How do you make sure your business is well-prepared for all the challenges on the horizon? It’s a conundrum that occupies the thoughts of many a business executive these days. At MT’s Future of Work: Digital conference this month we tapped the collective brains of four workplace experts for their advice on how you can make your business fit for the future.
Don’t neglect your people
‘We need to recognise that work is all about people,’ said Bev Messinger, CEO of the Institution for Occupational Safety and Health. ‘You can get very distracted by technology, products and commodities, but at the end of the day it is all about people. The organisations that will flourish will be the ones that talk to their people, are honest with them, invest in them, keep them safe, value them and think about their health and well-being.
‘It's not just about a human resources commodity, it's about treating a workforce as a community - they will then pull together and you will get massive discretionary effort. Organisations become very successful if they do that. We need to recognise that health and safety is not about saying no and adding cost, it's about enabling and supporting organisations to be better than they can be.’
Keep on training
To that end you need to be constantly providing opportunities for staff to ensure their skills remain relevant. ‘Learning and development should be at the heart of an agile enterprise,’ said Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD. ‘If we're saying all of these jobs are going to be changing and we're going to be moving people around effectively then we've got to be much better at upskilling and reskilling.’
Plan for the skills you need
Companies need to ‘Think more strategically in terms of their workforce planning,’ added Cheese. ‘I don’t think we [as HR professionals] collectively do enough of this - really understanding what kind of capabilities we're going to need in the future. It's all about understanding the direction of travel, the changing context around us, what capabilities we need and where we're going to get them from.
‘If we start from that then I think we can look at all these other mechanisms we talk about - about how we engage people properly, where we need to train them, what we do with line managers. If we don't understand the strategic context and work from that then we will always suboptimise what we do.’
Watch other companies – and not just your competitors
Few companies eschew competitor analysis altogether. But as well as looking at companies similar to yours, it’s worth keeping an eye on other industries too. ‘Looking into what other industries are doing is a really valuable thing,’ said Alison Webb, head of workplace at Lendlease. ‘We do it ourselves - what's happening in retail, what's happening in apartments, what's happening elsewhere - there's so many innovations happening daily that you can grab on to and start to apply to your business as well.’
Get ready to collaborate
‘The way organisations and the world are going forwards is there'll be more competition and more mergers and acquisitions, more joint ventures,’ said Kirstin Furber, people director at BBC Worldwide. ‘We have two very big joint ventures in America with ITV and AMC (Which could be seen as our direct competitors) so we're now in a world where we're working on a project and delivering a product through organisations that are completely different in different countries.
‘How do you make that work? It comes down to relationships - are you very clear on how you're going to work together and are you clear in terms of what you're trying to achieve and what's the purpose? If you get that right everything else should flow out.’