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The Talent Isle

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There can be no denying that the Irish economy has benefited hugely from foreign direct investment, particularly from the US. The statistics speak for themselves; today there are 700 US companies with Irish operations directly employing 165,000 people. But, the historical economical and political US-Irish relationship works both ways. With Murphys, Kennedys and O’Neills making their presence known in boardrooms the length and breadth of the 50 States, Ireland is well represented in the highest echelons on US soil. Likewise, the statistics on that side of the Atlantic speak for themselves; there are also 700 Irish companies with operations in the US who employ 100,000 US citizens.


Recent changes to the political environment in the form of US protectionism has undoubtedly threatened our status as the location of choice for US companies, making up 12.1% of US FDI investment into Europe despite accounting for just 1% of the entire European economy. At a time of green shoots growth in the aftermath of one of the worst recessions the State has known, this hard won reputation in now in jeopardy.


Speaking at the Boston College Ireland Business Council symposium, John Harthorne, CEO MassChallenge described protectionism as grabbing the largest slice of the pie. The responsibility of leadership should be to increase the size, not of the slice, but of the pie itself.


So, what can business leaders do? Well, of course we can leave it to the Government and State agencies to do their job, or else we can get out there ourselves and deliver the message that Ireland is still a great place to do business.


That is exactly what Ireland Gateway to Europe did on Wednesday April 11, 2018, when a delegation of more than 40 Irish business leaders arrived in Washington to deliver the message that Ireland’s trade partnership with the US is stronger than ever, is truly bilateral and that Ireland remains the location of choice for FDI in Europe.


Ireland Gateway to Europe met with their US counterparts and political representatives on Capitol Hill with the purpose of strengthening existing business relationships and create new ones.


This initiative is a not-for-profit annual trade mission made up of professional advisory firms who travel the US annually to provide a secure resource network for business expansion to help US investment succeed in setting up operations in Ireland.


Founded in 2012 as a response to the economic challenges at that time of global recession, Ireland Gateway to Europe is now in its seventh year of US, UK and global trade missions. Ireland has traditionally enjoyed a particularly strong business, cultural and political relationship with the US. However, in light of the recent announcements of trade tariffs, data privacy, immigration and other protectionist policies, our concern is that there may be a perception that Irish-US trade linkages may have subsequently diminished. The fact of the matter is that the transatlantic economy grew stronger, not weaker over the past year, as did Irish -US trade with US exports to Ireland up 9% and imports to Ireland up 6%.


While the Washington mission was the focal point of the 2018 trade mission, the second leg of the trip saw the group travel to Boston to engage directly with the US business community at the stateside launch of the transatlantic Boston College Ireland Business Council (BCIBC).


Having launched this side of the Atlantic in Dublin last October, the US BCIBC launch took the form of a Global Leadership Symposium where US CEOs met with their Irish counterparts. The event looked at Global Leadership, where a panel of global CEOs discussed how they, as a transatlantic leadership community, can create opportunities against the backdrop of economic challenges.


The purpose of the BCIBC is to establish new, and strengthen existing, transatlantic business ties between the two countries, and it is designed to enhance transatlantic business between the US and Ireland through creating connections that allow for entrepreneurial ventures to grow and prosper.


The Global Leadership Symposium is one of a series of planned BCIBC CEO Exchange events that will take place twice annually over the coming years, both in Ireland and in the US. The nest event is scheduled for Dublin this coming October.


Founded by the Global Leadership Institute, Boston College, and Ireland, Gateway to Europe, and Chaired by Neil Naughton of GlenDimplex, the main aim of the BCIBC is to bring influential business leaders from both communities together once a year in Dublin and in Boston to create one deeply connected transatlantic trade artery.


By establishing the BCICB, the tight commercial and social bonds we share with the US can be strengthened and build upon bilaterally, business to business, in spite of any potential external or internal protectionist political policies. It’s widely known that cultural ties between Massachusetts and Ireland are deep but possibly lesser known are the strength of economic ties with 11,000 people employed by Irish companies there and Ireland being the 6th largest exporter from MA.


With threats from the uncertainty of the Brexit situation ringing in our ears from the East and murmurings of protectionism coming from the West, Ireland is again in a unique position to act as the economic transatlantic hub.


What will the future hold? As it stands nobody knows for certain, but the community of transatlantic business leaders has a collective, critical role to play to ensure the future foundation of business relations is maintained for generations to come.


Those business relationships benefit both Ireland and the US. Let’s both grow our slices of the pie by growing the pie itself.

Article featured on The Business Post

Posted by Robert Mac Giolla Phádraig on 10 May 2018

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Irish jobs market reaches 20-year high, as office re-entry drives unprecedented levels of recruitment activity

Irish jobs market reaches 20-year high, as office re-entry drives unprecedented levels of recruitment activity

Sigmar Recruitment today reports a record high number of job placements over April, May, and June 2021. The number of placements during this period is higher than any other quarter in the recruitment company’s 20-year history. Current figures are up 6% on the previous record set in 2019 before the pandemic. As one of the largest recruiters in Ireland, Sigmar has offices across the country and is present in all professional sectors. The first half of the year saw strong, consistent growth with job placements breaking all records in the month of May, with June accounting for the second-highest month ever. Commenting on the rebound of the labour market, Sigmar founding Director, Robert Mac Giolla Phádraig says: “The jobs market in Ireland has never been stronger or more buoyant than it currently is. We’re seeing several macro trends converge all at once, which is creating significant churn in the market. Remote working has literally opened up a world of new opportunities no longer bound by location. This is coupled with a rising tide of consumer confidence, as many professionals find themselves in a stronger financial position than before the pandemic. “The last 18 months has asked big questions of us all, and the humdrum of lockdown has created a desire for change which is now resulting in unprecedented numbers of people moving jobs. Employee loyalty is increasingly under question, with remote work being less enjoyable, many workers are now committed to the experience of work over the employer, adding further to the current levels of churn.” IT accounted for one-third of all job placements throughout the quarter, followed in order by Financial Services, Sales & Marketing, Accountancy, Life Science & Manufacturing, Office Support, Public Sector, Construction, Professional Services. Business confidence has also grown steadily over the course of the year, as vaccination gathered momentum. The “low-touch economy” is booming is sectors such as e-commerce, digital, and logistics. Says Mac Giolla Phádraig: “The resurgence of permanent recruitment is somewhat unique to how we’ve rebounded from previous downturns, where we typically saw flexible work return quicker.” Although the vast majority of job placement in Q2 were understandably remote, Sigmar reports that the tide is beginning to change with the majority of employers now committing to hybrid work over the coming three months. Mac Giolla Phádraig advises: “As we now choose our workplaces, at a time when the power dynamic has shifted to the employee, employers need to ensure adequate work practices to reconnect the workforce with the workplace equitably. There is an inherent risk that new workforce inequities may emerge, such as “proximity bias”, where those closest to the centre of influence get greater recognition and therefore promotion opportunities as opposed to remote workers. When it comes to individual contribution the opposite could be argued that remote workers get the benefit of having less in-office distractions and their output is therefore greater.” Mac Giolla Phádraig likens remote work to long-distance relationships, which in many cases don’t work out. “We’ve gone from “living” with our employees in an office environment to long-distance relationships, which often sees commitment recede over time. The context of location also opens up new experiences and possibilities, which are now being explored on a scale never before seen.” He adds, “if we thought the war for talent was tough, just wait for the battle of attrition. It’s now emerging as the number one challenge for businesses across the globe.”