Monday, 24 June 2013

Flexible working 'cuts cost to employers', say business leaders

The Times reported today that a group of 22 of Britain's biggest companies, the "Agile Future Forum", have signed a commitment to flexible working rights after finding that "agility" in staff hours and locations can cut workforce costs by as much as 13%.

Richard Nissen, the founder of The Virtual Office, is also a guest lecturer at Cass Business School.  For the past 10 years he has been championing the value of virtual working including the cost benefit to employers when they are not housing staff everyday in physical office space.

However the emphasis is not the cost savings but the terminology used to define the working style.

The 22 bosses argue that while 96% of companies assessed were already offering some degree of "flexible working" the term has gained a bad reputation for being "a benefit for employees and a cost for employers". They add: "This runs contrary to our experience: if implemented successfully by business leaders, workforce agility can offer sustainable business performance and engaged employees."

The aim of this research was to ascertain whether "a business case could be made" for less structured working patterns. According to Sir Win Bischoff, leader of the Agile Future Forum it can.  "There is evidence of cost savings on one hand and revenue enhancements on the other."

It is hoped that this report will raise awareness of the economic benefits of agile working.
The Agile Future Forum has also devised a specific assessment tool to help companies test and measure the value of new practises and will run seminars and workshops to help small, medium and large companies overhaul working practices.

Further reading is available at

The report's stats:
- benefits equivalent to 3% to 13% of workforce costs, with potential to increase that by a further 3% to 7%
- some instances, sales uplift to 11%
- Accountancy giant KPMG saved £4.7m during the recession by offering flexible working hours to staff rather than making redundancies
- Law firm Eversheds, said 28pc of staff reported increased productivity when they gave staff freedom over their working models.


Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Tips for networking

I recently was asked by some colleagues for tips when networking.

The prospect of networking can be hugely daunting especially if you are new to the industry, role or just promoting yourself in a new arena.

I know the first couple of times I attended networking events I felt very young, green and female.  The majority of networking events at that time were dominated by men of a certain age in very grey suits.

Today networking is very diverse.  The increase of social media has in turn led to an increase of real life socialising for business.  There are invite only groups, female only groups, free events, informative events sponsored by big brands...the list is exhaustive.

So I have tried to list a few pointers I would have benefitted from in the early days.

Who will be there?
It is always worth researching the companies attending.  You are often issued with a list of attendees prior to the event. It is worth visiting a few websites and having a few companies that you are interested in talking to in mind.  If it's a good networking group the organisers will have pre-empted who you'll be interested in and sat you near each other.

My colleagues were attending a Young Entrepreneur Society networking event where the majority of people were start ups under 30.  Amongst them were some established companies (mentors) as well.

When you get there
Practical tips:

-        have your business cards in your right hand jacket pocket so they are easily accessible if someone asks for one.  You can put their cards in your left hand pocket.
-        try to keep baggage to a minimum. Make the most of any cloakroom and check in any coats, extra bags, trainers.

Getting involved
In essence networking is just formal socialising with people you wouldn't normally mix with.
It's not about pitching your business and making sales.  It is about chatting with people. 
So find out what business they’re in.  Find out about them in general.  Few people enjoying introducing themselves to strangers and starting conversations so they’ll be relieved and happy to chat about themselves.

Explaining what you do
If you've asked your questions and you're asked what you do then you explain your business. 
Pitch your business as if you were explaining it to a friend who has shown interest in using your service or product .  Relaxed and not pushy but with enough detail that if they’re interested they will ask more questions.  Try to tailor your detail to how you think you could help them.

As a rule I try not to discuss prices just the value. 
If they are interested in finding out more then you can take their card or details and email them when you are in the office.

Use the experience to learn about other businesses and how you can better serve them.  If you do get any sales from networking it is most often indirect, through word of mouth so just mingle, enjoy the refreshments and see what you learn.

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