Outplacement counselling is key for redundant staff in tough times
Question : What advice do you have for firms having to lay-off professional or executive staff?
Kim Johnston, consultant with MSL Search and Selection replies:
Job losses are sadly inevitable in an economic climate like the present and as we’ve already seen, Northern Ireland certainly isn’t immune. We’ve heard that redundancies are happening across a number of sectors locally, including construction, manufacturing, retail and the legal profession.
Unfortunately the redundancy announcements we’ve heard recently won’t be the last and it is increasingly clear that these will impact right up to very senior levels.
Some leading companies support senior executives that they regrettably have to make redundant by offering outplacement counselling. This involves hiring a specialist consultancy to provide a range of services intended to help the executive find a new job.
This approach can be important in helping maintain morale amongst remaining staff by showing a sensitive and fair approach to the redundancy process and by demonstrating that the company is a responsible and caring employer.
Outplacement counselling can also be extremely important for other organisational relationships that the company must maintain, including with the local community, local politicians, customers and suppliers. All of these stakeholders recognise that many businesses have no choice but to make some staff redundant in the current climate. So managing this process sensitively can actually enhance an organisation’s reputation.
Outplacement counsellors provide personal coaching to help the candidate come to terms with the shock of losing their job and to move quickly and positively to the point where they are able to take on a new role. The aim is to help them decide on their next direction and to prepare themselves for a very different job market.
One key is to help them to consider alternative careers they might not be thinking about. This may not necessarily come in the form of a full-time role, but there is a consultancy and interim management market out there that is growing.
The market for finding a new job at present is extremely tough, but we find that candidates benefiting from outplacement enjoy above average success in finding a position that sufficiently challenges them and allows them to continue their career progression — although probably not in the same field.
Whether an executive being made redundant or a company executive having to let staff go, 2009 will be a very challenging year. Making the right decisions and utilising the correct advice will be crucial to moving forward positively.
Question: Although my business has secured several new customers lately, it hasn’t improved our bottom line. Have you any thoughts on why this should be?
Noyona Chundur, Invest Northern Ireland’s corporate marketing manager, replies:
The fact is that customers are not all equal. Some are more valuable than others. If you analyse your customers you’ll probably see that a small number of them account for a large percentage of your income.
It’s useful to build a profile of these customers; who they are, what size they are, their industry or sector, purchasing behaviour and what they think of your product or service. This will help you understand the type of customer that is most valuable to you in terms of profitability.
Customers tend to be more profitable if they buy high-margin products or services, pay full price without negotiating discounts, place a small number of large orders rather than many small orders, pay on time, and do not require extensive after-sales service. Perhaps your new customers don’t tick any of these boxes and therefore are not contributing to increasing your profits.
There is a helpful interactive tool on the nibusinessinfo.co.uk website that can help you identify the customers that are most valuable to your business. You’ll find it in the Selling part of the site’s sales and marketing section where there is also advice on how to sell more to your most valuable customers. This can be more profitable than acquiring new customers that need a lot of account management time.
At the same time you don’t want to depend entirely on existing customers. But once you know the profile of the customers that most contribute to your profitability, you can then target similar businesses to secure new, and hopefully high-value, customers.
Question: What are the advantages of renewable energy over traditional, fossil-fuelled energy for SMEs?
Michael Doran, director, Action Renewables replies:
The main driver for any business is cost savings and this is essential when considering long-term benefits of incorporating renewables into a businesses energy mix. Renewable energy has several advantages over traditional fossil-fulled energy:
Installing renewable energy is a visible statement that you care about the environment. This can also be used as a positive marketing tool to promote an organisation.
Renewable energy sources provide a virtually CO2 free source of energy and will help mitigate the predicted negative effects of climate change on business.
Tax Advantages — The Enhanced Capital Allowance List enables companies to claim back 100% tax relief in the first year for their investment in energy-saving machinery.
Exemption from The Climate Change Levy (CCL) (a tax applied to electricity, coal and its derivatives and natural gas and LPG). Any energy production within your business which reduces your use of any of the above fuels will reduce your exposure to the CCL and provide an additional financial incentive for renewable energy production.
Renewable energy generates NIROCs (The Northern Ireland Renewable Obligation Certificate), a certified amount of electricity produced from a renewable source and these have value within the electricity market; they can be sold onto producers in order to help them meet their obligations under UK schemes.
Going forward companies which invest in renewable technologies will find UK and EU legislative requirements easier and cheaper to comply with.