How To Effectively Hire Creatives To Plug Into Your Expanding Project Needs

Four fingers with faces on them, each with a speech bubble saying

As the demands for your company grow and your work needs expand, you may consider opening up your employee and contract work to people from all around the world. When hiring creatives to meet your increasing demand for content, it takes the prospect more than just simply understanding how to be creative.

 

They should also understand the potential audience, the region that audience lives in, and the types of idioms, slang, and images that the audience will understand. These points are especially critical while working with individuals in remote and virtual capacities.

 

As we all know, the benefits of working virtually allow for individuals to collaborate and work together, often from different parts of the world and at other times of the day. Therefore, when screening potential contractors and employees, especially when considering hiring international employees, you should first set up a formal screening process.

 

Between language barriers and different idiomatic expressions, native English speakers will speak and spell words differently depending on their nation of origin. These variances can create confusion or misunderstandings, so establishing clear screening procedures is crucial whether hiring for creative projects, marketing,  logistics, or otherwise.

 

Regional Understanding And Interests Are Critical

 

In creative industries, having a regional understanding is critical in crafting the right message and tone for your project in creative industries. The only way to guarantee that your newly hired individual(s) can match that tone and intonation is through proper pre-hiring screening.

 

For your Human Resources (HR) department to conduct a screening that matches your exact needs, you should establish a screening process that includes:

  • Understanding the idiom of the area they apply
  • Video chat or pre-recorded answers
  • Virtual skills
  • And working a paid trial to determine comprehension and feasibility

 

When hiring a creative position for content needs (such as copywriter, content marketer, or technical writer), a simple writing test that emphasizes the type of terms and “slang” needed for your readership should be a simple first question to answer.

 

It takes more than just understanding how differences in spelling may be in different regions of the world to be an effective marketing and technical writer. For example, the difference between American and English words, such as “behavior” (American) and “behaviour” (English), can impact both readership and your SEO strategy based on search results your prospects may be querying.

 

These differences may seem trivial at first glance, but to readers and SERPs alike, they can profoundly affect the outcomes of searches and understanding of the content you’re trying to promote. Other creative positions such as photography and graphic arts have less impact based on regionality. However, even during the hiring process, these positions should still come with a pre-screening process.

 

The possible impact on your content may not be as detrimental as having words and sentences written for a different audience than your target. However, it could still have some impact, either positively or negatively.

 

With visual creatives, taking a picture of a couple in front of a building or landmark that is exotic or well-known may be distracting for your audience. For example, if you’re writing content for a traditional brick-and-mortar shop in Austin, Texas, but the images you’re trying to use are of a couple in Paris, France, the disconnection may be too distracting for your readers.

 

Whereas with creatives such as copywriting, it’s crucial that they pass a regional language comprehension “test,” with visual creatives, it’s more critical for them to understand the region that pictures must be sourced. A good alternative is to have visual creatives use neutral, evergreen backdrops for their photos, which can be resourced for multiple regions and areas.

 

As your business grows, your employee and contractor needs will expand with those demands. How your organization hires out for those expanding roles can be a delicate balancing act of finding qualified applicants and individuals that can meet your creative content needs specific to your audience.

 

The balancing act between qualified individuals and those that can provide content specific to your audience is one of the benefits of working with a decentralized, remote workforce. But to do so effectively, you need to build in some safeguards during the screening process that will help you evaluate the talent so that you can plug them into the roles you need for each project you have.

How Online Tech Can Help Your Retail Business

Animated concept: three people lookng at a large screen with a map and pinpoint of the local area

There is a whole category of tech that is geared toward online use. That still doesn’t narrow down the category very much. It can be everything from modems and networking, to SEO and social media marketing. It seems pretty obvious that the domains of retail and online business require bespoke tools. A physical retail store needs a physical OPEN sign. Such a tool would be meaningless for an online business. An online business requires the use of advanced HTML. In a physical space, HTML is nothing more than alphabet soup.

But the fact that the domains are different doesn’t mean there is no crossover in regards to the tools needed to make them successful. After all, whether physical or online, business is still business. Customers are still customers. Opening day is still exciting and profit and loss have the same impact on your bank account. If you have a retail business, you might think there is no reason for you to keep up with the side of the business that depends on internet technology. But failure to do so could leave you and your business falling behind the competition. They will be using every available tool, whether or not it was made for retail. A hammer makes just as good of a paperweight as it does a tool for pounding nails. These are some of the online technologies you can better leverage for your retail business:

 

HR Services

There is a new generation of HR tools and services that were born online for the online generation. Most workers seem to view them as an improvement over the traditional way HR used to be done. You no longer need to make an appointment with someone in the HR department to talk to them about insurance. You can go online and source your own short term disability insurance. It does not have to be a part of a package negotiated by your company. You can mix and match benefits that are right for you from providers that meet your needs.

That does not mean you have to get rid of your HR department. There is a lot of benefit in having someone on the premises to talk to about work issues not appropriate to discuss with your supervisor or employees. It is not about choosing one over the other, but doing what is best for you at any given time. As times change, so do your needs. Integrating online solutions will provide you with more flexibility.

 

Video Conferencing

One of the most ubiquitous technologies to emerge since the pandemic is video conferencing. Zoom is the clear winner of the video conferencing providers. These days, people just think of all video conferences as Zoom meetings regardless of the software being used. There is a very good chance that at some point in the previous year, you have had a video conference. Even doctors are starting to use the service to see patients.

The pandemic also taught us that sometimes, we will not be able to do business in person. Those with a good solution at hand will have the advantage. Companies that did a lot of business online knew what they were doing and didn’t have to retool. Companies unfamiliar with the tech had a much longer and rougher transition. Even if you have never had to use video conferencing to date, it is a technology that can be a valuable addition to your business, regardless of the type of business you have.

 

Local SEO

Foot traffic does not account for all your business. And if it does, you are leaving a lot of money on the table. You can help more people find your physical location by leveraging the strengths of local SEO. Regardless of whether your business is physical, digital, or both, people will try to find it using a search engine, likely the one on their smartphone. That is why every business needs to have some part of the budget pointed at search engine optimization.

 

Whether it is HR services, video conferencing, or local SEO, these online tools can make all the difference in your physical retail business.

3 Ways to Make Graduates Notice Your Company

Young graduate using a laptop and smart phone to find a new job

When the final exams have been graded and the mortarboard has been thrown in celebration, there’s only one thing on most graduate’s minds: what’s next? Entering the workforce after graduating from university can be an overwhelming experience. However, many graduates have a good idea of what they want in a job – even if they don’t know what job they want yet. From an employer’s point of view, it can sometimes be easy to assume that graduate students will be eager to join your company. However, this isn’t always the case. If you have a business that you believe in and you know would be a great place for a recent graduate to grow, you need to ensure that the roles that you’re offering appeal to them.

There are many ways to make sure your company has a lot to offer for recent graduates. The key is knowing what graduates are looking for in their first job and making sure you offer greater opportunities for progression than your competitors. What’s more, you need to ensure that you can fulfil your promises. With 32 per cent of graduates planning to stay in their first job for two to five years and 31 per cent saying they don’t know how long they will stay, there are plenty of opportunities to train and retain new talent if you know how to ensure that graduates stick with your business.

Although your rate of pay is important, there are many other things that graduates look for when on the hunt for their first role. Let’s take a look at the most important factors.

 

Training and development

Room for development is a very important factor for many recent graduates. So, when advertising a new role, be sure to highlight any development opportunities. In one survey, “information about training and development” was cited as the second most important thing that graduates wanted to see from employers before applying to a role. Clearly, most graduates are thinking long-term at this point in their careers. It’s not necessarily all about how much they can earn right now, but how much they can learn and progress in the future. This way, they’ll be able to reach their dream role (and salary) someday soon.

If you’re advertising entry-level positions, include your company’s training opportunities in the job description. No graduate is done with their vocational training and education yet, so this is a very important factor for you to include. As well as training days, be sure to highlight any development opportunities that candidates won’t be able to access elsewhere. If your company is in the engineering sector, for example, getting hands-on experience and working with equipment such as hydraulic cylinders or piston rings will be valuable to recent graduates.

 

Fast-track progression schemes

If fast development is something you can offer candidates, consider setting up a specific scheme for recent graduates. Many graduates are drawn to grad schemes due to the promise of professional development as well as short term financial security. Setting up a grad scheme or fast-track programme will bring endless benefits to your company. By investing in young talent, you’ll secure the future of your workforce, introduce a new wave of innovation and creativity, and enjoy high financial returns on your investment.

 

Work-life balance

As well as career progression and development, graduates also want a healthy work-life balance. When searching for new employees, this is something to highlight in your job advertisement. The world of work may seem daunting for many young graduates. So, by offering a role within a company that has a positive culture, supportive community, and a good work-life balance, you will make your roles stand out against your competitors. This doesn’t just mean flexible working and holidays. It’s also about creating a positive environment in which employees will be able to get stuck into a wide variety of tasks that will keep them engaged and motivated.

There are so many ways that you can turn your company into the best possible environment for recent graduates. Whatever sector you work in, make sure that new and potential employees know that you have their best interests at heart and you’re as invested in their futures as they are.

Failing Gender Inclusivity in the UK’s Most Successful Industries

Eight office employees standing talking toeach other. They are of different backgrounds and genders

It’s no secret that a diverse workforce helps create a successful business—so why are so many organisations in the UK not gender-diverse? A government-backed review found that there is “little sign of change” in the underrepresentation of women in senior roles in business.

Companies that promote a positive culture attract and retain the top talent in the job market. By promoting inclusive policies, there will be many benefits beyond attracting top talent from a diverse candidate pool. This includes eliminating offensive and closeminded decision-making, providing a fresh perspective on something that everyone else is looking at in the same way, providing a better platform for innovation and creativity, and an improved customer experience.

Employees must feel comfortable reaching their potential, which should be supported by diverse and inclusive policies. Sadly, not all companies do that. Jaguar faced an employment tribunal following a genderfluid employee receiving abuse and a lack of support at work.

Although the Equality Act 2010 was introduced to set a minimum standard, a genuine diversity policy goes beyond legal compliance and adds true value to a company while driving workforce wellbeing. Research has found that organisations that lead the way on gender inclusivity also lead on performance and profitability in comparison to their competitors.

Here, we take a look at two of the most male-dominated industries, accounting and tech. We’ll cover what the statistics look like in terms of gender inclusivity and how we can overcome them.

 

Women are rising in the ranks, but things still aren’t perfect

In 2019, the share of women on the boards of big UK companies reached an all-time high of 30%. Although it is positive to see that we are making progress and record numbers are being achieved, there is still a long way to go before there is gender equality, both on the board and in the workforce.

While yes, the proportion of women on the board has reached record numbers, there are industries that are lacking in terms of what is acceptable.

 

Accounting for the low numbers

The Big Four accounting firms are the largest companies in the accounting industry which have innovated the way we invest and how we work. The Telegraph reported shocking diversity statistics—with only 11 black partners of around 3,000 in total. It’s important we look at gender statistics, too.

61.3% of all accountants and auditors are women. This is up from 39% in 1983, which at that time was considered a large statistic. While this is brilliant, only nine of the 3,000 partners are women. Almost every lead auditor of these companies appears to be a white man.

Rachel Reeves, chair of the House of Commons business committee, commented: “If the audit industry thinks it is delivering the highest possible standards when it is missing out on the talents of half the population, then it needs to think again.”

PwC had the highest number of audits of FTSE 100 companies, although none that were audited were led by women or people of colour. The underrepresentation of women in these senior roles has been a key driver of the gender pay gap. The accounting firm revealed the median gap between men and women workers was 18%. While white men dominate leading roles, there is only so far a business can go before it plateaus due to a lack of diversity and different ways of thinking.

 

Women in tech

The state of women in tech is a sad affair. Despite global conversations about gender diversity in tech, women are still underrepresented, underpaid, and often discriminated against. For the tech industry to truly flourish, diversity and inclusivity are crucial so that innovative and creative products and services can be designed, taking everyone in society into consideration and not only one domineering demographic.

For example, Fitbit’s period tracker feature was incorrect, only allowing women to log their menstrual cycle if it lasted for 10 days or less. If more women were involved in the design, this catastrophic mistake wouldn’t have happened and alienated many of its customers. Despite this, women remain widely underrepresented in tech.

In the UK, female employees account for 19% of the tech workforce. This figure is even smaller for black and Hispanic women at 3% and Asian women make up just 5%. There is less inspiration for women looking to pursue tech careers. This is driven by a shockingly low number of role models talked about in the media, combined with ceilings placed over women when they’re either trying to enter the industry or progress. Others point to the lack of girls taking STEM subjects in school and higher education due to the social bias that encourages boys to choose these subjects.

 

Diversify the board

The culture of promotion that enables the exclusion of qualified female candidates could be a reason why women are underrepresented. These candidates may not be part of the social networks that board members and chief executive officers use when considering a candidate. Board members typically play it safe and hire or promote similar candidates. As there are significantly fewer females in senior roles initially, the same white male professionals are picked over and over. If executives improve their recruitment methods and increase the pool of potential candidates by seeking diverse workers, they will better utilise the talent pool.

Implementing legislation that requires companies to appoint a minimum number of executives with different attributes can help tackle this issue. This has been successfully used in Norway since 2008 to improve gender diversity in the boardroom, with at least 40% of directorship positions required to be filled by women. Spain and France are also looking at introducing similar mandatory requirements for gender diversity, which is something the UK could look at.

 

Diversity training

It’s important to remember that sexism and misogyny in the workplace must also be combatted to create a safe and inclusive environment. Sexism isn’t always overt with blatant remarks and aggression. It can be covert and displayed through microaggressions and prejudice. This can be just as damaging for women in the workplace, who may feel uncomfortable raising the issue. Addressing the way people think can be done through inclusivity and diversity training at work so colleagues know what isn’t acceptable and how their behaviours and words can actually be offensive. People need to be called out on their biases and learn to become better. In the 21st century, there is no excuse for covert sexism and microaggressions.

Creating targeted training for emerging leaders who could potentially serve as directors in the future could help those with the potential to grow and progress for roles in the future. This makes them feel involved, rather than being ignored and feeling forced to move jobs to seek better opportunities. Although there has been some progression over the decades, there is a long way to go and the conversation isn’t ready to end yet. With pressure from the public and workforce, things could change.

It’s important for industries to learn to be inclusive, not just to generate more profit but to encourage others to follow suit in helping create a new normal in the world of work. The business will stagnate when everyone thinks the same way and is limited by their own experiences. Employing workers from diverse backgrounds and demographics will add new perspectives—an invaluable resource for companies. Sectors should take a look at what the Top 50 Inclusive Companies are doing to adopt a culture of inclusivity and diversity.

Issue 8 2021

Welcome to the August edition of Corporate Vision Magazine, providing you with all of the latest news and features from across the corporate landscape in 2021.

It is fair to say that the last month alone – let alone those that came before it – has been hectic for all across all industries and regions. From vaccine rollouts to an Olympic Games, the positive and growing conversation about the climate crisis to the often troubling state of current affairs, the world is an overwhelming place right now. But we must look onwards with a sense of optimism.

The companies featured within this issue of Corporate Vision Magazine are doing just that. From reshaping internal strategies to better suit the way we work now to reshaping the future of the industries they operate in, positive change and development is clearly the focus.

Fortunately, with the support of organisations like Alchemy Crew, our featured company for this month, business growth to success is well within reach. We find out more about the lab-based operation that offers a wide client-base venture validation and business growth solutions with proven and tangible results.

As ever, we hope you enjoy reading success stories from across the corporate world in this month’s issue, and wish you all the best until we meet again in the September edition of Corporate Vision Magazine.

5 Common Types of Ecommerce Fraud and How to Fight Them

Ecommerce Fraud

If you run an ecommerce business, it’s likely that you’ve experienced some type of fraud. Scammers are creating more sophisticated ways to navigate some businesses’ fraud prevention strategies, finding out how to better imitate genuine customers. But how are they committing these acts of fraud and how can they get away with it? Here we explore five different types of fraud that ecommerce businesses encounter. Then, we’ll explore how you can combine positive customer experiences with an optimised fraud prevention strategy to protect your business.

 

Payment fraud, including identity theft

Would you know if someone were pretending to be you? Payment fraud is one of the most common types of ecommerce fraud. In fact, payment fraud contributes to a whopping 71% of all online payment attacks. But things have moved on beyond fraudsters stealing bank or card details. Today, fraudsters will also use email accounts, user accounts, names, addresses, IP addresses, and personal devices to complete their purchase. For fraudsters, the hope is that all these details will make them look like the real deal – like you. This, in turn, can lead to fraudulent purchases and the creation of new fake user accounts.

 

Friendly fraud

Despite its affectionate name, friendly fraud isn’t all that welcome for ecommerce businesses. Also known as chargeback fraud, it occurs when a consumer (or fraudster) makes an online shopping purchase with a credit card but then requests a chargeback from the issuing bank after they’ve received the goods or services. The consumer may cite damaged goods or undelivered products as grounds for a refund. The stickler is, depending on the original payment method, the merchant can be made accountable when a chargeback happens. So as an ecommerce business, you’ve lost your goods and lost your money.

However, it must be said that sometimes chargebacks are legitimate, and friendly fraud can be unintentional. Perhaps goods were actually damaged or undelivered. Or the consumer doesn’t recognize the merchant on their credit card bill or has forgotten they made the purchase. But overall, 57% of chargebacks are classified as abuse.

 

Affiliate fraud

Many ecommerce businesses will run an affiliate marketing program. Affiliate marketing is a method of advertisement where online publishers can make money by inserting links on their website. The links may direct customers to a product. These links can be tracked, and when a specified action takes place, such as an account registration or purchase, the affiliate who published the link will be paid a commission.

Affiliate fraud, therefore, plays a bad game in this marketing technique. By completing simple actions, fraudsters can profit from the commission of affiliate links. This may include auto refreshing a page to imitate traffic or clicks or spamming an email from a referral link. Ultimately, the ecommerce business will believe that they have increased their onsite traffic but not see any increase in profits. In fact, they’ll be paying out to the fraudsters.

 

Clean fraud

It’s hard to identify a dirty transaction when they look so squeaky clean. Fraudulent transactions that appear to be legitimate are known as clean fraud, and it’s becoming an increasingly problematic type of transaction for ecommerce businesses. This is because the transaction is less likely to get flagged up or appear on a deny list for known fraud accounts. For clean fraud, fraudsters will usually use stolen credit card information to impersonate the real cardholder.

To make this fraud appear genuine, fraudsters will convince account holders to make a purchase through a fake website or by intercepting messages between transaction parties. Fraudsters can then use this data to complete a purchase.

 

Interception fraud

There’s no messing about when it comes to naming types of fraud. Interception fraud does what it says on the label: it intercepts your online orders. The fraudster will use a stolen credit card along with the same billing address and shipping address that is linked to the card. The next step involves intercepting the goods before they are delivered.

How is this achieved? Well, a fraudster may call a company after the order is placed and before it has shipped. Then they will ask for the delivery address to be changed. They may also contact the courier to change the route of the package to a different address of their choosing. Even simpler (and potentially riskier), they may just wait for the package to be delivered at the cardholder’s address, sign for it, and steal it from right outside your front door.

 

Fraudsters are just bad actors

It seems like there are many ways for outlaws to take advantage of ecommerce businesses in the Wild West of the online world. But despite more sophisticated methods of fraud becoming prevalent, ecommerce businesses shouldn’t fret too much. There is a solution and a way to fight back against these slippery scammers.

The difficulty with identifying scammers is that they’re getting very good at making themselves look like genuine customers. From stolen cards to fake user accounts, it may be difficult for a person or agency to recognize when their business is a victim of fraud.

There are ways to secure your ecommerce business. Putting more barriers in place to separate the fraudsters from genuine customers will help to prevent fraud. This may include identity verification, extra accounts and passwords, or a CAPTCHA test to dodge those pesky robots that are set up to do your business harm.

However, these extra barriers harm the customer experience of your ecommerce store. Did you know that the average online shopping cart abandonment rate is 70%? Factors such as barriers to completing transactions contribute to this. Promoting an easier sales experience, with less friction, is the best way to boost your business. Plus, there is a way to open your business up without letting fraudsters in.

In reality, fraudsters are bad actors. While they can wear the costume of stolen cards, addresses, and fake accounts well, their behaviour is a giveaway. Machine learning is becoming more and more capable of finding out when fraud is taking place, even when every other factor seems to be genuine. This takes into account things like delivery address, average consumer purchase size, historic chargebacks, buying behaviour, and the types of products a specific consumer would usually buy.

Machine learning becomes even more powerful when it is combined with a commerce protection network comprising hundreds or thousands of merchants. The network provides vision into millions of transactions and that data is vital to identifying fraudulent behaviour.

One platform, Signifyd, says that 98% of all online purchases today have been made by consumers that their platform has seen before. This means that they will understand everything there is to know about a consumer’s buying behaviour, so if they or you are a victim of fraud, it can be easily spotted and prevented. This saves genuine customers time at the checkout and can save everyone from fraud.

 

Ultimately, if your business is looking for growth in the accelerating age of online shopping, aligning your fraud strategy with your customer experience strategy is a recipe for success. Positive customer experiences lead to return sales, and fraud prevention and payment optimization can only benefit an ecommerce business. Being recognized as a safe and reliable business with friendly and helpful staff is essential for long term survival in a competitive online world. Identifying these types of fraud and recognizing the most effective ways to deter criminals will help you grow.

Supporting Your Remote Workforce: Cloud Migration for Your Business in 5 Steps

Migration Cloud

Many businesses are already utilising the cloud in some way, with 61 per cent moving their workloads into the cloud in 2020. However, many are yet to carry out their full cloud migration.

For some, the migration was sped up by the coronavirus pandemic. The work from home order saw many businesses rushing to implement cloud solutions to allow their staff to work remotely. In fact, 51 per cent of decision-makers whose business migrated during the pandemic said it saved their organisation from collapse.

If your organisation is yet to complete the move to the cloud, there are a number of steps you’ll need to take to ensure its smooth and cost-effective. Here, we cover those steps.

 

1. Understand why you’re migrating to the cloud

There are so many reasons businesses choose to migrate to the cloud, including:

  • A reduced cost of ownership
  • Allowing remote working
  • Higher system availability
  • More stringent security protocols
  • Increased productivity and efficiency.

Having these goals at the forefront of your preparation means you’ll be able to migrate in a way that helps you achieve these goals. You may want to achieve all of them, but it’s likely that some are higher priorities than others. For example, you might want to prioritise data security because your on-premise system was recently breached, so that should be your main focus when planning and completing your migration.

 

2. Decide which applications you’re migrating

In an ideal world, a cloud migration would involve moving all of your business-critical apps to the cloud in one go. However, it’s not that straightforward in reality.

Most businesses will still have ageing legacy systems that, for many reasons, can’t be moved to the cloud. It’s well established that maintaining legacy systems is significantly more costly than switching to new systems – the Public Accounts Committee found that HMRC spent 80 per cent of its COVID-19 budget on maintaining its aged IT systems, which accounted for a huge £53.2 million. However, it can be daunting to switch, especially if that legacy system is custom-built.

Your first step in your cloud migration journey is to identify which applications you can migrate to the cloud. We also recommend reviewing your costly legacy systems to see if there are any existing cloud-based alternatives that could replace them.

 

3. Determine your migration strategy

Once you’ve assessed all your applications, you’ll need to determine how you’ll undertake the migration – even for those that you aren’t migrating right now. There are a number of ways you can complete your cloud migration, and most businesses will use a combination of strategies which are commonly known as the 6 Rs:

  1. Rehost: moving applications with no changes.
  2. Re-platform: moving applications with small modifications based on their new cloud environment.
  3. Repurchase: replacing your legacy systems with newer, cloud-based alternatives and operating on an SaaS payment model.
  4. Re-architect: redeveloping an application, which can involve using new cloud features.
  5. Retire: eliminating a system from your IT portfolio.
  6. Retain: leaving an application as-is and revisiting at a later date.

It’s unlikely that you’ll only use one of these methods, so once you’ve determined the applications you’re migrating to the cloud and the ones you aren’t, decide which of these methods you’ll use.

 

4. Choose your cloud services provider

A question that many ask is: who is the best cloud provider? The answer isn’t as simple as giving you one provider, as each will have its own benefits. You might want to use multiple cloud providers so that their combined solutions meet your unique application requirements.

If the systems you’re migrating use a lot of data, you’ll need a cloud service provider who can keep up with those demands. If you’re migrating applications that store a lot of personal or sensitive customer data, you’ll need one that has strong security certifications. If scalability is important, make sure the provider you opt for can provide this service easily.

The hybrid cloud, a combination of on-premise servers, public cloud platforms, and private cloud platforms, is the solution most businesses will opt for. Public cloud options such as Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure are trusted because of their rigid security protocols. Private clouds, meanwhile, allow you more customisation, and you can choose whether to manage them yourself or outsource this to a third-party provider.

 

5. Tap into a cloud consultancy expert provider

Reducing costs is one of the key reasons many businesses move to the cloud, with a Microsoft survey identifying this as a top benefit of cloud migration. However, the cost of the migration project itself also needs to be taken into consideration.

Some businesses will undertake this exercise in-house if they have an IT team that is big and experienced enough to take on the project or to keep costs low. But if your internal IT support team is small or you already take out managed IT services, we recommend utilising a third-party provider.

A business with expertise in cloud consultancy will manage the entire process for you and ensure that your migration goes as smoothly as possible. Their extensive experience in deploying cloud solutions and cloud migrations means you’ll experience a smoother journey to cloud computing.

While carrying out this project in-house may seem more cost-effective on the face of it, cloud experts will help you to reduce costs by considering every possibility and mitigating any potential risks.

 

Moving workloads to the cloud is an essential step for businesses that are looking to reduce IT operating costs, increase security, and improve efficiency and productivity. It’s a project that requires a number of steps to ensure a smooth, efficient, and cost-effective migration. By taking these steps, you can ensure your cloud migration is as seamless as possible.

Leadership Guide to the Long Term Hybrid Working Model

Business employees in a meeting. Some are sitting at the table, and some are on a video call

The pandemic has had a dramatic impact on business and working practices. From the first lockdown business leaders were faced with a multitude of new challenges in order to continue to survive. At that stage, thriving was an afterthought for many.

The pandemic forced many to digitise for the first time or to expand their digital strategies to cope with entire workforces being forced into remote working.

In the rush to digitise, some have grasped at a disconnected myriad of solutions, often from a mix of vendors, whether video conferencing, tools to manage customer relationships, instant messaging, cloud-based productivity tools or office suites, and so on.

New working models have emerged and likely changed the face of work forever. Many benefits have been recognised, and at Zoho, we believe the most effective way forwards is a hybrid working model, where work is split between home and the office.

As we enter into a new period with restrictions removed by the UK Government, leaders need to assess longer term strategies to enable the best outcomes from the hybrid working model.

There are eight aspects to consider:

 

1. Culture

Culture should run through an entire business and be part of a business identity. Employees should embrace it and it should help drive engagement internally and externally.

Culture is easier to maintain when employees are physically present so a new strategy is needed. The right set of communication and collaboration tools can help enable culture to remain strong. Leaders need to work harder to reinforce culture and maintain it both remotely and in the office.

 

2. Infrastructure

Leaders must assess the technology infrastructure they adopt to ensure a seamless and consistent employee experience, no matter the location. A further necessity is to ensure ease of data integration to determine informed business decisions and to provide a superior customer experience.

 

3. Safeguarding employees

Working remotely or in a hybrid model impacts employees differently. Some can cope well with the lack of workplace social interaction and others can become lonely and feel isolated.

Leaders need to ensure regular check ins take place both at a group and individual level to ensure the emotional wellbeing of its entire workforce and assess if any policy changes are needed.

Data privacy can become a risk if not handled centrally with aspects such as provision of tools, applications, hardware and corporate governance. Leaders should reassess privacy policies to ensure both employee and company data remains robustly protected.

 

4. Motivation

There is no ‘one size fits all’ model to ensure that employees remain motivated in the new working model. Some thrive with more independence and ‘freedom’ while others become demotivated. Communication and constant dialogue is essential to ensure signs of de-motivation can be addressed at an early stage.

 

5. Flexibility

It was easy to remain rigid in the traditional working model with locations and working hours consistent for all. However, now more flexibility is needed. If goals and results are met, does it matter if this is in the usual confines of working hours? Some regular core hours may be required for business needs, but often much of the working day can be chosen to suit individual lifestyles as long as work is completed.

 

6. The new role of the office

Leaders should establish what is best achieved in the office versus remotely and see if the physical environment needs to change in order to derive the best results from face to face team time. This will likely mean less individual desk space, more ‘hot desking’ and more open environments to encourage collective creativity, such as brainstorming. 

 

7. Communication

Communication – both what and how – is more important than ever before. Are the right tools in place to enable employees to engage with what is being communicated and is there an option for easy dialogue? Are expectations clearly set and goals realistic? More time and care needs to be taken over these aspects to make the most of hybrid working.

 

 8. Recruitment and diversity

The introduction of the hybrid working model brings new opportunity for diversity in recruitment. Many potential employees have been previously omitted from the employment pool but more flexible working roles in both hours and location, opens up a new recruitment pool. Savvy employers can take advantage of this to be able to hire a more diverse workforce than was previously available to them.

 

The hybrid working model may have been thrust upon businesses because of the pandemic, but it has provided a whole new world of opportunities. Leaders who adopt new strategies to enable the new model will have the best chance of success and those who remain rigidly stuck to old practices may find themselves left straggling behind.

 

Written by Sridhar Iyengar, Managing Director, Zoho Europe, https://www.zoho.com/

Consumers Should Be Warned of Buy Now, Pay Later

Buy Now Pay Later

The Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) industry has quadrupled in size in the last year in the UK and the market is said to be worth around £2.7 billion.

From kitchens, clothing and home gym equipment, the ability to purchase something online immediately and pay later is a very appealing premise.

Whether it is the likes of Klarna, ClearPay, LayBuy or AfterPay, the customer can purchase the goods today, but make repayments over 12 months for the item, sometimes interest-free if repaid on-time or rates of 39.9% APR if repayment is overdue.

But a recent report from FT Partners has highlighted the potential dangers of Buy Now, Pay Later – and those struggling to pay are facing huge debts to overcome.

Although used by an estimated 14 million Brits in a consumer-driven lockdown period, 39% of customers used BNPL without realising and 42% did not know what they were signing up for, the studies show.

This becomes an issue when customers cannot make repayments – and whilst it can be interest-free if paid on-time, the late fees start to add up if payment is not made, much like a credit card.

The interest rate of 39.9% APR is on par with the more bad credit financial products out there and is deemed very high, especially when credit cards are around 18% and personal loans start from just 3%.

Labour MP Stella Creasy, who is often very outspoken on the subject of high cost loans, has said that the BNPL is a ‘financial scandal waiting to happen.”

Dan Kettle of finance provider Pheabs commented: “Buy Now Pay Later is a very attractive proposition. Even if you have the money to put a new bed or set of dumbbells, who wouldn’t prefer to pay back at a later date?”

“Ironically, most people buying goods online will have a credit card anyway which is free to use if you pay off on-time, so they are pretty much getting a 30-day payment holiday either way. But with good marketing and the human desire to pay for things later, it is an industry that has exploded in recent years, probably thanks to lockdown as well.”

“But people do need to be careful with Buy Now Pay Later, because the late fees are very high if you cannot afford them, pretty much on par with an unauthorised overdraft or a high cost loan, even if their products yield very high APRs on the surface.”

“This is yet another industry which has grown faster than the regulators can keep up – and no doubt we will see some stricter checks or regulation from the FCA to follow in the coming years.”

4 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Bolster Their Skillsets in 2021 and Beyond

View from the back a business conference hall, with the speakers blurred in the background

Being a business owner is something that people of all ages have dreamt of at some point in their lives. From the initial idea stage through to the launch of your company, there are many hoops to jump through, but they are hoops that are worth it in the end.

At the same time, some parts of being a business owner take some hard work and go beyond the parameters of what you expect being a company director to encompass. This includes having particular skillsets that can be used both in and out of the workplace.

While it is naturally important to have skills that you can use within a specific workplace or industry, it is also critical that you have some transferable skills. With a vast number of people opting to change their careers at some point in their lives, it is something worth noting, even if you are not in the position to swap jobs at this moment in time.

If you feel you lack experience in certain areas of your professional skills, you have found yourself in the right place at the right time. Detailed in this piece, you will find some of the many ways entrepreneurs can bolster their skillsets in 2021 and beyond. Whether you intend to learn one new skill to extend your existing skillsets or wish to overhaul your skills completely, read on for more!

 

1. Attend Events

Networking is something we feel confident any entrepreneur, both existing and budding, has been doing. Naturally, due to the pandemic, more significant networking events have been put on hold. While that is very well the case, online events have taken place throughout the pandemic. They have given those interested in business and beyond the opportunity to engage with one another in the same way they would have in person.

Attending events might not seem like your first port of call when learning new skills, but it is certainly worth considering. While you can choose to attend events specifically tailored to teaching you skills, others are more generic. Both event types provide you with the opportunity to learn new skills from those in your industry or in others.

Networking with skilled professionals allows you to open doors for yourself that you once thought were impossible. Investing some time and effort into networking, both on a professional and personal level will provide you with ample opportunity to attain skills related to your industry and beyond.

Attending events is not the only social way that you can learn new skills from other people. This takes us to the next point.

 

2. Enrolling in Courses

It goes without saying, but the most obvious method for learning something new is to attend a course or series of lectures which teach you valuable information. Taught in various ways, both interactive and otherwise, you are sure to find a system out there that provides you with information that you want to learn, which is accessible to you.

Much like attending events, in-person teaching worldwide has taken a somewhat hiatus throughout the last fourteen months. Adjusting and adapting teaching styles to the online world has not been an easy feat for some and naturally comes with a whole host of logistical and technical difficulties.

While that is undoubtedly the case, online short courses are readily accessible to the vast majority of people; you don’t need to be in the same location as the teaching institution to access the same level of education.

Researching a range of online short courses gives you an understanding of what is out there and how you could best use the online courses to bolster your skillsets. No matter what you choose to study, and whether you choose to do so alongside working full time, we feel confident that you will be able to go forth with the transferrable skills you have dreamed of.

 

3. Remaining Perseverant

We get it; you have most probably heard this word or something similar on several occasions. While it might get tedious hearing these words after some time, the sentiments and meaning behind them are the same. The message itself remains consistent no matter your situation, and it is undoubtedly true, after all.

Entrepreneurs in companies big and small have had to ensure they are perseverant in their efforts, despite the struggles and obstacles that might occur. It might not seem like an important skill to have, nor does it appear to impact the day-to-day operations of your business, but that could not be further from the truth.

Being perseverant in your everyday comings and goings of running a business is paramount. Pushing through the struggles when the times are tough will make those sweet victories all the more sweeter! At the same time, this is a skill that you can take with you through all walks of life, which can be transferred between jobs.

However, we recognize that it can be challenging to remain perseverant in the face of adversity. None more so than if you are not finding that your efforts are paying off. While this can undoubtedly be demoralizing, there are things you can do to lift your spirits. Consider monitoring the overall process on a smaller basis. Instead, focus on the small goals you have achieved rather than looking at the bigger ones you are yet to accomplish.

 

4. Practice, Practice, Practice

Another cliché suggestion we feel confident you have heard numerous times, but one that is still extremely important. No matter what skillsets you wish to improve upon, there is no greater way to do that than by taking the time to practice.

Depending on what skills you wish to improve upon will depend on what you need to practice. At the same time, the skills you are practicing will dictate the methods you use for practicing them.

For example, when wanting to build your existing communication skills, you will want to make a conscious effort to be talking to as broad a network of people as possible. Understand different ways of getting a message across and implement them into your own strategies. Seek guidance from other leaders in your industry for tips and tricks on how to master skills like these and more. You have a mountain of resources at your fingertips, so make sure to use it!

Mastering a range of tools relating to your skillsets will provide you with a resource for furthering your skills and give you something that is transferable to different careers, sectors, and situations. Furthermore, once you have got to grips with this type of skillset, you will be able to guide and teach others within your business and beyond about this critical entrepreneurial skill.

 

On the whole, there are a whole host of methods and resources out there for entrepreneurs and business people alike to boost their existing skills. We hope this piece has highlighted some of the ways you can do this and left you feeling inspired by what you may need to do to improve your own skills.

Whether you choose to implement one or two suggestions into your strategies or opt to try them all, we feel confident you will head into the latter half of the year with an extensive set of skills under your belt.

How Can You Perform a Payroll Audit for Your Business?

Time sheets, folders, and a calculator

Conducting a payroll audit is something paramount as a business. It helps in deterring payroll fraud and embezzlement. Secondly, it lets you know if your payroll process follows the government’s set labour and tax laws.

Thirdly, it makes you effective in uncovering errors that may take place when processing payments. If you want to perform a payroll audit, there is a specific procedure you ought to stick to. This will give you accuracy hence make the audit serve its purpose. Which are the main steps to follow when doing the auditing?

 

List Your Employees Down

In the evaluation, focus on the pay rates and the number of active hours at work. The primary goal for this is to ascertain that everyone is getting pay at the same rate. It may be hard to identify them in a payment scheme with ghost-workers if you fail to audit. It is beneficial to look at each worker at a time.

If you have payroll software, the process of listing your staff should not take a long time. It gives you an easy time spotting the extra workers who are not rendering any services to the company. This saves your firm money, which goes to the bank accounts of the ghost-workers.

 

Check Your Employees’ Pay Stubs

Nowadays, pay stubs are at the centre of payment records as they capture payment information more comprehensively. This means, when it comes to knowing about the payment history of specific staff, pay stubs can be reliable reference points. It is advisable to ask your workers to obtain their pay stubs as this simplifies things. One option for this is to find a paystub maker online. Commonly, one completes the opening on his or her own by filling in the personal information.

 

Run the Reports for Payroll Data and Employees

At this level, go further with payroll information and employee data. This is where you concentrate on the pay rates, level of activeness, and any overtime. Consider updating any information on the workers, such as the names and Identification cards, whenever there are changes.

Another important thing is focusing on the active workers at the firm. As a small business, you can do this manually by going rounds at your company. It may be much easier to engage the department managers to provide comprehensive details on everything regarding the workers.

 

Go Through the Off-Cycle Payroll

First, write down the number of payrolls that run in the current auditing time. Afterward, you need to try and evaluate the expected number by the end of the same period. The difference gives the number of payrolls that are off-cycle. What is the purpose of this? It helps in trying to work out what brought about the disparity.

This is where you look at how you process the payroll. For instance, you may be processing variable payments such as bonuses in separate payrolls. In the end, you will have more payrolls than usual. If this is not the case, you may need to check for the nefarious activity bringing all the differences.

 

Do Payroll Reconciliation

This is usually a more relatively lengthy process and time-consuming. At this level, you want to check the payroll records and then compare them with the general ledger. In the modern world, businesses are utilizing software in this. They usually have two parallel software whereby one runs the payroll, and the other will use the processed information for the accounting bit. Also, consider doing a reconciliation between the internal payroll records and tax forms.

Payroll auditing is significant for a business as it reduces the chances of errors in the payroll process. However, a company needs to follow a specific procedure for the audit work to be successful. The use of modern documents such as pay stubs is significant in making managers effective in evaluating the payment history for the different workers.

How Artificial Intelligence Is Set to Revolutionise Industries

AI Industry Revolution

There’s no denying that technology has been the key to evolution for almost every industry. From transport to gaming, sports to healthcare, improvements to processes and capabilities have been attributed to rapidly innovating technology. This is particularly prominent in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). What was once reserved for sci-fi movies is now actively a part of our everyday lives, and it’s set to pave the future – perhaps autonomously!

In this article, we take a look at how AI is set to ignite several key industries.

 

Transport

While we are still a few steps away from fully autonomous vehicles becoming an everyday part of our lives, AI has already woven its way into the transport industry. From drones taking off with parcels to deliver to traffic management, the unseen eye of artificial intelligence is already keeping a keen watch over the safety of drivers.

Some outlets have suggested that, while autonomous vehicles are already a present-day perk, fully autonomous driving may come to fruition within the next ten years thanks to AI. With cars able to drive themselves, we could see a massive shake-up across several areas at once – would we even need to own cars if one can pull up and pick us up on command?

For those of us who already go car-free, AI is revolutionising public transport and will continue to do so. Advancements in rail connectivity have seen the average train journey go from a simple affair of sitting at your seat reading the newspaper on the way to work to being able to work remotely as you make your way in – setting up a speedy travel office with train WiFi or ticking a few extra items off the home to-do list while you commute into work.

It’s not just passengers who are benefitting. Rail operators stand to benefit from AI improvements, especially when it comes to monitoring safety. AI technology will allow them to receive instant alerts of critical failures, keeping everything from passengers and staff to assets protected. Whenever an incident is detected onboard, AI technology will generate automatic alerts so that operators can respond faster than ever before.

 

Sports

AI has upgraded the way we travel, and it’s also upgrading the way we move ourselves. Previously, AI has been used in the sports sector as a way to monitor and improve an athlete’s performance. Now, we’re seeing AI stepping onto the field in new and exciting ways – and, in some cases, quite literally too.

The Olympics has a long history of rapid technology adoption, and AI has been no different. From tracking big data to calculate the potential of athletes to delivering photo finishes, AI has been interwoven with the Games for many years. More recently, we’ve even witnessed robots at the Olympic games shooting hoops! CUE5 stunned the world with its hyper-accuracy powered by artificial intelligence, shooting free throws and three-pointers before its captivated audience.

 

Gaming

AI is at home in real-life sports games and in the digital competitive field. Its presence in the video game industry is nothing new –back in 2008, players were stunned by the AI “Director” lurking behind the scenes of cooperative shooter Left 4 Dead, as the artificial intelligence monitored each player’s skills, in-game location, and even perceived stress levels before using the information to decide where to place enemies along a player’s path.

The industry has come a long way since then, arm-in-arm with AI’s ever-growing capabilities. Nowadays, the technology is able to make in-game characters “remember” encounters with players and adapt accordingly, and research divisions of some of the world’s largest gaming companies are actively seeking to utilise AI to create characters that “will mimic human players. To some extent, they will think.”

 

Across several sectors, AI is shaping the present in preparation for a more efficient, safer, and exciting future. In fact, AI might very well become the next everyday innovation that we all simply take for granted.