3 questions with Arabel Bailey, Managing Director of Innovation and Consulting Services at Accenture

19th November 2019

UWE, in partnership with Business West, runs an annual lecture series that brings top business leaders to Bristol. We caught up with Arabel Bailey before she gave her talk 'Surviving and thriving in a disrupted world'.

1. How should businesses prioritise flexibility in the workplace?

There’s a real war for talent happening out there in the market at the moment.

In a recent survey of global CEOs, three quarters of them said skills was the biggest challenge to growing their businesses.

We know that offering flexible working is really good for the retention of permanent employees. We know at Accenture because our people ask for it all the time, and so we offer an increasing array of flexible working options.

Be it things like flexible contracts, part time working, working from home – we offer a whole host of flexible working options.

I can honestly say I don’t think I’d still be at Accenture if I hadn’t been able to take advantage of a number of those options over my time here.

2. In a disruptive world what are the biggest challenges that face businesses?

I think the main challenge businesses are facing at the moment is the increasing amount of competition and disruption in the marketplace.

They’ve got new entrants coming into every industry; new waves of technology they can exploit.

This is stuff they’ve got to get to grips with at a time when the competitive environment is pretty tough.

I think most businesses face a constant dilemma about whether to focus on their core business or if they should be spending their time on new markets, products and services.

It can be really tempting in a time of high competitive stress to double down and focus on driving efficiencies in the core business – it feels like a safe thing to do – but ironically acting like that can sometimes be the most risky thing to do because you can miss out on new markets and new services that you could’ve been offering to your customers.

I think one of the key things organisations need to be thinking about is the balance of time they’re spending on their core business and driving efficiencies, and how long they spend thinking about the new, and driving growth for the future.

Organisations also need to be thinking about the skills they’re going to need in the workforce of the future. We did some research recently which showed that 40 percent of executives thought that 60 percent of the roles in their organisation would change substantially as a result of technology in the next 3 years. What this means is a huge investment in your current talent to try and make sure that they’ve got the skills and capabilities that they’re going to need for roles in the future.

This isn’t an issue you can recruit your way out of. All organisations are looking for the same skills, so investing in your current workforce and your current talent has got to be the way forward. 

3. What advice would you give to graduates seeking employment in this disruptive world?

I think my biggest piece of advice for graduates is to be curious.

A lot of the jobs that exist today didn’t exist 5 years ago. The days of being able to plan out your career from now until retirement are long gone – we’re entering a world where lifelong learning and refreshing your skills is the reality for everybody.

Being curious, constantly developing new skills, opening yourself up to new experiences and new perspectives, so that you can bring a different point of view to an organisation are really important to graduate employers of the future.

This series of free public lectures brings top level business leaders to Bristol. You can discuss these events on Twitter using the hashtag #BristolLectures and view further content from Arabel Bailey’s lecture here. For more information please contact events@uwe.ac.uk.

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