Is Your Talent ‘Future-Fit’?

In an Ipsos MORI survey of UK business leaders, finding and retaining the right talent was second only to regulation as their biggest organisational challenge [1]. This set the scene for this month’s business networking event, which brought together leading HR practitioners and thought leaders to focus on talent, both inside and outside their organisations, and how to align the right talent to the right opportunity.

Tim Pointer, Starboard’s Founder, led the event. He challenged attendees to consider:

  • What will change externally that will affect the way we work, the working environment, and what’s required from our people, for an organisation to succeed with Talent and Capability?
  • What internal environment, talent, capabilities and working practices will we need to deliver our organisational strategy; and what are the implications of meeting these evolving needs?

So, what will change between now & 2025?

The context to formulating our Talent Strategy is shaped by today’s VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Chaotic, Ambiguous) environment. Will our talent serve tomorrow’s rapidly evolving future business needs, not just today’s?

We live in a period where the pace of change is unprecedented. To succeed in the future, organisations will need to look and behave differently. Tech enablement; globalisation; ethics & values; and diversity, are trends which have an enormous impact on our talent strategy. More broadly they impact on our brand proposition; product and service development; partner and customer relationships; and our digital presence. They are altering the experience of our consumers, customers and colleagues and the most successful future businesses will match those changed expectations.

Our future organisational capabilities, and our enabling talent, need to be crafted for this new world. Without increasing our insight into the future, the talent we develop and attract will not meet our future organisational needs. We need to think of talent in the context of whether it is “future-fit”.

Tech Enablement

According to an Oxford University/Deloitte study, circa 35% of the UK’s current jobs are at high risk of computerisation over the next 20 years [2]. They have developed a tool for people to find out their “automation risk” [3].

A critical phrase to describe this future scenario is “A life of jobs, rather than a job for life”. When no company can offer job security to any generation of their workforce, other desirable benefits – as valued by the employees – need to be highlighted. Investment in employees’ personal and career development, helping them to secure more options for the future, will lead the way.

Tech-enabled companies such as Google, Amazon, Apple and Airbnb epitomise the most competitive, leading businesses of today: innovate or die, and disrupt above all else. Consumers are demanding originality, perpetual innovation and customisation of products and services. Such high expectation translates into a strong demand (and standard) for employees who can develop and deliver this consumer offer.


While businesses are more globally consolidated; global locations, time zones, connected marketplaces and talent mobility have all led to more fluid and sometimes disparate work experiences. Technology enables workplaces to function effectively but leaders at every level need to become adept at maximising productivity and communicating goals effectively; for instance by focussing on employee collaboration as a crucial enabler of increased engagement and productivity.

Ethics & Values

“The culture of any organisation is shaped by the worst behaviour the leaders are willing to tolerate” Gruenert and Whitaker.

Ethics in business reflects the increasing transparency in every area of life – where we shop; what we buy; how we recycle; who follows the rules; who gets paid what. Ethics and values in business are critical not only to current and prospective employees but to the organisation’s customers/consumers, partners, investors, and to the wider community. Due to traditional and social media, the values and behaviours of organisations are highly visible to the talent that organisations want to retain and attract. The most visibly ethical organisations, with highly-developed CSR strategies and practices, are using their business focus on the CSR agenda to connect with potential talent.

Organisations who show they care inspire pride in their workforce and attract talent.

In today’s increasingly transparent business world, organisations who only pay lip service to the values written on their wall put their future success at risk. Leaders must walk the values walk and offer more than money. Experiences and worth are being more highly valued by today’s employees and tomorrow’s prospects than ever before.


Stephen Covey once said “Strength lies in differences, not in similarities.”

A multi-cultural, multi-generational, gender-balanced workforce is more adept at meeting the needs of the diverse markets they supply because they match the consumers they serve. Businesses are now having to ask themselves ever-more complex questions in order to successfully compete on a global stage; such as:

  • Gen Y’s behaviour influences all categories – what am I doing to reach them?
  • Is my brand Muslim-friendly?
  • Does my product cater for Plus sizes?

Attracting and developing talent in itself is complex. Ensuring the right balance of diversity within your workforce to meet existing and future business requirements is necessary but adds further complexity to your talent strategy. Here are some points to consider:

  • Different employment and reward/recognition propositions will be required for different generations, cultures and social groups.
  • Different attitudes, working practices and social norms will exist across a diverse workforce, so teams will need more guidance to enable effective collaboration.
  • Promoting the benefits of diversity organisation-wide and also acknowledging the accompanying challenges, helps to effectively embed diversity, alongside embedded values that respect diversity, and ensuring diversity in leadership positions.

Finally, attendees were tasked to debate the following questions and we’ve summarised their answers here:

How can we identify and grow future-fit talent within our organisations?

Identify people’s strengths and connect them with the right job.

Instigate a performance management process which is owned and written by employees rather than immediate managers.

Facilitate adaptable skills in the organisation, as flatter structures today mean that careers are more about broadening learning and experience than progressing linearly.

Focus on the conversation and interaction with people, instead of the documentation.

Use coaching and mentoring to grow talent – enable employees to broaden their perspective by “bringing the outside in”.

Invest in internal communication: utilise tech-based approaches and collaborative projects; highlight your shared vision; ensure clarity, honesty and consistency in all interactions with employees.

Post It

How can we identify and grow future-fit talent outside our organisations?

  • Nurture your Employer Brand and track how it is perceived externally, for people you want to attract now and in the future.
  • Promote your organisation and industry to younger generations to support talent acquisition in the longer term.
  • Utilise new career progression and reward models. Break from traditional approaches. Be flexible.
  • Highlight organisational innovation as one of your selling points.
  • Concentrate on whether there is a personal fit and values match between the individual and the company.
  • Build networks in the wider community you operate in, and also within your network of alumni, to offer regular and more in-depth interaction with a prospective pool of valuable talent.

How will our organisations need to behave in order to retain and attract future-fit talent (reputation; governance; community)?

  • Be transparent, fair, and consistent in your dealings with all stakeholders, whether employees, customers/consumers, partners or the wider community.
  • Be amazing communicators and even better listeners – engage employees and all other stakeholders to tell you what they think.
  • People value companies that innovate – these brands are more visible and the perception is that they will offer more opportunities for career development and progression.
  • Be agile and flexible – don’t go for perfection otherwise you’ll be designing talent approaches for yesterday.
  • Be involved and visible in the wider community – this is valued internally and well-perceived externally.

Starboard partners executives and senior management to create future-fit talent, high-performing teams, leaders with the skills to energise and evolve, and engaged, empowered employees. Please contact us on 01727 847398 or email us  – we’d love to speak to you!

[1] British Captains of Industry 108 Interviewed Sept-Dec 2014

[2] ‘The Future of Employment: How susceptible are jobs to automation’. Data supplied by Michael Osborne and Carl Frey, from Oxford University’s Martin School. And ‘From brawn to brains: the impact of technology on jobs in the UK’ by Deloitte UK.

[3] ‘Will a robot take your job’ , BBC

Image credit: Denisse Leon on Unsplash

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