Finding Opportunity in Uncertainty

Whatever the outcome of Parliament’s vote on whether to authorise the necessary legislation to trigger formal negotiations over Brexit, organisations will still face several years of uncertainty following the UK’s decision to leave the EU in June last year.

While business leaders must of course calculate the impact of the possible loss of the single market and free movement of labour, they also can’t afford to make 2017 purely about planning to leave the EU. There are too many other factors that need to be taken into consideration if they are to futureproof their organisations and ensure their workforces remain motivated, productive and able to compete on the world stage.

Digital disruption, for one, represents a far more immediate threat for many than Brexit with the pressure on for leaders to digitise not just their processes but explore how digital transformation can strengthen their business.

Indeed, technology and the connected world brings opportunities as well as threats and with markets at an embryonic stage, there is an opportunity to take a digital lead. This could require a collaborative approach with other organisations to build an ecosystem that will help advance the sector as a whole. And it may even mean forming alliances with competitors which is why some experts have underscored the growing importance of the ‘frenemy’ in 2017.

No organisation can afford to be an island and the silo approach to working is becoming outmoded. And this mindset must be applied internally as well as externally. Departments that hitherto wouldn’t cross paths should combine their thinking and strategies. Love it or loathe it, social media alone is one of the factors that is interconnecting functions like never before and it is the C-suite that needs to demonstrate strong leadership in bringing these areas together.

Modernising everything from processes to mindsets will help organisations become more attractive to the Millennials who are already in their first management positions. According to professional services firm Deloitte’s Millennial Survey 2016, Winning over the next generation of leaders, half of all Millennials already have four or more direct reports.

Unsurprisingly, they have different motivations and expectations from the world of work and other research studies report they do not seek to mimic the styles of old leaders but rather reinvent the role. Managing and motivating them is key to their retention so leaders must take the necessary time to understand the cohort that will lead the company tomorrow.

Transparency and authentic behaviour will be paramount. Not only to appeal to the Millennials but also to build trust with multi-generation workforces who have witnessed first-hand the corporate excesses of the past two decades. They may expect their organisation to demonstrate a higher purpose through its actions.

This goes way beyond setting an ambitious corporate social responsibility (CSR) programme for the year ahead, as laudable as this may be, but rather intrinsically linking the organisation’s existence and operation to broader societal needs and issues.

All of the above is a big ask of today’s leaders, who also have to ensure business-as-usual in a challenging climate. And given the events of the past 10 years, who can tell what unknowns could be lying in wait to further impact the business world.

The next 11 months may well prove challenging but it also gives leaders some compelling reasons to do things differently. It should be about prioritising ideas and innovation, masterminding transformation and embracing change, and welcoming new ways of working and new attitudes. In short, the year’s success stories are likely to come from leaders who positively embraced the opportunities rather than spent too much time dwelling on the threats.

Rialto has published a white paper which examines the topics covered in this blog in greater detail. To download a copy of: Seizing opportunity in an Unpredictable 2017, click here.


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