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Talent before technology?

The UK may be a people economy but when it comes to business continuity planning, most businesses put more emphasis on technology risk than they do on talent risk. Article by Peter Boucher, Commercial Marketing Director at Vodafone UK, with contribution from Andrew Dalglish, Circle Research.

According to a recent Vodafone UK survey of senior managers. However, the same survey found that 84 percent of senior managers feel that having the best people is seen as critical to success. Is it time UK business realigned its business continuity planning priorities? In general, the Vodafone survey, part of the Vodafone Perspectives series, found that UK organisations are more aware of ‘risk’ than ever before and are taking appropriate action as a result. With some three-fifths of UK senior managers reporting that their organisations have become more focused on risk over the past three years. This increase in the perception of potential, and actual, risk is reflected in the widespread adoption of business continuity plans, although there is some variation in preparedness. Nine out of ten organisations with more than 250 employees have business continuity plans in place, and they are especially prevalent in finance, healthcare and the public sector. Four-fifths of SMEs (50 to 249 staff) have these kinds of plans at the ready, while only two-fifths of small organisations (up to ten employees) have continuity plans.

These business continuity plans are not just academic exercises to ‘tick the box’. More than three-quarters of businesses have updated and tested their business continuity plans within the past year. The greatest risks to business are generally perceived to be technology-related: the loss of IT and telecommunications systems or hacking attacks. These risks are among the top concerns for UK managers as three-fifths of organisations report that the failure of IT systems is a significant concern. Similarly, telecommunications failure (46 percent), the loss of confidential data (44 percent) and cyber-attacks (39 percent) are also mentioned. Conversely, technology is also seen as a way to protect businesses against other risks. For example, technology can reduce the level of operational disruption from environmental events such as, adverse weather or pandemic. Just over half of organisations with business continuity plans in place indicate that mobile technology forms a prominent part of these and two-fifths report the same for remote access to IT systems.
In some sectors, remote IT access actually forms the bedrock of business continuity planning. Three-fifths of financial services and technology organisations describe its role as prominent. Given that having excellent people plays such a crucial part in the success or otherwise of our service-based economy, it is surprising that talent risk does have a more prominent place on the management agenda. The biggest single cause of talent loss is employee defection to other organisations. The previous report in Vodafone’s Perspectives series, which explored the shifts in employee expectations and motivation, found that the average UK employee rates their job satisfaction at around 6.6 out of ten. Moreover, around one-quarter are actively considering switching jobs in the next twelve months.
So what can employers do to help ensure they attract and retain the best talent? One obvious way to be attractive to potential and current employees is to offer good benefits and working conditions, such as top-quartile salaries, good pensions or a stake in the business. However, it is not always realistic for businesses to offer these benefits. Improving the working conditions of staff is a relatively inexpensive and straightforward way of boosting morale and job satisfaction, thereby significantly decreasing the likelihood of employee loss or defection. Our previous study found that access to flexible working options and an improved work–life balance are now among the most important drivers of employee satisfaction. Vodafone’s experience shows that implementing better ways of working can boost employee satisfaction and morale and, with this, an organisation’s fortunes. One way to do this is to introduce new processes and technology that create these better ways of working and enable employees to work flexibly and securely from wherever they need to be. Taking simple steps such as measuring employee performance rather than hours spent in the office, or equipping staff with the right tools to work flexibly can make a huge difference for comparatively little cost.

While employers can never completely eliminate talent risk, they need to be more aware of the threat if they are to succeed and grow. It can pose as great a danger as technological and environmental risk but it is much easier to influence and prevent with huge potential benefits for those who are ready to change the way they work. Indeed risk is inherent in business and it comes in many forms, but in tough market conditions, it is imperative that businesses are better prepared than ever. Identifying and managing talent risk as part of a business continuity management strategy is not only good practice-it will contribute to business excellence overall.

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