The big business people agenda for 2020

What themes will business face in 2020 - from the urgent need to adapt to change and demonstrate purpose to reskilling staff and injecting diversity and fresh talent into the workforce?

The big business people agenda
Relocate Magazine January 2020
This article is taken from the latest issue of Relocate magazine – the must read for HR, global managers and relocation professionals.
Click on the cover to access the digital edition and order your printed copy.

Challenges around talent recruitment and retention, the role of women in the boardroom, the importance of social equality, and ways to support good mental health at work, are all issues for global and UK companies. When you also consider the changing role of managers, who now need to engage, relate and communicate with staff in a much more open and personal way than ever before, these issues all add up to a recipe for massive change.

Can business combine profit and purpose?

Business leaders predict that as business is actively working to answer some of the biggest challenges and issues – how to adapt to new technology and cope with the worldwide skills shortage – it will also need to demonstrate that it can be a force for good. It needs to represent a positive purpose in society.

Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI: business is about "so much more" than profit

Indeed, director-general of the CBI, Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, said at the CBI’s annual conference in London that while business is about profit, it is also “about so much more”. She added, “We have to demonstrate that profit comes with purpose.” She has also emphasised how the coming years will require companies to reskill their whole workforce, saying that an estimated nine out of ten people will need to be retrained or reskilled over the next ten years and that this was “a gargantuan task”.

Top advice on living and working purposefully from speaker, coach and leadership expert Ben Renshaw


In key areas, business can show that it is improving the lives of people and making a positive impact on society. For example, when it comes to climate change, business can deliver the innovations that the economy needs, Dame Fairbairn says.Another important area of innovation is technology, where huge advances have been made. But with that comes responsibility, says Baroness Lane-Fox, chair of Doteveryone and co-founder of Lastminute.com. She told the recent CBI conference that she hoped “inclusive technology that benefits everyone in society” can be developed in the future. She also believes that social media companies needed to think about where their responsibilities lie going forward.

More from the CBI conference:

Leading the way to prosperity for all


Technology has changed the way we work, shop and communicate with each other and it has also had a disruptive effect on traditional business models. “As technology frees up the traditional 9-5 office set up, our choice of profession and way of working becomes a defining factor in our lives,” says Chas Moloney, marketing director at Ricoh UK.“Having the right culture in place can instil a sense of belonging, subsequently driving employee performance, creativity and overall happiness in the workplace,” he says. But with the rapid pace of digital transformation, organisations must recognise the need to evolve and concentrate on their people processes, to ensure a positive culture with a lasting impact.

Finding the talent of the future

Recruiting and retaining the right talent is one of the biggest challenges that business currently faces. Two of the industries feeling that most keenly are the tech and creative industries, which have already been forced to look outside their traditional recruitment areas in order to find fresh talent.Millennials have a different value set and mindset,” explains Mr Moloney. “The challenge for employers is that 85% of Gen Z want to start their own business. When they are employed, they want to feel that they are part of the business.”People with an entrepreneurial mindset are going to spend less time working for organisations. Business has got to change if it wants to stay attractive to this generation and give them a sense of value and of empowerment, he says.The tech industry is booming in the UK, with fintech a particularly successful part of that story. However, employers have to look to Europe and beyond to find the right talent. They are also beginning to see the value in recruiting from a much wider UK talent pool in order to reflect fully the diversity of modern UK culture. “Tech will need 500,000 skilled workers by 2022,” says Cindy Rose, CEO, Microsoft UK. “We need to be open to talent wherever in the world it comes from.”

Related article:

Why does the tech industry still have a gender imbalance?


In order to find the staff who could fill these emerging roles companies need to think outside the box and stop recruiting in their own image. In tech, for example, where women have traditionally been under-represented, Ms Rose says the answer was to encourage diversity not through grand gestures, but via lots of small cultural changes. “Diversity in tech companies is terrible,” Baroness Lane-Fox says. “It needs incremental change at every level.”


Tim Davie, CEO of BBC Studios: how can the UK creative industries attract talent given demand from Netflix, Amazon and the BBC?

Tim Davie, CEO of BBC Studios and chairman of the Creative Industries Council, says the UK creative sector is bigger than the oil and gas, life sciences, automotive and aerospace industries combined, yet is still seen as a “soft” industry. The creative sector has grown strongly in recent years, and while the opportunities were great, so was the risk, he says.Those organisations that are changing their businesses and adapting to tech were doing well, he says, but the key question is still how to attract and retain talent, given the huge demand for talent from large organisations like the BBC, Netflix and Amazon.One step the BBC has taken to respond to the talent retention challenge is to commercialise its production teams. This has freed them and enabled them to work for brands outside of the BBC, which has been a great motivating factor.On diversity, too little has been done in the creative industries. “The movement towards diversity has not been fast enough,” Mr Davie says. “We need to see more leaders coming from different backgrounds. We recruit in our own image too much. The whole industry has needed a kick and that has happened.”

Women in senior leadership roles    

In February 2016, the government appointed Sir Philip Hampton and the late Dame Helen Alexander to chair an independent review to ensure that talented women at the top of business are recognised, promoted and rewarded. It set a series of recommendations aimed at increasing the number of women in leadership positions of FTSE 350 companies.The Hampton-Alexander Review monitors the gender balance in more than 20,000 senior leadership positions in FTSE 350 companies. Its targets were:
  • 33% target for women on FTSE 350 Boards by the end of 2020
  • 33% target for women in FTSE350 leadership roles by the end of 2020
The updated report, published in mid-November 2019, shows that women now hold 32.4% of all FTSE 100 board positions, up from 30.2% last year and up from only 12.5% in 2011. The FTSE 100 is now very close to meeting the 33% target for Women on Boards and will do so ahead of the 2020 deadline.

Do you want to help encourage a workforce where women thrive - and more? Come to our Think Women event on Women's Day 2020. Find out more.


Women now hold 29.6% ofall FTSE 250 board positions, up from 24.9% last year and only 7.8% in 2011. If the same rate of progress continues in 2020, the FTSE 350 will be on track to meet the 33% target by the end of the year. However, not all companies are making the same efforts, the report says. “The gap between those working hard to improve gender balance and those doing little is each year more obvious,” it says.

Women on boards 2019   

  • FTSE 100 32.4%
  • FTSE 250 29.6%
  • FTSE 350 30.6%
The biggest FTSE 100 risers in the rankings, all with 40% plus women are: Standard Life Aberdeen, Schroders, CHR Plc and Royal Bank of Scotland. The biggest FTSE 100 fallers in the rankings, with 25% or fewer women are: National Grid Plc, Rio Tinto Plc and NMC Health Plc.The report found that around 175 companies are still well adrift from the 33% target and there remain 44 All-Male Executive Committees. Unless half of all available roles go to women this year, the FTSE 350 will not achieve the target for women in leadership positions by the end of 2020.

Download our Diversity Factsheet

Gender diversity in global mobility – research


Dame Fairbairn says that the benefits of a diverse boardroom have been proven many times, from improved decision-making to increased profits. She warns, however, that if all-male boards are to become a thing of the past, firms must not take their foot off the pedal.“While firms are speeding ahead in the boardroom, they are making less progress on the executive pipeline,” she says. “We are still seeing too few women in senior leadership positions, whether as CEO or running divisions.”She adds, “All firms should ensure they have diverse shortlists and that they’re doing everything possible to support people from all walks of life in their careers, from ground floor to boardroom.”

Read more articles in the Winter Issue of Relocate Magazine. 

Subscribe to Relocate Extra, our monthly newsletter, to get all the latest international assignments and global mobility news.Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Global Mobility Toolkit download factsheets resource centreAccess hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory