Maintaining Employee Engagement

Running a company is difficult work. Not only do you have to make sure your product is up to date, awareness of your brand is being spread, and everything that needs to be done is getting done, you also have a mass of employees that you want to care about their jobs. It is hard to set aside time to brainstorm employee engagement, but ensuring that your employees want the company to succeed will make your job much easier.

To begin, owners of companies have to toss away the idea that pushing employees to complete tasks will be effective in the long run. As you are in a position of power, you must take a step back and look at the issue from another angle. Instead of asking ‘how can I get my employees to work more quickly,’ ask ‘what motivates my employees?’ People are willing to work quickly and efficiently for a sense of purpose, so make your company’s mission into a purpose. No matter the company, its mission can always be construed in a way that shows how it helps others. This gives people a reason to come together and work toward a common goal.

Furthermore, make sure your employees know where your company is going. Doing the same job on a daily basis can lead to a quick burnout, but not if employees know what their work is going toward. People will care about the company’s future will work when they share the vision that you have. Remember, hearing and accepting employee feedback is a key strategy when it comes to a company’s vision. The company’s future must be a team effort in order to retain employees on a long-term basis.

Finally, it is beneficial to give rewards to employees, not for meeting their own goals and quotas, but for helping others. Teamwork is vital in any company, for employee loyalty and engagement, and you encourage it by rewarding employees who take time out of their days to help others. Do not make the mistake of pitting employees against each other, not even for jobs in which quotas must be met. Instead, make everything a team effort and watch your employee engagement grow exponentially.

It is difficult to handle the responsibilities of owning and company and oversee employees as well. However, the future success of a company depends on the work of its employees, so employee engagement should be a top priority.

For more tips on how to engage employees, read this article on


New Insights on Managing Millenials

Firoz PatelMuch has been said about millennials and how they are adjusting to the confines of the traditional workplace and typical 9 to 5 job. From being inspired to create their own models of a new workday to accepting salary cuts for the right company culture, young professionals are changing the face of the workplace. While it is not fair to pigeonhole or make sweeping generalizations about your employees who happen to be of a certain generation (in this case millenials), it’s worth it to familiarize yourself with trends and characteristics common among that demographic – and what it is that they are looking for in their places of employment. Especially when you consider the fact that they will soon make up the majority of the workforce.

What do Millenials Bring to the Table?

They Are Tech Savvy

Considering what it is exactly that defines a generation can be a heady task. However, in the case of millenials, it’s undeniable that their relationship with technology is unlike that of their predecessors. Not only is technology changing faster than it has in the past, but it is becoming widely accessible. Although millennials didn’t necessarily create the technology that is so commonplace today, they did grow up with it. That means that for many members of this generation, there is a facility with certain types of technology that may need to be learned for other generations.

They Believe in Philanthropy And Doing Good

Much has been said about the expectations that millenials have for their workplaces. Millenials as a whole tend to demand workplaces that find ways to give back or provide some sort of work that is philanthropic in nature. Whether that means encouraging that employees participate in marathons in support of a cause or that the company gives a certain percentage of their bottom line away to philanthropic causes, this is clearly something that is very important to this generation. There is some irony in this fact, considering that millenials tend to get stereotyped as being particularly selfish.

They Are Connected

Millenial Workers are valuable for a number of reasons, but one is that they tend to be very connected. They are used to connecting with people online and in a lot of ways that means that they are hyper aware of what their peers are doing. Being constantly plugged into their peers means that they are likely to have insights into people of their age demographic that others might not. This connection to their peers and the world around them is an asset, so make sure that you utilize this.  

There are of course  a number of other factors that define this demographic, and of course there is a lot of variation within the group in terms of who these people are and what they are looking for from their employers. However, from an employer’s standpoint, the above points are important in better understanding this segment of your workforce.

Teaching Our Kids to Code

There’s no denying it. We are failing our kids. Estimates suggests that total global IT spending will hit $3.5 trillion this year alone. And that over the next five years, the use of digital technologies will expand the global GDP by $1.36 trillion.

Given these statistics, it’s shocking to realize that learning how to code and program isn’t compulsory. As a matter of fact, most students need to seek out specific programs, workshops or after-school sessions in order to get introduced to the concept of coding.

While this lack of coding or support to encourage this as a mandatory skill isn’t impossible, the real problem is in the discrepancy between the need for developer jobs and the lack of qualified candidates.

These numbers are staggering, and only begin to hint at the skills necessary to survive in the workforce of the not so distant future.

However, before we panic, about the lack of infrastructure set up to support teaching children how to learn how to code in the classroom, there are a number of sources that enable parents to help teach their kids these concepts and skills from a fairly early age.

Code Kids is a great film that addresses the issue, and is worth watching in full. See the trailer below or watch the film in its entirety.

Code Kids, The Documentary Trailer from Hemmings House on Vimeo.

The cost of a new way to pay

Online retail giant recently revealed a new checkout service borne from the Swedish payment solution company, Klarna. The partnership is still in its infancy, and Overstock admits that this is very much a testing period to see how customers respond to the integration of this new system into the buying process. But what was the reasoning behind the introduction of Klarna to a new audience? Well, it’s pretty clear once you understand how Klarna works. This system allows users to purchase products through Overstock simply by typing in their email and shipping address and perhaps their phone number. With Klarna, there is no need to type in your credit card information. 

Considering the growing amount of time that consumers spend on their mobile devices, it’s no surprise that many retailers are looking for the best way to enhance the user experience when it comes to a digital interface. Retailers like seek payment systems that make it as easy as possible for the consumer to buy.

Klarna addresses this with a system that combines the ease of Apple Pay or Android Pay with the “one click” element of buying something through something like Amazon’s app. The difference is that with Klarna, you aren’t limited by your device or the specific site that you’re visiting to utilize the service. Klarna works on various platforms and on many different sites.

When a user types in their email address, Klarna’s system almost instantly decides if it can allow you credit, by analyzing public and private data about you as a consumer. If the system deems that you qualify for this mini-loan, then it allows you to place your order and have 14 days to provide payment information. This system has already proven to be not only effective, but powerful in places like Germany, where almost nobody uses credit cards.

In coming years we will see how the system fairs in other countries with similar buying habits.

The Rise of the CFO

Firoz PatelIn recent years, much has been made of the role of the Chief Information Officer. This position gained notoriety and visibility over the past decade or so, as the potential for data analytics swelled to be virtually limitless. With the improvement of our tools and capabilities, naturally this role grew in stature owing to the insight that that this person could uncover when given access to so much information. To this day, the CIO still plays a critical part in the healthy functioning of any company and in harnessing and understanding the data surrounding how the company itself is or is not working. The CIO can help identify where there is room for improvement and find innovative ways to problem solve. This role is still important because data and data analysis plays in integral role in how companies operate. However, the role of the CFO is undergoing an elevated role, owing to the ability to combine data and finance. By leveraging data and analytics to come up with new ideas for revenue streams or optimizing those that already exist, the modern CFO is becoming an executive to watch, and creating a new talent pool for potential CEOs.

Although the change has been gradual, throughout the last decade, the role of the CFO has expanded to include greater responsibility and authority. This marks a significant departure from the traditional role that focused solely on crunching numbers all day. As the decisions made in the boardroom become more and more driven by real time data and insights, the role of the CFO becomes more dependent on data analytics and integral to the decision-making process. The ability to not only provide numbers, but analysis in a very immediate way requires that the CFO exercise a broader set of skills than those of the past.

Although generating and managing revenue has always been a central component to operations and the role of the CFO, we have never had access to so much data. This increase in available data tied to spending, earning and potential earnings means that in many cases the CFO acts more as the CIO in practice. Through identifying and interpreting this data, the CFO is exposed to the same information normally associated with the CIO. However, the CFO is looking at this information with a very specific intention, in line with the financial objectives of the company.
In practice, Chief Financial Officers must be highly analytical, well-versed in the technical aspects of running a company and have an intricate understanding of how to interpret data in a way that makes sense within the context of their company. With this rise in visibility and responsibility, it’s no surprise that we are seeing a spike in the trend of hiring former CFOs as CEOs. To learn more about some of the most successful CFOs in the tech sector today, please see my presentation here.

What Makes a Great Leader in the Digital Era?

firoz patelWhat makes a great leader? This question has been both asked and answered time and time again. However, perhaps the more relevant question now is, what makes a good leader, today? Of course the recommended character traits and suggested identifiers of great leadership vary by context. However, when looking specifically at the changing landscape of the technology sector, certain qualities tend to be encouraged. Below are the top qualities that make for an excellent leader in today’s digital landscape:

  1. Vision: A leader must have vision, otherwise there is no innovation or true direction.
  2. Self-Awareness: Being clear about one’s strengths and weaknesses, means that a true leader can compensate for his or her weaknesses by hiring others that are better equipped in those areas.
  3. Results-Driven: Although one can implement various metrics for success, focusing on quantifiable results and more specifically how to translate successes into quantifiable results is critical. Start-up and tech cultures at large are known to be constantly in flux – particularly in the beginning. This means that traditional markers of “success” may not indicate the true progress and wins of the organization. Therefore a true leader must be capable of finding the appropriate metrics for this environment.
  4. Life-long learners: There is an insatiable curiosity that comes from those who are constantly learning and see the value in this sort of growth. This quality is critical for those who want to be truly innovative.
  5. Create a Safe-to-fail environment : Creating this kind of environment encourages imagination,  problem-solving, creativity and gives employees a vote of confidence. By allowing employees the space to fail you are effectively creating a place for them to learn, to improve and to take risks. All of these things are what lead to eventual successes.
  6. Encourage a collaborative environment: Similar to the thought process behind creating a space that is safe to fail, by nurturing a collaborative environment, you are pooling together resources that together have the potential to be greater than the sum of their parts. Encouraging a collaborative as opposed to strictly competitive environment is beneficial when problem-solving. This point of collaboration is also important when considering the kinds of people that you want working for your company. Do they have the capacity to work well with others? Are they different enough from each other to have varying perspectives and opinions, but still capable of creating a pleasant and engaging working environment? These are all standards set by leaders.
  7. Problem-solver : In addition to having a vision, a great leader needs superior problem solving skills. Having a vision means little if you have no concrete steps for getting there. A leader who can easily try on different approaches to solving problems is well-equipped to face the challenges en route to attaining the vision.
  8. Great Communication Skills: While this may seem like a fairly obvious skill for anyone who is a great leader, it can be a pitfall for those that don’t naturally possess an ability to communicate. Within the context of an organization or group setting, a leader needs to be able to express things so that others understand the mission, their role and how things work. This means speaking clearly with confidence and purpose.
  9. Passion: A true leader needs to have passion as a driving force behind his or her work. It’s obvious when this is lacking. And how can a leader inspire others if he or she isn’t fully committed to the cause?
  10. Mentorship: As an established leader, mentorship is a great way to pay your own success forward. Sharing what you’ve learned and offering advice to up and comers is beneficial for all-involved. Most successful leaders point to specific people in their lives who helped shape them in some way when they were just starting out. As an inspiring leader, seek out someone who is more experienced in your field that you respect and connect with, and as an established leader, offer your insight to someone that you believe in.

Things worth reading: 26th May 2015

Things we’re reading today include …

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You must pay in cash

When you talk non-stop about digital, it sometimes gives you a reality check when you actually live life in a physical world.  The frustrations of crashed systems, products that don’t work, call centre operators who aren’t co-operative and check-in staff who can’t check-in.  Equally, there are the moments of pure bliss such as the smell of freshly cut grass, the first coffee of the day, the sight of a butterfly and the feel of the hot sun on the back of your neck.

We must not forget these realities, as digital should be all about making our physical world experiences even better.  Digital should be resolving the frustrations and augmenting the bliss.  However, the reason I mention this is that I also realise how far we have to go in some of my travels.  Two cases in point.

I saw a vending machine in the airport and wanted to buy one of the products shown.  The machine gave me two options.  Pay in local currency, of which I had none, or pay by credit card through their online service.  I chose the latter – the airport had free Wi-Fi – and entered their website domain.

First, the site would not load on my mobile.  Eventually, when it did, it was hardly navigable so I gave up and decided to get some local currency.  After a brief argument with the cambia de exchange, I returned with some crispy new notes in my hand and pushed one into the cash entry on the machine.  The machine rejected it.  I tried again.  It was rejected again.  This process was repeated several times and then I thought: I wonder if these notes are too new and crispy?  After crunching a note into a small ball and then straightening it again, I pushed this one into the cash slot and it worked.

Hmmm … I guess this vending company doesn’t sell very much.

The second experience was just paying for parking.  I’d left my car in the hotel car park for three nights and needed to move on.  Upon checking out, I asked the hotel if they had a deal on car parking.  No sir, said the nice checkout lady, you must pay separately at the machine as you enter the car park.  OK.

I walk to the car park and find the machine, enter my ticket and the grand sum of €94.80 appears.  I then try to see where to put my credit card.  Oh.  There’s no card slot and, sure enough, the screen shows a card with a big red cross over it.

Maybe the other machine will accept cards?  No.  Same again.

OK, so maybe I can pay the attendant as I have no cash.  I slink over to the attendant’s window, just as I spot him moving rapidly to the back door to escape.

Excusez moi!  I say loudly.   He turns and gives me the evil eye.  Canna I paya avec moi cartes?  My German isn’t very good, but he gets the idea, and walks out of the back door.  He comes around the side of the office and appears next to me, and grabs my arm.  No words are exchanged. 

The old man gives me the steely eye look again.  He points at my hand holding the credit card and at the machine’s screen, where the card with the red cross appears.  He then gives me a shake of the head to show the answer is no.

I get the idea that this is a cash only car park.  Wherea canna I getta money?  I ask in my best local accent.

He points out of the car park door and then shows a turn to the left and then a turn to the right in big sweeping motions.  I leave the car park and find the ATM nearby.  As I’m leaving the country, the last thing I wanted to do was to get more cash but … returning with €100 note in hand, the car park machine duly accepts my payment and gives me an exit ticket.

I purely recite these two examples of many, to illustrate that we are moving away from physical to digital but it’s going to be a slow process.


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