Kicking off the new year with a fresh episode in ProfileTree’s award-winning Business Leader collection, we sat down with Nepturnal’s Ellie Francis to talk business training, talent retention and unleashing the potential of millennials and ‘Gen Z’ professionals.
Ellie Francis’ contribution joins a prominent series, now featuring top insights from business leaders across Northern Ireland and beyond. Our interview with Ellie comes as one of several features on business training, with the Business Leaders collection now hosting discussions from a range of sectors including real estate, recruitment, mindfulness, healthcare and more. All interviews, including Ellie’s, can be found on ProfileTree’s Business Leaders channel.
Taking the Entrepreneurial Plunge
Opening up the discussion, Ellie gives us some insights into her own professional background. Prior to establishing Nepturnal, she worked within several corporate settings, including some of the country’s leading accountancy firms. After four years of working between Belfast and London, Ellie decided to complete a degree in Law with Marketing, before re-entering the corporate world as an investment banker. “This was a lot of fun, but I decided to set up my business as a passion project, and that was over a year ago,” she remembers.
According to the Nepturnal founder, finally making the decision to leave her full-time job represented a significant leap: “You get to a stage where you realise that you have to give full-time efforts to your business. I was also involved in events and marketing for the Youth Chamber at the time, and I could see that issues were on the rise. I decided that the time for this was now”.
Moving onto the present, Ellie highlights some of the key services offered by Nepturnal. “We are a training and consultancy firm, and we offer three main tiers of training. We offer onboarding and new joiner training, which is aimed towards graduates, apprentices, millennials and ‘generation z’. That involves giving them the commercial skills to get to where they need to be from a business’ perspective. We also offer emerging leaders training for people who may have been with a company for a few years who are trying to move onto the next stage of their career – leadership. Finally, we offer senior management training, including how to engage with millennials and truly ‘onboard’ that generation.”
Millennials and Talent Retention
Ellie then moves onto the consultancy side of Nepturnal, containing its own comprehensive range of services. “We work on employer brand and how to attract candidates and talent. This includes ensuring that your business direction moves in the same direction as that of millenials. Retention is another area of key focus for us – length of stay time for millenials is around 18 months, which companies really can’t afford. This is a really expensive process, and the investment made in that employee can be seen as a waste of money if they leave.”
Ellie highlights that in the modern marketplace, approaches and attitudes towards recruitment are beginning to shift toward the needs of the candidate as opposed to the employer. “There are so many companies recruiting from the same talent pool. Maybe you want to recruit 30 people for next year – what if your competitor shares that goal? Whoever you’re trying to recruit has a choice, and they will go for whoever has the best employer brand. It has come full-circle, and now companies have to impress talent.”
According to Ellie, another major shift has been seen in business priorities. Whilst former priorities focused on generating positive results for the business, people have a more inward-looking view where they want to promote themselves and their own career. “It’s up to companies to align that with their own direction and to prove to people that they can develop their own ‘brand’ within their business. Some companies are good at that, others aren’t,” she admits.
Building Resilience in a New Generation
Discussing some of the strengths and weaknesses of Northern Ireland’s talent market, Ellie suggests that some of the key issues come as a result of the soft skills gap. “Resilience is a big one – people are really burning out, and the mental health crisis does come into that. Everyone is under a lot of pressure and a lot of stress, and sometimes they need guidance on coping mechanisms in terms of how to handle that. With the rise of AI and automation, we are also finding that the human element to client services is becoming really important. You can have great technology – but people are where you can truly offer an upper-hand.”
“In many incases, employees will be essentially told to either ‘like it or lump it’. The reality is, they will just ‘lump it’ in the end. When an investment banker leaves their job to become a dolphin trainer, for example – there really isn’t that much you can do. But when you have an investment banker moving to do the same job in a different company – that’s when you have a problem. It’s never all about the money, and if you’re saying that’s the reason, you simply aren’t digging deep enough.”
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