How to increase commercial awareness

Over the last few years, you may have noticed more companies are advertising for commercial awareness when hiring prospective new employees.

I can tell you from personal experience, that lack of commercial awareness is one of the key reasons that good candidates are rejected at interview stage. “They were really great, but just lacked the commercial edge we were looking for.”


So what exactly is commercial awareness and knowledge, and is it something that you can learn?

First of all, yes, anyone can learn commercial awareness and knowledge. It does, however, take hard work and dedication to become good at it. It should be noted that commercial knowledge isn’t the same as general knowledge.

Commercial knowledge refers to a sound understanding of what a business does, how it makes its money, the market in which it operates and how you and your role can fit into it. Often this means considering things such as, how you can increase revenue or market share, customer service levels, improved productivity levels, a better and more efficient team environment, great levels of quality assurance, less waste – I think you get my drift here!


If you want to actively increase your commercial knowledge you can consider these top tips to help you get it right:

  • You must understand what a business does and have a good understanding of its competitor environment.
  • Do your research and look at their online presence e.g. Glassdoor, LinkedIn groups, Twitter, Feefo. These can give indicators of customer service levels and employee satisfaction rates.
  • Look out for important events. Are there any future projects a company is about to begin working on? What have they done in the past?
  • Be aware of how economics can affect that business.
  • Think about the challenges that a business could be facing and formulate ideas on how you can help solve them.
  • If you’re at an interview, a great way to demonstrate your commercial knowledge is to have a couple of ready-made questions prepared.

There is no quick fix for getting commercial awareness but by putting the effort in, potential employers will give you kudos for trying, even if you don’t get it 100% right! Good luck.


James Cumming is our MD, Interim and Transformation Search specialist. If you’ve got a hard-to-fill role and need some help, get in touch. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

How to stand out from the crowd with a commercial and impactful CV

So, how do you stand out from the crowd with a commercial and impactful CV? Given there are over 400 applicants to each job advertised, I wanted to rehash one of my old blogs to give some updated tips…

There are lots of differing opinions out there on how to write a CV so you need to make your own mind up on what works for the role you are applying for – but the thing is, you need to have impact and quickly

Writing a killer CV is all about selling your experience better than everyone else who sits in that pile on the recruiter or hiring managers desk! How do you expect to differentiate between yourself and all the other applicants who have all likely done a similar role to you?

The past 5 years of experience are typically the most relevant, this is the experience that employers will want to discuss and should form the bulk of the CV:

Focus on outcomes rather than inputs. Every project manager manages key stakeholders, but a great project manager influences them to ensure delivery of the project on time and within budget.

Great people make a difference in their role. Yes, businesses hire people to do a job, but what gives you the edge? Having an impactful CV is important. Think through what have you done in past roles that has added value? Use business metrics to quantify the impact and to demonstrate your commercial understanding.

Tailor your CV for the role. Make sure you have read the job description for the role you’re applying for and highlight relevant areas of your experience that match this (yes this is basic stuff, but it often gets missed). You can do this in a cover letter (I don’t think many people read them these days) so my advice is to ensure you put it in the CV (it is okay to have more than one CV that focuses on different aspects of your experience).

Get someone senior to critique your CV. Before you send it anywhere, get someone more senior than you to read your CV, would they hire you based upon it? Make sure you allow them to be critical. If not, why not? What’s missing?

A CV is not a job description. Don’t just copy and paste it in there, people can tell!

Do not write recruitment clichés. No one likes cliches so leave them out of your personal statement i.e. team player/can multitask.

Be conscious of the length of your CV. 2 pages is a myth but any longer than 4 pages is a bit much… if you’ve only been working for a few years it doesn’t need to be very long (remember less is often more) and if you’re an interim with multiple contracts or have a long career history – limit yourself to the past 5 years (and summarise the rest in one-liners).

Finally, get yourself out there! There is no point writing a killer CV if no one’s going to see it… and a lot of the best jobs on the market aren’t advertised, ensure you are tapping up your network and people you ahev worked with previously (LinkedIn) is an awesome non-intrusive tool for this)

To discuss further or to get help with your impactful CV you can email me on James@refind.co.uk.

You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here.

Employee onboarding – warm welcome or completely clueless?

We know how important onboarding is for our candidates. The wrong experience can have a hugely detrimental effect on a new starter. The process ensures new employees receive all relevant information and understand how the company works and what is expected of them. This information allows them to transition from a new joiner to a productive team member, and so is a vital process within any organisation. 

So how does it change in a fully remote working world?

Really, it shouldn’t affect the fundamentals:

  • New equipment
  • Communication
  • 121s
  • Introduction to the team
  • Training and coaching

But it does mean being organised and ensuring that everything is prepared way ahead of the new team member starting. Equipment needs to be ordered and sent to their home address, an introduction to the business, the team and regular 121s need to be diarised and the induction needs to be planned out and communicated clearly.

It’s not just about the new starter

It’s not just about the new joiner either, your onboarding process can affect existing team members who will register the way a new employee is treated.

Onboarding begins before the new team member starts – both internally and externally. Calling the new employee is clearly important to let them know the basics, but also letting the existing team members know what is happening.

Returning to work onboarding

My wife, Gemma, wrote a blog about onboarding, with a difference – the importance of onboarding returning maternity leavers. “Yes, they’ve always been employed and aren’t “new’, but when I returned to work after 10 months out, a lot had changed, and I mean a lot. It was almost like returning to a new business. This, coupled with the fear of returning to work, was surely a recipe for disaster.”

Some key points are addressed about being introduced back into the company/role after a substantial period away, including new technology, new faces and new structure. You can read the full blog here.

In any capacity, onboarding is important to your business – it makes for happy employees and better business efficiency, as it gets employees up to speed quickly.

To have a chat about your experiences with onboarding or returning to work you can contact me on carl@refind.co.uk.

You can view more about Carl Hinett our Executive search of HR professional’s specialist here.

So, what’s with all the cow puns?

So, what’s with all of the cow puns?

So, what’s with all the cow puns?

So what the hell do cows (and cow puns!) have to do with recruitment anyway? I’ve been asked this a quite few times recently given our new website launch.

You may have been wanting to ask this yourself if you’ve seen our social media recently (we’ve been udderly obsessed with cow puns!)

Well, unbeknown to most people, my family are Scottish dairy farmers! My family continue to run a few farms up on the West Coast. So, you could say it’s in the blood. But even though working in recruitment is a far cry from the fields of Scotland, I’ve never fully left behind my admiration for these fantastic animals.

(Even my favourite artist is cow themed… A lady called Caroline Shotton, you can check out her work here: http://www.carolineshotton.com/)

So, hopefully that explains all the cows.

To discuss anything recruitment or cow related you can email me on James@refind.co.uk

You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here

Executive search – ‘worst-case’ interview scenario?

Everyone gets nervous before an important meeting or interview. It doesn’t matter how much you may have prepared, there are some common intrusive thoughts that always manage to worm their way into your head the night before and cause you to think about possible escape routes should the worst happen. Through our executive search experience, we can help.

But worry not, you don’t need a getaway car parked around the corner to survive an awkward interview. There are tried and tested things that you can do to overcome these embarrassing moments. And who knows, if you flip the situation successfully it could work in your favour and become an example of how you have managed uncomfortable situations.

The person that you are meeting isn’t focused on you

If you notice that the other person is frantically typing on their laptop and hasn’t said in advanced that they may be taking notes or replying to a work email, then your brain may go into overdrive and wonder whether they are mind-numbingly  bored in your presence.

Read the situation and your audience, and if you’re still not confident that you’ve got their attention then politely asking questions to advance the conversation could resolve any worries that you may have. If they need to rearrange to a more appropriate time, then this gives them chance to do so

Being too early can be just as awkward as being too late

When travelling to an interview you can sometimes misjudge the traffic and end up an hour early…. It’s better than being late and although tempting, it might not be the time to show them how keen you are!

The chances are that whoever you are meeting is busy and won’t be sat waiting around for you an hour before (or after) your scheduled appointment, so if you know that you’re going to be too early go and grab a latte and steady your nerves. 15 minutes is plenty early enough to get there.

You forgot your presentation or interview materials

This problem can be easily resolved by planning properly. Try not to rely too heavily on paper materials, which can be misplaced or lost. Instead, ensure that you have an offline copy of your work ready and waiting on your laptop that you will be able to bring up regardless of the wifi situation.

And if your laptop dies, make sure that you’ve sent an email to yourself with all of the key documents on, so you can at least access them on your phone as a last resort. After your meeting, ask the person that you’ve been with if they would like you to email over a copy of any document that you’ve just used so they will be able to access them when reviewing your meeting.

Everybody has at least one awkward interview story, and how you deal with any embarrassment can say a lot about you and how successfully you manage situations. Also, a little bit of humour can go a long way, and we can all be united in our common awkwardness.

To have a chat about your executive search, contact me at carl@refind.co.uk.

You can view more about Carl Hinett our Executive search of HR professional’s specialist here.
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10 ways HR must change today to be effective tomorrow

Changing HR

For this instalment of ‘Insiders Story’ Peter Cablis from HR consultancy firm Evolving HR, shared his thoughts with me on ways that HR can change to be more effective in the future.

Over the few years the seductive Ulrich Business Partnering and Shared Services model has become the dominant HR force in most business enterprises. Meanwhile, industry has gone through major shifts with up-sizing, down-sizing and right-sizing. Organisations now reside in a constant and rapid state of flux; when one change project ends another must begin. Change is the new normal.

‘Club class’ HR services

Throw into the mix the fact that executives who have become used to highly tailored products and services are demanding ‘club class’ treatment from HR too. On top of this, employees – who have been brought up in a society of instant gratification, limitless choice and cloud-based access to almost everything – now expect a far more gratifying HR service. They demand better engagement, relevant practices and elements of customisation. An apathetic, tired response is simply not an option.

HR must adapt or it will become irrelevant to its user base

Yet, HR in many organisations is buckling from the sheer volume of work, pace of change and the demands to respond ever quicker. Insular, lack of flexibility & innovation, and slow responding HR departments that apply ‘one size fits all’ are becoming increasingly outdated and irrelevant.

So where does this leave the future of HR. Can HR simply carry on doing what it’s doing, or is there a fundamental shift required in thinking and working practices? If HR doesn’t adapt it could become increasingly irrelevant to its user base.

Which way is up?

We’ve seen several different themes and models of HR delivery emerging across different sectors and organisations that are leading HR upwards out of the current disorientation:

  1. HR needs to remain strategic, but the strategy needs to be flexible, to quickly change to be in line with organisational and business unit specific changes.
  • HR still needs to deliver consistent high quality, cost-effective back office support, but with greater breadth of service.
  • HR needs to develop a reputation for providing invaluable, timely and highly actionable data driven insights to the business which enhance business decision-making.
  • Adding value by managing more of the outsourced suppliers to their organisations, to improve the quality and breadth of service, whilst reducing the cost of service.
  • A shift to cloud-based technology is important.
  • Delivery of a more customised service to different users across the organisation.
  • Cross functional, rapid-reaction taskforces made up from people from across the business, including HR. Suited to fast paced, constantly changing organisations.
  • Internal HR consulting model made up of experts adopting a consultative style to focus on specific business issues and provides professional advice. Best suited changing organisations with a lot of project work.
  • A decentralised HR model that provides services to autonomous businesses with very different needs. This would include decentralising BP’s and centre’s of excellence but also, in many cases, transactional work.
  • A smaller HR function, but one which still retains a shared service element, small corporate function with specialists and a small number of localised experts.

Thank you to Peter from Evolving HR for his thoughts on making HR more effective.

To discuss further, you can email me on James@refind.co.uk.

You can view more about James Cumming our change and business transformation specialist here.

Hiring an Interim Executive? You need to get it right! Discover the 8 step process you should follow, by downloading our free eBook here.

Does internal customer service affect your external customer experience?

Does internal customer service affect your
external customer experience ?

The experience that your employees have, directly impacts the service and experience your customers receive.

 A pretty strong statement, but one that I absolutely agree with.

This week, Lynsey Kitching and I explored how the experience your employees get from their internal functions can directly relate to the experience your external customers get from your business.

The first thing to note that although I talk about shared services in this blog, the statement relates to ANY internal function within your business and the fact of the matter is that almost any role within an organisation can be linked back to the customer in some way.

Well the scorecard is green so we must be doing fine!

Lynsey, Owner of Lynsey J Kitching consultancy, spent many years working with National Grid. During this time, she headed up a project to improve service quality within their shared service function.

People often use scorecards as a measure of success within shared services. But just because your scorecards are green, doesn’t mean your customers are happy with the service they are receiving. How are you getting feedback?

Lynsey used NPS (net promoter scores) to get internal and external customer feedback and began looking at their low scores/detractors and found there was a direct correlation between feedback and performance on both internal and external NPS.

”The initial NPS scores and supporting feedback from customers was the shared services team were not accessible, our customers didn’t know what we did, email dot boxes didn’t work, and our processes weren’t transparent. That led us to develop our service proposition…to be responsive, reliable and easy to deal with. And act straight away – implement a service management tool to remove dot boxes, set up a pop-up help desk at our largest colleague office and work on improving our first identified colleague journey – how to buy goods or services. In the first 12 months the NPS score improved by 22 points.”

Story time

One of the biggest detractors on Lynsey’s NPS for external customers was a lack of consistency/continuity with people when solving an issue.

An example of how shared services could affect this score.

Your payroll administrator processes the wrong payroll data for your account manager. Your account manager gets paid incorrectly. When he tries to speak with shared services, he gets passed from one person to another with nobody really taking accountability for the error. Account manager becomes disengaged and starts job hunting and leaves his role. Your customer calls up to speak to their account manager only to find they are no longer there. Said customer is on their fifth account manager in 2 years. They are sick of having to re-introduce themselves to someone new and spend time getting them up to speed. Your customer leaves and goes to another provider.

Now I appreciate this is a pretty drastic scenario. But it happens.

‘Every role in shared services can be connected back to the customer and, as a result of this, every role within shared services is hugely important’.

Your Payroll administrator thinks they are the lowest part of the value chain. How can what they do affect your customers, when they don’t even speak to them?

And there lies your problem. Your shared services team doesn’t understand their purpose and they don’t feel empowered to deliver service to the best of their ability.

The leadership role is to set the climate and enable their teams to look at the bigger picture and how their role has an impact.

You need to move from talking in process and transaction terms, to talking about colleague journeys and experience – from setting strategic objectives to individual performance management. Empower your colleagues to step away from process when needed to improve experience (obvs balancing any controls/regulations).

So, there you have it! How internal customer experience can affect external customer service.

If anyone has undertaken a similar project, both Lynsey and I would be really interested to see any hard data relating to customer service and employee experience!

If you would like to speak with Lynsey about her consultancy services, get in touch and we will connect you, or you can catch her on LinkedIn.

For all things HR Shared Services, change and transformation and if you would like to feature in our ‘Insiders Story’ blog, email me on kate@refind.co.uk.

You can view more about Kate Wass our HR Shared Services specialist here.

Why won’t top performing shared service professionals join your business? And what to do about it. Download our free eBook here.  

Using robots to make Human Resources more human…

Using robots to make Human Resources more human

I know what you’re thinking….surely that doesn’t make sense? How can robots make things more human?

RPA and AI are becoming more and more popular within shared services functions across the world, but countries have very different views on them.

In china, they want to use it for world domination. In America, they believe it will put businesses in the best possible commercial position. And in the UK…well, we still don’t want robots to hurt us or take our jobs.

I have to tell you guys, the least popular purpose for automation is headcount reduction. If your primary goal when automating is to reduce headcount or to save money, then it will more than likely fail.

Automation is used to enable better quality in operations and more workforce agility.

So, what is RPA and what is AI and why should you use it?

RPA and AI often get mistaken for the same thing, or organisations decide to use both. RPA and AI are two different technologies, with two different uses, and quite often you don’t need both!

The Lowdown on RPA and AI

AI is short for Artificial Intelligence. Artificial Intelligence replicates the human thought process. It takes the knowledge of a human and builds it into the application. AI deals with unstructured data, meaning that it self improves and continuously thinks and learns. It is the ‘brain and spine’.

RPA is short for Robotic Process Automation. RPA behaves like a person. It deals with high volumes of structured data to carry out repetitive tasks that humans do. The purpose of RPA is to remove those high volume, repetitive tasks that we hate. It is ‘the fingers’.

How do you decide?

Before you chose to adopt RPA or AI, as a business you have some big questions to ask yourself – as the decisions you make will affect the next 10 years of your business operations.

  • What business am I in?
  • How do I want to deliver services?
  • What do I need my operating model to look like?

The cultural impact of automation is significant. It touches every employee and manager within an organisation, so equally, the training and messaging around automation has to be key!

How to make it successful?

  • Choose your areas of automation carefully and then work with humans to identify what can be offloaded to automation and take their knowledge to create the automation.
  • Train your people on RPA and AI. Help them to understand what it is and how they can identify processes that may be suitable for automation.
  • Get your house in order! Automation only works with good, clean data.
  • Continually review your processes to make sure your automation is efficient and user friendly.

Automation is your friend. It isn’t here to take your job or make your life hard. On the contrary, the whole point of automation is to take the robot out of the human. To remove the high volume, menial tasks within your role or your team, freeing people up to contribute more value-add work to your business, so don’t fear it, work with it!

For all things HR Shared Services, change and transformation get in touch with us via the info form below, and if you would like to feature in our ‘Insiders Story’ blog, email me on kate@refind.co.uk.

You can view more about Kate Wass our HR Shared Services specialist here.

Why won’t top performing shared service professionals join your business? And what to do about it. Download our free eBook here.  

Let’s talk about time management

We’ve all heard of it and, although it’s something that comes around like clockwork, whenever it’s time for a performance review, it’s still something that we ironically don’t always have the time to work on, me included.

It’s easy to be ‘busy’ at work, but are we busy in the right context? Or are we all just busy being fools? And how can we make our time at work more productive?

Alleviate pressure

We live in a world where we are always switched ‘on’. Our smartphones constantly alert us to any new messages and emails, our smartwatches vibrate all day long and alert us whenever we make so many steps, and we always seem to be on the computer where there is no shortage of information being directed our way.

There’s pressure from our peers, directors, business owners and employees asking us questions, and there’s no longer an off switch for anyone.

So, how can we implement some simple structure that will help alleviate some of this pressure?

Plan, plan, and then plan a bit more. It’s not the most revolutionary answer I’ll admit, but it works.

Most people don’t plan for the following day, but you’ll be surprised at how effective setting aside time to assess the rest of your week can be.

Get organised

Create your own spreadsheet or write a list of all of your tasks for the week, whichever method works for you, and take a break every hour to assess what you’ve achieved since you last checked over your list. You will either be amazed at how much you’ve done, or surprised at how much you’ve procrastinated!

Treat your time like you would your finances – keep a close eye on them!

The most important thing is to be honest with yourself, and question how you should delegate your time. Doing this will help you identify your biggest waste of time, so you can change it!

To have a chat about your executive search, contact me at carl@refind.co.uk

You can view more about Carl Hinett our Executive search of HR professionals specialist here.

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Preparing for the future of retail: getting to know your people

Preparing for the future of retail

HR professionals gathered recently to discuss the challenges and opportunities presented by HR reporting and analysis in retail. 
 

Starting point 

The starting point to more effectively understand your people, is to first decide on the data you want to collect, and how the data will be used and analysed. Simply collecting as much data as possible and then attempting to make sense of it is typically a much less successful approach. 

At Travelex, one of the main focuses was on staff retention and the team wanted to better understand how to retain staff. 

Managers were given access to the people data through the Workday system, and Travelex is now seeing changes in behaviours based on a better understanding of that data. If the data highlights an employee is potentially at risk of leaving, managers can now intervene earlier to find out why and potentially take actions to prevent this from happening. 

Implementing new HR technology 

One of the challenges that Travelex faced during implementation was changing the culture across its business in the UK and internationally to adapt to a self-service HR system. To overcome this, the HR team worked closely with the IT department and regional managers to implement the changes. 

The company also focused on local needs, adapting its strategy based on regional and cultural differences internationally. There were also challenges around how the HR system was viewed by employees, and the HR team worked to show employees the value of using the system. 

During the implementation process, it was useful for Travelex to focus on collecting and understanding only a selected set of data points that could be easily analysed and understood, rather than attempting to understand a huge amount of data. The selected data points were easy for managers to dissect and understand in monthly review meetings with their teams. 

The right tools for self-service 

The discussion then moved to giving staff the tools to use the self-service systems in store, and one of the challenges that came up was around connectivity. 

In-store Wi-Fi is as useful for staff to carry out self-service HR functions as it is for consumers to enhance their experience, and definitely something worth investing in for retailers. 

Workday provides extensive self-service capabilities that Travelex staff use on their own mobile devices regardless of their location. 

Valued and effective 

For HR systems to be useful and adopted by employees, they need to be easy to use and not require much training. One of the greatest challenges faced by several retailers in the room was the outdated and difficult-to-use HR systems in place in their businesses. 

Pulling data together manually, having to create reports from scratch and dealing with dissatisfied staff who find the old HR system confusing or difficult to use were common complaints. Aside from changing systems, though, most retailers acknowledged they often needed to do the best they could with what they had available to them. 

Retailers also debate how they can measure the pound value of HR functions for board members, and agreed this is one area where data can help. If people KPIs are agreed at the outset, then showing how those improved and what this means for the business is one way to prove HR’s pound value. It also helps the HR team if they can articulate how using the HR systems will make the life of employees themselves easier – it’s not just about making life easier for HR. 

Looking to the future 

Looking to the future of more effective HCM systems that help HR, employees and managers, the discussion turned again to data and how to use it most effectively. 

Performance reviews online are difficult to get right, as it’s hard to replicate the richness of one-to-one conversations. On a system these conversations become very black and white. It ends up just being a score on a screen. 

Some advice for all retail HR professionals who want to use data to better understand their people: decide what data you’re going to collect and then what you want to understand from that. Unless you’re clear on that, you won’t be able to make better decisions for your employees. 

 
 
Click here to read the original article from Retail Week. 

To discuss this article further, you can email me on danny@refind.co.uk

re:find help businesses find the talent they need to deliver transformational change.  Clients call us when they need change to happen quickly and effectively. We are Executive Search and Interim Search specialists. 

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