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Future of work

Embracing new skills and ways of working

Karen Campbell-Williams Karen Campbell-Williams

In a panel event we held in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University, we looked at the Future of Work and explored the impact that themes such as digital technology; the importance of purpose, and addressing the skills gap, could mean for the employees and employers of the future.

Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of the Arts – who has previously led an independent UK government review of employment practices – opened the event by delivering a key note speech on his findings and recommendations for the future. With the rhetoric of ‘robots taking our jobs’ often dominating the headlines, Matthew instead rooted the debate around recommendations and actions to make a difference – the North West having the ‘aspiration, energy and self-confidence’ to drive action, providing the perfect backdrop for the discussion.

There were a number of key themes that the discussion unearthed:

The evolving expectations of future employees

The attraction of talent and employee expectations are pivotal themes.  Expectations are continually evolving and traditional means of attraction are becoming less important factors for recruiting the right talent. In a One Poll survey we ran in 2018 of 1,000 16-25 year olds, it was identified that financial gain is moving down the ranks of importance when seeking employment. 56% stated fair salary and benefits are important in prospective employers while a close 52% say offering a clear future career path is important. If financial gain is decreasing in priority, how can organisations evolve to reflect this? Increasingly employees are looking to work for organisations who can demonstrate genuine purpose and innovation and are more in tune with organisations delivering beyond profit. Our survey revealed employees are increasingly interested in how an organisation provides value and interacts with its people in a responsible and ethical way (30%) and the difference they make to society (25%).For employers it raises the question of: How do you create an emotional engagement and purpose that your employees believe in and feel a part of?

We’re preparing for this by thinking about the ways in which we engage with our markets and people differently and Grant Thornton’s purpose is to bring together our connections to shape the economy in which we operate, as opposed to just being a part of it.

The skills and diversity required for the future

The job landscape is fast moving and businesses will need new skills to thrive as they work into the future. The key focus from my perspective is on finding the balance between academic achievements, whilst not forgetting the skills required for the future such as creativity, relationship building and the ability to deal with diverse groups of people.

The education sector will need to step up and help build skills in a new generation which embrace a much wider area than the traditional academic focus of the past.  This needs to start at school if we are to equip our future workers with the skills they will need in a fast changing world.  Business needs to work closely with education so that our young people emerge with more understanding and are more equipped for the world of work.  

Central to developing the ability to deal with diverse groups of people in the workforce, is to ensure that our workplaces of the future reflect diversity – with different perspectives to challenges and opportunities being proven to deliver better business results. The professional services sector is now beginning to recognise this need for diversity – we were the first professional services firm to amend our entry requirements for minimum academic grades, and instead replace them with more sophisticated assessments based on overall potential. We have also actively engaged with Access Accountancy and we are seeing many young people join our business who would not historically have had that opportunity. 

Collaboration and agility are key

During our debate agility and collaboration emerged as key skills for employees to possess to equip themselves for the unknown of the future of work – but wider collaboration between business leaders, education and the public sector is also crucial to ensure that we collectively are equipped for the future. During his key note speech, Matthew Taylor addressed a key point of how we can improve collectively, by sharing best practice to improve consistency and innovation. By bringing people together to discuss and share ideas we can begin to understand that the impact we can make together through collaboration, is greater than anything that can be achieved at an individual silo level. 

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