Graduate Stories – Delivering results with internal communications and employee engagement

Ennae O’Connor is in first year with the National Graduate Programme, working in the Organisational Development department.

During my Business and Management course in Maynooth, I completed an internship in Enterprise Ireland working in the High Potential Start-Ups division. This gave me real exposure into the type of work that Enterprise Ireland does – its culture, its people and so on – and so I knew from then that the graduate programme was something I was really interested in pursuing. I could see what an important role Enterprise Ireland has both within Ireland and overseas for Irish companies.

At Enterprise Ireland, our purpose statement is supporting Irish enterprises to start, innovate and succeed globally but the line that really resonates the most with me is “driving prosperity throughout Ireland”. Witnessing that impact first-hand is something that really inspired me during my internship and made me want to come back. 

“Enterprise Ireland is very fast-paced; you’re taking on real responsibilities and making a real impact for businesses.” Ennae O’Connor, National Graduate Programme participant.

 

Applying for the Graduate Programme

The application process can be intensive and I’d really recommend doing your homework. Look at the Enterprise Ireland corporate website, their social media and their values as a company. Be prepared ahead of each round, leverage any relevant experience you may have, no matter how big or small – education, internships, personal interests – anything that demonstrates your competencies. Reach out to the graduates on the current programme – I’m sure they’d be more than happy to help out and share any advice they have. Keep positive and confident throughout – it is a long process but it’s definitely worth it.

 

Every day is different!

My role is a little different from other graduate roles as it’s internally focused rather than client-facing. I absolutely adore it. My department is organisational development and I’m involved in internal communications and employee engagement. During my internship I was very client-focused, dealing with entrepreneurs and companies, but in my final year in college I became very interested in organisational development – and that translated into me getting involved in this area. It’s completely different from the client-facing roles, but I think the whole area of internal communications is really interesting.

The primary focus of my role is to keep employees connected and informed, creating a shared understanding of Enterprise Ireland’s purpose and values and keeping colleagues updated on company decisions, initiatives, programmes and executive messages. No two days are the same. We have over 40 international offices, as well as regional offices, so my day-to-day role is creating editorial content and executing wellbeing programs and campaigns to promote our company values.

As an example of the typical work I would do, yesterday I was putting together our virtual Pride Parade; today I was preparing a presentation to present to our Executive Director. There’s a lot of creative thinking. Over the last four weeks my main focus has been coordinating our global wellness challenge – similar to a step challenge, we had 44 teams competing to maximise their daily activity. I was giving weekly updates, the highly anticipated Leader Board reveal and sharing photos and videos of the teams getting active. The challenge coincided with our Pride Run, which saw our colleagues all across the world Rock the Rainbow and run, walk or jog 5k to celebrate inclusion and diversity of LGBTQ+ people and their families.

“It’s important to know that there are positions available for graduates in all sectors and all departments, from finance to marketing to our client-facing roles.  says O’Connor.

There are so many opportunities to get involved and develop your business, project-management, relationship-building and networking skills. You’re not expected to know everything when you come in, but you need to be energetic and enthusiastic and passionate about delivering results.

 

To learn how Enterprise Ireland’s Graduate Programme can help you take the next step in your career visit National ProgrammeInternational Programme.

Graduate Stories – The opportunity to be part of a professional & dynamic team

Currently in year two with Enterprise Ireland’s National Graduate Programme, Stephen McLoughlin describes his experience of working across the Brexit division and Covid-19 response unit.

Coming from a background in political science, I always had an interest in doing something related to government but I didn’t want to be a civil servant. Enterprise Ireland is unique in that you’re engaging with the private sector, so you’re at the cusp of where the public and the private sector meets – and that really appealed to me because you see both sides and you feel like you’re flying the Irish flag for Irish companies and really making an impact.

 

Applying for the Graduate Programme

I became interested in Enterprise Ireland after talking to some executives at the open day in the Helix while studying for a Masters in DCU in Business Management. The application process is very intense – if you’re in college, you have to set that time aside to apply for graduate programmes because they do take a lot of time to complete. It’s important to do your homework and I’d highly recommend attending the recruitment days so you can meet previous graduates working in the organisations and get an insight into their roles.

The assessment centre part of the application process is tough. It’s worth putting the time into researching what happens in an assessment centre and how it works – there are some valuable insights to learn, such as not being the most dominant person in the room, allowing everyone their chance to speak and using your limited time effectively. The experience does give you an insight into what the role entails and the challenges that it brings.

After the assessment centre, there’s an interview, and a lot of preparation should go into this, especially if you haven’t done much work in competency-based interviews. Look into what skillsets you have that would align with the type of competencies Enterprise Ireland  is looking for. All the information is there online so it’s just a matter of putting the time in to research. The interview is intense but it’s a chance to demonstrate what sort of person you are and what you can bring to the role.

About ten of us commenced the programme in August 2019. We were trained with the international grads, and it was a great chance to meet everyone and begin to network – which is central to our roles.

 

Working on the Brexit response

I was assigned to the Brexit unit – as I had studied political science in my primary degree, this was a dream for me. The Brexit Zone had a dedicated space at International Markets Week in 2019, so I was really thrown into the deep end from the very start – which was a really great experience as I think I met three or four government ministers in my second week and it gave me a huge insight into the advisory piece provided to client companies regarding the challenges posed by Brexit.

“The role gave me the opportunity to develop and enhance my skills as a communicator.” says Stephen McLoughlin

Networking takes a bit of work to master, specifically how to make the most of a conversation and optimise the time you have with a client or a buyer. It’s the professional world and everyone just wants to get the work done as quickly and as efficiently as possible.

We had a lot of Brexit events, so in my first couple of weeks I was able to meet a lot of people all around the country in sectors that might be affected by Brexit. Internal networking is really important too. It’s a really big organisation and you’ll struggle during the first few weeks to meet everyone but they really encourage you to get up from your desk and get involved in projects or events – sports, charity fundraisers and so on.

My role changed dramatically in 2020 when most of the Brexit team became part of the Covid-19 response team. What was really interesting is that our Brexit insights prepared us for this, as a lot of the products and services put into place to help companies during Brexit had parallels with those developed to help clients through the Covid crisis. Advising businesses where to go for support through government agencies has been a big challenge and tough at times but it’s meaningful, practical work that really makes a difference.

If you are interested in joining the Enterprise Ireland Graduate Programmes, check your eligibility here: National ProgrammeInternational Programme.

International Market Week

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Global Ambition – Industry Insights webinar series

Enterprise Ireland will host a series of Global Ambition – Industry Insights sector focused webinars for clients, to deliver market intelligence on the evolving international export opportunities across global markets. The five sector market webinars will focus on:

  • Construction – 15th September, 9:30am – 10:45am

  • Lifesciences – 15th September, 2pm – 3pm

  • Travel Tech – 16th September, 3pm – 4pm

  • Agritech – 17th September, 11am – 12pm

  • Consumer Retail – 17th September, 2pm – 3pm

 

This webinar series will draw on Enterprise Ireland’s unique insight into key markets for Irish exporters lead by the Market Advisor in that sector and will explore crucial issues such as relationship strategies and the shift in consumer behaviour in the context of Covid-19.

You can register using this link. You can register for multiple webinars and all registrants will receive a copy of the webinar recording and slides.

Digital communication – the key to success in North America in the context of Covid

The ongoing Covid-19 global pandemic has thrown up many challenges for companies worldwide. For Irish companies exporting to North America, these challenges have varied widely from sector to sector, but some, such as remote working, communication with clients, difficulties in finding new business, establishing sales pipelines and cash flow issues have been identified as common. As such, a basic roadmap to recovery has been drafted by Enterprise Ireland (EI) to help companies navigate through this uncertain time.

“The roadmap is a framework,” says Sean Davis, Regional Director for North America at EI, “but what’s interesting is that it extends across many, if not all sectors.”

There are three stages to the roadmap, and it’s backed up by EI supports to get companies into stages two and three:

  • Stabilise – protect your business, maintain operations and retain employees
  • Reset – adapt your business, plans and operations to new conditions
  • Recover – Restart innovation and capitalise on early demand as recovery develops

Communication is key

One major issue that affects every stage of the framework is communication. Many companies found themselves scrambling to deal with a workforce that suddenly became remote. Face-to-face meetings became impossible, and in the North American market, different time zones and inability to travel became massive issues for Irish companies – and so setting up successful and secure online communication technologies became key.

Dr Martyn Farrows, COO of Soapbox Labs, explains that the communication issue is not just an internal problem, but also extends to your customers and potential clients. “For us, as an online business, we were very comfortable with using many of the technologies available to us, such as Slack, as we had already had them set up internally. That situation was put into very stark contrast with the market. Our business has a very regular 12-month rhythm as we do a lot of work with the education sector, so when this kicked off in February/March, we were right into our development phase and two very big customer networking events in North America were cancelled as a result of Covid. So we had to react very quickly as to how we could communicate with our clients and how we could support them as they adapt to a remote learning environment.”

But there are positives. Because this is a global problem, everyone has the same communication issue – and Sean explains that in a way it’s a great leveller for companies, as location becomes less of an issue when face-to-face meetings are not possible for anyone. “We also had a good call with Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.  Following research work with a large number of North American companies, the conclusion is that we’ve actually crossed the digital rubicon in terms of our movement towards digitalisation and this new virtual environment.

“Maybe one of the benefits of Covid has been that push of the technological envelope, leading companies to utilise technology in a more utilitarian way.”

Adapting your business

For every company, there is a real need to adapt to the new market conditions, and answer any individual challenges that present themselves to the company. John Power is the CEO & Managing Director of Aerogen, a company that manufactures the only product that delivers drugs via a closed-system aerosol on ventilated patients, so he experienced great demand as the crisis took hold. “In the second two and a half weeks of March we received orders equivalent to the orders received in the first half of last year. But that meant we had to ramp up our manufacturing at a time when the world in many ways was shutting down. For instance, a lot of our product is shipped globally on passenger planes but when they were grounded, we had to look for capacity on cargo planes. It was a very challenging time and we had to manage expectations to make sure everyone was getting what they needed to keep them going.”

For Martyn, too, there was a need to adapt quickly. “We have just launched a first-of-its-kind voice-powered assessment tool to help educators understand and accelerate literacy development for remote learners in the US. That is an interesting case study as we signed the contract in January 2020 for delivery in August 2021. In May, the customer floated the idea that they’d like to speed up development to bring it in this year to address needs created by Covid. Now there are 150,000 kids able to access that product for their learning, growing to 2 million in the next two years. This is a good example of needing to be agile, needing to adapt to your customer’s needs as they try to respond to the needs of the market.”

Both John and Martyn agree that the key to rising to such challenges is being sensitive to your staff’s needs, especially in such uncertain times when staff members may be dealing with virtual working challenges, stress and worry about illness, and children at home from school. “You have to manage things very carefully and set clear expectations,” says Martyn. “Our team has been amazing and adapted extremely well, but a lot of that is down to effective communication.”

Preparing for the future

While stabilising and adapting your business is key to survival, to keep trading once the crisis is over, preparation for the future is vital. And again, finding new ways to communicate is extremely important.

“In the medtech industry, our usual method of opening new accounts would be to meet the people and demonstrate our products,” says John. “Obviously that has been disrupted now as hospitals don’t want people coming off the street amid the restrictions. We’ve had to develop more online training, online webinars and keynote speeches to try and attract a pipeline for the future that way.”

Both Martyn and John agree that to succeed in the North American market, preparation and flexibility are needed. “We did a lot of research into the market and were fortunate to get a Market Discovery Fund grant approved through EI, which was pivotal for our entry into the market,” says Martyn.

“It’s all about preparation; there is no such thing as an overnight success in the US market.”

“Our modus operandi at EI over the past 30+ years has been to cultivate the client/buyer relationship,” says Sean.

“With the opening of our Montreal office, we will have eight offices across North America. I would advise any client company to get in contact with our local manager and market adviser for help during this time. We have had the same communication issues as our clients, but we’ve moved quickly to adapt so we can continue to nurture those client-buyer relationships.”

So what will be the future for Irish companies operating in North America? “At the start of this crisis, you couldn’t over-communicate, everyone wanted information,” says Sean. “But as it started to move through its different phases, we’ve moved more into trust and delegation. There will be a certain snap-back once we start to get back to normal and a certain amount of personal interaction will come back. On this point, there is a distinct difference between the US and Canada, as in Canada, those personal relationships are very important – which is why we have two offices there now.

“There has always been a cultural affinity between America and Ireland – but there are a lot of domestic NA companies that will be dusting themselves off and looking at the opportunities within the region – of which there are plenty – and they may be taking advantage of the huge markets on their doorstep to help them recover. That will be a future challenge for our clients.”

Market Watch – South East Asia

Overview

• Many countries in South East Asia have made a successful return to business
• Travel restrictions had posed problems for businesses selling into the region, but goods are moving again.
• Critical supply chain companies are ramping up production and capacity to meet increasing demand
• Opportunities are continuing to arise, particularly in Digital technologies, Life Sciences, Telehealth, and Industrial sectors
• Life is beginning to return to normal.

Every industry across the world has been impacted by the effects of Covid-19. But while there is undoubtedly still a long way to go, business is beginning to return to some sort of normality and Kevin Ryan, Director of ASEAN, says much of South East Asia has made a cautious, but successful return.

“Business is definitely getting back to some semblance of normality, but things are a little different,” says Ryan. “In Singapore, we are now in Phase 2 of the ‘Circuit-Breaker’ measures and most businesses are now allowed to return to office environments. But the message remains consistent and to work from home where possible.

“Politically there is a history of stability and longevity here with governments making long-term plans which are carried on by successive ruling parties and this is very beneficial to the economy of the region.”

With experience of the SARS epidemic in 2002-2004, the governments of SE Asia have been methodical in their management of the Covid outbreak and this has proved crucial in the successful reopening of business.

“During the phased approach, the return to work was carefully managed,” says Ryan. “And around the region, key markets are opening up and demonstrating strong ownership in managing business and movement of goods.”

So with the effects of Covid shaping how people work and interact, the ASEAN director says strong sectoral opportunities have emerged.

“The Future of Work and the Digital Workplace is a very interesting development and client companies see big potential across the Asia market,” he says. “Here you have huge centres of populations, with Banks, Insurers and Tech companies all requiring teams to work remotely and embrace innovative solutions.

“From the Life Sciences sector, there is significant interest and demand for services which offer innovative solutions to help eliminate the effects of Covid. And the crisis has shown how reliable technology can be and has forced governments to take a fresh look at implementing digital health solutions in their regions.

“Consumer Retail is also playing out strongly with the likes of Water Wipes and Pestle & Mortar being two good examples of clients gaining traction in Asia.”

But most businesses, regardless of sector, are focused on saving cost, generating additional ancillary revenue streams and using technology to help prevent Covid in the workplace.

“Businesses are very keen to understand how technology can help them combat the pandemic and keep staff safe,” says Ryan. “We’ve had strong engagement with companies who see the value proposition, most notably with the likes of Novaerus who have a proven air and surface disinfection device. While companies such as Combilift have proven capabilities in an industrial space, helping to eliminate waste and enabling companies think more efficiently.

“Our clients are constantly looking at new ways to offer unique solutions to companies, which are now struggling with their traditional business model. And we are seeing success and increased interest in companies such as Good Travel Software (GTS), which allows OEM car manufacturers and car companies opportunities to tap into additional ancillary revenue streams they wouldn’t have considered before.”

But one of the real strengths of Enterprise Ireland is its network overseas.

“We are the gatekeepers making sure clients are ready to make the leap,” says Ryan. “We also work with them to break down any barriers – geographically and culturally.

“So on a positive note, we’re definitely seeing greater availability and access. Prospective buyers in the region are realising that unless they open their minds and are willing to think innovatively, they will face the prospect of losing opportunities to their competitors, and in this climate that could prove fatal. Irish companies have a long history of being innovative and entrepreneurial and business in Asia is very responsive to this.”

The SE Asia region encompasses 10 countries with a population of circa. 650m people and Ryan says the market is very much open with he and his team engaging regularly with client companies to support a successful entry into the region.

“Ireland, in comparison to some parts of Asia, is small, and our team works extremely hard on selling a consistent Irish message,” he says. “We have strong success in opening doors and creating opportunities and our reputation across the globe is superb with Ireland’s expertise in Asia shining through from the perspective of innovation and quality.

“So there is light at the end of the tunnel, and we’re encouraging clients who have a product ready to go, to engage in Asia as we are laying the groundwork for opportunities to be realised in 2021 and beyond.”

Get key insights on the supports available from Enterprise Ireland.

eiffel tower

French €100 billion recovery package puts business first

Recovery package which invests in Green economy, public transport, sustainable builds and digitisation could be of interest to Irish firms.

The impressive two-year stimulus plan announced in Paris last week puts business high on the priorities list. With the lion’s share going towards a tax cut for businesses, the goal is to spur economic growth and get back to 2019 levels by 2022.

With the global economy in the midst of the worst economic downturn in decades, governments are under pressure to outline individual recovery plans. France — feeling the sting of a 13% contraction — isn’t taking any chances, announcing one of the largest cash injections amongst bigger European countries.

The government’s spending strategy is heavily focused on boosting business to the tune of €34bn. Jobs, health and social programmes which aim to create at least 160,000 new jobs next year will see €36bn of the pot. Finally, €30bn will go towards green transition initiatives which will go a long way to help France meet climate goals without relying on carbon taxes.

The key measures outlined in the recovery plan are:

  • €20bn in production tax cuts for businesses
  • €11bn investment to improve transport networks, particularity railways
  • €7.5bn towards extending the furlough scheme, though limited to the worst-hit sectors and part-time subsidies

As France24’s Senior Business Editor Stephen Carroll notes, the plan has “a little something for everyone”.

The general sentiment among France’s business community is that it will open opportunities, triggering new and innovative projects.

Banking on consumer confidence

Central to the plan is boosting consumer confidence. France argues that incomes have largely been maintained and that households have continued saving during the two-month lockdown period. Encouraging consumers to spend their money, the government believes, will stem primarily from people having job security. They say the focus on business investment will provide that security by spurring and maintaining economic growth.

 

Green goals

The recovery investment presents the opportunity to make some serious headway on climate goals. Of the €30bn going towards the green transition, €2bn will be injected into the hydrogen energy industry — accelerating a move away from fossil fuels. Almost €7bn will be invested in making public and private buildings more energy-efficient, creating jobs in manufacturing and construction at the same time.

 

A 40/60 split

The money will come from two sources: 40% from the EU’s Recovery Fund and 60% in affordable loans from the European Central Bank. The government plans to repay loans by 2025 and insist they won’t implement tax increases to do so. The €100bn investment aims to create economic growth which in turn will reduce the debt burden, making repaying easier.

 

Opportunities for Irish companies

The emphasis on the green economy and digitalisation will undoubtedly trigger major investment projects. Enterprise Ireland Market Advisor for France, Jean-Charles Moczarski, says that Irish client companies with a current foothold in France are well-positioned to take advantage of such opportunities and that the potential is ripe for those yet to enter. “I think it will bring market opportunities within France; it certainly makes it even more worthwhile for client companies to put France on the list of priority export destinations.”

A View from International Markets – North America – Webinar

In these unprecedented times knowledge and insights have never been more critical to business planning.

This On Demand webinar draws on Enterprise Ireland’s unique insight into key markets for Irish exporters and explores crucial issues such as sales and relationship strategies in the context of Covid-19, managing teams remotely and emerging market opportunities.

The webinar featured SoapBox Labs and Aerogen who gave their first-hand experience of selling internationally and maintaining and building relationships during the worldwide pandemic. This webinar also featured Sean Davis, Enterprise Ireland’s Regional Director for North America.

This webinar discussed:

  • Operation and business continuity during these unprecedented times.

  • Growing your business in the world’s largest economic region.

  • Lessons in leadership and using technology during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nearform

Inside Innovation Show – Nearform

Inside Innovation brings you the stories of Ireland’s leading innovators and changemakers.

On the last of our 3-part series called Innovating in a Crisis, we are joined by Chief Commercial Officer of NearForm Larry Breen.

 

On the 7th of July 2020, Ireland launched its contact-tracing app; COVID Tracker and within a week it was downloaded by around 37% of Ireland’s adult population. Ireland has been heralded as an exemplar in Covid Tracking via Smartphones and emulated all over the globe.

Larry Breen shares the story of the company behind the app, outlining useful tips on a distributed workforce and how collaboration is key to a successful project.

Evolve UK Webinar – Selling to the NHS in the post-Brexit era

 

The NHS provides a significant opportunity for suppliers and will continue to do so beyond January 1st 2021.

This webinar places the spotlight on Digital Health and Health IT with insights into how you can sustain and win business with the NHS beyond January 2021. It was developed to inform Irish businesses considering selling to the NHS for the first time as well as those needing additional information about the overall UK healthcare landscape and the various procurement pathways.

Hosted by Marie-Claire Henry, Senior Market Adviser – Healthcare & Lifesciences, Enterprise Ireland and Martin Bell, an expert in the UK healthcare sector.

The webinar will feature:

– Building relationships

– Navigating the NHS landscape

– Building credibility

– Regulation & procurement

– Market entry to sustained growth

For any queries around selling to the NHS, please email Marie-Claire Henry.

happy employee

Irish talent tech firms boost global engagement and productivity

In this era of widespread remote working, employee engagement and wellbeing matter more than ever. Isolated workers need to feel a sense of community and get support from their employers in line with their company’s values.

Companies around the world are looking to Irish talent tech companies for cutting-edge digital solutions to enable streamlined, effective work by HR departments, managers and employees. From wellbeing apps to performance management tools, Irish companies are exporting best-in-class products to businesses in dozens of countries.

Most are also focused on integrating with the existing technologies used by companies, meaning those in charge of IT budgets can maximise their legacy investments. Discover how five of the best in Irish talent tech are meeting the needs of a global client base.

 

1. Workvivo: Engaging employees with a highly social experience

Cork-based Workvivo is an enterprise social network, designed to enable organisations to engage as well as communicate with their employee communities.

“We took activities such as posting, liking and sharing content to an activity feed, which people are used to on social media apps outside the workplace, but developed them in a business context, enabling people to more easily engage with one another and with their company.” says Pete Rawlinson, Chief Marketing Officer at Workvivo.

 

Describe your business

“Disengagement was an issue for as many as 70% of businesses before the pandemic,” he adds. “One-to-one communication tools such as email or messaging facilitate communication but don’t do anything to provide that sense of community and culture.”

“People  need to feel part of something, especially when they are working remotely.” Pete Rawlinson, CMO at Workvivo

Since the pandemic spread, Workvivo has seen a significant increase in enquiries. “Companies are seeing that many remote workers can feel isolated. Our platform helps bring employees together through a highly social experience. We see customers using the platform to host activities such as quizzes and competitions that really help create that important sense of community….and fun!”

Woodies found that its Workvivo activity went up when its workers were furloughed due to Covid-19. “These were mainly employees with no work email account or company device, but they wanted to stay engaged,” says Rawlinson.

Workvivo has sought to ensure it can integrate with existing communication tools such as Slack, Zoom and Workday, and also includes built-in engagement analysis through pulse surveys, he says, adding that many customers report higher levels of employee satisfaction and engagement than before they implemented the platform. “Higher engagement typically leads to increases in talent retention and acquisition,” he said.

Established three years ago, Workvivo now has customers in 35 countries with over 150,000 users on the platform. The company is headquartered in Cork, Ireland and has recently opened an office in Sacramento, California. Having recently secured $16m (€14.2m) in Series A funding, it is now focused on expanding its US client base and accelerating its product development plans.

 

2. Frankli: automating continuous performance management

While performance review cycles can strike dread into both managers and employees, Frankli aims to make performance management easier and more intuitive with its end-to-end platform.

“Our product allows managers to have much more meaningful conversations with people and support their development,” says Noel Dykes, founder and CEO of Frankli. “This approach is transformative and agile — we don’t set out to be a once-a-year annual cycle of goal-setting and meetings.”

A software engineer by background, Dykes worked as a consultancy practice manager in New Zealand and saw first-hand that younger employees were particularly keen on continuous feedback and recognition. “People want to be truly connected to the work,” he says. “They want to understand their purpose. Why are they there? What is the company they are working for trying to achieve?”

He adds that purpose-driven organisations will thrive, especially as remote working opens up a global marketplace.

“Managers are going to become coaches, rather than engaging in direct management in the office where they can see employees and know what they are working on. From now on, they will have to trust people and give them much more autonomy.”

Within Frankli, managers can set up regular recurring one-to-one meetings with their team members, setting priorities, agreeing action items and supporting accountability on both sides. The software suggests recommended talking points, based on insights from organisational psychology. Employees can also contribute comments and suggestions.

The product also enables businesses to offer more tailored learning and development opportunities, including a two-sided mentor marketplace tool.

Frankli has customers of all sizes in Ireland, the UK, Poland and New Zealand. While its core focus is midsize companies looking to scale, it already supports workforces of as many as 70,000 employees.

 

3. Empeal: personalised employee wellbeing at scale

While many employee wellbeing platforms work on a one-to-many scale, says Sohini De, founder of data-driven start-up Empeal, her business aims to deliver 1:1 wellbeing support at scale.

“If someone is having trouble with sleep, perhaps not doing too much exercise, eating unhealthy food or generally falling into bad habits, they can go through the programme on our system,” she explains.

“They start by completing interactive questionnaires and we can also integrate data from their wearable devices. They could be given a personalised programme to improve their sleep hygiene, for example. If they continue to have problems, their case is escalated to a sleep expert.”

With users in Ireland and India, Empeal is now focused on expanding those markets and pushing into both the UAE and the UK, So far, it has seen engagement rates of 60% on average, which De says is high for a wellbeing app. “We have also seen very encouraging results in terms of people achieving their health goals,” she says.

In addition to helping employees improve their wellbeing, Empeal also provides anonymised aggregate data to employers to enable them make better decisions, improve staff retention rates and attract more talent.

To help companies navigate the coronavirus crisis, Empeal produced a free toolkit of resources and also made its community-level module free. “We were finding a lot of employers were asking, ‘How can we take care of our people at this time?’ — they were very concerned about how everyone in remote locations was coping not in touch with their workplace or workmates,” says De.

 

“The community engagement part of the platform, which includes fun challenges and community boards, helps employees feel connected and it’s very simple to roll out for HR teams.” Sohini De, Empeal founder

 

4. Peptalk: building community through connection and wellbeing

The three founders of workplace wellbeing platform Peptalk — all former sports stars — know more than most the value of wellbeing when it comes to performance.

“We had all been involved in high performance sports,” says CEO James Brogan, an all-Ireland winner himself and a cousin of Dublin GAA legend Bernard Brogan, another of the co-founders along with Michelle Fogarty, who represented Ireland at taekwondo. “We had seen that to get the best out of people, their lives need to be in balance. What you do off the pitch is as important as what you do on it.”

Peptalk aims to help companies build sustainable high performance cultures through its community-driven employee experience platform. The product includes an insights tool, management toolkits, an employee app and a real-time measurement dashboard.

“We’re helping organisations with those off-the-pitch activities. We’re helping humans to be better at what they do, to have more energy, and to be more focused and resilient,” says Brogan.

He adds that the Covid-19 crisis has exacerbated the issue of work-life balance: “Senior leaders have seen a different side to their staff. They’re now acutely aware that, unless people have proper support, they won’t be able to work to the best of their ability.”

During the crisis, Peptalk has seen increased engagement from existing clients, while also doubling its usual number of demos to potential customers.

Set up in late 2016, Peptalk has users in 10 countries, including Mondelez, McDonald’s and Paypal. “This is a global challenge faced by multinationals. We offer one solution that works across an organisation, so there is no sense of disconnection with different offices doing different things,” says Brogan.

With serious plans to scale further, Peptalk expects to close out its current funding round later in 2020. “This is the time for us to get out and support as many organisations as we can,” says Brogan. “It’s a challenging time and the need has never been greater for the type of services we offer.”

 

5. Wrkit: easy to implement and clinically-backed 

Founded two decades ago, Wrkit was originally a group benefits scheme, which evolved into an employee discount scheme. While users can still access thousands of discounts on holidays, food, clothes and other products, Wrkit has expanded to offer other services, including a learning portal with 4,500 personal and professional courses, a recognition portal and a wellbeing portal called Powr.

“POWR stands for Positive Occupational Wellness Resources, offering tools such as meditation, breathing exercises and reflective journaling” explains Jason Brennan, Wrkit’s Director of Wellbeing and Leadership.

“The big differentiator between Powr and similar apps is that it offers 430 clinically based behavioural plans put together by psychologists,” says Brennan. “These are based on six paths — mind, sleep, work, life, food and active. When users answer the questionnaires for these paths, they are given a personalised plan.”

“POWR users begin by finding out how they score clinically in the 6 areas of wellbeing and are instantly provided with personalised clinically based plans to improve engagement and growth in each area. During covid for example we saw a huge up take in the activity, work and life plans, helping not only users but employers by feeding back what is happening in real time with their anonymised and aggregated dashboard.”

Wrkit is based in Dublin, but also has offices in London and Massachusetts. Its clients include multinationals such as KPMG, FedEx and Boston Scientific. Its internet-based application can be launched quickly as it requires no specific IT infrastructure, says Brennan.

“All we need to launch is the list of employee ID numbers, and we provide lots of webinars and video tutorials to help staff engage with the tool, which is of course completely confidential.”

When Covid-19 struck, Wrkit quickly found demand rose. “We launched to 60 companies in eight weeks,” says Brennan. “We also quickly created a Coping with Covid portal to help users.”

social distancing

Social distancing keeps opportunities close by

Social distancing is now more important than ever as economies around the world reopen and people learn to live alongside Covid-19. For innovative Irish companies this new need to be together, but apart, is opening up fresh export opportunities.

It includes companies such as UtilityAR, which specialises in augmented reality (AR) solutions for smart factories in sectors such as manufacturing, pharmaceutical, utilities and data centres. Right now it is enabling workers separated by Covid-19 – either because of social distancing or because one may be in quarantine – to continue to work together.

“We produce systems for technical workers to help them get the job done in cases where, traditionally, they would have worked side by side, whether for oversight, guidance, trouble shooting or simply to have a second pair of eyes,” says UtilityAR CEO Patrick Liddy.

Its high tech AR eye glasses allow the wearer share what he or she is seeing with a colleague on another part of the site, allowing socially distanced collaboration. The company has clients around the world, in some case helped by contacts made working with foreign multinationals based in Ireland.  

 

Enabling companies to get back to work

Irish construction services technology company GoContractor quickly identified Covid challenges for the construction industry, particularly in relation to induction and training. Much of this activity traditionally takes place in person, either in a work trailer or classroom, and involves the sharing and copying of documents. Clocking on too, whether paper based, touch screen or turnstile, risks spreading germs.

Prior to Covid-19 GoContractor’s contractor management platform automated these processes and moved them online, saving safety and project management personnel thousands of hours of teaching and registration time over the life of a project.

Since Covid the company has been enabling construction companies in Ireland, the UK, US and Canada to get back to work by providing a socially distanced ‘no touch’ method for site orientations, registrations and access control.

Instead of a worker having to physically provide documents to site-safety personnel or a site manager, GoContractor allows workers to upload their credentials directly to the GoContractor platform, from anywhere.

For clocking on and off, GoContractor allows site security or other check-in personnel to scan a QR code to pull up their information, making sure they are properly trained and registered to be on site, and then checking them into the worksite.

GoContractor even allows for hard hat stickers with QR codes, meaning workers can simply have their hard hat scanned on the way in and out of a site to be checked at a distance.

 

Adding value for clients

All of these innovations can provide additional value to its clients in the post Covid era, including international companies such as Lendlease, AECOM and Skanska.

Irish software firm Solgari develops integrated communications solutions for the fintech sector that offer voice, video, chat, SMS and co-browsing options which are fully integrated with Microsoft Dynamics 365 and support regulatory compliance globally.

Since Covid-19 the company has been helping its clients meet demand for distance-working by ensuring that all company communications are recorded, and the data extracted efficiently, regardless of geography or medium. It allows companies whose employees are working remotely to keep up to date records of all client interactions.

Internet of things specialist Taoglas launched CROWD Insights, an IoT solution that supports social distancing. Its cloud-based analytics platform uses existing WiFi infrastructure to measure, monitor, predict, alert and notify social distancing breaches.

“We believe this will be vital in the days and months to come, to allow people to move around safely without fear and to get the economy moving again and help business to stay open,”

says Ronan Quinlan, co-chief executive of Taoglas

Waterford based Nearform answered Ireland’s call with the development of the HSE’s new mobile tracing app, designed to rapidly notify those who have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19.

When launched the new real-time symptom tracking and digital contact tracing app will curtail the spread of the virus across Ireland.

Dublin based Kastus moved quickly in response to the pandemic, taking its already pioneering anti microbial surface coating and getting it independently tested – and verified – as a key tool in the fight against Covid-19.

It works on touch screen devices, such as those seen at airport terminals and in fast food restaurants. The company, which prior to Covid had already provided with Al Maha, a ceramic tile maker in Oman, has since partnered with Swedish company ZetaDisplay too, a specialist in digital signage.

As for so many innovative Irish companies, the move showed how social distancing globally can bring business opportunities back home.