Business leaders embrace the future at the CBI National Conference

Fiona Murchie examines what the leading organisations and industry sectors are doing to support growth. We look at priorities for business and how the CBI annual conference highlighted emerging frameworks for HR, global mobility professionals and international managers with the emphasis on putting people first.

Live Garfield speaks at the CBI
This article is taken from the latest issue of Relocate magazine.
– the must read for HR, global managers and relocation professionals.

Business leaders embracing the future

Carolyn Fairbairn in her speech to the 1500 delegates at the CBI’s National Conference in London, leaving aside Brexit, summarised the key challenges to business as the robotics revolution, the rise of China, climate change, rising inequality and global protectionism. Alluding to mistrust of the business sector, lack of regional parity and uncertainty around Brexit she was keen to emphasise the need to pull together and clearly recognised the importance of global trading now and in the future, which will resonate with Relocate’s readership.“I don’t claim business has all the answers we need. But we do have some that are proven and powerful, and working today,” she said.“Because of business, employment in this country is at a record high; 27 million jobs and counting; four fifths of all UK tax revenue enabled by private enterprise.”She reminded her audience that business has been more resilient than anyone could have imagined during this period of seismic uncertainty, protecting livelihoods across the country.“Business has proven itself time and time again to be an extraordinary force for lasting and positive change,” she said.Referring to what the CBI call ‘Prosperity, Shared,’ she said, “We have a common goal – to build an economy of high-productivity jobs across the whole country. An economy built on science, innovation, rule of law, services and – dare I say it - predictability. That renews our infrastructure and doubles our innovation spend. That creates opportunities for everyone in the next generation, in which every young person has the training and skills to succeed, regardless of background or birthplace.“In short, business and politics agree – we want the UK to be prosperous and fair.”But how will this be achieved? Some of the country’s leading employers shared their views.

LinkedIn making the case for diversity and inclusion

Josh Graff, UK country manager & VP EMEA, LinkedIn spoke out about the importance of diversity and inclusion citing a survey of recruiters where 82% of respondents saw diversity as crucial to boosting financial performance. People are happier, more creative and productive if they are in a culture where they feel they belong, he explained.He highlighted the challenge for employers of how to fill skills gaps and for employees of how to keep up with change. The answer he said was to make a commitment to lifelong learning, to integrate learning into operations and to make learning a priority of the business as a whole.A survey had revealed that 90% of employees would stay if their employer invested in their career development. He highlighted neglected skills areas such as mothers with outdated tech skills and older workers with an interest in becoming more technically aware. He also spoke about the anxiety around tech taking over or eradicating roles and the need to challenge the assumption that AI and coding are the only skills worth having because soft skills are more in demand that ever before.Admitting that engineering and technology had a way to go to increase the proportion of women to 50%, he saw the school system as the starting point to inspire young girls into STEM. He advocated ensuring a 50/50 split in hiring needs and developing programmes for high performance. He felt strongly that young children didn’t have enough visibility into the workplace. This view ties in with Relocate Global’s initiatives to stimulate connections between schools and employers and the specific Relocate Award which acknowledges the importance of such collaborations.

Women as role models

Simon Jack, BBC business editor explored with Liv Garfield, chief executive of Severn Trent what the next generations of future leaders might look like and what it takes to drive businesses forward. Speaking as one of only a handful of chief executives in the FTSE 100 she sets an inspiring path for young women and next generation business leaders to follow. Previously she worked for British Telecom for 12 years and as chief executive of Openreach was responsible for delivering one of the fastest and most ambitious deployments of fibre broadband in the world. Since joining Severn Trent, the midlands-based water and waste company in 2014, profits have risen by 15%. As a British business ambassador for the Department of International Trade she also recognises the importance of global markets and trade. She explained that attracting leaders of the future was about creating a culture that inspires people to be the best they can be because people want to do interesting, novel jobs and also want to be appreciated.“The conversation has moved to be about executive roles, a true executive debate, it’s about inclusion and I don’t think it should be just about gender, it should be age, gender, ethnicity and background and all of that makes a difference,” she explained.“The reason I am so passionate about it, is that how can you possibly expect people to thrive and to do their best if they don’t feel truly welcome.”
On what sort of careers will people want in the future, she reflected that lots of people go around the world.“What you need are lots of good curious people from different backgrounds and different age groups and different experiences all working together in a listening culture.“Create a purpose and direction where people want to follow but they have to be happy to take diversions,” she said and concluded that the role of senior leaders is to create sense of purpose that everyone wants to follow.

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Building Trust and meeting next generation business expectations

Jessi Baker, CEO and founder of Provenance a digital platform which enables producers, manufacturers and retailers to track the journey of the people places and ingredients behind their products. Provenance are now working with UK businesses and across global supply chains, including the Co-op supermarket, Sainsbury’s and Unilever. They were the first to apply blockchain technology to supply chain in 2013. Now they are on trend with the increasing demand from consumers for traceability and ethical origins. She shared views with Steve Murrells, CEO of the Co-op who has responsibility for the Co-op’s varied businesses.Steve Murrells said, “having social conscience is really good for business – doing good in local communities and in social areas and being successful commercially are achievable.”“Customers are more savvy, the younger generation require us to do social good,” he said. At the Co-op he encouraged colleagues to make sure they walk the talk.Jessi Baker explained how important it was for companies to make information accessible where it can be seen on a website at the point of sale, which requires a certain amount of bravery. She sees transparency as the way forward for companies to substantiate their credibility and she invited more organisations to adopt this approach.Steve Murrells described how the Co-op work locally with suppliers and that cooperation works well particularly in times of uncertainty. The Co-op also runs academy schools where young people learn about the Co-op work and ethics and this also helps them to see what an apprenticeship with the organisation can offer.

Insights on the next generation of talent

A lively panel discussion of representatives from leading global businesses provided tips for employers grappling with talent issues and present and future.For Warren East, chief executive of Rolls-Royce, retention was more of an issue than recruitment, with Brexit causing uncertainty and triggering employees to leave the company and return to their home countries. Providing challenging jobs that people like doing was a critical. He pointed out that curiosity was one of the key foundations of science and engineering but they were also looking for engineers who can interact with people. They train managers on the importance of diversity of thought which flows from understanding the importance of an inclusive workplace.Part of their challenge was competing with all the new digital companies that are attracting the young talent that Rolls-Royce wants.Lynne Atkins, HR director of Barclays UK & group head of employee engagement, explained that their policy of looking at untapped markets for new talent was now paying dividends. This included young people with no qualifications and people wanting to go back into the workplace, including women. Being very open minded to talent had really helped Barclays to keep the talent pipeline alive and the quality of hire has improved. Their life skills survey of 10,000 individuals helped to better predict seven core skills which were relevant across all businesses. Schools are not delivering against these and there is move away from job titles to a focus on capabilities. She explained these are the skills that robots can’t do better than humans.Claire Valoti, vice president international of Snapchat, agreed that focusing on women at different life stages was a good talent strategy. They looked for people with initiative but who would also have the confidence and life skills to ask for help if they got stuck. She found that young people want to know more about a business, about its culture and how it makes decisions and therefore it was important to create a leadership culture of transparency.Valerie Todd, talent & resources director of Siemens, agreed saying that how we treat our people has to change. Flexibility is at the heart of that and how we keep pace with workload and change. She felt people often focus too much on the here and now but they have to take time out to plan for the future and this was particularly important for the leadership team.Romana Abdin, chief executive at SimplyHealth, explained how employees are very purpose driven and their people want to know that what they do will make a difference. When they recruit they look for personal purpose and are looking for people who are going to care. The organisation is over 100 years old and is concerned there won’t be medical staff to service the NHS, particularly accessing GP services. Health impacts everyone in the UK she pointed out.

The Future Workforce

Alistair Cox, as CEO of Hays the global recruitment company, was in a position to reflect on the future workforce and address some popular fears and misconceptions.Many in the global mobility community would agree with his view that the three drivers of workforce transformation would be:
  • Technological evolution – AI, robotics and automation
  • Aging Workforces
  • Acute skills shortages in key areas
“The companies that can navigate these things well, will stand to win. Collectively these issues make tomorrow’s talent agenda the most complex talent agenda we will ever face in our business lives,” he said.“I think that technology alongside people investment is the route to solving the stagnant productivity that we have continued to struggle with in the UK. In many businesses the human touch will become ever more valuable and non more so than in recruitment.”Citing Hays as an example he explained how the organisation had invested in technology that can quickly identify those individuals with the skills to do any particular job. However, he emphasised that the number one reason for a failed recruitment is a lack of cultural fit between a new employee and their new organisation. Matching the right cultural fit for employer and employee is difficult to replicate in an algorithm but by combining human aptitude plus technology investment and focusing where humans have value, productivity at Hays had been increased by 10% over the last few years.The traditional retirement age will become a thing of the past as fewer young people are entering the workforce, there will be four generations in the workforce and that will bring real challenges to our workforces and also for employees who need to keep work skills up to date and constantly refreshed. But those businesses that can enhance the experience of their older employees alongside the ideas and the skills that the younger employees bring, will be at an advantage. Integrating different demographics will drive more innovation and leveraging the wisdom of older generations. Staff retention in that environment is also likely to become more of a challenge. The concept of a job for life is alien to most millennials who view careers as a series of interesting projects from multiple employers, he reiterated.In the UK thousands of jobs are going unfilled because we are not educating or training for the right skills for the jobs we are creating already. Solving that is no easy task but without action the problem will not fix itself, he explained. He saw skilled immigration as a key component to allow access to the talent we need.

Digital Revolution – Telematics bring collaborative solutions

Anna Sheehan, enterprise director at Vodafone UK, and Gunnar Peters, head of telematics at Admiral Car Insurance, described a fascinating partnership utilising new technology that is taking both businesses to the next level. Vodafone are Admirals Digital Telematics partner. By collaborating they are turning insurance based on traditional demographics on its head and helping to develop a one to one relationship with the customer.Admiral wanted to understand who is a safe driver who is most likely to have accidents. Young people pay over a £1000 premium and yet any individual may be a really safe driver regardless of their age. For Admiral Car Insurance the challenge is to price the insurance according to the quality ofthe driving. Vodafone design and manufacture the device known as Little Box, put it into the vehicles, handle the security and data management and provide an end to end solution. The system sits separately to the mobile network.When it comes to renewal the customer can receive a hefty discount thanks to the data collected via Little Box. The system also builds engagement with the customer which Admiral’s call centre sales people love. Vodafone eventually plan to look at other areas of insurance covering the whole life cycle
risk for a family or individual including health and pets for example.Vodafone are using similar technology in all sorts of sectors including help for farmers by monitoring their remote herds and providing notification when cows go into labour.
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