Careers and Talent 2018

Publication date: 07 February 2019
Article type: Blogs and Articles

Careers and TalentJuliet Stuttard, Director in People and Organisation Practice at PWC

Can you explain a little bit about your role? 

I specialise in workforce change. PWC does a lot of this work, from workforce design right through to implementation. 

Can you share some insight into your presentation from the Careers and Talent Forum, on the future of work? 

At PWC we do a lot of research into what people think of the future of work and what we’ve tried to do in our report and findings, is try to take people 20 or 30 years ahead thinking about what in the world of work will change and imagine some scenarios about how businesses and the workplace will operate. 

It’s not meant to say what it will be like – it’s giving people food for thought on what technology, digital, AI and robots could do to change the future of work in our lifetime. 

Is it possible for Business Schools to fully prepare their students for the future?  

It’s almost impossible for business leaders to know about the future of work, let alone students coming into it, so it’s about making yourself as agile as possible, so I think the MBA has got to move with this and be more agile, creating a more agile workforce.

Not one topic in the lifetime is going to be relevant. Your work life is going to be longer than it’s ever been before, so it’s about preparing you for that much longer work life and preparing businesses to employ people over the course of their lifetime.

With automation and robotics becoming ever more prevalent, what’s next for the workforce?

It’s interesting. There are some elements of work that are already being digitised, for example things that require automated responses, such as chat bots. I don’t think this will replace things that require real invention and innovation. Things like driverless cars will come to the fore, and we need to reskill our workforces – but human skills will need to remain for innovation and contact.

Research in Japan has looked into the role of robots in healthcare and what’s come to light is that people don’t like dealing with robots. They like having someone to look after them face to face.

How can we better equip employees to cope with the future business issues they may face?

It’s about being agile. Many of my clients are digitising their work and operations and are having to learn new skills. Future employees will have to learn and be really curious about ‘what next’, rather than being force fed by the organisation. They need to think about how they can be more agile and how they can have many employers ­– not just one.

Can you share some insight into the PWC study The Workforce of the Future?

We’ve carried out this research over a six-year period and asking what key trends are; what our clients are doing and taking this further. We’ve connected it to our Chief Executives Survey to really understand what people are thinking about the future of work. It imagines the possible in the future and to depict what the future of work might be.

Tom Lawrance, Head of Careers for Global Industries at Oxford Said Business School

Can you tell us a little bit about your role?

I help students transition in their careers. There are three main ways I do that. One is working with them one to one, in a coaching capacity or in small groups as well. Two, is engaging with employers to make sure we have the opportunities in front of the students. And three, is more technical skills and practical skills that help them in the world of work post-MBA.

What was the main topic you discussed in your presentation?

The first gap I talk about is the lack of companies coming to hire from Business Schools directly. I’m surprised, now that I’m on this particular side, to see few companies come and hire, I would say, more than one MBA at a time and I’m just trying to understand why this. I think it’s a general lack of awareness.

The other gap I think is on the skills side that there are a lot of jobs coming up on the market that require new skills that older MBAs might not be providing. So the School has been adjusting to meet this hiring gap and make sure we are giving the students the right skills that the jobs out there are demanding.

You moved from Amazon where you recruited MBAs to Oxford Saïd where you help MBAs get recruited. How has the transition panned out?

The mood has been different. The pace of life is a slower at 800-year-old institution compared to the pace at which Amazon was moving.

I think the similarities are the people. You get great people at the School, either if there are staff or students and it was the same at Amazon. So being surrounded by great minds, constantly challenging you and stimulating you, make a great place to be. And in term of what I’ve been able to bring, it’s a general commercial awareness of what it takes to thrive at a fast-paced global organisation. But also, what recruiters are looking for in students, how they assess them, what that process looks like, but also some process improvement.

Is it possible to get students employer-ready given the demands of businesses?

It is possible; it’s not easy.

There is a challenge to get them ready quickly because obviously there is a lot to do in an MBA a lot of things for the students to think about and they are coming from such a diverse set of backgrounds that there isn’t one set of things to do to make all the students ready for employers.

We have just launched some online content that students receive several weeks in advance of joining and it just helps their thinking and helps their general readiness for when they join.

If students are more ready then they’re going to get more jobs and it’s going to help the whole cycle of the School in general.

Is the challenge of getting students studying a one year MBA greater than those on longer courses?

Absolutely, 100%. I’ve seen first-hand the differences in the way the School works with the student in the different time frame. You take a two-year School and they have a formal internship part of their MBA. Students have at least a year to figure out what they want to do and how they can get their story across. In a one-year programme you have to do the same learning in a condensed amount of time and that makes it more difficult.

From a recruiter perspective, what are they looking for in an MBA student, and what are the expectations of students?

To the employer point first, there are probably two main things they are looking for.

One is they fit with the organisation and their values so that’s a lot of organisations. For example, Amazon has leadership principles, to examine whether someone fits within the organisation.

They are also looking for technical skills and I think that’s why they come to Business Schools, because they recognize that there is a large pool of globally minded talents that can solve problems strategically.

Students are looking for a company that has the same values, a company that does stuff that they are interested in.

Students are looking for companies that they want to work for. My job is to get them thinking about this as broadly as possible. The recruiter’s job is to make sure they can translate what the company is about and get the students excited about working for them.

Jen Saunders, Principal at Mercer

Can you explain a little bit about your role?

We are one of the world’s largest HR consultancies. I work in our people and digital team advising organisations on how to maximise capability through the workforce and HR.

What did you cover in your presentation?

I wanted to share Mercer’s global research about what makes an organisation thrive. We asked 800 companies globally for their written responses to a number of issues and then compared it to our employee research to pull out critical factors that correlate to engagement. I also outlined the findings of our 2018 Global Talent trends report, which conducts a survey of 8,000 directors and employees to ask what they’re focusing on over the coming year.

What are the biggest factors facing the incoming workforce?

We’re focused on the fact there is massive disruption to jobs and the very nature of jobs is changing. There will be a potenial 75% reduction in office and administrative jobs, but there is massive demand for other jobs.

We find what employees value and what attracts them to top companies has changed dramatically. There’s a much higher focus on purpose and meaningful work as well as a greater focus on flexibilities. Do you need to ‘own’ your employees to get the most out of them?

Digital transformation is really upon us and is separating those that will succeed from those that won’t. We’re finding that the companies that focus on building an internal digital employee experience, find this easier to translate to their external customers.

Is there still a skills gap that both Business Schools and businesses need to address?

Absolutely. Digitalisation has the means to compete, but the differentiator is human skill. When we asked employers what the key skills they need are, they’re all ‘human’: the ability to innovate; the ability to ask probing questions; and the ability to generate great customer interactions. There are going to be really important in the future.

What will it take to thrive in these unprecedented times?

For employers it’s around reassessing why they are a business – but it’s about working out what the core of their work is. For HR it’s about creating a diverse, agile workplace that focuses on the ‘whole’ employee experience: their financial and physical health, their skills and their requirements.

Employees will choose an employer depending on purpose and a place where they can grow and have great career opportunities.

With the workforce becoming increasingly digitised, are the traits that businesses look for in MBAs changing?

In the future, employers will look for more learning agility.

Deep expertise will always have a place in organisations, but one of the things an MBA provides is that breadth of knowledge and experience and this is something employers will value highly: the ability for employees to pivot, to contribute in different ways, with different skill sets to entirely new parts of the business. This is a really interesting contribution they can make.

Lynne Chambers, Group Head of Talent at London Stock Exchange Group

Can you tell us a bit about yourself, what you do and give us an overview of the London Stock Exchange Group?

I have responsibility for talent across the group which falls into four key areas. The first is resourcing, so recruiting people from the most senior level right through our graduate intake. The second area is around talent and succession planning and is important to make sure we have the pipeline of talent in the organisation to process. The third area is learning and development and all of the skill building we need to do in the business. And the forth area is engagement and building a high performance culture which is about making sure our employees come to work fully committed and engaged and wanting to succeed.

What were the main ideas you were trying to leave with the audience?

I was looking at some of the trends in the early career market – something which companies annually invest £72 million across the world in hiring for.

This is a significant investment for organisations and that they need to make sure that they get it right, that they get a return on the investment that they are making in their early career talent.

I also talked a little about what skills are required for MBAs coming into the workplace. The softer skills that employers are saying are a gap at the moment among graduate hires and there is an opportunity for MBAs to capitalise on that gap and to demonstrate their softer skills as they enter our workplace. I think that softer skills are sometimes the most difficult and when we look at areas like technology for example where highly technical people are recruited and attracted into the market, sometimes those softer skills, communication skills, influencing, managing upwards, delegating, sometimes those aren’t always the core skills that they have and I think it’s perhaps around ensuring the MBAs demonstrate those skills as they are entering the job market.

Is there an expectations gap between from the perspectives of both recruiters and employers and students and graduates?

An MBA an investment in time and many people give up work in order to do this unless they are doing a part-time MBA. And it’s also a huge investment in money.

I think the expectations are high. I was lucky because I moved into a consulting firm and consolidated the experience that I got during the MBA in my role. I found that consulting really helped me to ground those skills in something that was sought of practical and commercial in way that perhaps maybe other organisations may not have done. I still believe that MBAs are worth the investment, but my advice would be to be really clear about what it is you want out of the MBA, what’s going to make a real difference to you as the individual undertaking that study, and how are you going to demonstrate that to employers when you are in an interview situation. How are you going to show that you have the capability and also the skills and maturity to really show that organisations your worth and have a big impact on their future success?

One of the core skills you mentioned that students should look at is coding which is not usually associated with the MBA. Why do you believe this?

In our organisation, the number of technologists is growing. They represent 60% of our colleagues globally. But we’ve recently been focusing on developing those skills at an earlier stage. With the emphasis on information and on the management of huge amounts of data and information, those skills are absolutely essential – not just for technologists but also for analysts who are working in the business – and we are looking at a programme that gives our early career talent those skills in order to be successful in their roles.

How has the MBA benefitted your career?

The MBA enabled me to change direction. In my early career I worked in the insurance industry, and I wanted to change direction. I was interested in people; I was interested in the way that people act and lead at work and I was also interested in organisations and that interplay between individuals and the organisation. So I chose an MBA with a number of electives that had those elements of organisations and people as part of it.

The MBA stood me in good stead when I went into the consulting role and enabled me to put all of the academic theory into practice on consulting assignments, but it was the consulting on top of that which made it a pragmatic, commercial proposition. You have to have the balance of both.

I then moved into the banking industry and have had a number of senior level positions within HR across those organisations. I guess it was the grounding with the MBA, the consulting and then the experience within these large global investment banks that has given me the platform to grow and develop my career to date.

How is the London Stock Exchange Group helping to address the gender gap?

We need to attract and retain female talent and we’re addressing this in senior level hires in areas like technology which are more traditionally male dominated. I think role models will encourage other women to apply and to see that it is possible to get to those senior levels as a woman.

We’ve introduced a mentoring programme which started out as an initiative through our women’s network which enabled women to talk through their career choices with someone more senior than them and to get them to navigate the organisation and their careers through the organisation. We also make sure we have gender balance shortlists for key roles and that we always have a women involved in the recruitment process, be that in a panel or as a key interviewer during an interview process.

Do you think Business Schools are fully preparing their students for business?

MBAs give people a grounding in terms of knowledge that has been amassed over years of academic research and that is valuable. What I think is an additional source of success for individuals is actually the pragmatic skills that are required in business, for example consulting skills.

So maybe there is something that Business Schools could do to give individuals a sense of what it is to consult within an organisation to identify a challenge, to work on a strategy, to prepare a proposal, to address the challenges the organisation is facing. I think that something more akin to those interpersonal skills will be really helpful.

Interpersonal skills and a greater focus on global issues and working in other countries, differentiates a candidate so the other piece that I would highlight is just high levels of interpersonal sensitivity and cultural sensitivity which address both of those needs.