I had the privilege of attending the Confederation of Business Industry (CBI) annual conference this year.  To be candid, it has long been a professional ambition to hang out with 1,500 UK business leaders, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition all in one day and to feel part of the establishment! So, for the invite, I will be eternally grateful to my ex -colleague Andy.

To report back, it was exciting to see Theresa May speak during an historic time for UK politics and even better to feel the tension in the room as I watched Laura Kuenssberg from the BBC ask Theresa a killer question. However, as I left, it was actually the words of a subsequent speaker (sorry Theresa!) which I found ringing in my ears –namely Josh Graff, LinkedIn’s UK country manager and VP EMEA.

Based on the activities of Linkedin’s 600 million users and the 7,200 who sign up every hour, I was struck when Josh said they are now a people business not a tech company.  I was also fascinated by many of his observations as he talked through the workplace challenges employers face today:

  • London, despite Brexit, is the only European city on LinkedIn’s Top 10 destinations for talent.  All other cities in the Top 10 are in the USA or India
  • The average shelf life for a skill is now five years.  Cloud Computing is now the most in demand – it wasn’t even on the LinkedIn list in 2008
  • “Diversity is holding a party where everyone is welcome, inclusion is getting an invite and belonging is dancing and no-one is watching” – what a lovely quote – so good I wrote it down immediately 
  • 94 per cent of employees would stay longer at their employer if they saw investment in their career
  • The anxiety that AI and robotics will take away our jobs is false.  We need to double down on soft skills - understanding human behaviour and preferences is the most important future skill.

Theresa had probably already sped off in a motorcade by the time Josh spoke, but I am sure she would have been as interested as I was (if not also mightily relieved!) to hear that, despite everything, London remains a city of global importance.

 As I trundled back to the office on the Central line, my abiding takeaway was that employers must make a commitment to employees, providing them with lifelong learning so they stay relevant.  And if you are not integrating learning and diversity into your operations as a whole you should be – it is now not a “nice to have”, it is crucial.  And forget AI and Robotics and start doubling down on those soft skills, after all that is how I bagged an invite to the CBI in the first place. And for any of the CBI conference organisers, I’m available to speak in 2019 even if Theresa is currently a “May-be”!