Alastair Greener – Being Ahead with Your Communication

So, what has this spaghetti western cliché got to do with Communication?

In my keynote; “Pay More Than Lip Service To Communication”, I use this slide to show the importance of being ahead of the game when it comes to communication.

Every quarter I write a Communications blog for Accountancy Learning (a distance learning AAT Training Provider), and this month the topic was all about Making Tax Digital (MTD).

MTD starts this month and involves new requirements for digital record keeping for some VAT registered businesses. However, all businesses and individuals will have to move to a fully digital tax system by 2020.

Although I’m not an accountant, I am a communications expert and recognise that this is a massive change for everyone. As I explained in the blog, if this change isn’t communicated well, it could cause a huge amount of stress, and affect the smooth running of a business. This is where being ahead with your communication can make a real and positive difference.

We’ve all seen news stories about organisations who fail to communicate with their staff and customers. In 2017 British Airways failed to transport around 75,000 of its passengers on flights they had booked and I was one of them! BA suffered a major technology disaster but compounded the problem by failing to communicate. They lost the confidence of their customers and shareholders, which was reflected in BA’s owner, IAG, seeing a huge loss in the value of its shares. However the reputational damage was much higher than the compensation costs.

This might be an extreme example but every business can learn from this. The problem is that managers and business owners are often so busy dealing with change or a problem, that they forget to let their staff and customers know what’s happening. The negative perception of this lack of communication can cause even more problems. So I suggest every manager and business owner should think about how they communicate and ask themselves these three questions: –

Is Your Communication Proactive or Reactive?
Don’t leave your customers and staff wondering what’s happening. Think of the benefits and improved business relationships that can be achieved by simply letting people know what’s happening ahead of time. Being proactive and not reactive, will lead to fewer questions being asked, and will ultimately save you time and money

Are You Speaking The Right Language?
A message can get lost in translation if the communication isn’t clear, so don’t assume that everyone understands what you’re talking about. Without realizing it, people could misinterpret what you’re saying based on your style, tone or expression, and it could leave them feeling stressed or confused.

What’s The Right Method of Communication?
People respond differently to various methods of communication, so consider whether a newsletter, memo, email, phone call or meeting is the best way to convey your message. Knowing your staff and customers will help you get this right.

So whether you are an accountant or any other industry, it’s important to keep your staff and customers informed, If you head ‘em off at the pass, you and your business will definitely reap the benefits.

Find out more about Alastair here.

Mark Williams – The Importance of Post Brexit Trade Relationships

The first trip to the African subcontinent by a British Prime Minister, since 2013 was indeed a welcome event, earlier this year. In particular, it was significant that Kenya and Nigeria were key destinations, significant recipients as they are of British overseas aid. It was welcome too that the All Party Parliamentary Group on Global Education for All, the group I used to Chair in the House of Commons, chose Zambia for its latest parliamentary delegation.

On that visit Teresa May spoke aspirationally of a “ prosperous, growing, trading Africa” and how “ incredible potential will only be realised through a concerted partnership between governments, global institutions and business”. True enough, and no coincidence that Teresa May was leading a 29 strong trade delegation on her visit. That visit must be remembered more for her words than her dance skills! Brexit looms large, but so too the reality that the combined economies of Kenya and Nigeria are less than that of Greater Manchester alone. The Prime Minister was right too to sight a “ unique opportunity at a unique time for the UK.”

But economic prosperity and developing trade relationships must be grounded on firm educational foundations. The growth in the public and private university sector across the African subcontinent has been huge and requires the continued growth in the primary and secondary sectors of school education, the end of those bars to participation, based on gender, disability, poverty and discrimination which blight much of Africa. It also means training teachers adequately, valuating the profession, and striving for quality are essential building blocks of real economic progress.

Britain is striving for new economic relationships globally post Brexit. It must not lose sight of the essential role in its aid and development strategy of education. Developing greater and meaningful collaboration with the African Higher education sector should be developed as a priority, and a constant reaffirmation of the Sustainable Development Goals should be a feature of British trade policy. Education and future trade relationships are intrinsically intertwined.

Lisa Francis – Votes at 16? It’s a no-brainer!

Last year, my Dad died at the age of 88.  Losing a parent is something of a watershed moment in anyone’s life and it got me thinking very much about his own life.  Born in 1929, he had to wait until he was 21 years old before he cast his first vote.  At 14 he was already out at work, had lost his own father and was using his earnings to contribute to his family’s living costs.  Therefore, by the time he’d reached the age of 16, I have no doubt he would have been a mature enough person to have known how he wanted to cast his ballot; I have no doubt either, that he would have exercised that right should it have been allowed.

In the wake of last year’s report of the Expert Panel on Welsh Assembly Electoral Reform and the recommendation that the minimum voting age for Welsh Assembly elections should be lowered to 16, I found myself discussing this with a number of seniors (mostly in their seventies and eighties).

‘16 is far too young to vote’, they concluded, until that is, they started to really think deeply about their own lives and what they themselves had been doing at 16! Just like my Dad, many were already in full-time employment, ‘courting seriously’, (just love that expression!), or about to embark on National Service.

That said, whatever the responsibilities thrust upon them, we all know that young people mature at different rates.

In Wales the Welsh Labour Government is going to extend the franchise to those over the age of 16 for local government elections (just as already happens in Scotland,) and yet 16- and 17- year- olds in England and Northern Ireland are being denied the same rights. Not only is this unsatisfactory but it also encourages elitism.

Evidence-based studies have shown that whether a person votes the first time they are eligible to vote can actually have a considerable effect on the likelihood of whether they adopt a voting habit thereafter.  If enfranchising 16-year-olds increases the proportion of voters who do vote first time, turnout would rise in the long run.

 In Austria where 16- year-olds were given the vote in 2007, evidence shows that launching a campaign which involved increasing citizenship education in schools, encouraging voter registration and raising awareness about elections, meant led to increased political knowledge among 16- and 17-year-olds.  Similarly in Scotland, where Electoral Registration Officers visit schools to register eligible young people and Education Scotland offer guidance on how educational establishments can increase political literacy, evidence shows that 16- and 17- year- olds found it easier than 18 – 24 -year-olds to access information on how to cast their votes.

 For me though it’s a no-brainer! If you are old enough to get a national insurance number, join a Trade Union, leave school, join the armed forces, make a baby and change your name by deed poll, then you are certainly old enough to vote!

Find out more information on Lisa Francis and her specialist subjects.