Spotlight

As the ‘future of work’ debate continues, leaders can take three practical steps to future-proof their business.   Every week brings new stories about how the world of work is changing. Driven by forces such as advances in technology, global inter-connectedness and growing consumer expectations, new disruptions and innovations are appearing across virtually every business sector at a faster pace than ever before. But surely the world of work has always undergone constant change? Indeed, authors such as Charles Handy have been writing about this ‘new’ world for many years. Haven’t we, as humans, always adapted and continued on our way? The general consensus seems to be that the digitally empowered period we are now moving into, labelled loosely as ‘the future of work’, will undergo as fundamental a transformation as was experienced after the first Industrial Revolution. While robots, automation and millennials continue to grab the headlines, there is a fundamental shift in the very nature and structure of the world of work – a shift that business leaders and policy makers need to address before they get left behind. So what does the ‘future of work’ really mean for those leading organisations today? Making sense of ‘the future of work’ Early adopters point to the need for organisations to be more strategically responsive and adaptable, more organisationally agile and also more comfortable in dealing with constant change. Organisations need to be responsive to fundamental changes in how work can now be delivered and organised, and to the emergence of a new employee and a multi-generational workforce with different (and sometimes not-so-different) expectations regarding work and the workplace. The ability to sense and respond to these challenges will be essential for long-term success. Commonly quoted essentials such as embracing new technology, dealing with continuous change and managing diversity are now accepted as ‘business as usual’ realities rather than anything new. But what should leaders do in the short-term to prepare for this new environment? 1. Set the right strategy Given the wide range of topics, from artificial intelligence and digital technology to gig working and the changing workforce, it can be hard to make sense of the challenges and opportunities at an organisational level. Filtering all the hype from the real and material issues for your own situation is an important first step. To assist in that process, we use a scenario planning tool called SCOPE (Figure 1), which guides leaders through the main considerations specific to them and their business. Different organisational scenarios are tested for the future, from incremental change to major disruption. Standing back to consider key themes – from strategic flexibility to how the organisation’s culture, structure and processes are aligned and the type of workforce it needs for the future – this quick diagnostic helps executives explore the key questions and likely scenarios to help them get a handle on how their business is strategically placed for the future of work. Organisational agility, for example, is a common theme that emerges from any review of strategy in the context of the future of work. Agility is well-established as a critical organisational competency that has helped organisations adapt to complex and rapidly changing business environments. For high-profile cases, just look at what Netflix and Amazon have done with their business models over the last 10 years. The compelling argument is that if business leaders can improve an organisation’s agility and build it into the organisational culture, structure and processes, they will have gone a long way in preparing their organisation for future challenges and opportunities. 2. Evolve your leadership style It may sound obvious, but reflecting on the role and appropriate approach of leaders is also critical in helping the wider organisation thrive in the future of work. Writers such as Lurie and Fisk suggest that the digital economy requires a new kind of leader from before – one who can lead people in a direction that involves an increasingly diverse set of customers, employees and stakeholders. The outlook of digital leaders must also reflect the characteristics of their business environment (i.e. open, fast-paced, connected, non-linear, virtual and technology enabled). These writers and others contend, for example, that organisational leaders must develop agility as a core leadership capability so that they can respond effectively and calmly to the uncertainty and ambiguity of the modern marketplace. As Martin Goldsmith, author of What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, puts it: “Leadership agility is probably the most important competency for leaders to have in today’s rapidly changing world”. But what is an agile leader? Most models of leadership and leadership development today point to a shift in emphasis from traditional ‘command-and-control’ leadership styles to more transformational, ‘servant-based’ and agile leadership approaches.  In their book, Leadership Agility, William Joiner and Stephen Josephs define the natural and progressive development stages of the ‘agile leader’. From the traditional, tactical and problem-solving orientation of the “expert leader” to the more strategic and outcome-oriented “achiever leader” and then the more visionary and facilitative/empowering “catalyst leader”, Joiner and Josephs describe the practical skills of progressively leading in a more agile way. This helps to call out typical leadership development stages through the lens and language of modern agile principles and practices. Self-awareness and clarity of language and behaviour is helpful for any organisation seeking to be more deliberate and mindful in developing such skills and the working culture associated with organisational agility.   These future of work nuances required for leadership today, combined with what we already know about the more age-old and enduring qualities of simply being a good leader of people, will help leaders thrive in the new landscape and will also allow others in their care to do the same. 3. Build your best team  Armed with a sense of the strategic direction required to face the future of work and being aware of the leadership approach required, leaders should also look at who they hire, promote and keep within their future organisation. No leader can succeed alone, so having the right talent at all levels is a critical theme for leaders as their organisations evolve and grow. New business and organisation models challenge many of our assumptions regarding traditional talent strategy and HR management. Many aspects of talent management will themselves require disruption and new thinking. For example, if an organisation is to be re-configured to take advantage of the business and cost benefits of a ‘blended’ mix of suppliers, outsourcing partners, free agents, automation and a core, full-time workforce, it follows that a new work design and workforce planning strategy will be needed to map out the organisation’s short-term and long-term talent needs. Indeed, the management of the non-core workforce will become a highly strategic function and consideration must be given to how the different parts of the organisation will work together to deliver optimum service to the customer. Once the work design and workforce planning aspects are worked through, the rest of the talent life-cycle processes need to kick in and align. For example, recruiting for the right skills also needs to account for likely and possible changes in skills requirements further down the line. Therefore, attracting people with the right attitude and a learning mindset could arguably be as important as their immediate skills. Training and development will need to be continuous and provided through a mix of mobile, online, on-the-job and formal methods that align with changing business needs as well as the different learning styles of a modern workforce on the move. Rewards will be more flexed and individual, with a “consumer standard” employment experience demanded by different generations of employees. Even how we exit employees is changing, with employers seeing their alumni network as a talent pool for the future as well as important social advocates for their organisation when they leave. Meanwhile, the physical (and virtual) workplace is changing to accommodate new ways of engaging staff working and collaboration. Central to this new talent management story is a clear picture of what the organisation’s desired culture must be. There is a risk that some employers will promise the earth to attract sought-after employees only to find that they cannot deliver on their promises as new work models and skill requirements change the employment prospects of employees and their jobs over time. These new talent management realities will present both challenges and opportunities. We therefore need to re-think what we demand from our leaders and front-line managers, and what qualities they need to succeed. These qualities are possibly quite different to what organisations have hired and trained for in the past. Where do we go from here? We may not have all the details about what our organisations will look like tomorrow, but the one thing we can do today is basic scenario planning that considers different prospects for our own organisations ranging from incremental change to radical disruption. We can then set about designing a talent management strategy that puts the right leaders and people in place to deal with the inevitable changes as they continue to emerge and develop. Kevin Empey is Founder of WorkMatters, a consulting firm that helps business leaders prepare for the future of work.

Dec 03, 2018
Spotlight

Why should you care about the future of work? In short, your employability depends on it. There are huge similarities in the approaches being taken to both the future of work and climate change. It’s out there, we know it’s happening; but we are too busy in our daily work to give it sufficient time and thought, thereby limiting our capacity to adapt before it’s too late. Most readers will be familiar with Stephen Covey’s time management quadrant. The future of work is in quadrant two: not urgent, but important. We tend to focus on the urgent to-do list and the reality of meeting deadlines. In this article, I will outline the importance of investing time in your future employability and explain why everyone should care about the future of work. Why should you care? The average life expectancy of a Fortune 500 organisation is just 15 years, so individuals can no longer assume that employment is for life. Business competitors no longer come from within your industry sector; they mostly sprout up and scale at speed to grab huge market share. Airbnb was not started by hoteliers, Uber was not founded within the taxi industry, Netflix was not started within the media industry. This speed of change will catch you unaware if you are busy with your head down. Accountancy firms compete fiercely to hire entry level graduates. However, they will need fewer graduates in the future as an increasing variety of manual tasks become automated. As accountants, you learned your trade as juniors by conducting audits in industry. You got to see and understand how businesses operate in real life. How will graduates get this experience if and when the work is automated? Change is required in the education and integration of accounting graduates into the future world of work. While Ireland is in the midst of an employment boom, we are witnessing the rise of corporate outplacement programmes as finance and accounting roles become automated. These roles, along with administration and middle management, featured consistently in the Harmonics Global Future of Work Study as the top three roles in decline. The work you did in the past is changing rapidly. Almost every organisation is undertaking a lean transformation or robotic process automation project of routine manual-entry tasks to achieve greater scale, speed and cost efficiency. As an example, Revenue’s move to real-time data as part of its PAYE Modernisation programme eliminates the need for the P30, P45 and P60 forms, along with end-of-year returns. Digits on a spreadsheet are easily mapped into software applications, which takes the pain away and simplifies work. PwC recently launched a digital fitness app for employees worldwide to accelerate and upskill the digital knowledge of its people across a range of domains. Digital acumen is now a lifelong endeavour, which needs to be embraced to stay employable. Big data is valuable and business intelligence dashboards offer real-time data on key business metrics. Artificially intelligent machines will provide answers, but our potential in the future of work is in the questions we ask. Think about a calculator – we’ve all used one to do a quick calculation. The next stage was Googling a simple question to get an instant answer. Now, imagine inputting a complex accounting scenario into a computer programme, and back come your options. In this scenario, massive computational power has replaced manual effort. Indeed, computing is increasing in power and reducing in price – in 2023, it is expected that €1,000 will buy you computational power equivalent to that of the human brain. A recent World Economic Forum report estimated that total work tasks in 2018 were 70/30 in favour of humans over machines. This will evolve speedily to 60/40 by 2022. We are not far off equilibrium in terms of the ratio between human and machine tasks in the workplace, and this demands change on our part. Like our organisations, we too have new competitors for our work – smart machines – and we need to learn how to work with them, rather than compete with them, into the future. The smart machines I speak of are software bots that are learning 24/7 and replicating the work we currently do on our computers. The organisational impact The hierarchical organisation chart that once created vertical career ladders in a functional silo no longer makes sense. This is a major challenge for future organisation design. The organisation chart of the future is organic and constantly evolving. Work architecture needs to be broken up like Lego and reconfigured into human and machine pieces. Organisations are neither resourced nor ready for such an eventuality. Like Lego, the work pieces will need be broken down and reconfigured for every new business challenge. This will lead to the demise of rigid functional silos and will require agile and cross-functional networked systems that evolve to meet specific customer needs. What can you do now? You can prepare by letting go of the past – something we, as humans, find very hard to do. We like routine, certainty and security. Accounting roles are transitioning away from day-to-day number crunching to focus more on interpreting data, building financial models aligned to company strategies/initiatives and project-based work with key stakeholders and other departments. I speak about the nine critical human skills needed in my new book, Future Proof Your Career, which will be available soon on Amazon. The future of work will demand lifelong devotion to the development of critical human skills including critical thinking, communication, creativity, consulting, commercial acumen, collaboration and embracing new cultures – all of which will need to be complemented by ever-changing digital skills. It is not only a skillset shift that is required, but a mindset one. If you have a fixed mindset, resist change and are unwilling to upskill, then your job and your future employability is in jeopardy – but this is within your control.  Finally, I invite you to take part in our global future career readiness research project. It is aimed at working professionals to honestly evaluate how future-ready you are. The Future Career Readiness Index is a powerful instrument that allows you to quickly test your future career readiness in five key areas. It takes less than 10 minutes to benchmark yourself against others in your sector and profession. On completion, you will receive a free downloadable Future Career Readiness report to accelerate your future career. You can access the report at www.futurecareerreadiness.com. My parting career advice is this: disrupt yourself before you are disrupted. John Fitzgerald is Managing Director at Harmonics Group and serves on the Board of OI Global Partners.

Dec 03, 2018
Spotlight

Valarie Daunt discusses how the preferences of millennial workers are driving changes in the workplace. When it comes to the attractiveness of a potential employer, the 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey found that while financial rewards and benefits are the top priority for millennials in Ireland, this is followed by flexibility, a positive organisational structure, opportunities for continuous learning, and well-being programmes and incentives. The changing expectations of our workforces is one of the major forces re-shaping the future nature of work. By 2030, millennials will make up 75% of the workforce. It is therefore time to sit up and take note. So, what trends will we see as a result of these millennial preferences?  From careers to experiences With technological and demographic trends disrupting traditional career paths, organisations need to reconstruct job profiles and career models, and rethink the coaching and development of employees from entry-level staff through to executives. 21st century careers can be viewed as a series of developmental experiences, each offering the opportunity to acquire new skills, perspectives and judgement. In this environment, organisations need to look at alternative ways of upskilling employees to achieve an agile and responsive workforce. Companies leading in this space are finding ways for employees to learn from others as well as providing learning programmes and on-the-job training. Today’s employee seeks responsibility and leadership roles earlier than heretofore, yet many organisations are unprepared for this change. More than one third of Irish respondents to Deloitte’s 2018 Human Capital Trends Survey stated that, in their organisation, career paths generally progress up a traditional hierarchy, with little flexibility to accommodate individual worker interests or desired career paths. More than half (57%) stated that they only occasionally get the opportunity to work on assignments outside their assigned business line or manager and one third stated that their organisations are only somewhat effective at empowering employees to manage their own careers. Given that the wants and needs of today’s workforce are evolving quickly, talent practices need to support employees in developing a suite of adaptable and agile skills that can be deployed across many areas of the organisation. Only 35% of Irish respondents rate their organisations as being ready to build the 21st century career model, despite the fact that 82% rank this as important. Well-being as a strategic priority As the line between work and life blurs, organisations are investing in well-being programmes to drive employee productivity, engagement and retention. However, there is often a significant gap between what companies offer and what employees value and expect. It is no longer enough for organisations to offer traditional benefits and remuneration such as medical assistance programmes and once-a-year reviews. Today, the focus is on providing programmes that not only protect employee health, but actively boost social and emotional well-being. This includes innovative programmes and tools for financial wellness, mental health, healthy diet and exercise, mindfulness, sleep and stress management, as well as changes to culture and leadership behaviours that support these efforts. Expanding well-being programmes to encompass what employees want and value is now essential for organisations to treat their people responsibly – as well as to boost their social capital and project an attractive employer brand. The Human Capital Trends Survey shows that 50% of Irish organisations rate themselves as “ready” or “very ready” to offer holistic well-being programmes while 37% of Irish respondents state that their organisation offers well-being programmes beyond the traditional offerings. From front-line staff right up to executive leadership, there is a consensus that these programmes promote employee productivity and support employee retention. If an organisation wants to keep its most promising talent, it needs to give employees a reason to stay. The hyper-connected workplace Millennials’ preference for a positive organisational structure is interesting, and is no doubt connected to the fact that there are massive changes underway in how we connect. Social media and collaborative communications tools are transforming the world of work. Today, instant messaging tools such as Slack and Trello, which can be tailored for a project team’s use, have introduced new ways of working. They allow ideas to be bounced off colleagues on a regular basis, without having to wait for scheduled team meetings. They can also provide exposure to leaders and experts, which we know appeals to the millennial cohort. In Ireland, as elsewhere, these new technologies and tools are changing how we communicate at work. 68% of Irish respondents to the Human Capital Trends Survey said this is having a positive impact on productivity and 75% envisage increased use of online platforms as a communication channel in the next three to five years. While a majority of respondents rank this trend as “very important”, Irish organisations have displayed a somewhat conservative approach to adopting emerging communication channels and tools, with more than four in 10 either only permitting the use of well-established tools or requiring tools to be carefully reviewed and approved by their IT departments. Only 6% identify emerging tools and promote their use among employees. Organisations will need to adopt a holistic approach, taking into account different working styles and introducing rewards to promote take-up while also ensuring that the workforce is prepared and willing to use these tools. An important aspect of this strategy is to audit the tools in the marketplace and ensure that they are satisfactory from a risk and IT perspective before introducing them into the workplace. Once approved, collaboration tools should be embedded in day-to-day processes where possible, so as to actively promote adoption among the workforce. As social media and collaborative communication tools migrate from personal lives to the workplace, organisations must apply their expertise in team management, goal-setting and employee development to improve performance and promote collaboration. For the hyper-connected workplace to improve productivity, procedures, workspaces and leadership styles will need to be capable of capitalising on the power of these tools while at the same time managing any potential negative impacts. Conclusion There are many drivers of change impacting on the future of work, and the preferences of millennials is just one of these drivers. However, the impact will be great and there are some gaps to be bridged. Irish businesses now need to begin taking stock of the implications of these drivers of change. Valarie Duant is Partner and Head of Human Capital Management at Deloitte.

Dec 03, 2018
Spotlight

Employers face a host of challenges as they seek to future-proof both their people and their businesses. The future of work can be both exciting and worrying depending on your perspective. Will robots, machines and artificial intelligence take all the jobs? Or will they support workers and produce many new jobs while improving working conditions for all workers? The future rarely turns out the way we imagine. In 1899, the head of the US patent office was quoted as saying: “Everything that can be invented has been invented”, so predictions may make us look foolish. However, that should not stop us considering the opportunities and threats for business and how we can future-proof our organisations. Here are three issues businesses should consider as they prepare for the future of work. Workplaces Technology allows us to work from pretty much anywhere in the 24/7 global workplace. Companies are rapidly moving to agile workplaces and hot-desk environments with more flexible working arrangements. The challenge for organisations has little to do with technology capability; the willingness – or lack thereof – of executive and management teams to support employees who work remotely is arguably a more pressing issue. This is a particular challenge for managers who prefer to see their team in person but, more worryingly, reward those in close proximity and ignore those who work remotely. There is also a reluctance to use the gig economy – a market of independent workers available for short-term engagements – within more traditional organisations. Innovation Hyper-growth companies have one thing in common: an innovative culture. Innovation is something organisations can cultivate, but most companies are risk-averse. Innovative employees take risks and break the rules, and they need to be supported while doing so. Without making mistakes, trying out new ideas and working on new disruptions within their own sector, companies will not be able to build new, innovative products and services. To achieve this, you must have the right people in the organisation and provide continuous learning for staff. Many jobs will go and it is critical that employers encourage their staff to be more flexible and self-directed in their learning so that they can contribute to the company’s ongoing success – even if it means moving regularly within the organisation. Such internal moves can be an excellent way for organisations to share information and work in a less siloed manner. Technology overload The final point relates to the dangers technology can pose for employees. The proliferation of smartphones and screens has led to dysfunctional behaviours. Email, a tool that purports to make us more productive has become a huge burden in organisations. Screen and smartphone notifications interrupt staff on a constant basis, giving them very little time to perform deep and meaningful work. We are busier than ever, but probably much less productive. Even the bedroom is now overrun by smartphone technology, which is spawning a multitude of over-tired and under-productive employees. One insurance company is actually paying a bonus to staff who have 30 good nights’ sleep in a row, as it recognises how critical sleep is to performance. Summary Governments will have to tackle work displacement for older generations as automation, digital platforms and other innovations change the world of work. On the plus side, careers we couldn’t even envisage today will soon become reality and this will provide myriad opportunities for those armed with the right skillsets. Our key job is to support the next generation coming into the workplace – those who were born into the internet and smartphone generation. We need to build on their human skills as these will be critical to their future success. Peter Cosgrove is an expert on the future of work and author of Fun Unplugged, a book to engage children without the use of screens.

Dec 03, 2018
Technical

The sooner the future trade agreement becomes clear, the sooner businesses can begin to adapt to the new reality.   Uncertainty continues to cause problems for businesses across the island of Ireland as the end of the year approaches. Within Northern Ireland’s small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) community, there is frustration that a lack of political leadership has left businesses in a vacuum. As Institute President Feargal McCormack said at an IAASA Brexit event in October, it is disappointing that there is no functioning Northern Ireland Executive to put forward a collective and cohesive perspective on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland. Across the island of Ireland, businesses face complex and far-reaching issues from supply chains, employment and access to labour to certifications in markets, health and safety, insurance, tax, legal structures, duties and the additional administrative costs of doing business. In the Republic of Ireland’s agriculture sector, clients anticipate World Trade Organisation tariffs of up to 25% on ingredients imported from the United Kingdom (UK) with similar tariffs imposed on produce exported to the UK. Farmers are seeking alternative suppliers to mitigate this impact with some setting up in dual jurisdictions and/or forming strategic alliances. Uncertainty reigns In a meeting with the House of Commons’ Exiting the European Union Committee in October, Declan Billington, Chair of the Northern Ireland Food & Drink Association, said the viability of the dairy sector is being brought into question and that Northern Ireland’s sheep farmers are wondering whether to breed for the coming year as 40% of their livestock is exported to the Republic of Ireland. “If we’re cut off from the European Union (EU) market that is being serviced from Northern Ireland, the UK market does not have the demand for the products so prices will crash,” Mr Billington said. Aside from the agribusiness sectors, it isn’t necessarily the amount of customs duties to be reintroduced that will pose problems for businesses north and south; it is the disruption that will result from customs checking at the border and the subsequent increase in administration. I see no hard evidence that businesses should prepare for anything other than the reintroduction of tariffs and quotas on imports and exports between the UK and the EU. This, in turn, means tariffs and quotas on cross-border imports and exports. A difficulty facing most owner-managed businesses is that they do not have the resources to hire customs agents. Feargal highlighted this at the recent IAASA event when he said: “We will need people to deal with the additional customs clearance requirements and organisations, and to advise businesses on what their new obligations are. We also need people who can advise and help implement the plans which are needed to avoid disruption of supply chains, who can assist in business restructuring, in currency hedging, and even help in the relocation of people and facilities if and where that is required.” Contingency planning In preparing for border checks between Ireland and Great Britain, Northern Ireland firms are ahead of their UK counterparts according to a recent British Chamber of Commerce (BCC) survey. The research found that only 37% of BCC members in the UK who trade with Ireland are preparing for possible changes at the border or checks between the island of Ireland and Great Britain compared to 59% of firms in Northern Ireland. These findings mirror PKF-FPM’s experience. In the last three months, we have seen a significant increase in businesses actively preparing contingency plans. Many clients are getting ready for a ‘no deal’ outcome and availing of the InterTradeIreland voucher for €2,250/£2,000 to obtain professional advice. Funding support for Brexit preparations is also available from Enterprise Ireland, whose Brexit grant of €5,000 is 50% funded for Enterprise Ireland clients. In addition, the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland has a Brexit loan scheme for Republic of Ireland businesses. Clients who have prepared a Brexit report find that this supports customer retention. It affords comfort by quantifying the potential impacts and demonstrates that plans are in place to mitigate them. Another positive is that companies engaging in the planning process are picking up new opportunities from businesses looking to onshore their supply chain.  Firms on both sides of the border are looking at two site locations, either through joint ventures or by acquiring sites where set-up costs are not prohibitive. Similarly, the Chief Executive of Manufacturing Ireland recently told the House of Commons Committee about one Manufacturing NI member who purchased a site in Co. Mayo for £500,000 and another who has bought five acres of land in Co. Donegal. Brexit guidance Meanwhile, the EU continues to issue “preparedness notices” describing the consequences of the withdrawal without a formal, ratified agreement. These notices cover many different business sectors. Two that are particularly relevant for Chartered Accountants are a notice issued earlier this year on statutory audit and, more recently, a notice on EU VAT rules issued on 11 September 2018. For Ireland and the UK in particular, if reciprocal audit rights are not in place between the EU and the UK, then members of the profession who could freely practice throughout Ireland and the UK – and across the island of Ireland in particular – may now find that considerably more difficult after Brexit. It will be important that the UK regulatory system is regarded as equivalent to the EU regulatory environment. On VAT, the UK has said that in the event of a no-deal Brexit it will introduce the postponed method of accounting, which will mean that VAT will not arise immediately on imports. Chartered Accountants Ireland has asked the Irish Government to implement the same measure regardless of whether there is a deal or not, as VAT will be a new immediate cost for traders who import from the UK. Guidance documents are also being published in the Brexit area of the UK Government website. The HMRC partnership pack, for example, provides guidance on preparing for a ‘no deal’ outcome with a promise of more detailed guidance to follow. In advice for Northern Ireland’s businesses, HMRC states: “We would recommend that, if you trade across the land border, you should also consider any advice issued by the Irish Government about preparations you need to make, in addition to the guidance set out by the UK Government.” Elsewhere, customs guidance has been published by Chartered Accountants Ireland in Taking the Lead – Chartered Accountants and Brexit, which provides easy-to-follow commentary on how the EU customs system works. Many traders in Ireland and the UK will be dealing with these customs for the first time and for them, this information is critical. At the time of writing, it remains to be seen whether the proposed ‘deal’ between the EU and UK – which covers Britain’s financial settlement with the EU, post-Brexit rights of EU citizens in the UK and British citizens on the continent, and a mechanism to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland – will be finalised by the EU Council and whether Prime Minister Theresa May will be able to get it through the House of Commons. So, the uncertainty continues. The sooner we know the likely form of future trade agreements between the UK and the EU, the better we can prepare businesses in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland for the changeover and whatever new challenges and opportunities it may bring. Michael Farrell FCA is Director at PKF-FPM Accountants Ltd., a service provider for InterTradeIreland’s Brexit Advisory Service. Key dates in the Brexit timeline 25 November 2018 Potential European Council meeting to finalise the Withdrawal Agreement. 13–14 December 2018 European Council meeting. This may be the last opportunity for an Article 50 divorce deal to be signed off by Britain and the EU. 21 January 2019 Cut-off date for a deal to be presented to Parliament. January/February 2019 Date by which the House of Commons must approve any deal agreed with Brussels. A Withdrawal Bill setting out the terms of Brexit must then be put forward. 21–22 March 2019 European Council meeting. Up to 29 March 2019 Timeframe within which any Brexit deal must be approved by the European Parliament. 29 March 2019 Brexit Day. After 30 March 2019 Trade talks and transition begin. 31 December 2020 Transition period ends unless extended. 31 December 2021 UK wants any “temporary customs arrangements” introduced as part of the backstop to end by this date. However, the EU says there should not be a time limit on the backstop.

Dec 03, 2018

The Institute’s latest member and student research shines a light on the critical issues that will shape the organisation’s strategy into the future. Every two years, Chartered Accountants Ireland surveys its members and students to benchmark levels of satisfaction, relevance and attitudes regarding our various products and services. This year, three separate research studies were undertaken, comprising surveys and focus groups, to get a more refined understanding of the most important issues affecting members and students, and to inform our future strategies. Member survey Our biennial member research was conducted by independent research agency, Coyne Research, in late April. All members who had provided an email address to the Institute were invited to participate. 1,700 members completed the survey and overall the results were positive. Satisfaction Member satisfaction ratings increased by five points since 2012. Encouragingly, business members registered the most significant increase, up three points to 66% since 2016. However, satisfaction ratings from members in practice have slipped back to 65%, down five points. Perceived relevance to business needs has increased significantly, up four points across the membership. In addition, strong agreement with statements such as value for money (39%, +5%), market leader (64%, +1%) and lifelong learning (58%, +5%) all saw an increase. Net promoter score Since 2012, Chartered Accountants Ireland has adopted the net promoter score (NPS), which measures members’ likelihood to recommend the qualification. The Institute’s NPS remains very strong at +41 (+42 in 2016). However, as always, the devil is in the detail and within an overall strong NPS result, there has been a drop in the NPS from members qualified in the last six to 10 years. Member ‘deep dive’  The biennial survey provided a representative view of members who respond, but what of the views of less engaged members who tend not to complete surveys? And how could we delve deeper into the lower NPS rating from members? More nuanced insight was required, so we connected with less engaged members to understand their attitudes, needs and insights in more depth. Further research was commissioned and focus groups composed of members aged 50 and under, and representative of varying degrees of NPS scores, were convened in September. Five groups met across the island, one in London and an online discussion forum was established for the first time to engage with a sample of overseas members. Results Taken as a whole, members were extremely proud of their professional qualification and had positive perceptions of the Institute. Its status as a distinguished and prestigious qualification is unquestioned. Members frequently talked about the effort and sacrifice made to achieve the qualification, such that having the Chartered qualification is undoubtedly a badge of honour. That said, members across all categories and locations gave an honest and balanced appraisal of the value of membership, how they interact with Institute services and the future of the profession. Championing students When members talked about their likelihood to recommend the profession in the future, they reflected on the challenging path to qualification and some questioned whether the programme as currently constituted would attract the most talented candidates in the future. Some participants called on the Institute to offer more support to students during their studies. Members also cited the critical need for the Institute to adapt to future professional needs, while still ensuring a strong grounding in the basics of accountancy. Many felt that the Institute should place a greater focus on the impact of technology in career development, and that future technology be placed at the centre of our student education programme.  Power of network Participants were in no doubt as to the power of the professional network to which their qualification allows them access. Many felt that more could be made of this on a local and global level. There was an appetite for more targeted member network events, activities and CPD courses that reflect the variety of roles and sectors in which members are employed, particularly from members in business. Finally, there were consistent messages about improving the content, relevance and frequency of member communications with a preference expressed for clearer signposting of the ability to opt in to communications. Student research Separately, student research was undertaken, with surveys in the field in May. The 2018 survey was conducted among a sample of 655 Chartered students. Like the focus groups and member survey, the student survey was also conducted by Coyne Research. Net promoter score The research found that there has been a significant increase in the student NPS, up 14 points since 2016. While the increase was across the board, it was particularly notable among CAP1, Northern Irish and recently qualified FAE students. Furthermore, two out of three students stated that they had actually recommended the qualification in the last 12 months. However, the 2018 research also indicated that the Institute must continue to work to emphasise the unique benefits and attributes of the Chartered qualification with our student cohort. Choosing Chartered Respondents said that the decision to choose the Chartered qualification was driven by the long-term career and salary prospects, with high pass rates and the quality of in-house education delivery also seen as important factors in the decision-making process. It is also encouraging to see a growing awareness and consideration of the Flexible Route among current students, with two in three claiming to be aware of the Flexible Route and one in five current students having considered it. Of those pursuing the Flexible Route, one in three students now agree that they would recommend the Flexible Route to those looking for a flexible route to accountancy, an increase of +16%. Conclusion Institute Chief Executive Barry Dempsey welcomed the depth of insight generated from this year’s research projects. “It’s clear that while the overall research findings are very positive, there are specific challenges from both members and students that the Institute will need to address. The Institute has already presented an initial response and action plan to Council and I look forward to reporting on progress on a range of initiatives in the months to come.” Bernie Coyne, Managing Director of Coyne Research, commented: “Coyne Research was pleased to have worked with Chartered Accountants Ireland over the past year to provide this schedule of research projects and to have delivered a comprehensive understanding of members’ and students’ principal concerns. “The research has highlighted the positive impact of initiatives to improve relevancy and satisfaction over the past number of years, with consistently high NPS figures reported. These findings compare very positively with other Irish businesses and brands, and highlight areas of focus for future-proofing the qualification and membership services.” The 2019 research has been discussed by the Institute’s management team and presented to the Members Board and Council with critical actions identified and included in the development of the 2019 business plan.  Brendan O’Hora is Director of Communications and Marketing at Chartered Accountants Ireland.

Dec 03, 2018