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Takeaways from CBI’s Future of Work conference

Norwich Business School team member James Gardiner offers his takeaways from CBI’s recent future of work conference. Given the tumultuous times we have faced recently, it is fascinating to hear that employer responsibility for employee wellbeing is very much on the agenda and seen as the next step forward for future-facing businesses. This ties in with Evolve’s push for evidence-informed ‘people practice’ as a source of benefit for all types of organisations.

James writes: On the 1st March, I attended the CBI’s Future of Work conference with Gillian Keegan MP and Secretary of State for Education, Tony Danker Director general of the Confederation of British Industry and Angela Rayner MP. Here are my takeaways from the conference.

The UK economy faces people challenges, including the shift towards early retirement, greater mental health difficulties and desire for more flexible and part-time work. The younger generations are demanding businesses adopt new values of work and society. Tony Danker said “We are suffering from a mental health epidemic. It is keeping many at home, and impacts many more still in work. More broadly, the pandemic has changed perspectives on the balance of work in our lives and the way we lead them. This means many may work still, but not like before.”

Tony set out five new principles to boost productivity and overcome the ongoing labour shortage crisis:

  • Flexible working is becoming mainstream practice. Flexibility for employees is essential.
  • Employee wellness is the employer’s responsibility. Employer-led health interventions, to prevent common physical and mental health risks, could help save £60 billion every year.
  • Automation is our friend and can solve key issues. Danker stated that AI across the economy could add an estimated £38bn to UK GVA in 2030, and SME adoption of digital technologies around £45bn.
  • Skills Policy and Immigration Policy must finally be brought together.
  • Getting people back to work via training and childcare reform is central to recovery.

On the Future War for Talent:

  • Businesses must be progressive – with a small p – this is not about politics.
  • Work must become a ‘Platform for a Better Life‘. Your colleagues are your community!
  • A new deal is needed with an equitable mutual exchange between employee and employer.

Forces have combined to challenge traditional ways of working in the UK’s labour market, pushing both policymakers and business leaders to take radical action in response. A new reality demands a new approach and if business leaders don’t start leading the change, they will end up chasing it.

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