The Bottom Line
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"Ah, sure, it'll be grand" is an expression widely use in Ireland. Sometimes, however, your staff really do need help. Damian McCourt emphasises the importance of listening to your employees and offering support when they need it. “This is ridiculous,” I said, staring at the influx of work in dismay. “I’m never going to get through all this.” It was 2013, and I was a project manager with far more work than was good for me. I was feeling panicked. My manager looked across at me, shrugged his shoulders in a what-can-you-do sort of way, and announced, “it is what it is”. I put my head down, kept my mouth shut, and proceeded to work myself into a burnout. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I had just been ‘minimised’. Talking about our mental health is never easy. Even if your workplace encourages open discussion on mental health, the desire to appear capable, competent and – above all – strong can be a severe deterrent to asking for help. As a result, it often falls to the manager to ask if someone is okay. This is difficult even at the best of times. It requires planning, privacy and a careful, non-judgmental approach. Try doing this over Zoom with your locked-down kids, and you have a genuine challenge. The good news is that if you’re a careful listener, you won’t even need to initiate this conversation. People ask for help all the time – they just don’t make it obvious. Seemingly off-the-cuff comments on energy levels, mood and workload sometimes hide a call for help, and you can respond in one of three ways: Shift the conversation to you “Oh, I’m up to my eyes too! Wait ‘till I tell you what I had to deal with last week…” Shifting the conversation back to you isn’t helpful but it’s an easy mistake to make as a manager, especially if you’re feeling slightly stressed yourself. Do it often enough, and people will stop talking to you. Minimise the situation “Ah, it’ll be grand. We’re all in the same boat. That’s just the job. Man up and get into it.” Minimise is a put down, pure and simple. Everyone else is OK so you should be too. Pipe down and get on with it. For someone who is already worrying about their ability to cope, you’re doubling their anxiety by dismissing their concerns. Not only are you being supremely unhelpful, you’re giving yourself a harder conversation later on. Offer support “Are things really bad? Anything I can do to help?” We would all like to think that we’d be the one to offer support, and yet we all live with our own concerns and priorities. It’s easy to miss an opportunity to help. Remote working tools can actually make monitoring the health and wellbeing of your staff easier. Keep an eye on your Teams chat and watch for clues in email conversations. It’s easier to ask if someone needs help than if they are okay, and your offer of support might make all the difference. Damian McCourt is a freelance trainer and consultant specialising in workplace resilience, productivity and sensible leadership.

Jan 22, 2021
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Good companies have always invested in upskilling their employees, but this has been propelled exponentially over the last year due to the pandemic. Dearbhla Gallagher tells us why. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major economic impact on every business sector in Ireland. Some sectors, such as retail, tourism and hospitality, have been particularly hard-hit, with the ongoing closures of restaurants and other hospitality outlets leaving many unemployed and others at risk of losing their jobs. In these circumstances, the need for organisations, and employees, to become more adaptable and innovative has become evident. Developments in technology have brought about great benefits, but have also added extra urgency to the need to acknowledge the changes that are coming in the world of work. This was the case even before the pandemic. In 2019, the ILO Global Commission on the Future of Work stated that “today’s skills will not match the jobs of tomorrow, and newly acquired skills may quickly become obsolete”. The Commission strongly recommended that governments, employers, and workers invest in education and training. Fast forward a year and the COVID-19 pandemic has arrived on our shores. Few could have predicted how quickly the need for upskilling and reskilling would come to pass. In response, many organisations worldwide have reacted quickly by taking steps to address critical skill gaps in order to maintain business operations. A 2020 LinkedIn report found that employees spent 130% more time learning in March and April of that year, compared to January and February. However, more action may be needed to prepare for changes in the future. Now for tomorrow The big challenge for today’s leaders is to recognise where jobs have been, or could be, lost because of the pandemic and other global developments, and to waste no time in upskilling and reskilling employees to deal with future disruptions. Currently, training courses are online to keep employees safe and the last ten months of online learning has demonstrated that it is both feasible and effective. Investing in training sends a strong signal that the company cares about supporting its employees. It also fosters employee confidence and loyalty. Studies have demonstrated that investments in upskilling and reskilling employees can boost productivity, improve employee engagement and retention and help to attract new talent. In a survey by the online learning platform Talent LMS, 66% of respondents expressed appreciation at the opportunities provided by their employers to acquire new knowledge and develop new skills. More importantly, it can help organisations to deal with the ongoing impact of the current COVID-19 crisis. For many businesses, managing costs has never been more crucial and, therefore, upskilling and reskilling the existing workforce may make more sense than recruiting new staff. Finally, companies that are actively engaged in upskilling and reskilling their workforce will also help to develop resilience skills among their employees. Many employees have been afflicted with anxiety, stress, loneliness and burnout as a result of the pandemic. An employee with updated skills will be more resilient, more confident and better equipped to perform in the job. Dearbhla Gallagher is the Learning and Development Manager at Baker Tilly.

Jan 22, 2021
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Putting the brakes on travel has been hard for passengers and the industry. But is there a light at the end of the tunnel for aviation companies? Dick Forsberg explains. The disruption caused by COVID-19 will have unprecedented consequences for the airline industry, including significant and permanent structural changes. At the same time, record numbers of investors are lining up in anticipation of finding real value in distressed aviation-related transactions, arguably for the first time in over a decade, and according to PwC’s Aviation Industry Outlook 2021, capital should be available in scale as the recovery trajectory becomes better defined. IATA predicts that the airline industry will have lost US $118.5 billion in 2020 and a further US $38.7 billion in 2021. The extensive government support provided, estimated to be at least US $180 billion to date, has played a major role in saving a number of weak carriers from collapse, but in doing so has created a long-term unlevelling of the playing field. Airline casualties According to the report, the extraordinary levels of additional indebtedness taken on by the airlines will permanently realign the finances of the industry. Airlines will need ongoing access to emergency liquidity – including government support – for the foreseeable future. There will be more airline casualties ahead and, for those that survive, the ability to thrive will be more challenging. In order to survive and thrive in the post-COVID-19 world, airlines will have to fundamentally rethink their fleets, their business models and their finances. This will not always lead to change, but for most, a return to business as usual is not going to be a viable option for several reasons, such as: there are too many aircraft in the system, and the market of 4.5 billion passengers will not return quickly; the market has become uneconomic, and airlines cannot easily return to the service they provided before March 2020; a heightened duty of care towards customers and front-line staff will reshape customer service; and the crippling debt burden that is building across much of the airline industry will require root and branch restructuring in order to bring long-term solvency and profitability. In many cases, drastic surgery will be needed to right-size fleets, restructure business models and recapitalise airlines. Fleet rationalisation acceleration It is expected that in 2021, the fleet rationalisation process that is already under way will continue and accelerate. Few airlines are looking to add capacity. 2020 ended with 30% of the global passenger airliner fleet inactive – more than 8,500 idle aircraft – and 5,000 aircraft may be surplus to requirements. Demand remains muted, making lease extensions and placements more difficult and Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) production rates may not return to 2018–2019 levels before 2025. 2020 is expected to have been the low point in the current cycle for aircraft deliveries, requiring an estimated US $50 billion of finance, half of the 2019 volume. Lessor restructuring and M&A activity Managing liquidity will continue to be challenging for the airlines. Pressure on lenders, lessors, OEMs and other stakeholders will also extend well into 2021. As the crisis continues, an increase in lessor restructuring and M&A activity is expected. Incremental liquidity from a growing number of investors considering a role in the sector will be key to the continued ability of airlines to finance their aircraft and related assets. Aircraft with the most efficient technologies will be the preferred fleet choices for airlines as they seek to minimise operating risk and cash outflows, and their residual values are unlikely to experience permanent reductions. Conversely, the largest and least efficient aircraft types will remain underutilised for longer with a higher risk of permanent value impairments. Environmental issues and sustainability may have taken a back seat as airlines deal with the pandemic, but they have not gone away. The industry has set some extremely challenging green agenda targets and the actions required to make real progress on this front need to be woven into the plans rising from the wreckage of COVID-19. Resilience Once the virus is sufficiently tamed, passenger demand will slowly return. There is already evidence that the desire to travel is firmly embedded in our DNA and, given the opportunity and the confidence to fly again, the majority will do so. The industry has demonstrated its resilience many times in the past and will survive and thrive again, albeit with some sorely needed changes to its structure. Dick Forsberg is Senior Aviation Finance Consultant at PwC.

Jan 22, 2021
News

Sustainability and ESG initiatives are a hot topic for 2021. But how can companies successfully implement them? Judith Kelly outlines four new roles on the market that bring sustainability to the forefront. Climate action is now a priority item on every board agenda. In 2020, we witnessed a dramatic escalation in activity and real urgency from every sector to plan and implement the relevant sustainable finance and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) initiatives. Further, the Irish government continues to position Ireland as a hub for green finance as part of the ‘Ireland for Finance’ strategy. Investors are increasingly using non-financial factors such as ESG standards as an important part of their investment screening process. The challenge for us is to understand what new positions are being created, and how we source relevant candidates when established and experienced talent pools do not already exist. By working closely with key stakeholders within client companies – including boards, executive management and investors – to understand recruitment needs, we have been able to identify four main roles and several related positions that you can expect to see this year. Chief Sustainability Officer The Chief Sustainability Officer will become a key leadership role within every organisation of sufficient scale. The office will sit alongside Risk, Finance, Treasury, Corporate Finance, and Internal Audit as a key corporate function. The office will be responsible for building sustainability frameworks and programmes across all parts of the business and embedding people to manage and setting a proactive and positive sustainability culture across the organisation. ESG Strategy Director Large corporates from all sectors are aiming to build sustainable practices into every part of their business from procurement, to supply chain and operations, to manufacturing, to packaging. You will also see a call for ESG Integration Director/Managers. ESG Investment Director/Manager/Analyst With financial services firms looking to ramp up sustainable investment research and product offerings, many need investment managers with sustainability knowledge and expertise. Similar roles such as Head of Sustainable Investment and ESG Finance Lead will also feature in 2021. Chief Impact Officer/Director This role is to oversee the measurement, verification, management, reporting and improvement of the company’s social and environmental impact and the value that these will deliver to stakeholders. You could also see listings for ESG Reporting Manager as well. Judith Kelly is a Director at FK International.

Jan 15, 2021
News

Attracting and retaining talented people is always a challenge, but there are specific features of family businesses that deserve special consideration. Liam Lynch reflects on how family businesses can attract and retain the brightest and the best. Talented people are the backbone of any great business. Having the right people in place is the difference between mere survival and success. A significant challenge that faces many family businesses as they plan for sustainable growth is the ability to attract and retain executive and managerial talent.  Competing in the ‘war for talent’ As a family business grows, the appetite to tap into skill sets that are outside the family is also likely to expand. In a high employment economy, the competitive experience of engaging in the ‘war for talent’ is intense. Many family businesses find that the ability to attract and retain the skills needed throughout their business is now one of their main concerns. The competition to hire and retain good people can be fierce. While family businesses must navigate the same ‘war for talent’ environment faced by all employers, finding people with both the right skills and the right cultural fit can feel like an overwhelming barrier. The vast majority of families are committed to maintaining family ownership of the business. The structure of remuneration packages on offer to attract talent can be more limited than businesses with other ownership forms. Share-based remuneration incentives can tend to be off the table, and even if they are not, the exit mechanisms can be both complex and uncertain. Therefore, it is essential that the business effectively builds and communicates its value proposition to prospective employees; what it means to be a family business and why it’s a good thing to work for one. This might include, for instance, the commitment of a community embedded family business to both its staff and, by extension, the local community. This commitment might be demonstrated by higher levels of investment in training and corporate responsibility, as well as the prospect of relatively fewer redundancies during tougher times. Common recruitment issues Proper planning can help family business owners put a framework in place that not only addresses common business issues but may also prevent potential disputes within the family. With the right policies, practices, and strategy, the sky’s the limit for attracting the best talent and retaining great people, while at the same time preparing the next generation of leaders within the family. Consider some of the following common issues in developing a broad-ranging strategy to attract and retain the best talent: Compensation – Are you offering competitive compensation? Ensure that your reward packages, including remuneration plans, are based on market-driven data. Do family members enjoy opportunities or bonuses not available to other employees? Training – Do you have adequate training in place to prepare the next generation to take over leadership roles and responsibilities? Does every employee have access to the same level of training and development for their role, regardless of family status? Decision-making – Who is involved in designing compensation packages or making hiring decisions? Do those in decision-making roles have the qualifications required and the independence needed? Governance – Is your board of directors made up of family and non-family members? Do you have an adequate succession plan in place? Have you identified all the areas of risk for your business – from economic to competition, loss of talent and cyber security? HR policies – Are there clear performance review frameworks for both family and non-family employees providing opportunities for development and progression for both? Are the policies, standards, and expectations the same for all employees? Is the workplace an equitable environment overall? Communication – Is information communicated clearly and to all levels within the business? Are there cases of perceived unfair treatment, where only certain people are ‘in the know’ in relation to decisions or plans moving forward? Blending in non-family members – How are you competing with businesses that offer share based or equity rewards as part of their compensation plans for new talent? What can your family business offer in place of equity, including the certainty of cash which can be more attractive to many employees? Are there opportunities for advancement for employees who are non-family members? Implementing an effective people policy may require tough discussions and negotiations that go beyond established family expectations and reform longstanding practices. Overall, family businesses face particular challenges that require balancing the needs of the business with the expectations of the family. By making sure that your business has a strategy to develop and retain people with the right skills and fit for your business, you can create an equitable environment where everyone has the opportunity to thrive and build a sustainable foundation for both your business and your family. Liam Lynch is Partner and Head of Private Clients in KPMG.

Jan 15, 2021
News

The past year has seen the fast digital growth of businesses. With it, however, comes the added risk of cyber-attacks. The best way to defend against these attacks, says Sarah Hipkin, is to invest in and plan your cybersecurity strategy. After a year of accelerated digital transformation and increased cyber-attacks, it’s time for organisations to plan their Cybersecurity Strategy and Roadmap for 2021 with critical security lessons in mind. With this rapid, unplanned shift to digital channels and changes in consumer and business behaviour, a cyber criminal’s playground has just expanded. Current cybersecurity challenges Digital transformation changes an organisation’s cybersecurity threat and risk landscape. Current cybersecurity challenges faced by organisations include: critical information assets (e.g. bulk sensitive personal data or public-facing website) could be targets of attack; motivations of cybercriminals and type of cyber threats are not fully understood; and incident response teams taking too long to reconstruct cyber-attacks and take action to stop them. Regardless of the type of nefarious activity an organisation may face, if a cyber threat materialises, a security incident can have a significant impact on an organisation in terms of cost, productivity and reputation. Being adequately prepared to detect and quickly respond to the changing nature of incidents will help to stop an attacker from inflicting further damage. Cybersecurity strategy planning 2021 is the time to plan your cybersecurity strategy with these critical security challenges in mind. The strategy should ensure alignment between threat intelligence activities and business risks. Key activities will need to cover the following: Identify critical information assets which are essential to business operations, including underlying infrastructure. Collect information on adversaries’ motivations and intentions. What type of attacker may target your most valuable information assets? While most of the bad guys want to make money, whether stealing personal data, bringing down a website or shutting down critical services, their intentions will vary. Develop knowledge of cybercriminals’ tactics which includes malware and tools for sale, sale of personal data and exchanges of new exploits. Evaluate current effectiveness of systems security, including policies, processes, security training and staff capabilities to monitor, detect, analyse, and respond to cyber-attacks. The largest gaps in defences to protect critical information assets should be prioritised in the roadmap for improvement. Prepare a strategic cybersecurity roadmap which outlines each recommendation, detailing: the effects of losing or impairing the asset in costs, revenue losses, fines, reputational damage; likely adversaries who have attacked similar organisations; current deficiencies in defence layers; and associated technical and business risks amount to be invested and its associated benefits. Test response plan Cyber-attacks can impact an organisation of any size and will often occur at a time that catches everyone off guard. Under pressure, an individual’s decision making can become clouded. Scheduling a tabletop exercise with senior management and key operational staff to understand the realities of how a cyber incident would impact an organisation is critical. It will ensure everyone has a clear understanding of their role in responding to a cyber-attack and the organisational response, especially Board members who would likely be representing the organisation in the media. Sarah Hipkin is Director of Consulting IT and Cyber at Mazars.

Jan 15, 2021