Moorhouse: UK companies embrace continued change

12 October 2015 Consultancy.uk

The world is in a new normal of consistent change. To stay competitive, large organisations in the UK are waking up to the need to be agile to stay on course for growth, finds Moorhouse’s latest change barometer report. In this years’ report, 69% say they feel the pressure of change and 70% feel ready for change. Organisations that invest the most in transformation are for the most part, already seeing growth returns.  

The Moorhouse report, titled ‘Avoid the zombies, innovate for growth’, is developed from 200 respondents from board members (17%) and their direct reports (83%). Respondents come from UK organisations in the public and private sector, including 7% from the FTSE 100, 25% from the FTSE 250, 24% of UK subsidiaries of multinationals and 8% from the public sector. The survey covers a wide array of industries and sectors, including among others, transport and distribution (13% of respondents), TMT (13%), energy & utilities (13%), financial services (21%), and health and pharmaceuticals (9%).

Participants

The changing state of affairs
This year’s barometer reading shows that the business environment continues to be in a state of flux. Over two-third (69%) of organisations respond that they feel an increase in the pace and pressure of change in 2015, up from 58% last year. This years’ change pace and pressure is up slightly on the result of 2013 (65%), although still below the result of 2012 (72%). The consistently high result suggests that the business environment is now in a ‘new constant’ of change – 80% of respondents are expecting the pace of change to increase further over the coming three years.

Feeling the change pressure

A culture of change
The majority of senior leaders in surveyed companies smell the need for change in the air, yet to what extent are organisations in the mood for change? The survey asked respondents if their organisation has a ‘pro-change’ cultural state (changeable or change embracing) and found that 70% of respondents say their organisation is pro-change, up from 60% in 2014.

Pro-change

The survey highlights however that, while company leaders are for the most part pro-change, the structural requirements for change remain elusive. When considering whether a company is able to sustain its ‘pro-change’ culture, the role played by leadership to pass on their vision to their subalterns remains key. Yet even for many on the board, the direction of the company is not always sufficiently clear for communication. In 2014, 77% of respondents describe their organisational vision as ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ clear. However, this dropped to 69% in 2015 – the lowest level in three years.

Grasping strategy

Investing in change
The need for change becoming more pressing for many organisations can be seen in the numbers. According to Moorhouse’s analysis, investment in transformation programmes has increased on average among surveyed organisations. The average spend is up 25% on last years’ reading, from £20.8 million to £25.4 million. The number of those spending on average more than £25 million has also increased from 21% of respondents in 2014 to 34% in 2015.

Investing in change

Embracing change and transforming business culture is having a positive effect on growth.  Eight in ten (81%) companies investing more than £25 million find that their transformation is translated into growth in its first year. Optimism about the changes is also reflected in their expectations for the following year, where growth is expected by 85% of those surveyed. 89% expect the transformation to net growth in a three year period.

Future prosperity

Challenges remain
Changes in the business environment have companies on their toes, with many preparing for a future in which constant change becomes the new normal. Nine out of ten companies surveyed expect to continue to grow over the coming years, further stimulating competition. According to Moorhouse, agility is therefore the key to stay ahead of the competition. Companies will need to carefully consider whether profit is not better invested in developing growth strategies over being paid out, how companies are positioned within the market and whether companies need to develop or attract new capabilities to support expected market developments.

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Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

17 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

Soft skills matter in the workplace just as much as technical expertise, writes Samantha Caine, Managing Director of Business Linked Teams.

For too long technical expertise has been seen as the marker of a strong candidate for development into a sales or leadership position. Sales and leadership candidates are tasked with demonstrating a diverse and wide-ranging set of technical skills, yet their aptitude in these technical skills or ‘hard skills’ cannot signify great leadership potential. This is why a healthy balance of soft skills and technical ability is required. 

So what exactly is the difference between technical skills and soft skills? In engineering, it’s crucial to demonstrate knowledge of physics as well as a strong grasp on mathematical equations. Yet, in any industry, it’s important for leaders to be able to interact with other people effectively with soft skills like communication, empathy and adaptability. 

Business Linked Team’s 2018 study into internal leadership development revealed that 69% of large organisations are prioritising the identification and development of future leaders from within the workforce. As more and more organisations begin to invest in sales or leadership development within their existing workforces, more focus needs to be placed on ensuring the right soft skills are in place. 

With those soft skills in place throughout the workforce, the business will benefit from a wider pool of potential leaders developing under their noses, and it should be the same where sales candidates are concerned. 

It’s not just about easier access to ideal candidates for these positions without the rigmarole of recruiting from outside of the organisation. The leadership development study also found that 89% of HR decision makers say succession planning has become a top priority. Those currently serving in leadership positions can’t lead forever and the same goes for those generating sales for the business.

Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

From people leaving for new opportunities or retirement, to people simply stepping aside to focus on other areas of the business, successful leaders and salespeople require experienced and capable successors that will be ready and able to confidently step into their shoes and pick up the mantle without the business experiencing any lapse in performance.

Soft skills make stronger candidates

When it comes to the soft skills required, a strong leader must be able to manage through clear communication and effective time management, coaching and goal setting. They must be able to demonstrate empathy and empower their teams to be successful, productive and fully engaged. And beyond simply giving direction, they must also be able to take direction from those above them and cascade the business strategy down through their teams. 

A strong sales candidate must possess the ability to communicate value to the customer, negotiate well and protect margin or the ability to increase the scope of a particular sales opportunity. 

With the relevant soft skills in place, the business will benefit from increased productivity, greater agility against changing market conditions and greater transparency. In turn, this will provide visibility on issues and inefficiencies while removing opportunity for miscommunication. All of this can transform the culture of a department, improving employee satisfaction and reducing staff turnover. 

Ultimately, developing leadership or sales candidates will require the business to strike the right balance between technical skills and soft skills, and this requires an effective and sustained learning journey.

A balanced learning journey

Facilitating and supporting the development of leadership and sales is best achieved by establishing training groups. By cultivating training groups, businesses are creating talent pools that will inspire and support each other on the learning journey. However, personal goals and learning objectives must be defined for each individual based on their own existing skillsets and the skills that each individual needs to develop. 

With the emergence of e-learning, businesses recognise the value of online-based learning activities, yet many make the mistake of opting for one-size-fits-all solutions which are solely focused on self-study. A development solution will only deliver true return on investment if it combines e-learning activities with group learning activities that provide opportunity for shared experiences and support.

A blended learning solution that combines self-study and face-to-face group learning activities will aid strong development of the talent pool through shared experiences. Through these shared experiences, those undergoing the training will organically develop a support network that supports the development of the group as much as it supports the development of each individual. 

The blended learning approach is supported by one of the seven principles of human learning that socially supported interactions aid the individual development of expertise, metacognitive skills, and formation of the learner’s sense of self. The strongest opportunities for development can be unlocked by blending workshops with online activities such as virtual sessions, peer coaching, self-study, online games and business simulations. But it’s crucial to provide a blend of one-to-one and group sessions too.

Beyond delivering a better learning outcome for the employee, the blended learning approach allows organisations to adapt their training quickly and easily to shifting business demands in an ever-changing landscape.