As the dust settles after the drama of election night, many business and HR leaders are now waiting to understand how the Conservative’s manifesto will impact on business, employee’s rights and whether it will radically change the workplace in the next term.
While the Conservatives outlined many pledges in their manifesto including changes to workplace benefits, childcare and workers’ rights, it was an emphasis on technology and the digital economy that featured most strongly in their manifesto.
Why? Because technology has been one of the single most disruptive forces for enterprises today. The rising consumerisation of IT, trends such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and bring your own everything (BYOE) has impacted on the way employees access, share and use information. New technologies for analytics and data have fed into these trends, meaning that employees are able to now record and track their progress and make more informed decisions.
This empowered employee, strengthened by the increase of generation Y in the workforce is taking a technology forward lead in the company, whether businesses provide them the tools or not.
And this disruption is set to continue with Conservative digital commitments that will help them lead, such as a charge to vastly improve broadband speeds and reach, and increased access to government digital services and focus in on emerging technologies. HR leaders need to adapt their recruitment and retention strategies to this new environment – and fast.
Technology is going to underpin the delivery of almost every government major policy or business change enacted over the next five years. Therefore we’ve outlined below the key takeaways from the Conservative manifesto and just how they will impact HR.
Super-fast broadband & flexible working
Notably, the Conservative’s promise to support the delivery of superfast broadband to provide coverage to 95 per cent of the UK by the end of 2017, will impact the drive towards more flexible working.
With every employee granted the statutory right to request flexible working after 26 weeks employment service in 2014, this trend is set to accelerate in the next couple of years as the technology that encourages dispersed teams continues to mature. This will vastly change how employees collaborate, share and work together. Technologies such as mobile apps, visual communication and common portals will become commonplace as companies turn to digital interviewing, candidate social on-boarding and digital learning and development portals to relieve the HR admin burden, and create a productive environment for remote working.
HR leaders will be charged to provide these technologies from a learning and development and knowledge sharing perspective, if they are doing so already.
Additional pledges such as the ambition to deliver ultrafast broadband to nearly all UK premises as soon as practicable and the subsidising cost of installing superfast capable satellite services in the very hardest to reach areas will make it easier for HR to implement a flexible working culture within an organisation.
Public sector services and technologies will become digital by default
The Conservative Party-Liberal Democrats coalition government first introduced the Government Digital Services (GDS) in 2011. These services have widely been considered a success, having connected disjointed silos – including data, analytics, and payments and monitoring - within the government technology systems to offer better online public services and scale to demand as needed.
While this largely affects those who work within the public sector, its digital capabilities have been strengthened, meaning that the public sector itself will become a much more appealing employer and more able to compete for digitally enabled talent.
To government has also confirmed that to encourage private sector innovation, all new digital services will be available via an open Application Programming Interface (API) as well as a web browser, and more data sets will be opened up.
HR leaders within the public sector should seize on these new technologies as a way of positioning the public sector as a digitally forward organisation in their recruitment strategies and campaigns. This is going to be specifically relevant for attracting Generation Y and Z, the always on and connected generations whose digitals skills are touted by many experts as being the future competitive differentiator for any company.
Working on the move
For this mobile enabled, bring your own device (BYOD) generation of employees the Conservatives have promised to release more spectrum from the public sector use to allow greater private sector access.
This means a better 3G or 4G service for Internet enabled devices and a boost to productivity for workers who travel as part of their day to day jobs. Mobile operators will be held to a new legally binding agreement to ensure that 90 per cent of the UK landmass will have voice and SMS coverage by 2017.
As the use of on the go mobile services increase, HR leaders should consider mobile as a platform for delivering strategies that attract and retain staff if they are not doing so already. Mobile apps, e-learning and social portals that can be accessed quickly and easily on the go should be part of any recruitment and L&D plan.
The workers of the future: Robots?
The Conservative party has also identified Eight Great Technologies to invest in – among them robotics and nanotechnology. They believe that these technologies will be key differentiators, helping businesses to compete on an international level.
While the introduction of advanced robotics into the everyday work place is a far reach goal, HR and business leaders should prepare their workforce to learn new skills where robots replace old ones. For example, if automation technologies replace much of the coding done by application developers and software engineers, these employees will need to up-skill and learn how to interface with new and incredibly intelligent technologies.
With election pledges hanging in the balance, it’s always difficult to know how a new government will impact on the workforce and in turn, HR leaders. Yet if the Conservatives remain true to their digital promises, then the future digital workforce will be one step closer.
In this digital storm, HR leaders should consider now how to deliver skills to the frontline, and where relevant, carve roles for a digitally minded workforce.
Stephan Schmitt is Chief Marketing Officer at Lumesse.