Careers

Careers

Julia Rowan answers your management, leadership, and team development questions. Nine months after we started to work from home, I’m beginning to worry that my team is becoming fragmented. How can I stop that happening? Since September, I have noticed a significant change. Up to the end of the summer, lots of people were delighted that they didn’t have to commute or buy expensive lunches. Now, many long to be with their colleagues and have those informal catch-ups that knit teams together. They want to ‘go home’ rather than ‘be at home’. We have mostly defaulted to online options but meeting outside for a ‘walk and talk’ meeting (guidelines permitting) is still possible. Some find that the change in setting and activity can lead to deeper conversation and connection. If online is the only (or primary) option, think about how you can create a connection. Online picnics, coffees, or beers are nice – but think about your scheduled meetings and make space for people to talk about how they are doing. You want real discussion as opposed to ‘false positive’ engagement, which can be stressful. And the leader goes first because being honest about your experience permits the team to be honest about theirs. Don’t get stressed about the things you can’t fix. You can create a connection, and you can listen. Your one-to-one meetings are also important, so make sure that the ‘How are you?’ conversation is always high on the agenda. I was recently put in charge of a team. I love the extra responsibility, but I hate giving feedback. How can I shake this fear? Being in a position where you are leading, making decisions, distributing work, and giving feedback is both exciting and challenging. Remember that your team members have a right to know how they are doing. Their development is important, and your feedback counts. One reason why managers don’t give feedback is that they feel they don’t have permission. So, here is a framework for a conversation that can help you do just that: Context: provide the rationale for giving feedback. For example, “You’ve taken on some challenging projects” or “There is a lot of change happening” or “It’s going to be particularly busy coming up to year-end”. Conversation: outline the conversation you want to have. For example, “For that reason, it will be important for us to stay close; to talk about what’s working well and adding value, and what’s not working well and could be changed”. Consent: clear the path to provide your feedback. For example, “Would that be okay with you?” Your team members want, expect, and have a right to feedback. Reflect on how sharing feedback will be useful for both of you, and find the positives. Intention always wins out! Julia Rowan is Principal Consultant at Performance Matters, a leadership and team development consultancy. To send a question to Julia, email julia@performancematters.ie 

Nov 30, 2020
Careers

Torunn Dahl and Glenn Gillard share the secrets to purposeful inclusion, which in these challenging times is more important than ever. Good leadership has never been easy. If it were, we would all be good leaders most of the time and organisations would not need to spend millions each year developing leadership skills. In reality, leadership is always a delicate balance of making the best decisions possible given the information to hand while taking into account the context, the strategic imperatives of the organisation, and the stakeholders involved in or impacted by the decisions being made. Operating in an environment of enormous unpredictability, wrought by a pandemic, makes this challenging task even harder. Never before has that well-worn phrase from financial services advertisements, ‘past performance does not guarantee future success’, been truer. There is no quick guide to leadership for these times. We can choose many possible routes to survive or thrive in the period ahead, as we learn to operate in an environment of ongoing uncertainty and volatility. This article will outline some steps you can take to ensure the route you choose is one of inclusive leadership, to the benefit of all your key stakeholders. A new social contract In the August issue of Accountancy Ireland, our colleagues outlined how people at the start of their accountancy careers seek a broad sense of purpose in the work they do. Similarly, in society, we have seen a significant change in people’s awareness of – and lack of tolerance for – the inequalities that exist in society. There is an opportunity to reset the path we are on as a society, to reduce systemic inequalities and become more purpose-led. Last year, 200 global CEOs, including Punit Renjen of Deloitte, signed a statement of purpose. It confirmed that a corporation’s purpose is to serve all its stakeholders – employees, clients and society. The COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement have reinforced the message from the general public that business cannot be a neutral bystander. Business should, and can, be at the heart of this new social contract, and business leaders need to embrace this change. This reset to how society operates and meets the expectations of its citizens will require different types of leaders to navigate and drive the changes. In addition to the critical skills associated with good leaders such as strategic thinking, commercial acumen, decisiveness and effective communication, leaders will need to understand how to be genuinely inclusive in a broad sense. They will need to understand how a change to the social contract could impact their talent pipelines, customer relationships and supply chains. How will the decisions they make today impact their ability to retain customers, attract staff, reduce their carbon impact and sustain their business viability into the future? A model of inclusive leadership provides a framework for leaders to think about the thought process and the actions they need to consider to navigate the difficult decisions they now face. In the section below, we outline the six signature traits of an inclusive leader, as identified by Deloitte, and some suggested practical steps a leader can take to operate inclusively. The six signature traits Inclusive leadership is about treating people fairly and leveraging the thinking of diverse groups of people. While leaders must treat their people fairly, a genuinely inclusive leader in a new social contract will seek to ensure that people outside the organisation are also treated fairly. They will do this by providing opportunities for them to join the organisation or sell their goods/services to the organisation on fair terms. The examples below focus on what an inclusive leader can do inside their organisation. 1. Commitment. Highly inclusive leaders are committed to the inclusion agenda because these objectives align with their personal value systems and because they believe in the business case and moral case for inclusion. Practical steps: Put inclusion on the agenda at your meetings and hold people to account on actions agreed. Set targets, and encourage debate and discussion around what the right targets are and how to meet them. Attend diversity and inclusion events within and outside your organisation. Share new knowledge with your teams and outline the actions you will take. Reference an inclusion story or moment as part of every presentation you make. 2. Courage. Highly inclusive leaders speak up and challenge the status quo. They don’t walk past inequality; they challenge it. They are willing to admit to their own vulnerabilities and remain humble about their strengths and weaknesses. Practical steps: Speak up and challenge any inappropriate behaviour you see or hear. Others may feel equally uncomfortable and are likely watching to see whether you condone (through silence) or challenge the behaviour. Apply a diversity lens to everything you do – use a checklist if necessary as a prompt. Think about your next event or meeting. Who is talking? What images are being presented? Which metrics are being used? Do they all support an inclusive environment? 3. Cognisance. Highly inclusive leaders are aware that they, and everyone else, have biases that impact their judgement. They seek to ensure that processes are put in place to manage and overcome these blind spots and to create fairer opportunities for all. Practical steps: Seek to identify your own biases. Take the Harvard Implicit Association Test or pay attention to who you naturally gravitate towards and with whom you feel less comfortable. Pay attention to your inner voice and initial judgements and ask yourself whether biases are coming into play. We all have them! Use structured processes and criteria when making decisions that relate to people (hiring, promotions or performance, for example) to ensure objective criteria are used rather than generalised impressions. 4. Curiosity. Highly inclusive leaders keep an open mind and have a desire to learn more about others. They want to understand how they view and experience the world. They also demonstrate tolerance for ambiguity and change. Practical steps: Seek out someone on your team you don’t know well or who has a different background to yours. Put in time for coffee to connect and learn more about them. They could be the perfect person for your next project or have valuable perspectives on a problem you’re grappling with. Invite different people to present to your team or organisation to broaden everyone’s perspective. Remember to suspend judgement when listening to other perspectives; seek to listen actively and understand. Acknowledge what they are saying and respect their viewpoint. 5. Cultural intelligence. Highly inclusive leaders are confident and effective in cross-cultural interactions. They may feel uncomfortable in the situation but are willing to move out of their comfort zone and focus on learning, seeking to build their cultural intelligence. Practical steps: Start by focusing on a culture or area that interests you. Search for articles and podcasts that will broaden your understanding and seek out people who can answer your questions and build on what you have learnt. Encourage people within your teams and organisation to build out their cultural intelligence, supporting mobility opportunities where relevant. 6. Collaboration. Highly inclusive leaders empower individuals to deliver their best, in addition to working across diverse groups of people to drive better solutions built from a diversity of thought. Practical steps: Let others speak first. Ensure that you have heard from everyone in the group, actively encouraging people to contribute if they haven’t already done so. Find common ground and articulate a shared purpose and objective for the group that everyone can rally around. Create physical and/or virtual opportunities for interactions that encourage sharing and collaboration. Purposeful inclusion in a pandemic The COVID-19 pandemic presents both challenges and opportunities in building an inclusive culture and following-up on commitments our businesses have made to be more inclusive. The last few months have stretched everyone and how we act as leaders, now and in the months ahead, will influence how well our organisations, our people, and we personally come through this pandemic. It may be tempting to take a short-term view and focus solely on profits and cash flow to the detriment of suppliers, employees and the local community. But those who take a longer and more inclusive view are likely to reap the rewards, as will their communities. As organisations transition to being more purpose-led than solely profit-focused, their ability to navigate the current environment inclusively to the benefit of society more broadly will be a real test of their authentic commitment to this cause. Using the traits above, we will now explore some of these challenges and opportunities. Commitment: In the short-term, it is easy to step away from the commitments we have made. Many organisations have implemented, or are looking at, measures such as reducing headcount, suspending bonuses and promotions, and deferring hiring decisions. It is important to consider these decisions in the context of inclusion and look at how these measures are implemented and affect the future shape of the organisation. During the last recession, we saw a significant reversal of some of our key diversity measures, as women stepped away from the workforce to work in the home and as many employers reverted to traditional talent pools for staff. Cognisance: Biases can quickly step back into our thinking when faced with tough decisions or working under pressure. In the working from home environment, anecdotal research already indicates biases towards female participation. As women are traditionally viewed as the primary home-maker the risk of ‘killing with kindness’ escalates as individuals make assumptions as to whether someone can handle the workload or should be given specific work because of their family situation. While having progressive policies to support people during the pandemic has been important, this must be monitored so that it does not feed through to future decisions around performance, promotion and recognition. We must recognise, and seek to work through, these potential biases. Collaboration: During this pandemic, many organisations have reported increased engagement from staff and a greater sense of belonging. However, as the lockdown measures persist and remote working is more prolonged, maintaining a sense of ‘team’ and keeping people connected becomes a more significant challenge. Through organisation-wide collaboration, new models and methods for engagement, networking and social interaction can be developed. Indeed, there is a real opportunity to break away from our default methods of corporate social interaction in Ireland, which focus heavily on the dinner and pub scene and favour those willing (and able) to socialise after hours. Capturing new ways of interacting and building them into a new, more inclusive culture is an opportunity to redefine the workplace for many that traditionally felt excluded. Courage: Undoubtedly, the forced working from home arrangement arising from the pandemic presents a real opportunity to rethink how we look at biases around presenteeism, flexible working, and the office culture, and to re-imagine fundamentals like the daily commute and international travel. While these benefits seem obvious at this point, it will require courage to stay the course and implement the necessary changes so that these benefits can be retained as we move out of the pandemic. For example, if we are to move to more hybrid models with a greater level of remote working mixed with in-office teams, maintaining the inclusiveness of a meeting for those in-office and those at home will need to be supported by real leadership. The fear that we fall back into the old ways, where if you are not in the room you are not really participating, is already being expressed by many as they assess whether they could continue to work remotely into the future. Redefined leadership The relationship between community, employees and businesses has changed, and as leaders, we will be held accountable by our people. Truly inclusive leaders will thrive in this environment and make an impact not just within their own business, but across the community. The pandemic has challenged the way we look at the world and our role within it. We now need to seize the opportunities presented, and avoid the pitfalls, to create more inclusive organisations.  Torunn Dahl is Head of Talent, Learning and Inclusion at Deloitte. Glenn Gillard is a Partner at Deloitte and member of Council at Chartered Accountants Ireland.

Nov 30, 2020
Careers

A lot of work today simply can’t be done well without high-touch collaboration – a challenge when many people are working from home. New tools are helping, though, write Ryan Kaiser, David Schatsky and Robin Jones. The pandemic, with an impact lasting far longer than initially expected, is forcing organisations to rethink how their teams can collaborate from a distance. Some widely used digital tools make certain forms of collaboration – such as sharing and editing documents – easy. But other, critically important types of collaboration remain challenging when colleagues are not sharing physical space, or even time zones. Organisations can experiment with a newer breed of tools, some still experimental, that aim to support remote, high-touch collaboration. In view but out of sync “Did he hear what I just said?” “Was that a smirk?” “She’s looking down – is she texting?” It’s safe to assume that these questions cross the minds of many workers during days of endless video calls. The concentration required to process these virtual interactions can be taxing, leaving workers exhausted. But with so many professionals working from home due to the pandemic, it’s imperative that organisations find effective ways for remote workers to collaborate. New technologies are answering this call: from immersive environments to virtualised offices that facilitate casual interactions, organisations may soon have many more options for helping their teams collaborate effectively at a distance. Collaboration is key, but challenged by remote work Most organisations accept that effective collaboration is essential for high performance. Apple leaders considered collaboration to be so important that they designed its headquarters building to promote creativity and collaboration. Even workers’ perceptions that they are working collectively, according to a 2014 study, can enhance their performance. Thus, collaboration activities are pervasive in the modern office. Indeed, some researchers believe “collaboration is taking over the workplace”, with time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities increasing by 50% or more in recent years. It’s no surprise that collaboration is among the soft skills that employers seek most. But with the pandemic forcing millions of people to work from home, collaboration has become more challenging. Remote working obscures body language and distorts verbal cues that can be crucial to understanding intent. Formal, scheduled video calls – or more frequent instant messages or texts – are no substitute for quick, spontaneous exchanges of information. Professionals working in sales, customer service, management, design, and other roles in which impromptu and collaborative interactions are integral to the job may be particularly challenged. Some workers feel isolated. Managers are struggling to onboard, integrate, and teach office norms to new staffers, and building and sustaining an organisation’s culture has rarely been more difficult. Even when the crisis is behind us, the need for better remote collaboration will persist. High-touch collaboration still works best in person Of course, many, even most collaborative activities don’t require face-to-face interaction. A wide range of digital communication and project management tools support sharing files, editing documents, and communicating project status. But other valuable collaborative activities – scrum meetings for coordinating software development, brainstorming sessions to generate product ideas, hallway conversations to quickly exchange useful information – have tended to rely on face-to-face interactions. We call such activities high-touch collaboration. High-touch collaboration activities are typically synchronous, spontaneous, or sensory. Synchronous means two or more people are present in the moment when the activity is conducted, allowing for a free-flowing exchange of information. Spontaneous means unscheduled, low-overhead interactions that may occur outside the confines of a formally scheduled meeting. Some of the best ideas, and even businesses, started as impromptu thoughts or interactions between colleagues. Sensory refers to the non-verbal communication or body language we unconsciously decipher when interacting with others. Arm positions, posture, and tone of voice can influence how or when others choose to engage with or respond to us. Leaders can use this simple three-S model to identify the high-touch collaboration activities in their organisation that remote working arrangements may impair. Below are some common examples. They are important in our work and the work of many of our clients – and they can be difficult to perform when collaborators are just faces on a screen. Structured, interactive sessions. Some types of workshops or labs, employing techniques such as design thinking, aim to solve complex problems or help a group achieve consensus on a designated topic. In addition to typically needing a skilled facilitator, participants often need to read the room to assess group understanding, alignment, and engagement. Example: a lab may be used to forge consensus about the vision of a new firm-wide initiative. Ideation and co-creation. Many workers need to brainstorm and exchange information spontaneously, typically in a shared space with a visual aid such as whiteboards or sticky notes. Example: co-creation may be useful for brainstorming new product features to include in future releases. Spontaneous information exchanges. Employees may need to exchange information directly outside a formally scheduled meeting – perhaps as quickly and casually as poking one’s head in an office to ask a brief question. Example: spontaneously exchanging information with colleagues can be helpful when finalising an important client presentation. Informal connections. Conversations that typically take place in the elevator, office kitchen, or other common areas can foster a sense of connection and community; walking the halls can help cultivate relationships with clients and co-workers. Informal connections tend to rely on interpreting sensory and contextual information. Example: managers may informally check in with teams during a stressful time period to gauge well-being and engagement. To bolster collaboration among remote workers, we need tools that provide better support for these kinds of activities. Collaboration tools are proliferating A new crop of digital collaboration tools has emerged in response to the needs of companies with remote workforces. Vendors launched or enhanced at least 100 digital remote collaboration products in the first eight months of 2020, compared to the 24 product introductions we tallied in the fourth quarter of 2019. Established collaboration vendors are rapidly rolling out new features in response to user requests, and some have released free versions of products in an effort to gain market share. Some of this activity involves familiar categories of collaboration tools such as video-conferencing. Other types of tools – such as digital whiteboards, virtual offices, and immersive environments – may be less familiar, but they can provide crucial support to synchronous, spontaneous, and sensory collaboration activities. We scanned the offerings of hundreds of vendors and spoke with more than a dozen of them to learn more about their capabilities. Video-conferencing. When the COVID-19 pandemic forced millions of workers to work from home, many companies responded by substantially increasing their use of video-conferencing Google, Microsoft, and Zoom have all reported a surge in usage of their platforms. Allowing colleagues, clients, and partners to see each other over video can mitigate the feeling of isolation that some remote workers feel and can build and maintain the rapport crucial for collaborative efforts. Recent innovations in this category include the use of artificial intelligence to frame a caller’s face, background obfuscation to prevent distractions, and the use of avatars. But video-conferencing has its drawbacks. Not all work interactions occur in the confines of a formal meeting. Any given video-conference likely includes at least one participant battling audio and video quality issues, including lags that can jumble non-verbal cues and distracting background noise – especially for people sharing space with partners and children. Workers also report feeling exhausted at the end of a day filled with numerous video calls due to the mental focus required to concentrate on a grid of colleagues. Ideation and whiteboarding. Because it supports problem-solving, design, and strategic planning, ideation can be a critically important collaboration activity. A classic setting features a blank whiteboard, markers, and a team with ideas to share. Vendors such as Microsoft, Miro, and Mural offer digital tools that aim to provide the benefits of in-person ideation in a remote environment. Such tools typically feature an interactive workspace designed for visually oriented ideation and problem-solving. They are best suited for co-creation and ideation activities but can also be used to facilitate labs and similar sessions. A variety of features help spur thinking. For example, users may have access to templates or frameworks tailored to a variety of meeting types such as a scrum call or a design thinking session, time-keeping features to keep a group focused, virtual sticky notes to jot down ideas, and polling to streamline the decision-making process. These tools share little contextual information about users, however, making it hard for facilitators to read a room and determine how to best engage participants. Legibility can sometimes be difficult, and employees may need to consider a touchscreen, stylus, or other peripheral to maximise their capabilities. Virtual offices. Other types of tools attempt to replicate office spaces on your computer screen. Virtual offices are intended to run continuously in the background, showing in real-time what your colleagues are doing through the medium of digital aerial views of office floor plans, avatars, or even 3D worlds. And they aim to emulate the natural, rapid types of interactions that frequently take place in a physical workplace like tapping someone’s shoulder to ask a question. These platforms display context about colleagues – are they meeting with a client right now, or are they listening to music? – and they provide multiple pathways by which co-workers can informally connect. Sample virtual office vendors include Pragli, Sococo, Virbela, and Wurkr. Virtual offices typically allow significant customisation (avatars, floor layout, branding, etc.) and integrate with a growing list of social and collaboration applications one might use throughout the workday, such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, and Spotify. These vendors also enable informal interactions through emotive digital gestures such as high-fives or dance movements, allow users to tap each other to instantly join a virtual meeting room, and offer the ability to lock spaces for more private conversations. Many also allow screen-sharing and the uploading of files. Some virtual offices currently lack the ability to integrate with common office software such as Google or Microsoft and may lack common ideation mediums such as whiteboards. Some tools use much of a laptop’s processing power when rendering a 3D office, potentially affecting other applications. Immersive environments. This is an emerging category of tools that aim to enable workers to connect, share experiences, and participate in simulated real-life scenarios using augmented or virtual reality (AR/VR) technologies. Some studies have shown that VR is a promising medium for remote collaborative work. Users experience a 3D shared environment where they can see representations of themselves and colleagues and conduct meetings. Immersive environments are best suited for interactive sessions and co-creation/ideation. The virtual environments provided by tools such as Arthur, HoloMeeting, and Spatial can range from basic rooms to non-cubical architecturally complex spaces that expand creative possibilities. Some vendors make it possible for users to take a selfie and upload and wrap the image around an avatar for a personalised, life-like presence. Combined with spatial audio and visible mouth or hand movements, these technologies can give one the impression of being in the same space as a colleague. Interacting with the environment and accessing menus using one’s hands or controllers is highly intuitive. Typical features include 2D or 3D whiteboarding options, 3D process flows, and the ability to access content from the web, including images and 3D models. While some platforms are accessible by smartphones and laptops, the full experience is typically only available with the use of an AR/VR headset – a factor that may limit adoption in the near term. Early-stage tools may suffer from distracting latency – or lags in refreshing the display – or lack integration with other applications, which limits the type of work one can do, such as co-edit a PowerPoint slide, and most have smaller capacities (usually under 20 participants) when compared to virtual offices. What to watch The descriptions above are a snapshot of a rapidly moving market. Progress in the underlying technology of AR/VR, and increasingly affordable hardware, will likely boost the appeal of immersive environments over the next couple of years, for instance. Other developments in the domain of remote collaboration are worth watching. New features. With so many workers affected by the pandemic, collaboration vendors are quickly responding to user needs and rolling out new features. For instance, Microsoft recently deployed ‘Together mode’, using AI to place meeting participants side-by-side as if they were sitting in a virtual auditorium. Other advances include attention tracking, which alerts a host if an attendee goes more than a few seconds without having an application open; intelligent capture, which can make a person’s video image transparent so users can see content being written or drawn on a whiteboard as it happens; and real-time translation. Organisations should take note of this rapid pace and consider product road maps when evaluating tools. New mediums and uses. Remote collaboration tools are evolving, and organisations are likely to experiment with them in various ways. Some executives have used popular video games such as Animal Crossing, Grand Theft Auto, and Minecraft to conduct meetings, for instance. While some may not be inclined to use video games for collaboration or are unfamiliar with the format, others feel they help people think differently and bond with colleagues. The education sector may be another testing ground as teachers, students, and parents around the globe are now being forced to learn how to use virtual collaboration tools. Other formats are likely to emerge. New insights. Collaborating via software enables novel analytical applications not possible with conventional in-person conversations. For example, Gong uses speech recognition and natural language understanding technology to transcribe, annotate, and analyse data from sales calls to coach salespeople toward better performance. YVA.ai uses artificial intelligence to predict burnout and enhance employee engagement. Talent leaders may want to consider how data within these tools can help inform their talent strategies or improve employee performance. New shortcomings. Improved tools may eventually solve the video-conference fatigue problem, but it’s possible that emerging remote collaboration technologies may give rise to other unpleasant technology-induced side effects such as the dizziness or nausea that can accompany immersive environments. When choosing a collaboration tool, organisations should take these into account and design mitigation strategies such as time limits where applicable. New risks. As workers migrated to home networks and personal devices after the onset of the pandemic, firms faced an increase in hacking attempts, and many are enhancing their cybersecurity posture accordingly. The amount and type of information generated by remote collaboration tools could be especially sensitive, and companies should strive to ensure that such data is secure while meeting workers’ reasonable expectations of privacy. Preparing for a (somewhat more) remote future Many workers will not return to the office or may work from a company office only part of the time. According to a June 2020 Fortune/Deloitte CEO survey, CEOs expect 36% of their employees on average to still be working remotely by January 2022, three times as many as before the pandemic. One forecast suggests that through 2024, around 30% of all employees currently working remotely will permanently work at home. Many organisations are likely to need effective remote collaboration tools and approaches. Managers, particularly those in industries where remote working is already familiar, such as technology, financial services, and business and professional services, should begin exploring the use of remote high-touch collaboration tools, especially for collaborative activities that are synchronous, spontaneous, or sensory. As workers’ exposure to, and comfort with, these tools varies, organisations should consider implementing effective training and adoption strategies as well as policies guiding effective use. It may be helpful to think of remote collaboration as more than just a way of coping with the pandemic. To be sure, the pandemic triggered a surge of interest in remote collaboration and a burst of activity in the market for remote collaboration tools. But even after the crisis subsides, the need to support high-touch collaboration for remote workers will likely remain. This trend may carry the seeds of new opportunities. It may bring greater flexibility to talent models, offer workers new opportunities to balance professional and personal needs, help reduce the carbon footprint of work, and enable entirely new business models and industries. The development of remote collaboration could eventually change how we work in surprising and beneficial ways. Ryan Kaiser is a senior manager in Deloitte’s US Innovation group, where his efforts focus on digital transformation, strategy, and product/solution incubation. David Schatsky, Managing Director of Deloitte US, analyses emerging technology and business trends for Deloitte’s leaders and clients. Robin Jones is a Principal in Deloitte’s Workforce Transformation division, with 22 years of organisation and workforce transformation consulting experience.

Nov 30, 2020
Careers

While it might be difficult to find a new job in the current market, it's not impossible. Niamh Collins outlines five key considerations that will put you in the best position to move on in your career. The disruption to employment caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has been severe. From hiring freezes to the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme to remote working and the tough decision of making redundancies, 2020 has been a year like no other for almost every industry. At the end of July, CSO data showed the COVID-19 adjusted unemployment rate as 16.7% across Ireland – the effects disproportionately spread across younger generations with 41% of 16-25-year-olds out of work compared to 14% for those aged 25-74 years. The employment market is not universally challenged. Despite the economic pressure and instability, there are organisations that need your knowledge, skills and experience. Whatever your reasons for looking for a new role, there are five key considerations which will put you in a better position to get a great job in a challenged market. 1. Be bold with your networking Contacts are invaluable. It’s important to stay in touch with as many people as possible – suppliers, customers, old colleagues and clients. Maintaining these relationships will stand you in good stead because the individuals could provide precious information when it comes to job opportunities, offer useful advice or guidance and even act as a reference when necessary.  Beyond your existing contacts, you can also actively seek out new networking opportunities in your field. Be bold on LinkedIn and connect with plenty of relevant professionals. 2. Be thorough in your research If you have identified a vacancy or a company that you would like to work for, always be thorough in your research. Read up about the business; the values, what they do, who their clients are, and also find out the names of the managers and as much about their careers as you can. Not only will this allow you to address any communications to a specific individual within a department, but it will help you create a better picture of the organisation as a whole.  3. Be flexible about your requirements While you may want the security and stability offered by a permanent job, have you considered pursuing a contract role? The flexibility of hiring a contractor is an attractive prospect for organisations at present. Also, it could be beneficial to weigh-up your salary expectations, especially if (as with many industries) you are able to work remotely. Regularly working from home will save monthly commuting costs and, therefore, lowering your pay demands accordingly (while being sure not to undersell yourself) could increase your attractiveness to employers and might be the difference between being hired or not.  4. Be open to partnering with a recruitment agency Eliciting the assistance of a specialist recruitment agency is a straightforward way to give your job-hunting efforts a boost. It will save you time, give you access to their extensive network of industry contacts, offer a wide range of opportunities that are often not advertised on job search sites and they have the inside line on knowing exactly what hiring organisations are looking for. 5. Be ready to clear your diary and move fast If you are serious about moving jobs, arguably the most important thing to remember is to be ready to act fast as things can change rapidly. Be prepared to clear gaps in your diary so that you can take calls or attend meetings, virtual or otherwise, at short notice.  Clearly explain what your requirements are from the outset and have references ready to go. When markets are difficult and hiring organisations may be looking for its new employee to start at a short turnaround, they will want a quick response if you do get offered a job.  Despite these unusual times, careers are being progressed. Your next role could be a couple of meetings away, but it will require focus, determination and input from you to make it happen. Niamh Collins is Associate Director of Finance & Accounting at Morgan McKinley.

Oct 01, 2020
Careers

Julia Rowan offers practical guidance to help leaders run productive and enjoyable team meetings.Team meetings both reflect and create a team’s culture. In times of uncertainty, they provide an essential lifeline to staff as well as an opportunity for leaders to develop the future team that they need.But before we dive into the detail, bear with me for a short and useful exercise: write down a few words that describe your team. Next, fast-forward 12 months: write down the words you would like to use to describe your team. What did you write? More strategic? More independent? More collegiate? More thorough? More proactive? Now reflect on this: how are you using your team meetings to build that strategic, independent, proactive (insert your own words) team that you want?Leaders rarely view the team meeting as an opportunity to build the team they want. Team meetings are seen as a duty, not an opportunity.Create a strong centre of gravityLeadership is challenging, both in good times and bad, but the challenges are different. Right now, there is significant uncertainty: possible recession, business continuity challenges, staff safety and more. Organisations are trying to recruit, induct, delegate, manage and lead at a distance. Many team members are anxious.All of this, to be slightly controversial, in an environment where commitment to one’s profession can be more important than commitment to one’s employer. And that commitment is neither right nor wrong – it merely reflects the reality that all professionals need to stay accredited. Otherwise, their employment prospects are gone. But it all feeds into the need for the leader to create a strong ‘centre of gravity’ within the team and to make the most of the opportunity (there’s that word again) that team meetings offer.Let’s go back to our opening exercise. Let’s say that you want your team to be more proactive; you have two choices. You either tell them that you want them to be more proactive or, at your next team meeting, you ask each team member to give an example of their proactivity and how it worked out. The first option sits nicely under ‘good advice’, and like all good advice, it may or may not be heeded. The second option sends a powerful message: that members of this team are encouraged to be proactive.The purpose of team meetingsMy take on leadership is that it happens through a series of conversations, most of which are one-to-one – interview, induction, goal-setting, delegation, feedback, performance management, coaching etc. Each of these conversations has a specific purpose and opportunity. Team meetings are different and serve three main purposes:they allow for the exchange of information, ensuring that everyone is on the same page;they facilitate discussion, which leads to better quality decisions; andthey are usually the only time and place where the team is together and can ‘do’ being a team. They are the equivalent of the family dinner – a time to stay connected, support each other and, yes, have the odd spat.The team-building part builds the trust needed to ensure that the discussion and decision-making are high-quality; that all team members can speak up, air opinions and be heard. This, in turn, feeds into that all-important engagement and commitment to the team, which is particularly important when teams work off-site or virtually.Plan and run outstanding meetingsTaking the time to plan and run outstanding meetings is tough on leaders who are already under pressure. They may unwittingly adopt a ‘tick-box’ approach to their meetings: regular meeting? Agenda circulated? All in attendance? All updates covered? Action list distributed?Actually, if you are doing all of that, take a bow because many teams never meet (and hopefully the thoughts below will help you make your meetings even more useful and enjoyable). Or maybe you used to run meetings and then stopped. They took too long, nobody spoke up, or the same few people dominated. Now is a great time to reinvest in your team meetings.The tips that follow may help stimulate some creative thoughts about how you plan and organise your team meetings. Julia Rowan is Founder of PerformanceMatters.ie. Following a career that spanned finance, marketing and public affairs, Julia now works with leaders and teams throughout Europe to build strong teams.

Jul 29, 2020
Careers

Networking has been about connecting with people in a physical space. How, then, do we seek new connections in a digital landscape? Rachel Tubridy outlines five methods on how to uncomplicate remote networking.A recent PeopleSource survey of 2,600 Irish business professionals from a variety of backgrounds found that 98% of respondents would now like to work from home at least one day a week, with almost half indicating that three or more days working from home on a weekly basis is preferable. Despite the fact that three-quarters of all participants indicated they were looking forward to person-to-person interaction with colleagues on their return to the office, an even higher percentage said that they would not attend business events where social distancing was out of their control.As concerns grow about future waves of the pandemic, the long-term viability of remote working and networking is very much on business leaders’ minds right now. The advent of 5G, which promises network communication speeds up to twenty times higher than the current mobile technology, will significantly reduce the need for physical office space. Instead, workers will be virtually contactable anytime and anyplace. Real-time data analysis, instant videoconferencing and uninterrupted workflows between corporate offices and a distributed workforce will change the current business dynamic. Major corporations like Fujitsu are giving workers the option to work at home or in the office, while Twitter has stated that its employees can work from home ‘forever’. But what does this mean for networking? A new kind of networking The networking dynamic has drastically changed because of the pandemic. You really must put yourself out there – informal introductions over a coffee or lunch are, for the moment, non-existent. This paradigm shift in working practices has significant implications for traditional networking. While ‘pressing the flesh’ has long been the way of establishing connections and developing trust in the commercial world, this is now being replaced by far more impersonal ways of conducting business. Physical isolation, lack of ‘live’ or ‘in-person’ events make it more difficult to communicate, which means we all must find new ways of networking effectively. People are no longer bumping into each other on the street where previously valuable information has been exchanged and where impromptu contacts were established. Networking is now being replaced by online gatherings, which, once the meeting has started, makes it’s hard to say ‘hey this is not for me, I’m out’ without raising an eyebrow. Here are five simple tips to help uncomplicate remote networking:Join business communities, local enterprise groups, Chartered Accountants Ireland district societies on LinkedIn, and participate in online meetups and industry events.When joining a remote networking event, make sure you’re comfortable in your surroundings and that you can talk freely to the other participants. Are your children, partner or housemate in the room? Find a quiet space so you’re not interrupted and check your Wi-Fi signal is strong in that space. You don’t want to cut out unexpectedly.Like with traditional networking, show up with an elevator pitch about who you are and what you do. Remember, the goal of networking is to show what you can offer the other people in the group, so be sure to have a good understanding of that yourself. Remote networking is a bit more formal than traditional events because of the medium – be patient when you have something to say, letting the person currently speaking finish what they are saying. When you do participate, be sure it’s to say something that will add value to the conversation. Remember, you’re an expert in your field and you have a lot of knowledge to offer other professionals. Relax, and remember everyone is in the same boat. The more at ease you are, the more approachable you seem and the more likely you will make some worthwhile connections.After the meeting, connect with the other attendees on LinkedIn, adding a note with your own contact details.       Rachel Tubridy is Founder of PeopleSource. You can read more about the survey here.

Jul 23, 2020