Five Workplace Trends from the CBI's 'Future of Work' Conference

The world of work is changing, and it’s not all down to Covid. An ageing population, the mental health crisis and a reluctance to go back to pre-pandemic working patterns has led to a tight labour market and a reset of the employer/employee dynamic.  

What’s clear is that we can’t go back to business as usual. Younger workers are looking for value and purpose in their careers. And they’re looking to work for organisations with aligned values and social purpose, be it a commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion (ED&I) or achieving net zero. 

The CBI’s recent Future of Work conference provided a day of keynotes, panels and workshops to look at the changing world of work, and how we as businesses can best equip ourselves with the skills we need to prosper and grow.  

Here are five workplace trends that we identified from the day.  

People issues are now a board responsibility 

Our workforce is the driver of our productivity and our economy. But the recent labour shortages have led to a so-called ‘war for talent’, with organisations chasing the best candidates.  

People are choosy about who they work for. And it’s not just about the salary and the package. Young people are increasingly making career choices based on a company's social values. And they want to see people who look like them at the top.  

Attracting and retaining talent is now something that’s so central to an organisation’s purpose that it’s moving to the top of the board agenda. Companies know that to attract the best talent it’s not enough just to talk about social purpose; they need to build an organisation that’s absolutely committed to making a positive impact on society. 

Diversity is good business 

We know that diverse teams make better decisions and that diverse businesses are more productive, innovative and profitable.  

And we know that we can’t address the productivity challenge without speaking to all talent. So we need to think differently about recruitment and look beyond the traditional recruitment process.  

In addition to that, to attract the top talent we need to think about the story we're telling our candidates about our business.  

Do your actions live up to your words? Culture starts at the top, and your leadership should be modelling inclusive behaviour every day.  

Let’s prove ED&I is critical to success – through data 

Any organisation looking to build a more equitable and diverse workplace should start by collecting workforce data. But there’s more to it than that.  

While data in and of itself is important, it's the actions taken as a result of the findings from that data that will really drive progress in ED&I in your business. 

It’s not always been easy in the past to prove that ED&I initiatives have been successful; too often results and feedback have been anecdotal.  

Data means you can look at the results of your initiatives more objectively, helping you to identify areas where you need to improve, and enabling you to implement meaningful actions, set targets and track progress.  

We need to look at social mobility 

Social mobility is linked to equality of opportunity, but for too long we’ve recruited our leaders from a narrow talent pool. If we want to deliver lifelong careers that deliver economic benefits to all - that needs to change.  

The UK performs poorly on international comparisons for both social mobility and inequality. And an organisation where the leadership are all from a similar social background can signal a lack of opportunity, squeezing productivity and ultimately curbing economic growth.  

We need to take action now to reduce socio-economic inequality in our organisations. Studies show that organisations that take action on socio-economic inequality are more innovative and productive. Widening the talent pool will help businesses access a wealth of untapped talent.   

Looking forward, we must find ways in which we can help candidates from disadvantaged backgrounds break through. And be aware that people will stay and contribute to a business when they’re given the opportunity to grow and develop in it.  

The importance of working together 

At Change the Race Ratio, we know the value of working together to share ideas, challenges and best practice.  

So it was no surprise that we learned a lot as we networked with CBI members in the conference breaks, listening to their insights and plans around the future of work. Fuelled by plenty of good food, strong coffee and cake of course!  

About Change the Race Ratio 

We’re a group of business leaders working together to increase ethnic minority representation on UK boards and leadership teams. We work as a peer group, learning from each other as we move forward to create more diverse and equitable workforce.  

We don’t have all the answers; what we do have is a commitment to change.  

Whatever your size, sector or stage you’re at in your racial equity journey, sign up and join our group of leaders committed to change. 

Join the conversation #changetheraceratio

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