On the horizon for UK business leaders

Innovation is at the heart of the UK government’s Industrial Strategy. What does the future of work look like and how will technology enable economic growth, investment and secure global markets?

Theresa May at the CBI conference
The CBI conference was held for the first time at the gleaming InterContinental O2, on the Greenwich Peninsular, which boasts stunning views of the Thames and across the river to the thriving business district of Canary Wharf.A contrast to the landscape of previous years when the conference was held in the heart of Mayfair on Park Lane. This is perhaps symbolic of how times have changed in the business world.A confident and assured Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) addressed delegates and the press, “As uncertainty continues to bite on the UK economy, there has never been a more important time for the UK to unite behind a leapfrog industrial strategy. The aim is to enable British firms to compete and win in the new technology age. It is also urgent. Change is coming at lightning speed and the world won’t wait for Britain.“This means we can’t afford to let Brexit distract from the long-term action that is so badly needed. What’s at stake is the UK’s future in a global economy that is redefined by artificial intelligence and automation.“Firms agree on what matters most: transforming the UK’s skills base, modernising its physical and digital infrastructure, and accelerating innovation.”

What does the future of work look like?

The CBI had an impressive line up to support their call to action for UK firms to support the government’s Industrial Strategy white paper, and work with the government across political parties to ensure economic growth. The CBI’s survey of more than 400 firms revealed that 82 per cent of businesses saw people, infrastructure and innovation as the main pillars of future industry.Brad Smith, president and chief legal officer at Microsoft, spoke about rising to the challenge of the fourth industrial revolution, commenting that ‘businesses die, but people survive’ and urged the audience to embrace the opportunities emerging from technological change. The stark reality is automation and AI may displace 35 per cent of jobs, but new jobs will inevitably take their place.On Wednesday 6 and Thursday 7 November the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) shared a similar message at their conference for HR professionals, driving the importance of training and retraining across the generations to support economic growth and create a workforce fit for the future.
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Dame Martha Fox, a huge advocate for driving technological advancement, was the CIPD’s opening keynote speaker. Dame Fox is passionate in her role of making technology accessible to all. Dame Fox reflected on the gender pay gap in the technology sector, as well as age-diversity issues, that need to be resolved to drive the economy and make a fairer society.At the CBI conference, Brad Smith described the evolution of industrial change and stressed the importance of UK companies seizing the initiative to capitalise on new technologies powered by the Cloud and Artificial Intelligence. Mr Smith reinforced the point that as 90 per cent of jobs will require new digital skills, businesses had to take up a leadership role and communicate to schools, universities and colleges what future skills would be needed. Bringing new skills into schools and developing the curriculum could enhance the reputation of Britain as a leader in this area.Confirming Microsoft’s commitment to technological advancement in the UK he said, “We will lead a programme to create 30,000 apprenticeships between now and 2020.”Mr Smith went on to explain that working alongside their partners, Microsoft are committed to creating new career opportunities for people in the UK to ensure the benefits of new technology can be felt by people of all ages.“Across the economy, there are huge opportunities for innovation” Brad Smith explained, confirming Microsoft’s commitment to expanding in the UK.The final panel at the CBI conference Ensuring automation works for everyone assessed the impact of automation on UK businesses. It was chaired by Siobhan Kennedy, business editor at Channel 4 News, and panelists included Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the Trade Union Congress, Mike Coupe, chief executive officer (CEO) of Sainsbury’s, Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the CBI, Alison FitzGerald, chief operating officer at London City Airport, and Duncan Logan, founder and CEO of RocketSpace.Frances O’Grady said, “We must ensure that tech-poor communities aren’t left behind”. In a rapidly changing world of work, Ms O’Grady argued, “every worker should have the right to reskill and upskill” to ensure they get their fair share of the wealth technology generates.“Workers need a real voice in shaping our future economy” to ensure technology is a force for liberation. She added that “unions need seats at the table alongside businesses” over the future direction of our economy to guarantee everyone a great working life.Having described how Sainsbury’s and the retail sector had embraced technology to respond to customer needs, Mike Coupe went on to support the message on reskilling. “We should be looking as a society, not only at how we train our young people, but also at how we train our older workforce,” Mr Coupe said.Duncan Logan of RocketSpace spoke passionately about the importance of businesses working with start-ups and large corporates gearing up for the future. “I would encourage every company to have an innovation programme,” Mr Logan explained.He also advocated a new way of looking at where training and education was offered at different stages throughout life.
Related articles from the Winter 2017 issue of Relocate Magazine:

Globalisation – a positive force?

Globalisation can be seen as a threat and BBC business editor, Simon Jack teased out the challenges and opportunities faced by international organisations. He described the CBI as the ‘Beating heart of the UK economy” and wondered if the UK had hit the peak of globalisation.Panel member, Angel Gurría, the secretary general of the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), explained that he saw globalisation as irreversible, but emphasised the need to bridge divides and ensure a fairer distribution of opportunities. Mr Gurría saw the need to empower people through better skills and improved public services. The quest, he explained, was to make globalisation work for all by delivering better policies for better lives.Steven Armstrong, group vice president and president of Europe, Middle East and Africa at the Ford Motor Company, represents a truly global organisation operating across Europe.Asked by Simon Jack about how the company communicated with the workforce about globalisation, Mr Armstrong explained that Ford employees are familiar with the concept that the strength of their business is the fact it is global, with skill and capabilities around the world.In all of the markets Ford operated in they were able to create high value and skilled jobs. The UK is an important market for Ford with 15,000 employees, but when pressed about the impact of Brexit, Steven Armstrong confirmed that the company did not want to exit the UK, but it might if the UK was not competitive. They need a clear view and assurances of a transition agreement.

The sharing economy and using technology as an enabler for growth

Serial entrepreneur Debbie Wosskow sold Love Home Swap, the home-exchange club, in the summer for £40 million. She has since launched AllBright with co-founder Anna Jones, former CEO of Hearst Magazines.Ms Wosskow explained, “We’re driven by a desire to combine profit with purpose. The mission is about making the UK the best place in the world to be a working woman because currently the situation is pretty dire – last year only 2.17 per cent of all capital globally went to a female CEO. On the other side of the table, only 7 per cent of investors are women. In spite of all of this, women get great returns; better returns than men [in terms of investment].”Asked if the UK was bad at supporting women entrepreneurs, she responded that a woman in the US is twice as likely to start a business as a woman in the UK.Ms Wosskow reflected, “Entrepreneurs will always find a way, but I think the political environment and support of entrepreneurship is not as friendly as it was before the Brexit vote.”

Women to fill skills gaps

In the last six months, a lot has happened to accelerate the progress of women’s advancement in the workplace. Businesses seem to be getting behind narrowing the gender payment. Developing women’s careers is also one of the most obvious ways to plug the skills gap.The media and social media spotlight on harassment has also raised awareness. Management organisations from the CBI to the Institute of Directors (IoD) and the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) are pushing their members to acknowledge where organisations are falling short and to provide pathways to improve their position regarding pay, equality and better promotional prospects. This is not only for women, but across their organisations to embed an ethos of diversity and inclusiveness in the workplace.The importance of international experience has also long been acknowledged as essential for equipping leaders of the future with the global mindset and cultural awareness needed to work across international borders and manage global teams. Supporting the development of women leaders, and ensuring that female assignees get the best possible experience and opportunities internationally is firmly on Relocate Global’s agenda.

Closing the gender pay gap

The Accenture report Getting to Equal 2017: Closing the Gender Pay Gap, reveals the actions and attributes that drive fast-track women. Accenture surveyed more than 28,000 women and men, including undergraduates, in 29 countries.At a senior manager level, 41 per cent had studied STEM or computer science during their undergraduate or working years, and continued to hone those skills. Career strategy is key for them and they have mentors, advocates and other support necessary to advance to senior positions.Fast-track women also work full-time (94 per cent), and 74 per cent benefit from a flexible schedule. The report also showed that motherhood does not necessarily slow a woman’s career, as 82 per cent of fast-track women are mothers.Overwhelmingly, working mothers were shown to keep pace with digital skills and are often the first to try new devices and services.The report concludes that in an environment of intense skills shortages, the pay gap holds back not just women, but business and economic growth. The skills shortage and the pay gap must be solved together the report found.Companies that create supportive work environments are better able to attract new women recruits while encouraging high-performing women to stay in their current jobs.Published in autumn, the EY and NetExpat Relocating Partner Survey conducted with more than 3,500 respondents around the world indicated that the largest obstacle to women accepting overseas roles is the full-time career of their partner. It was also showed that the income of the partner made a significant contribution to the family budget.This survey provides powerful evidence of the importance of providing relocating partner support.The report will give global mobility professionals the ammunition they need to include partner support in relocation policies and align with business strategy on diversity and inclusion.

Industrial Strategy

At the end of November, the government unveiled its Industrial Strategy white paper. The strategy is designed to build on Britain’s economic strengths, address its productivity challenge, embrace technological change and support businesses and its workers.Prime Minister Theresa May said, “Our modern Industrial Strategy will shape a stronger and fairer economy for decades to come. It will help create the conditions where successful businesses can emerge and grow, and support these businesses in seizing the big opportunities of our time, such as artificial intelligence and big data, while ensuring that young people have the skills to take on the high-paid, high-skilled jobs this creates.”Launching the strategy, Business Secretary Greg Clark said, “We are at one of the most important, exciting and challenging times there has ever been in the history of the world’s commerce and industry.“Powered by new technology, new industries are being created, existing ones changing, and the way we live our lives – as workers, citizens and consumers – is being transformed. We have commercial and industrial sectors – from advanced manufacturing to financial services, and from life sciences to the creative industries – which are competitive with the best in the world.“In this Industrial Strategy, we set out how we will maintain and enhance these and other strengths and deploy them to our advantage.”Addressing the productivity gap, Mr Clark said, “Britain’s productivity performance has not been good enough, and it is holding back our earning power as a country.”

What does this mean for our readers?

The Industrial Strategy deliberately strengthens what the government sees as the five foundations of productivity: ideas, people, infrastructure, business environment and places. There is a vision for each and a range of polices designed to secure the UK’s competitive edge.The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund will invest £725 million in new industrial programmes to capture the value of innovation. This is underpinned by an increase in research and development (R&D) to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027.Innovations, people, infrastructure, business environment and places are areas Relocate Global follows and the industrial strategy will give us an additional focus via our website and in the magazine as we continue to report on the developments and the strides that companies and education establishments are making regionally and in their work overseas.The importance of infrastructure is obvious. Investment in transport covers big relocation sectors from the car industry, aeronautics, rail and shipping to construction companies and energy. Housing and property is fundamental to domestic relocation and ensuring that relocating talent is able to move to the critical locations where jobs and investment are to be found. This also translates to inward investment and managing multinational teams.The emphasis on places gives us the opportunity to look at enterprise in the regions, local industrial strategies and the importance of connectivity and the relationship between industry, education and the economy.Commenting on the Industrial Strategy, Jüergen Maier, CEO of Siemens UK, said, “Through today’s Industrial Strategy announcement, we are optimistic that through greater investment in R&D, and especially through the application of advanced industrial digital technologies such as AI and robotics, we can support many more new and existing manufacturing industries, raising productivity and creating thousands of new highly skilled and well-paid jobs.”Stephen Martin, director general of the Institute of Directors, said the Industrial Strategy identifies the key challenges the UK economy will need to overcome if businesses are to remain competitive in an increasingly global race.It also takes some important steps in starting the flow of public investment to overcome these hurdles. We hope it will become the cornerstone of a long-term vision of post-Brexit Britain; one that promotes innovation and the free flow of ideas.The UK economy relies on small businesses, and those involved in relocation need to consider how they adapt their support to new and innovative organisations who are lacking in knowledge about the mobility industry and the complexity of working with overseas partners or setting up in a new dominion.Mike Cherry OBE, national chairman of Federation of Small Businesses, said, “The UK’s 5.5 million small businesses have a huge role to play if we are to increase productivity across the economy, and in every sector. This is the only way to achieve sustained wage growth and higher living standards.”

Innovation at the heart of the Industrial Strategy

In the strategy, the government identifies the Grand Challenges: global trends that will shape our rapidly changing future and which the UK must embrace and lead to ensure we harness all of the economic and social opportunities they will bring. The first four are:
  • Artificial intelligence (AI): the rise of AI is changing the world we live in. The UK has to be at the forefront of this data-driven revolution and grasp the opportunities it presents through the AI sector deal
  • Clean growth: the global shift to clean growth presents huge opportunities for innovation that the government and industry must take advantage of by backing the development, manufacture and use of low-carbon technologies
  • Ageing society: to effectively meet the needs of an ageing population, the UK must harness innovations in medical care, technology and services
  • Future mobility: from driverless cars to drone-delivered goods, the way we move people, goods and services is evolving rapidly, and the UK needs to be a world leader in shaping what the future of mobility looks like 

Relocate Magazine Winter 2017 front cover
Read more about the future of UK industry and technology in business in the Winter issue of our magazine

For related news and features, visit our Leadership and Management section. Look out for the launch of 2018's Relocate Awards, entries open in January. Relocate’s new Global Mobility Toolkit provides free information, practical advice and support for HR, global mobility managers and global teams operating overseas.Access hundreds of global services and suppliers in our Online DirectoryClick to get to the Relocate Global Online Directory  ©2017. This article first appeared in the Winter 2017 edition of Relocate magazine, published by Profile Locations, Spray Hill, Hastings Road, Lamberhurst, Kent TN3 8JB. All rights reserved. This publication (or any part thereof) may not be reproduced in any form without the prior written permission of Profile Locations. Profile Locations accepts no liability for the accuracy of the contents or any opinions expressed herein. 

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