Automation and a rapidly changing workforce are shifting the employee landscape but how will it impact businesses in attracting and retaining talent now and into the future? This was the subject under consideration at ‘The Future of the Workplace’ networking lunch hosted by Broster Buchanan Talent Solutions.

On Thursday 21st June, Broster Buchanan Talent Solutions hosted ‘The Future of the Workplace’ round table event at a location in London with some of UK’s leading employers. Artificial intelligence, automation and the changing workforce were just some of the hot topics being discussed by strategic business leaders across talent, resourcing, marketing, finance and HR from businesses including Weetabix, IBM, GroupM, Eli Lilly, Barclays, PA Consulting and Borro.

Co-chair, Stuart Branch, HR & IT director for Weetabix, highlighted the speed at which automation is affecting business and the associated challenges in attracting and retaining skills required moving forward. He said, “Whilst automation and AI (artificial intelligence) will offer a more interesting and diverse workplace for employees, it is critical that we as employers are able to not only nurture relevant talent and skills for the workplace, but also offer existing employees the opportunity to upskill and transfer their skills into the new world of work.”

This topic was further discussed in relation to fostering a culture of continual learning and development for employees. Upskilling is a key challenge for employers; it is commonly recognised that lifelong careers are no longer relevant and whilst loyalty is recognised as a key factor in retention, it is important that employees stay relevant in the workforce of the future. Whilst employees have a personal responsibility, it was agreed that employers need to ensure that employees are given the opportunity to upskill and retrain, especially where automation is concerned.

Education and tuition for school age children was another theme high on the agenda. Concerns were expressed around whether schools are properly preparing children for the future workplace; specifically whether the curriculum is linked to skills shortages and hard-to-fill jobs. GroupM is spearheading a project working with 12 and 13 year old school children to introduce them to the workplace. Small groups of school children from disadvantaged areas of London have been invited to GroupM and asked to take part in challenges which aim to broaden their business knowledge; the objective being to open their minds to a world outside of their borough and encourage more informed decisions at school which in turn will help on their career journey.

Emy Rumble-Mettle, director of talent management and talent development at GroupM, said, “This project has been extremely successful and has ultimately led to numerous work experience placements and internships. If we can touch children’s hearts, heads and minds then we can engage them. It is our responsibility to reach one person at a time each day.” The group were in agreement that targeting children between the ages of 11 and 14 would be key to influence, encourage and excite them about their potential career options, enabling them to make informed decisions when choosing between school subject and work experience options.

When discussing the impact of multiple generations in the workplace, back-to-work schemes, apprenticeships and agile working were explored alongside alternative approaches to personal development. The traditional appraisal process which reviews employee performance once a year was discussed and it was questioned whether this static approach should shift to a continuous, ‘real time’ process in light of a more agile workforce. Kevin Blair, VP for global talent acquisition at IBM, highlighted that consumer standards have significantly shifted and expectations are becoming immediate, even in the workplace. “IBM have a learning model which works in a similar way to Netflix and we are rolling this back into the onboarding process, because that is what people understand.” Blair commented. “Where consumer standards have shifted, likewise employee expectations have also changed and we have to react to this.”

Other challenges debated on the day were diversity and unconscious bias, the motivations of new generations of employees and the arise of five generations in the workplace. Whilst characteristics of emerging generations have been branded as ‘demanding’ and ‘self-important’, they also come with the technical skills and agility that some previous generations lack. The group was in agreement that businesses crucially have to continually learn, invest and adapt their methods of attracting emerging talent or there is a serious risk to the success of their business in the future. Rumble-Mettle stated, “70% of our workforce are now millennials so we are already behind the curve with this generation.”

After the event, Andrew Broster, CEO of Broster Buchanan and co-chair, shared, “This event was a real success and feedback from the group has been extremely positive. Not only does it allow us to share challenges and best practice as we move into a more diverse and rapidly changing workforce, but it also allows us to start influencing key strategies for the future. We will be meeting again to explore this topic in more depth and discuss practical solutions that we can all take away.”

‘The Future of the Workplace’ series of events is being rolled out across the country over the next year to join together strategic minds from a number of different industries and background to discuss key workforce challenges facing businesses today and into the future and enable them to share practical solutions and best practice. This pioneering group will also be meeting again to delve further into some of the areas discussed.

If you would like to get involved or find out more information, please contact Lenna Thompson who is organising the series of events on 07377 625 413