Disabled talent is a hugely untapped pool

Recruitment firms should take the lead in helping their end clients recognise disabled talent as an untapped resource. That’s according to The Association of Professional Staffing Companies (APSCo) which has launched the very first best practice guide to disability confidence for recruitment firms.

Speaking at the launch Ann Swain, Chief Executive of APSCo said: “We want the role of the recruitment profession to be that of a catalyst for change in creating a level of confidence when it comes to the recruitment of disabled talent. Our clients are looking for a broader client base – and UK plc is talent short – and yet so many organisations – because they are time short and under pressure – look at recruiting the same old people from the same old places.”

The guide, developed in conjunction with Business Disability Forum (BDF) and sponsored by EY, who also hosted the launch, provides practical tips and expert advice on how recruiters can best engage with disabled talent.

Susan Scott-Parker OBE, Founder and Honorary Vice President of BDF summed up the business case for hiring disabled talent perfectly: “It’s the same as hiring Canadian people – some of them can do the job! Disabled people are often excluded from employment not because organisations don’t want to recruit and develop disabled talent, but because recruitment processes, partners and suppliers inadvertently place barriers in the way. From talent attraction strategies that give disabled talent the perceived view that ‘we’re not interested in you’ to online application processes that limit people with certain impairments – business misses out on hiring the best talent and disabled people simply miss out!”
Speaking at the launch, Peter Holliday, Managing Director of Sopra Steria Recruitment whose firm has recently joined BDF outlined his motivations. “This isn’t just the right thing to do – being equal, fair and accessible should be a given – but it’s also a real business opportunity for organisations. I found that several of my clients were already members of BDF and were recognising disabled people as an untapped talent pool – and as recruiters, we should be leading – not following.”

Iain Wilkie, Senior Partner at EY who is the Executive Champion for Disability at the firm outlined some of the enormous business benefits of hiring disabled talent by highlighting the qualities that may not immediately spring to mind. “People with autism are strong at problem solving – just one of the reasons that GCHQ is keen to recruit them. Those with mobility issues are often good at coming up with creative solutions,many people with hearing impediments develop an invaluable ability to read body language while stammerers are often recognised as great listeners. Why wouldn’t you want people with these skills in your business?”

The vital role of an investor in your expanding business

If you have a great business idea or already have a business but want to expand it, then you may want to look for investors. Here are some of the many benefits that having the right investor can provide.

Valuable advice and guidance

An investor has your best interests in mind. After all, when you succeed, so do they. While some investors don’t have a lot of business experience, many of them have a lot. This means they can offer you advice that can help you make better business decisions and see things from a different perspective.

Inject capital when you need it most

Investors can fill in the gap in finances so that you can start up or expand your company. Sometimes all that is holding a company back from phenomenal success is a lack of capital at key times in the development of the business. You can have more than one investor as long as investment terms are clear for all parties.

Investors encourage entrepreneurship

There are a lot of great ideas out there that don’t get utilised because the support needed to bring them to fruition is simply not there. Investors are often looking for the next great startup company. Having a great business plan can help encourage investors to look to your business as a lucrative opportunity. Many wealthy individuals like to help others create opportunity and build businesses. This can be especially true with investors that have been in the same position as you. M1 Group is constantly looking for entrepreneurs that show the dedication and potential to be successful. M1 founders Mohammad Najib Mikati and Taha Mikati know what it is like to create a company. They started a telecommunications company that led to their further investments.

Level of investment is important

The more shares that an investor has in your company, the more control they will want to have in many cases. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is something that must be considered before investment decisions are made. You need to be comfortable with others being involved with your decisions. The more investors you have, the more this will come into play.

Gaining one investor can attract more

If you attract an investor of note, then other investors will take notice. Don’t be surprised when you get more offers than you expect. It is important to make sure that you don’t get more investors than you are comfortable with.

Finding the right investors

The right investor will be easy for you to work with. Meeting with investors and getting to know them and their expectations better is essential to making the right choice for your company. It can take time to find the right fit. A larger investment company, such as M1 Group, can help by opening your company up to investment capital from many different investors but allowing you to just work with the one investment company. This can help streamline your operations.

Can proper use of natural light improve morale in your office?

We spend half our lives at work, and so our working environment can easily impact upon our mental health. That is the conclusion of a study carried out by researchers at Northwestern University in the US, who studied a group of workers, half in offices with windows and half without.

The message from this study and others is clear; a lack of natural light adversely affects how well workers see, how they sleep, and how productive they are. No access to natural light, even if compensated with artificial lighting, has a negative effect. Overall, workers experience greater lethargy and depression, which in turn affects their productivity and the level of absenteeism. In the UK, it is estimated that 1 million working hours are lost each year to depression-related issues.

Most of these problems can be easily addressed by rethinking the workplace environment. If you create a welcoming, uplifting space in which to work, staff will naturally be able to concentrate and perform better. Purpose-designed desks and chairs are part of the ergonomic solution for staff wellbeing, but the lighting and colour scheme also makes an important contribution.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is very real for some people, causing them to suffer depression during the winter months. Around 30 per cent of workers in the UK leave for work and return home in the dark during winter. If this effect is compounded by a lack of natural light at work, absenteeism may well start to creep up.

Conversely, abundant natural light lifts moods and encourages a positive attitude to spending time at work. People are more alert and less prone to headaches, their vision is better, and they also tend to have better sleep patterns. All of these factors add up to make a big difference to productivity and the atmosphere among colleagues.

Of course, you will want to provide the maximum amount of natural light, but you may also need to shield desks and computer screens from reflections and glare, and protect workers from direct sun. Modern window shutters are a great solution for controlling the light levels in the workplace. Shutters add elegance to any window, upgrading the visual impact of your workspace straight away. They also make natural light much more controllable by allowing you to vary the angle of the light and the amount that penetrates the room right through the day.

The initial investment will be more than offset by the improvements in your working environment, as well as bringing important energy savings from using less artificial light. Workers will feel more engaged with their tasks, more comfortable, and less prone to the health problems that may keep them at home.

It pays to consider the whole working environment as part of your business strategy. Ensure that staff are performing at their highest level not only by nurturing their skills but also by providing a light, airy environment that will safeguard their health and encourage their performance.

Top tips from On Purpose to develop a career in a social enterprise

Would you like a career with a purpose – a career that makes a positive difference to the world?

Making the move to work within a social enterprise, a company that is using business to create a social or environmental benefit, is now easier than ever – and, according to Tom Rippin, founder of On Purpose, it’s never too late in your career to make the change.

On Purpose matches organisations that are using business for good with talented professionals who want something more fulfilling and meaningful from their career.

Tom has helped hundreds of professionals find a more fulfilling career; here are Tom’s 11 tips for professionals wanting to develop their careers within a social enterprise:

  1. Invest the time to think about how and why you want to make this change. If you’re feeling frustrated in your current role, it’s often worth stopping to identify exactly what is lacking.
  1. Talk to friends and colleagues. By letting people know that you want to change they will be able to help. And the more specific you can be about what you are looking for the more easily they’ll be able to help you.
  1. Beware passion paralysis. You often hear “follow your passion”, but many people don’t know what their “passion” is, and spend (waste…) a huge amount of time trying to figure it out. Get things moving by collecting some experiences about what you do and don’t enjoy – e.g. through events, volunteering, or taking a sabbatical to explore an area of interest in more detail.
  1. Think beyond the cause. It’s tempting to focus on the cause you’re interested in but ignore all the other aspects of a role or organisation that shape the experience. For example, the size or stage of the organisation, whether they work directly with the people that they are set up to benefit, the business model, and the team and culture.
  1. Find your tribe. It can be incredibly helpful to find other people who are going through the same process to support you as you make your own transition. By exploring other networks you can often find people who share your interests or values or are just going through a similar journey to you, and can signpost you to other things you might be interested in.
  1. Focus on your intrinsics.  Social enterprise is an emerging space, and often there will be few people who have the exact skills and experience profiles needed for a role. Focus on communicating examples of your intrinsic skills (e.g. relationship building, problem solving), as well as transferable aspects of your technical skills. For example you may have done a lot of financial analysis, which could be applied to better understanding social impact data.
  1. Be real. When applying for roles make sure you understand the context of the organisation you are applying to and tailor your application for each role. For example, using language appropriate to the sector. Write clearly and in simple, jargon free language about who you are and why you are interested in the role and the organisation.
  1. Never talk about “giving back”. People who have spent their whole careers in this world will automatically think you shouldn’t have “taken away” in the first place.
  1. Don’t find yourself, build yourself. You might not find the one role that meets all the criteria of your dream job immediately. It can be helpful to break a transition into phases, for example initially switching sectors before switching functional role.
  1. Baptism of fire. When you have changed roles, make sure you ask all the stupid questions early on while people will be forgiving!  It’s also worth attending as many events, lunches and coffees in the first month as possible to fully submerge yourself in your new role.
  1. It’s a spiral. Arguably you’re never done with this process. Take time to evaluate your career at regular points (it can help to have a coach to do this with) and proactively plan ways to ensure that you continue to develop yourself professionally.

The On Purpose Associate Programme is full time, based in London and starts on September 30th 2015. Associates work in their placements 4.5 days a week and spend Friday afternoon at training.  Associates are paid £21,000 for the year, which is a stipend for a year of training and development.

Applications are open from now until 9am on the 11th May at www.onpurpose.uk.com.

Is tech knowledge essential for a successful manager?

A majority of businesses, especially new start-ups, are heavily exposed to technology, even if that technology is something as simple as a social media account for marketing purposes; so managers need to have at least some knowledge of technological processes and how they impact on the firm. As a manager, you need to understand your business systems and how they actually work; avoiding the role of technology in those systems because you have some type of tech phobia is no excuse.

If you want the definition of a manager put in simple terms, it is someone who organises and oversees the work that other people do. As such, it is not especially practical to expect a manager to have an in-depth or expert knowledge of every single business process and the finer details of how they work. Nonetheless, experienced and successful managers will tell you that some technical knowledge is essential. Take a scenario in which you are overseeing, as a manager, the implementation of a new IT system in your organisation and a member of staff or an outside contractor comes to you with a specific query that is tech related. You may have in-depth project management skills, but in the absence of any specific tech knowledge, on what basis are you going to be able to answer their query or question the assumptions it is based on?

Armed with tech knowledge, you can appreciate what staff are doing right, identify when they go wrong, and how problem areas can be resolved. Successful managers emphasise the importance of good communication, listening to employees and being supportive in what they say.

Having a certain level of tech awareness enhances your communication skills as a manager because it better equips you to talk with and listen to employees, and tech employees in particular, to boost mutual understanding. A certain amount of tech knowledge also serves to enhance the relevant employees’ trust in you and your capabilities. In turn, you are better able to trust them and the skill set they bring to the workplace because you have at least a rudimentary understanding of what it is they do. Another benefit of having some tech knowledge is that you can better support your tech team in representations to more senior management in the hope of attaining the necessary resources; alternatively, if you are the boss, you can better understand what it is they need and what level of investment is required.

The good news for managers is that keeping up to date with developments in tech is as easy as reading online tech blogs that offer the latest in tech news. If you leave aside a few minutes in every day for a read of the latest developments in technology, you can keep abreast of what’s new and how those developments might impact on your organisation.

The key to managing tech in business is having an overall understanding of the technologies deployed and how they tie into business needs.

Does business success depend on online presence?

Almost any business can benefit from a good online presence. Here are some of the advantages of creating an outstanding online presence for a business.

Increased sales through a great website

When a business is put online, there is the opportunity to reach a much greater number of customers than is possible through other methods of advertising. More potential customers means more sales. A well-designed website shows customers that the company cares about doing business with them. Since it can be the first impression anyone has of a business, it is important that it be updated regularly, designed to be easy to use, clutter-free, with no typos or outdated information. If customers see that the site is neglected, then it can easily lead to them thinking that the company will be sloppy in doing business with them. Many potential customers will go elsewhere if the site is too hard for them to navigate or use easily.

Social media equals better customer relationships

While some argue that the internet has led to less social interaction, the truth of the matter is that it has led to more connections across broader demographics than ever before. Customers want to feel personally connected to those with whom they choose to do business. Making customers feel special is easy to do with social media. Twitter and Facebook can be used to announce sales, product or service updates, or news and events. Social media is also a great venue for collecting feedback that can be used to improve business and customer service.

Economical advertising and promotion

Print advertising and/or radio and television ads can be cost prohibitive and can miss reaching a broad audience of potential customers. Internet advertising is more economical because there is no printing or shipping costs, and it can reach an almost limitless amount of potential and current customers. Some advertising methods cost nothing more than a small amount of time and can have drastic effects on the profit margins of a company.

Keeping up with the competition

Having an online presence makes it easier to compete with others for customers. If a business doesn’t have an online presence but the competition does, then they have the competitive edge. When competitors offer deals and incentives it is then possible to get the word out about a deal that either matches or surpasses their own. A web presence promotes a business 24 hours a day.

Developing a unique brand

The internet can help build a brand and make it easier for customers to identify with a logo. Robert Bonnier was instrumental in making Scoot.com one of the leading internet listing services in the UK, helping it reach a value of more than £2.5 billion. It is possible to connect with Robert Bonnier for up-to-date tips on how to build a unique brand and get on the path to financial success. Developing a brand online should be one of the most important aspects of marketing a company.

How important is office design for productivity?

Maximising productivity is really concerned with getting the best from your workforce, or from yourself if you work at home. This translates into making sure the environment is easy to navigate and conducive to helping employees to enjoy what they do, as then they will do it better. In this respect, the physical environment is just as important for morale as the smooth running of systems and procedures. Here are a few things to bear in mind when aiming to boost productivity through office design.

Fit for purpose

The design elements you choose should be appropriate for both the type of business undertaken and the age and character of the property. Then you need to consider how many members of staff are to be accommodated and how efficient their physical position is in terms of day-to-day operations. There would be little point in locating a staff canteen, for instance, at the far end of a building from the kitchens, and in just the same way, employees who need to communicate frequently are better placed in reasonably close proximity to one another.

Along with good air quality and low noise levels, the availability of natural light is an important feature of employee wellbeing. Poor lighting can cause eyestrain, fatigue and headaches. Dark spaces can result in irritability and even depression.

Décor and furniture

Paler colours are said to convey a sense of airiness and light. Warmer tones such as reds, oranges and yellows are supposedly associated with creativity, while cooler hues (blues, greens and purples) are said to create an inviting and relaxing atmosphere. Think of using these colours in appropriate spaces; for example, cooler hues in a chill-out zone for busy employees or in a guest waiting area, where all you really need in terms of furnishings are some comfortable chairs, an elegant coffee table and perhaps an attractive potted plant.

These days, office furniture tends towards more ergonomic designs, particularly chairs and desks, the better to keep workers healthy and avoid problems such as repetitive stress injury (RSI). Just like adapting design elements to the characteristics of the workforce, or your own preferences if working from home, furniture should reflect the tasks to be carried out and follow recommended best practice. This means considering desk height and selecting adjustable chairs plus any accessories required by those spending a lot of time in front of computer monitors – for example, protective screens or footrests. Standard health and safety regulations should be followed and sensible precautions taken.


Last but not least, storage areas need to be considered if you want to keep your productivity levels high. These should be tailored to the nature of the office work and might include some or all of storage for paper, equipment, computer peripherals and other basic supplies. Again, try to make sense of the location and keep items close to where they will be needed.

If you can get these ingredients to work together successfully, either at home or in your place of work, you will be rewarded with increased productivity and a happy workforce, yourself included.

The vital role of strong leadership when a business faces a crisis

The most successful, strong leaders have the ability to appreciate the events going on for what they are and make the best choice for the organisation, not for themselves. They have an excellent eye for detail, and are able to consider multiple options while putting together a strategy for handling the problem. Strong leaders are calm and positive. They take ownership of the problem, whatever it is, but have the ability to work with others to form a solution and the decisiveness to take risks, admit mistakes and make difficult choices.

The human touch

In some circumstances, handling a business crisis really comes down to doing the right thing, the human thing, while also thinking of the welfare of the entire company. Noted for its exceptional treatment of its employees, Starbucks was faced with the unthinkable in 1997 when three employees in Washington, DC were killed during the course of a robbery. Faced with such a terrible tragedy, the company’s CEO, Howard Schultz, chose to fly to DC himself, spending time with the families of those lost, as well as with the employees of the store.

Another great example involves Toro, a company that manufactures lawnmowers, trimmers and other equipment used in landscaping and golf course management. In the late 1980s, Toro was experiencing a lot of financial turmoil, mostly due to lawsuits; the company was experiencing an average of 100 lawsuits involving serious injuries every year. After Ken Melrose was appointed CEO, a change was made in the handling of lawsuits that not only cut costs, but improved the image of the company. Under Melrose’s direction, Toro began sending a representative of the company to meet with the injured party and their family, providing sympathy and assistance in person. The results were impressive, indeed; since 1991, the company has had only a single lawsuit.

Leadership in adversity

Max Mosley, former president of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), was truly tested during his tenure in office. As the head of the body that oversees Formula One racing, Mosley had to lead the organisation during a critical crisis: the tragic death of beloved Brazilian racer Ayrton Senna in 1994. That grim weekend resulted in numerous safety measures and track changes that may have saved thousands of lives. Under Mosley’s direction, crash testing became stricter and the driving speeds were reduced. Barriers were improved from the straw bales of the past and helmets became safer, more regulated. Many of the circuits were modified in cooperation with European governments and institutions, and the cars themselves saw design modifications to improve safety. The openness to safety changes and progress that Mosley began during his tenure have continued today, as seen during the recent Jules Bianchi crash in Japan. Max Mosley’s books allow him to continue to make his strong voice of leadership and experience heard in the F1 world.

Being a strong leader may come naturally to you, or it may be a skill you have worked hard to build and foster. When confronted with adversity in your business, having the confidence to approach the crisis with strength and confidence will enable you to handle it in effective, and at times unique, ways.