Redefining the world of work

This article first appeared in the Western Morning News.

There’s a clear recognition among the business community that the nature of work is changing. What is often less clear is how companies can adapt to this shift in the relationship between employer and employee.

There are some big trends that we are seeing that are affecting the world of work, notably technology and particularly the pace of change in technology, which is accelerating dramatically.

Alongside disruptive innovation in the tools available for work is a strong demand from people entering the workforce who are expecting, perhaps demanding, a different type of employment experience from which many of us have been used to.

These shifting expectations and innovations in technology are happening in the context of rapidly developing sectors, and the emergence of entirely new jobs which could never have been envisaged only a few years ago.

The recent South West Business Council conference focused on the opportunities to re-imagine approaches to employment and skills across the region and beyond. Blessed with our stunning natural environment, we know all about quality of life and work-life balance. However, we also recognise that these factors alone are not sufficient to build a thriving economy. Engaging as many as possible of the working age population in growing our economy is one key requirement. Putting in place the necessary digital infrastructure to enable rapid and reliable communication is vital if we are to allow for productive remote working across a largely rural region. We already do well in this regard. Cornwall is a great example of this, and with 95% of the county serviced by fibre-optics, it is the most connected county in the UK. Cornwall is now home to a booming software development sector and last year was ranked as the second fastest growing technology cluster in the country. Across the whole region, from Bodmin to Bristol, Penzance to Portsmouth, we see clusters of genuine strength and employment opportunity. This is a place that can attract investment, a place where people want to live, work and grow their businesses.

But still, it’s not enough. In the highly unpredictable world in which we find ourselves the importance of physical presence, of sharing space, coffee, ideas, inspiration and opportunities is perhaps more important than ever.

For the South West the power of the network is more important than ever. Innovation happens across sectoral boundaries, with new value chains and market opportunities increasingly found by working with others. What makes innovation profitable is having customers who demand innovative products, services, processes. What makes innovation possible is having access to innovative suppliers, staff, and universities. This is about making a market which supports the transfer of innovation between “players” – universities and businesses, SMEs and global companies, suppliers and clients.

By establishing ‘Landing Points’, homes from home across the region where South West Business Council members can work, get a coffee, good WiFi, and make new connections with the local business community, we’re doing just that – supporting the development of a market for enterprise. More than that, we’re supporting the ways of working that technology enables, and that people want; open, flexible, innovative and exciting. Shrinking the geography of the region and working to connect pockets of excellence will, we believe, allow businesses across the region to adapt to the changing world of work – and in the process show the rest of the world how it can be done.

Engine Shed – Bristol and Bath is the latest addition to our growing network of Landing Points, providing an ideal touch point for businesses on the M5 corridor from the South West through to Birmingham.  A full list of current Landing Points in the South West can be found on our website www.southwestbusinesscouncil.co.uk

Robin Daniels, CEO, South West Business Council