Mary Appleton reports on Changeboard's first Future Talent Conference, held at London's Royal Opera House on 9th July 2014.
Changeboard’s Future Talent Conference, held on 9 July, brought together distinguished thought leaders from business, the arts, education, government and the HR profession, with keynote talks presenting a broad range of perspectives on the theme.
The event was opened by Changeboard CEO Jim Carrick-Birtwell, who said: “As employers, employees and individuals, we have the opportunity to inspire and create positive change and enhance your own destiny in the process”.
For Carrick-Birtwell, work is a constant process of striving. He urged the audience to invest every day with meaning, and “leave each day ever so slightly better than we found it”.
Peter Cheese, CEO, CIPD – developing & managing the future workforce
The CIPD’s CEO Peter Cheese then took to the floor. He argued that the emergence of new ‘megatrends’ is shifting the world towards a new set of norms and into phase two of the ‘war for talent’.
“Talent, skills and capability are now top of the agenda for CEOs,” Cheese told delegates. Yet with the estimated future demand for more than two million managerial, technical and professional roles by 2022 against a backdrop of high unemployment, there’s a clear mismatch between the supply and demand for skills. Underpinning this, the Local Government Association predicts that by 2022 there will be 9.2 million low-skilled people chasing just 3.7 million lowskilled jobs.
Cheese believes that the future workforce will be characterised by a more diverse, and more demanding, population – flexible working, entrepreneurship and career changes will grow, but job security and early retirement prospects will weaken: “We will need to upskill and reskill more.
“We are at the inflection point of the age of talent, so we’ve got to be more diverse than talent management practices or Ulrich models,” he explained.
From an HR perspective, the key to this is treating people as individuals, embedding learning and focusing on building the people management skills of managers. “The future’s in our hands. We just have to focus on it a lot more,” he concluded.
Ashok Vaswani, CEO, Barclays Personal and Corporate Banking – stewardship of talent
“You never own a job, you rent a job,” was the key message from Ashok Vaswani, who expained that each individual should act as a steward for the business and strive to ensure their job is in better shape
when they pass it on. “We have to act to ensure the next generation has the same, if not better, opportunities than those available to us,” he said.
A career for life is “dead”, he proclaimed, meaning HR needs to define the employee value proposition with this in mind and address the fundamental question of: ‘Why should someone come and work for you?’
For the first time, we have three distinct generations in the workforce: baby boomers, Generation Y and Generation Z. All think differently due to their circumstances – and their needs and expectations vary.
The challenge for HR and business leaders is to ensure their organisation is relevant to all three generations, while managing the ‘in-flow’ and ‘out-flow’ of talent and creating ambassadors for the organisation.
To understand customer expectations, organisations need to reflect society. “One type of hire means one type of answers. It’s no longer relevant to just talk about gender diversity,” Vaswani argued.
For Vaswani, the key question that business leaders should constantly strive to answer is: ‘If we were not here, what difference would it make to society?’ Doing so will enable you to create purpose for yourself, your people, and your organisation.
Lucy Adams, former HRD, BBC – the trust mandate for future leadership
Trust in the workforce was the key theme explored by Lucy Adams, former HR director of the BBC. She argued that the need for people to trust their leaders has never been more important.
“One in five people say they wouldn’t believe their leaders would tell them the truth if they were confronted,” revealed Adams. “What does that tell us?”
To create trust, leaders must obsess about knowing their people. “You cannot view employees as a homogenous lump,” Adams told delegates. “We need to understand people in the same way as customers.” For Adams, surveying employees once a year and producing an action plan to show ‘we’ve listened’ is not enough.
She suggested that HR should look to marketing to learn about customer segmentation and use technology to enable conversations. Treating people as grown-ups is also key. “If we changed employment contracts so that they were written not with an eye on future tribunals, but about an adult relationship, how different would that be?” she asked.
Adams believes organisations’ collective futures depend on leaders’ abilities to build partnerships, collaborate with customers and competitors, spot new business opportunities and threats and be agile in their response. It’s also important to be able to manage diverse and virtual teams and create environments where individuals can flourish and cope with uncertainty.
“We need to appoint lower ego leaders, who get their kicks from enabling and creating environments where these new capabilities can emerge rather than through personal glory and individual achievement,” she said.
As for current leaders, Adams believes that we must help them be the best they can be. “We need to encourage them to let their guard down, have humility and use emotional stories rather than share data, to be visible when it goes wrong and take the flak – to see niceness as an asset, not a weakness.”
Sir Anthony Seldon – the character traits of success and happiness
Sir Anthony Seldon, master of Wellington College, outlined the importance of character development – which he believes is not nurtured enough within the education system.
Seldon pointed out that we do not take the time to live enough by our deepest values, because we find ourselves constantly rushing. He urged delegates to consider trying to identify those values by which they live.
“When we are deeply reflective, it gives us an opportunity to connect with the depths of our being and what we truly want,” he said.
Within the workplace, Seldon told the audience that values must be embodied and personified. The more you do this, the more successful your organisation will be. To Seldon, highly trusted organisations are those that are grounded in the values that are truly lived by employees.
Dr Alan Watkins – how to be wired for successful futures
Dr Alan Watkins presented his insights on the secret science of brilliant leadership. “Living in the 21st century we find ourselves in a VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous – world,” he declared. “A world where the rate of increase in knowledge is exponential and most importantly, a world where we utilise just 9% of our true potential.”
Watkins went on to explain that the key to discovering the remaining 91% is ‘vertical development’ (asopposed to ‘horizontal learning’). According to Watkins, horizontal learning is about what a person knows, whereas vertical development is about who they are.
In the VUCA world, technology will far surpass human knowledge and the amount we can learn, so learning is no longer enough for success – instead we need to develop who we are.
For HR to make a positive impact on the future of talent, Watkins believes it should focus on vertical development – beginning with gaining control of our physiology. This will, in turn, help us to control our emotions, feelings, thoughts, behaviour, and results.
Alain de Botton – the responsibility of business leaders to help employees find meaning in their careers
For author and philosopher Alain de Botton, two things lie at the heart of ‘meaningful work’: helping someone to suffer less and helping someone to enjoy their life more.
“People really want meaning from their work,” de Botton told the audience. “Yet we have a crisis in meaning. Often a business can be meaningful yet many jobs don’t feel meaningful. Why is this?” He argued that we live in a world of specialisations, which can cause problems for employees. “If you are a tiny piece of a giant machine, you can easily lose sight of the meaning of your organisation.This leads to a loss of purpose and energy,” he explained. Employers have a key responsibility to tell a story and reflect back to workers the wider purpose of what they are doing.
“We need to make jobs feel as coherent as a football game so people have a sense of progression,” he added. Turning to the future talent agenda, de Botton highlighted the importance of understanding the psychology of the new generation, which requires a shift in mindset on the part of employers.
“People think that today’s young people are spoilt, but we have to find the upsides of this,” he said. “Yes, they might be more demanding but they are great at authenticity. There is an opportunity here for employers to harness an intrinsic passion to a goal. If you get someone working authentically they will work 10 times harder than someone working simply out of obedience.”
Rushanara Ali MP – developing an inclusive approach to future talent
At the core of Rushanara Ali’s message was the call to be ambitious and aspirational for today’s young people, whatever their background. “If we are interested in future talent, we must address the root causes of poverty,” she said, arguing that social mobility is a critical factor in enabling people to access work.
She also highlighted the importance of vocational training and the need to make this a more prestigious option for young people to pursue. Without this, she argued, we are in danger of having a large amount of young people without a credible pathway into work.
Ali urged employers to play a bigger role in helping young people access the world of work and suggested that individuals could provide much-needed support through mentoring. “There cannot be a substitute for great, independent careers advice and guidance,” she said.
“Confidence is key,” she continued. “The effect of mentoring support can enable the working class to reach for the stars, which is fantastic. We need to make sure the world of work plays a central role in helping young people access opportunities which lead to employment.”
Alex Lowe – industry head, Google – future trends in technology and what this means for work environments
The world today is “as slow as it’s ever going to be”, was Alex Lowe’s thought provoking opening to his discussion on what advances in technology mean for employees, collaborative working and innovation.
He revealed that annually, 900 million and 67 million job and career-related searches are made through mobile devices on Google and YouTube, respectively. Currently, 39% of the world’s population has internet access – but Google predicts that this will reach 100% by 2020.
For Lowe, this makes a fundamental difference to talent because most of that growth will come from developing markets, which are at the forefront of international businesses’ minds as they yield new expertise.
Lowe also shared an inspiring video from Heineken which had received over 5 million views and created a 279% uplift in HR site visits.
Marc de Leyritz – partner, Egon Zehnder – how to help leaders raise levels of performance
Marc de Leyritz urged the audience to move away from a competency-based approach when assessing leaders and instead consider five categories for the selection and promotion of top talent:
- The ability to master complexity
- The ability to orchestrate innovation within your business
- The ability to embody the firm’s passion and emotion, which links to authenticity and self-awareness
- The ability to become an anchor in society: leaders who don’t see their company within narrow confines but in its wider societal context
- Capability to raise a new generation of leaders, who will possess different strengths to face different challenges
He also encouraged HR leaders to think more holistically. “Stop thinking that you can solve everything yourself. There’s genius around you and it’s your job to harness it,” he advised.
Matthew Hancock MP – fostering inspiration in young people
Highlighting the importance of work inspiration, Matthew Hancock MP called on employers and business leaders to get involved in the future talent agenda.
“Young people want to be excited, inspired, motivated. The best motivation and advice comes from people in jobs, using skills, who are passionate and knowledgeable about what they do and why they do it,” he said.
“Perhaps you could work with a local school – sending members of your team in to talk about their jobs, or welcome young people into your workplace? Perhaps you could offer work experience, mentoring or get involved with schemes like Movement to Work,” he suggested.
He continued: “Plotr [careers website plotr.co.uk] is an excellent example of employers coming together, to create an innovative website allowing young people to understand what employers offer – in their own words – and to match their skills and ambitions with a range of jobs.
“I’d like to see more employers take up the opportunity that Plotr presents – promoting their companies, their industries, directly to young people.”
Changeboard was delighted to collaborate with the CIPD at the conference, and also to be supporting two leading initiatives in the youth employment space: Plotr and Learning to Work.
The day concluded with a panel discussion featuring Jim Carrick-Birtwell, CEO, Plotr; Katerina Rüdiger, head of skills and policy campaigns, CIPD (Learning to Work); and Kirstie Mackey, head of Barclays’ LifeSkills programme.
Throughout the day, delegates were asked a number of questions which were discussed during the panel session. When asked if they felt young people are disadvantaged in today’s employment market, 64% agreed. Carrick-Birtwell echoed a resounding theme of the day – that with jobs changing rapidly, it’s even harder for young people to transition from education to the workplace.
“With the nature of jobs changing at such a rate, there’s a huge mismatch at entry level,” he said. Some 88% of delegates felt that young people have unrealistic expectations about what the world of work is like. Mackey was keen to point out that perhaps the issue is more about confidence. “The demands of the workplace have changed and young people don’t know what to expect when they enter it,” she argued.
When asked whether they had a dedicated strategic future talent plan in place in their organisation, just 34% said yes – signalling there’s still a long way to go on this agenda. However, of those who did not have one in place, 80% said they were planning to introduce one in the future.
Employers are now looking at non-traditional access pathwayspathways such as apprenticeships and traineeships. Some 62% of the audience said that their organisation offers entry routes other than graduate schemes.
Carrick-Birtwell highlighted the resolve of the business community, with many organisations putting their competitiveness aside and working together to encourage and educate people about what skills they need – particularly in the STEM space. “This is a longer-term future capability way of thinking,” he added.
However, an overwhelming 98% of delegates agreed that employers need to do more to engage with young people – acknowledging there is still some way to go. “Employers need to see themselves not as consumers of the education system but key actors,” added Rüdiger. “The good news is there has been a change in employer behaviour, but we still need to do more.”
Changeboard’s co-founder and executive chairman Porteur Keene closed the conference by thanking delegates, speakers and sponsors, concluding that: “There is plenty to reflect upon and, if this in any way enhances our individual and collective contributions to meeting the
challenges around future talent, the conference can be truly judged as a success.”
By Mary Appleton
Mary is Changeboard's editor in chief.
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