With much anticipation surrounding the Prime Minister’s first CBI Conference speech, there was a concern that the cloud of uncertainty around Brexit could dominate the agenda and the discussions on the day. However, with the theme of ‘Innovation, Growth and Prosperity in a World of Disruption’, there were plenty of upbeat discussions around just that, innovation, skills and opportunities for growth. In fact, it mapped nicely onto the focus of Theresa May’s speech - her ambitions for Britain and for business.
This kicked off with a real vote of confidence from the Government with its announcement of a new £2 billon investment, per year, into the tech sector. It was certainly a great start and will be a much needed boost to drive innovation in Britain. Facebook contributed to this story with its statement about the UK remaining one of the best places to be a technology company; we absolutely endorse this.
Despite the political backdrop to the conference, the message I took away was the importance of collaboration between the Government and business in order to create opportunities.
Given this period of intense fear, uncertainty and doubt, there was a rallying cry for businesses to get fit for an unpredictable future. But what would a business need to focus on to achieve this?
On speaking to my team, everyone had their own views, informed by the conference debates. One felt the message coming across loud and clear was the importance of finding the right talent, and how to achieve this in the broadest context. For example, from looking at the need to have the right housing and transport infrastructure in place and associated public sector funding, through to companies taking responsibility for having the right approach to attract, retain and develop skilled workforces. For her, business success fundamentally comes down to the skills you’ve got to drive the top line, to move beyond the efficiencies that a company can achieve. Another felt it was down to business agility; the ability to change and do things differently, with pace. For him, engagement with the workforce was critical – how to get them to move left, when they are already turning right; without this responsiveness to change tack, businesses would simply be left behind.
We all agreed that underlying this focus on getting fit for business was a strong message about the importance of digital - having the right digital skills and digital driven leadership within your business to harness the opportunities that digital tools can deliver. It was all about turning digital disruption into your secret weapon for success, to unlock the potential of your workforce and to ensure your business can grow faster and more easily. We are so driven by making a difference, whether to our customers or our workforce, we were delighted to hear this message come across loud and clear.
Workforce readiness in this age of digital disruption was an important area that we explored in our Trends Report, which we launched yesterday at the Conference. One of the key findings was 79 percent of respondents believed that a strong digital skillset and digital first vision were the most important attributes for successful business leadership. In addition, to have workforces that are agile, innovative and engaged, businesses are missing a trick if they fail to unlock the digital potential of their employees. You can also find the full Trends Report here to check out the findings in more detail.
This isn’t something we’re preaching about. It’s at the heart of our business. We feel strongly that technology businesses themselves need to take responsibility for identifying and developing young talent into the sector. At Advanced, we are actively doing this - over 50 percent of the 1,000 new people we have brought into the business over the last year have been millennials looking for a career in technology. Importantly, and to ensure diversity, our approach doesn’t stipulate a graduate level education, just smart, talented individuals from any background. In fact, we had two of our highest potential entry level millennials with us on the day, which caught the attention of the CBI’s Director General Carolyn Fairbairn herself, who visited and had a photograph with them on our stand.
Just as the discussions at today’s conference explored how to harness growth through innovation, we are keen to see what will take place over the next twelve months. We are confident that businesses can deliver real growth and prosperity through investing in technology innovation and digital skills. We hope this will demonstrate its value and importance to the fitness of the British economy, so that further investment from the Government will follow.