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Business leaders share what to focus on in 2022

This January journalist and broadcaster Kate Silverton asked our panel of experts to share what business leaders should look out for in 2022 and how they can prepare for what’s coming. Keep reading to find out their priorities for the year ahead and what you as a business leader need to look out for.

Panel

Sustainability is good for your people

For the right business, with challenges there is always opportunity.

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“The biggest opportunity we’ve got is to redefine normal and maintain growth through genuine sustainability”

Dave Dunckley, CEO

For Grant Thornton UK, 2021 was incredibly successful in terms of the quality of work we delivered and the engagement we had from our people. Though like many businesses who also had a successful year, this has come at a cost, in that our people are incredibly tired. Our workforce has struggled, and the war for talent is going to be a real driver as we move into 2022. Unless you’ve got the right people, the opportunities which come from challenges will pass you by.

One of the biggest aims for businesses in 2022 should be to continue on a growth trajectory in a more sustainable way, which includes more than the climatic impact. It also includes how you do that with such a tired workforce.

Our main goal for 2022 should be the same for other businesses – making our firm genuinely sustainable in all senses of the word. This includes:

  • attracting and retaining talent
  • further investment in technology
  • making ourselves more efficient, and more attractive to clients
  • the importance of diversity and inclusion and ESG to our growth
  • properly embracing a Net Zero strategy.

The year of growth

This year is less uncertain than 2020 and 2021, but the headwinds are strong. 

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“After two years of what’s felt like a really challenging time, mid-market leaders have a sense of confidence in the year ahead”

Alan Dale, Partner

COVID-19, Brexit and red tape, expansion, inflation, interest rates, the war for talent, and skill shortages are still challenges. But strangely, there is a level of confidence about those things from mid-market businesses. For the first time in two years these issues are known. People feel they can really start to plan, set foundations for growth, and invest in the right areas. According to our latest International Business Report, 69% of businesses are optimistic about the future of the economy, with profitability expectations staying remarkably strong at 60%, which is a post-referendum high.

There's a big focus on international expansion in the mid-market, which isn't a surprise given Brexit, but organisations in the UK are focusing on them now more than ever. That being said, businesses did tell us their leadership teams need support in order to make the most of this opportunity.

The continued war for talent across all sectors will provide an anchor on growth, so organisations will need to look beyond just reward to attract and keep the best talent.

The commercial imperative of ESG will really start to hit home, forcing organisations to set ambitious, real and practical plans to deliver. Success in this area will go a long way to determining how well they perform.

Strong organisations are built on trust and flexibility

People now expect businesses to put flexibility at the heart of their people agenda.

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"The pandemic has accelerated of the pace of change; our people are expecting different things now”

Jenn Barnett, Head of Inclusion, Diversity and Wellbeing

During the pandemic, they’ve had more ability to create better social interactions during their working week and they want that to continue.

There’s therefore an expectation that businesses should be relying more on digital integration to support better communications, so that teams become more efficient and more able to work in a hybrid way.

The shift in employee expectation goes beyond reward, and the acceleration of diversity and inclusion that we’ve seen over the past two years is only going to continue. People want to work somewhere that responds well in the moments that matter. There’s a focus on common purpose, belonging, the psychology of loyalty, shared experiences, powerful networks creating safe spaces, and improving mental health. All this builds healthier organisations.

When talking about inclusion, people leaders need to look at how to build trust. It’s built through your networks, your feeling of belonging, on what leaders say, and the integrity of what they say and how they act. Businesses need to invest time into data-based actions and being deliberate around sponsorship and inclusion allies.

A lot of employees are assessing what they want out of their work, what their purpose is and if their organisation is serving them in every way. Purpose and culture, and how you treat people around inclusion and diversity are going to be the anchor points that help keep your best people.

If businesses don’t cover the skills gap, the GDP of the whole UK economy could be suppressed. And if you don’t address your own shortage, you’ll miss out on opportunities that other firms are taking.

ESG means action

When we first went into lockdown in 2020, it felt like conversations around businesses’ role in climate had only just started, driven by regulation in the UK financial services sector.

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"This is the year of ESG, and it is moving beyond discussion”

Sonia Shah, ESG and Climate Risk Lead

Since then, the market has changed rapidly and ESG is now vital to a business, moving far beyond the ‘’E’’.

Proposed regulations started creeping in and media attention grew, so stakeholders are becoming more interested in the sustainable aspects of a business. These include anyone from investors and business leaders to clients and employees, and even to the supply chain you work with. A key question from any of these people could now include "what does your company do when it comes to sustainability?’’.

This year, ESG is becoming more than a discussion. Companies need to think what sustainability means for them as a firm, and what it represents for them. One of the most sought-after positions at the moment in the recruitment market is Head of Sustainability, with over 800 roles currently available for the term on LinkedIn in the UK alone. This shows how important sustainability is starting to become even though at the board level, these discussions are very new.

Environmental, social and governance needs to come through your whole business framework. It takes time, but once the plan is in place, it needs to be embedded across the whole business, including your products and services.

There’s still a lot of unknowns out there when it comes to ESG, so businesses need to keep their framework fluid and adaptable so that it is future proofed.

Watch the webinar on demand to find out what our expert panel had to say.

Based on our expert panel's discussion, we uncovered 13 actions you can take now.

Make 2022 a resilient year for your firm

 

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