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Diversifying hiring practices to bridge the skills gap

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Diversifying hiring practices to bridge the skills gap

 By Jennifer Warawa, EVP at Sage

Talent scarcity and the skills gap have become very real concerns in the UK. We are currently in a period of high employment, and at the same time, uncertainty surrounding Brexit has caused a reduction in immigrant labour, reducing the talent pool further. For accountancy, the skills gap issue is even more acute because it is already an industry with a very limited talent pool. When asked to describe an accountant, it is likely that many of us would describe a very similar person. For a variety of reasons, accountancy as a profession attracts a very specific group – often male, university educated, usually from a Russell Group university. Hiring from such a small pool means that the squeeze on talent is even tighter in this sector.

Jennifer Warawa

Jennifer Warawa

Recent Sage research shows that 90% of accountants worldwide believe there has been a cultural shift in accountancy. While traditional bookkeeping skills remain important, there is a movement from a transactional industry to one focused on consultancy and partnerships. As the profession itself is shifting, the traditional training and hiring processes need to adapt to encompass the different skills required to fulfil these roles.

To tackle talent scarcity, much of the focus in accountancy so far has been on upskilling existing employees or finding innovative ways to attract talent from abroad. Although these are valid ways to combat the skills gap, accountants can go further.

The benefits of a diversified workforce

By broadening the pool of potential employees to include a wider skillset and then investing more in training these employees, businesses can mitigate the impact of talent scarcity by discovering talents that standard hiring practices might not uncover. Rather than looking for homogenous talent, HR professionals hiring accountants can go further by shifting their focus to redefine the types of candidates that they consider to be desirable, as well as how they train them.

Sage’s new Practice of Now research has found that a third of businesses are actively looking to diversify their workforce. With the current shortage of the skills that are needed to build a modern, digital firm, accountants must build a workforce that goes beyond the traditional accounting heartlands—one that makes use of individuals with a broader range of skills, and from a broader range of backgrounds.

By broadening their definition of what makes a good employee, businesses can equip themselves with a wider array of skills and viewpoints. This is useful from a strategic standpoint as it enables the company to provide a more complete picture of client needs. From an operational perspective, it also gives access to valuable, non-traditional skills like data science and coding. Additionally, a diverse range of backgrounds and skillsets brings with it a wider base of experiences and viewpoints, enabling firms to engage on a consultative level with a more varied client base – which in turn provides the opportunity to boost the bottom line.

Prioritising diversity: practical steps

It’s all well and good deciding that your business is ready to employ a more diverse workforce, but how do you ensure you action this new strategy and avoid falling into old stereotypes and practices? Here are some practical ways to get started. 

More and more companies are seeing the value of offering employees flexible working practices and implementing flexi-time or home working. By offering more flexible working practices, accountancy can accommodate the needs of a more varied talent pool such as working mums or carers.

Additionally, by investing heavily in training and upskilling, you can unlock hidden skills in existing employees that they might not have realised they had . This investment will also enable employers to train different candidates so that everyone is adding as much value as possible across the business. For example, having open training sessions could reveal numeracy or presenting skills in employees in roles that aren’t currently capitalising on these talents. What’s more, providing additional training for those who have raw talent but may not have been through the traditional training channels, can help bridge the gap between their background and potential.

Another area to consider re-evaluating is your recruitment process. One interesting method being used by Sage customer Bremont, a UK-based luxury watch manufacturer, is the concept of open application days. The company opens its doors to anyone who wants to try their hand at watchmaking, from high-school dropouts to long-time craftspeople. They are then given technical challenges, during which Bremont gets the chance to detect whether the candidates have the basic manual aptitude required for the job, rather than screening candidates based on their CVs. It then takes on those with potential and invests in training them over the next two years. Hiring in this way also enables companies to consider candidates without prejudice or preconception and therefore broaden the talent pool considerably, ending up with a highly-trained and loyal workforce.

Changing culture

Whichever strategies work for your practice, the main challenge will be the shift in perspective and working practices that are required to accommodate an evolving workforce. HR will need to work with line-of-business teams to help them understand the value that a broader hiring programme can bring the business and how any traditional resourcing challenges can be overcome, for example, in an always-on customer services function.

With a new and more diverse workforce, understanding and knowing your employees is even more complex and important. Data analytics or ‘people science’ will be an essential element of a successful diversification strategy. By using analytics to better understand your employees, facilitate tailored individual KPIs and perform continuous performance management, companies can get new hires bedded in as quickly as possible and ensure that people management processes are as effective as possible.

A more diverse hiring strategy increases the chance that businesses will hire the right person for the right role and give them access to a wider range of ideas and viewpoints. Diversifying hiring practices should be a strategic imperative for the good of the business – the possibilities are huge.

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Half of UK’s finance sector confirms diversity should be more of a priority in the workplace, with calls for action across the industry

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Half of UK’s finance sector confirms diversity should be more of a priority in the workplace, with calls for action across the industry 1

Almost half (45%) of Britain’s banking/financial services workforce think their employer could do more when it comes to diversity, according to a report from UK-based tech-for-good developer, Culture Shift.

Despite 74% of employees in the sector confirming that working somewhere with a diverse workforce is an important factor for their happiness at work, almost half (46%) think diversity seems like less of a priority in the workplace currently, with 52% stating it should be more of a priority. The same report also uncovered that 53% of employees in banking and financial services said their employer makes token gestures that feel surface level when it comes to diversity and inclusion.

Diversity and inclusion have long been key factors for ensuring a positive and happy work environment, however the events of recent months, such as the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, have resulted in these climbing up the agenda of many employers.

“The insights on diversity and inclusion uncovered in Culture Shift’s report really do resonate with me, as they shine a light on the lack of true representation across the UK’s positions of power. Employees are calling for their employers to focus on recruiting people from more diverse backgrounds, while providing training to the workforce on diversity and inclusion, confirming action really does need to be taken.

“If organisations want to create a happy work environment then they should take heed, as most employees confirmed working somewhere with a diverse workforce was an important factor to their happiness at work,” comments Olive Strachan MBE, founder of Olive Strachan Resources Ltd, global business woman and diversity and inclusion specialist.

The research found that fostering a diverse workforce representative of reality is a key factor for creating a positive culture and a key component for most employees’ happiness at work. With many calling for more to be done when it comes to ensuring that not only do under-represented groups have a presence in businesses, but also a seat at the table and a voice, there are various factors organisations should be keeping front on mind whilst planning for the future.

On fostering a diverse workforce, representative of reality, the research revealed that:

  • 80% of employees in banking/financial services said working at a company with a strong ethical background was important to them, with 84% stating that working at a company with a good reputation for treating employees fairly was integral to their happiness at work
  • Almost one-fifth (18%) said their employer could improve workplace culture by recruiting more people from BAME backgrounds, while one-quarter (25%) said by providing training to the workforce on diversity and inclusion
  • 15% said their employer could improve its culture and be more inclusive by recruiting more people from LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) backgrounds
  • More than one-quarter (26%) said their employer could improve its culture by recruiting more people of varying abilities; while 21% said by recruiting a better gender balance
  • One-quarter (25%) said their employer could improve its culture by recruiting more people of different religions/faiths
  • 15% said their employer should prioritise the promotion of people from minority and marginalised backgrounds to improve its workplace culture

“To create an empowering culture for all employees, it’s absolutely essential for organisations to be diverse, inclusive and showcase true representation across all levels of the business. Not only do recruitment processes need to be inclusive, but promotion opportunities too, and employees from marginalised backgrounds need to be supported through their career, as well as other employees.

“We firmly believe this is an incredibly important conversation to have and the insights uncovered in our research solidify that we’re not alone in believing more action needs to be taken by those at the top. It’s a shift that won’t happen overnight, but there needs to be clear intent from employers to keep diversity and inclusion at the top of their agenda,” adds Gemma McCall, CEO, Culture Shift.

Culture Shift exists to lead positive change in organisational culture, through building products that empower them to tackle harassment and bullying.

“We hope the insights uncovered in our report, combined with the fact that diverse workforces are consistently proven to be more successful, result in employers making some tangible changes across the board to ensure their teams are truly representative of reality,” concludes Gemma.

To see more insights uncovered by the research or to download the full ‘Maintaining workplace culture in a rapidly changing environment’ report, visit info.culture-shift.co.uk/maintaining-workplace-culture.

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American Express and Amazon Business Launch Co-branded Credit Cards for Small Businesses in the UK

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American Express and Amazon Business Launch Co-branded Credit Cards for Small Businesses in the UK 2

The co-branded Cards offer flexible benefits and payment optionality by allowing small businesses to decide between earning rewards or adjusting payment terms on eligible purchases

UK small business Card launch builds on American Express and Amazon’s long-term relationship and co-branded Card programme in the US

American Express (NYSE: AXP) today announced the launch of the new Amazon Business American Express® Card and the Amazon Business Prime American Express® Card for small businesses in the UK. The Cards offer a host of rich rewards and payment flexibility designed to help businesses better manage their cash flow and gain greater insight into their spending.

The Cards provide an enhanced check-out experience on Amazon Business UK and Amazon.co.uk that gives Cardmembers the option to earn reward points or select a deferred payment term for each transaction, enabling them to make the best payment choice for their finances. Reward points can be earned anywhere American Express Cards are accepted and redeemed toward future Amazon purchases or applied to the balance of their monthly Card statement. This new Card programme in the UK has been developed as part of the on-going relationship between American Express and Amazon which includes a co-branded programme in the US and a global Card acceptance relationship.

This launch comes at a time when 63% of British small businesses say cash flow issues have led them to delay purchasing goods and services they need to run their business, according to new research from American Express and YouGov1. Nearly a quarter (23%) of the survey participants said they have put off ‘bigger ticket’ purchases over the last six months until they have funds available, and 38% of them are only buying the ‘essentials’ they need to keep their business operating.

Commenting on the new Card launch, Colin O’Flaherty, General Manager of UK Global Commercial Services at American Express, said: “We have been serving small businesses for over 60 years, and are passionate about helping our small business customers effectively run and grow their businesses, especially during this challenging period. With many UK SMEs facing financial hardships, we want to make it easier for businesses to manage their finances and continue accessing the goods and products they need with more options to pay. We know that a vast number of the UK’s businesses rely on Amazon’s wide-ranging products and services and are excited to launch this powerful and flexible new payment tool that will allow small businesses to select how to pay, purchase by purchase.”

Dave Brittain, Director of Amazon Business UK, said “Working with American Express to launch the small business credit Card was a natural decision for Amazon, given our shared long-standing commitment to helping small businesses flourish globally. We’re incredibly proud to launch this Card programme as it offers small business owners and entrepreneurs the best of both companies: the convenience and value they have come to know and love from Amazon, underpinned by the world-class service, benefits, access and security of American Express. These benefits have never been more important at a time when businesses are navigating the challenges and uncertainty which Covid-19 has presented.”

Amazon Business American Express Cardmembers and Amazon Business Prime American Express Cardmembers will have access to the following key benefits:

  • 2% Amazon Rewards points on the first £120,000 in purchases at Amazon.co.uk, Amazon Business UK and Whole Foods Market UK each calendar year, 1% thereafter or 90-day payment terms on such purchases for Cardmembers who are Business Prime members on Amazon Business UK
  • 1.5% Amazon Rewards points on the first £120,000 in purchases at Amazon.co.uk, Amazon Business UK and Whole Foods Market UK each calendar year, 1% thereafter or 60-day payment terms on such purchases for all other Cardmembers
  • 0.5% Amazon Rewards points on all other purchases for all Cardmembers

Both Cards come with a £50 annual fee, however, this is waived for new Business Prime American Express Cardmembers in the first year. Upon approval, new Cardmembers who are Business Prime members will receive an Amazon gift card with £50 value, and all other Cardmembers will receive a £25 Amazon gift card. As an added benefit for Amazon Business Prime American Express Cardmembers, their Cards will feature a unique vertical design that is composed of metal.

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Go Global To Expand Your Revenue Stream

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Go Global To Expand Your Revenue Stream 3

By Christian Spaltenstein, Managing Director, AFEX Americas

Banking and financial operations have evolved immensely in the past few years. Innovation in banking technology has set new standards for businesses, with multiple players actively participating in the journey to make financial services transparent, accessible and secure. In a globalized economy, where borders dissolve and even a micro-business can build an international footprint, a global payments offering is the magical key for any business to thrive. With competition from digital-first challengers, businesses are now realizing the importance of enhancing their product offerings to flourish in today’s internet based marketplace.

The pandemic has certainly played a massive role in forcing businesses to re-think strategies and optimize their operating model to suit the needs of the present economy. Ensuring business continuity is top-of-mind for many businesses who are struggling to remain afloat.

Expanding your revenue stream, especially during these challenging times, can be tough but profitable. A primary area of focus for many businesses today is to have an efficient and reliable supply chain. That could mean exploring unfamiliar markets and sourcing new service providers. Some businesses are also adapting their product lines to accommodate new needs in the market.

As other businesses effect digital transformations and find new ways of working, hacking is on the rise. Customers today want everything over the web; ensuring your systems are secure and efficient is even more important during these challenging times.

Businesses that are unable to cope with these increasing demands suffer the challenge of surviving and remaining relevant.

Companies that have been able to implement API solutions have observed proven success in achieving a multitude of business objectives. Automating financial operations with advanced technology solutions can help you not just differentiate your business, but also capture market share in today’s economy. It can add operational efficiency and help enhance your organization’s productivity—and as a result, revenues.

A trusted API solutions partner for global payments with an efficient banking and payments infrastructure can open your business to opportunities to grow internationally. It can also help your business to adapt to changing customer needs and offer services that can help you stay at the top of your game. Here are a few ways such solutions can help your business thrive and go global:

1. Currency risk management

Uncertainty due to ongoing market volatility can have adverse effects on your business’ profits. The ability to create forward contracts enables businesses to lock in a favorable rate and ensure financing certainty for their future currency needs.

2. Entrance into new markets

Introducing a business into new markets, or sourcing new services, comes with a host of challenges, the biggest being currency and payments. API solutions can support a business’ expansion plan today, tomorrow and in the future, with seamless scalability ready when it’s needed.

3. New revenue streams

A global payments API solution can help your business operate more efficiently. It offers a competitive edge, which can transform FX from a cost to a strategic advantage. As a business grows, so should its revenue.

4. Product growth and competitive advantage

An efficient FX and payments system can help businesses to steal an advantage in the market. Many business functions depend on either incoming or outgoing payments, and integration of these basic features into a business’ product can represent exponential growth in new users and wallet share.

5. Data is gold –

In today’s changing environment, protecting yourself and your customers’ data is a necessity. A secure and stable infrastructure to keep data safe helps you avoid financial and reputational damage— adding to your peace of mind—and increases customers’ trust.

Christian Spaltenstein

Christian Spaltenstein

A global payments partner can certainly help expand your revenue stream and strengthen your value proposition. However, it is critical to analyze your core competencies. Taking a look at your own cost structure and restructuring your delivery channels to best suit the needs of your end customer is essential. Using tools like AI can help you draw better conclusions about customer behavior, guiding you to choose the right enhancements. The objective for any expansion should be to improve the business ecosystem you operate in.

Your global payments partner should also be able to understand your target market and your business goals to better help you navigate risks and mitigate market volatility.

In evaluating a partner, key considerations include:

  1. Product knowledge and demand: Choose a partner with experience with companies like yours and the ability to adapt their solutions to your needs.
  2. Regulatory set-up: Make sure your partner is licensed and fully compliant across the world, and has robust cybersecurity protocols in place.
  3. Infrastructure: A well-developed, stable global payments infrastructure and robust payment rails saves you the time and resource you’d need to build your own.
  4. Cultural understanding for expansion: Communication and business practices vary across the world. A partner with a sizeable global footprint can help you navigate efficiently in new markets.

Times of crisis often produce innovation in processes and practices. The digital transformation of financial services has been extensively accelerated by COVID-19. Companies are seeking new ways to keep costs down while they weigh opportunities to expand internationally. Adapting to survive and ensure business continuity, especially during the ongoing pandemic is critical for businesses.

In times of uncertainty it’s important to keep both feet on the ground and ensure your operations are smooth and your data secure. Automating your global payments process is an important step in digital transformation. Adding efficiency and reducing errors can boost your profitability and can help you scale for the future.

 

This is a Sponsored Feature.

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