Please start by giving us a short summary of your career to date and what role you are currently working in. I am a Director and part-owner of Amberside Advisors, a project finance advisory practice with a specialism in renewables and infrastructure projects, such as offshore wind manufacture, green gas and EV projects. Amberside Advisors trains its own analysts and modellers and supports its junior intake to achieve chartered accountancy qualification. I was previously a partner at Grant Thornton, and prior to that worked in a number of finance manager roles with public sector agencies, having initially trained with KPMG in Manchester. I am also deputy chair of the Herts Local Enterprise Partnership which co-ordinates economic, innovation and skills spending for the County of Hertfordshire, where our business was founded. What is Neurodiversity in the workplace? Neurodiversity refers to the different ways the brain interprets, and processes information and all workplaces are neurodiverse whether they have realised it or not. Most people are Neurotypical, meaning they interpret and process information in a fairly standard way as expected in society. However, approximately 1 in 7 people are Neurodiverse or Neurodivergent meaning they interpret the world differently. Neurodivergent people are sometimes characterised as being Autistic, ADHD, Dyslexic, Dyspraxic or have other sensory processing conditions. Employers are beginning to realise that given the right environment neurodiverse people bring a number of strengths to the workforce and any adjustments made often benefit all employees and ensure companies are fully inclusive. What are the advantages working with a neurodiverse workforce? There are many advantages of having a neurodiverse inclusive workforce and employers are beginning to realise what an asset neurodiverse employees are, something we have recognised at Amberside for some time. Neurodivergent employees often demonstrate a different way of looking at things and this level of creativity and out of the box thinking can be a real competitive advantage. Some neurodivergent people are able to hyper focus on their work tasks and others have strong analysis skills due to their ability to process large amounts of information. It is these attributes that we look for in employees we recruit at Amberside as we know neurodivergent employees often excel in specific areas which highlight their strengths, meaning in the right role they are an extremely powerful asset. In accommodating neurodiverse employees I know there are a number of ‘spill over’ benefits for the entire workforce including: improved recruitment and retention from a wider pool of talent. a psychologically safe environment for all employees to feel they can be themselves much better-quality management and supervision practices allowing employees to feel empowered to disclose their neurodivergence improving understanding and communication between employees positive company image demonstrating a real commitment to diversity and inclusion What challenges have you come across? The main challenges we have had to overcome have been around communication between employees as well as management of neurodiverse employees, particularly when Amberside was a much smaller company. Our initial approach was to employ someone with the ability to help us to improve in these areas. Improvements included better supervision for employees, particularly those who needed a bit more support, changes to processes and a guide on ways of working written in conjunction with neurodiverse employees, flexible working practices for better work-life balance, a relaxed dress code, a mentoring system and more. With your workforce being more neurodiverse than most, do you have any advice to fellow ICAEW members for recruiting a more diverse staff? As a specialist boutique practice working on infrastructure projects at the cutting edge of what is investable, we have long known that we require a neurodiverse workforce to help us deliver the high quality specialist work Amberside is known for and keep us at the forefront of innovative thinking and continuous improvement to meet our clients’ needs. I would advise employers to improve their understanding of neurodiversity and review their environment and working practices. A specialist company who understands business and finance can help do this, we use a HR & Neurodiversity specialist to continually support our practices and help us improve our working environment and support our workforce to ensure we do gain the benefits of a neurodiverse organisation. We have also engaged a specialist recruitment agency to help Amberside specifically recruit neurodiverse individuals. The package we offer recruits is strong both in terms of career development and working environment. Amberside has come a long way in becoming a neurodiverse inclusive workplace and we continue to review and reflect on our practices.
Due to the reports of increased poor mental health as a result of the pandemic, this year, World Mental Health Day seems more relevant and important than ever. Of course, for those suffering, there are some fantastic resources out there, reminding us of the things we can do to help ourselves keep mentally healthy during these difficult times (and beyond). For example, the UK charity, Mind has a list of seven ideas to help, including connecting with people, taking care with news and information, and practical ways of helping to manage anxiety. How changing lockdown and social distancing restrictions impact our mental health In addition to these approaches, we need to recognise the very specific stresses relating to what’s going on right now, with the ever-changing lockdown and social distancing restrictions being experienced around the world. Whereas in the early days of lockdown we knew the rules and had a sense of how long they would last, many of us are now in a very different scenario. Rules can vary dramatically by country, by town, by school and by household. One minute we may be planning to meet with friends, the next we might be banned from mixing with other households or receiving a phone call from the ‘track and trace’ service, being told to self-isolate. From a work point of view, we might be planning a face-to-face team meeting, designing a social media campaign or forecasting client demand – things that we may approach very differently depending on current lockdown rules. Things are more uncertain than ever, and we need to find ways to keep going whilst protecting our mental health. In ‘normal times’, many of us manage the stresses and strains of our daily lives very effectively – we plan, we organise, we prioritise, we prepare, we look forward to special events and occasions. These behaviours give us a sense of certainty, control and optimism – things that are all really important in maintaining our good mental health. But in a world of ever-changing COVID-19 restrictions, planning, prioritising and preparing can feel impossible, pointless even, which can negatively impact our mental health. The three ‘cons’ of maintaining good mental health during this time So, how can we help ourselves? How can we support our team members? What additional strategies can we use? Here are three things we can do: 1. Contingency planning. One way to manage the uncertainty is to develop your plan as normal before working out which bits may be disrupted by current unknowns (such as a change in lockdown or social distancing rules). Each element of your plan could have a parallel plan, a ‘Plan B’ based on a different way of achieving the same (or similar) outcome. This works along the lines of ‘if this happens, I will do this, if that happens, I will do that’. This can work at home, for example, if you are inviting friends round for a meal, the main goal is to spend time together and have a shared experience. If there’s a ban on meeting in people’s houses, you could meet in a restaurant, if restaurants are also closed, you could get a takeaway from the same place, buy the same wine and set up Skype/Zoom/Microsoft Teams or FaceTime so that you still have a shared experience. At work, contingency planning is well established, but may need to be more openly used and talked through. For example, which of your accounts are at risk of reducing or cancelling orders if the restrictions change or persist? What would you do in each scenario? What would you do if key members of your team contracted COVID-19 and were unwell for a significant period of time – how would you cover the work? What would you do if a face-to-face meeting was cancelled because of lockdown? You may not be able to ‘plug and play’ the same agenda etc., but if you’re clear on the overall purpose, you should be able to find a contingency that creates a sense of control and can enable you to be confident that you can still achieve your aims – boosting your mental health. 2. Continuity of routines. Having just read about contingency, it might be a bit strange to read about the other end of the spectrum – continuity. One challenge of changing lockdown rules is the disruption to our routines, the things that give rhythm to our lives. You may no longer be going into an office and getting your favourite coffee, you may have kids that are starting school at different times, your gym may be closed… It can feel as if everything that is or was familiar to you has been upended. Within this, it’s very helpful to identify some routines and stable points in your day (or week) that you can rely on. It might be getting up at the same time and going for a walk, it might be a weekly call with friends, a daily check-in at the same time with your team… things that you can rely on that create a stable framework, even if the rest of it is in chaos! 3. Control. Lots of mental health advice shows how important it is to take control where you can. For example, many people find watching the news makes them feel anxious and overwhelmed. If this is the case for you, then try not to feed your anxiety, but take control and limit how much you watch the news and when (just before bedtime may impact your sleep). You can also take control of positive things in your life – if speaking with friends makes you feel better, then make sure it’s in the diary (with a contingency in case you can’t meet up!). On the work front, control is also important. You may need to speak with your manager to agree how you can work through these uncertain times and what support you need from them. You may need to speak with your team to agree some ground rules about when you are and are not available to help them, and to have an open discussion about how your needs and availability will change in different forms of lockdown. You won’t be able to control everything, but if you identify your main stressors, you may be able to do something to reduce them. So, to help you with the challenge of the ever-changing COVID-19 restrictions, we suggest the three ‘cons’ – contingency, continuity and control. And remember to keep hold of another important ‘con’ – to connect! This is always important, if we’re in lockdown, in the ‘next normal’ or moving between the two. About this author Maggi is an experienced consultant and coach with international experience across a wide range of sectors including professional services, financial services, retail and FMCG. She is a Chartered Occupational Psychologist and combines research and practice to develop practical solutions to drive business improvement. Maggi has been a consultant for over 20 years, specialising in talent strategy and talent development. She has a reputation as an insightful consultant, helping clients to reduce the ‘noise’ around an issue so they can focus and act on key issues which will make a difference. Maggi is on a mission to help organisations, leaders and individuals to liberate talent. Her first book ‘From Talent Management to Talent Liberation’ has recently been published.
Accountancy and finance organisations were impacted hard by Covid-19. ‘Business as usual’ took a back seat as organisations handled the immediate impacts of the pandemic and huge numbers of professionals switched to working remotely practically overnight. Priorities shifted, and areas of focus, like equality, diversity and inclusion (ED&I), could easily take a back seat. Months on from our first lockdown, we have started to gauge the impact of the crisis on things like ED&I – which we have explored in our new Hays Equality, Diversity and Inclusion 2020 report. So, should ED&I still be a priority? We found that over three quarters (71%) of those in accountancy & finance said that when looking for a new role, an organisation’s diversity and inclusion policies are important to them. Furthermore, nearly two thirds (63%) said they would only apply to an organisation which has a public commitment to ED&I. To professionals, the importance of ensuring diversity was never lost, and while employers immediate focus may be shifting, they can’t lose sight of the importance of ED&I to talent attraction. 68% also said their company should have a position on topical D&I issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement, proving that even now, it is expected for employers to have a clear stance on key issues which speaks to their company values. To fail to do so risks alienate key talent at a challenging time. The impacts of flexible working Our Hays Equality, Diversity and Inclusion 2020 report also explores flexible working and how it relates to ED&I, as this has taken on whole new meaning in today’s climate. The rapid uptake of flexible and remote working practices has had an impact and now almost three quarters (71%) of those working in finance are working flexibly and encouragingly, 87% of professionals agreed that access to flexible working practices can help their organisation gain access to a more diverse talent pool. However, respondents noted drawbacks that this flexibility has, such as feelings of isolation and blurred boundaries between their work and home lives. Furthermore, over a third (37%) believe that working flexibly can limit career progression. What employers need to do In order to not let ED&I take a back seat to today’s other challenges, here are three key recommendations for employers Make a commitment to ED&I: A diverse and inclusive workforce is no longer a unique selling point to prospective employees. Employers wanting to attract and retain the best individuals need to make comprehensive ED&I policies a core part of their talent acquisition and retention strategy. Promote ED&I initiatives to jobseekers: ED&I policies including flexible working options need to be promoted at key points in the jobseeker journey, such as in job ads and on your organisation’s website, to avoid lowering your engagement with top talent. Tailor your flexible working options: Flexible working isn’t one-size-fits-all. Employers need to realise that it offers huge advantages for some, but drawbacks for others depending on their role, working style and personal circumstances. Try to be mindful of and accommodating to this by remaining open to flexible working for all employees, not just those who are parents or carers. How employees can take responsibility Responsibility doesn’t stop with employers however, all professionals need to play their part in creating a more equal and inclusive workplace. Here are our recommendations for how employees can help keep their organisation’s ED&I agendas on track. Look for an employer’s commitment to ED&I: If you are job searching, make looking for ED&I policies a priority. Organisations who are committed to ED&I are invariably more enjoyable to work and are more likely to thrive in our rapidly evolving world of work. Think about your working preferences: What do you need to work at your best? Consider what your ideal working arrangement would be and discuss this with your employer. An organisation that truly fosters a diverse and inclusive environment will work with you to figure out a flexible working arrangement which best suits you. Stay adaptable and practical: Try to remain adaptable and practical in light of your employer’s situation and the current circumstances. When discussing ED&I initiatives or flexible working, approach the conversation constructively and focus on how both you and your organisation will benefit. It’s only by working as a whole and keeping ED&I commitments front of mind will employers and employees create a working culture that welcomes and celebrates diversity, opening the door to many highly skilled professionals who can help get your organisation through this significant period of change. For further insights into how flexible working can help facilitate equality in the workplace, request your copy of the Hays Equality, Diversity & Inclusion 2020 Report. About this author Karen is a Director and recruiting expert at Hays Accountancy & Finance. She provides strategic leadership to a team of 400 accountancy and finance recruitment professionals across 100 UK offices. With 20 years of finance recruitment experience, Karen has a track record of recruiting top finance talent for businesses across a range of industry sectors, and is a trusted industry voice on career planning and market insights.
How are you feeling? Really? I’ve spoken to lots of people recently who are putting a brave and happy face on things, but underneath, they’re struggling, they’re feeling despondent and finding it hard to motivate themselves at work. They feel as if they’ve lost their work mojo. The summer holidays they were looking forward to were different from what they had planned for or perhaps didn’t even happen, the hope of returning to the buzz of a shared office is fading and there’s a sense of resignation – things are going to be ‘strange’, ‘unprecedented’, ‘uncertain’ for many months to come. Three things to try if you've lost your work mojo People who are generally positive and optimistic are finding it tough. More and more seem to be asking themselves “where’s my work mojo gone and how do I find it again?” Here are the three tips that I share with them. 1. Be honest and kind to yourself. If you’re feeling a bit low, it can be tempting to try to brush things under the carpet, telling yourself that you need to ‘get your act together’, be positive and be grateful for what you have. These approaches all have their place, but it’s also really important to spend a bit of time listening to your mood – giving yourself some space to accept that you are finding things challenging. It can be helpful to write things down. How do you feel? What are you missing? What are you worried about? What are you finding challenging? What’s draining your energy right now, and what’s giving you energy? This is the ‘be honest’ bit. Then you need to ‘be kind’ – to accept that these feelings are a natural response to what’s going on. All of the uncertainty, change and health/economic fears play directly into our bodies experiencing a sense of ongoing threat, so it’s not surprising that we feel a bit ‘off’. You can also be kind by giving yourself some praise – others may not be giving you as much positive feedback as normal, so you may need to pause and give yourself a pat on the back, recognise what you’re doing well and celebrate it! 2. Take small steps. Look at your summary of what’s going on right now at work. It can often help to think of this as energy flows. I often think of a bath and use the language of taps (the things that give you energy) and drains (the things that let the energy seep away). Get your problem-solving hat on – how can you reduce or change the energy drains, and increase the flow through the energy taps? How could you create more taps? The answers to this will be unique to you. For some, it will be about doing more of the things they love – exercise, time with friends, reading, and in the work context it may be working on a particular project or with a specific client. For others, it will be about tackling some of the energy drains – changing your expectation that you will see your elderly relatives every day, and seeing them every two days instead or accepting that you don’t have to clean the house every day, or (this is one of mine), getting all of your ‘admin’ jobs out of the way first thing in the morning so they don’t hang over you like a cloud for the whole day. Whatever it is, choose some small steps to adjust your energy flow and see what happens. 3. Visualise. When you’ve lost your work mojo, it can be hard to imagine ever finding it again. This is where visualisation can really help you. Take five minutes of quiet time. Think back to a time when you felt ‘on fire’ – positive, successful, happy, productive, fulfilled, and spend time remembering this. Take yourself back into that moment, focusing on what you could see, what you could hear and how you felt. Try to experience those emotions again, feel the smile spread over your face, feel the energy, the lightness. Capture that feeling – it’s real and it’s part of you! Spending a bit of time each day connecting with your past work mojo will make it easier to find it in the present. As you try out these tips it can be helpful to keep a simple diary, or mood journal, of how you feel at different times of the day. This can help you to be honest and kind, and also to take some small steps to make changes where you can. It can also help you to see the positive times, the times when your work mojo is in full swing – it might be there more often than you realise! However, if you find that your work mojo is still missing – remember that there are other people out there who can help. You can talk with your manager, speak with your colleagues, or get in touch with counselling support if this is offered by your organisation.
Over the last few months, the severe restrictions placed upon our civil liberties thanks to the Covid-19 outbreak, have forced us to establish new ways of communicating with those around us – both in and out of the workplace. Video calling apps such as Zoom and Houseparty have become wildly popular, while the good, old-fashioned telephone call has also enjoyed somewhat of a renaissance. But how many of the conversations that you have on a daily basis would you consider meaningful? Do you ever leave a conversation feeling frustrated and unheard? Or do you find yourself struggling with the burden of keeping in touch with all your friends, families and colleagues? Yousra Abdelmoneim, a senior associate at PwC and ex network co-lead of its One Young World staff network, shares her thoughts on how we can master the art of a purposeful and empathetic conversation, and find new ways to find connection during these tough times. Try to get the most out of your conversations Always start the conversation by asking how the other person is feeling. This helps you gauge their current mindset, and signals to them that you’re opening the door to a deeper conversation. By giving them the opportunity and the space to talk about their emotions without shame or inhibition, even if they choose not to, you’re letting them know that you’re on their level and that you’re ready to listen. Throughout the conversation, whatever the topic, try to actively listen to everything they’re saying and ask follow-up questions to show that you’ve understood. Meaningful communication cannot exist without good listening. So, whenever someone is talking, try not to focus on your next response, but instead do your best to understand and relate to what they’re saying. This will allow you to listen with empathy, and will help the person you’re speaking to feel heard and supported. Try to find a natural rhythm to the conversation and avoid speaking over the other person. Silence is always preferable to interrupting. Every relationship can withstand a little awkwardness, so try to lean into it. And remember, you don’t always have to give advice – it’s not your job to fix everything. Finally, if you’re having trouble communicating with family members or friends, we’ve all been on one of those stilted video calls, don’t give up. It’s the showing up that counts. You might feel you can’t express yourself properly or that you run out of things to say, but that’s OK. Being present is what matters. How to avoid over communication and set clear boundaries For the vast majority of us, our phones and laptops are now our primary means of communication. This makes it really easy for us to get sucked into bad habits, like thinking we always have to read our texts and respond instantly. I really recommend putting your phone on silent or disabling instant messaging notifications. With social distancing a lot of people tend to send messages and post things, so it can really feel overwhelming. Be mindful in what you consume and choose to engage when you want to. If you need to switch off, just let those who might worry about you know you’re safe and that you’ll be in touch soon. Most of the time, if someone needs to get in touch urgently, they will call. Special occasions should still be special I’d recommend setting up a calendar with important dates as it's very easy these days to lose track of what day it is and forget. Make it clear to the person ahead of time that you want to speak to them on that day to show them that you care. But do remember to make good and follow through on your promise because it could already be really disappointing for them that the occasion is affected by social distancing. Your call could have been a highlight they would be upset to miss. You could also plan something fun to do virtually or if it's appropriate, at a distance, and be creative while you’re at it. For example, if it's a friend or a family member’s birthday you can still light up a candle and sing them happy birthday on a video call, or have a socially distanced picnic. Make sure you send cards and gifts via mail using websites that have safe delivery options. E-cards are another option if you want to avoid potential delays with the post, but many people enjoy receiving mail and having something to open - particularly at the moment. Also, remember to celebrate and share the little things, for example if you manage to cook a new recipe or have tried a new workout, mention it! For instance, I’ve started training for a half marathon and by telling and sharing this with my friends they’ve all been very supportive and have held me accountable to my goals by checking in regularly and asking how my training is going - this has made the world of difference particularly on days where I’ve felt demotivated or just lazy. Communicating sensitive news Firstly, find how much information they already know. Once you have done this you should then establish that they are in the right environment to receive the news, for example if someone is unwell. If they are in a safe space, you can then start to relay the facts as clearly and as sympathetically as possible, gauging throughout the extent to which they'd like to be informed about the details. Make sure you don’t comment on their reaction, as people can respond in different ways to bad news. Offer them your support and find out how often and in what ways they’d like to be kept updated. If they are isolating alone be conscious to check in on them. But remember: always think before you act and check the information is accurate and up to date. Spreading misinformation can trigger fear and panic and can cause people to act irrationally. It also triggers anxiety, which can severely affect people's mental health. Written by Yousra Abdelmoneim Yousra Abdelmoneim is an ACA exam qualified chartered accountant and part CIA qualified working at PwC within the London Top Tier Assurance Risk Assurance department as an internal auditor and as Business Risk and Controls senior associate. She worked within Banking and Capital Markets Assurance department as an external auditor at PwC previously. She's really passionate about social mobility, supporting refugees into professional employment, empowering young people and and is on the team of NewGen Accountants which providinge advice and support to those pursuing a career in accountancy. She's a One Young World Ambassador and previously co-led the One Young World network at PwC which aims to raise awareness of global issues happening around the world. She is on the Steering Committee for the Multicultural Business Network (MBN) which aims to support ethnic minorities with career progression and development at PwC and promotes cultural diversity so people become more culturally agile. CABA provides lifelong support to past and present ICAEW members, ACA students, ICAEW staff, and their close family members. If you’re worried about the impact of the coronavirus on you and your family, find out how CABA can support you.
Back in May, in the midst of lockdown, we asked employers and their employees to share their sentiments about the world of work. Now, as government restrictions continue to ease, we surveyed over 13,000 professionals in July to discover their views as we move to the new era of work. So, how have these views have changed and what’s in store for the future? 1. More employers don’t have all the skills they need Our survey results show that there has been a decrease in the percentage of employers who say they have all the skills they need in their team to meet organisational objectives, to just three in ten. Employers need a mix of the right specialist and soft skills within their teams – the top three most sought-after specialist skills remain unchanged in the UK, with employers seeking managerial and leadership, operational and project and change management skillsets. In terms of soft skills, just under three-fifths of employers need professionals with the ability to adopt change. As has been put under the spotlight since the start of the year, change is inevitable, and sometimes this will happen at pace. All of us should take the time to reflect on how we have adapted in recent months to great upheaval and consider how to take the lessons we have learned forward. You may find our guides around managing and embracing change a useful starter to this reflection. 2. Hiring is on the rise In May, hiring activity had slowed down, with less than a third of employers saying they were actively recruiting. In July, hiring plans had accelerated, with 43% of employers now recruiting new staff. While hiring activity remains more widespread in the public sector than in the private sector, both sectors have seen a boost in recruitment plans since May. As hiring increases, competition for some of the most in-demand skills listed above will become even greater. Employers should therefore think about the steps they need to take to secure the most sought-after professionals in the weeks and months ahead. 3. Views differ on the return to the workplace We asked employers their expectations of their workforce’s working patterns in the coming months compared to employees’ preferred ways of working, and our results highlighted a mismatch in expectations. In the next three months, three-fifths of employers expect their teams to be working in a mix between the workplace and remotely, but only 36% of professionals showed a preference for this. Instead, a higher percentage (38%) favour working fully remotely in the next three months, something only a quarter of employers expect to happen. This is a similar story when looking at ways of working in the next three to six months. Seven in ten employers expect their workforce to work in a mix between the workplace and remotely, compared to just over half of professionals who would prefer this way of working. As can be seen, many organisations expect to take up ‘hybrid’ working practices in the months ahead, where some team members will be working from home and others in the workplace. It’s therefore important for employers and professionals to understand the challenges and opportunities that hybrid ways of working can bring – some of which are outlined in our guides for employers and employees. There is no doubt about it, the world of work will likely never return to the way it was pre-pandemic. Although uncertainty remains, there are signs of organisations looking ahead and taking steps to set themselves up for the future. Therefore, there is the opportunity for employers and employees alike to reflect on their triumphs and mistakes over the last few months, and apply the lessons learnt to be in the best position to succeed in the new era of work. For further insights into how sentiments have changed during the Covid-19 pandemic, read our Career Insights Snapshot in full. You can visit our employer and employee hubs for guides, blogs and advice to help you to succeed in the new era of work. About this author Carmena joined Hays in 1986 working for the Accountancy and Finance team in Manchester. After eighteen months she seized the opportunity to open the Altrincham office and her career in leadership began. Following increasingly broader management roles across the North West region, Carmena was promoted to Regional Director in 1994 for the Greater Manchester area before changing direction to become a channel lead across the North to support and build the new Office Support business. In 2011 she was appointed to the role of multi specialism Director for Merseyside and Cheshire. Carmena was appointed to the UKI Board in October 2017 and promoted to Managing Director for the North West Region in June 2018.
Please start by giving us a short summary of your career to date and what role you are currently working in. My name is Egidija Albert. I’m a Finance Manager at Boots UK, who are part of Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA). A little bit about my background… I moved to live in the UK in 2012, when I started my BSc Financial Economics degree at the University of Leicester. Since I was young, I was always determined to have a highly challenging, fast-paced career. I always loved numbers, logic and analytics, therefore I decided that a career in Accounting & Finance was the one for me. In order to achieve my aspirations, I started building up my CV and experience by getting involved in a number of different activities whilst at university. I also completed a finance ‘year in industry’ placement with General Electric and a summer internship with Boots. The experience that I gained early on in my career opened up many doors to me and I was fortunate to secure a full-time finance role with Boots after my final year at university. Fast forward 4 years, I’m now a fully qualified ICAEW chartered accountant, working for one the largest health and beauty retailers in the UK. How did you work your way to becoming a “Finance Manager”? One of the biggest advantages of working for a large organisation like WBA is that there are endless opportunities to learn and develop. I have been fortunate to move around different parts of the business, gain experience in a variety of different roles and build a skill set that has given me an opportunity to progress to be a Finance Manager. My first full-time role at Boots was working as a Finance Analyst for the Pharmacy business. It was a great role for someone like myself as it offered insight into a business sector which is complex and highly regulated in equal measure. I quickly learnt and developed new skills through business partnering with non-finance stakeholders and supporting the teams through budgeting and forecasting cycles. I really enjoyed this role because I felt like I could add value to the business and develop strong commercial awareness through the business partnering experience. The second role that I did within WBA was working as part of the Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) team supporting the Global Brands business. This role was an excellent next move for my development, as it allowed me to align what I was studying while progressing through my ICAEW qualification. FP&A gave me exposure to senior leaders in the organisation, allowed me to understand the strategic direction of the business, and equipped me with analysis, budgeting and consolidation skills. My third role within the business was working for Boots Opticians supporting their property and portfolio agenda. This role was a good combination of financial accounting and business partnering, supporting a wide range of non-finance stakeholders in their decision making. I did financial modelling of new stores planning and other property interventions, as well as supporting the business with investment requisitions. Since joining WBA full time, I started studying towards becoming an ICAEW member and qualified in August 2019. Soon after qualifying, I joined the Finance Capital & Investment team as a Finance Manager supporting the Boots Beauty Reinvention transformation programme. My current role is fast paced, challenging and rewarding – exactly what I have been looking for! Taking on new challenges while rotating over a number of roles within WBA, developing new skills and good commercial awareness, has opened up many opportunities to me and allowed me to progress to where I am today. What is your typical day to day routine working as a “Finance Manager”? My workload is extremely varied and no day is the same! There are days when you walk through the office door with a plan for the day, but I often find that something unexpected crops up and I am involved in something new. This is what makes my job really exciting and enjoyable. My work on the Beauty Reinvention transformation involves a wide range of activities, working with cross functional teams including finance, trading, operations and management information. In terms of my interactions with other finance teams, I am involved in financial modelling, reporting, performance reviews and cost control activities. All of these activities give me an opportunity to work with a number of finance teams across the business, which is great for building my professional network and learning about various roles that finance teams play in a number of functions. While working with the Premium Beauty team, I am fortunate to get a first-hand insight into what it is like to work with the traders for one of the largest beauty retailers. It is truly fascinating how fast paced the beauty market is with many new product launches, ongoing supplier negotiations and constant changes in the market. I also spend a lot of my time working with our operations team to set up new ways of working, processes and procedures as well as efficiencies in our current processes. This is where I feel I can add a lot of value by using my finance skills to support the day to day operations of the business and implement efficiencies where possible. Over the last few months I have also worked closely with the Management Information team on a number of new automated tools and reports that drive performance and inform decision making in real time. My role is truly varied, no one day is the same, and this suits my current career aspirations perfectly. I am getting a lot of exposure to large parts of the Boots business, which is ever changing and there is a lot to learn. Do you have any advice to fellow ICAEW members looking to work as a “Finance Manager”? My main advice is to keep an open mind and try to find ways how to add value to the business that you work for. Many non-finance stakeholders appreciate the support and guidance from their finance teams as we are able to identify and implement efficiencies, better ways of working and streamline existing processes to save time and/or costs. I would also strongly recommend to get to know your key stakeholders well in order to identify how best you can support each other. At the end of the day, we are all human and having a good understanding of what motivates your business partners is really important. Personally, I always try to look beyond my immediate roles and responsibilities, which often opens up many opportunities to learn new things or get involved in new projects. I am a big believer in taking a step back, understanding the bigger picture and the direction the business is taking, to find the best way how your skills and contributions can support the business going forward. What is your favourite thing about working as a “Finance Manager”? There are a few things that I really like about my role as a Finance Manager. I absolutely love the variety and the learning that my role offers on a daily basis. One day I can be doing complex financial modelling, another day I can be learning all about new product launches, getting involved in supplier negotiations or working through some steps on how the business can navigate through these challenging times. I believe that I work best under pressure and like a challenge, therefore working in this role in the beauty sector is absolutely fascinating and rewarding! I’ve been doing my current role for just over six months now and when I look back, I can already see how far I have come. I’ve been given some excellent opportunities to learn and develop as a finance professional, and this really shines through on both my personal development objectives and the impact that I have been able to make to the business. I have been trusted and empowered to challenge the business, change the ways of working and add value to the teams that I support. What do you find most interesting about your role as a “Finance Manager”? Finding ways how to communicate, solve complex business issues and maintain strong professional relationships while communicating effectively with a wide range of stakeholders. My recent experience working on the Beauty Reinvention transformation at Boots has demonstrated that everyone is different in their ways of working and finding ways how to work effectively together is fascinating. Seeing how different teams work together, apply their skills while working on cross functional assignments, makes my role very interesting. I think there is a lot that we can all learn from each other and I take every opportunity where I can. Another aspect that I find exciting about my role is seeing how various store interventions come to life. It is extremely rewarding to see the project through from the very initial idea to implementation and successful launch. What challenges do you come across working as a “Finance Manager”? The organisational structure is very complex and many activities are intertwined between various teams and functions, therefore navigating through issues at pace might sometimes be challenging. However, every challenge offers an opportunity to develop, review the ways of working and improve. While working in this role, I have greatly improved my communication, stakeholder management and engagement skills. Working with many different people across a wide range of functions has been challenging at times, however I see this as an opportunity broaden my skills set and set myself up for any future assignments. What are your career aspirations, and where do you see your current role evolving to? Short term, I am excited to see the current programme through as the store roll out takes place. Along this journey, I hope that my role will evolve further and will allow me to further gain an insight into other areas of trading within WBA. My personal goal and what ‘good’ looks like for my current role is to make sure that I leave a lasting legacy within the teams that I support. My aim is to ensure that there are clear processes in place that allows the teams to work effectively and manage the ways of working in the best way possible long term. Beyond the next 12-18 months, I would love to continue my journey and my learning about the business. The next few years are expected to be challenging in many ways as the future of our economy remains uncertain, therefore I am intrigued to be part of this transformation and the future of finance, whatever that may look like. I am also extremely passionate about continuous learning and development, and I would love to continue supporting young finance professionals through their career and professional qualifications journeys by coaching and mentoring less experienced members of the finance community. It may seem a little cliché, but my career aspiration is to continue to grow, learn new things, contribute to any new future initiatives and the future of finance, while enjoying my journey along the way. I believe that if you enjoy what you are doing, doing things that make you tick and motivate you, you feel a sense of achievement, which does not get unnoticed by others around you. I aspire to be the best version of myself as I progress through my career over the coming years. What challenges do you envisage in the Accounting and Finance world? The current world is a very uncertain place with many unknowns. As finance professionals, we continuously try to find ways how to improve the accuracy of our forecasts, what insights we can bring to the table to guide future decision making and the longer term strategic direction of the business. Modelling the future is exceptionally hard in the current climate, therefore the greatest challenge that we, accounting and finance professionals, are going to face is how we can best adapt, utilise and learn new skills that can continue to influence the new normal and the new ways of working. Due to the uncertainty of the economy, there may be many future changes in legislation, rules and regulations, and the accounting standards, therefore one of the challenges for every finance professional is to ensure that we stay fully up to date with the latest developments and adapt accordingly. Finance teams are independent and objective advisors within every organisation, and to be able to support and challenge our organisations in the right way will require excellent skills and knowledge while the world navigates through the uncertainty. Any other comments? Thank you very much for inviting me to participate and share my experiences and thoughts with fellow ICAEW members and students. It’s during tough times like these that the finance community needs to make sure that we remain focused, support the businesses that we work for, while the world navigates through the uncertainty that surrounds us, and help influence the future of finance. The opportunity to share my career journey so far with the ICAEW community has been a great way to reflect on my own achievements and future career aspirations, and I hope the views that I shared have given a good insight into what it is like to work as a finance manager for one of the largest health and beauty retailers in the UK. Thank you to our author Egidija Albert on taking part in this blog series to enlighten fellow members on the job possibilities out there.
Please start by giving us a short summary of your career to date and what role you are currently working in. I’m currently the Finance Lead at Flux - a tech startup aiming to eliminate the paper receipt. We think it’s crazy that paper receipts still exist, so our aim is to eliminate them by sending an itemised receipt straight into your mobile banking app. My role at Flux means I get to be involved in a wide range of finance related matters, from funding and cash flow to pricing and strategy. If it’s finance related, the chances are it’ll come across my desk (or, more likely, inbox!) Prior to Flux, I was head of the tech and high growth sector at a top 20 accountancy firm. That prepared me well for jumping the fence from practice into industry - a move I am yet to regret! How did you work your way to becoming a “Finance Lead”? I started my accountancy journey back in 2012 when I joined UHY Hacker Young as a school leaver. I worked in both the accounts and audit departments whilst studying for my AAT and ACA qualifications. In my final year of qualification, I was pondering what to do next - do I stay in audit or do I move into a different team? The idea of staying in audit wasn’t particularly appealing and the idea of being a general portfolio holder (where you look after a range of different clients) didn’t excite me that much either. Whilst exploring the many options that an ACA qualification gives you, I suddenly had a thought: why don’t I try and combine my passion for tech startups with my career choice of accountancy? That’s exactly what I did, and after qualifying I set out to build a tech startup sector specialism at UHY. After lots of networking, meeting clients and getting things going, I started to move up the ranks and ended up as head of the sector. I originally came across Flux on twitter and instantly loved the idea. It was such a simple idea which had the power to make a permanent difference in the way we do things. Towards the end of 2019, they started their search for their first finance hire. That seemed like the perfect time for me to finally scratch that itch and move into industry. What is your typical day to day routine working as a “Finance Lead”? I’m still fairly new to Flux so don’t quite have a day to day routine yet, but when people say that working for a startup is a rollercoaster ride, I would fully agree! The days are usually vastly different, but there are some common themes. The first thing to worry about is putting out the fires. These are things that pop up unexpectedly but are really important, like dealing with important outside stakeholders or setting up the commercials for deals which might get signed earlier than expected. Once they’re taken care of, you can move into things that help the company achieve its long term vision - such as when will we next raise investment and what do we need to achieve to get there. It’s about thinking what the big picture looks like, then working out the steps required from a finance point of view. To give a balanced view, there are absolutely still some things to be done which aren’t the most glamorous - dealing with invoice disputes or reconciling an account on the TB which has gone astray, for example. Whilst they aren’t what I moved into industry for, I must admit that sometimes it’s quite nice to deal with something that doesn’t need a lot of brain power! Do you have any advice to fellow ICAEW members looking to work as a “Finance Lead”? My experience so far might still be clouded by the ‘new starter’ feeling, but I can tell that working in a startup is tough, especially if you’re the only accountant in the company! You’ve got to be prepared to step out of your comfort zone when necessary. There’s no time to worry about your limitations - you just have to give it a go and roll with it. You can always fix it later if it needs fixing. You’re not expected to know everything off the top of your head, but you certainly need to know (or learn) where to find answers. Being able to make quick decisions on limited information is also a great skill to have. If you wait until you have all the information, it’s probably too late to make the decision. It’s a tough gig, but the rewards are worth it. You are part of something that is building the future. Something that has previously only ever been imagined. Something that people have said is impossible. But you have small wins and you have big wins and it’s those wins that make everything worthwhile. What is your favourite thing about working as a “Finance Lead”? When you’re in practice, you’re generally working with other accountants or finance related people, and that’s great because you gain a solid understanding of all things finance. However, when you move into a startup things change. You now need to communicate with different internal teams, such as product and sales, and also external stakeholders, such as investors and advisors. The startup ecosystem generally attracts very smart people, so one of my favourite things about working in Flux is getting to see how those people think - what matters to them and what motivates them, etc. Developing those personal skills that help you understand people quickly is what I find exciting. That, and the fact that we’re building something which has the potential to be huge, of course! What do you find most interesting about your role as a “Finance Lead”? When you’re in practice, it’s similar to digging a shallow ditch spread across a wide area. What I mean by that is you’re often advising many different clients, but only at a relatively high level. For example, you might have a reasonable understanding of how to raise an investment round and be able to talk about the subject, but you probably wouldn’t feel comfortable actually doing it (unless you’ve done it before). In industry, you’re digging a deep but narrow hole. You’re getting into the depths that you’d simply never experience in practice which means you’re learning about things you’ve not come across before. Continuing with the investment raise example, in industry you actually get to work on a raise and you learn everything that happens or needs to happen for it to be a success. It gives you a different type of experience. That’s not to say one is better than the other - both have their own pros and cons! What challenges do you come across working as a “Finance Lead”? From a personal point of view, the transition from practice to industry is tough. You arrive with expectations of yourself which you’ll try to live up to, but then you get knocked sideways when something happens which you weren’t expecting. Another challenge is trying to manage workload, particularly in a startup. You might have a huge list of things that need to be done, all with their own deadlines, but you only have time to do a few of them. In practice you’re surrounded by accountants so if you need a hand, there is always someone there. In industry you don’t have that, particularly when you’re the only finance person, so you may find yourself working a little longer to get things done or delegating to someone who doesn’t have a finance background. What are your career aspirations, and where do you see your current role evolving to? The exciting part of being with a startup is that you grow with the company. If you join at a relatively early stage, you get involved in building systems and processes and setting things up. You help set pricing and structure the business model, for example. As the company grows, you start to iterate on those processes through feedback you’ve collected or things you’ve learnt. Each stage will bring their own challenges, such as M&A, exit events or fundraising strategy. That’s where I see things going with Flux. As the company grows, I hope to be able to play a key part in developing and adapting the business model so it continues to grow at a fast pace. I’ll be ensuring the finance function meets the needs of the company at each stage of growth. What challenges do you envisage in the Accounting and Finance world? Accountancy is going through a very interesting time. I would compare it to trying to move a 100 year old statue - it’s got to be moved, but things will inevitably break in the process. To put some context around that, there is a lot of tech coming not just into the accountancy sector, but into businesses in general. So much tech that the industry is starting to move fast. But when it moves fast, things break. In our case, those breakages are coming through in the audit sector. Companies are growing too complex for audit to be able to keep up. There are some tools out there, but the innovation in that particular area doesn’t seem to be keeping pace. High profile audit failures in turn put a dent in the reputation of the accountancy sector, so it’s key that the sector looks forward into adopting a new way of auditing companies that really works. Blockchain is often touted as the answer, but I’m yet to see anyone doing meaningful work in this area to bring us closer to a solution. Any other comments? Moving from practice to industry was a huge decision for me. It took me a long time to make the decision and many, many thoughts crossed my mind. I’d love to share some of the things that helped me make that final decision: The world is a big place and there are so many options out there. How can you be sure that practice is the best option if you’ve never stepped outside? When you’re near the start of your career, making a move is fairly low risk - time is on your side and you probably don’t have as many commitments as someone twice your age. If things go wrong, you’ll probably land on your feet. You might be out of a job for a little bit of time, but the experience you’ll get from that will be worth so much more than staying where you are. Plus, you have the ACA qualification which adds a lot of weight to your CV. Accountants are always in demand. Think about the big picture. People often tell you to think about your career in a 5 year window - where do you want to be in 5 years? It’s great to aim for a certain point, but what happens next? Make sure you’re not locking yourself into something which will make it harder to get out of. Thank you to our author Robert Collings on taking part in this blog series to enlighten fellow members on the job possibilities out there.
As a phased return to the workplace begins to become a reality for many of us, you’ll find the workplace you’re returning to is very different from the one you left. For some, the rapid move to remote working may have been a big adjustment, but transitioning back could be an even greater challenge. To begin with, adherence to social distancing will see your former workplace layout replaced with a new seating plan, and it is likely that you will return on a scheduled basis with staggered start and finish times. There will also be fewer in-person meetings, and any that do take place may need to have time limits and a cap on attendees. In short, the workplace will be re-ordered to keep people further apart than most of us have ever experienced before in our working lives. Whilst you will still encounter many more in-person interactions with your colleagues compared to your time remote working, you should expect significantly reduced levels of contact in comparison to pre-pandemic times. Consequently, if you are the type of person who thrives on interaction with your colleagues, you should set aside the time now to adapt and find alternative measures to facilitate safe social interaction in the workplace. To prepare, here’s some points you’ll need to consider: You’ll have fewer informal in-person chats Firstly, you should expect your office space to look very different. To comply with continued physical distancing measures, your employer will have reconfigured seating plans and moved desks apart to separate people. You may even find yourself further separated from colleagues by partitions. Hot-desking, where several employees use a single workstation at different times, will also go by the wayside as employers assign employees their own equipment and look to reduce the number of shared touchpoints people come into contact with on a daily basis. In addition, you’ll no longer be able to sit and chat with colleagues in a break-out area or a communal kitchen. By keeping staff physically distant, there will be fewer opportunities for in-person conversations. You can no longer simply look up from your monitor and ask a quick question, for example, or roll your chair over to your colleague’s desk to talk through an idea. Neither can you crowd into a meeting room for an in-person consultation with your team. You won’t see colleagues as frequently Organisations will transition their workforce back into the office in stages to reduce density in the workplace. A rota-based system is the most likely strategy to begin with, which will see you continuing to work from home on certain days and coming into the office on others. This means you’ll only initially see those colleagues who are scheduled to work in the office on the same day or days as you. Employers may also adopt staggered start and finish times to further reduce the number of employees gathering at the lift at the beginning and end of each day. In addition, many people are expected to ask to continue to work from home after the pandemic, even once restrictions lift and employees can return full-time to the office. With the widespread realisation that employees can work successfully from home, hybrid teams will become common. As a result, the notion of having all your colleagues in the one co-located workplace all the time is a thing of the past. Instead, you’ll need to become comfortable operating in a hybrid team where face-to-face interactions with all your team members occurs far less frequently. If you find you work best face-to-face, look at alternatives Together, these changes result in a less interactive environment. Chances are you’ll either relish or loathe this change. After all, all workplaces consist of people with a mixture of working styles. Some people shine in a collaborative, team-based environment where they can seek out in-person social stimulation, think out loud with others and brainstorm together at their desk. In contrast, the introverts in your workplace thrive when working on individual tasks, value privacy, like to make their own decisions rather than consult a group, and come up with their best ideas after contemplating a problem on their own. The latter group will welcome these workplace changes, while the former will miss the hustle and bustle of a full office, the opportunity to drop by their colleague’s desk to bounce ideas around and the chance to work closely with others in a group setting. So, if you have previously thrived in a social, connected and collaborative environment, you will need to find new ways to keep your motivation, energy and output high. Six ways to adapt if your post-lockdown workplace doesn’t suit your working style 1. Make time for casual (virtual) catch-ups. Begin by working out how you can continue to use virtual alternatives to build a rapport and interactions with your colleagues. Over the last few months, we have all used communication platforms to hold regular virtual meetings and video calls. However, the days of relying on such tools are far from over – the need to comply with physical distancing measures means that teams will still use these tools for a significant portion of their face-to-face interactions, especially in hybrid teams where some colleagues continue to work remotely. Given that we will still rely on such tools, why not make the most of them by dedicating time in each meeting for small talk? For example, you could invite people to remain for ten minutes after your weekly team meeting or join ten minutes early for a casual chat. You may need to initiate the initial conversation, but you’ll likely find your colleagues will soon come to look forward to this opportunity to talk casually with their colleagues. This will give you a chance to recharge your energy through social conversations and interactions with others. 2. Create opportunities for talking things through. You could also ask to add into the weekly meeting agenda a dedicated time for brainstorming, where anyone can share a challenge they are facing or task they would like to discuss. If you are the type of person who generates their best ideas by talking them through with others, this will give you an opportunity to think out loud and discuss your thoughts. 3. Network online as much as possible. If you enjoy talking and socialising, and draw your energy from interactions with others, you could also up the amount of time you spend networking online and take every opportunity to pick up the phone and talk to colleagues. So long as you adhere to social distancing, you can still talk through an idea with colleagues who are working in the office too, but it’s important to be mindful that not everyone will want you regularly dropping by their desk. 4. If possible, ask to come into the workplace on a more regular basis. If you require the hum of activity in a busy office to do your best work, ask your employer if you can return permanently to the office. While your employer may need to restrict the number of employees who can work in the office initially, there may be someone in your team who would prefer to work exclusively from home. If that’s the case, ask if you could be assigned their allocated office-based days on the rota. 5. Look for upskilling opportunities. It may also help you to use this time to upskill in independent working techniques. Learning how to self-motivate, trust your instincts and individually solve problems without needing to talk through ideas with others are skills that will benefit you long-term in your career. There are many tools and platforms out there for you to choose from when it comes to upskilling remotely at this time, from podcasts to virtual webinars and books. With fewer opportunities to chat casually at your colleagues’ desks or while sitting down over a quick cup of tea in the kitchen, you may also find that your productivity or quality of work improves as you have more time to spend on your individual output. 6. Prioritise your wellbeing. Finally, it’s important to look after your mental wellbeing. If you thrive when working closely with others in a group setting, you may find yourself battling feelings of loneliness, even when you are back in the office. After all, those partitions and separated desks are designed to keep people further apart than most of us have ever experienced before at work, so look out for suitable opportunities where you can interact with others – just ensure you adhere to the necessary physical distancing while doing so. To sum up, if you are someone who naturally performs at your best when interacting in-person with others, these tips should help you find new ways to keep your motivation, energy and output high in today’s modified workplace. You may not be pulling your chair up to a colleague’s desk for a chat or to brainstorm, but you can find alternative measures to bring out your best and interact with others safely in the post-lockdown workplace.
Remotely starting a job with a new employer may seem daunting, but technology certainly makes it easier. Sinead Byrne, Senior Consultant at Morgan McKinley interviews a new starter in a Top 15 firm about their experience. As we are all aware, we are living through unprecedented times. Those who are able to, have now been working from home for the last month which has been something of a transition for many. Even more of an adjustment, however, is starting a new job without meeting your new colleagues in person, or going into the office, and starting with your new employer remotely. It's not a conventional start to a new job, but it is manageable in a way that it would not have been possible five years ago. The candidate below started their new job at the start of April as an Audit Senior position with a Top 15 firm, moving from an Audit & Accounts Senior with an independent London firm. How were you feeling in the 2 weeks before your start date? I was stressed, and unsure if I would be able to start, and what the process would look like. Despite the firm ensuring me that they were looking forward to me starting as agreed, the situation was changing fast, so I was not sure which direction it was going to go. How did you start with the firm on your first day? It was well organised. All of the equipment was couriered to me in advance with the login details I need and I received an introduction of the person who would be contacting me on my first day. I had inductions and introductions over Skype as well as a video call to ‘meet’ my team. Everyone was welcoming and understanding. I met some colleagues in my first week and I keep meeting the rest as we work together. New technology and the ability to see colleagues on a video call makes it easier and less stressful than in the office! Did you follow the normal induction and training programme as you would have done in the office? As much as possible, yes. There are obvious things like using the equipment which is in the office, the ‘office’ procedures which are not relevant in the current situation, but the option to share screens made it easy to do the induction and training. How are you finding the transition to your new firm's way of working from a technical perspective? The fact that I moved from a small to a bigger firm makes a big difference due to different software and expertise, although it is difficult to say which solutions were already in place, and which needed to be implemented due to the situation. What has been your biggest challenge so far of starting with a new employer remotely? Working remotely - it was easy to work from home one day here and there, but it’s a different story doing it daily. Finding a comfortable chair and another table, so my flatmate and I could work appropriately was challenging! Have there been any unexpected positives from your experience? Due to the situation, people are not rushing so much, so willing to take their time, personally and professionally. What are you looking forward to the most about joining the firm 'in person'? Despite the technology that we are lucky enough to have, it will be nice to meet all my colleagues and go for a drink! At the end of the day, any technology however sophisticated can’t replace human interaction or a chat in the kitchen with coffee.
How ‘visible’ do you really feel at work right now, having potentially not seen your managers and colleagues in months, unless via virtual contact? Whether you’ve continued to go into work or are now based remotely, the world of work has changed for us all and that’s posed challenges for many employees trying staying visible and noticed. Findings from over 16,000 respondents in the Hays Market Outlook report revealed that two in five (40%) say that communication is the aspect of their organisation that has undergone the most change since the coronavirus outbreak and, worryingly, over a third (34%) say the amount of contact they now have with their manager is less than before lockdown was enforced. What should you do? In an unrecognisable world of work and facing significant barriers to communication, what do you need to do to keep yourself ‘visible’ to your managers and colleagues – and therefore keep your career goals on track? If you are now working remotely at least some of the time, you will need to actively keep in touch, even if at first it may feel like you are overcommunicating. 1. Start with your manager As the person you directly report into, your manager is your starting point to getting noticed more at work. Although they will already likely have oversight of your tasks and responsibilities, putting the below in place will give you more opportunities to get noticed for your achievements and successes: Make some diary changes. This might include a weekly phone call, a chat over Slack or Microsoft Teams, or an emailed detailed KPI report each fortnight. Whatever form it takes, commit to regular communication so you have more opportunities to discuss your work, achievements and career goals. It’s an easy fix to ensure your manager notices more than just your day-to-day tasks. Seek advice and feedback. Whenever you and your manager are working together, ensure you ask for their feedback. This provides them with the opportunity to acknowledge your efforts and helps you maximise opportunities for growth. Take ownership. When you have the capacity, express interest to your manager in owning projects or leading your team through a new piece of work. Even if you can’t immediately find opportunities to step up for, showing that you’re up for a challenge will make your manager more likely to consider you first when they do arise. Be transparent about your schedule. You may already be aware of the benefits of routine for your productivity, but it’s also valuable in helping your manager keep track of what you’re up to at work. Being clear about when you are and aren’t available goes a long way to building credibility and trust, and will continue to be hugely important as we transition into different ways of working. Share your success and thanks: In those moments when you’re feeling proud of your work, don’t be afraid to share this with your manager. It’s fine to send a casual instant message rather than an email, and perhaps frame your achievement by saying “thank you for your support with this” to acknowledge the role that they might have played in this success. 2. Raise your voice in your inner circle of colleagues While you’ll certainly want recognition from your manager, it’s likely that there’ll also be other people who you want to notice you at work. Opportune moments for this often happen in meetings, which for many of us may be held virtually. It can be challenging to find your voice over a disjointed video stream or patchy audio quality – especially if you’re often one of the quieter voices in the room, or consider yourself to be quite introverted. But getting noticed in these situations is less about how much you say and more about what you say – so here are some things to consider before you next attend a meeting, virtual or otherwise: What is your value? Take a moment before the meeting starts to work out what its purpose is and what your value could be. Do you have insight or information which is pivotal to the topic of discussion? Making a note of this beforehand will help you better see opportunities to bring this up. What do you want to learn? If you don’t feel your role in the meeting is critical, work out what you want to learn. This will help you stay engaged in the meeting and might lead you to asking questions or steering the discussion in a certain way which will help you get noticed. Is what you’re saying relevant? Often people are more likely to listen if they feel heard, so if you are raising a new topic or asking a question, briefly reiterate what the person before you said. Not only does this help the flow of the meeting but gives your comment relevance. Are you still on track? Even the best listeners might find their mind wandering in a meeting. If you find this happening to you, don’t be afraid to ask a question to help get your focus back. You could say: “I’m sorry, I slightly lost track. Please could we take a step back…”. This will probably help others on the call too. Have you made use of the time? Finally, make time before and/or after the meeting to chat with those present. Whether it’s catching up about your weekend or digesting some of the nitty gritty of the meeting itself, chatting outside of the agenda of the meeting can help you build rapport with others and put your name out there. 3. Keep building your wider network Finally, think about how you can get yourself noticed within your wider network. If you are working remotely even some of the time, you have to be deliberate and dedicated about connecting with your colleagues, as there will be fewer opportunities for informal conversations in the office kitchen or the chance to network at industry events. But the opportunities are there if you create them, so there’s no need to stop connecting with wider circles and putting yourself out there. Here are some ideas of how to keep expanding your network virtually: Virtual coffee mornings and lunch dates – perfect for catching up with colleagues, mentors, clients and customers who you have a good relationship with. Webinars and virtual industry events – the place to learn from industry experts and connect with likeminded professionals in your field. Social media – where you can follow leaders, interact with professionals in different groups and profile your own thoughts and work. Volunteering – an opportunity to meet new people and potentially expand your network into new areas aligned with your passion. Once you dip your toe in the water you may be surprised how many virtual opportunities there are around you.
While management is typically about managing resources, completing tasks and getting things done, leadership is much more strategic, and very much future-focused. Effective leadership skills empower you to build trust with, influence and motivate people to achieve goals. So which attributes make a good leader? 1. Self-awareness; a deep understanding of ethics, emotions, strengths, weaknesses, needs and drivers. Leaders with strong self-awareness are often honest with themselves and others, and as a result, are neither overly critical nor unrealistically hopeful. Leaders with higher levels of self-awareness are also often better at hiring subordinates with skills that they lack. Similarly, it’s important to know the strengths, abilities and talents of the people in your team. Try asking each of your workers what they think their strengths are and what kind of role they think they would excel in. Your team and its performance will be stronger – and more fulfilled – if the right people are given the right responsibilities. If there are any gaps in your team's knowledge or experience, support them by organising training sessions, so that nobody feels left behind. 2. Self-regulation; controlling and channelling emotional impulses to lead effectively. Leaders who are good at regulating their emotions often have a propensity for reflection and thoughtfulness and are comfortable with ambiguity and change. They are often more positive, which impacts on those around them and is essential to productivity and employee happiness. 3. Motivation; highly driven to achieve beyond expectations. Motivated leaders display lots of passion for their work, seek out creative challenges and love to learn. Self-motivation is central to action-based leadership and will inspire and encourage team members to follow their leader’s example. 4. Empathy; considering employees’ feelings while making important decisions. Leaders who show empathy are often better at developing and retaining talent. This is crucial for increasing a team’s functionality and ensuring talented employees do not leave the organisation – taking their knowledge and skills with them. 5. Social skills; able to move people in the desired direction. Leaders who have good social skills are often adept at managing teams and are expert persuaders. Fundamentally, leaders have good social skills if they want to successfully influence a team and align their attitudes with an organisation’s overall mission and goals. 6. Responsibility; whether this takes the form of delegating work, or having the confidence to take responsibility when things go wrong, employees’ productivity is immediately impacted by their leader’s ability to take responsibility and lead the team in their daily work. New leaders often struggle with letting go and delegating work. The secret of success here is building trust. Get to know your team. Understand the skills and knowledge of each individual; their strengths and development areas and how they can contribute. Delegation then becomes a much easier process. 7. Adaptability; being able to quickly adapt to new situations is critical to being an effective leader. Leaders who possess strong intuition and creativity tend to be better at thinking outside the box and approach new situations in a way that’s in the best interest of workers as well as the organisation. Being open to positive and negative feedback is vital in understanding how well our management and leadership style is working for the team and offers us an opportunity to adapt. Listening to team members, understanding their needs and adapting our leadership style to get the best performance and contribution from them is crucial. 8. Communication; having the ability to communicate clearly directly impacts a leader’s ability to influence and motivate others into contributing to the overall success of an organisation. Employees want to believe in what they’re working towards and the clearer their leader is at communicating will make it easier for them to understand his/her mission, goals and vision. Leadership challenges Managing former peers One of the most difficult challenges in any person’s career is leading a team of people they used to work with. Here are some tips that could help: 1. Be prepared to ride the roller coaster Expect some initial resentment and doubt from your team, don’t assume they’ll all be on your side from the outset. You have to accept they won’t always agree with or like your decisions. 2. Accept you are no longer part of the gang This doesn’t mean eliminating your likeability or friendly approach but you do need to accept that you are now the boss. You need to find a balance between having amicable relationships but still being able to tackle any difficult issues such as poor performance, inappropriate conduct etc. 3. Consider the characters Some people will be pleased for you, others might be envious and some will be disappointed it wasn’t them. If you have a particularly close friendship with someone, it will be beneficial to have a conversation about how things will need to be professional to avoid any claims of favouritism. Usually, if you have this conversation you will find your friend is understanding and supportive and appreciates you taking the time to have a conversation about it. 4. Focus on your relationship with your boss Understand the results you have to deliver as a leader and discuss how you plan to do this. Seek support from them to help you make the transition from team player to manager. Get them to announce your promotion to the team and lay out what they expect in terms of support for you. 5. Set expectations early Present your plans to the team and let them know both what goals you want them to achieve and how. Outline how you will support and involve them. This also helps them to understand how much change is likely to happen. Do some of this in team sessions and then arrange one to ones with each team member to find out how they feel and invite their input. In these individual sessions make it clear that you're always available if they have a problem or need someone to talk to. 6. Trust your team Micromanagement is never a good way to get the best out of your skilled employees. Managers who trust their workers are far more likely to be rewarded with better performance and results. Giving your team members the freedom to handle tasks in their way, to come up with their solutions to the challenges they face and to make important decisions can boost their confidence no end. Giving feedback Positive and constructive criticism can help strengthen relationships between workers, managers and employers, and improve the quality of work as well as encourage higher productivity. Here are some tips on giving constructive, effective feedback: 1. Don’t delay For maximum effectiveness, try to say something as soon as possible after the issue arises, rather than waiting before commenting. It’s rarely helpful to get feedback for something you did weeks or months later. 2. Choose the right time and place Depending on the nature of your feedback, the recipient may not appreciate your conversation being overheard. Before you act, think about whether it’s appropriate to speak up privately or in public. Also, take the recipient’s state of mind into account. If they’re upset, nervous or angry, it may be advisable to wait until they’re calmer and in a better state of mind. 3. Avoid getting personal Remember that effective feedback shouldn’t be about the person in question, but about the way they have behaved or something they have done. Your comments won’t be seen as constructive if you criticise someone’s appearance, beliefs or values. It’s good practice to phrase your feedback in terms of how something has affected you and what you thought about it. This helps the recipient accept your feedback less personally, as they can’t be responsible for how you feel. 4. Be specific Whatever you’re feeding back on, stick closely to the facts of the matter and be very specific – avoid general statements. Think carefully about what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it, and stick to the issue in question. If you’re commenting on something somebody has done or the way they have behaved, mention the specific occasion when it happened. Most importantly, try to offer positive suggestions on how they could do things differently or how they could improve the situation. 5. Credit where credit’s due Don’t forget to praise your co-workers or employees when they do a good job. Taking the time to let them know how much you appreciate their efforts can boost their self-esteem as well as their attitude towards their job and the company. It also shows them you’re interested in them and the role they play in the workplace. Develop your leadership skills with the support of a professional coach. Get in touch to find out more.