Archive | Business

It’s time to decide!

By Martin Conboy.

What is it about an election campaign that prompts people to run for cover and not make any decisions?

Irrespective of whoever wins the Australian election on September 7, nothing much will change in the economy. The sun will still rise and we will still go off to work everyday as we always have done and always will do in the future.

If you are wondering who’s going to win, the liberal country party coalition would appear to have a slight edge, but the incumbent Labour Party, after having changed leaders will make it a very tight contest.

There is an interesting website  - Vote Compass ( which is an educational tool developed by a non-profit group of political scientists and hosted by the ABC. You just answer a short series of questions to discover how you fit into the Australian political landscape.  I did it myself and was surprised where I ended up on the spectrum.

In the last 10 years Australia’s terms of trade have risen because of the mining boom. Not only have we sold a greater quantity of our products and services, but also we received more money for it.

But does this mean that we are better off? Not necessarily so!

To read more

Posted in Business, CommunicationsComments (0)

Investing in The Future

By Matthew Franceschini, CEO, Entity Solutions.

The shortage of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills within the workforce has been the source of growing local disquiet since the closing years of the last century. It was then, as the first of the children of the science-led space age began to approach retirement that the lack of qualified replacement workforce skills began to garner attention.

The issue was raised again recently with the release of Lifting our Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) Skills, a 2013 report from the Australian Industry Group. The study noted that an estimated three quarters of Australia’s fastest growing occupations require STEM skills, yet approximately one quarter of job applicants do not have the necessary skills and the same number lack workplace experience.

The issue is far from unique to Australia. All across the western world, the ageing population and a declining interest in STEM careers are causing concern among governments and industry.  How can companies and economies continue to grow if the requisite skills aren’t there to keep the wheels of industry in motion?

To add to the problem, advancements in technology and changes to business practices are raising new challenges and creating demand for new skills. It’s arguable that now, more than ever before, workforce education and training have become ongoing necessities.

A problem with many solutions

It is widely acknowledged that to solve the STEM problem, action will need to be taken on a number of fronts. First and foremost, at a national and state level, we need to encourage more graduates with the right training.  To do this, we will need to make STEM careers more attractive. From early childhood on, within our infants and primary schools we need to engage our youngsters in maths and science, just as we already do for literacy.

As students reach move from secondary to tertiary education, we must also find a way of combining learning and training with greater workplace experience, perhaps by expanding our vision of the apprenticeship model, so that our graduates are more experienced, better prepared and more attractive to potential employers.

While some action is already under way, all of the proposed measures will take time and it will be years before we start to see any significant increase in the number of STEM graduates coming through the education system.  In the meantime, businesses need a solution now.

Therefore, they must plan; they must be prepared to undertake their own initiatives to source the right people and to encourage employees as they build a corporate skills bank.

Strategies for companies

A skills gap analysis is essential if an organisation is to understand what skills it currently has, the skills it requires, and if it is to have any chance of planning skills development for future needs.

When it comes to employing new skills, the shortage of appropriate candidates means that companies need to make their employment offers stand out if they want to attract the best possible people. Competitive remuneration is a good start, but flexibility in hours and work location can also play a major role.  Other factors that may tip a candidate’s decision in a given direction include the ability to work with leading technologies, access to mentors, training courses or an allowance of time for external study, and the very nature of the work challenge.

To increase skills levels among existing employees, companies should encourage study by offering incentives such as bonuses, co-payment of course fees and/or the offer of study time for approved courses.

Contractors help manage the workload

Encouraging staff to undertake additional training almost inevitably brings change to work hours and workloads due to employee time being diverted to classes, study or exams.  Organisations will need to accommodate the changes (within reason), and this is where white collar contractors (referred to as Independent Professional or IPros by Entity Solutions) can help.

IPros provide an overflow workforce that is available to step in when employees are engaged in training. Whether the employee is attending a one-off private course or chooses ongoing study at a tertiary institution, the IPro can be there for the duration to ensure none of the day-to-day work suffers.

A well-chosen IPro will also bring new expertise in systems, methodologies or practices. When this is the case, rather than leaving it to chance, the employer should consider how best to capitalise on the expertise, perhaps by formalising a skills transfer or mentoring role as part of the contracting relationship.  Such an arrangement adds value and challenge for the IPro at the same time as benefiting employees and the employer.

Specialised help when needed

One of the biggest problems facing employers right now is the loss of senior employees due to retirement. These are the employees who may have several decades’ worth of experience and knowledge about the company, its clients and the industry.  They are people who can’t easily be replaced, especially by a new graduate.

Once again, a seasoned IPro, can help fill the gap, guiding the remaining staff until they are ready to operate as a functional team on their own. In some instances, IPros provide mentoring to the chosen successor, helping the person to gain the confidence and experience that will allow them to grow into the role.

In the years to come, industry groups and governments will continue to refine their ideas on how to best address the STEM skills gap.  New incentives will emerge to encourage students to take up studies in STEM.  The way we teach these subjects will change due to increased industry input.  And hopefully, we will see a growing number of STEM graduates coming out of Australia’s tertiary institutions.

Until that time however, businesses need to plan more actively for the skills they wish to acquire and develop. They will need to invest directly in education and training of their staff, and they will need to find new, flexible and creative ways to fulfill their workforce needs.  As they do so, experienced IPros are likely to become an important part of the skills development solution.

Posted in Human Resources, Labour, Leadership, News Archive, Productivity & EnvironmentComments (0)

The Secret Formula for Innovation

Entrepreneurs have the tenacity and agility to create a fast growing startup, and corporates have the networks and resources to scale them quickly. But with corporates and entrepreneurs so separated, how do we combine the two? A recent survey by Deskmag points to coworking as the answer.

A coworking space means more members, more events, and more collaboration. What does that mean for big business? More innovation. Technology is freeing us up to work from anywhere; from hot-desking, to activity based working, to a cloud enabled mobile workforce, the next opportunity for corporates to increase their competitive advantage through innovation is coworking. There are now more than 110,000 consultants, entrepreneurs and corporate innovators currently working in one of the nearly 2,500 coworking spaces available worldwide, growing at 156% a year.

Between a third and half of all workers are flexible and mobile, with 50% of all coworkers access their work space around the clock and 64% of coworkers reporting they are better able to complete tasks on time when compared to a traditional office. The statistics are the result of being part of a supportive and expanding network that offers flexibility in when you choose to work and whom you choose to work with. Aspects such as reduced stress also become a factor, as most people were able to minimize their commute time and were less likely to become victims of office politics.

Compared to a traditional office, Deskmag found that an overwhelming majority (90 percent) of coworkers said they got a self-confidence boost, likely due to the fact that many spaces are filled with supportive communities that enable creative collaboration. Coworkers also felt 70 percent healthier compared to a traditional office.

The survey states coworking has increased business networks by 80%, productivity by 75%, and social circles by 92%. “Coworking spaces inspire networking and encourage collaboration. New relationships are developed. Ideas are challenged. Problems are solved.” says Joel Hauer, founder of Sydney coworking space WeCo.These social and business benefits that come from coworking has seen companies like Ezeep, Coffee Circle and Orderbird who were spawned in coworking environments and all now employ between 25 and 50 people.

These professional, personal, and social gains come as added bonuses that are more advantageous than working in a cafe or home office. 71 percent of coworking participants reported a boost in creativity since joining a coworking space, while 62 percent said their standard of work had improved. “I think there’s something deep within people that enables you to work better and harder when you’re around hard working people.” says Hauer.

Belinda Luby, founder of marketing and public relations agency Digital Habitat, has been coworking in Australia and South East Asia for over two years. She is now sharing space with other startups at WeCo. “We’re a pretty curated coworking space, so even though we’re made up of different companies, we’re all fairly kindred spirits” Luby asserts. By running her small business in a curated coworking space, she says, “I get the advantages and flexibility of a startup, and the culture of a medium-size business without having to deal with most of the downsides that come with it, like bureaucracy.”

“The world is moving toward shared knowledge, the realisation that sharing can increase the value of what you are doing individually. That being said, the fact that you can come to an environment that is not only a place to work, but helps your business grow due to the fact that you’re in close proximity to other like minded people provides a significant boost to your business compared to a cafe or home. Working in isolation, or at home, there are many distractions that quash productivity. When you’re in a place where consultants, freelancers, startups and corporate innovation teams can work together, creativity and productivity are significantly raised, as statistics show.” says Hauer.

The rise of coworking has seen numerous coworking spaces pop up around the world, with 4.5 new spaces appearing daily, already with 60 in Australia and 11 in Sydney. With an increase in coworking spaces doubling each year and coworking spaces like WeCo expanding in line with statistics, we’ll be keeping a close eye out for more profitable collaborations between startups and corporate innovators.

Posted in BusinessComments (0)

Getting redundancy right

Redundancy is more difficult than most organisations and HR professionals believe it to be. And the cost of getting it wrong can be significant.

“Many employers think the process of redundancies is easier than it actually is,” Kristy Edser, partner at employment law practice Minter Ellison, said. “There are a number of tests that organisations have to satisfy in order for a redundancy to be considered genuine, otherwise employers can leave themselves open to unfair dismissal claims – and that is something we see a lot of.”

Disgruntled employees these days have ready, easy and low cost access to Tribunals to deal with employment disputes e.g. Fair Work Australia and Equal Opportunity Commission. Additionally, there are multiple government bodies set up to deal with investigations of complaints, including Fair Work Ombudsman and Equal Opportunity Commissioner.

There are numerous pitfalls that can lead to compensation claims and / or investigations. These can be avoided by employers having knowledge of their obligations and having appropriate documentation, including policies and procedures, in place.

To read more

Posted in Human Resources, Labour, Productivity & EnvironmentComments (3)

Most shoppers dissatisfied with online experience

Amaysim, founded in 2010 as a low-cost mobile service provider, commissioned Galaxy Research to research the behaviour of online shoppers in Australia. It found that 88% of online shoppers abandoned an e-commerce transaction because of an unsatisfactory experience.

The survey covered 1000 respondents – general members of the community, not specifically Amaysim customers – in June 2013. The findings suggest that six out of 10 Australians between the age of 18 and 64 now shop online at least once a week.

However, 88 per cent of online shoppers have abandoned an e-commerce transaction because of an unsatisfactory experience. Speed of delivery is critical according to nearly two out of three (65 per cent) respondents, with same or next day delivery of online purchases demanded by nearly half (48 per cent). This figure increases to 55 per cent among Generation Y consumers.

One in three (33 per cent) consumers have abandoned an online purchase due to the delivery options not being suitable.

To read more

Posted in Customer Service, E-commerceComments (0)

Taking your online business to the next level

Online businesses are cheap to setup and operate, but the costs to grow and become big place a large barrier for aspiring entrepreneurs. The issue is: how does one stand out from the herd and be heard.

These days you can set up a web-based business for a song. You can get a domain name, outsource the designs overseas, implement a cheap e-commerce platform and be trading in a few days.

But some entrepreneurs say the barriers to entry to big business online are higher than ever. Not so much in setting up, but in standing out from the vast numbers clamouring for attention.

“The price to get traffic has gone up so much that just to play in that game is eating up a lot of capital,” says Fred Schebesta, co-founder of online comparison site

Schebesta and business partner Frank Restuccia founded the credit card comparison service in 2006, but in 2010 they hit a wall. Revenue growth month-on-month slowed from 100 per cent to around 10 per cent, Schebesta says. The website had spread itself too thin, branching out from credit card comparisons to home loans and savings accounts, with a small number of staff dedicated to each.

To read more

Posted in E-commerceComments (2)

Are you in touch with reality?

By Martin Conboy.

There is often a discrepancy between real and perceived customer service, i.e. the level of service organisations think they are delivering versus the service that customers feel they are receiving. There is always going to be some gap in perception between the deliverer and receiver of services, but it appears that there is indeed a chasm and many organisations are clearly not in touch with the reality of the situation.

Back in 2006, Bain and Company did a survey, which illustrated how extraordinary this gap is. They surveyed 362 firms and of these 80% of these organisations believed that they were delivering a superior customer experience, but when asked, then only 8 percent of their customers agreed. And this was before the advent of social media, which only shines a spotlight on the difference between what companies think they are delivering versus what their customers actually think.

This first gap exists for several reasons, mainly because organisations are not continually measuring and reporting the right things in the right way from a customer centric viewpoint. This may occur because organisations don’t have good relationships with their customers to truly understand what is going on, or they just don’t bother asking their customers what they actually want and how this may change over time. And this is only exacerbated when an organisation is in a growth phase, i.e. focusing on customer acquisition rather than customer retention.

Added to this, cost constraints largely due to the global economic slowdown has caused organisations to reduce the amount spent on training staff to deliver good customer service, which ultimately will cause further damage to their brand. And finally because of the tough economy, spending on technology investments needed to allow organisations to deliver the high quality customer experiences that they would like to, are simply not taking place.

The general public is migrating to social media networks as the medium of choice, the growth is phenomenal and major corporations are having trouble keeping up as they scramble to reallocate their advertising budgets away from traditional media. Without understanding the impact of what their corporate messages are saying, some companies may be burning cash and doing themselves a complete disservice.

Against a background where physical products are commoditising, customer service is seen to be a crucial differentiator of the service offering. It is essential that the service delivered supports the product promise. In the future, it is be only those organisations that provide outstanding service that will thrive, since it will allow them to differentiate their products, charge a price premium and maintain their competitive edge in the marketplace.

To read more

Posted in Business, Communications, CRMComments (0)

Single view of the customer: Reality or mirage?

Organisations are making increasing use of the data they’re collecting to build a more comprehensive picture of their customers. The benefits of this are potentially substantial. But the challenges to achieving are just as significant. To overcome these challenges companies are turning to their BPO providers for help.

One management system to view them all

Customer Experience Management (CEM) revolves around one fundamental concept – the “single view of the customer”.  For most organisations, creating a single view of the customer is driven by a practical need to consistently interact with customers in order to identify which of them are of high or low value to the business, provide a better customer experience, or to support some kind of research or analytical work to improve performance.

According to Katie Gove, managing director for Trellis, outsourcing consultants and analysts, it’s something that too few organisations do or do well. She comments, “Customers may have wildly different experiences or flavours of a company depending on the environment. Whether they are at a sporting event and the company is sponsoring, to the experience of dealing with the company’s help or information line is often worlds apart.”

In January 2006, Gartner forecast that by 2010 less than 33% of global organisations would have an enterprise view of their customers. The challenges are great, particularly for large, long-standing organisations that have grown through mergers and acquisitions and have accumulated a plethora of customer management systems, databases and product IT platforms that may or may not be fully integrated and compatible. Part of the problem as Gove sees it is, “organisations don’t see customer interactions as opportunities to generate revenue.”

The biggest challenge to creating a single view of the customer, however, is of course the customer. At times they may be inconsistent or contradictory in their consumption patterns vis-a-vis their economic status or social standing and other demographics. This results in conflicting views of him/her in various departments of the company that compile customer data for their own purposes.

“The problem is”, as Katie Gove points out, “because a company’s processes and operations are decentralised and segregated, each department has its own small picture of the customer and their behaviour.”

Read more

Posted in Big Data, Cloud Computing, Contact CentreComments (0)

Social Media: Australia lagging behind

Australian organisations are lagging behind their international competitors on harnessing social media. According to a new report, many have banned it in their workplace due to inappropriate use and many wrongly perceive it as purely a branding tool.

Only a quarter of Australian companies are using social media for human resources and people management, and only half use it for work. The new report was produced by Deloitte pair Peter Williams and Jess Corbett.

The majority of employers restrict use of social media, 38 per cent ban staff from using it for personal use and one- third say they had been affected by employees inappropriately using social media.

The report was based on results of a survey by the Australian Human Resources Institute of 502 human resources practitioners working across a range of industries.

“Australian businesses are nearly four years behind the US and Britain in using social software,” Williams and Corbett argue in Rethinking social media, adding employers are failing to grasp how social media can be used to help staff react to ”exceptional events”, which cannot be scripted but can absorb up to 70 per cent of workers’ time. It can also be used to boost recruitment and staff engagement, they argue.

The report states those organisations that did have a social media policy or strategy (46 per cent) had largely focused it on employer branding, not organisational performance.

This reflects a poor understanding of the many other uses of social media, the authors say. There are some exceptions. LG Electronics, which has 82,000 staff globally, estimates the regular users of its internal social software save three hours a week finding faster answers to “business exceptions”, the report finds. Westfield Australia is successfully using yammer to manage events that come out of the blue.

Telstra is also using an online platform – CrowdSupport – to crowdsource solutions to customer problems where their call centre staff do not yet have a script. And Williams tells The Australian Financial Review that South Australia’s Department of Premier and Cabinet is an “early adopter”, using social media to help prepare parliamentary briefings.

To read more

Posted in Human Resources, Productivity & Environment, Social MediaComments (0)

Infosys goes shopping for business

Infosys has placed on it shopping list is the technology and back-office services arms of a range of European companies.

According to recent reports in the Indian times, the deals that Infosys are chasing could give it committed business worth $40- $250 million over three to five years. Such transactions typically involve upfront payment for buying the facilities of corporations as well as taking over their employees.

“There are quite a few opportunities we are participating in. For clients, it is about cost-optimisation but at the same time they don’t want employees to be impacted,” said Infosys board member BG Srinivas, who also heads the financial services business division. “We are open to rebadging employees because we are continuing to invest in Europe.”

Rebadging refers to a service provider taking over clients’ employees on their rolls. Europe makes up 23 per cent revenues of the $7.4 billion revenue of Infosys but most of it comes from the United Kingdom and Nordic countries. Indian IT companies, including Infosys, have been trying to gain market share in continental European markets such as Germany and France.

Posted in Acquisitions, Business, Contracts, Expansions, Growth, Investments, MergersComments (0)

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