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Niamh O’Brien shares her insights on how to create and embed an agile people strategy in your company. I have read many white papers, articles and research documents that talk through the changing landscape of our working world. Workplace trends, disruptors, AI, smart working and gig workers are all topics that have been dissected and analysed, but what does it really mean for employers? More importantly, how can employers ensure that their business strategy is supported by a robust people strategy that not only aligns with their strategic direction but also facilitates their business objectives people? Creating your people strategy Any people strategy should be approached with clearly defined objectives, focusing on the key issues that apeople strategy is looking to resolve. It is also essential that the strategy not only sits within the overarching business strategy but that it can act as the engine behind what the business is looking to achieve. Technology, processes and the existing talent pool will all be considerations in the implementation of a people strategy. Technology not only influences the work that employees are doing but can also change the full working environment by facilitating remote working, thereby enabling and facilitating a wider talent pool. Processes and procedures are being streamlined via technology and the information flow that employers can now receive ensures that the agility to realign strategic direction has to be matched with a people strategy that is both agile and future-focused. Talent is still a very real challenge for the majority of companies, according to a recent CIPD survey. Over 84% of companies are struggling with skills shortages, and accountancy isn’t immune to this. Despite an ongoing movement towards a flexible workforce, the speed at which companies need to move to ensure they have the talent, resources and direction required for sustainable growth can be difficult to master. While the challenges for employers are ever increasing, they are being matched in pace by the demands of the workforce. Employees are looking for meaningful work, flexible working options, personal development opportunities and a working environment that facilitates upskilling and training. A successful people strategy has to plan and facilitate the evolving demands of the wider workforce. Embedding your people strategy Once a people strategy has been defined, how does a company ensure that it is embedding this strategy into the business? As with any strategy, the real challenge often lies in bringing it to life. It is impossible to talk about a people strategy without touching on the increasingly topical subject of an Employer Value Proposition and bringing your EVP to life is a crucial element of rolling out a people strategy. The only way to gauge an active and engaged EVP is through measurement. I have seen many company EVPs that are hugely impressive, innovative and ambitious but then spoken to actual employees who are not seeing the stated EVP in their actual working environment. The real challenge of a people strategy is making sure it is both measurable and measured, ensuring that a cyclical model of assessment and realignment keeps the strategy focused and relevant. Future-proofing your people strategy In order for a people strategy to be successful, it must span the entire talent ecosystem, including permanent employees, temporary or contingent staff, contractors, consultants and gig workers. By considering all staff and mapping flexible solutions to plan and fill skills gaps, companies will be able to plan their people strategy not just for the immediate term, but for the future, as well. The longevity of a people strategy demands a flexible, agile plan that can support future growth. Niamh O’Brien is the Director of Talent Management in BDO.

Aug 18, 2019
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With less than three months until 31 October, Brexit is beginning to look not only imminent but increasingly likely to be a no-deal. Mark Kennedy gives the ups and downs of what this could mean for Ireland. After two delays, it looks likely that a no-deal Brexit is going to go ahead at the end of October. For Ireland, this is the worst possible outcome. The Withdrawal Agreement negotiated between the UK and EU authorities covered several important aspects relevant to a managed Brexit situation. In the core agreement, issues like VAT, policing, customs, and citizens’ rights were dealt with, forming a bridge to the negotiation of a formal trade agreement between the UK and the EU. The annexes to the agreement included a very comprehensive treatment of the issues relating to Northern Ireland – the much-discussed ‘backstop’ – which will provide stability while more permanent arrangements are agreed. The agreement also dealt with the question of the financial settlement between the UK and the EU. A no-deal scenario sets all of this aside and presents many significant and immediate practical challenges for Ireland. Hard border With a no-deal Brexit, there seems to be little realistic prospect of retaining an open border. While closing the border may take some time, there will be trade impacts. Moving customs arrangements to a WTO footing will impact Irish importers and exporters trading goods with the UK, with consequences for profitability and competitiveness – an impact that will be exacerbated by the non-tariff implications of trading in a WTO environment: administration and border costs, and regulatory differences that can add to the cost-base of Irish businesses. The situation for services is also uncertain; while WTO rules are less prescriptive, the potential for protectionist action will exist, and trade in certain services may be impacted. These impacts will be most notable in certain sectors of the economy: agriculture, logistics, retail of certain products and any business dealing with Northern Ireland is likely to feel the most immediate effects. I also believe that the impact is going to be most profound in mid-sized and smaller businesses, with a marked regional distribution. Investor confidence There is a second issue, potentially as troubling as the immediate trade and cross-border problems – the impact on investor confidence. Our economy is significantly dependent on foreign direct investment. The combination of actual or perceived trading difficulties combined with concerns about security issues in Northern Ireland will undoubtedly impact investor sentiment towards the UK, but may also have a knock-on effect for Ireland. One area where we already observe this possible impact is in the value of sterling, but we may also see investment decisions impacted by individual investor corporations' assessment of stability, costs of doing business, and the relativities of Ireland/UK taxation policies. It’s also likely that the negative impact of Brexit will consume resource that might otherwise be spent on both public and private sector investment projects. The upside Taken together, all of this paints a rather bleak picture. It is essential, however, to balance the threats with some consideration of more positive points. The EU remains our largest market, and our membership of the EU offers significant opportunities to expand trade with the EU. Ireland stands well-positioned to be the best point of access for UK businesses seeking to trade in the EU, particularly in the services sectors. Ireland will also be a key voice in the negotiation of a trade deal with the UK, offering an opportunity to address many of the issues important to Ireland. The Irish Government and EU will and are providing support to the most vulnerable sectors in the economy in the short-term. And, while some slowing of economic growth seems likely, this is unlikely to equate to a recessionary environment. In summary, the impact of a no-deal Brexit is going to be more damaging than we hoped for, and in many ways, we will only understand the full implications after an extended period of adjustment to what will become a newly-normalised and, I believe, positive relationship between Ireland, the EU and the UK. Mark Kennedy is the Managing Partner of Mazars.

Aug 18, 2019
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It’s hard for a team to regain focus after the summer has ended. Louise Molloy suggests a few modifications around the office to keep the team motivated through the rest of the year. The end of summer is approaching. Life has felt freer, easier and slower over the summer. Maybe you’re just back from holidays and daunted by looming budget setting, end-of-year target tracking, performance appraisals and potential staff vulnerability as holiday endorphins push them to look for another job. As a team leader, what do you do? I challenge you to bring back that holiday glow and keep it going all year long. Applying these simple tips will bring you a long way there: Mind your self-talk What you think is largely what people see in you. To be authentic and inspire your team for Q4, you need to mind your mind. No ‘I just need to book another holiday’ or ‘I feel like I haven’t had a holiday in years’. Talk to yourself as you would want your team to feel, e.g. ‘I feel great! I’m full of ideas and dying to get stuck in’.  It sets a tone that’s hard to go against. Take a fun reboot Use the end of the holiday period as an opportunity to draw a mental line under H1 and the summer months. Set the tone for Q3/Q4. Introduce jokes, fun and pockets of space in each day where people can just laugh. I worked with a senior executive with a huge remit, who kept a Dilbert calendar on his desk and, in tough times, would whip off an apt page and leave it on a member’s desk to give them a laugh. New wardrobe, new you That’s the mantra in all the fashion magazines for summer. Apply this concept in work. The human brain thrives on newness and learning. Run meetings differently, in different places, with different members. Set up projects, lunch and learn sessions or anything to shake things up and keep them fresh. Bring the holiday culture home In Italy and France, lunch is sacred. They understand that the body needs time to digest food and that eating is part of self-care. Now, no one’s suggesting we need a two-hour lunch every day, but steal the essence: model their behaviour of savouring your time and meal every day, and encourage self-care in those around you. Try using more exciting words for normal activities. Americans ‘hike’ up a trail rather than ‘walk’, like we do in Ireland. Doesn’t ‘hiking’ sound more exciting? Try reframing your communications in bigger, more American terms. You’ll get attention and capture the imagination. Feed your senses A huge part of being on holidays is feasting on wonderful views. I visited New Hampshire where mountain views gave me that ‘close to God’ moment. People often get great clarity and make big decisions in these situations. Bring this home for your team. Give their brains a rest and feed their senses – go to the theatre, an exhibition, run a photography competition, etc. The arts are well-documented to enhance empathy, a quality needed in spades in the busy September to December period. Surprise acts Small acts of kindness work wonders! We do it as a matter of course during the summer months. Continue to buy coffees, treat people to ice cream or let the team go home early on a Friday. Observe what lands best and has the greatest cultural impact. Casual everyday On holidays, power plays exit left and things and people are taken at face value. Bring this back home. Be more patient and tolerant. Exhibiting this ethos will relax everyone around you. Ease breeds room to grow and create which, if harnessed, will help sustain in the tough year-end times. Go on, give it a try! If nothing else, experimenting with any of the points here will nudge you out of your comfort zone. Pay attention, do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. Look after the tone and culture of your team and the targets will look after themselves. It’ll be Christmas before you know it! Louise Molloy is an Executive Coach, Facilitator and Strategy Specialist at Luminosity Consulting Limited .

Aug 18, 2019
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The FRC has published a staff draft of its response to the IASB’s Exposure Draft ED/2019/4 Amendments to IFRS 17 (ED). The draft response can be accessed here. The response outlines the FRC staff’s tentative conclusions on issues raised in this ED. The FRC does not ask questions on the proposals or the staff draft, but welcomes stakeholders’ views to inform the FRC’s final response to the IASB’s ED.   As part of the UK’s preparation to exit the European Union, the UK's Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is in the process of setting up a new, independent body to adopt and endorse International Accounting Standards for use in the UK. The views expressed in this staff draft are not those of the new body and the new body will not be bound by this draft or any final response to the ED by the FRC. However, any input received from constituents will be made available for consideration by the new body.   Please provide any written comments no later than 5 September to Susanne Pust Shah at IFRS17@frc.org.uk.  Source: FRC

Aug 16, 2019
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IFAC has launched an Audits of Less Complex Entities Survey to obtain a deeper understanding of the specific challenges in applying the International Standards on Auditing (ISAs) in audits of less complex entities in response to its recently published Discussion Paper – Audits of Less Complex Entities: Exploring Possible Options to Address the Challenges in Applying the ISAs. The survey will close on September 12.  Source: IFAC

Aug 15, 2019
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An EY study of US CEOs and business leaders reveals that most executives recognise the value of artificial intelligence (AI), with 84% believing that AI is important to the future success of their company. At least three in five respondents (62%) said that AI will have a major impact on creating efficiencies at their company, remaining competitive (62%) and gaining a better understanding of customers (60%). In addition, 55% of respondents believe AI will have a major impact on reducing costs and driving new revenues. Talent remains a major hurdle for the C-suite Despite the opportunities that the C-suite recognises in AI, nearly one in three respondents rank lack of skilled personnel (31%) as one of the two greatest organisational/people barriers to AI adoption in their company. Behind skilled personnel, other key organisational barriers include lack of compelling return on investment (27%), lack of management understanding (24%), unclear business case (21%), limited funding (20%) and siloed data and organisation (19%). These findings are consistent with the results from a recent EY survey conducted in collaboration with MIT Technology Review at the 2019 EmTech Digital conference, where nearly half (45%) of 112 senior business and technology decision-makers reported that their organisations lack the skilled personnel needed to implement AI. This is followed by a lack of clear business case for the technology (34%). Source: EY Global

Aug 15, 2019