These days, the world seems to be changing faster than it spins on its axis. While the headlines darken each morning with geo-political and economic tumult, the sense of unease continues reading beyond the front pages. A bleak outlook for the workplace: robots will take over, professions will be rendered obsolete by new technology; a Fourth Industrial Revolution is less than a mouse-click away…
Participants in a global economy, we are available 24:7. How can we thrive in these modern times? Where do we find breathing space? How can organisations find time to develop its staff without taking them from business as usual activities? How can individuals cultivate a work-life balance or reflect on their place in the world?
Such questions were posed by the STEP Employer Partnership Programme’s inaugural Summer Forum last week in London. Hosted by BDO, the evening included high-profile speakers drawn from the trusts and estates industry and the learning and development world to explore these issues. Participants were given a powerful call to action to embrace a new skills agenda and innovate in their practice.
BDO’s Head of Private Client UK, Paul Ayres, opened the programme. Reflecting on the changing role of the tax practitioner, his observations will resonate with contemporaries in the tax world as those in other professional services:
How can your organisation meet changing client requirements? How do you promote yourself in a world that increasingly denigrates the value of professional advice as the internet perpetuates the fallacy that everyone can be an expert? How can you make an agile response to constantly changing governmental and regulatory constraints? How can you keep ahead of legislation, embrace technology, maintain global competitiveness and deliver your services at the right price point? How do you retain your trainees, who are entering the workforce now with very different expectations of work from their supervising partners? How do you give the same quality of training you experienced, when the advent of digitisation has rendered obsolete the opportunities to develop the practical and client-care skills embedded in the training contracts of old?
Leading learning and development specialists Liggy Webb, Jonathan Winter and Jane Hart gave impassioned responses as to how we interpret these challenges. We all wish to be more flexible and confident in the way we approach challenges in life, both at work and at home. Liggy Webb delivered strategies for resilience – emotional sunscreen to help us confront those challenges head on and keep us sane.
Jonathan Winter discussed how careers really work, blowing away the cobwebs on the traditional model of the career trajectory that most have entered the workplace with, debunking myths about how we think about work and leaving us with seven habits crucial to future-proof a career.
Jane Hart, closing the programme, addressed the changing world of work and urged delegates to embrace new technologies, adopt learning tools and strategies that embed a culture of learning within individual, team and organisational outputs. Drawing on examples of pioneering practice from players like Google, she deftly illustrated how this can be done without the onerous burden on budgets human resource training often presents. A lively Q&A offered a stimulating debate on these ideas.
By the close of the evening it was clear that those employers who adopt a proactive approach to change and empower their employees similarly will thrive. Those investing time, as well as financial and intellectual capital into their workforces will reap the land of plenty in the future. Embracing new models of learning and working, and viewing technology as an enabling force, not a threat, will help them withstand the social seismic shifts and lead the new skills agenda for the modern workplace.
Madeleine Jenness, STEP Education Manager