyond the job titles and present your CV around your key achievements and not former titles. For organisations, its fairly simple too: consider how your future talent pool may react to a role and what flexibility might need to be on the table for it to work. I’d like to hear from you – have you turned down your dream role due to a title or, do you think titles are depriving you of your best talent?
05 Dec 2019
‘Women in Business’ is a phrase coined to the equality movement and marks a huge step-change in supporting female professionals around the world. Whether it’s Women in Finance, Women in Cyber or Women in Tech – it’s a term used to build a support network for professional women around the world and while it can be great, it’s not always used for good. Dominated historically by the loudest voices, ‘Women in Business’ can be found plastered across stages at conferences, trending daily on LinkedIn and dished up alongside lip-service to serve organisations wanting to appear as more inclusive and unfortunately it’s working.. or, at least it did. The overdone phrase is now met with public mistrust, frustration and even resentment mirroring the hijacking of the Feminism Movement that was once cheered and not ignored. We’re on a mission to change that. Change the way the phrase is used and perceived by restoring its original purpose and use it for good. Starting with the very women in our own network, we are using ‘Women in Business’ to engage, encourage, empower and inspire female professionals who have a voice but are being prevented from using it. Our Having a Voice at the Table event series brings together the UK’s leading women from different business disciplines, colour codes, backgrounds, skill-sets, strengths, weaknesses and opinions about womanhood and just about everything else. We don’t talk about inequality, diversity, talent attraction, ticking a box or discrimination – negative or positive discrimination. Essentially, we don’t discuss anything that ‘Women in Business’ events might often be associated with and instead bring powerful women together and encourage them to tell their stories. Be it balancing motherhood with leadership, finding your authentic self and staying true to it, finding ‘me time’ or finding a mentor, we discuss how to use our downfalls as women to become more successful and so far, it’s been brilliant. Over the course of two events we have heard from four exceptional women who shared their stories of leadership and womanhood. Xenia Walters, Group CFO of SDL opened our first ever Women in Business event. She spoke about the power balance in the Board Room and at home with her husband a successful executive and two children who see them both as equal, she also spoke about building a work ethic aged seven and using your weaknesses as strengths. She stressed the importance of an Executive Coach to help you stop and reflect and spoke of having it all, as a myth. Elona Mortimer-Zhika, CEO of IRIS Software Group joined Xenia at our first event and advocated the vitality of choosing meritocracy over positive discrimination, how it can often be lonely at the top and how as a leader who is also a mother, finding the balance between being great at work and great at home; and also great to herself, is a huge struggle. She also discussed how finding friends at the school gate was her saviour in balancing work and motherhood with ‘me time’. Our second event which took place just this week saw CFO of the Ambassador Theatre Group, ShanMae Teo, discuss climbing the ranks through a heavily male-dominated Private Equity industry and using her current position to promote equality not just for women but for men too – encouraging her male peers and reports to do the ‘admin’, go to the doctors appointments and the school pick-ups because while helping him to be a better father, you’re helping a woman on the other side of the fence who gets to stay at work a little longer. We also heard from Author and Executive Coach Joanna Kane who spoke about the wake-up call that changed her life. Working harder than anyone else, she believed to be a successful woman she needed to work tirelessly and became ill in the process – this she describes as the leading moment to the thing that changed her life, offered her a second career and gave her the inspiration to help other women move forward in their lives with more clarity, conviction and joy. These events not only allow women who may be silently struggling to ask for help and resonate with the powerful speeches delivered by these four exceptional women, it also offers them the chance to interact with a group of passionate women under Chatham House Rule – a safe space to discuss challenges they may also be facing, what holds them back and what they are committed to changing. Our interactive workshop allows these phenomenal women to truly self-reflect and ask themselves what is holding them back from an astounding year ahead and build a tool-kit to help them get there. Two events, 80 women and a whole lot of positivity is the start to reclaiming the term ‘Women in Business’ and I’m confident we are making a dent in the professional world – a dent that is sure to empower women in business everywhere.
14 Nov 2019
Eight weeks ago, I moved to Hong Kong and it already feels like home. Having spent seven years working across the UK IT Recruitment Sector I decided it was time for a change and so I packed a bag and said goodbye to Cardiff. I was expecting to undergo some transitionary period; a culture shock you could say, but with a thriving social scene, diverse culture and millions of people from all walks of life on your doorstep, it was an easy move. There was however, one difference and that was the contract market in Hong Kong. It remains to be behind anything I have ever seen in the UK and despite there being a huge skills shortage with more positions than people, the contracting market is frowned upon and contractors are thought of as professionals unable to get a permanent role rather those seeking career diversity. What also struck me as strange was the fact that contractors in Hong Kong receive the same salary as those in permanent employment which removes the financial reward that comes hand-in-hand with the Interim world of work in the UK and removing the attraction to it as a result. While I understand the benefits of permanent employment, I also see the necessity for contract work - especially in the technology and digital world where a variety of cultures means for an abundance of Hong Kong narrative speakers and a real language barrier. I’ve found that international businesses in the tech space are absolutely fine, the likes of Facebook, Netflix and Google. But, it’s the local businesses that are really suffering. If these employees were contractors, coming in to complete a programme or implementation and then leaving it would be fine but these are permanent employees, not able to communicate with their employers. The biggest issue is that local businesses in desperate need of technological help are putting their needs on hold to find the perfect person with the technological and social competencies but it’s slowing them down and depriving them of the top tier of technical talent. While this issue appears not to be a new one, I am keen to speak to my new network in Hong Kong to hear your views on contracting and see if you are open-minded to hiring on an Interim basis to fill the skills-gap?
24 Oct 2019
There are two types of Finance Transformation professional - Specialists and Generalists. Specialists are often given niche titles, like P2P Global Process Owner and S4HANA System Implementation Lead, and a set of very specific responsibilities. Alternatively, generalists see themselves as all-encompassing Finance Transformation professionals with a broad experience of doing a bit of everything in every arena, whether that be for example, a system implementation, shared service centre set up or process improvement project. While there is a clear divide between the two types of professionals, what there isn’t is an understanding of which one is the best and as an organisation, which is more desirable. I have posed this very question to many of my clients and it seems they too are torn. Some show a preference for specialist professionals who can come in with a wealth of knowledge about a niche subject while others reap the benefits of a generalist who brings the benefits of a diverse and varied career path and can likely turn their hand to any project thrown at them. While many remain undecided, I’m keen to hear your opinion of what the optimum Finance Transformation professional looks like and what experience they bring to the table. Are they specialist, are they generalist, have they started their career as a specialist and branched out into other areas or have they over time narrowed down their focus to one specialism after climbing the ranks as a generalist? I had this very conversation today with Finance Transformation Director in my network. Despite spending his 30-something years as a Finance Transformation professional in different pockets of transformation projects, he will only hire specialist people into his team. His experience is so varied in fact that its quite unbelievable but while he has developed a great understanding of Finance Transformation programmes over the years, his worry is that his successors will merely be a Jack of all trades in this space and a master of none. This made me wonder, is he being too selective by assuming the next generation of leaders haven’t followed his exact path or, has he got a point? In my opinion, a diverse career history is not only a vital attribute of every professional but it also makes for a better leader with more adaptability, leadership skills, stakeholder engagement capabilities and a general understanding of how different finance transformation projects operate. On the other hand, I understand that if you have a specific need you would naturally opt to hire a person with the exact career profile and is hedging a bet on someone’s similar competencies asking too much of our clients? It’s a risk but is it worth the risk and worth staying open-minded for someone with a diverse skill-set to bring to the role? I’d like to hear from you. What makes for the better Finance Transformation professional – a generalist, a specialist or, both?
21 Oct 2019
Zeeshan Tayyeb has spent almost two decades working as a Finance Director, CFO and COO for both multi-million pound corporate and start-up organisations. Having transitioned between established and disruptive companies for some time, he discusses finding his happy medium within Private Equity and how despite working longer hours, he found greater job satisfaction working in a start-up - but, are they less forgiving? I think if you look at corporate companies; due to their age or the sheer amount of time and money that has gone into their development, they have institutionalised practices which are hugely beneficial to professionals starting off their careers. These types of environments provide a safe starting place to know and understand what good practice looks like while receiving guidance from experienced professionals. You also have training programmes, room for learning, budget for development and allowances for mistakes. You learn to understand how things can go wrong as a result of a bad decision and learn how to avoid failure knowing what the consequences are. You are not going to repeat your mistakes in the corporate world as there are boundaries and structures in place to direct you and tell you that you were wrong, but you can fix it. Smaller organisations are less forgiving and a small mistake could be life or death for them. When transitioning from a larger organisation to a smaller one, a frustration both I and colleagues of mine on the same journey have faced is the speed. A smaller organisation is more agile, it takes less time to make big decisions and becomes easier to chop and change if things aren’t quite going to plan. It’s a lot more flexible in that way which can be a fantastic thing but there is definitely an adjustment period to be had. The downside of working for a leaner organisation is that you run the risk of not having your key people. The benefit of working within a corporate is the processes and people that exist to help you; which are especially beneficial for transactional services, but the same thing just doesn’t exist within a start-up. Although frustrating, this can be of real benefit to you if you join from a corporate background with the ability to implement the day-to-day methodology needed to automate and utilise a small workforce. On the reverse, moving from a career where you have only worked in start-ups into the corporate world can be difficult. In my experience, it’s much harder to transition and you would need a specific skillset whether it’s speed, agility or a niche talent that can differentiate you from others. You also need to prepare yourself for the different politics, pace and processes that exist within a corporate environment. I think the nature of how training in the two types of organisation works means that senior finance people deriving from corporate backgrounds are ultimately more experienced. They are often second to the CEO and the person everyone within the company looks to for guidance and knowledge. In a corporate role, learning is constant as you not only constantly evolve yourself to meet the growing needs of the company, but you also get to mentor a great deal of people, work alongside group CFOs and Managing Directors who are all on a learning path themselves. For full access to Zeeshan's interview and the rest of our exclusive interviews in our white paper 'Are you too corporate for a start-up?' follow the download link below. Download our white paper
07 Oct 2019
For some time, we have been talking about the evolution of the Finance Professional. No longer numbers-driven and chained to a desk but more commercial, strategic and influential. While we once saw a sharp contrast between Transactional and Commercial Finance Professionals, they have equally become commercially-savvy and approachable, able to influence stakeholders and translate ‘finance’ into a language the workforce understands. But this progression of the Finance Professional is merely a microcosm of the massive changes taking place in the industry as the Finance space evolves with the changing times, technology and political climate. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is one example of the technology revolutionising the Finance Transformation space but it’s not just tech taking over. The current political and economic climate is clouded with uncertainty meaning the traditionally temporary marketplace is making a move to Perm. Organisations are now seeking a Finance Transformation professional on a Permanent basis to cut costs and minimise disruption in longer-term projects but it isn’t landing well with the professionals they need to succeed. Transformation professionals thrive in the dynamic world of Interim work. They enjoy the diversity, the financial reward and the flexibility – three things not regularly associated with permanent employment. I met with a Transformation Director at a FTSE 20 company recently and she spoke about this feeling of freedom. The freedom to move from project to project, influence the business in such a short space of time and utilise new technology in new ways – something she wouldn’t be able to achieve in a permanent role and it made me question the longevity of this 'move to perm'. While technology revolutionises the Finance space and uncertainty reshapes the recruitment trends that sit within it, I’d like to hear from you. How have you seen the industry evolve and what change is on the horizon?
26 Sep 2019