This is an important moment for business across the UK.
Whatever the final outcome of the Brexit negotiations, as business leaders we have to keep our eyes on the big picture – which means thinking years and not days ahead.
I believe the fundamentals of the UK are strong. The onus now is on business and government to come together and work in partnership to ensure we’re well placed to create jobs, support our economy and help everyone be better off in life.
I see three long-term priorities for British businesses and the government to focus on together, if we’re to make the most of the UK’s economic potential.
1. It’s time we got better at technology
First, as a country we need to be smarter about our use of technology, across the public and private sectors. Coming from a tech company, I might be expected to say that. But the UK has consistently lagged behind its global peers in the level of investment in new technologies and automation. That has to change if we’re to increase our productivity, drive efficiencies and create more jobs.
To make this happen, the government needs to ensure UK businesses have access to the crucial free flow of data across borders, post-Brexit.
I learnt about the importance of data access during my time as CEO of Virgin Money, when open banking unleashed a new wave of innovation and value. Now I see a similar opportunity to empower customers and drive a healthier, more competitive digital market in tech too.
For their part, tech companies need to build trust in their offerings. They need to hold themselves to account more than they’ve done recently, using their position of influence to lead, guided by strong values. People today expect business leaders to play a bigger role in society – it’s not enough to just deliver a profit. We must serve not just our shareholders but all stakeholders — customers, employees, partners, communities and the environment.
2. Employers must improve digital skills among UK workforce
Second, we urgently need to improve the level of digital skills across the UK’s workforce. We must ensure that there are opportunities for everyone to learn the skills to thrive in the digital age, and that no one is left behind.
Brilliant organisations like Decoded, which offers digital training to businesses or Supermums, which train new parents in tech skills to help them back into the workforce, need to be supported.
We know there’s a huge opportunity here. A report due to be published later this week by analyst firm IDC estimates that the Salesforce ecosystem of customers and partners will drive 143,000 new jobs in the UK and £56bn in new business revenues here over the next five years. That’s just a glimpse of the enormous prize up for grabs if we can get this right.
3. Workplaces must reflect the UK’s diversity
Third, businesses need to ensure that their workplaces reflect their community, and that they put equality at the heart of everything they do. This is something I feel passionately about, having led a review into women in finance for the UK government in 2015. Whether it’s financial services, tech or any other sector, a diverse workforce is a thriving workforce.
But I also know that we won’t achieve genuine diversity without access to the best talent from around the world. Fair and balanced immigration policies are a prerequisite to developing the UK’s talent pool. We need to remain open to world-class talent and be able to attract and retain those employees in the UK.
If that sounds like an ambitious agenda, it’s meant to. I firmly believe that businesses today must think beyond just increasing their profits, and look to play a larger role in society so that everyone benefits.
I’m not naive, though. We all know that some parts of the tech industry have been under intense scrutiny in recent years. There are legitimate questions to answer about tech’s impact on society. But I’m determined that Salesforce will step up to the plate and lead businesses in driving positive change for the UK – regardless of the Brexit outcome.
Dame Jayne-Anne Gadhia is the UK & Ireland CEO of Salesforce
Main image credit: Salesforce