Britain's high-performance economy in 2010 - if managers don't stand in the way

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 1 May 2000




(2000), "Britain's high-performance economy in 2010 - if managers don't stand in the way", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 21 No. 3.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

Britain's high-performance economy in 2010 - if managers don't stand in the way

Britain's high-performance economy in 2010 - if managers don't stand in the way

Keywords: Organizational culture, Intellectual capital, Creativity, Success, Technology

"To be competitive in the future global economy will require a revolution in the culture and practices of British management." Professor Richard Scase, author of The Changing Business Environment, published October 1999.

Shifts in the structure of society combined with rapidly advancing technology are set to transform the way that Britain does business by the year 2010. More single people, a booming consumer market among over 50s and a major expansion of home working are key trends highlighted in a report commissioned by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Foresight Programme - the UK-wide initiative that brings together business, the science base and government to develop and act on shared visions of the future.

The author, Professor Richard Scase, University of Kent at Canterbury, bases his views on new research into social trends as well as data on likely, economic, technological and scientific changes in the next ten years. He looks forward to an era of creativity and innovation in business, delivered by a mobile, highly-skilled workforce.

But he adds a formidable warning that both intellectual capital and the opportunities presented by new technology could be squandered by "'low trust" corporate cultures where compulsion is valued over creativity. Outdated attitudes and assumptions among managers are, he argues, a major barrier that Britain must overcome to become a high performing, creative economy.

The report The Changing Business Environment underlines the importance of demographic and other social changes in shaping the ways that information and communication technologies will impact on business and the wider economy. The new research, using data from the ESRC British Household Panel Study, suggests that:

  • Single-person households will predominate by 2010. More working-aged women will have the earning capacity to choose to live alone. Highly-skilled singles in the forefront of the new creativity will play a leading role in inner city revival. The research shows that professional and managerial women aged 25-44 are more involved in leisure, recreation, education and cultural activities than men. New marketing categories will be needed to take account of gender-distinct lifestyles. Large companies will risk a drain of talent unless they deliver promotion opportunities for career-minded singles - especially women.

  • The early retirement culture will spread, increasing the number of "time rich, cash rich" middle-aged customers. With the possibility of 30 years active life before them, they offer a lucrative market for leisure, recreation, travel, entertainment and health care services to target. The big issue for business, as for government, will be affordability. Will companies still have the resources to finance voluntary redundancy packages? Will government expect the rising bill for state pensions and health care for an ageing population to be shouldered by a dwindling workforce? Will retirement age be the signal for those relying on state pensions alone to carry on working?

  • Working from home will expand, fuelled by self-employment growth. Companies in touch with the latest information and communication technologies will also improve efficiency by getting more of their own staff to spend time working at home. An estimated 40-50 per cent of work in many managerial and professional activities will be home-based. Slimline corporate headquarters will consist of shared computer terminals and suites of meeting rooms. But interactive video could eliminate the need for many face-to-face meetings as well.

  • Non-standard employment (part-time working, fixed-term contracts and self-employment) will account for most jobs. Increased flexibility will be good news for "knowledge" workers, but will mean more insecure, low-paid jobs for those who lack the necessary skills. As much as 5 per cent of the labour force is expected to be undertaking shift work in call-centres by 2010.

  • Small, but global businesses will enjoy unprecedented success, thanks to the Internet and increased "outsourcing" by large organisations. Distance will no longer be a factor in business. Small firms in Australia will be as able to compete for contracts in London as those based in the Home Counties. Economies of scale will become less important as corporations become the "co-ordinators" of products produced by global supply chains.

The report suggests that Britain will become more entrepreneurial, but that the social divide between a prosperous majority and excluded minority is likely to remain. Employees will have very different psychological expectations of work - whether of greater rewards and opportunity or of increasing uncertainty and alienation.

Most will consider their organisational commitment to be temporary. Thus, one of the main problems for management will be to find ways of securing loyalty from the workforce when there are lower expectations of long-term careers.

Professor Scase said: "With the death of size and distance among businesses competing in the global market place, British managers will need to find new ways of bringing out the creativity in their staff. One answer will be to organise work according to time and cost budgets, giving individuals the autonomy to decide when and where they fulfil their tasks. But this solution requires a major cultural change.

"So long as employees commitment and promotion prospects is measured according to the length of hours spent in the office there will be few changes to patterns of work and the presumed opportunities for information and communication technology to enable home working will be lost."

For further information contact: Professor Richard Scase, telephone: 0370 447455 (mobile), 01227 463430 (home), 01227 764000 ext. 7986 (office); or Kathy Ham, David Ridley, Jacky Clake, ESRC External Relations. Tel: 01793 413032, 413118, 413117.

A full copy of the report - Britain Towards 2010: One Changing Business Environment - can be downloaded electronically from the ESRC's Web site:

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