Sticking your neck out: Developing careers, both home and away

By Kyla Bellingall, Regional Managing Partner, BDO LLP in the Midlands

“Behold the turtle: He only makes progress when he sticks his neck out.” Slightly obscure? Yes. But does James Bryant Conant have a point when it comes to success in the modern workplace? Yes, again. Conant was a transformative President of Harvard University, an American Chemist, and the first US Ambassador to West Germany. While his comments were made several decades ago, the sentiment of his words still rings true today.

Career development is about sticking your neck out; it is about venturing outside your comfort zone; and it’s most certainly about moving forward at whatever pace. Attitude is everything, but so too are opportunities and, without a clearly defined pathway, career development is much harder to achieve.

That’s why the role of the employer is crucial in the equation. Without the necessary framework and support in place, employees have a harder task in trying to reach their goals. Within that framework sits career development, personal development, recognition and reward, together with work that inspires individuals. After all, opportunities to succeed help to increase employee motivation and productivity, while helping to attract the best talent and retain valuable people.

Supporting staff and guiding individuals through their career journey comes in various shapes and sizes, whether it’s through training, mentoring, or coaching. The key is to provide a platform that will empower and upskill employees, providing them with the fundamental capabilities to succeed in their role, and be part of a high-performing team that delivers quality and strategic growth. It’s all about achieving future potential, whatever that looks like, by focusing on developing technical and core competencies, as well as values and attitudes.

Home and away

Secondments are a proven way of broadening horizons, expanding learning, and improving knowledge – not just for individuals, but also for businesses. Whether it’s an internal opportunity, or a temporary move to an external company, secondments allow employees to strengthen and diversify their skills in a new environment, with a different group of people who bring a fresh perspective to the role.

According to the latest Government data, more than 200,000 work-related visas were granted in 2021 – an unsurprising increase of 110% on 2020, but also 25% higher than in 2019. Earlier this year, the UK Secondment Worker Visa was one of five new sponsored routes included in the Global Business Mobility (GBM) visa programme. This is designed for overseas workers who wish to be posted temporarily in the UK by their overseas employers, as part of a high-value contract or investment. One person to take advantage of the GBM reforms, introduced in April 2022, is Olga Chernova, left.

Olga is an Audit Technician at BDO. In March 2022, she left her home country of Ukraine in search of refuge and, as an auditor in our Dnipro office she transferred to our Midlands audit team, based in Birmingham, on secondment in August 2022.

As a firm, we have a vast global network, spanning 164 countries, with 95,000 people working out of 1,713 offices worldwide. That reach means we have the systems and structures in place to support a large number of secondments each year. It’s also allowed us to support those people in countries such as Ukraine, where we have offices in Kiev and Dnipro. Through that network, individuals looking to relocate from Ukraine while the war is ongoing, have taken advantage of the secondment route and, in the Midlands, the team has been fortunate to welcome Olga to the region.

Speaking during a recent conference, Olga said: “Very quickly, BDO UK agreed to a secondment and offered to support us in what was a very difficult move.

“I was given the opportunity to choose a city where I was happy to relocate to and live with my family. The Global Mobility team helped me with detailed instructions on the move and supported me during the whole process, from getting a UK visa to helping me find a permanent place to live. I was extremely worried about getting everything right, as my future life, and the safety of my children, depended on a positive outcome.”

She continued: “BDO UK has made my desire to live in an English speaking country a reality and provided me with great support. The experience I have had in the UK, to date, has been amazing. To be part of a firm with such high standards and focus on quality and a diverse culture is brilliant. I feel the true benefits that come from a culture focused on the success of people and, I have an incredible opportunity through this secondment to start a new chapteer in mine and my children’s lives.”

Value in secondments

While the value of Olga’s secondment clearly transcends career development, what it equally demonstrates is the value they can bring both to an individual and to a business, enabling organisations to develop their people proposition, as well as focus on talent and succession planning.

Productivity gains, increased employee satisfaction, while creating a rich collaborative environment, means secondments provide excellent opportunities across the board. As a result, they are now widely incorporated into company planning for many businesses, including at BDO.