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Using advance Tech for predictive analytics in employee retention

Using advance Tech for predictive analytics in employee retention

This technique can help managers reduce attrition costs.

The future of human resources is changing. Like the rest of the business world, chief human resource officers (CHROs) and their teams are beginning to find that they need to focus on building a robust analytics capability to best prepare for the data-driven world.

“CHROs have said that they feel [pressured] as the only ones not bringing data to the table. The business is expecting HR to have similar numbers to marketing, though maybe not finance or operations,” observed Andrew Marritt, CEO of OrganizationView, a people analytics practice based in St Moritz, Switzerland. According to Marritt, the data-centric modern HR leader needs to know not only what has happened, but what is likely to happen.

A key HR concern for businesses is employee retention. There are significant financial and intangible costs associated with losing loyal and high-performing employees. Investments need to be made to find, hire, and train their replacements. There could also be a negative impact on the stakeholders they worked with regularly such as suppliers, colleagues, and customers. Some companies are starting to look to predictive analytics to increase their ability to mitigate the risk of employee turnover and increase retention.

Investment in building a people analytics capability need not be big at first, and businesses can benefit greatly from it. “Our research shows that the financial costs associated with attrition can range anywhere between 13% and 23% of annual compensation depending on the function/level of the employees under the scope of the study. In our experience, a focused attrition analytics predictive model can help lower this risk by 5% to 8% annually,” said Neeraj Tandon, director for workforce analytics and planning, Asia-Pacific, at Willis Towers Watson, in Gurgaon, India.

WHAT’S NEW

Traditional HR analytics are descriptive in nature and examine employee data across different dimensions such as department and demographics to identify past patterns within metrics like turnover and retention. Conclusions are then used to formulate talent policies. Descriptive analytics, however, cannot predict future outcomes at an individual employee level.

Predictive analytics does this by going a step further and using the evidence from descriptive analytics as inputs for advanced techniques like statistical modelling and machine learning. These methodologies provide forward-looking measures such as flight risk, which quantifies the likelihood of an employee’s leaving the organisation within a certain period of time.

Predictive analytics also identifies hidden connections between key factors contributing to employee turnover. The main predictor variables normally studied include pay, promotion, performance reviews, time spent at work, commute distance, and relationship with a manager. (See the chart, “Factors Contributing to Voluntary Turnover”, for a breakdown of key reasons for attrition at a sample organisation.) Organisations also use external data such as labour market indicators and the current economic scenario as causative variables while formulating hypotheses and building models for retention. HR teams and managers use the findings from the modelling to better design timely interventions to help retain employees.

Factors contributing to voluntary turnover

An ADP Research Institute white paper examined the factors leading to voluntary turnover at a sample company. The graphic below breaks down the reasons cited. By collecting and analysing the factors that contribute to turnover, companies can institute policies and procedures to address concerns.

In this example, management may want to focus its retention efforts on industry veterans who have not been with the company for very long or look at implementing more lenient telecommuting rules to ease attrition.

Source: ADP Research Institute white paper, Revelations From Workforce Turnover Study.

Deloitte estimates that about 8% of global businesses leverage predictive analytics for talent management, and the ones that do tend to be larger. According to Brian Kropp, group vice president at Gartner, organisations that develop this capability tend to be in sectors that are intellectual property dependent such as financial services, healthcare, and fast-moving consumer goods. Globally, businesses in all major economies are working towards acquiring this competence.

COST VERSUS BENEFITS

Organisations looking to develop competence in predictive analytics have several options. Consulting organisations offer expertise towards building this capability. For businesses looking to set up internal capabilities for smaller capital outlay, many choose to employ or train in-house data scientists who may turn to inexpensive software such as IBM SPSS or free open-source software known as R for their initial modelling.

External vendors that set up human capital management systems with predictive analytics capabilities are also available at different price points. However, experts warn that internal teams should make sure that the human capital management systems offered integrate with data systems within the organisation. The systems should not overpromise and underdeliver in terms of features and tools, and vendors should provide the guidance to use them insightfully.

DATA-BASED CHALLENGES

According to Bersin by Deloitte, an HR research organisation, setting up clean and accurate data streams is, and will remain, a challenge for people analytics. As the research indicates, most big organisations have five to seven systems of record for their human resources data. This means that information often used in predictive modelling is inaccurate or unavailable, a serious stumbling block.

“As statisticians, we do deploy multiple data treatments to improve the quality of data. However, often data on some important variable are incomplete, and as a result we ignore these variables. Some of these variables could be important to predict the outputs. Hence, it’s important that organisations continuously focus on data quality improvement,” Tandon said.

Companies should run specific data quality programs to make the data fit for modelling. These programs would be of greater effectiveness if they were directed at key variables that predict output variables such as attrition rather than across the entire dataset, he added.

BUILDING A GOOD MODEL

Besides clean, accurate data streams, a few further steps can be taken to ensure that predictive retention models are a robust tool for decision-making. For one, studying the workforce in clusters of employees with similar characteristics and reasons for leaving the organisation is essential for building models that lead to targeted and effective retention strategies, according to Tandon.

Model building also goes through multiple iterations to ensure it fits the data optimally, which includes choosing or eliminating causative variables scientifically, and testing the model on an existing dataset to gauge how accurately it predicts actual outcomes. With the acknowledgement that numbers do not tell the entire story, intuition is also factored into models. “There is a good reason people are intuitive; they have got experience,” explained Marritt on how this contributes to the model’s effectiveness.

However, a degree of inaccuracy is associated with predictive modelling, and this is where HR and managers play an important role. “Data should just be another voice at the table. Decisions have to be made by humans,” said Marritt, on how these tools can influence employees’ working lives. It is always better to roll up the data and use them at an aggregated level such as teams, rather than at an individual level, because the implications of making an incorrect decision are considerable, he added.

Last but not least, as with any new initiative, organisations must recognise that adequate coaching and oversight mechanisms should be in place to help users leverage the technique correctly and thoughtfully. According to Tandon, managers are being trained on the key objectives of developing attrition models and coached on how to use the information to prevent high-performing employees from leaving, without creating a bias against the identified individuals.

Central governing teams (often comprising business and HR team members) monitor and track interventions taken by line managers to reduce attrition risk for employees identified as a high flight risk. This also helps organisations bring some level of consistency in interventions to control attrition, Tandon added.

TARGETED APPROACHES

Once these checks and balances are in place, a data-driven approach that includes predictive analytics is seen to bring greater transparency and balance to decision-making. “There have been instances where decisions were made by those who were the most vocal. This will be harder in a world where data is needed to support decisions,” observed Marritt.

The key causative variables that emerge during modelling will also help organisations craft more effective retention strategies. If commute distance emerges as a major driver, for example, greater efforts can be directed towards options such as remote working. If a limited training budget is available, it can be used to provide inputs for those employee segments that have a high flight risk. While HR and managers have always designed these interventions, a forward-looking, rigorous technique enables them to direct time and money towards these efforts with greater precision and with greater confidence in the outcome.

Furthermore, finding unexpected patterns in the data can help design retention strategies that make strong business sense. Marritt’s team at OrganizationView, for instance, found that high work pressure was a key cause for attrition at a certain financial services organisation. However, it was more so for low to midlevel performers while top performers actually thrived under high pressure and were more likely to leave in its absence. Since high-performer attrition had a greater financial impact, the organisation focused on this rather than overall attrition.

THE NEAR HORIZON

Companies are experiencing a massive change in the data they have about customers, and the same change is coming to what they know about employees, according to Kropp. Organisations that figure this out and get there faster will retain a higher-quality workforce. It will be the single most successful differentiating factor on that front, and a must-have for businesses that cross a thousand employees, he added.

Over the last three years, Gartner has also seen a significant increase in the number of organisations that collect employee data in unconventional ways, such as social media activity, speed of keystrokes, mood recognition, email text and frequency, and wearable microphones. Organisations are attempting to understand employee behaviour and experience through these experiments, and some of them will be input into models, which will increasingly graduate from predicting flight risk and quality of hire, which are relatively easy to measure, to hard-to-define variables such as employee engagement and performance, Kropp said.

On the maturity front, while only a small percentage of organisations surveyed by Deloitte currently have the capability for people analytics, in a more recent survey 69% of businesses say they are integrating data to build a people analytics database. The analytics function will also grow into a multidisciplinary team that will solve business-critical problems to drive business results.

Source : FM UK

High demand for board positions for CFO’s

High demand for board positions for CFO’s

CFOs to participate on corporate boards is increasing.

Seventy-nine per cent of CFOs are experiencing increased demand for their expertise on corporate boards, according to an Ernst & Young survey of 800 global finance chiefs. CFO and Beyond: The Possibilities and Pathways Outside Finance communicated the results of the survey and a study of 347 companies worldwide with annual revenue over $5 billion.

Current or former CFOs make up 14% of board members of the companies studied, up from 8% in 2002. And 41% of audit committee chairs are current or former CFOs, up from 19% in 2002.

The desire on the part of CEOs to have finance professionals look beyond their functional silo to collaborate effectively on strategic decisions was revealed in the CGMA report Rebooting Business: Valuing the Human Dimension. Those same skills are sought by corporate boards, and CFOs are supplying them.

Jim Ladd, CPA, CGMA, senior vice president of finance and operations at the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, estimated that he has served on about 18 boards during his career. His current board responsibilities include an audit committee role for a New York Stock Exchange-listed company, a lead independent director position with a privately owned company in Seattle, and participation on two not-for-profit boards.

He said finance executives can contribute a lot to boards.

“They’re generally sought out initially because of finance background and a knowledge of financial reporting and audit risks and that sort of thing,” Ladd said. “But CPAs have a broader background than that. And people discover that.”

Audit committee a good fit

Finance skills make CFOs ideal candidates for audit committee positions. In many jurisdictions, regulatory requirements demand that at least one audit committee member have financial expertise to keep abreast of evolving accounting standards, risks and regulations.

Public companies listed in the United States, for example, must disclose whether they have at least one financial expert independent of management on their audit committee. The United Kingdom’s Corporate Governance Code says a board should satisfy itself that at least one audit committee member has recent, relevant financial experience.

This can be a benefit and a frustration to CFOs. Eighty-one per cent of them say finance leaders are good choices for audit committee jobs because of their finance acumen. But CFOs want to make sure their skills in strategic development and other areas are recognised, too.

“Some of them can be a little insulted that the breadth of their experience as CFO is not necessarily recognised,” Gerard Dalbosco, an E&Y managing partner, said in the report.

Opportunity to branch out

Although CFOs already have busy jobs, about two-thirds of them reported that they have taken on, or would be willing to accept, more part-time, voluntary or non-executive roles. Twenty-seven per cent said they already have taken such a role, and 40% said they haven’t yet, but would be interested in doing so.

Scott Lampe, vice president and CFO of Hendrick Motorsports in North Carolina, serves on a few community and government boards and said he is willing to consider working on boards of companies that don’t have a lot of risk and are looking to grow organically. “I want to work with companies who share my philosophy about how a business should be run and what kind of contribution it can make in improving the communities is operates in,” Lampe said.

What do CFOs reap from serving on boards? Three-quarters of survey respondents said gaining general management or board level experience is a benefit. Other top benefits included gaining exposure to another company or industry (65%) and getting a different perspective on running an organisation (62%).

“You get to look beyond the purely financial and think more strategically about a different organisation,” Qatar Foundation CFO Faisal Al-Hajri said in the report. “You can also use these roles to play a broader role in society or the community.”

Serving on charitable and community service boards also gives CFOs an opportunity to give back to the community. Mick Armstrong, CPA, CGMA, recently agreed to serve as treasurer on the board of directors of the chamber of commerce in Meridian, Idaho, where he is employed as CFO of Micro 100 Tool Corp.

“We as a company are committed to the community and realise that just our business environment, the quality of life for our employees, all is wrapped up together,” Armstrong said. “So we choose to be involved in the community.”

Protection from liability

Ladd said a key question any potential board member should ask before considering a seat on a board is whether the organisation carries liability insurance for its directors and officers. He said risk exists even at not-for-profit organisations, so board members should make sure they are protected.

In addition, Ladd said, it is important to make sure you are working for an organisation that supports your involvement on an external board. And you need to have the time and energy to fulfil your board duties in addition to your regular job.

Armstrong, for example, said his duties as chamber of commerce treasurer are made easier by Micro 100’s recent hiring of an accounting manager with a public accounting background. As Armstrong moves toward more of an executive leadership role with his company, this distancing from Micro 100’s daily accounting activity also has helped him find more time – early in the morning, at lunchtime and on weekends – to devote to his board duties.

Ladd said he does a lot of his board work during evenings and weekends.

“I sometimes joke with my wife when I come home at night that I’m starting my second job,” Ladd said. “…But most of the meetings are during the day, so you do have to have an understanding employer. That puts some strain and requires extra time in your life. There is no doubt about that.”

Source :GCMA

Strategies to use analytics for competitive advantage

Strategies to use analytics for competitive advantage

Organisations are building momentum for the use of Big Data by integrating data analytics into their strategy in small projects that deliver substantial results, according a new report.

Almost all respondents – 96% – said that analytics will become more important to their organisations in the next three years, according to a Deloitte report based on a mix of 100 online surveys and 35 interviews conducted with senior executives at 35 companies in North America, the UK and Asia.

Although analytics already is an important resource for many companies, analytical technology remains immature and data under-utilised, according to the report. Getting buy-in for further projects is essential, so analytics leaders are starting small.

“Projects that demonstrate analytics’ ability to improve competitive positioning help these initiatives gain traction across the enterprise,” Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited’s Global Analytics Leader Tim Phillipps wrote in the report.

Companies can prepare themselves to use analytics for competitive advantage, according to the report, by using the following strategies:

  • Acquire the right talent now. Talent for analytics and Big Data is in high demand. Talent shortages may become more of a barrier to analytics implementation as more companies use data to drive more processes and decisions.
  • Tie analytics to decision-making. Better data and analysis don’t necessarily result in better decisions. Specific initiatives to improve decision cultures and processes, along with changing the understanding and behaviours of front-line workers, lead to better decisions, the report says.
  • Apply analytics to marketing and customers. Finance operations are the most frequent area of analytics investment, with implementation by 79% of respondents. Marketing and sales groups, at 55%, are the second-most frequent analytics users, and the report says the best financial returns from analytics often come from marketing and customer-oriented applications.
  • Coordinate and align analytics. There is little consistency among companies with regard to who oversees analytics initiatives. Business units or division heads (23%), no single executive (20%), CFOs (18%) and CIOs (15%) were most commonly cited. More co-ordination may be needed to realise the full benefits of data throughout the organisation.
  • Create a long-term strategy for analytics. While current analytical processes are being implemented, a multi-year plan for the growth of analytical capabilities – linked to strategy development – will help organisations better use data over time, the report says.

The problem is the solution

The problem is the solution

The four-step process for better problem solving

If you strip any project down to its essence, you’ll find there are two fundamental tasks. The first is defining the problem that you’re trying to solve, and the second is actually setting out to solve it.

It sounds pretty intuitive, but I think that first step usually receives short shrift. In my experience, people are so geared up to get in there, roll up their sleeves, and come up with ideas, that they forget to really set the stage and understand why a client even needs their help in the first place. What is their marketplace situation like? How is their business performing? What are they setting out to achieve, and what’s getting in their way?

Asking yourself “What solution should I recommend?” is the worst first step. Before you can answer that question, you need to do four things.

1. DEFINING THE PROBLEM

All effective problem solving starts with effective problem defining. Too often, people jump right to solving without knowing exactly what they are solving. The big challenge here is figuring out how to separate the symptom from the disease. Many of us address the symptom only to find the solution to be a temporary fix.

A great way to uncover the root cause of any problem is to go through the “Five Whys” exercise. “Five Whys” is a technique that was developed by Toyota to identify manufacturing issues and solve them in the most effective and efficient way possible. The way you start is to articulate the problem you’re facing. In terms of corporate strategy, that’s typically a surface level issue like losing market share or declining sales. With the “Five Whys” technique, the goal is to ask “why” five times to help you dig deeper and deeper to uncover the root cause of the problem.

For instance, say you’re working with a local, downtown restaurant that has seen revenue decline. Ask yourself, “Why is revenue declining?” The answer might be that the average ticket is lower than it used to be. Why is that? Maybe because fewer tickets include an alcoholic beverage? Ask yourself why that is. Maybe it’s because traffic on Friday and Saturday nights is down, which is bringing overall alcohol sales down. Why is traffic down on Fridays and Saturdays? Perhaps it’s because the performing arts center around the corner recently closed down.

By going through the “Five Whys” exercise, you’re able to better define the problem. Rather than a food problem or a bar problem, what you might really need to fix is the entertainment problem.

2. REFRAMING THE PROBLEM

The next step is to create a few different reframes of the problem. Each reframe of the problem statement could lead to a number of potential solutions. The way we do this is by creating “How might we…” statements.

Going back to the restaurant example, a few reframes of the problem statement might be:

How might we get more people to add alcohol to weekday tickets (to counterbalance the dip in weekend sales)?

How might we get more people to spend a Saturday night downtown?

How might we get more happy hour visits from downtown professionals before they leave downtown for the weekend?

Sharp and varied reframe statements can help unlock some new, surprising solutions.

3. COMING UP WITH SOLUTIONS

These reframed problem statements are great fodder for a brainstorming process. Actually, in many situations we prefer brainwriting as opposed to brainstorming. Brainwriting is where a group of individuals is tasked with a problem to solve and each individual is required to think and ideate on their own.

You can do these brainwriting sessions in person with a group of people, or do them remotely and over the course of a few days. Simply asking team members to come up with three ideas for each “How might we…” statement can give you dozens of potential solutions to consider.

Remember, when it comes to new ideas, quantity is quality. The more ideas you generate, the more likely you are to have a few gems in the bunch.

4. EVALUATING OPTIONS

You can’t solve every problem or implement every solution. Resources and time are limited. To narrow in on the best opportunities, evaluate and score each potential solution for 1.) ease of implementation and 2.) its potential size of impact if implemented. This scoring can be done as a group or be the responsibility of a few key decision makers.

Sometimes it’s helpful to even map these out on a two-by-two matrix, with the ideas that are easiest and most impactful populating the top right quadrant.

Getting Bruno Mars to play a few sets at our restaurant every other Saturday might be impactful, but not all that easy to pull off. And a standing karaoke night might be easy to implement but perhaps not all that impactful. The goal is to identify the ideas that check both boxes, and then assign the appropriate resources to them.

Keep in mind, there isn’t a framework or methodology in the world that will get you the results you’re looking for if you’re solving for the wrong problem. Spend as much time (if not more) diagnosing the problem as solving it, and you’re well on your way to generating truly valuable solutions for your clients.

Source : GCMA

How visionary CFOs approach tech investment

How visionary CFOs approach tech investment

Customer experience

Digital transformation is on the minds of CFOs, who expect to invest more in advanced analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) that can transform their businesses by improving customer experience.

That’s according to a recent Grant Thornton report, which shows that 69% of CFOs and senior finance executives plan to increase investment in technologies that quicken business change. CFOs themselves will need to have more technical skills, and they are divided in how to improve their overall workforce’s financial and technical expertise.

“It’s really a question of who’s more visionary as a CFO in moving forward with their products and services and reaching their customers,” said Srikant Sastry, Grant Thornton’s national managing principal for advisory services.

IMPROVEMENT TIED TO DIGITAL INITIATIVES

Companies that have figured out a way to reach customers more effectively through digital advances are reaping benefits. In one notable increase, Costco saw its second-quarter 2018 e-commerce sales grow about 29% year-over-year, to $1.5 billion, CFO Richard Galanti told analysts and reporters on a recent earnings call.

Additionally, firms that embraced digital transformation averaged a 55% increase in gross margins over a three-year period, according to a 2016 Harvard Business School study. Companies that were slow to adapt generated lower margin growth on average (37%) during the same period.

Meanwhile, International Data Corporation estimates that, by 2019, enterprises will spend $1.7 trillion on digital transformation — a 42% increase compared with 2017.

A year ago, Sastry said CFOs likened strategising on digital transformation to gazing into a crystal ball. Now, he says they are trying to gain a clearer picture of what is inside the sphere.

Accordingly, CFOs are not necessarily seeking digital transformation to improve efficiencies in their IT systems. The goals now are to enhance the customer experience, grow the business, and outperform the competition, according to the Grant Thornton report.

CHANGING THE VIEW OF ANALYTICS

CFOs have recognised that they were not thinking enough about analytics. Consequently, 24% of respondents said their finance team is currently adopting advanced analytics, another 24% will do likewise over the next year, and an additional 25% plan to adopt advanced analytics within two years. But CFOs will have to adapt, too.

CFOs have traditionally been focused on operational performance, cost reduction, and business management, but now they want to drive strategy and clear a path to digital transformation by leveraging information and technology, Sastry said.

“They have to make sure that they have the right skillset and innovation to leverage advanced analytics,” he said. “So the crystal ball is still there, but I think they’re trying to clarify the fog in the ball.”

Forty-one per cent of respondents do not believe they have good financial metrics that show the return on IT investments. And only 12% strongly agree that they possess an effective system to measure financial performance tied to newly implemented technology.

The report points out tension between companies’ current need to invest in maintenance and system updates and their desire to allocate funds to new automation technologies, such as AI. Investment in AI is projected to increase significantly: Beyond the 7% who say they have already adopted AI, an additional 47% expect to adopt it over the course of five years. A similar number of CFO respondents expect implementation of innovations such as distributed-ledger technology (also known as blockchain), machine learning, robotic-process automation, and optical-character recognition within five years.

“Ostensibly, AI will help improve quality, improve accuracy, and streamline the number of people required to perform tasks,” Sastry said. “It’ll change the face of business, including financial management.”

The top IT challenges in the survey are:

  • Systems complexity, including enterprise-wide systems integration;
  • Upkeep of legacy systems; and
  • IT talent.

Regarding the talent challenge, most executives — 52% — would prefer to retrain existing staff. Twenty per cent want to recruit new, technically skilled employees, and 17% aim to outsource tech hiring.

In addition to being aware of AI concepts, Sastry said, CFOs will need to know how AI systems work and how they can improve the business through a better customer experience.

“Those skillsets have, historically, resided in the technology space,” he said. “They’ve resided in the IT shop and the CIO [chief information officer] function. So CFOs need to really embrace the technology portions of their business, or the CIOs.”

Source : FM

How To Predict Which Of Your Employees Are About To Quit

How To Predict Which Of Your Employees Are About To Quit

You’ve got more data on how your team members are behaving, thinking, and feeling than you probably realize. Here’s how (and why) to tap into it.

How To Predict Which Of Your Employees Are About To Quit

“People analytics” may sound daunting, expensive, and difficult—something the ordinary manager can’t possibly concern herself with even if she’d like to. But the field isn’t necessarily as high-tech as you might imagine.

There’s more untapped data, of some kind or another, floating around your workplace than you probably think. With a little extra effort to spot behavioral patterns, you may be able to get ahead of some of the more common issues, like employee attrition, that can hurt your workplace and your organization’s bottom line. Here’s how.

PHONING IT IN

Turnover tends to be high at call centers, where many people take jobs temporarily, then quit when once they’ve earned enough to return to school or cover a big expense. Lower attrition means higher performance, so managers are interested in predicting and reducing attrition.

My company helped one call center analyze some basic data that it was already collecting: the length and number of calls operators were taking, and how often those calls got escalated or resolved. At the end of each shift, employees received a “report card” reflecting those data points. Since the call center employees’ compensation was linked directly to that performance data, they were highly incentivized to earn good marks.

But a low overall score wasn’t necessarily a sign that an employee was performing poorly, getting paid less, and therefore planning to bounce. Analysts found two specific factors were much more predictive: increased time spent on calls, and fewer calls ending in resolutions. Those operators were just going through the motions.

So the call center’s managers sent supervisors to meet with each operator within a day of those two indicators popping up. Most, however, hadn’t yet reached a point where they were considering quitting. But they often didreveal job frustrations that were usually easy to address, a like a faulty headset or having to work an undesirable shift. Supervisors were empowered to fix most of these problems, and over the next few months, the call center’s attrition rate fell by half.

FEELINGS AND ACTIONS YOU’RE NOT PICKING UP ON

“Sounds great,” you might be thinking, “but I don’t run a call center.” Even so, you can probably start looking for small, early signs of dissatisfaction that are relatively easy to remedy once you spot them. Here are two:

1. Ask employees how they’re feeling–continuously. Measuring “perceptions” might seem impossible, but it’s not. To collect data on something like this, you can use pulse surveys, run focus groups, or take snap polls using common Slack integrations like Polly.

Some large, physical office spaces even go analog and install those sentiment buttons you might have seen in airports or hotels. They’re simple, inexpensive devices that ask a question like, “How was your day?” and provide red (bad), yellow (okay), and green (good) buttons for people to press quickly as they go about their day. Whatever method you use to gather sentiment data, aim for something easy and anonymous, and watch for trends, not absolute values.

2. Look for dips in hours worked or effort spent. A basic place to start is total login time, but unless your office requires workers to “punch in” or “out,” introducing software to monitor exactly who’s sitting in front of their computers when can feel like surveillance. So start with the data you’ve already got on hand but may not be analyzing fully: How much sick leave is being taken this quarter, compared with last quarter or with the same quarter the prior year? How much annual leave is being requested (regardless of what’s actually granted)?

These are usually good indicators of who may be on their way out. Sick days can be requested to attend interviews or to burn up unused leave balances—or maybe that person is just feeling burned out and needs to take some mental heath days to deal with on-the-job stress.

THE LINKEDIN TRICK

There’s a third method, too, that I’ve seen work wonders. A well-known tech firm that recently worked with my company was losing its precious engineers. Recruiters who spent a lot of time looking for coders on LinkedIn were already in the habit of noticing recently updated “Skills” sections, interpreting that as a sign an engineer might be interested in hearing about new opportunities. So it occurred to the tech company to apply this principle in reverse.

The managers realized that their own coders were probably doing the same thing–updating their LinkedIn profiles whenever they were ready to hear from other firms. So the company wrote a simple script to capture the LinkedIn update feed for the profiles of around 2,000 of its top-performing coders. That let managers to react quickly whenever one of those employees added new info. Similar to the call managers, supervisors then swooped in to discuss the career goals and professional-development opportunities with the coders who might be wavering.

As a result, turnover fell, and many of those engineers were moved to assignments or projects that suited their talents and interests much better.

USE YOUR DATA WISELY–AND FAST

Whatever patterns you decide to watch, make sure you’re gathering data for two weeks to two months, so you’ll have enough information to perform a reasonable analysis.

But once you do spot a certain trend, don’t wait to act. Start looking for the source of the dissatisfaction in the corner of the company where you’re picking up on it. Maybe a certain team just really needs flex schedules or better recognition, or they feel starved for information. Often the most effective remedies aren’t even monetary. Once you’ve determined a solution, measure its effectiveness to make sure it continues to produce the outcome you’re hoping for.

At the end of the day, most employees all want the same basic things. Done right, people analytics starts from that humane premise and doesn’t reduce people to numbers–it just helps companies understand why certain situations cause people to keep behaving in certain ways. Ideally, it’s good for everyone when there are fewer surprises, and there’s more happiness to go around.

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Using algorithms to fight supply-chain fraud

Using algorithms to fight supply-chain fraud

More companies are turning to data analytics to detect supply chain fraud.Supply chain fraud is hard to avoid, with the contents of a missing cargo container ending up on the black market or an overseas worker skimming off the top being the inevitable reality of global supply chains.

Companies are increasingly turning to data analytics to detect and stop fraudulent schemes, a recent Deloitte poll found.

Nearly 35% of companies are using some type of data analytics to keep eyes on their supply chains, according to the poll of more than 3,200 professionals from a variety of industries.

That’s an increase of nearly 10 percentage points from 2014, and a sign that more companies, large and small, are adopting complex technologies to closely examine their supply chains.

Companies need to constantly look for fraudulent practices in the manufacturing and shipping of goods, with those looking to steal often as crafty and innovative as the technologies that stop them, said Guido van Drunen, a principal in KPMG’s forensic advisory group in Silicon Valley.

“Fraud goes where there is the least resistance,” he said, comparing fraud detection to a game of Whac-A-Mole. Nip one scheme in the bud and another one pops up elsewhere.

A major advantage of using data analytics to examine supply chain transactions is that detection can happen much faster, said Larry Kivett, CPA, a Houston-based Deloitte Advisory partner in the firm’s forensics and investigations division.

Schemes that might have gone on for years, such as a factory operator setting aside a pallet of electronics for black market sales, can now be found out shortly after the theft begins.

Now, complex algorithms can sift through thousands of incoming invoices and work orders from third-party suppliers to find instances of double-billing, overcharging, and theft.

That saves companies money, especially those with complex, global supply chains with hundreds of vendors and suppliers to keep track of, Kivett said. In many cases, the fraud can be detected before an invoice is paid, instead of having audits years down the road reveal the problem.

Advanced algorithms can also match bills of lading, forms filled out at ports that reflect cargo shipments and times, to ensure that goods are leaving when and where suppliers say they are with the correct number of manufactured products, Kivett said.

“If you can leverage data analysis to help out, you’re getting much earlier visibility” on fraud, he said.

Even DNA has a role. Instead of taking a swipe of a criminal suspect’s cheek, DNA swabs from a crate of clothing can tell a company where a product was produced, and ensure a contractor isn’t surreptitiously having goods made in another factory by underage workers, van Drunen said.

Here are tips from Kivett and van Drunen on how to shore up supply chains to detect and prevent fraud:

Consider the risk. Ignoring problems of graft and theft at factories and subsidiaries isn’t an option, van Drunen said, calling the supply chain the “lifeblood of the company”.

Violations of child labour and corruption statutes could have major implications for a company, with exposure opening up the chance of a public relations disaster and other fines and sanctions. The US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act could also shut down a production line, for example, if a company’s representatives are linked to bribery or other corrupt practices.

That’s why companies, especially those that produce and manufacture goods in areas of the world with looser regulations, need to be diligent in looking for problems.

Go in-house or contract? It all depends on your company’s strengths and weaknesses. Companies with robust technology departments and data scientists may do well to develop their own data analytics and internal controls.

But companies that don’t have a team of analytic experts may want to bring in outside help to examine their processes and make recommendations of how to best monitor their supply chain, Kivett said. “You really don’t understand where your susceptibilities are,” he said.

Experts in fraud can help point out weaknesses and conduct an audit of current controls by using experience of dealing with widespread cases of fraud.

Realise that no one is immune from fraud. Supply chain fraud risk is fairly consistent, regardless of industry and size of the global operation, Kivett said, citing Deloitte research. It’s an indication that companies need strong internal controls and need to periodically examine the controls and see if additional measures are need.

“For organisations, there’s the tendency to say that wouldn’t happen here; we’ve got good people,” Kivett said.

That’s a foolhardy stance to take in today’s environment, especially in a business that depends on cross-border trade and can be infiltrated through cyberattacks or by other means.

WHERE TO LOOK

There’s not a single technology or area to look for fraud, Kivett said. Instead, companies should examine all their processes and try to move as much information to electronic sources as possible.

With data such as timekeeping systems, financial reports, and other information available in a searchable way, companies can periodically examine operations to look for suspect patterns.

“You can see what the baseline patterns are like and identify any anomalies,” he said.

Similarly, companies should make sure new acquisitions and new vendors are using the same internal control and data analysis procedures.

Source : FM

How to develop a global mindset

How to develop a global mindset

Today’s business world is a far cry from yesteryear. An increasing number of organizations operate worldwide, and they are more diverse internally. And that means professionals — including CPAs — must be adept at dealing not only with employees from various backgrounds, but with workers and clients in different countries as well.

But how do leaders ensure that they and their organizations are culturally savvy and prepared to deal with diversity? This was the subject of “Developing Your Global Mindset,” a one-hour talk given by Kim Drumgo, director of Diversity & Inclusion at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. Drumgo’s talk was the second in a series of CPA Diversity & Inclusion webcasts aired by the Association.

“In this digital age, geographical borders are no longer clearly defined, so having a global mindset while working globally has become critically important for the success of business leaders, especially in the accounting profession,” Drumgo said following her talk.

Drumgo defines “global mindset” as the “ability to adapt to a culture and influence individuals or groups whose ways of doing business are different than your own.” By having this mindset, by asking questions and engaging in dialogue with others, leaders can improve employee morale, generate greater insight into untapped markets, and gain more credibility with clients. Those who do not develop a global mindset could miss out on client and talent potential, she noted.

She outlined three work environments:

  • Multicultural environments contain several cultures or ethnic groups alongside one another, but who operate independently.
  • Cross-cultural environments include people from different cultures and some acknowledgement of the differences, though one culture remains dominant.
  • Intercultural environments are the “gold” standard for organizations to achieve, as they encompass a deep understanding and respect for different cultures and ideas.

Drumgo also described the “global mindset inventory,” a concept created by the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University. Individuals with global intellectual capital or global business savvy have strong analytical and problem-solving skills and an ability to understand international business. Next is global psychological capital, which is an individual’s innate passion for diversity. Then, global social capital is described as a more enthusiastic and outgoing quest to “collaborate with people from different perspectives,” she noted. Those who possess each type of capital are often more effective leaders since they engage and learn across cultures. Psychological capital is the most difficult to grasp as you are “changing your thought process, breaking down biases, and beginning to challenge your old way of thinking,” Drumgo said.

Drumgo offered the following five tips for changing your global mindset:

Forget the golden rule and use the platinum rule. “Treat people the way they want to be treated. Find the positive in other approaches,” she said.

Don’t underestimate the challenge. Dealing with cultural and individual differences can be difficult, and you cannot assume that you know how to handle every situation that can arise. “Having many stamps in your passport doesn’t mean you have a global mindset,” Drumgo said. So don’t underestimate the challenge of leading and working with others across the globe.

Apply multiple strategies. “There isn’t one silver bullet as to how you can interact with everyone. There is not one proven strategy that will help you relate to your entire team better,” Drumgo said. “Applying multiple strategies is really important.”

Be sensitive to differences in language. Communicating isn’t always easy for those who use English as a second language. Be empathetic, kindhearted, and understanding.

Be patient and ask for feedback. “You can’t flip a switch and know how to interact with everyone around the globe,” Drumgo said. “You can’t be everything to everyone all of the time,” she said. “But be the best you can to somebody when it’s time.” Then, she added, you will make a huge difference in developing your global mindset.

Take a hike: Ending client relationships

Take a hike: Ending client relationships

Consider this scenario: A key deadline is nearing, and the client is just now returning your calls and emails. But instead of responding to the open issues, the client indicates there is no real problem and irately demands that services be completed immediately. It is clearly time to end this client relationship.

Many accountants confess to daydreams of uttering “Take a hike!” to a less-than-ideal client. While it may seem like a good idea in the moment, such phrasing is not the most desirable way to terminate a client relationship. However, the process of telling a client to take a hike provides a useful analogy to guide a more professional, less risky end to contentious and cooperative client relationships alike. Treat a client termination as if it were a hike through uncharted lands.

STEP 1: PREPARE FOR THE JOURNEY

Most journeys take expert planning and attention to detail. A client termination requires similar efforts. It is important to remember that both good and bad client relationships may need to end unexpectedly. No signpost indicates when a client relationship takes a wrong turn. The following are tools that may be useful in preparing for an unforeseen client termination:

  • Termination provisions: Including a clear termination provision in an engagement letter, indicating an engagement can be terminated without completion for any reason, can provide significant latitude, if termination becomes necessary. By including such a provision, the CPA firm may reduce the likelihood of a client asserting that the firm cannot withdraw from the engagement.
  • Deadline communication: Clients that are chronically noncompliant with terms of the engagement may need a gentle reminder of their responsibilities in the form of a written communication. Deadlines should be communicated in an engagement letter. A separate stand-alone letter or email may be appropriate if there are concerns about a client’s ability to meet the identified timing. A properly timed communication could even prevent the need for a client termination.
  • Ideal client profile: CPA firms should establish an ideal client profile and regularly evaluate the existing client base against the profile to identify clients that are no longer a fit for the firm. This protocol helps identify potential problem clients before the relationship becomes tenuous.

STEP 2: BE AWARE OF THE DANGERS

Any journey will have its own set of pitfalls and obstacles. The same can be said of client relationships. Though no maps, GPS, or satellite imagery guide a termination, awareness can help CPAs through the dangers of a contentious client relationship. It can be easy to overlook negative indicators, especially if the fees are substantial, the relationship is long-standing, or new clients are hard to find. Even more difficult to overcome are strong interpersonal connections between the engagement team and the client. Recognizing a bias toward retaining a client and being mindful of already serious or mounting issues can be the difference between exiting a client relationship unharmed or falling into a conflict. Common indictors may include:

  • Concerns regarding client integrity.
  • Fee or service complaints.
  • Disputes within the client organization.
  • Untimely or incomplete responses to requests.
  • Negative responses to constructive suggestions.
  • Poor attitude toward internal controls.
  • High accounting or management turnover.
  • Dismissive treatment of engagement team members.
  • Disrespectful treatment of client employees.

While counterintuitive, a client’s rapid success or expansion also could be an indicator that the relationship may need to be reevaluated. The client’s successes may require services and expertise that are beyond the CPA firm’s capabilities. However a proactive plan may prevent the CPA from making unintended errors that could result in professional liability claims, if services were to continue.

STEP 3: MAP OUT YOUR PATH

Whether the end of a client relationship is ambiguous or obvious, a client termination is not complete until it is formalized in a written communication to the client. Guidance on drafting the letter is as follows:

  • Omit the reason for the termination: A termination letter is not the time to win an argument with a client. The letter simply represents a method to inform the client that you are no longer providing services and identify the client’s responsibilities going forward. Explaining why the firm is ending services may only upset the client further or create a problem that previously did not exist.
  • Items for client followupAfter parting ways, your client will need to be pointed in the right direction to complete its journey. The letter should clearly map out the client’s responsibilities going forward and issues that should be raised with a successor CPA. Matters of particular importance to include are deadlines (statutory, regulatory, or operational), internal control weaknesses or breakdowns, and indicators of potential fraud or violations of laws and regulations. If deadlines are missed or a theft occurs and the CPA had not informed the client of those in writing, the client may blame the CPA firm.
  • Fees: At times, clients assert that CPAs knew they did not provide proper services because they do not request outstanding fees. As a result, whether or not you expect to collect unpaid fees, a termination letter should state the outstanding balance of fees due. A final billing statement may resolve any confusion and could be included as an enclosure with the termination letter.
  • Send a hard copy: Advances in technology have made most interpersonal communications nearly instantaneous. Yet, the professionalism and permanence of an actual mailed letter cannot be ignored. Unless there is a looming deadline or other rare situation, a hard copy of the termination letter should always be sent by a method that will confirm receipt by the client. Further, the letter should be sent via a traceable method to demonstrate delivery andreceipt.

STEP 4: FINISH THE JOURNEY

The client termination process is no walk in the park. It involves a commitment of will, time, and professionalism. It is not an easy choice or one that should be made on a whim. Once started, the process should be seen through to completion. The following tips will assist in managing this process:

  • Evaluate your mindset: While it is important to assess the client’s actions in making a termination decision, it is equally important to assess your own mentality once the decision to terminate has been made. The goal of a termination is to lessen or avoid a conflict with a client. Failing to maintain a professional attitude throughout the termination could elicit a client response that results in unnecessary stress, reputational damage, or even a professional liability claim.
  • Stick to the path: Once your services have been officially terminated, do not continue to provide services or reengage with the client for additional services. Allowing a client to talk you into providing services is akin to traversing a bridge that you already know to be perilous. It may seem as though you are performing just one more task before concluding the engagement, but continuing to provide services lessens the likelihood that the client will ever accept that the relationship has ended. Just remember, when the relationship terminates, it is a final decision.

 

9 tips for being more responsive to clients

“One of the top reasons accountants lose clients is because they are not responsive enough,” said Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, partner at WithumSmith+Brown in New Brunswick, N.J.

But being responsive isn’t always easy. CPAs and their firms face daily pressures and have hectic schedules. Clients contact them via phone, email, and text. Multiple clients may want attention simultaneously. And clients may expect their CPAs to be on call day and night.

If communication is light or lacking, sometimes CPAs do not realize that clients are dissatisfied with their level of responsiveness.

How can CPAs and their firms ensure they are being sufficiently responsive to their clients? Leaders in the profession offer the following advice:

  • Return calls, emails, and texts in a timely manner to establish trust. It’s all too easy to push things off until the next day. Many firms have a 24-hour rule, stressing the importance of callbacks or returned emails or texts within that time frame. “I try to return every client phone call by the end of that day,” Mendlowitz said. “Returning phone calls is an indication of availability. Clients want to know that you are there if they have a real serious problem. If a client calls you at an inconvenient time, ask them when you can call them back.”
  • Establish a response policy. Firm leaders should create a policy that explains how quickly clients must receive a response, and then communicate that policy to employees, said Hank Levy, CPA, founder of The Henry Levy Group in Oakland, Calif., and a partner at ELLO, an MGO member firm. Joseph Tarasco, CPA, founder and CEO of consulting firm Accountants Advisory Group in Cold Spring, N.Y., advises firms to drop everything if a client has a crisis. “With competition you have to respond,” he said. “That’s today’s world—everyone is walking around with cellphones, and clients know this.”
  • Choose to communicate in a way that suits your client. Some clients prefer emails; others prefer texts or phone calls. Some want to meet in person. So know how your clients want to communicate. “Respond back in a fashion that will retain that client and keep that client happy,” Tarasco said. Also, reach out to clients occasionally just to say hello, as that can help build relationships as well.
  • Prioritize. Make lists of clients you need to contact and/or respond to. Take advantage of different productivity tools, such as spreadsheets and apps, and keep revisiting and updating your lists, Levy said. Also, if at all possible, don’t delegate client-related tasks that are priorities and time-sensitive. “If you do delegate, make sure you follow up. Do not assume that it will always get done,” Tarasco said.
  • Use language your client will understand. Your clients “are not tax accountants with advanced tax degrees,” Tarasco noted. So avoid sending them jargon-filled emails and instead explain things to them in layman’s terms.
  • If a client wants to meet, do it. If a client requests a meeting, “do not make an appointment for two weeks out,” Mendlowitz said. Instead, try to meet as soon as possible, even the next day if you have time. Doing so highlights your availability and responsiveness. Similarly, don’t write a 10-page email if there is a lot to discuss. In addition to the necessary written documentation, you also should meet face-to-face for something that is important or complicated, Tarasco advised.
  • Be compassionate. Clients should view you as a trusted adviser, and that means being a good listener. “If a client has pain, try to find out the pain and meet with the client to help them through it,” Mendlowitz said. “Empathize with the client and feel what they are going through.” Also, be sensitive to clients’ changing needs.
  • Follow up. Even if a client seems satisfied with your response to issues that arise, contact them again within a few days. Ask, “How are things going? Did it work out as planned? Did my advice help? Did anything else get uncovered?” Tarasco said. “Follow-up is key.”
  • Keep your client roster manageable. While it’s great to add more clients to your roster, having too many can make it difficult to serve all of them in a timely manner and keep them happy, so don’t take on too much. “If you are not responsive to clients, you give them a reason to leave you, look outside, and complain,” said Richard Lash, CPA, managing partner at Walthall CPAs in Cleveland.

Most partners in public accounting firms achieved their success because they were responsive to their clients. “That’s the No. 1 commandment,” Tarasco said. “So if you are breaking that No. 1 commandment, you can’t stay in business.”