PRESS RELEASE: The Burnie Group hosts #EDGETalks: Actively Engaged – Leadership and Innovation in Building Employee Engagement

TORONTO, May 28, 2018 — The Burnie Group is pleased to announce #EDGETalks: Actively Engaged – Leadership and Innovation in Building Employee Engagement. Featuring a keynote address by Norman Bacal, who, in his best-selling novel, Breakdown: The Inside Story of the Rise and Fall of Heenan Blaikie, recounts the cautionary tale of the perils of ignoring a firm’s culture and vision, and the danger of hiring as CEOs individuals with little to no management experience.

This event provides an opportunity for our clients and colleagues to discuss the very significant implications of employee engagement on organizational culture. As many of our clients are finding themselves in a rapidly commoditizing marketplace, organizational culture—and especially, employee engagement—remains one of the few competitive advantages you can leverage as a senior leader to grow and out manoeuvre your competitors.” says Darshan Jain, Head of Technology and Operations at The Burnie Group.

#EDGETalks: Actively Engaged – Leadership and Innovation in Building Employee Engagement will take place on the evening of Monday June 4th 2018 in the Gallery at First Canadian Place. Norm Bacal’s keynote address will be followed by a panel discussion led by industry thought leaders, academics and practitioners, including:

Richard Anton – Senior Vice-President, Chief Operations Officer, CIBC Mellon
Cathie Brow – Senior Vice-President, Human Resources & Communications, Revera
Nathalie Clark – Vice-President, HR TD Securities & Risk Management, TD Bank Group
Rob Lokinger – Chief Operating Officer, AppCentrica

With extensive research showing that organizations face a radically shifting context in the workplace, an engaged workforce should be a top priority for senior management.  Converging issues such as flatter hierarchies leaving less 1:1 time with direct managers, accelerated career development expectations, and a technology-driven 24/7 work environment are driving the need to rewrite the rules of employee engagement.  With so much on the line, what does it take for an organization to really understand its culture and create an inclusive and engaging corporate environment?

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About The Burnie Group
The Burnie Group is a highly specialized operations consulting firm that helps clients improve their businesses through the application of innovative strategy, rigorous analysis, world-class technology, and top-tier domain expertise.  The Burnie Group specializes in StrategyOperationsRobotic Process Automation (RPA)Blockchain, and Workforce Management (WFM).

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Source: The Burnie Group


INFOGRAPHIC: The Automation Race: Comparing 5 RPA providers

Robotic process automation (RPA) is a disruptive technology that can improve workforce productivity, accelerate process execution, reduce process error rates, and improve customer satisfaction. Companies that are quick to recognize the potential of automation stand to have considerable cost advantages and organizational agility. However, it can be difficult to know which provider has the automation solution specific to your company’s needs.

In this infographic, we compare the features and strengths of 5 leading RPA providers.

INFOGRAPHIC: The Automation Race: Comparing 5 RPA providers

INFOGRAPHIC: The Automation Race: Comparing 5 RPA providers


Digital Disruption and Private Equity: Understanding Effects and Opportunities.

Disruption is an age-old force of change that both drives and destroys. Forces such as globalization and the increasing pace of innovation diffusion are accelerating the frequency of disruption and the impact it can have on industry. As a result, value can be both created and destroyed seemingly overnight. By their nature, private equity (PE) firms have always had to be quick to respond to disruptive trends.

Digital Disruption and Private Equity: Understanding Effects and Opportunities.  With the rise of digital technologies, the pace of disruption and the speed of its diffusion has increased dramatically. If PE firms are to survive and thrive in this new era, they must consider the effect of digital disruption on their portfolios as well as their internal operations. They must also continuously adjust their strategy and decision-making framework, with consideration to how disruption affects industries, portfolios, and internal firm operations.


How does disruption alter industries?


With new disruptive innovations come new markets and value networks. These innovations can fuel new business models (e.g. ride-sharing applications helping to launch the sharing economy) and can disrupt existing markets and networks (e.g. how ride-sharing changed the taxi industry).

Furthermore, the very nature of what a business is changing. The power of “open innovation” means that the advantages of the classical firm as the most efficient means of creating value are giving way to ecosystems that have a much larger and more efficient means of assembling and reconfiguring resources in the pursuit of value creation.


2. Customers.

Digital disruption has irrevocably changed the customer journey. Customers of the “digital native” generation now expect information about a product to be accessible from the palms of their hands. They expect to be able to compare prices, see demonstrations, and receive feedback and recommendations from their social networks about products. Companies that can meet these new digital expectations can reap the value, while those that do not will rapidly succumb to irrelevance and insolvency.


3. Products.

As pressure mounts to meet increasingly demanding customer expectations of “the newest thing,” product lifespans get shorter. Long established products can quickly become obsolete. The advent of the smartphone leading to the decrease in relevance of Nokia, Blackberry and Motorola is a clear example. The fate of Kodak, once one of the most powerful brands in the world, serves as a stark reminder of what can happen when digital disruption is ignored. This example is especially poignant as it was Kodak itself that invented the digital camera and the digital SLR camera. In Kodak’s case, the curse of a powerful product-linked brand, an aversion to self-disruption, and the inability to recognize customers’ latent desire to share photos with friends and family in real time, led Kodak to fall from the Fortune 500 to bankruptcy in less than 15 years.


How does disruption create new value opportunities for PE?

As industries are disrupted, PE firms must themselves ask the following:

  1. Is a portfolio or target company at risk for becoming devalued by new technology?
  2. Is a target company appropriately prepared to embrace new technology?
  3. Is there an opportunity to capitalize on value emerging elsewhere as a result of disruption?

The ability to recognize the potential value of digital technologies in yet-unconsidered applications can add limitless value to a PE portfolio. Consider, for example, the emergence of bitcoin as a disruptive new asset class in the financial industry. It turns out that bitcoin’s underlying technology, blockchain, will be far more disruptive than bitcoin and will fundamentally impact countless industries. The ability to recognize the potential value of digital technologies in yet-unconsidered applications can add significant value to a PE portfolio.

Another source of value generated by digital disruption and efficient diffusion is accelerated innovation. Rather than focusing on developing a new product that may soon be outdated, accelerated innovation focuses on using new technologies to re-engineer research and development processes. Approaches include reducing lead times by engineering product elements simultaneously, reducing the learning curve by quickly incorporating user feedback, and increasing problem-solving efficiency by restructuring the organization. Despite the associated risk of failure, the ability of accelerated innovation to cut costs and reduce production times has proved highly valuable to customers, and worth considering not only as a framework to evaluate assets in a PE portfolio but as a means of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the PE firm itself.  


How can PE firms realize new value opportunities?

In the age of digital disruption, it is no longer sufficient for PE firms to evaluate a target company using traditional value indicators (e.g. cash flow, capital expenditures, and historical performance). Historically valued companies may still be vulnerable to the newest wave of digital disruption. Others that appear to be digital laggards may actually have the potential for huge value generation given the right injection of capital, technology, and coaching.

To realize a valuable investment, PE firms must conduct due digital diligence on potential investments, asking the following:

  1. What is the target company’s level of digital maturity? I.e. have multiple aspects of the company–talent acquisition, marketing, sales, and customer relations, etc.—been digitized?
  2. What is the target company’s strategy for managing digital disruption?
  3. Does the target company have a method for measuring the financial impact of digital disruption and a formal discipline of data-driven decision making?
  4. Are the target company’s operations being reshaped by any industry trends?
  5. What technology has the potential to destroy profit across the current value chain?
  6. Which companies might emerge as unexpected competitors?
  7. Does the company’s senior leadership team support a culture of innovation and risk-taking?

Digital disruption can increase the potential revenue of a business that is culturally prepared embrace disruption. As a result, it can generate new business growth in new and adjacent markets. To capitalize on this potential value, PE firms must calculate risks and opportunities by conducting conduct rigorous digital due diligence on potential investments.  They should also consider what value they can contribute to prospective and existing investments to help those companies survive and prosper in an age of accelerating innovation.


How can disruption impact PE firms internally?

The primary focus of most PE firms is on the operations and business prospects of their portfolio companies. The internal operations of the firm itself are often of secondary importance. But digital disruption is as much of a risk, and a potential opportunity, for firms. Disruption can impact investors and partners alike, altering expectations of business conduct and introducing new security threats.

PE firms should address their own place in their digital ecosystems by asking:

  1. How will new and growing threats to privacy and cybersecurity be addressed?
  2. Should the firm buy an existing system to enhance its digital capabilities, or build its own?
  3. Which disruptive technologies can be utilized to improve and enhance firm operations?


How can PE firms use disruptive technology to optimize internal operations?

Despite sophisticated financial tools, transactions currently rely on manual processes that are legally and paperwork-intensive. As a result, PE firms are an ideal environment for leveraging many disruptive technologies. The following technologies can all be implemented to optimize PE internal operations:

  • Robotic process automation (RPA): Improves productivity through automation. Processes that can be improved using RPA include investor reporting, waterfall calculations, capital call and distribution notices, performance calculations, tax compliance, management reporting, and regulatory reporting.
  • Advanced cybersecurity: Enables proactive protection and improves risk mitigation. Can be used to secure internal PE firm operations, including the exchange of money and sensitive information during deals and the management of the portfolio company post-deal. Cybersecurity ensures the safety of finances, intellectual property, and customer data.
  • Cloud: Improves the operational speed and ease of deployment, resource utilization, the agility of adjustments, security of materials, and containment of costs.
  • Advanced analytics: Drives decision making and insight with deep pattern recognition and outcome prediction. Use of analytics can also improve and accelerate the due diligence process. Advanced analytics also can rationalize unstructured and complex data sets already available.
  • Blockchain: Improves workflow efficiency, fraud reduction, and onboarding and identity management. Blockchain can also be used to secure deal execution.
  • Artificial Intelligence: Improves insight and exception handling. AI can be applied to valuations, using qualitative and quantitative variables to estimate the odds of achieving higher risk-adjusted returns. Natural language processing can improve sentiment analyses, identify trends, and automate call centres. A noteworthy example, Deep Knowledge Ventures uses an AI system, called VITAL, with its investment committees. This system makes decisions by scanning prospective companies’ intellectual property, clinical trials, financing, and previous funding rounds to determine the attractiveness of an investment and assess related risk. 


The final word.

To develop the operational framework necessary to manage internal and external disruption, organizations require a well-designed strategy led by an aligned and engaged management team. By combining a robust operating framework with a formalized approach to strategic innovation, organizations can foster a culture of continuous improvement and adjustment. This includes looking outside of the organization to forecast possible scenarios, new domains, and potential offerings. Internally, this includes the reallocation and definition of roles and responsibilities with leadership capabilities. With these strategies in place, the focus can shift to the creation of an innovative culture that seeks new value in both internal operations and external performance.


Digital Disruption and Private Equity: Understanding Effects and Opportunities.


The impact of employee engagement on organizational performance

The impact of employee engagement on organizational performance  There is a well-supported link between employee engagement and business performance. The logic is simple: a more engaged workforce leads to increased operational efficiency, happier customers, and higher profits.  But how does a more engaged workforce produce these desirable outcomes, and how can a business improve engagement?

One of the key differences between the performance of an engaged and a disengaged employee is “discretionary effort,” or “the level of effort people could give if they wanted to, but above and beyond the minimum required.”[i] Simply put, if employees are involved in and enthusiastic about their work and workplace they are likely to exceed the expectations and requirements of their position. But how can businesses encourage higher levels of engagement in their staff? Moreover, how can they prevent disengagement from occurring in the first place?

Engaged employees are passionate about their work. They feel motivated by their leaders and are confident they can achieve success in their roles. Engaged employees see the purpose in what they do every day and play a significant role in business successes.

However, many workers do not experience this level of engagement. According to research conducted by Gallup, around 50% of the US workforce is disengaged, and 15% to 20% is actively disengaged.[ii] Disengagement may be caused by a poor relationship with a direct manager or by a lack of meaningful feedback or recognition. It may even be a basic misalignment between the company and employees’ values. Without a way to measure employee engagement, business leaders are left to guess at what actions will improve the employee experience.

Collecting and monitoring employee engagement metrics enhances business leaders’ ability to detect problems in their organization, take specific action to address issues and opportunities, and evaluate subsequent progress.

With our EnGauge employee engagement program, we at The Burnie Group help our clients understand how their businesses are performing across ten key engagement metrics:

  1. Happiness
  2. Wellness
  3. Satisfaction
  4. Personal growth
  5. Relationship with peers
  6. Feedback
  7. Recognition
  8. Relationship with manager
  9. Alignment
  10. Ambassadorship

The impact of employee engagement on organizational performance  Using this information, we work with leaders to develop action plans to improve employee engagement.  Through a repeatable improvement cycle, we help businesses take control of employee engagement and achieve the desired results: increased operational efficiency, happier customers, and higher profits.

Looking at the list of metrics above, how do you think your business compares? If you see room for improvement, give us a call and realize the potential of an engaged workforce.

The impact of employee engagement on organizational performance

 By: Bret McCaffrey, Senior Associate

[i] Earning Above and Beyond Performance: Understanding the effective use of positive reinforcement (ADI Aubrey Daniels International)

[ii] State of the American Workplace (Gallup News), 2017