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How to prepare for returning to the workplace

With the lockdown slowly lifting across more and more industries, businesses are considering the future of working in an office environment and how to do so safely. We will look at how businesses are planning their return to the office and what their new normal may look like. Preparation No matter the approach your business decides to make, there will be a lot of preparation and planning involved in the process. This doesn't have to make the situation overly complex or convoluted, simple processes which are communicated clearly are the key to success. Many businesses are building protocols for new internal processes such as cleaning on arrival and exit of a work station, washing external items being introduced into the workplace (e.g prepared meals or personal packages) and their own track & trace systems. These protocols can, depending on the nature of your business, include external policy. An external protocol will ensure your staff are safe when they are out of your controlled working environment. We've already seen examples of business meetings moved to outside locations and staff making pre-meeting checks to ensure they are able to social distance. Responsibility Even the best-laid plans will crumble without employee buy-in. It's important that even before an employee steps back into your office that they are bought-in to the new processes and protocol. Ensuring your managers are not only communicating the changes but enforcing them will be vital to any plan. Breaking down employee, manager, HR and real estate services responsibilities will help keep your message clear. Reintroducing staff Over the lockdown period, we hosted a number of webinars around mental health in the workplace. A key takeaway for many attendees was a mindful reintroduction of staff to the workplace. This means ensuring that you're communicating and discussing changes with your employees early and considering the mental health ramifications of furloughing staff and lockdown workloads have had on your employees. Many businesses are putting in place socially distance working environments where they can. This additional space requirement means that there is less workspace in many offices, and as an added safety precaution many businesses are introducing split teams, staggered hours and attendance rotations. This blend of remote work and office work means increasing employee engagement and still retaining a safe environment for work.

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Are you at the newly qualified crossroads?

So, you are either newly qualified or recently qualified and you have reached the crossroads in your career. After completing your training in audit, accounts preparation or management accounts you feel for certain it is time for a change in direction of your day job and the bright lights of commercial finance are calling your name. However, given the current availability of vacancies in the market based upon the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important now more than ever to carefully weigh up your options and consider what move is going to continue adding value to your career and help achieve your end goal. In this article, we will be briefly exploring how to weigh your options between financial accounting positions and commercial finance and why both can be equally as valuable to your career path. Financial Accounting When we talk about financial accounting positions, we are often looking at roles that feature a financial controls element in their day to day duties. As well as the standard duties such as the preparation of financial statements, statutory accounts, VAT & Tax work etc there is a big opportunity to get some added value-based work on your CV. This regularly comes through working on continuous improvement projects based around existing reporting processes, controls and systems. Often when organisations are investing in qualified staff for these roles they are looking for candidates that can bring new ideas with them to assist in streamlining the departments work processes, seeking out cost-saving efficiencies and getting the best out of the team around them. Often you can find yourself getting exposure to system-based work as well such as road-mapping for a new ERP/software/database implementation or working on a migration project which further down the line can be a pivotal experience to draw upon when you are in a position to be applying for senior leadership roles. Commercial Finance This is a rather broad area of finance but often we are approached by candidates specifically seeking out these types of role in the shape of FP&A, Analyst or Business Partnering positions. Frequently these types of roles give you as the candidate an opportunity to work with the business and its stakeholders to provide insight into business performance and highlighting key areas to drive profit for the organisation. Typical duties you will find at this level as a newly qualified will be working with stakeholders and budget holders in the business, reviewing budgets & forecasts and analysing results, reviewing KPIs and considering costs, margins, profit by product etc that overall affects the performance of the business. Summary The key thing to remember when taking your next step is what you want to achieve in your career. You will rarely find CFOs or Finance Directors who have not carried out their fair share of financial and technical accounting positions post-qualifying as well as picking up the commercial experience along the way. You will find that commercial finance roles will often still feature some tasks that are often associated with technical roles such as financial reporting and consolidations. What is to say that picking up a financial accounting role now for 2 - 3 years working closely with a high calibre mentor won’t give you enough experience and exposure to seek out that dream commercial role in the future? It is important to delve into the finer detail of the role, do not take the job title for granted or specification as an exhaustive list of what the job will entail. Consider what internal/external relationships you will be fostering within that business, what are the businesses strategic objectives and which areas can you add value in the business if you were to join. If you'd like to discuss your career path further, please don't hesitate to contact me on hunter@consultancygroup.com

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The Evolving Role of the Tax Professional

In recent times the tax professional has seen an unprecedented amount of change across their specialism including regular developments to regulation, compliance, workplace environments and technology. Demands from businesses are falling more on the tax department to increase efficiency and contribute more to overall growth. Over the last twelve months, we’ve spoken to tax professionals to discover how their role is changing and how they are evolving with it. With an increased drive towards automation, and technology solutions becoming more commonplace in many organisations, we are now seeing the role of the tax professional evolving to meet demands in other parts of the business. An increased focus on upskilling and the broadening of skill sets is becoming far more apparent. For organisations, providing training for upskilling has become an important factor in employee retention with a large percentage of tax professionals saying it increases employee engagement and satisfaction. The upskilling trend has already started to slowly create new niche roles with the emergence of the Tax Technologist, a data analytics and tax specialist. This is the spark of a more diverse tax landscape and a fundamental change on how tax professionals can develop into specialisations with the market. Employees aren’t just choosing to focus on hard skills though, with many looking to train emotional intelligence and communication skills. They are embracing soft skills as a way to improve efficiency and working relationships with colleagues and clients. COVID-19 has been a key factor in the evolution of how we all work over these last few months. The tax profession is no exception, with employees taking on alternative work arrangements such as remote working. This sudden change to our workplace environment had many organisations and tax departments in an initial state of uncertainty, namely around how they will cope and adapt to this new style of working. However, if these past weeks have shown us anything it is that these new arrangements can and do work efficiently, and we anticipate it is likely that these changes will become more commonplace in the future and become a key factor in how employers can attract or keep talent on board. Businesses have also quickly evolved in the current climate to embrace systems such as online training systems and cloud-based work environments. Technology isn’t the only way businesses are changing, many are taking on agile methodologies as a way to combat distance between employees. What these last few months have shown us all, is that an ability to be agile and adapt to change proves to be a very useful skillset, and if nurtured in the correct way can be extremely effective. This attitude is mirrored for the tax professional, where a positive attitude towards upskilling, and a willingness and ability to adapt to change will benefit the personal and future career development of the tax professional in this ever-evolving tax landscape.

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The Technology Sector Fighting the Unwanted Fight

With the uncertainty of Covid-19 plaguing many UK businesses, the question of “how organisations navigate this quite impossible task?” is one I was keen to find out. Since the beginning of April, I have explored current global events with over 40 of the best high-growth, startup/scale-up technology organisations the UK has to offer - but is it all doom and gloom, how will companies cope with the fallout of Covid-19 and will Liverpool ever win the Premier League? I understand these are important questions and I am here to give you some of the answers… well, who knows about the last one! Over the past month, I’ve had the pleasure of sitting down remotely with various SaaS, FinTech, AI, HealthTech, MarTech, AdTech, PropTech and EdTech organisations to discuss what is really going on behind closed doors - here’s what I found out. Centralised Office Locations or Flexible Working Post Covid-19 The general consensus is no, we don’t need centralised locations. As many tech companies lead the working from home revolution, we’re starting to see the full benefits of flexible working and what it means to each individual. Whether it’s more time for self-reflection, those runs you never thought you’d enjoy, dusting off an old book from your Christmas collection, writing blogs for the first time or just simply doing nothing. This time is certainly thought-provoking and maybe we need more time to decide, but many organisations are looking at the purse strings and deciding on team meeting hubs, hot-desking, downsizing or just “come in when you fancy” sort of spaces. I, for one, am looking forward to moving away from the dodgy Wi-Fi Zoom encounters, but it’s safe to say the idea of commuting on packed trains or hot buses isn’t getting anyone overly excited just yet, so I think Zoom is here to stay. As we don’t actually know when the office lockdown rules will be “officially” lifted, it’s easy to speculate the outcomes, but the reality is we’ve just fast-tracked all of the baby steps to facilitate this WFH (working from home) situation that was probably 10 to 15 years away. There are so many pro’s and con’s to this topic, laid out no better than by The Economist - Death of the office. Some of the key concerns were “losing team/company culture”, “loss of inhouse partnerships”, “onboarding issues”, “sharing ideas” and so many more. Companies are going to have to work tirelessly to retain the above, whether this means several more cheesy pub quizzes, Friday night happy hours, regular catch-ups, or, most importantly, transparency with the people that keep your business alive. Mental Health in The Workplace A few of you reading this blog may have already had the pleasure of attending one of the brilliant events we were lucky enough to host alongside the wonderful Maggi Rose – Head of Evolution from Mental Health at Work. These sessions left no areas unturned, discussing the complex subject of our mental health and how we need to protect this at all cost. The major concern that resonated with the group was annual leave and how to encourage their employees to take time off when they are already in their place of rest. On average people are working longer hours now that the gruelling commute is out of the way. But it’s leaving many feeling overworked, especially when you feel like you’re wasting precious days off to sit in isolation - what can isolation do for your mind Companies, however, are putting measures in place to break up their employees’ weekdays, from team yoga sessions, your own personal Joe Wicks trainer or a free mental health workday taken off without using holiday allowance. It’s becoming very clear how important it is to remind each other to take time out and rest, but most importantly staying connected beyond work-related matters. Attracting New Talent Seeking Remote or Flexible Opportunities The ‘war on talent’ (which is terribly phrased) has certainly shifted during this time, especially in the short-term with companies reviewing what office life may look like after Covid-19. Attracting the right people into any business goes far deeper than just salaries or office working, it’s about understanding what perks really matter to your employees. We now have hard evidence from this short window of time, that companies can survive working remotely, but not just survive… thrive! The answer became clear from the various webinars, that continuing to offer flexible working doesn’t only help the employees, but the employers. It feels like during this transition to WFH, companies have understood that life happens, things do unfortunately get in the way, but by offering long-term flexibility your business could be 13% more likely to retain staff. In addition, businesses open themselves up to new WFH applications, being in a prime position to attract even more local and global talent. Industry Lessons for The Ages Although we aren’t out of the woods yet, the last 10 weeks has been the most interesting social event in a generation. We’ve seen businesses of all shapes and sizes rally together, readapting themselves, forming partnerships, and mergers coming from every direction. From the mega-merger of O2 and Virgin Media, to Starling and Funding Circle’s partnership – CBILS (Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme) and Google and Apple joining forces to fight against Coronavirus. These are just to name a few of the remarkable and ground-breaking business events that have taken place in the last two months. But all of this effort shouldn’t go to waste, with great lessons to be learned during this tragic moment in time. Why shouldn’t businesses and governments continue to collaborate like Queen and David Bowie – “Under Pressure” – do we really need pandemics to present these partnerships or can we finally learn from the lessons of history?

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Remote Candidate Interviewing Guide

Continuing in our remote series of articles we discuss how employers can approach interviewing potential candidates remotely with confidence. We will look at solutions and considerations that will help overcome challenges when a business cannot conduct a traditional face-to-face interview. If you'd like to read more on the remote recruitment process please read our "Remote Onboarding" or "Remote Recruitment" articles. Remote interviewing has slowly become more common over the last five years with the explosion of technology being introduced into the recruitment industry. The globalisation of business and the increasingly commonplace dispersed workforce means that it's not always possible to organise face-to-face interviews. The current climate has forced many businesses to seek new options when looking to plug skill gaps within their teams. Below, we look at the three core phases of interviewing potential candidates for a role. Preparation This may seem obvious, but when an additional challenge is introduced into a process it's doubly as important to make sure you're prepared. Prepare a set of questions for the role making sure you investigate their experience and attitude to working remotely. It isn't vital a candidate has experience working remotely but it will make their onboarding experience smoother. Prepare the interviewing environment by ensuring you tailor your background and test the camera view before any meetings. Make sure that anyone who could potentially interrupt knows that you are in a meeting from the designated time onwards. Ensure all parties know what to expect from the meeting. They should all know who is chairing the interview, sending meeting invites and know to be prepared at least five minutes before the video meeting commences. Conducting Interviews There are several options available for remote interviewing including telephone, live video chat and pre-recorded question interviews. If you are working outside of your candidate's timezone or would prefer to whittle down candidates before you commit your time to interviewing there are several solutions for pre-recorded interview questions but we suggest you start by looking at Spark Hire and HireVue. If you're hiring for a technical role then often it's common practice to provide your candidates with a project to complete. This will give you a chance to see not just competence within the role but also how they react to working in a remote environment. Discuss clearly how your business implements remote working, the systems you use and tracking solutions if you have any. Transparency is key to making sure everyone is happy when an offer is made. Selection Once you've decided on a final candidate. Make your offer "in person", organise a video call to welcome them to the team. You can use this opportunity to introduce them to any staff who will be part of their ongoing onboarding. If you'd like to discuss the remote recruitment process further please do not hesitate to contact us at The Consultancy Group.

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