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WLV

Knowledge

Issue 3 – www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge

Olympic Opportunity The regional benefits of the London Games

Also in this issue: Social media for business

Agency Workers Regulations

Progress with open innovation

The zero waste crusaders

Fully charged

Don’t risk your reputation


Editor’s welcome

Welcome to WLV KnowLEDge This issue is packed with news and features about emerging innovations, and creative business ideas and updates designed to interest you and help your business. Experts from the University of Wolverhampton bring you upto-date with the latest developments in their specialist areas, including: Social media – what is the real return for businesses? In this issue we provide a guide to social media and how you can use it to maximise opportunity for your business. Find out more on page 4. The London Olympics 2012 – as the country makes its final preparations for the Olympic Games in March, Peter Robinson, Head of Leisure, talks to WLV Knowledge about the significant

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long-term opportunities for the West Midlands. Read his interview on page 14. Reducing your business waste – Dr Clive Roberts explains why growth and innovation in the waste-management sector is good for business. Find out why on page 22. I hope you enjoy this issue of WLV Knowledge. If you would like to send us your comments, please forward to: wlvknowledge@wlv.ac.uk Raman Sarpal Editor


Contents Contents

Get online

Get online

It seems that everyone is getting involved in social media - even david Cameron has a linkedIn page. In fact, visiting social media sites is now the fourth most popular online activity – ahead of even personal email.

In this issue

But, how can businesses ensure that they’re not just jumping on the bandwagon for the sake of getting involved and instead ensure that they maximise the opportunities that social media give them? We look at the best practice business should be aiming for when trying to effectively engage their customers through social media.

Social media for business

4

Fully charged

7

Ways to make social media work harder for your business for business what is the purpose of social media? Unlike traditional marketing, social media is not about just broadcasting information to the masses: it’s a twoway conversation that has the key aim of engagement with customers and stakeholders. As research proves that 78% of people trust recommendations from peers, if a business can engage positively with the right people then that gives opportunities to grow their customer base. Create a strategy Like any worthwhile business activity, to use social media well requires a well thought out strategy.

4

Social media channels are like all other communications channels, such as events or newspapers. So, the same principles of more ‘traditional’ communications strategy still apply. What audience are you trying to reach, with what message and what action, response or sentiment do you want to evoke? Understanding the answers to these questions combined with a thorough appraisal of what the competition is doing will help to formulate a strategy. To provide some context and understand how social media can help an organisation, it’s always worth looking at what the competition is doing before scoping out a social media strategy. What are they doing well, what’s not working and how are consumers or stakeholders responding?

Rob Harris, Principal Lecturer Marketing and Enterprise at the University of Wolverhampton, comments: “The businesses that are making the most of social media channels understand exactly what they want it do for them – whether that’s loyalty building, supporting customer service or establishing expertise on a particular subject. That’s because they have spent time at the outset to develop a robust strategy that fits with their overall communications plan. “The most important thing is not to ignore these communications channels altogether – some businesses may have dismissed these channels when they were in their infancy, but the scope and opportunities that they present are changing and evolving on a daily basis so it’s worth evaluating the opportunities on a regular basis.”

Avoid gaffes: create a policy Once something is posted online, it’s not always possible to remove it. To prevent a potential PR disaster, businesses and organisations should set out clear guidelines on social media – these should state which staff will be able to update each network and the frequency, as well as giving guidance on what the tone and content of their page should be.

with seven or eight non-commercial messages. It’s also important that social media channels aren’t neglected – this is a medium that needs constant attention and any lapse is very visible and can send out the wrong message to the audience the business is trying to reach.”

Hydrogen fuel cell technology revolutionises the energy market

Rob Harris continues: “Once a page or profile is set up it is key that businesses remember not to use it as a forum for hard-selling as this will just discourage people from following or engaging with them. As a rough guideline, every commercial message should be balanced

www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge 5

WLV Knowledge Issue 3

Agency Workers Regulations

10

Progress with Open Innovation

12

Olympic opportunity

14

A sporting chance for businesses

18

Bright future for Black Country manufacturing

21

The zero-waste crusaders

22

Philanthropy with a bottom line

24

Don’t risk your reputation

27

Investing in skills for the future

30

How the change in regulation may affect business

Fully charged

Great strides are being made in the ongoing development of renewable energy from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides and geothermal heat, and current estimates indicate that about 16% of global final energy consumption now comes from renewable sources. This figure is set to grow. A key area of renewable technology that is starting to have real impact is that of fuel cell application and the increasing use of hydrogen fuel cells across a number of industrial sectors - in particular transport. Indeed, the recent opening of the country’s first public hydrogen filling station in Swindon for hydrogen powered passenger cars is testimony that hydrogen-based technology is now on the map. Fuel cells are described by the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (HFCA) as a ‘solid-state electrochemical power conversion device that converts the chemical energy of a fuel into electrical energy’. A fuel cell combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, heat and water. Cells are often compared to batteries as both convert the energy produced by a chemical reaction into usable electric power. However, the fuel cell will produce electricity as long as a fuel such as hydrogen is supplied, so never losing its charge.

Fully charged

In this context hydrogen has been chosen as a prime example of the kind of clean fuel that can be used to generate energy in cell application. Hydrogen production has been in place for decades and has been utilised safely in a wide range of applications across the food, metal and chemical industries. The ability now also exists to generate hydrogen from renewable sources such as wind and solar energy, and this brings with it a zero carbon footprint. In addition, through precombustion technology, the capture of clean hydrogen is also possible from other sources such as bio-mass, waste and natural gas. Attention is now turning to the application of hydrogen as a fuel source of choice for the growing fuel cell market. It is currently estimated by the HFCA that the global fuel cell market could be worth over $26 billion by the end of this decade, and the association believes that over 100 UK companies are currently highly active in fuel cell and hydrogen commercial applications, helping to generate green manufacturing jobs also. As for applications, fuel cell technology, including hydrogen applications, offers a range of benefits to a number of markets. The most significant long-term market is that of powering passenger cars in the transport sector. Indeed, nearly all major

automotive manufacturers are at some stage on the journey to commercialising a fuel cell electric vehicle, with the recent launch of the Nissan Leaf a prime example. The ongoing issue for full implementation of electric vehicles is the requirement for a substantial hydrogen refuelling infrastructure and the opening of the filling station in Swindon this year is part of a sustained effort to grow the infrastructure needed for mass participation.

Outsourcing idea generation to boost internal R&D

The West Midlands are set to benefit from the London Olympic games

Fuel cell technology is also finding application as a clean energy source for commercial and residential power markets such as distributed generation and combined heat and power systems, remote power for rural and non-grid connected sites to replace batteries and generators, as well as for the provision of back-up power for critical services. It is also highly suitable for portable power use as a battery replacement for electronics such as mobile phones or laptops.

wolverhampton Business Solutions Centre 01902 321272 enquiries@wolverhamptonbsc.com www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge

How performance techniques in sport can benefit other sectors

Power to the community The University of Wolverhampton is involved in the development of a new and inexpensive approach to fuel cell manufacturing supporting the creation of a new range of low cost alkaline circulating electrolyte (ACE) fuel cells. Led by consultant, Nick Abson, the project has completed research into advanced manufacturing techniques to enable the range to be produced more competitively and making them affordable and accessible for community power needs. The fuel cells, once manufactured, will be targeted to supply low cost electricity to communities and industry, with estimates showing that the electricity supplied will be at half the cost of that from the National Grid.

8 WLV Knowledge Issue 3

www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge 9

Enterprise zones and the i54 development

The growth of waste management in the UK 2012 Olympics

2012 Olympics

The true impact of Corporate Social Responsibility Regional benefits The action may be in london next August, but the west Midlands is also well placed to reap real olympic benefits.

Managing your company reputation in a crisis

In little under a year’s time the eyes of the world will be upon London, as the capital city plays host to the 2012 Olympic Games. The cream of the world’s athletes and many thousands of overseas visitors will come together to bear witness to unforgettable drama and excitement, and an estimated global TV audience of four billion viewers will tune in to the opening ceremony. While headlines about cost and the contribution of the taxpayer have followed the Olympic story since day one, it should also be recognised that the opportunity to host ‘mega-events’ such as the Olympic Games brings with it economic, cultural and sporting stimulus for the UK and its regions, including the West Midlands. The prowess demonstrated on the running track, in the pool or in the gymnastic hall will undoubtedly deliver thrilling moments that will live long in the collective memory. However, away from competition itself, the many number of significant business and cultural activities leading up to the start of the Games – and the predicted legacy after the visitors

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The role of graduates in a knowledge economy

www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge 15

Performance boost

Performance boost

Crisis management

Crisis management

Skilled graduates

Skilled graduates

Investing in skills for the future what is a knowledge economy? Knowledge, expertise and intellectual property have become key factors in determining how companies compete and grow. In the West Midlands, companies are now driven to continuously adopt technological, organisational and social innovation in order to remain competitive. The key to sustaining knowledge based economies is ensuring that people with the relevant higher level skills are attracted to, and retained within the region.

A sporting chance for businesses The worlds of elite sport and the office may seem far apart, but some of the principles and techniques employed by top athletes can also be applied by individuals for improved business performance. While the emotions and pressures associated with taking a World Cup winning penalty or running in the Olympic 100 metre final may seem vastly different to those normally encountered in dayto-day business life, for individuals in a company seeking to secure a big order, impress a new client, or make important strategic decisions, the implications, anxiety and stress generated by such tasks should also not be underestimated. Whether making a critical pitch or presentation, leading a vital meeting, or managing situations where far-reaching business decisions have to be made – how employees or business managers react and perform in such circumstances or scenarios are for them in their own world just as important as Jonny

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Wilkinson trying to kick three points or Rory McIlroy sinking a winning putt to claim a six figure first prize. The landscape of premier sport and business has similarities in fact. Success in both arenas tends to be based upon active planning, achievement of goals, and the ongoing delivery of improved performance – often under extreme pressures of defined targets or objectives. The growth in recent years of the use of sports psychologists - now commonly seen working alongside leading sports people - is testimony to the central role the complexities of the mind plays in helping athletes prepare for and achieve tangible on-field success. Some of the principles and mechanisms applied in the lofty world of professional sport also ring true for the business community, according to University of Wolverhampton’s Professor Andy Lane.

“Having to deal with a one-off performance, while obvious in the world of sport – think of an Olympic swimming final or grand slam tennis final – is also a situation that faces many in the business world on a daily basis. You only have to think about making presentations or pitching an idea or product to a potential customer to realise that these too are focused circumstances or ‘events’ that can be the culmination of extreme time input and effort – similar in its way to the commitment a swimmer must make for the chance to win a gold medal at a major championship.”

At first it may seem strange to plan what you might say about something that hasn’t or may never happen. It may even seem a little inappropriate, when actually it is a highly responsible and considerate way to behave. All organisations have a plan in the event of a fire, with the evacuation route clearly displayed for staff and visitors to see. It is even practised regularly to ensure everyone knows the plan. The fire may never happen, but everyone would agree that it would be irresponsible to be unprepared. The same is true for crisis communications. Most organisations can plan and prepare for some of the things that could go wrong. For instance, a retailer may find that a major supplier goes bust or a car manufacturer has a safety recall. Whatever the problem, most businesses will have considered the steps they would need to take and assigned responsibilities before they actually happen. This is when they should also think about how they might communicate - who do they need to talk

For people facing a challenging presentation or perhaps leading an important strategic meeting, preparation like any top athlete, can ultimately, help deliver improved performance levels.

www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge 19

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to and what will they want to know? What channels should the organisation use to reach them and who in the organisation should it come from? While it is impossible to plan crisis communications in detail, having an agreed strategy enables an organisation to move swiftly and take control when things do go wrong. Sam Hope, Director, institute of Media Arts, explains: “If you acknowledge and respond to a problem, you show you care. It is also better if you do it without being asked and are honest and straightforward in the way you communicate. These are the simple lessons that good businesses and organisations adopt to provide information under difficult circumstances. There is also the flip side, for example in the world of politics, we often see people avoiding an issue and then providing an obtuse response. This only serves to frustrate voters and the media. In turn it inflates the issue into a crisis with potentially damaging consequences for the reputation of the individual or party.”

The principles of good crisis communication are simple, but when they are put into practice their impact is far reaching and long lasting. If businesses fail to protect their reputation, it can impact negatively on the bottom line. Increasingly, organisations are investing more in crisis communications to help manage the impact. A recent development in the United States serves to highlight how it has become an essential business function. Chartis, which is part the US insurance giant AIG, has launched a new policy designed to help organisations protect their reputation in the event of a major crisis by providing access to a panel of crisis communication experts. According to Chartis, this product is primarily aimed at small to medium sized organisations who may not have the in-house capability to deal with such an issue, but nevertheless want to be prepared to deal with potential threats to their reputation.

Sam Hope concludes: “The fact that this insurance policy is being marketed to small to medium sized companies underlines that effective crisis communication is necessary for any organisation and is not just the preserve of major global corporations. Badly executed crisis communication can seriously damage a brand. Even global corporations get it wrong – BP lost billions of pounds, as well as its CEO, in 2010 when an oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. The resulting of loss of life and environmental disaster, was seen to be handled insensitively on the world stage, seriously damaging the company’s credibility. At the University of Wolverhampton we have provided media training for a variety of businesses in the private and public sectors. In the example of a retail company we provided the groundwork for defending their products

on a consumer TV programme. For the health service we assisted in preparation for the potential of a pandemic, such as swine flu. Reputation has become an increasingly valuable commodity and those that fail to plan ahead and develop a crisis communication strategy are exposing their organisation to a high degree of risk.”

what is the role of graduates in a knowledge economy? Simon Brandwood, Head of Careers and Employment Services at the University of Wolverhampton says: “Graduates bring a higher level skill that is important to the long-term, strategic performance of knowledge based economies. As well as transferring their knowledge and utilising their skills within the workplace, graduates can bring fresh thinking and new ideas into a business.

wolverhampton Business Solutions Centre 01902 321272 enquiries@wolverhamptonbsc.com www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge

Graduates will encourage the adoption of new and innovative technology and production processes that are essential if businesses are to successfully develop high quality, internationally competitive products and services. A skilled workforce is essential to a knowledge based economy, as well as utilising their own experience graduates will assist with the up-skilling of the existing workforce by transferring their knowledge and skills to them”.

So why are employers reluctant to employ graduates? Simon explains some of the barriers employers have when employing graduates: “Some businesses, particularly SMEs are cautious when it comes to employing graduates. Common reasons stated are that graduates are expensive to employ, lack practical experience and may not stay in the business for long. He continues, “What is not often considered is the potential return on the investment in graduate level skills and the positive impact which this can have as they transfer their skills into the workforce”. what are the benefits of employing a graduate? Graduates bring with them the academic skills and the innovative and problem solving ideas which can help take a business forward. Businesses can attract and retain graduates to their workforce by offering them the opportunity to establish a career where their skills and expertise will make greater impact and a real return for the business. The impact of graduate level skills on a business are tangible. Companies who have employed graduates through the national Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) scheme have reported an average annual increase in profits, before tax, of £220,000, the creation of three new jobs and an increase in the skills levels of existing staff.

Try before you buy There are many programmes available to businesses such as placements, internships, our most successful programme has been the national Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) scheme. One company who that benefitted from a KTP is Craig and Derricott. The aim of the KTP was the development of a sales and marketing function to support the introduction of several new products and to re-build the brand in the market place. Andrew Dolman, Managing Director, Craig and Derricott Ltd: “This project has successfully delivered a 35% increase in the sales of our industrial products whilst at the same time enabling us to establish a network of UK customer outlets for our products and create the business metrics and tools to manage them. The project success has firmly embedded the principles of good marketing into our business planning and tactical operations with processes that will support our plans for further growth over the next five years.” There has never been a better time to recruit a graduate; businesses who are interested can take advantage of the free recruitment services provided through the Employment Centre at the University of Wolverhampton. They can advise companies on graduate training schemes, advertising roles and interviews and selection. This may be the boost your business needs. To find out how your business could benefit please call: 01902 321272.

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www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge 31

www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge 3


Get online

It seems that everyone is getting involved in social media – even David Cameron has a LinkedIn page. In fact, visiting social media sites is now the fourth most popular online activity – even ahead of personal email.

But, how can businesses ensure that they’re not just jumping on the bandwagon for the sake of getting involved and instead ensure that they maximise the opportunities that social media gives them? We look at the best practice business should be aiming for when trying to effectively engage their customers through social media. What is the purpose of social media? Unlike traditional marketing, social media is not just about broadcasting information to the masses: it’s a twoway conversation that has the key aim of engagement with customers and stakeholders. Research proves that 78% of people trust recommendations from peers, so if a business can engage positively with the right people then

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WLV Knowledge Issue 3

that gives opportunities to grow their customer base. Create a strategy Like any worthwhile business activity, to use social media well requires a well thought out strategy. Social media channels are like all other communications channels, such as events or newspapers. So, the same principles of more ‘traditional’ communications strategy still apply. What audience are you trying to reach, with what message and what action, response or sentiment do you want to evoke? Understanding the answers to these questions combined with a thorough appraisal of what the competition is doing will help to formulate a strategy.

To provide some context and understand how social media can help an organisation, it’s always worth looking at what the competition is doing before scoping out a social media strategy. What are they doing well, what’s not working and how are consumers or stakeholders responding? Rob Harris, Principal Lecturer Marketing and Enterprise at the University of Wolverhampton, comments: “The businesses that are making the most of social media channels understand exactly what they want it to do for them – whether that’s loyalty building, supporting customer service or establishing expertise on a particular subject. That’s because they have spent time at the outset to develop a robust strategy that fits with their overall communications plan.


Get online

for business “The most important thing is not to ignore these communications channels altogether – some businesses may have dismissed these channels when they were in their infancy, but the scope and opportunities that they present are changing and evolving on a daily basis so it’s worth evaluating the opportunities on a regular basis.” Avoid gaffes: create a policy Once something is posted online, it’s not always possible to remove it. To prevent a potential PR disaster, businesses and organisations should set out clear guidelines on social media – these should state which staff will be able to update each network and the frequency, as well as giving guidance on what the tone and content of their page should be.

Rob continues: “Once a page or profile is set up it is key that businesses remember not to use it as a forum for hard-selling as this will just discourage people from following or engaging with them. As a rough guideline, every commercial message should be balanced with seven or eight non-commercial messages. It’s also important that social media channels aren’t neglected – this is a medium that needs constant attention and any lapse is very visible and can send out the wrong message to the audience the business is trying to reach.”

www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge 5


Get online

What’s right for my business? There are several main social networks, and each enables a business to reach out in different ways: Twitter The microblogging site Twitter has rapidly grown in popularity since its inception in 2006 and now hosts more than three million tweets per day. It is ideal for engaging with both consumers and businesses and allows users to read, write and share updates of up to 140 characters. Twitter is used well by companies such as Virgin Media and Chiltern Railways as a fast-response helpdesk. It enables customers to easily get in touch with a customer service team who can then quickly respond to their enquiry.

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WLV Knowledge Issue 3

Facebook Those businesses that are getting the most out of Facebook realise it’s about creating a loyal ‘community’ of customers that are passionate about their brand. For example, brands such as Gap offer exclusive discounts on their Facebook page that encourage this loyalty. LinkedIn Billed as the network for professionals, LinkedIn offers the opportunity for businesses to set up company pages and prompt discussion between groups of like-minded individuals, usually operating within a similar field.

Rob Harris explains: “Those getting the most out of LinkedIn are leading the way in contributing to and setting up groups. This can be a useful way to network, build contacts and learn about developments in your sector.”

Wolverhampton Business Solutions Centre 01902 321272 enquiries@wolverhamptonbsc.com www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge


Fully

charged

Fully charged

The adoption of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies is gathering pace as the clean energy benefits of renewable technologies help to secure a low carbon future for communities and businesses alike. As the Government pushes ahead with its aim of delivering a low carbon economy by the middle of the century, the race is on to realise the potential of renewable technologies to underpin the energy resources needed in the future. It is generally accepted that fossil fuel reserves are in decline with natural gas, oil and coal having been at the centre of the world’s industrial growth over the past 100 years. This fact, along with a requirement to tackle climate change issues, has ensured that alternative and renewable energy technologies have come to the fore in recent times.

Great strides are being made in the ongoing development of renewable energy from natural resources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides and geothermal heat, and current estimates indicate that about 16% of global final energy consumption now comes from renewable sources. This figure is set to grow. A key area of renewable technology that is starting to have real impact is that of fuel cell application and the increasing use of hydrogen fuel cells across a number of industrial sectors - in particular transport. Indeed, the recent opening of the country’s first public hydrogen filling station in Swindon for hydrogen powered passenger cars is testimony that hydrogen-based technology is now on the map.

www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge 7


Fully charged

Fuel cells are described by the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association (HFCA) as a ‘solid-state electrochemical power conversion device that converts the chemical energy of a fuel into electrical energy’. A fuel cell combines hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, heat and water. Cells are often compared to batteries as both convert the energy produced by a chemical reaction into usable electric power. However, the fuel cell will produce electricity as long as a fuel such as hydrogen is supplied, so never losing its charge. In this context hydrogen has been chosen as a prime example of the kind of clean fuel that can be used to generate energy in cell application. Hydrogen production has been in place for decades and has been utilised safely in a wide range of applications across the food, metal and chemical industries. The ability now also exists to generate hydrogen from renewable sources such as wind and solar energy, and this brings with it a zero carbon footprint. In addition, through precombustion technology, the capture of clean hydrogen is also possible from other sources such as bio-mass, waste and natural gas. Attention is now turning to the application of hydrogen as a fuel source of choice for the growing fuel cell market. It is currently estimated by the HFCA that the global fuel cell market could be worth over $26 billion by the end of this decade, and

8 WLV Knowledge Issue 3

the association believes that over 100 UK companies are currently highly active in fuel cell and hydrogen commercial applications, helping to generate green manufacturing jobs also. As for applications, fuel cell technology, including hydrogen applications, offers a range of benefits to a number of markets. The most significant long-term market is that of powering passenger cars in the transport sector. Indeed, nearly all major automotive manufacturers are at some stage on the journey to commercialising a fuel cell electric vehicle, with the recent launch of the Nissan Leaf a prime example. The ongoing issue for full implementation of electric vehicles is the requirement for a substantial hydrogen refuelling infrastructure and the opening of the filling station in Swindon this year is part of a sustained effort to grow the infrastructure needed for mass participation. Fuel cell technology is also finding application as a clean energy source for commercial and residential power markets such as distributed generation and combined heat and power systems, remote power for rural and non-grid connected sites to replace batteries and generators, as well as for the provision of back-up power for critical services. The University of Wolverhampton is involved in the development of a new and inexpensive approach to fuel cell

manufacturing supporting the creation of a new range of low cost alkaline circulating electrolyte (ACE) fuel cells. Led by consultant, Nick Abson, the project has completed research into advanced manufacturing techniques to enable the range to be produced more competitively and making them affordable and accessible for community power needs. The fuel cells, once manufactured, will be targeted to supply low cost electricity to communities and industry, with estimates showing that the electricity supplied will be at half the cost of that from the National Grid. The fuel cells are currently undergoing final testing and it is anticipated that they will be manufactured next year. It seems the potential of fuel cells is limitless highly suitable for portable power use as a battery replacement for electronics such as mobile phones or laptops. It could not only revolutionise static power generation, but also prove invaluable as a portable power solution of the future.

Wolverhampton Business Solutions Centre 01902 321272 enquiries@wolverhamptonbsc.com www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge


Fully charged

www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge 9


Agency regulations

Agency Workers Regulations What you need to know On 1 October 2011, the new Agency Workers Regulations (AWR) came into force and are set to change legislation dramatically for both agency workers and their employers. Christopher Busst, Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Wolverhampton, explains how these new regulations will affect businesses.

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What are the AWR? The AWR make fundamental changes to temporary workers’ employment conditions. Their effect is to provide agency workers with the same basic terms and conditions as those directly employed by the hirer, after a 12 week qualification period. Does AWR affect my business? Your staff are likely to be covered by the regulations if your business uses a temporary work agency, uses temporary workers that are paid

through the PAYE system, or if your business uses an umbrella company to manage temporary staff. From 1 October 2011, employers are responsible for providing temporary staff with access to facilities, amenities and with information about job vacancies on a par with direct employees from the first day of their employment. If applicable, temporary staff will also need access to car parks, canteens and an onsite crèche or gym.


Agency regulations

So, what happens after 12 weeks? After temporary staff have worked for a business for 12 weeks in the same role they will become eligible for treatment as if they had been directly employed with respect to: • pay • working time • rest breaks • annual leave • certain types of personal bonus. Counting the 12 weeks Temporary workers will be eligible for AWR benefits once they have worked for a business in the same role for 12 weeks. So, the earliest temporary staff can become eligible at any business is 24 December 2011 – 12 weeks after 1 October 2011. Should a temporary worker take a break from their role of more than one week and less than seven weeks, then the 12 week qualification period stops running, resuming in the same place when they return to work. If the break is due to sick leave or jury service, then provided the break is for fewer than 28 weeks, the qualifying period will resume on the temporary

workers’ return to work. However, if there is a break in employment due to maternity, paternity or adoption leave, this period will generally count towards the 12 week qualification period. What do I need to do? • Check how many agency workers your business uses. As part of understanding the overall numbers of temporary staff, businesses should look at which roles are being filled by agency workers, how long workers tend to remain in these roles and the nature of assignments temporary staff are given.

Only then can you establish how many of your temporary staff are eligible. It is worth noting that genuinely self-employed workers are excluded from these arrangements.

• Establish who the comparators are. A comparator is someone who is directly employed by you in the same role as an agency worker. It is vital to work out the comparator for each role that is filled by an agency worker to ensure equal treatment.

• Work out what current terms and conditions are included. It’s important to review the terms that are on offer to relevant comparators to enable a cost analysis and to source the information that will be required from your agencies. • Consider how you use agencies. The introduction of AWR means that agencies and employers will work more closely together – this may mean working with fewer, more trusted agencies. • Communicate the changes across the business. Employers need to ensure there are effective engagement plans for those affected by AWR, including managers, agency workers and even trade unions. If your business will be affected by AWR and you need support, book an appointment with the Law Centre by calling: 01902 322484 for free impartial advice and guidance.

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Open innovation

ideas

ideas

ideas

Progress with Open Innovation In the midst of harsh economic conditions, businesses are being encouraged to innovate in an effort to stimulate growth. At the same time cuts in personnel and resources made by many in recent years had a negative impact upon functions such as research and development (R&D), leaving organisations with less capacity to innovate than previously. Open Innovation (OI) provides a potential solution to this issue by encouraging businesses to supplement their reduced internal R&D capacity with innovative ideas from sources outside of their company boundaries; these sources may be other businesses, universities or individual inventors. In essence businesses can benefit from a greatly expanded pool of potential new ideas without dramatically increasing their internal R&D costs.

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A different way of working Gavin Smeilus, Senior Consultant within the University of Wolverhampton’s School of Technology explains the differences between a traditional approach to innovation and Open Innovation: “Traditionally, companies would centralise their R&D: partly due to a belief that their own employees were in the best position to develop important new innovations; and partly to control knowledge and processes within the company. By controlling the entire R&D operation internally, companies considered themselves more able to restrict competitors from accessing their ideas, whilst maximising their potential for profit generation by ensuring first-mover advantage. Open Innovation advocates an alternative approach. Whilst internal R&D is not abandoned, it is supplemented with knowledge and expertise from outside of the company in order to foster better

NPD machine

ideas. Open Innovation advocates the acquisition of Intellectual Property from others in instances where your business is in a good position to exploit it for commercial gain. Similarly, businesses are encouraged to sell or license their own IP to other companies in instances where they can do little to profit from it internally.� Large R&D intensive companies, in particular, have embraced Open Innovation. Indeed, it appears to offer distinct advantages over traditional methods of managing innovation. Firstly, in seeking radical innovations that drive future growth, it can be an advantage to take on-board ideas that originate outside of your industry and challenge traditional sector-based thinking. Secondly, the costs associated with running an R&D facility and introducing new products can be significantly reduced by opening up the new product development process to external parties, both in terms of innovative inputs, but also process expertise in key areas: rapid prototyping for example. Open Innovation also


Open innovation

new product

provides a mechanism for benefitting from projects that have been halted due to lack of funds. Finally, collaboration can lead to exposure to other development opportunities that the business would otherwise be unaware of. Open Innovation clearly offers a variety of advantages to different sectors. In today’s fast-paced environment, it could provide an ideal solution to stationary companies looking for new innovations to take them forward.

new product

new product

Open to all Gavin adds: “The benefits of Open Innovation are not restricted to large R&D intensive businesses they also extend to SMEs. Open Innovation provides a basis upon which SMEs can collaborate with large corporates. Having a good idea is no guarantee of commercial success and sometimes the assets a large corporate possesses: a strong brand, customer trust, extensive routesto-market or manufacturing capabilities can be exploited by SMEs seeking to commercialise their technology.�

The University of Wolverhampton in conjunction with Coventry University is embarking upon a three-year funded programme that will facilitate greater understanding of the merits of Open Innovation and aims to help SMEs to engage with large companies with a view to achieving commercialisation of new technology. Companies interested in finding out more about the implementation of Open Innovation can contact Gavin Smeilus directly on tel: 01902 321763 or email: g.e.smeilus@wlv.ac.uk

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2012 Olympics

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2012 Olympics

Olympic opportunity The action may be in London next August, but the West Midlands is also well placed to reap real Olympic benefit.

In less than a year’s time the eyes of the world will be focused upon London, as the capital city plays host to the 2012 Olympic Games. The cream of the world’s athletes and many thousands of overseas visitors will come together to bear witness to unforgettable drama and excitement. An estimated global TV audience of four billion viewers will tune in to the opening ceremony. While headlines about cost and the contribution of the taxpayer have followed the Olympic story since day one, it should also be recognised that the opportunity to host ‘mega-events’ such as the Olympic Games brings with it economic, cultural and sporting stimulus for the UK and its regions, including the West Midlands. The prowess demonstrated on the running track, in the pool or in the gymnastic hall will undoubtedly deliver thrilling moments that will live long in the collective memory. However, away from competition itself, many of the significant business and cultural activities leading up to the start of the Games – and the predicted legacy after the visitors have

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2012 Olympics

Huge events such as the Olympic Games can have significant economic, social and political impact Peter Robinson, Head of Leisure, University of Wolverhampton

returned home – are expected to have a profound and long-lasting impact. Once the Olympics were awarded to London on that memorable day in Singapore back in 2005, it started a process of increased opportunity for large and small UK businesses to get involved in tendering for the many and diverse contracts associated with the Games, its infrastructure and the services it would require. It also presented a ‘once-ina-lifetime’ opportunity for our tourism industry to showcase Britain’s attractions, and enabled the proposed community benefit of the major urban regeneration scheme for one of the most deprived parts of London to get off the drawing board and become a reality. In broad terms, statistics tell part of the story. Lloyds TSB estimates that the 2012 Games will generate £10 billion in revenue for the British economy, while revenues from tourists travelling to the UK for both the main Games and the Paralympic Games are forecast to add an additional £2.1 billion to the national coffers, according to the London Councils 2012 Team. However, away from the headline figures, the Games themselves and other such ‘mega-events’ contribute to society in many ways – creating opportunity that would have not otherwise existed. Peter Robinson, Principal Lecturer and Head of Leisure at the University of Wolverhampton highlights how the West Midlands has set its sights on making the most of the ‘Olympic effect’. “Huge events such as the Olympic Games can have significant economic, social and political impact because of their size, profile and cost associations. Large events traditionally tend to be

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primarily concerned with the legacy after the event, but the Olympics are different. The highly structured build-up to the games over a seven year period ensures that, for example, plenty of opportunities exist for businesses targeting the mammoth construction programme put in place prior to the Games, before any legacy objectives are considered. While it is easy to view the build up to the London Olympics as something that concerns only the local population, the Games’ influence extends far beyond its geographical confines and can act as a real catalyst for far reaching and long term legacy benefits elsewhere. “The West Midlands as a region identified the Olympics as an opportunity to leverage such impact for its own advantage. The creation and delivery of the West Midlands Olympic Action Plan, involving a number of public sector stakeholders and businesses, is a proactive, planned and strategic approach to ensure the region too benefits. It concentrates across a number of key areas, including sporting participation, culture, tourism, regional image, volunteering and equality and diversity. Under these broad headings, a raft of ongoing local initiatives, cultural events and long-term programmes have been implemented to build momentum and to hopefully become established elements of an ongoing legacy for the region in future years – helping to attract tourist spend, boost local employment and encourage inward investment. “The Action Plan is also focusing upon key areas that will support a businessorientated legacy for the region. Promoting employment and employment skills, helping secure business

opportunities to encourage more regional entrepreneurship and business development, and raising the profile of volunteering across the West Midlands as a proven method of developing skills and increasing employment prospects, are the primary and strategically important areas identified in the Action Plan which can hopefully deliver longer-term payback to the region. “The West Midlands has already benefited in real terms from the Games. In the preparation phase, some £400 million of tenders have been awarded to West Midlands’ firms, thereby having a direct impact upon local jobs and potential future business development. The leisure and hospitality industry is expected to benefit directly from the Games as people take advantage of the short travel time to London from Birmingham and the region’s hotels are expecting brisk trade over the next 12 months. “In addition, the estimated £2 million worth of ‘free advertising’ the West Midlands will secure – in what, in effect is a month-long global TV advert for Britain – is set to raise the region’s profile. It will help communicate key messages about the area’s excellent transport and business links to the capital, the acknowledged local cultural strengths and diversity, and the availability of a


2012 Olympics

skilled workforce. Such a combination will, in time, hope to encourage increasing numbers of visiting tourists to contribute economically to the region, employees to perceive the West Midlands as a great place to work and live, and business leaders to consider moving their operations to take advantage of the strengths the area can offer when compared to London and the South East.� The events in London next August may overshadow all else, but in the background strategic plans are being executed by many regional stakeholders to ensure that in the lead up to the Games – and in its aftermath – the West Midlands, its population and its business community capitalise on the opportunities, momentum and legacy benefits the London 2012 Olympic Games will generate.

Wolverhampton Business Solutions Centre 01902 321272 enquiries@wolverhamptonbsc.com www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge

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Performance boost

A sporting chance for businesses The worlds of elite sport and the office may seem far apart, but some of the principles and techniques employed by top athletes can also be applied by individuals for improved business performance. While the emotions and pressures associated with taking a World Cup winning penalty or running in the Olympic 100 metre final may seem vastly different to those normally encountered in dayto-day business life, for individuals in a company seeking to secure a big order, impress a new client, or make important strategic decisions, the implications, anxiety and stress generated by such tasks should also not be underestimated. Whether making a critical pitch or presentation, leading a vital meeting, or managing situations where far-reaching business decisions have to be made – how employees or business managers react and perform in such circumstances or scenarios are for them in their own

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world just as important as Jonny Wilkinson trying to kick three points or Rory McIlroy sinking a winning putt to claim a six figure first prize. The landscape of premier sport – and business – are inextricably linked. Success in both arenas tends to be based upon active planning, achievement of goals, and the ongoing delivery of improved performance – often under extreme pressures of defined targets or objectives. The growth in recent years of the use of sports psychologists – now commonly seen working alongside leading sports people – is testimony to the central role the complexities of the mind plays in helping athletes prepare for and achieve tangible on-field success. Some of the principles and mechanisms applied in the lofty world of professional sport also ring true for the business community, according to University of Wolverhampton’s Professor Andy Lane.

“Having to deal with a one-off performance, while obvious in the world of sport – think of an Olympic swimming final or grand slam tennis final – is also a situation that faces many in the business world on a daily basis. You only have to think about making presentations or pitching an idea or product to a potential customer to realise that these too are focused circumstances or ‘events’ that can be the culmination of extreme time input and effort – similar in its way to the commitment a swimmer must make for the chance to win a gold medal at a major championship.” For people facing a challenging presentation or perhaps leading an important strategic meeting, preparation like any top athlete, can ultimately, help deliver improved performance levels.


Performance boost

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Performance boost

Allied to this type of preparation, people should also use what I call the ‘semidaydream’ state so that whatever the location – for example on a train or in a lift – you are able to quickly rehearse in your own mind the key elements of what you want to say and how you want to say it. This rehearsal and visualisation technique will make the actual scenario seem more familiar and help to build confidence. These are the types of visualising and practice methods actively utilised by the famous sporting stars we see on our TV screens as they prepare for their own high profile events.” As well as individual performance in one-off situations, Professor Lane also believes in the power of emotional control of both the individual, as well as the team dynamic. He explains: “Learning to recognise emotional trigger points can help to reduce anxiety levels so that people can better deal with the sorts of stressful situations they may find in the working environment and which could lead to poor performance. Once the trigger points are identified, methods can be employed to lessen the impact of worry. These could range from talking to a colleague or simple breathing exercises.” There is certainly something quite powerful about thinking of work colleagues as the kind of team mates you would have in a sporting event. Applying that type of loyalty, understanding and consideration to not compromise the team’s performance could certainly pay dividends in a commercial environment.

While the outcome – an order placed, an idea developed – will be unknown, nonetheless Professor Lane believes adopting the right approach will only help and not hinder matters. He says: Sports psychologists would say for those faced with scenarios like a pitch that has a finite beginning and end of maybe a 10 minute timescale, it is important to rationalise the event and to put it into perspective so that it does not become all consuming. Life will still go on after the pitch – successful or not – and looking at it like this will help lessen a tendency to let the event itself run away with you.”

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“People should utilise mechanisms to prepare themselves so they arrive totally confident about what they are doing and the circumstances they find themselves in. Preparation can take many forms. A golfer will practise putting until it is second nature, so people can apply their own practice techniques. Using imagery is often advocated by coaches as a way of focusing positively upon the situation about to be faced. Think about the people you will be addressing, think about the room; imagine what the temperature will be, maybe how the room will be laid out?

Wolverhampton Business Solutions Centre 01902 321272 enquiries@wolverhamptonbsc.com www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge


Enterprise zones

Bright future for Black Country manufacturing Securing economic growth requires local business, the public sector and communities to act decisively to increase prosperity. To facilitate this, a radical reform programme has been embarked on by the Government to address these areas with the focus locally on driving up economic growth. Enterprise Zones are the vehicle which the Government has chosen to facilitate these reforms and are about allowing areas with real potential to create the new business and jobs that they need. The Black Country is one of just a few regions that have successfully received approval to become an Enterprise Zone. The Enterprise Zone concept was developed by the coalition government in a bid to jump-start private sector development by offering firms a range of

benefits for locating to premises with an Enterprise Zone. These include a business rates holiday, superfast broadband and relaxed rules on planning. The Black Country Enterprise Zone is also one of the only six to be awarded capital allowances of 100%. The most famous Enterprise Zone in the Black Country is i54. This former landfill site has attracted interest from many large businesses and could prove to be the catalyst to encourage more high value manufacturers to relocate to the area. This is a much needed boost for businesses and will have a positive impact on the local economy as well as the potential to create over 4,000 jobs by 2015.

of the site and a planned M54 motorway access junction make i54 an attractive business park. Aerospace company Moog has already started work on its new facility and plans have also been approved for a laboratory complex for Eurofins, the global leader in food, environment and pharmaceutical products testing.

Wolverhampton Business Solutions Centre 01902 321272 enquiries@wolverhamptonbsc.com www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge

Jaguar Land Rover recently announced their plans to develop a new manufacturing facility at i54. The location

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Waste not, want not

The zero-waste crusaders Recent estimates suggest that business waste accounts for over 60 per cent of England’s waste. Rising Landfill Tax and a raft of waste management recommendations over the past decade (both voluntary and compulsory) have provided both financial and environment disincentives to dump – and not without good reason. With the demand on landfill reaching critical proportions; the National Audit Office warned in 2009 that there are only seven years of landfill capacity left in England and Wales – burying the problem is no longer an option for any of us. Waste opportunities According to Dr Clive Roberts, Senior Lecturer in the School of Applied Sciences at the University of Wolverhampton, alternative options for dealing with business waste have emerged as landfill is increasingly seen as a last resort. “Businesses have had to make sense of constantly changing regulations around waste management, which is a challenge. However, it has prompted some proactive approaches from within companies to minimise waste and been a catalyst for innovation in the waste management sector.” For businesses wishing to make an impact on their own waste management, Clive cites the hierarchy of waste treatment options – ranging from waste reduction as the best case scenario, all the way down to the bottom of the pile, disposal to landfill – as a good guide to follow. “Businesses can use this model to look at their own treatment of waste. Ideally, looking to reduce the amount of waste they generate in the first instance, but

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the next best option is to aim for sustainable disposal practices.” Clive cites the Telford-based company, Ricoh – a European market leader in digital copiers – as an example of good practice. The singleuse packaging used to protect their copiers was replaced with reusable packaging which could be returned to them by their customers for reuse. Businesses wishing to translate waste management regulations into meaningful practice will find useful resources available from WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) and NISP (National Industrial Symbiosis Programme). Visit: www.wrap.org.uk and www.nisp.org.uk Green and lean Thinking ahead, taking a greener approach to waste management can set your business apart from your competitors. Implementing environmental management systems such as ISO 14001 can help your business win valuable contracts. Although it’s not a legal requirement to have ISO 14001, it is becoming the standard across Europe as Clive explains: “Other European companies favour or only work with businesses that have the ISO 14001 accreditation. The University has been able to help local businesses undertake their base-line assessment – which is the first step to achieving registration. It’s not inconceivable that the European Parliament will make ISO 14001 a legal requirement, so it’s in the interest of businesses to prepare themselves”.

Most desirable

Least desirable

The growth of waste-reduction Environmental waste management has emerged as a rapidly growing sector in the UK. Recognised as a fertile area for innovation, developments in the waste management sector have helped businesses overcome some of their waste management issues, offering more opportunities than ever to reuse, recycle or recover value from their waste.


Waste not, want not

Waste treatment hierachy Reduce Reuse Recycle/Compost Recover/Energy from Waste

The waste recovery industry is also looking at ways to recycle rare earth elements and other critical metals. Increasing demand for these commodities has led to an escalation in price, dictated mainly by China. If successful, this development would allow UK manufacturers, especially those in the hi-tech and ‘green’ energy industries, to source these valuable commodities nearer to home. As we strive towards a ‘zero waste’ target, it does appear that there’s very little that can’t be recycled. However, businesses and waste management providers still have to strike a balance between cost and the environment. Some waste products still remain too expensive to be viably recycled. But this sector appears to be a pipeline for innovation with plenty of investment being channelled into research and development in search of ever more innovative solutions to our waste problems.

Dispose/Landfill Considerable investment in new technologies has resulted in more economic benefit being gained from waste materials. An example is the exporting of waste-oil abroad to countries like Germany for treatment and processing – representing considerable cost to both the originating company and the environment. A brand new waste-oil recycling facility in North

Lanarkshire is the first of its kind in the UK to employ vacuum distillation to turn industrial waste oil into reusable lubricant and fuel oil. The unit is designed to ensure no harmful emissions are released into the atmosphere and is a safer and more cost effective option than conventional methods used to recycle waste oil.

Wolverhampton Business Solutions Centre 01902 321272 enquiries@wolverhamptonbsc.com www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge

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CSR

Philanthropy with a bottom line There can be no denying that earning the trust and loyalty of customers and clients is good for business. Finding ways to demonstrate that yours is a responsible business can help, and many organisations have chosen to adopt Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practices to set them apart from the competition. Business activities have direct impact on employees, customers, suppliers, the local community and the environment. CSR-focused businesses usually act above and beyond the legal requirements to ensure that this impact is constructive, encouraging positive action around areas of community investment, human rights and employee relations, environmental practices and ethical conduct. Emerging from the fringes During a period of unprecedented economic turmoil, public disillusionment with certain sectors and organisations resulted in CSR becoming increasingly

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widespread as companies tried to rebuild the trust of customers, communities and regulators alike. But CSR isn’t just a tool for troubled times; the practice was established well before the recent economic downturn as William Scarff, Senior Lecturer at the University of Wolverhampton Business School, explains: “CSR predates even the birth of multinational corporations in the 1960s and 1970s. It’s a practice embraced by some of the most respected retail names operating in the UK, including the John Lewis group, Marks and Spencer and IKEA. The FTSE and Dow Jones both operate stock market indices to rank businesses according to various responsible business criteria.” CSR is also an established part of the curriculum within most business schools, which are responsible for producing many of our future business leaders. William is

therefore well positioned to identify where fresh approaches to CSR could take us. “Some organisations are exemplars of good practice” he says. The Co-operative Bank, for example, appears to have ethical principles in its corporate DNA. What has undoubtedly worked as a unique selling point for the Co-operative and organisations with a particular environmental and ethical agenda, has become a mainstream activity adopted by some of the world’s best-known names, whatever their line of business. Then there are businesses which have always behaved with integrity towards their stakeholders and the environment, without having any publicly stated concern for CSR, William explains. “You could argue that being socially responsible is actually just about the good management of the business and


CSR

it’s not too different to having high quality products anyway. CSR is often a logical extension of existing good practice.” A superficial gloss? Despite being a well-established practice, CSR remains the focus for debate and extremes of opinion. There will always be those who consider it to be window dressing for a business’s operations rather than being borne out of any strongly held values. There have been notorious incidences of abuse, as William reminds us: “The problem is gauging how genuine any particular company is about CSR. It’s easy enough for a senior management team to produce a code of conduct and not make sure that it is sincerely followed through.” Striking a positive balance We can’t all be the Co-operative Bank. How enthusiastically businesses embrace CSR is dependent on their scale and the resource they can allocate to it. Many businesses successfully manage to find the middle ground and remain profitable, competing favourably according to traditional criteria. The art is to focus on aspects of CSR that are not only good for society or the environment, but can benefit the company.

Businesses can gain marketing capital from CSR by focusing on their environmental strategy for example. Over recent decades there have been tighter regulations around carbon emissions, energy conservation and waste management. Having a CSR policy can help businesses anticipate these and stay ahead of the game. Such initiatives are not only good for the bottom line; they have a positive impact on the environment and the community, and have potential to attract positive publicity. Although the motives may not be entirely altruistic, there are still positive outcomes to be gained all-round. The sincerity test Once implemented, abandoning the value-added that CSR represents could signal a betrayal of trust. The real test of companies sincerity is whether their CSR policy remains intact during difficult periods as William explains: “There are times when businesses have to cut costs. The test is whether they are prepared to continue with their CSR programme when circumstances (a declining market, a reduced market share, the economic crisis) impact upon them.”

This raises certain ethical questions such as, should businesses be taking a lead in socially responsible causes? There will inevitably be times when the interests of shareholders will be at odds with what is best for people and planet; that’s why there are those who believe that businesses can never be impartial enough to act in the wider public interest.

CSR is often a logical extension of existing good practice. William Scarff Senior Lecturer, University of Wolverhampton Business School

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CSR

Critics of CSR also come from within the business community. Some business leaders and commentators see philanthropy and making money as mutually exclusive, and CSR as straying from the primary economic role of businesses. Explains William: “There is a school of thought which argues that pursuing a bottom-line is enough. If you follow that line and reinvest the profits within the organisation, it will protect that organisation and provide employment, stability and benefits through taxes.” The future of CSR CSR is an evolving field and there are many different models. The concept of the Corporate Citizen is one of the more recent approaches which William has seen emerge – the idea being that if corporations pay taxes and own their own assets, they should enjoy some of the same legal rights as individuals. It’s a trend that has gathered momentum in the United States and is attracting interest here in the UK. The concept has its critics however, who believe that the interests of actual ‘human citizens’ may become marginalised. By their very nature, businesses – especially major corporations – can access vast resources and command power beyond the means of most

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ordinary citizens. Some large multinational corporations can access resourses greater than some small nations. To extend the scope of citizenship to include corporations, it is argued, may upset the balance of democracy and equality. It’s a complex and difficult area and the debate around Corporate Citizenship is likely to remain very active. One thing is certain though, says William: “CSR, in whatever form it takes, is unlikely to go away. The wider public and investors especially have grown to expect greater accountability and transparency from public and private organisations and CSR has established itself as the method of choice.” The University of Wolverhampton’s Management Research Centre (MRC) undertakes active research in CSR and is able to extend consultancy opportunities to businesses. To find out more about their research activities, visit: www.wlv.ac.uk/mrc

Wolverhampton Business Solutions Centre 01902 321272 enquiries@wolverhamptonbsc.com www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge


Crisis management

Don’t risk your reputation When things go wrong the natural response is to ask why it happened. If we don’t get a satisfactory answer to that question, or worse still, no answer at all, we start to fill in the gaps ourselves by speculating why and how things went wrong.This is the trap that some organisations fall into when they have to deal with a problem in the full gaze of the

public. Creating a void is the first step to losing control of the situation – something that is very difficult to recover once it’s gone. Crisis management is a necessary and important business function and, when it comes to the operational side of addressing the problem, businesses are often very adept,

responding quickly, professionally and effectively. It is vital though that communication is a key part of the organisation’s crisis management strategy. In today’s 24/7 news cycle and with prolific use of social media channels, the communications void can open up almost instantly if an organisation isn’t ready or prepared to talk. And preparation is everything.

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Crisis management

At first it may seem strange to plan what you might say about something that hasn’t or may never happen. It may even seem a little inappropriate, when actually it is a highly responsible and considerate way to behave. All organisations have a plan in the event of a fire, with the evacuation route clearly displayed for staff and visitors to see. It is even practised regularly to ensure everyone knows the plan. The fire may never happen, but everyone would agree that it would be irresponsible to be unprepared. The same is true for crisis communications. Most organisations can plan and prepare for some of the things that could go wrong. For instance, a retailer may find that a major supplier goes bust or a car manufacturer has a safety recall. Whatever the problem, most businesses will have considered the steps they would need to take and assigned responsibilities before

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they actually happen. This is when they should also think about how they might communicate – who do they need to talk to and what will they want to know? What channels should the organisation use to reach them and who in the organisation should it come from? While it is impossible to plan crisis communications in detail, having an agreed strategy enables an organisation to move swiftly and take control when things do go wrong. Sam Hope, Director, Institute of Media Arts, explains: “If you acknowledge and respond to a problem, you show you care. It is also better if you do it without being asked and are honest and straightforward in the way you communicate. These are the simple lessons that good businesses and organisations adopt to provide information under difficult circumstances. There is also the flip side, for example in the world

of politics, we often see people avoiding an issue and then providing an obtuse response. This only serves to frustrate voters and the media. In turn it inflates the issue into a crisis with potentially damaging consequences for the reputation of the individual or party.” The principles of good crisis communication are simple, but when they are put into practice their impact is far reaching and long lasting. If businesses fail to protect their reputation, it can impact negatively on the bottom line. Increasingly, organisations are investing more in crisis communications to help manage the impact. A recent development in the United States serves to highlight how it has become an essential business function. Chartis, which is part the US insurance giant AIG, has launched a new policy designed to help organisations protect their reputation in the event of


Crisis management

a major crisis by providing access to a panel of crisis communication experts. According to Chartis, this product is primarily aimed at small to medium sized organisations who may not have the in-house capability to deal with such an issue, but nevertheless want to be prepared to deal with potential threats to their reputation. Sam Hope concludes: “The fact that this insurance policy is being marketed to small to medium sized companies underlines that effective crisis communication is necessary for any organisation and is not just the preserve of major global corporations. Badly executed crisis communication can seriously damage a brand. Even global corporations get it wrong – BP lost billions of pounds, as well as its CEO, in 2010 when an oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. The resulting loss of

life and environmental disaster was seen to be handled insensitively on the world stage, seriously damaging the company’s credibility. “At the University of Wolverhampton we have provided media training for a variety of businesses in the private and public sectors. In the example of a retail company we provided the groundwork for defending their products on a consumer TV programme. For the health service we assisted in preparation for the potential of a pandemic, such as swine flu. Reputation has become an increasingly valuable commodity and those that fail to plan ahead and develop a crisis communication strategy are exposing their organisation to a high degree of risk.”

Wolverhampton Business Solutions Centre 01902 321272 enquiries@wolverhamptonbsc.com www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge

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Skilled graduates

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Skilled graduates

Investing in skills for the future What is a knowledge economy? Knowledge, expertise and intellectual property have become key factors in determining how companies compete and grow. In the West Midlands, companies are now driven to continuously adopt technological, organisational and social innovation in order to remain competitive. The key to sustaining knowledge based economies is ensuring that people with the relevant higher level skills are attracted to, and retained within the region.

graduates: “Some businesses, particularly SMEs are cautious when it comes to employing graduates. Common reasons stated are that graduates are expensive to employ, lack practical experience and may not stay in the business for long.

One company that has benefitted from a KTP is Craig and Derricott. The aim of the KTP was the development of a sales and marketing function to support the introduction of several new products and to re-build the brand in the market place.

He continues, “What is not often considered is the potential return on the investment in graduate level skills and the positive impact which this can have as they transfer their skills into the workforce”.

What is the role of graduates in a knowledge economy? Simon Brandwood, Head of Careers and Employment Services at the University of Wolverhampton says: “Graduates bring a higher level skill that is important to the long-term, strategic performance of knowledge based economies. As well as transferring their knowledge and utilising their skills within the workplace, graduates can bring fresh thinking and new ideas into a business.

What are the benefits of employing a graduate? Graduates bring with them the academic skills and the innovative and problem solving ideas which can help take a business forward. Businesses can attract and retain graduates to their workforce by offering them the opportunity to establish a career where their skills and expertise will make greater impact and a real return for the business.

Andrew Dolman, Managing Director, Craig and Derricott Ltd commented: “This project has successfully delivered a 35% increase in the sales of our industrial products whilst at the same time enabling us to establish a network of UK customer outlets for our products and create the business metrics and tools to manage them.

Graduates will encourage the adoption of new and innovative technology and production processes that are essential if businesses are to successfully develop high quality, internationally competitive products and services. A skilled workforce is essential to a knowledge based economy, as well as utilising their own experience graduates will assist with the up-skilling of the existing workforce by transferring their knowledge and skills to them”. So why are employers reluctant to employ graduates? Simon explains some of the barriers employers have when employing

The impact of graduate level skills on a business are tangible. Companies have employed graduates through the national Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) scheme have reported an average annual increase in profits, before tax, of £220,000, the creation of three new jobs and an increase in the skills levels of existing staff. Try before you buy There are many programmes available to businesses such as placements, internships, and the national Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) scheme.

“The project success has firmly embedded the principles of good marketing into our business planning and tactical operations with processes that will support our plans for further growth over the next five years.” There has never been a better time to recruit a graduate; businesses who are interested can take advantage of the free recruitment services provided through the Employment Centre at the University of Wolverhampton. They can advise companies on graduate training schemes, advertising roles and interviews and selection. This may be the boost your business needs.

Wolverhampton Business Solutions Centre 01902 321272 enquiries@wolverhamptonbsc.com www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge

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For more information Tel: 01902 321272 Email: enquiries@wolverhamptonbsc.com Web: www.wlv.ac.uk/knowledge

WLV KnowLEDge - Issue 03  

An informative mix of interest articles and features, written specifically for the business community