The best business advice, opinion, news and expertise in Greater Manchester and further afield.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Friday Guest Blog - Should you Employ Someone who Held a Much Higher Level Role in the Past?

By Lyndsey Meredith, Director of ethical recruitment company Meredith Consultancy Services

This is a somewhat controversial question and everyone will have different opinions on this, so I suggest we look at it from both sides and let you make up your own mind.

There are a lot of talented people out there at the moment who are currently un-employed. A lot of them have held high level positions in the past on good salaries and for one reason or another are now looking at lower paid lower level jobs.

In this case many may have been made redundant and are happy to work their way up again for the right role or the types of roles that they used to hold simply do not exist anymore. Alternatively they may be looking at a lower level role for other reasons, including having less stress or more life balance.

Employers are taking two different and opposing views on applications from these types of candidates. The first and more popular view in my experience is that the employer sees these candidates as over-qualified for the position and so the employer assumes that they are “just looking for a job for now” and will leave when another role more befitting their experience comes along. The second view from employers is that they are getting a lot of experience for their money and are actually getting a great deal that they would not have got prior to the recession.

I will let you take your own view. However, advice for employers in this position:

1) Assess the candidate on their ability to do THIS job.

2) Ask the candidate how THIS job fits in with their long-term goals and aspirations.

3) Ensure that the salary for THIS job is adequate for the candidate to live on.

4) Play devil’s advocate! Ask the candidate what they would do in a few months’ time if a job at their previous level came along.

5) Ensure that the candidate will not continue looking for employment once employed with you.

Unfortunately there are no guarantees when it comes to people but go with your gut feeling. There are some fantastic and talented candidates out there actively seeking work - don’t discount anyone until you have at least met with them and asked the above questions.

Meredith Consultancy Services is a local, independent ethical recruitment agency. Based in Cheadle, it supplies high quality professional staff to companies across the North West.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Friday Guest Blog

By Neil Kinnon, General Manager, TransGlobal Payment Solutions Ltd.

For most businesses the trading journey at some time leads to making or receiving payments in a foreign currency. Whilst most payments within the UK are fast and reliable, with both transparent and low pricing, the same is not true when transacting in foreign currencies. Foreign payments have traditionally been the domain of the UK banks that use their relationships with other banks around the world to exchange currency and execute the payments. Although there have been massive shifts in the direction of trade, little has changed in the last 50 years in the ways banks handle your payments. The key challenges with this old network is that it moves money slowly, it does not allow track and trace of payments and with multiple banks in the chain, each one adds to the cost of the transaction. If you add foreign exchange into the mix, you will also find a large chunk of your intended payment gets gobbled up as it moves around the world.

Whilst it would seem banks are the necessary plumbing to make international payments and foreign currency exchange, they do not offer the only choice for businesses. As banks have been slow to react to the changes in global trade, non-bank providers have risen to the challenge and now provide much better routes for your global money movement.

Non-bank providers fall into two broad categories. Foreign exchange (FX) providers such as TransGlobal Payment Solutions and internet payment service providers such as PayPal. In general the internet service is good for low value and one-off payments, whilst larger or regular payments abroad should be handled by specialist FX providers.

When choosing a provider (or comparing one with your bank) the following criteria will help in making your decision:

1. How good is their global payment network? Can they make payments directly into the country you wish to pay in without using multiple banks and without having to use costly wire transfers

2. How transparent is the pricing? Do you understand exactly how much you will pay for your payment? Many FX brokers offer free payments yet hide the cost of currency conversion, meaning the total cost of the payment is hidden. Ask the provider to contract to a payment fee, an agreed currency exchange rate and agreed fees should anything go wrong with the payment

3. Do they provide a simple, free to use on-line system for payments that checks your payment details are correct and provides clear pricing on each transaction? Error checking will reduce the high cost of repairs should a payment be rejected.

Following these three simple steps and you will both simplify and reduce the cost of your international payments.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Better skills policy must be at the heart of an economic strategy for the North

By David McKeith, Chairman of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Friday saw the publication of the Northern Economic Futures Commission (NEFC) final report. The two top line messages are that the northern economy is too large to ignore and thus revitalising it is important for national prosperity. Spurring on Northern growth is dependent on not one silver bullet but a combination of improving skills, infrastructure, innovation, investment and governance.

Improving skills is the most important of these drivers for growth in areas like the North of England. The OECD, Lord Heseltine’s review and the BIS Select Committee agree as does the Richard Review of Apprenticeships, published last week. Improving skill levels in the northern economy has particular challenges. For instance we have:

• a higher proportion of people with no qualifications at all and a lower proportion of people with high-level skills in comparison with the national average

• outward migration of recently qualified graduates

• a mismatch between skills supply and the demands of local employers

• a lack of demand for skills among employers, the poor utilisation of skills that are available, and the lack of clear training budgets and plans for staff

• a lack of information about the current a future shape of the economy and the kinds of skills that will be required

A key factor in tackling these challenges is increasing the supply of high-quality apprenticeship places and equipping young people with the skills needed for gainful employment. The National Apprenticeship Service and its partners probably need to double the number of young people in advanced apprenticeships by 2015 to 60,000. To do this we need to shift funding out of intermediate apprenticeship places for the over-25s and undergo a major expansion of pre-apprenticeship training programmes in northern further education colleges. The development of local apprenticeship hubs or associations that bring together employers, training providers and trade unions to plan and deliver apprenticeship places is helping with this.

More fundamentally, if we are to better match local future employer needs with local skills training provision, local authorities and employers must have more say and greater control over public funding for apprenticeships and training. Localised approaches to skills policy have been highly effective in areas such as Michigan, Brandenburg and south Netherlands. By devolving a sizeable proportion of skills and welfare-to-work funding to local authorities and their partners in city-regions, we can replicate this approach. Local stakeholders are best placed to identify leading vocational centres of excellence focused on the key growth sectors and aligning public resources from all levels to deliver more coordinated and effective skills provision.

In Manchester, in response to recent initial changes to skills policy and the associated funding opportunities, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce and New Economy (the economic development unit of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority) have created a joint venture to develop a unified Skills and Employment Hub.

This will secure greater ownership of, and influence over, the skills system by employers, particularly SMEs. This partnership is also seeking a more effective alignment of the skills system with economic opportunities so that it can respond to current and future labour market demand at a city region level. We are determined to develop one skills service for Greater Manchester with strategic leadership from both employers and the LEP’s Skills and Employment Partnership so that investments can be coordinated to deliver the maximum value and service.

To enable initiatives like this to happen across the North, devolution of budgets for adult further education, skills and apprenticeships must be accompanied by increasing the capacity for gathering robust labour market intelligence at the local level and the taking of further steps to integrate employment and skills policy. The latter could include giving city regions greater responsibility for co-commissioning the Work Programme.

While skills will not grab the headlines, its effect on the attention-grabbing unemployment and GDP figures should not be underestimated. Skills policy is not hugely exciting, nor is it without complexity. It is though crucial to sustaining a thriving northern economy.

David McKeith is a commissioner on the NEFC and Chairman of Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce.