The Bottom Line
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
News

This time of year is about setting objectives and goals. However, these usually fail within the first month. How can you empower yourself to stick with them for the whole year? Dawn Leane outlines five ways that can help. It’s the time of year when we set ourselves new goals, whether personal or professional. But often, by the time spring arrives, our good intentions are just a distant memory. Setting objectives is always a good idea, but we can set ourselves up to fall short unless we have the right mindset. Here are five ways to empower yourself in 2021 and beyond. 1. Start with the end in mind A goal without a plan is just a wish, as the saying goes. Stephen Covey advises us to “begin with the end in mind”. Having a clear understanding of what ‘future-perfect’ looks like makes it easier to know where we’re going, assess where we are now, and work out all the steps in between. By breaking our journey into a series of smaller goals, we are more likely to stay on track. 2. Give yourself a break Strike a balance between having ambition and setting unrealistic expectations. For example, if you tend to leave things to the last minute, you may decide to focus on improving your time management. We usually approach this by trying to change ourselves, expending much energy in the process. Or you could accept that you work best with an impending deadline and change how you structure your time instead. Self-acceptance is the most empowering act of all. 3. Build your network There is little we can achieve alone. A strong, strategically developed network is essential to success in any endeavour. Your network should consist of people who can provide you with information and further connections, give honest feedback, provide personal support, and help you maintain a positive work-life balance. Ensure that the people in your network know what you want to accomplish. It will be easier for them to help if they can recognise the opportunity, information or introduction that will benefit you. 4. Review regularly We live in a VUCA world: volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Review your goals regularly to ensure that they are still relevant, that you are on track, and have the right resources. If your original objective is unrealistic or your circumstances change, don’t judge yourself. Instead of doubling down or quitting, reassess what you want to achieve. Revisit your concept of ‘future-perfect’ and ask if it is still valid. If not, what can you change to make it so? 5. Just do it Motivation is a myth. John Maxwell writes: “The whole idea of motivation is a trap. Forget motivation. Just do it. Exercise, lose weight, test your blood sugar, or whatever. Do it without motivation. And then, guess what? After you start doing the thing, that’s when the motivation comes and makes it easy for you to keep on doing it.” The key to empowerment is taking control. That doesn’t mean you won’t make mistakes or have bad days. But if you learn from those experiences and refine your approach, your capacity will continually develop. Dawn Leane is CEO of Leane Leaders, supporting leadership development through training, executive coaching, mentoring and consultancy.

Jan 08, 2021
News

Coming back to work after the holidays is always challenging, this year especially. How can we inspire our staff to be more productive amidst the January blues? Anne Phillipson explains. Crack! That’s the sound of the spines of new 2021 diaries being opened across the island as employees face the new year with the same determined optimism that students embrace (at least for a few weeks) at the start of every term. In business, we may set new strategic objectives aligned to corporate strategy at this time of year, asking our team members to set personal objectives for 2021. But the start of this new year is unlike any other. As leaders look at the challenging landscape, they will understandably want to ensure – now more than ever – that everyone in the organisation is as productive as possible. Productivity describes various measures of the efficiency of production. Back in the industrial revolution, this was much easier to measure. It was easy to count the widgets coming off the line, or the number of units produced per person per year. But productivity is a noisy measure when it comes to knowledge workers. If productivity used to mean getting more things done each day, it now means getting more important things done consistently. As the great business guru Peter Drucker said, “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” How can leaders unlock their employees’ productivity and create the best possible environment for them to thrive? Here are three suggestions that should help. 1. Prioritise Make sure that your team knows what is most important. This might seem straightforward, yet I am willing to bet that if I interviewed ten of your employees, I would get a range of answers to the question: “What are the three most important priorities right now?” For everyone to be crystal clear on the priorities, leaders must communicate consistently. It is always tempting to do the ‘urgent’ at the expense of the ‘important’, so make sure that important activities get priority. Regular check-ins with your people will help, as will progress updates on priority objectives. 2. Remove friction Ensure that people have the resources they need to get the job done. Find out what your employees need to make it easier for them to do their job, and then act on the responses. Maybe a process slows people down, or a clunky system could be simplified. Or perhaps they need a computer upgrade or training. Whatever the friction, it’s imperative that you take action to make your employee’s life easier, thereby removing a barrier to productivity and building trust with the team, so they know that you take their feedback seriously. 3. Agreed measurement Too often, bosses equate hours in the office with productivity. Those same bosses are now anxious that nobody is in the office – if they can’t see people, they feel that it is impossible to know how productive they are. However, if people are clear on the priorities, with clearly defined and agreed outputs, and have the tools and resources to do their jobs, bosses will have to trust their people to get on with their work. Isn’t that why you hired them in the first place? Anne Phillipson is a Director of People & Change Consulting at Grant Thornton NI.

Jan 08, 2021
News

It’s almost impossible to predict the economic forecast for 2021. However, there are steps we can all take to get Ireland back to living its best life. Neil Gibson explains. When making resolutions, we inevitably start with great enthusiasm and, all too often, by February, our lives look just as they did before. With 2020 over, perhaps it is a good time to think about our collective resolutions, which will need to last well beyond January if we are to get Ireland back to living its best life. Eat and drink more Many hospitality businesses had their worst-ever year in 2020. As vaccines are introduced, thereby making it safer to be outside later in the year, it will be important to spend money in the hospitality sector. Treating yourself to a dessert in 2021 – you are doing it for the economy! Get fit Physical fitness improved for many people with time at home, while others went in the other direction. For almost everyone, mental health has been impacted due to feelings of isolation, loneliness, vulnerability and fragility. Tiredness and fatigue have become significant issues too. We need our healthcare system fit-for-purpose and our businesses sufficiently robust to survive. We all need to be adequately fit – physically, mentally and financially – to face whatever might come our way. No backsliding 2020 revealed ways to work and live better. There is unlikely to be a desire to return to pre-COVID-19 congestion levels, and many digital ways of working are simply more efficient. Embracing these improvements to free-up time for the things we enjoy should be a goal. Bring forward our goals We now know how quickly policy can be implemented and what an emergency response looks like. However, we still have other emergencies at the door, so let’s be more ambitious on timelines. Achieving carbon neutrality is an obvious one, but there are others such as the housing crisis, rural broadband roll-out, and the delivery of Metro North. Watch the spending Our Government spent record amounts on our behalf in 2020. All very necessary and, so far, there is no great urgency to balance the books. There may well be a global debate about turning a portion of the costs into perpetual debt or a form of ‘great reset’ with debt we effectively owe to ourselves being forgiven. However, that cannot breed complacency over managing spend. Maybe, to coincide with the season’s theme, we need to resolve to make a list of what we need rather than want. Plan for the future Resolutions are often limited to things we can get stuck into in January. Real change takes longer and requires a new culture and attitude. There has been criticism from the Fiscal Council and others that recent spending decisions have built up expensive future problems. We need to keep an eye on the long-term vision. Does Ireland 2040 need to be revisited? Should corporates look again at their vision? The answer should be a resounding “yes” in both cases. Be grateful for what we have There are challenges ahead, but 2020 has allowed many to appreciate what truly matters in life. This may improve our appreciation of a broader range of jobs in our society; it will undoubtedly enhance our view of the importance of government. Firms that worked hard on purpose and culture saw those principles tested and, hopefully, strengthened. Community and a value on friends and colleagues are part of the culture shift that could potentially be the biggest lesson learnt. At the heart of the word “resolution” is the concept of “resolve”. How apt that we need to be steadfast in our commitment to a better tomorrow. If we didn’t already know that real success is a mixture of economic, social and environmental progress, we do now. Ireland appears set to continue its strong economic performance. However, it will need similar strides in the other two dimensions to say with honesty that we kept our New Year resolutions. Neil Gibson is Chief Economist at EY.

Jan 08, 2021